Lobbying for the Refuge

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When Whitney Clapper invited me to attend the Patagonia and Alaska Wilderness League event celebrating the 56 years of protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Washing DC, I didn’t think I could go on such short notice.  As usual, my husband rallied scrambling together hotel points and Southwest miles, knowing it was important to me.

Our first visit to Washington DC came after my father passed away in 1998. Gary & I volunteered and attended The Environmental Defense Fund charity in Santa Barbara.  My husband, trying to cheer me up, bid on, and won, a trip to DC.  The airline miles were donated by Peter No-one (at the time VP of global retail).  Gary had the Library of Congress, among the many sites, on our itinerary.  To myself I thought, “it’s a library”.  Along with being the national archive of all things written and recorded, it turned out to be my favorite and most memorable of all the monuments we visited.

In 2006 I attended my first Patagonia Tool Conference at Fallen Leaf. One of the exercises was with Ron Hunter (Patagonia’s Environmental Activism Manager), Ron’s wife Kaitlin, along with a team leader that instructed us in a mock lobbying scenario. I was to represent a Native American.  I tried a diplomatic approach, presenting a compromise.   Kaitlin gently corrected me & said tribal people would never compromise in this way because they are a sovereign nation.    Admittedly,  intimidated by all the incredibly dedicated and young activist at Tools, I learned much, and never in my wildest dreams did I think that roll playing would one day prepare me to be comfortably sitting in a Senator’s office, and, alongside  Ron.

It was important for me to attend DC for the opportunity to learn, to celebrate the success of protecting, thus far, a place I may never visit, but that is so important to the species and people that live there.  This company, the foresight of such important campaigns, my colleagues that work incredible hours to make our stories come beautifully to fruition, and then there is Florian.  Florian Schultz and I have become good friends over the years, beginning with my first licensing negotiation for our Freedom to Roam Campaign.   He helped me to understand what goes into documenting the wildlife and region of such a remote frigid place.

http://visionsofthewild.com

Whitney, Ron, Lisa Pike, Scott Carrington and I rendezvoused at the Hart Senate Building. We met with Senator Harry Reid’s right hand gal.  The meeting room we gathered in had all its bookshelves cleaned out and any art or framed documents that once adorned the walls were also removed.

I went into the experience with the intention of being a fly on the wall.  Ron is amazing and polished.  He and Senator Reid’s staffer chatted about the Refuge, and along with Lisa, they discussed hope that the Obama administration does the right thing by designating Gold Butte and Bears Ears before POTUS leaves office.  After a few questions from myself, Whitney and Scott, about the incoming administration and how we can best be more effective, she said calling in, more than electronic petitions, were impactful.  And, to the local offices.  She also assured us, the democrats would only work with the republicans on issues that are realistic.

Reid’s office arranged for us to have a congressional private tour.  Although I had taken the tour when I first came to DC.  That was 18 years prior.  I know more now, and I recalled some of the details about our capital more clearly the second time.  I was in hog heaven

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Needing to rest, I returned to my hotel, while the rest went back to Senator’s Reid’s office where they presented him, in person, with a limited edition of Florian’s Caribou Migrating print.

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The Monday before our full day, I had to return to the Library of Congress, what is referred to as The Temple of Knowledge.  And, like before I became emotional at the fresco painted walls with quotes of wisdom from our founding fathers. (I know, I sound just like Forest Gump.)   I kept thinking; Trump, and his family, need to spend an entire day reading every single profound quote.  I cannot imagine how one could not be inspired to be a champion of justice after doing so.

