I got to spend a couple days last week in the Blue Ridge Mountains on a retreat with my coworkers. It was beautiful up there; we stayed in this lovely cabin with a hot tub, pool table and the most beautiful view of the mountains.
Since there were ten of us staying there, some of us brought air mattresses for ourselves. Mica and I decided that we should set ours up on the big old deck and sleep under the stars.
We stayed up pretty late that night, eating, drinking, bonding as is proper during "retreating" type scenarios, and at about 1 am I set up my bed space. Almost everyone else was still awake and hanging out. I fell asleep inhaling the clean crisp perfect-temperature mountain air.
I woke up around 5am. The sky was this amazing charcoally misty grey. It was stunning and I felt so lucky to have this opportunity to be out of the city and see dawn in a way I never do. I also felt like I had to pee, per usual considering I've had a lifetime case of nocturia.
I head towards the kitchen door to go inside to the bathroom. Oddly, it was locked and clearly not opening. Huh. That's weird, I think to myself. I walk around to the other door that leads to the master bedroom and find it locked too. Mica stirred at this point from her air mattress and I whisper to her "did they lock us out?"
Well now this is getting kind of hilarious but I'm also feeling some uh, increased bladder pressure. I'm notorious for my teeny tiny bladder. Its also 5 am and I'm kinda asleep and maybe not thinking as swiftly as possible.
I assess the situation I'm in: the only way you can access the deck are through these two doors- its high off the ground. There's no getting on or off of it. I have no problem peeing in the woods but the "woods" are about 20 feet beneath me and I am SO not about to attempt to pee off the side of the deck. I contemplate for a split second the hot tub on the far end of the deck but decide that I'm nowhere near that desperate yet.
I walk back to the other side and try the kitchen door again. Its still locked. I really just couldn't believe that my urban-ass coworkers locked us out. I mean, and locked themselves in, in the middle of the country-ass country. There was a lot of disbelief and concern when Mica and I announced that we were setting up camp outside - discussion of bear attacks and the like - and how do they support our decision? By locking us out with the bears. Unbelievable yet also hilarious that you can take the city kids out the city but you can't take our we're-so-used-to-getting-robbed-in-Atlanta out of our lock turning, alarm-code punching fingers.
At this point I realize that Kori is asleep on the futon right next to the window on which I decide to tap with increasing urgency until he wakes up. I gesture madly at him to let me in- I really gotta go. And when you gotta go, you gotta go.
God bless you Kori. My bladder and I thank you for and apologize for interrupting the sleep you so very much need to gear up for starting the revolution.
After all this I still have a pretty lovely night- I wake up at various points and see the sun rising over the gorgeous mountain. The charcoal turned to purple turned to pink framed by trees that waved in the wind.
When confronted, none of my coworkers cop to being the perpetrator of our external imprisonment. None! Mmm hmm. Either they were too drunk to remember- or they are liars. I am delighted by either of the possibilities.
I realized later that I got a million chigger bites. So did Mica. But despite the bites and near bladder explosion, I am so grateful I was able to spend a night on that deck with that beautiful view and a couple days with some of the most wonderful people on earth. Despite their door-locking propensities.
I am so happy to hear this news. This is the first year since I've been in the south that I haven't closely examined the center of one of our giant magnolias, staring, trying to figure out this crazy, dinosaur-like blossom. I have missed so much walking through the cemetery, particularly during the springtime when the all the trees are bearing pink and white flowers.
I know from driving by the cemetery, that there are still blooms left to see. I'm so grateful that I won't have missed it all.
Today, letting go feels like a field of purple hyacinth, yellow daffodils and red tulips. It feels like stark, stunning pen drawings of solitary mission-like houses surrounded by strange trees and birds, patiently etched by a condemned man a long time ago. It feels like finally getting the courage to write words I've wanted to write for the last two years. Like a massive weight lifted from my shoulders. Like I'm closer, lighter, like I can feel the buds of feathers starting to emerge from my shoulder blades.
I'm so sad to have just gotten the news that our beloved friend, Lewis Sinclair, just passed away. He was 94 years old. He leaves behind his beloved, Mary. I want to write so much about Mary and Lewis and will, but for now, I am comforted by the sound of his voice having a conversation with Mary about growing up as a light-skinned African American in Past Christian, Mississippi.
Here is a lovely picture of Lewis from the 1960s sent by another dear friend, Murphy Davis. Goodbye dear friend, teacher, revolutionary. You will be terribly missed.
Last night’s execution of Curtis Osborne was a particularly difficult one. Its strange to me how always on days after executions I feel so foggy and like I never quite wake up- perhaps a reaction to how surreal and awful the prison vigil experience is.
There were so many difficult facts to come to term with – most significantly how the state can move forward with the execution of a man who was represented by a lawyer who carried 600+ cases and a private practice at the time of his trial, not to mention referred to his client as a racial slur. Then the State took its sweet time in responding to the Curtis’ lawyers’ motion in the US Supreme Court; the execution was scheduled for 7pm yet their response rolled in well after that time.
We knew after the US Supreme Court issued their denial that Curtis’ life was limited to the next few moments, but it was over an hour before we heard anything else. That period of waiting is one of the worst that I’ve known in my life; the awful waiting and wondering about the person on the gurney and all the possible scenarios of what could be going wrong.
The best I can discern by combining information from multiple sources include the Georgia Department of Corrections and reporters who witnessed the execution, there were problems finding an appropriate vein for the injection as well as problems with the back-up IV. (Though the GDC is claiming that it was the first IV that killed him anyway. Nope, that doesn’t make sense to me either.)
This afternoon I called one of the reporters who witnessed last night. He had dreadfully misquoted me in a story that’s now been published all over the place and I wanted to follow-up with him about that. I also wanted to check in with him because I’m friendly with him, and I could tell last night that he was really shaken after watching for his first time the state killing a man. I was right; he was deeply bothered by the execution and said he didn’t sleep last night. So instead he wrote, which is something that I often find myself doing when I return from Jackson.
He sent me this piece that he wrote for his family to share what he experienced. The story he tells turns the stomach. He references Curtis’ expression and apparent fear at the time of his death as well as some facial movement after the time that I would think that paralysis should have kicked in. He told me that his mother called him this morning crying after she read his account.
Some of our interns that came along last night to the vigil commented on how weird the situation was- the contrast of the beautiful, peaceful grounds of the prison to the horror that was happening inside. I am often similarly struck.
We were joined last night at the vigil at Jackson by four members of Curtis’ family: his father Dennis, his sister Rhonda, and Rhonda’s husband and sister in law. My heart goes out to them. I can’t imagine how awful it was for them to stand and wait and wait and wait for word from the Court and then for word from the Prison. I’m grateful that they viewed us as safe people to spend that unimaginably difficult death-time with.
While I love and appreciate all the folks that usually come to the Jackson vigil, we are at best a dedicated but small group. I am so grateful for all who were there last night to visually illustrate to Curtis’ family that they were not alone in their mourning, sadness and outrage at his death at the hands of the state. Thank you for your hearts.
Ed Weir noted Curtis’ solidarity with the other guys on the Row by wanting his last meal to be the same as theirs. Mary Palmer Legare reminded us of Jerome Bowden’s last words before his execution: “I hope that by my execution being carried out, it will bring some light to this thing that is wrong."
As long as the State continues this futile and brutalizing exercise in vengeance we will take a public stand against this killing in our name.