Saturday, March 1, 2008

Grizzly Bears and Ring Mistresses

On a couple different occasions lately I’ve seen programs about Alaska’s polar and grizzly bears. I learned that when they are ready to hibernate, they actually dig a den out of snow. I had always assumed that they found a pre-existing cave or something.

Both grizzlies and polar bears pick a spot and use their massive paws to shovel out a cocoon for them to lie in. As they sleep for the winter, the snow falls and covers their top side enveloping the bears completely. Eventually, they break through their shell and emerge skinny, hungry and eager into spring.

I felt like a grizzly bear waking up this morning.

I slept almost 15 hours last night- a huge feat for a girl who usually sleeps about 5 hours a night. I got home and dove under my down quilt, covered myself completely and slept instantly- also a rare occurrence. When I woke up I rubbed my eyes open (sealed by black eyeliner not snowflakes) I saw that my Cranberry, my inhaler and the remote were all in the exact same spot that I laid them, indicating that I slept all 15 hours without moving. My stomach growls loudly; I look in the mirror and note that I am a bit more pale than usual.

This is what the legislative session does to me. This week it was exacerbated by having to cope with being sick and not having the opportunity to rest and get well. I have been running nonstop for the last two weeks; I didn’t get to take more than a couple hours off last weekend. This is because one of our highest priority pieces of legislation was being considered in the House this week.

This issue is one that is defined by those who have spent far more years than I have struggling. Their work was to move to Georgia to a place where the State would fulfill Gideon’s 35 year-old promise and provide for poor peoples’ constitutional right to an attorney when accused of a crime.

We passed huge legislation to reform the public defender system in 2003, one of if not the most significant victory in my life. However now just five years later, we are faced with an indigent defense crisis complete with forces that want to destroy this good but young and struggling system by bankrupting it and tearing down its structure.

I’m moderately happy to share that they only got half as much of the bad stuff they wanted this week as a result of our efforts. The nature of my work is one that my victories are often defined less by outright wins like that of the new public defender system, but more often by successfully making horrible proposals slightly less horrible.

The coalition of people involved in this effort is unreal. High-powered, rich, white male lawyers, high-powered moderately rich, white male legislators, law professors, civil rights leaders, families of people whose lives have been deeply broken by the criminal justice system, my beautiful coworkers and me.

I find myself once again in the position I was in 5 years ago of conducting this out-of-tune, out-of-practice orchestra. Last time I was more of the stand-in substitute Conductor, like the one who would run rehearsals leading up to the big show while the real Conductor made out with the star violinist in the dressing room. This year though it’s come down to just me.

I think I’d rather be a Ring Mistress running a three-ring circus that certainly resembles the Legislature, though. The costume would be way better than a Conductor's. I’m thinking red sequins.

Anyway, in addition to learning about hibernation practices of Alaskan bears this week, I also learned the exact combination of over-the-counter drugs that will allow a sick person to stay on her feet and well enough to fight the Man (both her opposition and her supposed allies).

The recipe is a revolving cycle of Musinex D (the kind that you have to sign for behind the counter because it contains pseudoephedrine that can be used to make meth) every 10-12 hours, Sudafed every 3-4 hours, Advil as you need it (around 3-4 times a day) and a 2-3 packets of Emergen-C. I swear by this magical potion. I would not have gotten through this week without it.

So like a bear coming out of my slumber today, I yawned big and stretched big. I not only found that an Op Ed I had ghost-wrote was published on the front page of the Macon newspaper (Justice for Some is Not Justice at All), but that it is almost 60 degrees out! I woke from my sleep with a day of my own and it is Spring.

Time to go to the Vortex for a burger with Tiffani!


Tara said...

Your writing is so lovely Sara. I really missed reading your posts while you've been busy! Hope you're feeling better!

wes said...

keep up the good work, sara! (...but don't fall asleep with the t.v. on, get more than 5 hours a night, and wash yer face before you go to bed.)

swd said...

Those of down in the trenches appreciate what you're doing down at the Gold Dome.