I also saw the inauguration scaffolding being erected, and saying to myself “this is really happening”. I polled every cab driver, a global microcosm, that included men from Senegal, Ethiopia, India, and a Sikh, to name a few.  I would start the conversation with “Do you like President Obama?  Then, “how about the president-elect”.  Obama got high ratings with “he has Grace”,  “a good heart”,  “he is kind and cares about our country”. A few polled preferred President Clinton more than Obama.  All were not happy with the incoming president stating “he’s not a statesman”.  Trump doesn’t attend his security briefings, but he’ll watch Saturday Night Live and spend his time complaining in Tweets”.  Another said, “every republican president has gotten us in a war”, naming them off, and ending with “Trump will take us to war”. Then there was the security guard at The Liaison Hotel, who said to me “I don’t know how you voted, but this new one, he doesn’t care about our environment”

Tuesday night we gathered at the most beautiful venue; The National Museum of the American Indian, where we celebrated together, beginning with a blessing from a Gwich’in Mother, along with Bernadette, featured in our Refuge film, AWL, activists from Care2, some DC store employees, and dignitaries.

It was magical, in that this many just, good people, working this hard for this long, I standing alongside them, with millions more in the world having this same selfless intention.

Then I remembered this quote “All great changes are preceded by chaos”  ~ Deepak Chopra

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Dad Called Him JD

When I first returned home from Hawaii in the 70’s, damaged from being raped, I started working the counter at a Bob’s Big Boy in Hacienda Heights. My father would come in for a cup of coffee, stay awhile and when he left he’d leave 50cents on the counter, but bills under his plate. I was shy and apprehensive interacting with the customers, hating to be touched in anyway, claustrophobic in tight quarters, which continued for many years.

One day this really nice, pleasant looking young fellow came in and sat in my station. We became friendly, with many chats and soon I introduced him to my sister Julie. He became my sister’s boyfriend, and even more interestingly, one of my Father’s dearest friends. My Father became John’s musical mentor, which influenced John’s entire life, becoming a saxaphone player himself.

John got himself an older VW Bug. He was driving, Julie was in the passenger seat and my Dad in the back. When Dad told the story he said, “I don’t know if John was showing off”… But John took the corner of the street too fast, spinning out and crashing into the parked car in the tract housing near our home. Dad knew John didn’t have car insurance, as he hired John as one of his journeyman house painters. They car pooled to many jobs together, sharing stories, and life. In this predicament, my Father said “quick, change places!” I could just see my 6’1″ father crawling over the front seat of a Bug while John clearly over 5’10” nose diving into the back seat, before witnesses or police arrived.

John Loved our family, my Mother’s cooking, and even after he knew the relationship with my sister had run it’s course, he didn’t want to break up with the Kicielinskis. We were all so unique to him. He once called us Hacienda Height’s Adams Family. John was the brother-in-law I wish I had, and when he and Julie did in fact grow apart, my Dad & John continued to hang out. Julie didn’t like this at all and told my Father he couldn’t see John anymore. Dad stubbornly said no, he and John were friends and she was going to have to understand.

When my father passed away in 1998, I called John who was now living in Oregon, and asked him if he would come down to the service and play Dad’s Tenor sax. He said of course, and Gary picked John up at the airport a couple of days before the service. We had our own mini “Big Chill” as we gathered at my parent’s home in Victorville. Julie and John shared many touching stories with the wisdom of time on their side, a closure of sorts for my stubborn Scorpian grudge holding sister. John played Amazing Grace on Dad’s horn, and it made the service all the more perfect.

John and I continue to have long distance phone conversations. He brings to life my Father recalling stories and imitating my Dad to perfection. John has taken on some of my Father’s cadence, and even when he calls him by his name Joe it’s endearing. He soaked up my parents living Love story and recalls things about them together that I forgot. He knows me well, and he knew me then, sometimes calling me the Catholic matriarch picking up the torch, and unjustly being denied recognition. His words, not mine.

J.D.'s band 1995

J.D.’s band 1995

Thanksgiving 2012 we received a call from John wishing us a Happy Thanksgiving and he played the piano for us over the phone with the message that his life, his Love of music, and all his talent & musical therory is from my Father. Forty-two years later we continue on with an enduring friendship, always appreciated and valued by him. My Father living on in our recollections and hearts.