Martha Hennessy’s Prison Diary, Dec. 15 – Feb. 4

Martha’s Prison Diary

Dec. 15th 2020

Matt. 21: “Son go out and work in the vineyard today.” “John came in the way of righteousness, the lowly believed, you did not.”

28 hours now in the same room alone. I have to be let out to use the toilet. The food is bearable, drinking water OK. I am in quarantine but already exposed to a woman from the Camp who tested positive, several cases have broken out in the past few days. My paperwork isn’t yet submitted to the warden for compassionate release. The building is massive, squat, and surrounded by layers of razor wire. It is quiet here in “receiving.” I should have gone to the quarantine area by now but no space there. Grateful for the solitude and quiet, willing to stay here longer if possible.
A restless night on a cot with thin blanket and no pillow. I feel like the son who said “yes” and didn’t go to work. Prison after the action of nearly 3 years ago is hard to adjust to. Missing the sky and air after only 1 day.
We were 6 in the parking lot, a nice farewell party interrupted fairly quickly by security. Mark brought black bean soup, Frida & Liz chocolate. A good last lunch as the snow flakes fell to wet pavement. Steven walked me to the door, took a picture only to be told to delete it.
The prison is located on a south facing slope, once a lovely, open field. It is just 3 miles from the outskirts of Danbury. Moments of desolation over the month ahead, and fear of COVID. I will pray the Rosary daily, I have Stanley’s, given to me by Peggy Scherer.

Dec. 16th

Isaiah 45: “But designing it to be lived in.”
Luke 7: “What you have seen & heard… blessed is the one who takes no offense at Me.”

Today I pray for the power + justice of God to help the warden consider my case. Lord take this cup from me, I don’t want to be here, exposed to COVID. But maybe my walk with God includes this. My human judge has spoken, she walks with the nuclear warheads. “Father forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.”
I am so grateful for this stub of a pencil that allows me to begin to tell of my journey here. As I read from Granny’s prayer card, I recall her forehead and hands, clear and strong, giving guidance and love. That’s all that God asks of us, to love. What minds would invent prisons with rough towels and no toothpaste, paperwork and language that tricks one into signing their mail rights away, or throwing their clothes out that they walked into prison with, or giving out inmate handbooks with staples that pierce one’s hands? We are all one of another.
Psalm 85: “The Lord Herself will give the benefits.” It us up to us to help give those benefits to each other. Resources poured into prisons and naval bases rather than the pure joy and beauty of what life has to offer, we will take them back. Yet it is a waiting game, sitting here among brick, metal gratings, razor wire. I yearn for 1 breath of fresh air, the call of the crow at dawn. This will have to wait as I labor in the land of deprivation.
I wonder what Amy Goodman will report on today, or how the Senate is justifying itself with the “Nuclear Infrastructure Act of 2020.” Keeping the whirling death machine going.
It is hot in this cell, better than cold!

Dec. 17th

“Remember your compassion, O Lord, and your gracious love, for they are from of old.” Ps 25

Day 3 of quarantine in the same cell where I am dependent on the guard for toilet access. They are generally good about it but sometimes take a while. A delivery of 2 books last night saved me; Robert Moses’ “The Power Broker” and Alfred Delp’s “Prison Wirings.” Perfect readings for now as I have read “Give Us This Day” several times a day.
O Antiphon: “O Wisdom of our God most high, guiding creation with power and love, come to teach us the path of knowledge!”
I awoke to a white light. 11 inches of snow the guard says. He had the kindness to turn the hall light off, my first night with reasonable darkness to sleep. My “agony in the garden” did come as sleeplessness in the early morning hours. The mind races and becomes resentful as the stifling air closes in.
Fr. Delp writes about man’s helplessness and God’s grace. While in the hands of the Nazis the last 5 months of his life, he contended with the condition of man’s fealty to class, race, nation rather than to God’s love. It is apparent in the life of R. Moses as he re-created the face of NYC from the 1930s to 60s, during Dorothy’s lifetime. She was witness to the gutting of the city, of its people + neighborhoods. How we love to give control over to the bullies.
I sit for days without exercise, program, others to socialize with. Yesterday 1 young woman came into the other cell & her mother is Muslim, she needed some reassurance that she can get through this. We talk across the hall, her face is beautiful, her “crime” was to follow the bad influence of a man she thought she loved. We all have feet of clay.
The men are shoveling snow from walkway. I stand at the grid drinking in the 1st fresh air in 3 days.

Dec. 18th

My hand is sore from hitting the window grate to use the toilet. Sometimes the guard is in another section tending to others.
“To help each other and share in life’s joys and sorrows.” The message of Advent is to wait, surrender, renounce, fitting perfectly with being in prison. O antiphon – come to rescue us from our sin with Your great power. We can only turn to God to care for us and guide us. We must be our own comforters even in the face of knowing we are helpless and must beg God to help us maintain stability despite the sorrows and suffering of the world we have made, a Godless world. And yet He is there, in everything, sparkling with joy.
Outside my window there flies “Old Glory,” constantly undulation in the breeze. It is set at half mast and I wonder for whom? The people kept and working in this prison? The hungry ones in the sums of CT? Those who have died of COVID? Those who have died in Yemen, Libya, Iraq, Palestine? Plenty of death to be grieving over.
Delp describes the Nazi way of life as arrogance, pride, force and he weeps over his lost people. Our lives are for a purpose and with God’s love we can become that purpose, applied to making a better world.
Both books I am reading (Delp, R. Moses) talk about a life and economy that works to better ourselves, but extreme in seeing who matters, a wealthy, well-educated elite, or, all of us. The snow that fell shortly after my arrival remains on the ground, the morning sky is barely visible beyond 6 layers of mesh, screens, fences. I wait for the sun’s rays to define more of a blurred landscape.
No word on my COVID test or when a room with a toilet will be available.

Dec. 19th

Luke 1: “To prepare a people fit for the Lord”

John the Baptist carried the Holy Spirit even while in his mother Elizabeth’s womb. I was given a bible yesterday, the “Transformation” study bible. It lacks richness but I am grateful to have it.
M. who is Bangladeshi Muslim received a copy of the Koran and I asked her to read a verse. Very lovely. Her mother is devout and she loves her mother so she is returning to prayer. It is very hard for her to be here under quarantine. I try to reassure her through the day, using my mothering and occupational therapy skills.
The sky is clear today, with a sunny, bright snowstruck landscape seen through layers of steel mesh, obliterating the details. I watch the shadows change and shift as the sun moves across the sky.
My days have become a simple routine of prayer, reading, writing, exercise. Asking for the toilet and water punctuates the hours. Delp teaches much in his prison writings; how we are to redeem ourselves from the shackles of our own history and become fit for the Lord.
Happy not to have irons on my hands or to be sitting in a bombed out cellar hole. But in the night, a slippery slope of hopelessness. To hold on to exultant gratitude in the face of this psychic and physical discomfort, that is my daily prayer.
Yesterday’s medical examiner would not share the results of Monday’s COVID swab.

