Three Books and Lobbying Medpot

The three books I travel with if I'm going to be working and temporarily living in a location are Out of Control by Kevin Kelly, The Structure of ScientificRevolution by Thomas Kuhn, and Thinking in Systems by Donella H. Meadows.

How systems work, how to build them, and how things change - dynamics that are relevant to anything I'm working on, any task before me.

Right now, that location is the capital of Montana where I'm lobbying a slate of provisions to further develop the medical marijuana regulatory statute. The goal is to move the program/system towards being Transparent, Contained, Safe, and Functional. As part of the team that authored and passed in November the citizens' initiative laying down the foundation of a medical marijuana regulatory system, we are now looking to build upon this foundation. The initiative created licenses and mandatory inspections for medical marijuana providers in Montana and allowed the cannabis testing labs to re-open. The initiative also made PTSD an allowable condition for a medical marijuana referral. The initiative generated this foundation for regulation while restoring access in Montana which was lost by a court decision in February 2016 that went into effect September 30, 2016. The program was all but shut down until the initiative passed in November.

The initiative was the foundation. The basics. During the 2017 Legislative Session, we will forward the next layer of provisions in order to develop Montana's medical marijuana regulatory rubric, including tracking systems, shifting to the canopy-model for production management, defining concentrates, residency requirements, and mandatory testing once a standardized, available, affordable testing network is in place. 

This will be my 13th legislative session as a lobbyist. I am proud to be lobbying in 2017 for one of the fastest growing industries in the United States and serving as Lobbyist and Government Relations for the Montana Cannabis Industry Association (MTCIA).

Regulatory statutes create systems. The functioning of the legislature itself is a system. There are nodes and hubs, islands, feedback loops, and both static and dynamic variables. There are goals, players, and rules - basics in all complex adaptive ("living") systems. I believe taking a systems approach to both to building regulatory models and politics is like learning about electricity, and not just how to fix the toaster. 

(Text is also available at my LInkedIn page.)

Snow Day

sounds good on this snowy, snowy, snowy, snowy, still coming down day. snow. chunky, lumpy snow. christmas tree lights. and the ever-presence of cat politics.one cat likes to drink from the Christmas tree stand. it's so refreshing, he thinks, this holiday beverage. it's been snowing and snowing and the birds are back and forth from the hedge to the feeder across the street. eat all you can! 

House of Dogs

On one side downstairs was a guy with a lab who just had 14 puppies. On the other side were two guys who had a bulldog with a 'Sir" before his name and a pitball who went by Raven. I lived in the attic apartment with my lab/setter mutt and a newt who would get on her rock when I played The Who. I also playing REM at the time, and this song. 

 

I Read "Mark of the Grizzly" by Scott McMillion

"Go to the ground with a grizzly bear and the experience changes life." - Scott McMillion, Mark of the Grizzly

I read Scott McMillion’s book, Mark of the Grizzly, over three days coming back to Montana from Cuba. I started it on the flight from Havana to Fort Lauderdale. I read two chapters and put it aside for a little while. I wasn’t sure reading it was such a good idea because I was attacked by a bear last October along the Yellowstone River. I came out of it pretty well. Some of the stories in the book are gruesome. Harrowing.

I saw the threads running through the accounts. For example, it’s clear that looking a grizzly in the eye doesn’t usually lead to the best outcomes. It’s the click. Boom! Grizzly speed. Many cite that moment. When I saw the bear’s eyes from two feet away, I had no question about what was coming next. 

I kept reading, pausing between every two chapters or so, unsure whether this was going to disturb me in a generally un-useful way.  I believe myself to have been on the fine side of fine when it comes to PTSD-like matters. Why mess with it?  Then, as I kept reading one account after another I found myself almost feeling like it wasn't that unusual to get jumped by a bear.    

Getting attacked by a grizzly bear. It happens.

Each essay in the collection is sharp. It lays out the story best we know it, best someone can report.  Scott’s book took me into the woods, the brush, and meadow. The bear is there. The beast arrives.  Big males. Uncertain teens. Sows with cubs who are learning, following their mother through the thickets and brush. Or campgrounds. Some have radio collars. Others don’t. I wondered what one bear thought of another bear’s radio collar. They seem intelligent enough to notice and assess.

