Rough Start – So Many Questions

Light In the Distance…

Final Months of the Long Road Home

By Steven Maisenbacher

Walks On The Grass

With my long-awaited “Out Date” – August 31, 2022 just months away I have been scrambling to try to prepare for the imminent transition. During the closing months of 2021, I was heartened by the fact that the Covid Pandemic seemed to be over and one by one, the severe restrictions were being lifted. When indoor recreation opened again I found myself back in the band room making music by the hour. It was a good time. My spirit was filled with optimism and great expectations.

In October the court granted my brother Ghost Dancer a compassionate release. He was whisked out the door so fast I didn’t even have a chance to say goodbye. Then our Native Spiritual Group was allowed to have our first sweat ceremony in nearly two years.  To have this sacred time in the lodge with two special brothers who were leaving was a true blessing. I could see the light in the distance for me and soon I would be leaving too.

Then 2022 arrived and all of a sudden, like Deja vu, the nightmare of Omicron reared its ugly head. Within days there were more than 60 inmates either testing positive or sick as a dog. Although it’s not as much of a killer as the other versions of Covid-19 that have come thru here, it has still put us on lockdown and “modified operations.” So all-in-all my whole world at this time is once again in confusing upheaval.

Gone is all recreation or any mixing of units together. There is no eating in the chow hall. Unit by unit we are going out to pick up a styrofoam tray to go and bringing it back to the unit to eat. The food is invariably cold to begin with and all but a frozen dinner by the time we make it back to the unit.

Now I’m not exaggerating when I say the commissary here is the poorest run store I’ve ever seen. It is always out of most items, never can you get what you order. They say most of your order is “out of stock,” or was it sold to “preferred” customers for a little bonus? I have seen the store be out of such staples as soups or coffee or batteries. This to me is amazing in an environment where soups are what generally keep people from going hungry, coffee, because it’s one of the few things people enjoy it seems, and batteries are needed for the radios you must have to watch television or listen to the radio. It’s crazy that all this has landed at this point, almost as if the world is never gonna get better. I for one am glad I have over the decades learned to get by with as little as I do; it will serve me well once I am released.

I’m still working when they let us go to work but even that is a very unstable factor where we never know from one minute to the next if they are gonna hit the buzzer and announce tool call to make us go in from work to the unit and be subjected to yet another round of nonsense and lockdowns for what reason? For one thing they can’t keep enough people to work in this place so they are always understaffed. And the cruelest cut, the staff they do have try to transfer the blame for all this onto us.  Well, I’m pretty sure it isn’t “us” that brings this crap into the joint since we NEVER leave here. So it’s got to be the cops that bring it in, infecting all they come into contact with. I’m pretty sure the virus doesn’t just jump the fence and infect us, but it’s here and doesn’t seem to be going away, just one variant after another.

I know we will survive, but I also know that ways will be found by the administration to do less and less as the time goes by. Through my own observation I will say it’s prison staff’s nature to be lazy, shiftless and to use any excuse to avoid anything remotely even resembling conscientious work. After all, you the tax payer OWE them the salary they collect just for being here. It doesn’t matter that they don’t deserve or earn their pay. And please believe they have a plethora of canned lies to justify themselves, so never fear, they will exploit the positions of trust that are bestowed on them. That is just a simple innate truth and not a rant or a complaint.

Now it’s amazing to me that in a few months I will be released from the confines of this form of captivity into another lesser restricting type, where in I will be subject to all new rules and have a whole new set of hoops to dive thru and hurdles to jump over. Smile. See, from where I am now I’m doing everything I can to prepare for where I will be, next September, in a halfway house. There are still so many unknowable variables to the equation. I’m not tripping, just looking at my transition like the mental gymnastics that it’s rapidly becoming.  To be honest, I’m rather enjoying “fretting” over each new facet of the whole thing.

Like preparing for any new adventure….hmmmm, where will I get this or that? How will I enlist aid for this and that and what will I need for the other and…and…and… The list goes on and on, all the way down the line even farther than mobile or straight talk? Laptop or desktop? Glasses or surgery? Yeah, no, we won’t be playing with sharp objects around Walks’ eyes – its glasses. Wow, how cool, you were just there for the eye problem, the question and finally the solution. Wish it were all that easy, but hey, it’s helping me get to where I need to be.