Dec. 20th (4th Sunday Advent)

Entering winter solstice, the lowest darkness. When asked the guard says it is freezing outside. I am in a T-shirt and no socks. Thank God the steam radiator works well. The loud clanging of air in the pipes clamors for repairs. The amount of money poured daily into this prison complex, how it could provide so much better for human needs. I think of the tent city in New Haven where Mark Colville has supported this project. To be homeless in winter, how barbaric and incompetent are we?
As a kid I remember reading about indigenous peoples being held in prison. They would die, separated from their sky, air, earth, water.
Isaiah 45: “Drop down dew from above, you heavens, and let the clouds rain down the just One; let the earth be opened and bring forth a Savior. Bear the fruit of salvation.”
I have been in this room with the same clothes on for a week. M. + I submit to the walls and locked doors, our minds formed by this reality. We seem to have come to a balance and routine, daily tasks ground us in a kind of sanity. Her cell has no window.
I’m recalling Granny’s first jail experience, having read about it. What agony and sorrow. She never verbalized any personal trials, but her stories always reflected the suffering, and injustice done to others, with a subtext that we must care about this and work to alleviate it. To repent for our sins against one another. We must then bind up the wounds around us. As Fr. Delp words it: “We must not shirk the burdens He imposes on us. They are His way of communicating with us and they are His blessing.”

Dec 21st

Winter solstice
O antiphon: “O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: come and shine on those who dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death.”
Luke writes of the visitation. Today is the shortest day of the year, the 1st day of winter. Thank God for the window in this cell. Eight days in this room in the same clothes. We asked for fresh clothes and some were brought to M., but not myself. My skin is very dry from the harsh soap and dry air. M. put margarine on her lips until the nurse brought her ointment.
Falling asleep and waking up are the hardest moments. Frida + Liz had signs of encouragement for my entry here. “Martha we love you,” “Fear Not.”
Isaiah reminds us – take courage and fear not. Delp writes that God’s promises heal the deepest wounds, woe to us who don’t’ trust or take solace in these promises. We must believe in the splendor of life or all happiness will die. I pray for Steve Kelly as he may be in transport this week, may he be safe.
There are times throughout the day and night when I feel a desperate urge to be out of this cell, and other times when I feel protected and do not want to be disturbed, to enjoy the peace and quiet with no demands.
M. and I share readings aloud from the Koran and Bible. Her mother’s birthday is on Christmas Day. Not being able to call home to let her family know how she is doing is very upsetting to her.
Today memories of childhood trees come back. The early transparent yellow apple by the pasture gate at the end of the barn was a favorite of ours. We would sit for hours with a salt shaker and books in its smooth, massive limbs, eating apples. One day Granny was standing outside the kitchen door and saw 3 of us climbing in the outer branches that were thin. She declared she couldn’t watch us, it was too nerve wracking. Of course the moment she went back into the house the branches broke. But we were like cats, scrambling to avoid falling all the way to the ground. To have siblings in the countryside to play and grow up with, what a gift. Granny and Ma’s ever stead presence is still with me.

Dec. 22nd

Today’s reading is Luke’s Magnificat, magnifying the divine. M. is now moved in with me as another woman has come in form another state and is quarantined. We are in “R+D,” receive and discharge, so people leaving are very happy. One woman danced out to the parking lot. Apparently the Camp has an outbreak of COVID. We have about 5 days of quarantine left.
Today my nose is running horribly. The swabbed nostril that hurt with the test. Terrible headache in the night. Getting used to the uncomfortable cot.

Dec. 23rd

The birth of John the Baptist: “What then will this child be?”

The physical discomforts here become easier with the company of these 2 young women. We are careful to curb complaints as it doesn’t help our states of mind. A friend sent a calendar “Freedom For Political Prisoners” and M. is receiving quite an education. I joke that her family may not appreciate the direction of it, she laughs.
More troubles with COVID in the prison were evident yesterday; someone refusing hospital, staff gowned with PPE when handling stricken inmates. Thoughts wander to the hardships of our country as Cathy Breen’s letter reports increased deaths from COVID. Our idols will not save us. What does this mean in these times?
We have created idols to replace God with ourselves. Trident is a stolen god, ripped from the atom, a thunder bolt in our hands, our Icarus moment. I sit in this concrete and metal mesh building, I see reams of razor wire and chain link fence outside the window. How dangerous is this concept of peace and freedom from oppression, without idols, with love for one another? Think of Dan, Phil, Tom Lewis, Elmer Maas, those witnesses before us, who occupied cells here in years past. Betsy Lamb from Oregon spoke on the phone, reminding me of this history before my arrival here at Danbury. I am too small and old to fight this dragon that has come to rest on this beautiful hill. What peoples walked here before the arrival of the white people?
No fresh air in 9 days. The only drink is water, taken from the sink on bathroom breaks.

Dec. 24th

Christmas Eve, Samuel 7 “It was I who took you from the pasture.”

We were moved last night around 8pm. I stepped out to the cold air in a t-shirt and no socks, the fresh smell of the snow a delight. Now we finish our quarantine in the education center. We were shackled to be driven 300 yards, then let loose alone in this building. No old steam radiator to cozy up to, the night is cold but the cot is more comfortable than the other. We got to see the sunrise at the end of the hall, first glimpse of the sun rising above the horizon behind thin clouds in 11 days, my eyes hurting in the light. No mess obscuring my vision, the hills and trees are lovely at this “campus.” The room here is 4x the size of our “monastic cell.” M. misses the intimacy of it but she adjusts quickly. We now have control of the lights and bathroom access, heavenly! Where is my pasture?
St. Bede writes of “death and a lie” and “truth and life.” Walking onto the naval base that homes and maintains the Trident subs was our statement of leaving ignorance and sin behind. During “receiving” here at FCI the guard fingerprinting me said “you could have been shot.” This is a common concern, comment. I replied that wasn’t what was important to focus on, the base soldiers knew what they had on their hands when first seeing us. The real point is what about whole cities and nations being shot by Trident. The other guard present commented that we were just trying to show people something, he seemed to think more deeply.
Now reading “Jackson Rising,” working towards a democratic transition to eco-socialism. The current model disallows the population (workers) the means of production, thus denying self-determination.

Dec. 25th

+ Christ is Born +

Heavy winds last night shook this rather new building. Our door remains unlocked except when the women come through for the med line. H. is visited by the nurse, and an older woman is locked in a room across the hall from us, she was COVID ill. We keep the lights off most of the day, they are 3x brighter than they need to be. M. and I talk endlessly about our families, getting out, new lives. She is so insightful with an upbeat personality, a beautiful smile. H. is small, pale, maybe Irish with exquisite eyes. She sleeps much of the day. This morning’s guard sits in the hall, unlike our first 2 days here. M. is good in engaging in conversation. He commented on people being here because they take what isn’t theirs after describing the 800 acres here that belong to the federal gov. I said something about the first peoples. He described how people get in trouble in prison when they have things (contraband) that they shouldn’t, I agreed, saying “yes like nuclear weapons.” M. pointed out later how this is free speech but the two of us will not be able to discuss issues, he cannot hear where I am coming from. My approach is too acid and self-righteous. Tonight’s examen will have material to work with.
Luke 2: “They were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds.”
Delp writes about who came to the crib and who did not. The shepherds were capable of wonder, their hearts retained memory of the promises of old, they still desired and held expectation in their simple, pure hearts. Mary hears from them first, that this Child brings the message of light to the world. How do we speak truth to power in a way that it can be heard?
No comb for my hair in nearly 2 weeks, amazing what we can do without. But I really miss dental floss.

