Saturday, July 18, 2020

Inner Mongolia (part 1): A piece of the endless sky...


I was born on the prairies where the wind blew free and there was nothing to break the light of the sun. I was born where there were no enclosures.   --Geronimo

On the prairie one can see the color of the air. --Emily Murphy

Being in Hulun Buir, Inner Mongolia (on the border of China, Mongolia, and Russia) is both a reminder and recognition of the senses. Going out on the endless grassland prairie opens your soul and mind. There are no walls or barriers to obstruct views and perspectives. It is an invitation to nourish the senses: to see the vastness of open skies, to hear and feel the wind blow, to feel the warmth of the sun on your back, and view infinite stars. It is a "geography of hope," as Wallace Stegner said of beautiful landscapes that feed your spirit--begging to be preserved and loved. 

As space and views on the prairie seem magnanimous and neverending, it reminds us as humans to be generous, forgiving with our own little territories. As my dear Muslim friend asked me when she initiated our friendship when I lived in Qatar, she said, "Please don't make boundaries with me." Prairies remind us to be open and see the whole expansive view of not only land but in people too. 

To be out in the open on a prairie with no hindrance or disguises is liberating. As I gazed up at the falcons and eagles gliding above me, I almost felt like I could jump on their tail and fly with them. The landscape reminded me of my husband's native Wyoming or Montana in the United States. The sound of horses galloping could be heard for a long while or the sound of wind could whip or gently nudge you. An unending sky seems to embrace the entire horizon. Boundless prairie hills revive any disillusionment there is no hope or we live with limits. Everything seems possible with the open sky and grasses merged together--rolling onwards for seemingly forever. 


   Inner Mongolia is the place of Genghis Khan 1162-1227--the man who was responsible for uniting nomadic tribes in Northeast China. He is probably known for being the world's biggest conquered with his Mongol armies disseminating much of Eurasia. 

                                                                       
                                  The Prairie of Hulun Buir



You can see the yurts (the Mongolian "tent") in the background. These rolling hills are in Hulun Buir--Old Barag. 

                                                                          

You can see the Heilong River that twists along the China-Russia border for many miles...

Rediscovering the prairie again...

        The Mongolian stampede of horses echoed across the grasslands. The billowing dirt around their thundering hooves made some excitement for the day...



You can't drive too fast in Inner Mongolia because you might hit someone's horse, cow, sheep, goat, or dog. 

                                                            
      Practicing some Genghis Khan archery/army skills... 

           Mongolian or Lamist Buddhist temples that are about 50 feet high... These structures are on the top of hillsides and have been here for centuries so people can come and pray--especially during the harvest time. It is popular, even requisite, for young couples before they marry to climb up the hill together to pray and talk about their life together--under the expansive sky and grasslands that surround them. 

  This truckload of rolled-up hay could have been anywhere in the world. Since we helped bail hay in                                               Idaho last summer, this sight was familiar and beautiful.


     You can't put two saddles on one horse.  --Mongolian proverb 


Having the grassland to our selves on our horses...


                                             


Some small Inner Mongolia communities

A kind man in a very small village that was the owner of a small store. He then showed us his beautiful garden in the back. He was most proud of his potatoes, rabbits, and chickens. I couldn't help but be reminded that simplicity of life can bring so much happiness.

I loved seeing the different styles and colors of yurts 



           On the hillside it reads in Chinese: Here is a village where have built friendship and peace. 

       Most Inner Mongolian people who live in small, remote villages stay here only in the summer now. It is too harsh in the winter. They migrate to the cities in the winter and come back to tend their homes in the summer. One of my best memories is of the gardens they were cultivating and working in--everywhere we went.

Firewood when it starts to get cold...

Everyone proudly wants to share their gardens with you...

Fresh mushrooms hanging from a store window... You can tell mushrooms are very precious up in the far north.

I was so impressed with our ten-year-old waitress. She looked and acted like she owned the place, but actually, her grandpa did. 😀



 I took a picture of this heirloom tomato--to remind of the best-tasting tomatoes of my life. 


Homemade blueberry jam. Inner Mongolia is famous for its blueberries...



     Argun Birch Forest

          There are many who walk through the woods and see no trees.  --Mongolian proverb




The Birch forests take your breath away...