I am actually learning and making progress in adjusting to the real world and its problems without having to worry about my next meal, or a bed to sleep in or blankets, pillows mattress, and when I get up in the middle of the night to do the older guy thing, I can rest assured the toilet will be just where it needs to be. Smile. Hey, don’t take anything for granted, and make sure to lift the seat up when finished or put it back down depending on gender assignment or personal preference. That’s another thing I don’t get, but it’s another topic and we will burn that bridge when we get to it.

So, after all that… here we are, 2022. I’m 7 months and some days away from release and I’m going to chronicle the process – all the questions and all the answers, all the “I wonders” and all the “what the %@!*’s.” So stay tuned there my friends, it ought to be “interesting.” Well, I think, or hope my journey is kinda interesting, or at least grows on you and not like a fungus either. Thanks for your support, but most of all thanks for bearing with me. Now buckle up, see ya again soon. Walks

                   OH, SO MANY QUESTIONS

so, who does what?
or rather, who does what to whom?
are you the one doing it?
or is it being done to you?

so, who asks the questions?
or rather, who is the one with the answers?
are you part of the wheel of discord?
or is discord eating at you too like a cancer?

so many saying so many things,
none of which amounts to anything,
blah-blah-blah aimed from the left,
with more blah-blah-blah fired back from the right.

Hmmm… i ponder, then my mind wanders
down the alleys of my conscious being,
then i close my eyes to block out the sight,
of all the nonsense i’m being told is right.

take me to a world where..
white is not sad,
black is not mad,
right is not wrong,
and august isn’t so very long,
i’m just trying to understand,
the questions...oh, so many questions...

© Steven “Walks On The Grass” Maisenbacher January 2022

Published by Edna Peirce Dixon

I am an elder well into my eighties. I have lived an ordinary life doing all the ordinary things expected of women of my generation. But through it all, I have also been a seeker, an outsider by nature, always looking through cracks in the fences of life, questioning, challenging, learning, trying to make sense of the world and its conventions. A registered nurse by profession, I have long had a strong interest in writing and genealogy with a special interest in Southeastern Creek Indian history and culture. In my golden years, just when I was thinking “retirement,” some unexpected things happened that led me down a totally unfamiliar path. I’ve since learned it took a lifetime of experiences to prepare me for the challenges to come. My journey – indeed my calling – led me to a remarkable man, a Mvskoke & Ani-yun-wiya known as Ghost Dancer, hidden away for decades behind bars in state and federal prisons. Communicating daily by e-mail for the next nine years I had the opportunity to walk many paths with Ghost Dancer discussing many common interests with candor and respect. Most remarkable to me was Ghost’s absolute dedication to his spiritual leadership role within the Native population. With loving kindness at all times, Ghost shared many of his teachings, including lessons from within the sacred sweat lodge. A full index to Ghost's shared teachings can be found at GHOST DANCER'S SACRED PATH. Over time, Ghost gradually revealed his personal life story in small bits, like pieces of some gigantic puzzle. Now with his health a shambles, Ghost Dancer is at last free and has begun putting those pieces together; he wants the world to know the whole truth of his amazing personal journey in the chapters of his book in progress, ALL FOR THE RIGHT TO PRAY. As his friend and editor on JOURNEYS OF THE SPIRIT, I can say this is indeed a story so big that even after these many years, I continue to be astonished as Ghost reveals new details of his solitary walk on the Nene Cate (Red Road). From the day he was born, a happy, loving, gifted child, he felt a strong bond with his cultural heritage in a world where family loyalty was a sacred trust and Native roots were kept secret. As a result the callow youth endured many heartbreaking sorrows, betrayals and exploitations. As a young teen, Ghost heeded the call to learn from the great Native spiritual leaders gathered at Wounded Knee. The influence of the elders and spiritual leaders on his young mind was profound but the political conflicts of the moment ultimately cast this loyal young boy as a target of a system determined to destroy him by any means. For the next 40 years in and out of prison, Ghost would struggle to remain true to his calling both as a teacher and an activist fighting for the religious rights of Native Americans. (Note: Currently Ghost is focused on things he must do to regain his health and has put writing the final chapters about the the wrongful convictions that put him in federal prison for the past 28 years on hold. He still has dreams for the future so he will be back!) Ghost Dancer would later introduce me to Walks On The Grass, one of his spiritual brothers and another federal prisoner. Walks’ story on JOURNEYS OF THE SPIRIT is totally compelling, though very different. In LONG ROAD HOME, Walks has shared his decades-long spiritual journey from deep addiction to wholeness. He follows up with ALONG THE WAY and finally, LIGHTS IN THE DISTANCE as he prepares emotionally and mentally to transition to life outside after 37 years of incarceration.

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