Dec. 26th

St. Stephen
Matt 10 “You will be hated by all because of my name.”

COVID+ inmates were housed in these classrooms before the 3 of us were brought here. Our temperatures were all normal this morning. Two more days of quarantine and then off to the camp that is dorm style with 2 bed cubicles.
Everyone got so upset with St. Stephen only because he was so eloquent and full of such love for Jesus! But then Saul’s witness of his death changed so much.
27 degrees and clear out today, my bunkies are restless. They really want to reform their lives after prison. They were both betrayed by boyfriends and need rehab, not prison.
There is no Koran for M. in our current housing. How do we keep faith when our entire culture is godless and self-destructive? There are spiders here and everyone can’t kill them fast enough. The wildlife here is prevalent according to the guards: deer, racoon, turkeys, geese, hawks. The camp has a view on the hill of Candlewood Lake and an outside exercise track. This room is windowless but we can go to the end of the hall to see the sunrise. Last night’s sunset reflected from clouds to the north. M. and I were stunned by the beauty.
Yesterday’s Christmas lunch of mashed potatoes and Cornish hen came with a purpled candle made from an empty toilet paper roll, green leaves attached with red sparkle around the base.

Dec. 27th

Holy Family
“Awaiting the consolation of Israel”
I miss my family and chickens today, looking out the window at the morning pink before sunrise. Discussing nuclear weapons with this morning’s guard. M. tells me my tone of voice puts people off. He was in the Navy. His accent carries a Caribbean lilt, he couldn’t see why nukes are racist. He thought the name Hennessy was cool, as does M. She easily engages the COs (correction officers) and obtains info about the prison. Her personality is bubbly and humorous. We pray for each other.
Thinking of the 1st days here and the dread that possesses one when half asleep. That has reduced after 2 weeks here. Expecting a COVID retest any day now and removal to “Camp.” The numbers there are apparently quite reduced due to the pandemic.
Studying “eco-socialism” with the book “Jackson Rising,” reminding me of Peter Maurin’s ideas and principles. Mutual aid, credit unions, cooperatives for housing, childcare, recycling, composting, growing food. The Black working class that is the majority of the city now faces an assault of gentrification of their neighborhood of West Jackson. The tentacles of capitalism are ever ready to strangle this transition from fossil, fuel-based colonial exploitation to sustainable humane eco-respectful approaches to an economic system so desperately needed in the face of inequality, waste, and insecurity. Climate collapse is a direct result of the old model. The 4th industrial revolution moves us into a digital world where our minds and bodies become an extension of the technology. Where is God in this new model?

Dec. 28th Holy Innocents

Two weeks here with no phone calls to family.
Yesterday’s Holy Family flees for safety. Christ was threatened in utero as Mary was found with child before betrothal. Then again during the slaughter of the innocents. The third time He died on the Cross.
Art [Laffin] and the D.C. Catholic Workers will visit at the Pentagon today in defense of the innocent, defenseless children. Indefensible policy, this weapons manufacture and fabricated reasons for war. We have not yet recovered our freedom from the cold war, it remains in the heart of our culture, our empire.
This airless, windowless room stifles the spirit and soul. At last the hot water came with tea bags for the first time. We sweeten the tea and rejoice in small matters in this confined life of forced bedrest when one is not sick.
Two women recovering from COVID were almost put in this room as the “Camp” had a gas leak yesterday and needed to be evacuated. This quiet building then filled up. Women loudly demanding access to phones, around 10:00pm last night. M. is rejoicing in finally having a commissary order to put in. My second COVID swab was done today. Inmates who are positive are now sharing the bathroom with us before our quarantine is complete. The place is in chaos.

Dec. 29th St. John

Luke: “And you yourself a sword will pierce.”

It is so easy to underestimate, overlook what is right in front of us. The mystery of faith is ever everywhere and our state of mind either facilitates or blocks this phenomenon as it dances all around us. God help me to see it in the sun sparkling off the razor wire when I am able to glimpse out the window. Or a generous moment when someone shares with another inmate.
Relationships with staff is another dance, we are completely dependent. That is their workload, taking care of us. M. should be out, at her job, with her family. It is similar to the economic question raised in “Jackson Rising” – why do we have this particular structure, why did one man like Robert Moses impose his vision on landscape of Long Island and Manhattan? The early Christians suffered an agonizing death on a cross, yet they were described as easy to get along with, caring for all, attempting to walk as Christ did. The world can walk away from slavery and suffering whenever it is ready.
I sit here, worrying about how to get my hands on some toothpaste. It looks like a cold, clear day outside, the snow taken away by last week’s rain. Our monastic cell is quiet today after the “mechanical problems” at the Camp. Our COVID+ neighbors were moved and the bathroom cleaned by other inmates. Everyone waits for food, end of shift, passing time for a future moment that holds what?
No mail since last week. Prison is so dazzlingly dull.

Dec. 30th

St. John’s 1st letter: “Do not love the world or the things of the world.”

Mail comes in from friends and strangers and family, many thanking the KBP7 for loving and standing up for the world, humanity, God’s creation.
I am attached to the material, seen in the trees, a well-built house, Granny’s rosary. It is the accumulation of more than we need for our basic needs that the scripture teaches us about attachments to the material world, and status associated with those material possessions. The stack of books sent in to the prison to me keeps growing. I pass on what I have read, and read the mail aloud to H. and M. They very much appreciate the love sent to them through this community. Seeing Christ in the other, seeing the humanity of all prisoners, such a blessing.
We see people walking in the hall, on work detail, wearing heavy coats. The cold of winter is here, a nearby pond now looks frozen over when I can get a glance out the window. Six vials of blood were drawn this morning before breakfast. Someone brought toothpaste and shampoo, the young women rejoice. It is the Little Way, such scarcity, we make do without. I don’t miss the cell phone or computer yet.
The month is waning, we could see the sunset last night out of one side of the building, and the full moon rise on the other side, a real treat. December daily readings are nearly complete. I carried January with me but it was sent home. No sight of it in the piles of mail that came yesterday. I will be lost without it. Attachments!
A quote from “Theophilos,” a novel about Christ’s life: “to love in truth is to serve the ones who suffer before you.” The historical context makes for such a rich story, 30 years after the Crucifixion and memories of those who knew Him. The brutality of empire then and now “sitting on a throne burning one’s children for sport of profit,” another devastating indictment for us all to repent for. It is difficult sometimes to sit here and remember that here is a good place to be, even as the short childhoods of my grandchildren miss my company while sliding on the hill after a fluffy snowfall, or helping to collect the day’s eggs. But Br. Anthony of the Capuchins sends a reminder as well, “strong is your voice, even from within the forced silence of your prison walls… I see you and I hear you…”
“Christmas in confinement” is a small sacrifice to be able to stand in a place of rejecting the Bomb. We sit from a room down the hall that temporarily houses 12 women who test positive for COVID but are asymptomatic. Praying the Angelus for them.