People come to take pictures in the birch forest to show their connections and roots together--just like the symbiotic nature of the birch roots underneath them. 


Birth trees growing together--resembling family bonds. 


When people come to these birch forests, they tie a wish on them--this one is asking for good wishes for their child on a school test. 
   
Rolling Grasslands 

The distance between heaven and the earth is no more than just one thought.--Mongolian proverb


Russia is just beyond the river--almost on the border of Russia, Mongolia, and China.


The Heilong River--dividing Russia and China...


Joseph feeling a little Neo-lithic with the Inner Mongolia Stone Henge...

Some Stonehenge-like sculptures along the road. 

The sculptures up close--so pristine on the grasslands...

More yurts in the grasslands...


A taste of Mongolian culture

Inner Mongolian dress with yurts in the background. We ate some lamb and lots of their organic produce. 


           Yurts and sheep--quintessential Inner Mongolia and Mongolia.                          



Just in case you want to try on some Mongolian clothes...


Some creativity that was born up in Inner Mongolia

Joseph, getting back to his creative self in the last few months... He loves to sketch and watercolor. When I took this picture of him, he was in another world.😀 


One of the pictures Joseph drew in the Inner Mongolian grasslands. He prefers watercolor pencils and then filling his picture in with a small brush. 



An abstract by Elias when we got home from Inner Mongolia. It was supposed to be the background for a still-life with apples, but Joseph wants it to keep as a present for his birthday. Imagine yourself as a little ladybug in the middle of that grass. 😀



Monday, June 29, 2020

A salute to our senior... #ArtandAutism...


`            Our Elias--always boldly jumping on to new paths. His art journey is in the youtube below:




Just like most everyone else in the world, our school year has been unpredictably tossed upside down. The graduates for 2020, for both college and high school, will forge new paths we have not seen before. Yet, even without the virus, Elias's graduation means he is crossing a new and unnavigated bridge. It is vastly different than his five older siblings. I am not sure what adventures lie ahead for him, Yet, like everything he has done before, people have unexpectedly come on his path to light his/our way. His autism journey has had a few shadows, but dawn has unfailingly always come. 

He never took an SAT, nor did he apply to a university. He/we never worried about his grade point average. Instead, we were all climbing our "autism mountain" in the last fifteen years. Now he wants to go to art school, have more exhibits, write books and movie scripts. He keeps getting ideas, and we try to help him achieve his goals.  

I always say I would trade his path for him. But not for us, his family. He has given us a template on how to be better people, and hopefully, we have taken note. Occasionally, as we have all climbed his autism mountain with him, he has asked why he has autism. Sometimes he has asked me, through the years, "Why does my brain work differently than others?" Our response? We try and teach him about his unique and marvelous array of gifts that have somehow miraculously interwoven with many places, people, and cultures. 

He is super athletic and has surprised people he could make goals in a soccer game or points in a basketball game. He has taught everyone that he can glide down a mountain on skis with skill and finesse. He has brought people from many cultures together. I think we laugh more than we would have without him by our side. He teaches all not to take ourselves too seriously. There is no competition or rivalry in his world--just a liberating harmony and peace. 

He loves history--world history. He would surprise anyone in his conversations about people through the ages. Perhaps his greatest gift, however, is that he has taught people how to love more completely, more purely. His sport and scouts leaders always told us they were more patient, more forbearing when he was in the group or team. The complicated equations of how to be more kind, forgiving, and loving--without any strings attached--he already inherently figured out long ago.  He truly sees no line, color, or distinction--just merely another person to love.  

This YouTube is a story of Elias's creative journey he has pulled us on. It chronicles many, many people who have crossed our paths with us in many countries and places. I am excited to continue this path with him. It never fails to be a reawakening and adventure...
















Sunday, June 14, 2020

Teaching Children and Weeding Out the Prejudice...


