LETTER FROM CHEMUNG COUNTY JAIL, PART 2
by SANDRA STEINGRABBER, April 19, 2013:
“Why I am in Jail on Earth Day”
This morning–I have no idea what time this morning, as there are no
clocks in jail, and the fluorescent lights are on all night long–I heard the familiar
chirping of English sparrows and the liquid notes of a cardinal. And there
seemed to be another bird too–one who sane burbling tune. Not a robin–wren?
The buzzing, banging, clanking of jail and the growled announcements of
guards on their two-way radios–which also go on all night–drowned it out. But
the world, I knew, was out there somewhere.
The best way to deal with jail is to exude patience, and wrap it around a
core of resolve and surrender. Continue reading
Note: Many of us know Michael Dineen the Ovid resident and farm owner who taught us all how to create and carry out successful frack ban petition drives in our towns. One of “The Seneca Twelve”, he has been sentenced to jail for pleading guilty and refusing to pay the $375 trespassing fine, after their arrest at a protest in Reading of Inergy’s potential liquid petroleum and natural gas storage facility on the banks of Seneca Lake.
Just talked to Michael. This is now Day 2 of them NOT filling his meds (anti-depressants) and that is exactly what I had feared. So I called the Jail Administrator and he is not at work today or tomorrow. I begged the woman at the desk to please do something about this, to help him stay calm.
I visited with him for an hour last night. He was in good spirits but very cold at night and disappointed that he will be in lock-down until Tuesday at the earliest, meaning they won’t let him have anything to write or read. Continue reading
LETTER FROM CHEMUNG COUNTY JAIL, PART 1
by SANDRA STEINGRABBER,
April 18, 2013:
When Henry David Thoreau spend a night in jail for civil disobedience–defining the term in the process–he was served chocolate and brown bread for breakfast. The tray that was slid under my bars at 5:00 am. this morning contained nothing as tasty. In fact, I’d be hard pressed to say what the ingredients were. Packets of instant hot coca (artificial) are available from the commissary for a price–along with ramen noodles, decaf coffee, Jolly Rogers, shampoo, pencils, envelopes and paper. There is no window in my cell. The lights are on all night. The television is on all day. Through the bars that make up the fourth wall of my new living quarters, I have a view of the catwalk, which is patrolled by guards, and then another wall of bars, and beyond those bars is a window made up of small panes of opaque glass. At about seven o’clock, one of the inmates asked for fresh air, and the guard, whom everyone calls Murphy’s Law, cranked open the grid of panes, just a little. Now, I can stand at my own bars, and move my head in different directions–jumping up and down works the best–and see through the scrims of multiple layers of bars– a glimpse of the outside world. There are row houses with windows and no bars–which fact suddenly seems miraculous–and I thought I saw a bird fly by. No trees through; only slinky–like concertina wire. Somewhere, beyond the shouting of the television, there are church bells. Thoreau said, about his own experience with incarceration, that the confinement of his physical self was inconsequential; the freedom was a state of mind. Or something like that. I have neither the book, nor Google, to help me fact–check. But I am very aware of my physical self, and sense that my biological life in jail is part of my message. Even though I am entirely cut off from everything, I know and love my children and my husband, the April return of birdsong and wildflowers and pollination and photosynthesis. I believe this is the place to speak about fossil fuel extraction in general and fracking infrastructure in specific.
I now inhabit an ugly, miserable, loud and ungraceful world. There are no flowers; no local, delicious food; no tranquil landscapes; and not even coffee or tea. If we do not want New York to become a prison of wellheads, pipelines and compressor stations; if we do not want the violence of climate change instability and mass species extinction; if we do not want to leave our children a diminished world bereft of frog song, bees, coral reefs, sea ice; then coming to a place as far removed from the rhythms of the natural world as a jail cell is not an inappropriate place to say so.