In many of the accounts, the people fight the grizzlies. It didn’t read to me like that was the best decision, and yet sometimes one just can’t know how it would have gone down if one hadn’t. Fighting seems to work best if you’ve got two people working as a team, both getting their asses kicked, but fighting for each other.

I did not fight. I was part of a team. My dog was there.

 Whoomp! Under a bear.

Fighting did not occur to me. I was going to die.

In the sky between Fort Lauderdale and Denver, I continued to question whether reading Scott’s book would make me scared when I’ve been okay. It got squirrelly sometimes crammed in by a window above the clouds. Each account was vividly written. I was in each scene. I could see clearly the spotting of the bear down the slope munching on a leg stump that was wearing a tennis shoe.

I read the book over three flights and then finished up the next day after landing back in Montana.

I loved it. Tom Cahill’s quote on the cover is no exaggeration. He says: “This deft and gracefully written book is more terrifying than a shelf full of Stephen King novels.”

I’m going to give Mark of the Grizzly "riveting.” I couldn’t look away, except for breathers, and reflection.  Even though it can give me the shivers to “go back,” I want to stay close to it.  Mark of the Grizzly surely gave me that.

 

The Day Of

The day of the bear attack, I had started a new discipline. I had been concerned I hadn't been using my time productively enough so decided to document went I did with my time, half hour by half hour, to get real about my time management, just as some dieters document their food intake to get clear about what they are really eating. 

The page goes right up to 1 pm when I left to go to the river with the dog. 

I think I'll save that piece of paper forever. 

Passive Voice

As I write about the bear, I notice the natural tendency is to say "attacked by the bear," as opposed to "the bear attacked me." 

It seems this is common in communicating acts of assault. "Hit by the car." "She was raped." "Forty people were killed in the bombing." 

The word "attack" also implies a malice I don't ascribe to the bear. I use the word, sometimes, but I feel like "jumped" is the better word. The bear caught me, like a cat might "catch" something.  I think he considered eating me. But the dog made it all too unpleasant. "Check, please. No, I don't want it to go." 

This is a picture of some of the staples that were in my head. I'm blonde. It looks red because of the dried blood. The emergency room doc said not to wash my hair until the next day.


Thanksgiving

In my nest I build on my friends' sofa, smelling the pies my friend is baking, my dog curled up at my feet with her Corgi bud, knowing my family is healthy and well, feasting with friends later, old and new. Knowing the beauty and might of nature, seeing children grow into admirable people that give me hope, friends I admire, food to share, being welcomed into the country just one generation up. Pools of love. Pockets of love. Flashes of love. Music.

A Feather, Burrs, and Bloody Clothes

The grizzly jumped me on October 12. I decided to deal with the brown bag of bloody clothes from the hospital last night. I wasn't "afraid" of dealing with it. I just wasn't sure "how" I wanted to deal with it. Throw it away? The ancient blue hoodie with the caked blood in the base of the head and neck area? The pale green tank top that was underneath, stained in front and back on the right? The pale green bra under that, one of my favorites, stained on the front right cup? 

Keeping them as bloody souvenirs seemed a bit much, even for me. 

I started with the bra. I washed it in the sink. The blood came mostly out, good enough anyway for the real value of the bra which is that it is the perfect color for showing straps under a couple of summer shirts I own. I soaked the hoodie, ancient but I love it. I'll run it through the washing machine next to see how far gone the stain can go. If it doesn't come all the way out, that's okay. I can still wear it for what I've worn it for. Hanging out. Nothing fancy. It's a dark blue. The stains won't matter.

The four puncture-like rips on the left shoulder remind me what happened was real. 

The tank top won't come clean. It will have to go.  

The score from the brown bag was the three burrs I found along the sleeve and cuff of the hoodie. I'll put them with the feather I had picked up within fifteen minutes before the attack. It was probably eight days later, camped on my friends' sofa, that I remembered picking the feather up and that it was still in the back pocket of the baggy, hand-me-down chinos I had been wearing that day that were lying on the floor of my bedroom back at home. 