"Prejudices, it is well known, are most difficult to eradicate from the heart whose soil has never been loosened or fertilized by education: they grow there, firm as weeds among stones." --Charlotte Bronte in Jane Eyre

"I know you despise me; allow me to say, it is because you do not understand me." --Elizabeth Gaskell in the book, North and South


Recently my son in medical school, tired of his continuous studying, went out on the streets of Kansas City, MO, USA, seeking more education of his soul. On his walk along the Mississippi River, he happened to come near a few clusters of young black people. Lately, he has been caught in a state of deep interior work--trying to see how he can be more understanding of black Americans--especially young black men. He told me the national and local news is conflicting and clashing, and he wanted to go out on his own and talk to people on the street. He later told me: 

"In the last two hours, I talked with eight people who became friends. I mean I asked them real questions. They were all black. I asked them how I as a white man can be better and a more positive force for change. I came upon three young black brothers, all of them the same age as me and my brothers. Their stories became real and hit closer to home. One of them was reading a book, and when I started asking them questions, he started crying and said, "No one has ever asked these questions of me before."

He met another young woman who was his sister's age. Again, he felt a kinship as she spoke of her uncle being killed by a policeman in 2006 in Kansas City. He later said:

"The past two hours have been one of the most heart-touching experiences of my life. It opened my eyes to some things I have never thought about before. I am grateful for the love felt in these conversations. Tender tears were shed on both sides with lots of hugs and elbow taps."

Some of the things he learned were:
1) All of them said their relatives pled with them to be careful when they received their driver's license. They told them to obey all the laws--to not get stopped--to be extra cautious. Also, to not keep hands in your pockets--especially if you get stopped by the police. Keep your hands free. My son said, "No one ever had that conversation with me. It was not in my paradigm."
2)  It's all about respect and understanding. 
3). Don't make generalizations about culture and race.  Every person has a story. Listen to everyone's perspective. 
4)  He said what he learned the most was to ask, listen, and start conversations. The continuing reactions he received was gratitude that he was interested and wanted to hear their outlook. He was surprised at how quickly a friendship starts by being vulnerable to someone else's story. 

                                                             Meet Ruby

This was one of our favorite books when my children were young. Robert Coles is a child psychiatrist and oral historian with children. He interviewed Ruby in the 1960s in New Orleans. Children have so much to say. Indeed, they are watching and listening... As they observe us trying to become better people, they will learn that hate, prejudice, and racism will not be a part of their world. Instead, they will shun it, and build bridges.
  




As we tell children stories, we can hopefully tell stories in our own lives or in our family members' lives where people shunned racism and prejudice. We would always tell our kids about their Grandpa Shumway who refused to enter restaurants in the 1940s and 50s that would not accept blacks into restaurants. With his black friend by his side, he adamantly told them that the signs outside their restaurant were divisive and wrong. I think our personal and family stories help our children to know they can voice their opinions and stand up for what they believe is right. 

I wrote this little story taken by an idea of T. Allen Witcher. The point is to keep talking, making analogies, giving some context of history, and perhaps more than anything, be like my son and go out and talk across the table with people who are different than yourself. And just like him, it may be one of the best few hours of your life. 

Once upon a time inside a beautiful castle wall, there was the most evergreen of grass. When the sun finally set in the evening, the people of the village loved to sit on the soft grass that felt like a pillow to them. The king did not mind if the people came to picnic and play on his inviting lawn. He watched them with pleasure as the children romped and ran on his meadow.

But one day, he noticed that in his vast verdant lawn, there was ugly, brown crabgrass starting to pop up between the green blades of grass. You see, this king cared very much about his lawn, and if it was trimmed and green for his people. At the moment, he thought, "Oh, it is just a little patch of crabgrass mixed in the soft grass. No harm will come to my rolling lawns." But the next time the king gazed, the patches were bigger. He postponed the weeding of the crabgrass until soon his smooth and cushiony lawn was no more. 

The king longed to see the perfectly manicured lawns he used to have. He asked some of his advisors, and they told him, "Your majesty, the crabgrass was always there. Sometimes the seeds lie dormant for many years before they quickly come and overcome the beautiful grass.  the wisest advisor then looked the king in the eyes, "Your majesty, hatred is just like crabgrass. It can come almost like a huge wave if you don't constantly be on guard for its growth. Watch for small seeds that blow in the wind and pluck them immediately out or the beauty you wanted will be no more. And, wise king, you must never look the other way. If you want beautiful grass where the village people will come again, you must never stop toiling and laboring to stop the crabgrass. Pluck, pull, and keep on digging until you know you got all the seeds out. And then start again... 

