Saturday, May 03, 2008

Jody's Trials

I have the most amazing friend. Her name is Jody Drew and she lives high in the mountains of New Mexico. She was one of the Arctic Adventurers which I blogged about last month (scroll down if you missed it); she was nicknamed “Mackenzie” on that trip.

Jody and I have been friends for over a decade, we think going back to about 1993 or ‘94, though neither of us can remember precisely when we met. Probably at the first or second Women’s Harvest Celebration I attended.

From the start, I was quite taken by her gift with words, both written and spoken. She has an ability to see right to the heart of the matter, and to speak to it with such clarity that the issue (whatever it is) comes into focus for others who often have an “aha!” moment. She frequently uses metaphor with delicacy and precision to achieve such moments.

She walks in the world with a heart full of compassion, eyes that see the details, and hands that give kindness. She has a strong, fit body, boundless energy, and infectious high spirits. She is an incredibly fun companion, and I was so very glad that she went to the Arctic with me.

Jody has been a high school teacher for all the years that I have known her. The delight and respect with which she speaks of her work and her students make me wish that I had been blessed with such a teacher at that formative stage of life.

For the last several years, Jody has worked as principal and teacher at a bilingual Charter School, which she founded. Her commitment to the school has been absolutely unwavering, and her considerable talents and energy focused on the school’s and the students’ success. She has believed from the start that the school was achieving its goal of creating a new and involving experience of education for its students.

Jody returned home from our trip to the Arctic to discover that in her two-week absence, several current and former teachers had gone to the school’s governing council to complain of what seem to be minor details about her management style. She did not know exactly what they had complained of, but found that she had been put on administrative leave indefinitely—not allowed to run the school or to teach—while they investigated. She had no idea what they were investigating, and was given no opportunity to respond to any complaints against her. An article about her, which appeared in the Santa Fe newspaper, gave her more information about what was going on than the governing council gave her.

That article is linked here. As I read it, I kept thinking that it did not sound at all like the person I know Jody to be. And I wondered what the hidden agenda was of those doing the complaining.

The governing council sent out a letter to the parents of the students of her school, saying only that Ms. Drew had been removed from her duties due to “serious concerns” on the part of the council. They did not specify that their concerns were related to management issues, opening the door for misinterpretation that their concerns involved sexual misconduct with students. Her professional reputation as an educator would be totally trashed by such a misinterpretation.

To top it off, she learned a week later—again by reading the newspaper—that she had been fired. She was never given an opportunity to answer any allegations, or even to know exactly what they were. And she was not informed of the governing council’s decision by the council itself, which seems incredibly cowardly.

As if the universe had decided that all this were not enough challenge for Jody, she also arrived home from the Arctic to find that her beloved dog Faith was very ill. She had, and soon thereafter died of, lymphoma. So there was at times overwhelming grief stirred into this mix of emotions resulting from the issues at the school. It seems almost too much to bear.

I never met Faith, but I felt almost is if I knew her from the poem Jody wrote in memory of her. It brought tears to my eyes when I read it, and does again now just thinking of it. She gave me her permission to post it here.

Faith,

Past tense

I didn’t like her at all

when I got her.

Sojourner, just two days underground

back of the patio,

under the juniper.

who was my fierce companion

sat in the bus,

slept on my feet,

good manners,

after a difficult beginning.

I thought I wasn’t ready.

But, Carly, crying

at school on Monday

“You have to take my puppy

We’re moving,

My Dad’s gonna kill her!”

I can’t.

Not, yet.

But,

What kind of dog?

“cattle dog”

Uh-oh, right kind,

What’s her name?

“Faith”

So, home she came.

All 6 or 8 years old of her.

All 50+ pounds of prime Alpo fed of her.

All chatty, talking

shovel-headed

insisting to sit right on top of me,

all the time of her.

And I did not like her.

At all.

And she, ran with the horses

5 hours that first ride.

Yelped a bit coming through barbed wire,

stumbled a little,

and ran with us,

on the horses.

At the end she had

cholla,

one huge mass

on her chest.

When I pulled it off, I noticed

pink.

And found her chest ripped

almost off,

chin to belly,

one big flap.

The fence had come in the first five minutes,

and she ran with us,

on the horses,

smiling the whole run long.

She was crazy for balls.

Tennis balls on the run or high bounce.