I've been asked if I've had flashbacks. It's hard to call something I think about for awhile everyday a flashback. But then again, thoughts aren't flashbacks. It's hearing the crunch, crunch, crunch, crunch, the river rocks beneath my feet, the tempo that indicates the speed of the trek from the brush to the car holding on to my bleeding head, my face on fire,  and not knowing if the Bear would come again, and the strange under-the-skin shiver that accompanies it - that's the flashback. 

It isn't a bad thing. I want to remember. 

Me, My Dog, and a Griz

I was jumped by a bear. It was on Monday, October 12. 

There was No Bear. I turned my head and there was Bear, eye to eye. Then, I was on the ground and a bear was on me and I thought, I am going to die. 

My dog was there. I knew she was there. Was she barking? Was she moving from place to place? The bear jumped off me and I figured onto my dog. I scrambled. I stopped. Should I play dead? I looked over my shoulder and saw bear ass. I kept scrambling. 

Sound is missing from my memory. 

I escaped. My dog escaped. I suspect I'll be writing about this more. 

The story at People Magazine is here

One from the Montana papers here and here

 





Disequalibrium

From Kevin Kelly's book, Out of Control, on systems theory, chaos theory, evolution, swarm theory, artificial intelligence and more. It's one of what he calls The Nine Laws of God. 

"Seek persistent disequilibrium. Neither constancy nor relentless change will support a creation. A good creation, like good jazz, must balance the stable formula with frequent out-of-kilter notes. Equilibrium is death. Yet unless a system stabilizes to an equilibrium point, it is no better than an explosion and just as soon dead. A Nothing, then, is both equilibrium and disequilibrium. A Something is persistent disequilibrium - a continuous state of surfing forever on the edge between never stopping but never falling. Homing in on that liquid threshold is the still mysterious holy grail of creation and the quest of all amateur gods." 

(It might be considered a rather poetic description of the "phase transition" in physics.) 

Though read 20 years ago, I return to it often and it remains one of the most influential books on how I think that I've ever read. My copy is a dog-eared, underlined, tattered soul. 

Titles and Last Lines

I know exactly where I was when I knew the title of my novel and I know exactly where I was when I thought of the last line.

For the first, I was in the kitchen, my laptop on the counter in the corner by the dining room. The music was on and I was pacing and writing and feeling it physically and getting down the words. The phrase rolled out, those four words in a row, Shaking Out the Dead, and I knew there would be no more “working titles.”

For the last, I was in my studio behind the house, my strange little room where I was strange ol’ me. The sentence fell in a heartbeat. I wasn’t on the page. I was standing mid-pace in whatever space that is fiction writers go. I wasn’t at the last line yet. But that was it.   

So the title didn’t come first and the last line didn’t come last. They both came in the middle. Maybe in cosmic talk that’s where the beginning and end always meet, where the snake swallows its tail.

The characters from that novel stepped into my kitchen, one at a time, to testify. This time (current work-in-progress) they seemed to appear as a group and are getting teased out from the cluster. We’ll see who’s who.

Because now I have the experience of writing one novel, a thing that I know is that whatever I think the point is and whomever I think the good guys and the bad guys are, it may not be - it’s most likely not – going to be what I think.  

Rock and Politics

This was released in 1990. Still relevant. Great political song. It's a labor song and an environmental song and a song about talking care of your family and about political corruption and spin doctors and corporate exploitation.  

I think it’s hard to do music and politics well without being too heavy-handed, much less being able to rock and make people dance.

 Haven't listened to Midnight Oil in years. New appreciation.

"in the end the rain comes down"


Racist

At the Sinclair station on 89, there were four of us at the check out counter and one check out person. I was at the register on one side. The tall bald guy with a mustache was across from me getting checked out. He and I both had someone behind us in line. We were all being jovial, teasing with strangers. Then the guy with the mustache tells a racist joke.

The scene went solidly cold. The vibe was unmistakable: Everyone Thinks You're An Asshole. 

He left fast then. I checked out and went to the car and thought good on us, the people in the Sinclair.