Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Ogre, the Rat, and the Princess

© 2009 Karen Van Fossan

Once upon a time, there was a terrible, angry ogre.

The ogre didn’t like me, the ogre didn’t like you, and most of all, she didn’t like herself.

“Self!” she hollered. “You’re terrible! And you’re angry! And you’re an ogre! No wonder I don’t like you.”

The ogre picked up her house. And she tossed it to the ground.

Well, the ogre happened to live next door to a frightful, fearful rat.

The rat didn’t trust me, the rat didn’t trust you, and most of all, she didn’t trust herself.

“Self?” she whispered. “You’re frightful! And you’re fearful! And you’re a rat! No wonder I don’t trust you.”

She scurried away, as fast as she could, far across the prairie.

Now, the rat happened to live next door to an undiscovered princess.

The princess was bored with me, the princess was bored with you, and most of all, the princess was bored with herself.

“Boring!” said the Princess --

While she smiled for the camera.

But the princess happened to live next door to the writer of this story.

The writer looked around. “Ogre? Rat? Princess?" she said. "I’m trying to write a story. Could you help me?”

The princess yawned. The rat kept hiding. The ogre stomped her foot.

Then they hurried home and locked their doors.

The writer dialed a pay phone. "Help!" she said to the reader. "What should I do?”

The reader scratched her head. Or maybe he drummed his fingers. The reader said to the writer.........

(Reader, could you help me? What did the reader say???)

Monday, May 25, 2009

White Folks and the Dandelion

© 2009 Karen Van Fossan

Some of us who read this blog are white, no doubt about it. As we white folks know, being white is nothing we like to talk about.

But I’ve been observing white folks for a while now.

There appears to be an enemy among us, a ubiquitous kind of enemy. It seems to be our duty (judging by our actions) to eradicate this enemy once and for all.

In 1492, it was Savagery.
In 1593, it was Witchcraft.
In 1954, it was Communism.

As Colin Powell has stated, "What is the greatest threat facing us now? People will say it's terrorism. But are there any terrorists in the world who can change the American way of life or our political system? No. Can they knock down a building? Yes. Can they kill somebody? Yes. But can they change us? No. Only we can change ourselves. So what is the great threat we are facing?"

Colin Powell suggests our greatest threat is our own fear.

But when you look around –

You can see us white folks, facing a threat which statesmen rarely mention:

Taraxacum officinale.

Otherwise known as Dent de Lion (which translates into Lion’s Teeth).
Otherwise known as Priest’s Crown.
Otherwise known as Swine’s Snout.

In other words, the Dandelion.

Of course, you’ve seen what’s happening: You can spot us white folks, struggling across America – doing battle with the enemy. For some, it’s a daily endeavor; for some, a weekend mission. Some will even hire a private contractor.

And, yes, we have supplies. We have weaponry. We have strategies – keeping abreast of the battlefield. There we are, on the front lines, year after year after year.

Together, we stand. Divided, we fall. When one of us, even one of us, in the neighborhood drops the fight – well, the rest of us have to fight harder.

Still – if there’s anyone who should understand the dandelion, it’s us.

Six Things We American White Folks Have in Common with the Dandelion:

1) We were imported from lands like England and Germany.
2) We love to take root in American soil.
3) When we can, we spread as far and wide as the eye can see –
4) Which causes us to get in the way of indigenous growth.
5) But, under proper management, we can be fairly useful –
6) Even though our best potential has largely remained unknown.

So, white folks, what do you say? What if we dropped the fight?

What if we found compassion for the dandelion?

No more noxious spraying. No more funky nitrogen pellets. No more disposable Chemlawn flags at the corners of our lawns.

Of course, it wouldn’t be fair to let dandelions take over. History shows that it doesn’t work (and isn’t working today) for foreign plants to occupy indigenous lands.

But, seeing as the dandelions are here, seeing as they’re everywhere, seeing as it’s impossible to send them back to England now – maybe we can find another solution.

What if we found a balance?

Native grasses. Perennials. Some clover for the bees.

And – the common dandelion.

I have a friend who soaks the roots in apple cider vinegar. My partner and I fry the leaves with lots of onions and garlic. Even the USDA proclaims its value.

As a tea, tincture, extract, or food – dandelion has been reported to…

* Dissolve kidney stones.
* Cleanse acne.
* Assist in weight management.
* Prevent or control diabetes.
* Stop cancer.

Perhaps, like the dandelion, we white folks have something to offer.

Maybe, hating the dandelion, we’re only hating ourselves – the invaders who haven’t found a place of balance.

Of course, unlike white folks – dandelions have nothing to apologize for. They never enslaved a nation or dropped an atomic bomb.

But maybe, when we find what we can love about the dandelion – we can stop our fighting.

We can stop our battles.

And maybe we can turn our history around.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Play, Play, Plays

© 2009 Karen Van Fossan

Well! Since the last time I wrote to you, I've celebrated a dear friend's 100th birthday, heard carrots sing, seen shoes dance, roared like a dragon with hundreds of Devils Lake school children, listened to grown adults make prairie sounds with napkins, and generally exhausted myself to the core.

But, as Jeanne said last fall, after the St Paul peace protests, "I am going to burn out, rather than rust out!"

During the past month, as an artist-in-residence in Bismarck, Mandan, and Devils Lake -- I wondered once in a while if I would burn out. But, before I had much chance to devote myself to burning out, Tracy tuned to a radio show on "play." The spirituality of play, as a matter of fact.

There in the extended-stay Devils Lake motel, as the radio listed the merits of play, Tracy designed a life-sized calculator costume, and I painted a child-sized refrigerator box. While smearing paint on my PJs, I learned some curious facts:

  • Play is any non-competitive activity in which you lose yourself, while losing a sense of time.
  • Play is pointless. You enjoy it so much, you can do it without a goal.
  • Physical play is crucial to children's development of empathy.
  • In a study by the National Institute for Play, none of the murderers interviewed had ever engaged in play.
So I saw, as I taught dramatic arts with Ramona and Tracy, that the children were certainly playing -- inventing rhythms, creating skits, rolling from on-stage fireplaces, leaping from on-stage windows, designing a group dance.

But was I playing?

I quickly glanced at the clock. Wow! Where had the time gone?

I had no idea. I'd been playing.