Soccer balls stolen,

and had the craziest repartee with a basketball

bounced off her nose, run, herded rather, in wide circles,

back to me,

panting, and demanding more.

She came with two good eyes.

Lost the one to a terrific toy.

A rigged up launcher,

that used to throw clay pigeons,

for skeet shooting.

Hundreds of balls,

launched down the drive,

deliriously happy Faith,

launched after them,

returning them to me,

demanding more.

The fragile limbs of visiting kids

had my attention more than she,

and I didn’t notice

she’d switched sides,

and launched

exactly when the steel spring did.

It caught her eye exactly.

She whimpered once,

then followed me into the house for a cookie,

and an ice pack.

And the weeks long gore

that followed.

Biking to Our Lady of Light

for plastering

on the road,

going fast.

Those three, stealthy Shepherds

caught her.

she wasn’t beside me and I wheeled back.

Tossed dogs and screamed for the owner.

Who obliged with a ride to the vet.

My fist clenched on her brachial artery.

Spurting crimson.

3 hours there, and the vet said, “oh shit”

because nothing looked good, at all

not noticing that I was still there.

Still holding pressure.

She lived.

Walking back from downtown,

before sunrise

dusty, too hot already, June

She bolted for a rabbit,

on Sam’s hillside.

Followed it into, and out of a bush.

Was followed by two coyotes,

who got her, over the ridge.

Me running, whistling,

calling like crazy.

She came back,

limping

on a leg,

bit through,

licked me like “sorry”

and headed home.

And all those kids at school.

Carly’s class.

many after.

Hot pockets and burritos, and

barking down the halls at running kids.

on the bus for field trips.

On the tables

for comfort.

Under my desk.

Under my table,

late nights,

working.

Insisting on a walk.

Demanding dog food 5 o’clock.

Every morning hello.

Every morning, what shall we do.

Every morning and all day long,

into many, too many late nights

there.

Under foot, under arm,

at my back in bed.

Shovelling under my hand,

flying monkey screaming,

and nibbling on me,

every night.

Lymphoma got her

finally, today.

Helped out of her bag of bones

by Murt’s gentle needle.

She’d been awful, all day.

Panting, uncomfortable.

Around 5, she tried to get off the couch.

I lifted her.

And she walked, wobbled,

out the front door and

down two steps,

to the dirt above the orchard.

Emily came.

requisite bottle of port .

And we sat with her.

“Murt’s coming to help you out of this mess,

but you can go now, if you can”.

She lurched up, and tottered into the orchard

to shit, under the honeycrisp.

Then, looked her one eye at me,

I carried her back up.

That unknown yellow dog came by,

as he does most evenings,

and peed on Faith’s spots

and scrapped the dirt.

She’d usually run him off.

Just lifted her head and looked, tonight.

Murt came.

Karen came and hugged me tight.

A tiny drop of barbituate.

“She’s already gone”

Carried her inside.

Wrapped in a flannel sheet.

She’ll keep in the living room

until tomorrow morning.

With sun up,

Karen will come again,

with shovels,

and we’ll dig deeply enough

to prevent the coyote’s feast,

again.

-Jody Drew

28 April 2008


So many people in Jody’s situation would founder in the anger, resentment, disbelief, betrayal, desire for revenge, and hurt feelings that naturally occur in response to the treatment she has received from the school she has put so much of her love and hard work into. I do believe she went through all those emotions, but in the end, as she so typically does, she sees the situation as part of a greater good. The council, parents and teachers are pulling together to take the school in a new direction, with new commitment on all of their parts. And Jody suddenly has a whole new future to create.

I, on the other hand (being somewhat less high-minded), see this as an unbelievably wrongful termination, and hope that she successfully sues the pants off them and receives a very large settlement for her mental anguish and the destruction of her career and livelihood. I know that whatever she decides to do with the rest of her life, she will bring many gifts to those fortunate enough to know her. I am blessed to be one of them.


First two photos of Jody in the Arctic by The Tundra PA. Photo of Faith licking Jody’s chin by Dominique Revelle, used with permission. More of her photos, including another one of Faith, available on Flickr at lamygrrl.

7 Comments:

Blogger RunninL8 said...