Dec. 31st

Last day of an exceptional year. All of our institutions and norms, and everyday tasks are shifted, effected, eliminated in some way. Yet the billionaires are enabled to become trillionaires, and environmental degradation continues at a rapid pace. How will we rehabilitate ourselves regarding education, health care, energy? Changes are being forced upon the world, some helpful, most not taken voluntarily where it would do the most good.
John the Baptist: “The one who is coming after me ranks ahead of me because He existed before me.” Fullness received, there before us and with us, but so hard to see and accept.
We are having delicate conversations about Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. I wish to be doing Bible study in the concordances for the Old Testament. So much to study and learn. My eyes are fatigued with all the reading and the light. Oh to breathe fresh air, only a brief moment in the past 17 days. Still no phone calls, stamps, envelopes. The mail builds up in two large envelopes, much correspondence to keep up with, but I have written to no one.
We sweep and mop the floor and leave our shoes at the door. So grateful for my Bengali Bunkie. It looks like more rain last night, perhaps the Vermont snow is gone as well. Kathy K[elly] sent a copy of my sister’s reflection on Christmas, printed in “The Tablet” of London. Tears well with homesickness and the loneliness of family members now gone.
Today is the birthday of Roger O’Neill, now gone from us at Maryhouse. I do miss everyone in Vermont and NY. Thoughts went to Clare and Patrick who face entering the “complex” soon.

Jan 1st

A Happy New Year! Sad about not having January’s “Give Us This Day,” missing it sorely this morning.
A not quite full moon was setting in the west, the hills rosy with the rising sun, a cold morning. It was a joy to discover while looking out the only window available now to see the golden onion domes of St. Anthony’s Byzantine Catholic Church at the bottom of the hill. We passed it on the way in nearly three weeks ago when Steven delivered me here. Oh, to attend a Mass down there, a walk through the woods!
Reading in “Theophilos” about Berenike (Veronica) and the blood of Christ on his way to death. The discussion of myth, reality, faith, the mystery of our minds and what we are willing or able to believe in what we see with our eyes. To bear wounds as part of one’s message and still be rejected! The spilling of blood as purification. I poured it on the door and threshold of the Strategic Weapons Facility – Atlantic administration building that cool April night in South Georgia. Thick, silent, dark blood spilled for the love of God and humanity to purify ourselves from the idolatry of these most stupendously powerful weapons for omnicide.
The Romans were very efficient in maintaining order, instilling fear, and absorbing the region and peoples around the Mediterranean Sea. Oh, what political, religious, cultural, military complications surrounding the execution of Jesus! He was fully man and fully God, resurrected from the dead, breaking natural rules one time in history. Does God ask this of us every day? This puzzle remains scattered in limitations of the mind.
There’s a woman kept in a small windowless room who came here five months ago. She contracted COVID, went into the hospital, and returned to this room. The quarantine is 21 days and she is beyond this yet no move is made. A Rabbi visited her today. She has access to the phone luckily. I would die in there.
The sounds of a kitchen come through the back wall in this room, the clang of washing big pots in a sink. I miss Maryhouse.

Jan 2nd

What bitterness to miss the daily readings and references to feast dates, saints’ days and Robert [Ellsberg]’s reflections on “Blessing Among Us.” Gideon’s Bible is the only thing at hand for now. Apparently the chaplaincy has “The Word Among Us,” that would cite the daily readings. I have it on request but no one brings it.
The prophet “Daniel” should be a good review as mentioned in “Theophilos.” What a story of Luke’s father so painfully coming to Christ, “come to me and live.” The description of a round pot decorated with an octopus, an ancient piece of pottery even in AD 65 is so frightful considering the intelligence of such a creature, being demonized with tentacles surrounding the earth to devour it. The human renditions of Jesus at different ages in His life, divine amongst the world, give such warmth and beauty to our faith. Now on to essays of T. Merton, specifically on St. John of the Cross, whose feast day I came in on December 14th. My educational background is sparce indeed while reading so many references to books, philosophers, history, Latin and Greek phrases. The “Spiritual Canticle” included in Merton’s essay, written under torture, a gift from this obscure saint who shows us that “Sanctity itself is a living solution to the problem of suffering.” Why was he stuck in a lightless, airless closet, for proposing reforms? The self denial found here in prison, voluntarily, for the point of nuclear abolition, we haven’t changed much in the past 500 years.
Reading about the technology of Space Command. This evil remains with us in daily life of the 21st century. The power seems overwhelming, the super rich technophiles so in control, untouchable, yet we know the power of God, prayer, and love is with us still. To “pray in a certain way in which God wants them to pray,” St. John holds up a standard seen in both Dorothy and Tamar in their life’s sufferings. Humble vocations and detachment from things of the earth. Tamar once commented that “Dorothy was not an intellectual,” she received the world through her heart, not mind. This attachment to sky, sea, plants, earth, air, trees, gazelles will never leave this barefoot peasant who grew up in the hills of Vermont.
We now have envelopes but no stamps, perhaps an order will go in over the next few days. Anxiety arises thinking of the next transition out of this known space and into another, maybe on Monday the 4th.

Jan 3rd

Our quarantine group is now up to 6, one in isolation across the hall who is positive. The shower must be shared with her. M. is very good about spraying down and cleaning on a regular basis. The community dynamics change with the personalities, so much influence from drug use. This prison experience will not help people put themselves back together again. Such waste and heartbreak, wounds going unattended, even made worse.
Delp writes about the reclaiming of humanity and the historic missteps we have made many times over. He outlines the steps to be taken; socialism of the minimum, honesty, basic standards of human solidarity, a sense of service to others, aspiration for something higher, and a capacity to attain these basic minimums. God wants us to provide the basics for ourselves and each other and we are so capable. The implications are staggering with resulting collapse of our environment. The natural world is to be conquered, destroyed, and still we are unsatiated.
The distant, muffled screams of inmate’s’ frustrations can be heard. Basic human needs going unmet. My thoughts become harder to control without the daily good news of the readings where we are given hope, praise, gratitude and other good reminders. Clare’s letter reminds me of Centering Prayer, a good practice – images of water, waves, a honeybee.

Jan 4th

Isaiah 11 “There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy maintain.”

I will just have to pick out a reading as the daily ones are not available. The child near the viper, the lamb with the wolf – The Peaceable Kingdom conjures up Fritz Eichenberg’s image decorating the walls of my childhood. Federal prison is not a holy mountain, but we are called to try and make it holy for day to day interactions.
At last we will have new clothes and laundry service, three weeks with one pair of panties is tough. No Mass in three weeks, it feels so isolating. The recent meals are difficult to take, loss of appetite seems to be setting in. The chicken and green beans I put up last summer are sorely missed!
There is an inch or two of fresh fallen snow from the night. The definition of the trees and hillsides become more pronounced. My eyes strain from so much close, indoor work.