It is important to occasionally contemplate--even examine and scrutinize ourselves; to think about any seeds that we need to pull out or plant. With my eyes, what am I seeing or not seeing? Does any prejudice lie dormant in me? It is a time for not just hearing, but listening with compassion and forgiving. It is a time not only to voice our opinion but to be silent long enough to hear others' voices that may not hold our same opinions or backgrounds. It is a time to reach out and be fascinated with different people--not fearful. It is time to understand that we all are part of this struggle. 


                     




Saturday, June 6, 2020

D-Day, Normandy, France: The 75th Anniversary of D-Day and Story of H. Smith Shumway


"If the leaders of the world could have seen the slaughter on the beaches that I saw as I climbed the cliffs of Normandy, they would have figured out another way to bring peace." --H. Smith Shumway, Joseph's father 


      "There is no better preacher of peace than a soldier's grave."--Albert Schweitzer

 
H. Smith Shumway, my father-in-law, who landed as a Lietuninent Commander on D-Day, Omaha Beach, 2nd landings, at about between 8 and 9 am with the Easy Red Division. He was blinded six weeks later at age 22 in Martigny, France on the march to Paris. His unquenchable cheerfulness, humor, and faith spurred him to live a most remarkable life. He was loved and admired by anyone who ever met him. These are some of his words from his life history of that day and six weeks later, after he was blinded. (Edited by Mary Shumway Halsey)

D-Day was scheduled for June 5, 1944. We boarded an LCI, light landing craft that could hold from two to four hundred men around midnight the night before. The boat had a ramp on the end which would let down on the beach so we could walk ashore. 

We were told a few hours later that the attack was postponed because the weather would not permit it. It could have been a cloud cover that prevented the advance air attack necessary for the operation.  All I knew was that the channel was calm. 

We soldiers were calm on the outside, but very anxious on the inside to do our patriotic duty. Our training prepared us to die if necessary. We knew the landing on D-Day would cost many lives in order to liberate France. The delay increased our anxiety of what the next 24 hours held for each of us individually. 

The channel was filled with hundreds of boats waiting for the attack. It was important the boats maintained a moving target to lessen the chances of being hit by enemy fire. It was an amazing sight to see the great number of boats and ships from many different countries circling together in the channel in preparation for the invasion. 

On the morning of the 6th, I was awakened from a brief sleep by bombs hitting the beach and prime targets right before dawn. Omaha Beach was miles long. For the sake of our attack, it was divided up into sections. The large section we were assigned, as well as hundreds of other soldiers, was called "Easy." "Easy" was then further split into smaller sections a few hundred yards wide. Our smaller section was coded as "Red"--making our objective OMAHA EASY RED.

About 6 in the morning, the first of the boats unloaded men. Most of the soldiers in these first waves of landing were killed. Our boat pulled close to the beach at our designated spot of "Easy Red a few hours later, between 8 and 9 in the morning. We rushed down the ramp of the LCI into water about knee-deep and ran up to the beach to reassemble there. 

There were dead bodies floating in the water and many on the beach. Some tanks had been hit by artillery. Everything was very confused with so much death and wreckage on the beach.  German shells were still hitting the beach. The noise from the planes, boats, artillery, artillery explosions, and gunfire was almost unbearable, making it difficult for me to get my bearings. 

I saw a rope marking a crooked path up the steep hill we were to climb. The mines had been cleaned from this narrow path. I also saw where our captain and my platoon were gathering. We all lined up and started up the very steep hill one after another. There were explosions all around us, but I couldn't see anyone firing guns at us. There were land mines on both sides of the path so we knew we had to watch our step. 

Close to the top of a hill was a soldier standing under the roots of a tree. As we got closer, I read a card on his helmet with the word "Press" written in large print letters. He was writing on a pad and sometimes took pictures. I wondered if he was Ernie Pyle, a well-known war corresponding whom we all respected. the opportunity to ask him never came. He lost his life a few months later. 

Before we went over the top of the hill, I looked back and contemplated the scene before me. Hundreds of ships and boats were circling in the channel. LCI's and LST's were landing men and tanks, planes soaring overhead, big shells bursting on land and sea, and the beach littered with men and machines. I thought of the millions of dollars being spent to wage war and the tragic horror of it all. 