Hey,there from Eagle River!
“Because tundra life is endlessly fascinating. The land here is wide open and totally wild. The sky is huge. The rivers are untamed. The climate demands respect and attention. It is an amazing place to live.”
Wow! I stumbled upon your site via AlaskaBlogs (ringsurf). Ha! And I thought I was living the “Alaska Life” here in Eagle River! Well, it IS a hell of a lot more of “the life” than New Jersey- and I still pinch myself every morning when I look out at the mountains embracing my little family. But from what I’ve read of your blog so far it’s the embodiment of the Alaskan Dream. So I’ll sit here, comfortable where I am, and stop by once and awhile for some inspiration for our future journeys beyond Southcentra!
Re: your friend. Another case of guilty until proven innocent… Yes, it does seem terribly unfair and a very insidious way to go about handling it. Between this and your last post-what the hell is happening in our state?!?!? Ahhhh, I don’t want to get into it now. It’s early. Think I’ll take my coffee out on the deck to greet the sun.
Much luck to Jody. Her ability to see every event in life as a journey with purpose is something to aspire to.
Stay well!

Sunday, May 04, 2008 7:50:00 AM  
Anonymous tundratantrum said...

Hey thaks for stopping by. I am familiar with your blog, I have been here to read a few times. It is also on the sidebar of quite a few Alaskan blogs. Interesting that you should find me on the sidebar of an American in Laos. I think I may have seen that blog before and thought it interesting that I was in their sidebar. I find it fascinating that people find me fascinating, lol.

Nikon and Canon is like Ford and Chevy. Both make nice cars but everyone has their preference for whatever reason. I have never owned a canon SLR so I can give not advice there, and you will find few people who have owned both the canon rebel and the nikon D40 who can give you a side by side comparison. I love the d40 but the lack of an in body auto focus motor does limit your available lens some.....but not enough to make me wish I hadn't bought it.

Sunday, May 04, 2008 11:20:00 AM  
Blogger Manda said...

I'm sorry for all the troubles she's facing. I taught at a Charter School a long time ago and would never teach at one again - for a variety of different reasons - the school boards tend to be extremely political.

Monday, May 05, 2008 4:37:00 PM  
Anonymous breezey514 said...

I feel I can somewhat understand how your friend Jody feels as the same type of thing happened to me-thus opening the door to Alaska! Sometimes I walk the fine line of believing that everything happens for a purpose and there is a power Higher than I teaching me life skills as I fumble along. Other times it feels as if life is a source of practical amusements and entertainments for said Higher Power. I suppose it is more comforting to think the first way. Anyway, Jody sounds like someone I would love to meet. And congrats on 'Tundra's' birthday!!

Tuesday, May 06, 2008 6:25:00 PM  
Anonymous AlaskanWindSong said...

The poem about the dog hit home... my favorite dog just being lost to the village... thank you for posting that.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008 12:45:00 PM  
Blogger marcus said...

So seldom a genius is appreciated in the present tense and so often, always actually, was Jody manifesting magic out of thin air, high desert air, stretching people beyond the limits they had set for themselves and putting all of her time energy and home into being the womb of the creation of CS37. I would not expect her not to expect any compensation from her creation, the universe simply needs her elsewhere.
Her child grew up so quickly and chose for itself to choose its own path.
xoxo from yet another far north perspective up her in Alaska as well...I went searching for some news of what I had heard, and in skipping the newmhexican article found this one insead.

Faith will be missed too, poochomper rabbit killer, ruffwrastler that she was, now some pups in Lamy have a chance to grow up proper.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008 9:24:00 PM  
Blogger Michelle Marie said...

Hi there!

I just wrote out a whole reply and I think it was lost. Sorry if this is a duplicate.

I do believe that this Ms. Drew was my High school English teacher at White River High in 1991-92.

If this is indeed *my* Ms Drew, I want to extend a great BIG thank-you! She was one of the few teachers in that little High School that showed me any sincerity and compassion. High school was very difficult for me, not because I wasn't capable of being a good student, but because of deeply rooted emotional issues. Im fairly sure she picked up on my "abused" energy.

Ms Drew showed me how to journal and express my feelings through writing and poetry. Though I rarely shared with anyone my deep pain, I learned from her how to write it. Even if only for myself.

I am sad to hear about her difficult times, but I have since learned that everything happens for a reason. Everything we experience in this life is to teach us something...

Either way, if you wish please send on my comment and email to Jody. If she remembers me (Michelle McCartney) then I would love to correspond with her.

Love and Light
M.

faeotheearth@yahoo.com

Tuesday, July 22, 2008 5:48:00 PM  

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