Jan 5th

Everyone is so much happier now that we have phone access to call family. M. was concerned about her mother not hearing from her. More books and letters arrived last night, I hand on duplicates and others to the women who are so appreciative.
James Baldwin’s “The Fire Next Time,” is such a powerful, short read. “When God’s vengeance is achieved, what will happen to all that beauty?” An incredibly sensitive and precise question. To speak of love and beauty, that seems to be the only measuring stick worth looking at. The scalding words, “America, of all the Western nations, has been best placed to prove the uselessness and the obsolescence of the concept of [skin] color.” The racist entrenchment feels overwhelming, the simple act of seeing the humanity of others is so difficult to practice in white culture. Our false selves and material greed gain the upper hand.
What of the fate of the US Catholic Church? As Delp points out She must end any alliance of throne (White House, Congress) and altar in every form. We must take back the true sacramentality, pure vocations, fulfilled human beings that she should really be made up of, leave behind forever this mimicry of elitism. How hard it is to understand the Kingdom is here, now even as we deny it.
These ramblings are a means of coping with the reality of sitting in this building at this moment in life.

Jan 6th Epiphany

Wisdom 6: “For the lowly may be pardoned out of mercy but the mighty shall be mightily put to the test.”

The first call home yesterday was a real treat, even though the phone line is next to the isolation room with a woman who came in with COVID. The phone was locked down at 10pm last night, the handbook says it should be available until 11:30pm. One of us 6 had a melt down. It was late, I was tired. They tend to sleep during the day and stay up late, until midnight count time. My nerves are jangled.
Reading in Simon Wiesenthal’s “The Sunflower” about the Jews in Poland even before the Nazis brought in their program, is so hair raising. Making the ground fertile for Holocaust, the Catholic SS soldier’s confession [was met] with silence. Where is God, is there forgiveness? Crimes and sins seem to go unpunished, but in the end it all comes crumbling down. Who receives a sunflower on their graves, who a mass, unmarked grave? Maybe a trashy novel would be a better read in this setting.
Steven will send the January readings, praise be to God. Three letters to go out but still no stamps. Today’s desolation is to wrestle with how systems of oppression operate, our reactions to them, how we choose to operate when forced to be within them. Mutual respect is a necessity, but how does a veneer of it over a rotten system help? Personalism is all we are left with, between each other.
Everyone’s commissary came but mine. No stamps, envelopes, notepaper, pens, deodorant!
PM – Spoke with Steven, Trump spoke at length to 30k people with incendiary language and they proceeded to move against the Capitol and interfere with the electoral college vote. DC is on curfew, the National Guard out.

Jan 7th

M. spoke with her sister who lives and works for the State Department in DC. Apparently a woman was shot, no details. The Senate may now be in the hands of the Democratic party, the ghastly struggle goes on.
Reading from Gideon’s Bible, the only one at hand, about Jesus’ death at the end of Mark. The fine linen and oils to prepare to minister to His body, the question “who will roll away the stone?” Imagine the simple, sad task at hand, and yet… What does it mean that the veil of the Temple was rent from top to bottom at the moment of His death? It’s as though the story is barely audible, my capacity to grasp it is just not there yet, understanding eludes my mind, and yet the story is with me forever.
Receiving much mail, beautiful greetings, loving support, it is all so amazing. 20 books now sit near the bed. Paperwork came back denying compassionate release, however my case is being considered for home confinement under the CARES act. It is a trade off being here, no sunlight or fresh air, but also no joint pain, being relieved of chores, tossing hay, carrying water, filling the wood box. Hands and knee are grateful but so idle.

Jan 8th

Camp at last! Windows without mesh! A walk outside! The view to the west shows the black silhouette of a “police” dog on the brown of the hill, one of the first things I noticed from the parking lot on arrival. And to the east a glorious sunrise.
The women stay up late and rarely go outside. Huge pine trees line the top of the hill before a set of stairs descends down to a field with a walking/running track. M. and I went out and spotted deer and a fox. The freedom of movement now makes one feel it to be bearable. My cubicle is below ground in a dark corner, without glaring lights in the eyes. A reading lamp by the head of the bed feels like glorious luxury. COVID cases are still in the dorms, it is a constant effort to keep precautions. The chapel is a refuge, however airless and stuffy when the sun pours in. A few bedraggled houseplants give the room some blessed green, ragged bibles sit on the shelves.
No Masses are held since COVID, at least this is a haven for praying the Rosary. Postage stamps came just as I was moved yesterday, so several letters went out at last. After nearly a month of inactivity climbing the hill here with a bag of 20 books had my heart pounding. (My arms ache this morning!) The POs made a point of having us carry our own belongings, refusing to help. The latest book to come, “Bending the Arch,” has many essays from friends and peacemakers, it is a joy to read about such strong, hopeful lives lived in opposition to war.

Jan 9th Mitzvah

A Prayer: Oh Lord, God, Adonai, Hashem, Elohim, Most High, Master of All, My Light, My Love, My All, You Whom I seek! Open my lips and my mouth shall proclaim your praise, glory, your strength and love. You who are the most wonderful father/mother Who I am utterly dependent upon to help me, show me Your ways, guide me, sustain me, give me hands, eyes, feet, ears to follow you in the care of others and this earth that sustains us, gives us life. I beseech you to keep taking care of us all despite our sins, crimes, shortcomings, deliberate cruelty, stupidity, and all the rest of our human failings, known and unknown. God help us! Protect my family and everyone else. Bring this prison down and help us to place people where they belong and where they may thrive. Please, Love of All, let my petition come to Your ears and give me strength to continue to walk, see, love, nourish. Thank you dear God for giving me this life, my family, my community, all the animals and plants, sky, water, earth, ice, flowers, trees, rocks, all of it. Bless us in You.
More distractions, space, and things to do now. I covet my time after feeling the drag of time under quarantine, a funny thing. Reading, praying, exercising, sitting quietly all have a greater appeal than reading/answering mail, making phone calls, setting up email.
A walk this morning was bitingly cold, the bare, deep ground, frozen beneath footsteps. Deer and fox scat lay scattered in the field along with prison debris. Someone dumped salt near an ornamental tree by the door, sure to kill it. I should try and remove it. The dozen, huge, white pines that crown the brow of the hill shimmered this morning with the sunrise, a blessing for the eyes. A bank on the north side of our underground room has sun shining in on the empty mattress, a glorious morning greeting. The “dorm” is like a packed warehouse, pipes and wires across the ceiling, so closed in and dark. But sometimes the cubicle and bed are a very welcomed refuge. The building is designed to punish and separate the occupants from the great outdoors. But thank God the outside IS NOT LOCKED. The psychology of that is much better than [being] so closed in as the first few weeks.