I wondered how long the battle would last if our president and Congress were attacking, and Hitler and his generals were on the shore to meet them. I bet they would find a way to shorten the bloodletting if it had been their own blood. 

We were the first soldiers to make it to the top at OMAHA EAST RED. It certainly wasn't easy but there was plenty of red. At the top of the hill, we had to cross a minefield. And then we were all assigned areas where we were to dig holes and prepare for a counter-attack or artillery shelling.

My father had sent me sunflower seeds and pine nuts and told me to carry them with me into combat. I snacked on them during the first couple of days of the invasion. My first taste of combat on the front line took my appetite away. It was hard to find time to eat even if anyone had wanted to. 

This part of France was covered with hedgerows. The land was a series of five to twenty-acre fields surrounded on four sides by hedgerows.  The hedges were hundreds of years old and had grown very thick and tall. Some had ditches under the row of hedges which the Germans would use for cover.  Most hedgerows were solid thick buses with some brambles about six feet high without ditches. This was the centuries-old method used for fencing fields. 

I suppose in times of peace this country was very picturesque, but from my point of view as a soldier, it was very tedious fighting from hedgerow to hedgerow. We would attack where our artillery had been firing. Then they would fire ahead of us again, and then they would stop, and we would move forward again. 

Six weeks later... June 27, 1944, in Marigny, France after he had been Careden, St. Lo, LeTronquay, and other villages, H. Smith Shumway was blinded. 

This is a short summary of the day he was hit by a tank mine, killing the tank commander and slightly wounding the captain next to him :

Many people say you don't think when you get hit, but I can truly say I did. I thought, "Something has happened to me, and I don't know what, but I will be okay in a second." There was a steady, strong current of air hitting my face, chest, and legs, and I seemed to hang suspended somehow. There was a deafening sound that just kept ringing, and it seemed as if it would never stop. Finally, however, the strong current of air and the explosion died out, and I found I was still standing on my two feet. 

It occurred to me that one of my legs might be blown off. So I bent over and used my left hand, which later proved to be the only part of my body that wasn't hit, and felt my legs. My right thigh was bloody, my left knee was bloody, and my right then which had been holding my carbine was just numb. It was all bloody, and whether it had some fingers missing or not, I neither knew nor cared right then. 

I started to get very weak all of sudden. My chest was starting to hurt, and I felt it with my left hand and knew that it was a bloody mess also. I couldn't see, so naturally felt my face. It was bloody also. As I was getting weak fast I sat down or fell down, I don't remember which. I remember I wanted to conserve my strength. This may sound ironic about wanting to save my strength, but such a thought actually flashed through my mind. 

Everything was black, and I was getting kind of scared. I had been stunned at first, but now the pain was engulfing me. Private Nonamaker was standing by then, and how he got to where I was so fast, I never knew. Someone was asking him why he didn't give me morphine, and he was saying that he couldn't give it to anyone with a head injury. 

He then said, "How are you, Lieutenant? It's not so very bad, you'll be ok. It always seems worse than it really is." He kept talking to me in this same manner all the time he was sprinkling sulfa powder and dressing my wounds. The pained seemed lessened when the sulfa powder was administered. He was the best aid man I ever knew. I had previously turned him in for a silver star. 

I guess I had lost a lot of blood by now because I suddenly became very cold, and asked for a blanket, which was immediately taken off the tank and thrown on me. The pain which had been getting worse stopped a little as my body started to get cold, and my arms and legs became numb. I keep wondering why I didn't pass out, and I sincerely wished I would. 

When my aid man was dressing my wounds, I remember thinking, "Golly, maybe I am going to die.  Do I want to live? If I can take a deep breath without something breaking or blood rushing in to fill my lungs--I'll be ok." When I found out that I could still breathe good, I knew I wanted to live. I was filled with hope that I wouldn't die because I could still breathe. 

Smith Shumway went on that day to a makeshift field hospital in Normandy. Afterward, they took him to an evacuation hospital on the coast. An ambulance carried him to be put aboard an LST to go back to England, the same type of boat that brought me across the Channel six weeks before the invasion. 

He later said, "I can certainly remember when the convoy stopped in an English harbor. In fact, it was the same harbor I had left to make the DDay invasion with the First Division. I can't describe the peaceful serenity that seemed to settle on my soul as I was carried off the boat onto English soil."

Two more years of rehabilitation awaited Smith--hospitals in England, and two in the USA. He would later marry his college sweetheart, Sarah, and they would have eight children, seven girls, and one son. He received a Master's degree in Counseling from the University of Maryland and became a rehabilitation counselor. He was Director of the Blind and Deaf for the state of Wyoming. He started a camp for the blind near Casper, Wyoming, and was a national voice for mainstreaming of the vast majority of special needs students into the classroom. 

He was the first completely blind bishop for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and several years later became a patriarch. He did professional like magic shows, read profusely, played several instruments, and was a friend to all--especially those who were marginalized because of race, special needs, and poverty. Blindness and uncertainty did not deter him. One of his favorite quotes was (and he would say it with a twinkle in his glass eyes), "I might not have sight, but I have insight." 

       Sarah in Le Tronquay, France, a village Grandpa helped to liberate before was blinded. He is one of the two esteemed citizens of the village, where a plaque notes his service. During the 75th anniversary of D-Day, there were banners of hundreds of soldiers in each village and along the roads. In Le Tronquay, Grandpa was honored with his picture and another soldier who was killed there on July 10, 1944. The French still remember and honor those who served with ceremonies in most villages, on the beaches, in the cemeteries--all around Normandy. 

On this day to be at Omaha Beach on the 75th anniversary engulfed my soul. I caught this picture of Joseph gazing out on Omaha Beach on that day. It was quiet, peaceful, and you could hear the seagulls above us--just as it always should be. 


          June 6, 2019--Remembering Grandpa and all the others who landed on that day. 

                                       

You can still climb into the many multi-storied, concrete, and steel-reinforced bunkers built by the German Army and their slave laborers.  One had a chip of concrete missing from it. There was a two-foot thick roof where there was minor damage--a total effect of a direct hit by our naval bombardment.  The Germans built great defenses. They were impregnable. The only way to take out a bunker was to climb up to it and throw in multiple grenades and wait--for the positions to be remanned by replacements. And then throw in a few more.  Smith Shumway had to perform that unpleasant and dangerous task at least once (that we know of) on his climb up to the Normandy ridge. 


A view from the pillbox on June 6, 2019, where you could see a continual stream of jeeps and some ships on the beach.


        We wrote on the beach, "Grandpa, you are our sunshine"--one of the favorite songs he always sang                                                         and played on his harmonica.. 


 
     A German soldier who was looking out on Omaha Beach that day. We thanked him for being there, to remind everyone of the colossal loss to both the Allie and Axis powers.  The Americans lost 1:10 of their combat soldiers. The Germans lost 1:3 (the Russian's lost 1:2).  A terrible loss of life with families shattered and millions of children left fatherless. 

 

                 Solemn moments for all to consider what happened on that beach 75 years before.  


          We were here at the landings when 97-year-old Tom Rice reenacted his 1944 jump. When he landed, and I saw a bald gray head, I cried realizing that he actually had done this before--another time with no warm greeting for his initial landing. 


      These are some of the musicians who greeted Tom Rice and others who jumped that day. There was exhilaration, love, and happiness in the crowd that day--no matter what side or place you came from. It was a remembrance of a war that finally ended.

                         Being with the Reenactors















Getting aboard  a WW2 landing craft --LCI which also went by the name of a "Higgins Boats."



This picture was taken in 2016 at one of the reenactor camps. 



Two World War Veterans being transported to the 75th Anniversary ceremony at the American cemetery






Fighter planes over the ceremony at the Amerian Cemetary


The Church Steeple at Saint Marie where a parachuting soldier pretended to be dead until arriving Allied soldiers arrived two days later to rescue him.
       
Utah Beach 



Landing Craft at Normandy


                      Other memories of those few days....


We wept when we found the graves of German soldiers who were 14, 15, 16, 17, and 18 in Marigny, France, not far from where Grandpa was blinded. 


A Scottish man playing Amazing Grace for his lunch at the restaurant we went to on June 6, 1944. As the trucks and tanks passed on the road, he continued to play--sending us all in a reverie.


The red fields of poppies are what these soldiers saw and knew in 1944. 

                    
     In 2016--lighting the lanterns that were sent to the sky to remember our loved ones on Utah Beach