Jan 10th

I am attempting to read the Artscroll for morning prayers, lacking the daily Catholic readings. Sitting in the Chapel, it is utterly quiet on this Sunday morning. Two laps of slow running outdoors is such a blessing, the cold air snaps me to attention, breathing out the inside stale air. Anything to improve chances of not contracting COVID. Clear, blue sky, so grateful to be able to see it. My Rosary partner, C., asks that we pray at 3:00pm, the moment of Christ’s death.
Someone has now sent Daniel Ellsberg’s “The Doomsday Machine” in paperback. Liz read it before the action and handed it to me to carry into the base. We placed it (hardcover) in a ziplock bag and set it in front of the SWFLANT administrative door, Clare painted a heart around it. Our offering.
Every one of my fellow inmates are sleeping in this Sunday morning as “stand up count” is at 10am. I remain on a peasant’s timeframe, up for the farm animals early. So much mail to answer and hopefully short articles to write, make known the destructive plans that must be revealed and foiled!

Jan 11th

Usually the beginning of our fasts and visits in DC with WAT in solidarity with prisoners of Guantanamo. “May we merit a beautiful cloak in the Garden of Eden and may You give us to drink from the stream of Your delights.”
On work detail yesterday, two hours of cleaning 4 bathrooms, the main entrance to the prison, and the visitors room. Sort of like Maryhouse.
This morning before sunrise the sky shone aglow with orange, now it is overcast. Perhaps snow will come.
Continuing efforts with getting letters out takes up time, envelopes are scarce around here, out of stock in commissary. Now readings Hartung’s “Profits of War,” Lockheed Martin with its private contractors, attempting to buy Titan, a group involved with bribery and torture and rape. What did the Justice Department learn in 2006 about the conflating of government/military/business in the field of warmaking? Three quarters of the so-called budget of the U.S. intelligence community goes to private contractors, $40 billion to Lockheed Martin. A good journalistic foray into who these CEOs are, where they live, how they live would be helpful for the public to read about and see how “war on terror” makes for a superrich, elite class.
I have yet to arrange for no pay with this geriatric prison labor I’m now engaged in, without paying restitution. Maybe [I won’t] report the hours worked, a nondirect avoidance of the issue.

Jan 12th

Hebrews 2: Dominion over God’s works, we are lower than angels
Psalm 8: Strength from the mouth of babes
Mark 1: Jesus sends demons out

Hoping I have the correct readings of the day. “The Word Among Us” is provided in the chapel. The question of who has authority over what/whom? A big one here in the prison setting. We have so much free (empty) time and yet we are constantly on call for whatever activities may be called out at any moment. Chow, commissary, work detail, mail, anything. To be held in limbo yet commanded to do any number of tasks.
MSNBC reporting on the “insurrection” and violence in DC last week, and more predicted for state capitols around inauguration. The mob wants violent change as a means to challenge the powerful. We have no true sense of democracy, a chasm between theory and practice.
Commissary this morning, I spend “my” money on cheese, kosher pickles, chocolate, and stamps. The daily precautions continue with a mask at all times except in my cell, opening doors, activating faucets with elbow, shoulder, or tissue in hand. I can get very carried away. One dorm is on quarantine and yet pass others in the hall for meal pickup. Those slated to leave are held in the top tier, on quarantine until they leave. All a mystery in who decides what, how.
Birds of the air, creatures who part the waters of the sea, animals running freely through woods and fields, do we dictate your course with climate collapse? Jesus brings loving kindness!

Jan 14th

Deut. 29 in the morning reading caught my eye. I looked up the full verse in a study copy of the Torah, making a covenant with God that includes a curse, to be in the presence of the Lord, our God and even with those who are no longer with use.
. Five women left today with hugs from those who stay behind. The community is truly amazing in their faith, hope, and love. A godless system brings us closer to God and each other. A woman here fell on her left elbow, they did an x-ray and said something about a radial head fracture, gave her a sling, then told her to move the joint. She hasn’t seen a doctor and four days have passed and she has lost elbow extension/flexion. Meanwhile the medical staff is trying to give me an EKG for a heart murmur that poses no issues. As an OT I am witnessing medical neglect and the woman who suffers lives and works on a farm.

Jan 16th

Heb. 4 “The word of God is living and effective.”

Today we are on lockdown “due to the national uncertainty that is evolving.” The BOP no doubt has a role in the fascist insurrection and we will have martial law under a Democrat president no doubt. God forgive my bitter cynicism. But the narrative and so-called reality presented to the public is a sham, our exceptionalism has died in the eyes of the world. Now maybe we can get down to the difficult business of truth and reconciliation.
The word of God is the only reality that matters. And that word is love. It is raining outside, I yearn to walk in it but alas, we are in lockdown for the sins of so-called Trump supporters.

Jan. 17th Sunday

John 1: “What are you looking for?” “We have found the Messiah.”

Due to “current national events” we are still on modified lock down, no walking in the morning sun thanks to those who brought us Charlottesville three Augusts ago, now going to DC and other state capitols. Such a fine-tuned machine, facilitated by advanced technology and amazing ignorance. The more honest marauders dress up as visigoths with horns, hides, and all. What a spectacle we have become.
The sky is clear, cold weather settling in for a few days, the sun streams into the rec. room. Happy to find an old copy of Ardeth Platte’s book written by Rosalie Reigle on Dorothy. Like finding a friend in the wilderness, Ardeth presente!
Someone gave me a philodendron that she rooted in a bottle of water. I found a pot, now I need the opportunity to scrape up some god soil from outside. Thinking of prisoners in Guantanamo who planted watermelon seeds from their food. The tenacity of life is so strong.

Jan 18th

God bless Martin Luther King, Jr., our prophet/martyr of the 20th century. “The logic of racism is genocide.” Mark Colville made such a beautiful banner to carry on to the naval base.
Mark 2: “New wine is poured into fresh wine skins.” My mind struggles to grasp this concept. Am I an old wineskin about to burst with the new wine of pouring blood at Kings Bay and now sitting in Danbury federal prison? But I must trust God’s plan for me, I was both attracted to and “forced” into walking a prophetic action, symbolic, casting the rule of God onto the Trident weapons system. God spoke, who are awe to not respond? Meanwhile let’s pray that both the wine and the wineskin are preserved.
A warden inspection of the cells happens today, all the lovely pictures come off the walls and my rooting philodendron must be hidden in the corner.
It is a quiet day being a holiday, the women like to sleep in. A fellow inmate gave me some lovely yarn, more color to add to the knitting projects. The beauty among the drab, one must celebrate.

Jan. 19th

Heb. 6: “anchor of the soul” that is God who is forever truth and comfort to us.

Kept awake last night until midnight with noisy dorm, young women with no senses or care of others’ needs. But the expectations are that those of us who rise early must be quiet as mice, while the night owls sleep until mid-morning. I am so much of the body – food, sleep, movement are imperative for my stability.
Colleen D. sent some quotes of Granny’s New Years resolutions. One that caught my eye was “To pay no attention to health of body but only to that of soul.” Father Hugo stuff, poor Tamar as a 14 year-old hearing that from her mother through an ignorant priest/man. Another resolution that I fail at, “less criticism.”
I inherited a hand crochet lap throw from an older woman who left today. So grateful to have it to put over me during the day when I lie down.

Jan. 21st

Mark 3: “hearing all that He did.”

Listening to Joe Biden’s acceptance speech after mass in the morning, he did echo principles of his faith. How this gets translated into economic and political policy remains to be seen. Will his moral strength be upheld by his personal willingness to carry out self-sacrifice? Granny believed that so much integrity is lost in a man who pursues high office. The healing needs are so immense, unity and care of one another is the only way out but does our “democracy” actually allow for this approach? We can only hope, act, set the good example.
Not a word about nuclear disarmament in the litany of challenges and sins the country faces. The act of symbolic, sacramental disarmament, this is going up against the law and order of the status quo, is what brings me here.
The news of COVID entering both Maryhouse and St. Joe’s shutting down the food line is very disturbing.

Jan 22nd

Mark 3:13-15 “be with Him… send forth to preach… drive out demons.”

Our first task is to be with Him before we are prepared for the next two. Dorothy and Tamar also helped with the first step, see and feel the suffering of others which is the heart and mind of Jesus. The lostness and pain of the women here is very close to the surface, it can’t be missed I stumble over the preaching part, what form to bring the Good News in so that ears may hear. I haven’t yet been able to share the books that come in or discuss why I am here, it is taboo to speak of the crime, but the amount of time given is the focus. I suppose I am here to drive out my own demons, not anyone else’s.
No way to get news on the TPNW, as if it doesn’t even exist, let alone go into effect today. 50 minutes remains on my phone account for the next 9 days, so I have wildly spent time with friends as well as family on the phone.
Jeannine Hill Fletcher, friend and professor at Fordham, wrote the most touching sermon for Patrick’s going to prison Festival of Hope, so grateful she sent it on.

Jan 23rd

Heb. 9: “passing through the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made by hands.”
Mark 3: “He is out of His mind,” “He is beside Himself.”

How to proceed without looking “mad,” insane, a zealot? Poor Granny was just trying to help the most needy and show love of God and she got it in the neck by her own Church.
The things the mind processes throughout life, at 65 in prison I’m sifting through life events for more clarity. Jesus’ message was one of simply loving each other and how is understood He was, like Granny. If love means to end greed and wealth, that goes up against all that the U.S. means and stands for.
This morning I work in the library, the CO who unlocked the door said he knew why I am here and appreciates it.

Jan. 24th

Mark 4: “Then he called them.”

My first Lectio with another inmate. Working in the library Sat/Sun 7:30-9:30AM. We sat together and did the reading, she is married to a Catholic but they couldn’t marry in the Church because she was divorced. That was very hard on her husband. We talked about how to know when it is God calling us vs. our own will to serve ourselves. She wants to read “The Long Loneliness.”
How do we know when we are being called in the midst of our ordinary lives? And how do we respond? I took an OT job in Maui for 9 months in 2005-06 after a car accident and my father’s death in February. My mother and husband knew something had changed for me, I think I had to get away to explore my baptism. She was understanding, he was not so much able to accept the unknown changes at first. Neither of us knew what they meant. It seems to have led me here, sitting at Danbury Federal Prison camp for women.
Did Jesus seek me out for this work? Did Granny plant the seed by giving me the book “Hiroshima?”
Jack Joppa-Cohen emailed to say there were many events around the country to commemorate the TPNW coming into legal effect on the 22nd. The holy work is the simple true love of God.

Jan. 25th

Mark/Acts “this Way to death,” “They will recover.”

Conversion stories are always interesting and exciting. Saul was in on the stoning of Stephen, imaging the changes his mind and heart had to go through.
Three of us did the daily readings together, what a treat. They both come from Protestant background but married Catholics. We will meet at 8:30AM every morning.
Now reading “Orange is the New Black,” feeling silly reading about where I am. Not enough political analysis for me, but she gives what she can to the story. Prison erodes the humanity of everyone who steps into such an institution. Special needs must be met in a different manner. How to exchange hearts of stone for ones of flesh? It is a long process building “a world in which it is easier to be good.”
It is so quiet around here with the numbers being so low and women off to work.

Jan. 26th

Mark 3:31-35 “Whoever does the will of God is my brother, sister, mother.”

We are called out from the arms of our families, to share with the greater community the love the world needs so much. I think of Granny and Forster and the loss to family there. I ended up with a childhood void of a grandfather and father. Mary had to hold her son in soul and not flesh, and to let go. I believe Forster was willing and able to let her go, seeing that the presence of God had seized her.
I continue to stumble on my failures in this harsh setting. Keeping the Spirit in everyday life is so hard to do.

Jan. 27th

5:00am call to shovel snow, I rashly volunteered yesterday. I got out there at 7 when it was light, lovely morning. The use of salt is disturbing. Inmates are protesting that I am shoveling snow, too old.
Medical wanted to do an EKG yesterday due to my life long heart murmur discovered at age 6, the first time I saw a doctor after getting on welfare after Daddy left the family.
Doing the daily readings with two others, so am writing before seeing the readings. “Blessed Among US” features Baron Friedrich von Hugel who Robert [Ellsberg] writes about. “Frustration with the institutional exercise of authority (which was often ‘cruel and unjust’) he believed was no reason to cut oneself off from the spiritual and sacramental life of the Church.” That explains exactly what happened with my life in the Church. Poor Granny lamented how we all fled, her daughter and grandchildren.
I haven’t had Mass in two months and yesterday found myself reading Order of Mass in the back of “Give Us This Day.” February issue came, thanks for Maryhouse, very grateful.

Jan. 28th

Mark 4-25: “to him who has more will be given.”

Not wealth or power, but spiritual growth. Our capacity to love atrophies if we don’t use it, practice what the Holy Spirit attempts to teach us, how to hear and understand the word of God. In this place an extra hard task.
Here there is a new regime underfoot, get up early, clean your room, go to your classes, do your work, or get “shot” with an infraction on your record. I thought I read somewhere that a religious book could be left on top of one’s room locker. Eating in our cubicles because of COVID means standing up alone for the meal on the locker. I have to hide the philodendron every time there is threat of room inspection. But blueberry pancakes were served for breakfast before the booming PA voice delivered the “back to the basics” message, to remind us we are not to slip back into our sloven ways of a messy room, sleeping all the time, and general depressive behavior that goes with confinement. Oh the sacred and the mundane!

Jan. 29th

Mark 4-31: The mustard seed parable.

It is like a tiny seed that will bring the big change, the spreading of the good news, the coming of the Kingdom of love. I did a very bad job of this in my interactions this morning with the case manager regarding paperwork for home confinement due to COVID risk. I’m just not humble about being mistreated. It’s best to ask for nothing, avoid staff at all costs, and remain on the margins. My GA attorney sent paperwork for compassionate release, a follow up was needed, I am done with it.
Today, after 46 days in custody, the admission and orientation was completed in about 3 hours. Good to know how the BOP is keeping us safe and the public safe from us. All procedures are presented to us from the angle that we are hapless and dishonest. I took notes for the fun of it. Must work harder at not submitting to cynicism and hostility as the prison M.O.
The full moon rose last night around 5pm in pink glory. So grateful the natural world seeps through the cracks despite the constructed world we build for ourselves. The tiny mustard seed wins out/transforms!

Jan. 30th

Heb. 11: “by faith… did not receive what had been promised… greeted it from afar… seeking a homeland.”
Mark 4: “Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?”

Sitting in the library on a Saturday morning, 7:30-9:30 as my job. No heat in here, I am bundled up, and suffering vertigo and a thumb stuck in extension. Woe is me! Oh how I wanna go home. But I must greet it from afar and learn how to yearn for the true homeland, and trust in God. We will be nuclear-free. We will reverse climate destruction. We will end violence.
I learned how to play a card game “skip-bo” with the white, middle-aged group of women last night, similar to Uno. We do tend to segregate here due to age, race, and interests.
I now receive the NYT thanks to Bob and Kathy. The tone is more serious compared to 6 months ago.

Jan. 31st

Deut. 18: The people beg for a prophet/mediator so as to avoid being consumed by the fierce power of God.

And if this prophet misquotes God he will die. Jesus quoted God more eloquently than the scribes (Mk 1) and the people killed Him. The power of God through Jesus was still too much for the people.
On library duty this last Sunday morning in January.
The moon, 2 days beyond full, came up orange last night. One of the women invited me out to look, my first view of the night sky in 2 months. Orion was not in the position I am used to in my little Vermont valley that faces southeast. I am wholly disoriented here, knowing where north is in relation to the sun/moon rise and sun/moon set. We are told we can’t go out in the dark but women go out all the time to smoke.
One of the women is reading “The Long Loneliness,” she asked her Colombian Catholic husband to send it. They couldn’t marry in the Church because she had been previously married, it was very hard on him to lose that. Does the Church teach that remarriage is evil because of what Paul said? We must hold contradictions simultaneously. Like the prison chaplain who recently preached in support of what we did to Iraq, Paul persecuting the Way to death. Ancestral law and zeal for God, what does that end up looking like?
My cheap prison shoes are made in China and have a terrible, toxic, chemical smell to them, even after 7 weeks of having them in the air and in use. Every detail of our worldly existence is made difficult, rough textured sheets, towels, pants, musty apples, watering skim milk, blasting shower spray, anything to assault the senses, visual, auditory, tactile, gustatory. Mortification of the senses, like the scourging at the pillar. No product is too cheap or of poor quality for the poor and imprisoned.

Feb. 1st St. Brigid

Let’s remember the Maternal Face of God.
Heb.: “The world was not worthy of them.” The martyred prophets.
Mark 5 “dwelling among the tombs.”

We torment those who are already suffering, rather than treat them, heal them. That is what prison is about. Scapegoat the weakest to justify the strongest. But it is in faith that endurance can be found. The hatred of the faithless knows no bounds. There are so many of us wounded ones. My mind goes to the statistic of 20 combat veterans a day killing themselves. Also in our drone wars, we name fleeing escapees from a hit as “squirters.” Why is evil so powerful and why can’t we harvest the goods of peace?
Reading “Democracy in Chains” and listening to MSNBC news isn’t helping my state of mind. How about St. Brigid and the lake of beer, to spare us the misery.
There was a gas leak here last month and the women breathed it for 5 days. The fire department was TURNED AWAY at the foot of the hill until a court order forced the prison to allow them up. The exit lights are out in the dorms, the sprinkler system and carbon monoxide detectors don’t function, God help us. The warden is on her way to retirement, no one is really running the place.
I went out at 6:30AM to shovel snow. The wind is high, more snow is expected. The violent militias are organizing themselves for more assaults. Where will it all end? I try not to scream, banging in my chains, bruising myself on the many stones.

Feb. 2nd Presentation of Infant Lord/Purification of His Mother

Luke 2 – Simeon awaited the consolation of Israel. How did he know this baby was the Christ when he took Him in his arms? Then Jesus was able to have a normal, obscure childhood, growing in His wisdom and love of God. Simeon’s desire was for the salvation and God’s promise for His people. This for all people, God is here/now with us. Jesus brings us the law of love and service, the fulfillment of God’s law, not human pride, greed, lust for power.
I was up at 5:15 to shovel snow after the storm. One hour of shoveling gave a stiff back and knees. The dignity of work takes a strange twist in a prison setting. People want to contribute but resent being told to do something they don’t feel is for their good, but for the power of others.
A. is Romanian and trained as a lawyer. As a child her parents were not allowed to attend church under Communism, but she went with her grandmother. She has no trust of state or church but she believes strongly in God.
My Rosary group seems to be fracturing along unclear lines, to go to one one’s room, or the chapel, and to include who. I will ask about clarification on this, racial resentment is a huge undercurrent.

Feb. 3

St. Blaise, healing of the throat, the spoken word.
Heb. 12:4: “In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.”

Granny would repeat this quote, a good reminder on how far shall we go, or we are fortunate to not be asked, yet to go that far. How do we demonstrate “despise the shame,” take the suffering and don’t return it. Prison is a good discipline, reminder. No as bad as being literally crucified, like the children of Yemen.
Mark 6:1-6: Jesus couldn’t perform well in His own hometown because of the skepticism, amazing lack of faith. I could never walk onto that naval base alone, ever. None of us could have. I’m still being told it was a foolish, criminal act. But that voice is from a small minority. All wars are fought to retain slavery. The U.S. media keeps its people ignorant and hateful. The screen has taken over our brains and attention, we are now all “blue in the face.”
I was told to stop shoveling snow, not by the CO but by the women. No one went out this morning but me at 7am.

Feb. 4th 2021

Mark 6:7-13: Jesus sends disciples out 2 by 2 and they are wholly dependent on whoever takes them in. The first going out, and with no material support.

I left my baggage at the gate, whatever number it was, at Kings Bay. I knelt in the bushes and prayed while others disposed of the padlock. Useless fear, uncertainty, second guessing, all had to be let go. I was there now, about to enter, the sacramental act was for now. Tell the nations, “these weapons have to go!”
Such preoccupation in the trial over bolt cutters and spray paint, rather than symbolic hammers and blood. And here in federal prison camp I am asking for home confinement before my time is up. This place has received me, the going is tough, why am I trying to “shake the dust off” and quit? To be buried alive in this place may look like defeat and humility and it is and it’s good.
I pass a C.O. in the hall with JUSTICE in big letters on his back, FCI in small letters underneath. They may fool themselves some of the time.
The last quarter of the moon is in the morning sky, the snow sparkles in the sun. I have a spot to sit under one of the pines, overlooking hills clad in hardwoods. The snow accents the curves and definitions of the land. I found a sweet spot like this in back of my high school in 10th grade, I would escape there as I was in an “alternative” program that allowed this going missing for a while during the day. This flight from institutions runs deep in my bones.

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