~ from FCI Danbury, by nuclear resister Martha Hennessy, February 5

February 5th, 2021

Is it true that the wind

Streaming especially in fall

Through  the pines

Is saying nothing, nothing at all,

Or is it just that I don’t yet know the language?

Mary Oliver – “Wind in the Pines”

There is a row of thirteen white pines that look to be perhaps 40 years old, on the eastern side of the camp. I came in early winter, but one of the first sounds to catch my senses was the wind in the pine needles and branches. 

Trapped indoors for a month, my nervous system took it in like dry earth drinking up the delayed rain. The body knows the language whether the mind does or not. 

The hill behind my childhood home is crowned with white pine and crab apple. We call it “Pine’s Peak.” This geography is in every muscle, bone, and synapse of any child who wandered the landscape. A particular brow of a hill, a certain oak by the brook, the call of the red-tailed hawk, indelible. 

Now, this place, any prison, is utter heresy.  

As a child I also remember reading about indigenous peoples dying in custody, taken from the wind, water, sun.  “At night may I roam, against the wind may I roam.” A Paiute prayer. 

My mother Tamar’s spirit was saturated into the old Vermont farmhouse where my siblings and I grew up.

Her mother would come too, and be part of our family medium, rich in pregnant silence, shimmering with the real presence of God. Like the wind in the trees, always there, waiting for one to come, to sit, to listen, to absorb on a primal level.

Federal prison camp provides both toxins and immense beauty to absorb. 

The chemical floor cleaner is a killer. Who would understand? 

Working in the public schools more than 15 years ago I contracted whooping cough despite childhood vaccines, and my lungs have been sensitive ever since that illness.

It is  breathtakingly imperative that there is outdoor time here. I was on  the snow shoveling crew, but my age took me off that work detail.

Jumping through insane bureaucratic hoops, for home confinement, the narrative is that if you don’t agree to the COVID vaccine, no review, yet the “Fauci ouchie” isn’t offered. If you do receive the vaccine then you are safe to stay.

As a Plowshares activist, perhaps asking for leniency is a travesty. Is there a difference in the language “requesting reduction in sentence” vs. “home confinement for the remainder of the sentence?”  Orwellian mind control is used at an advanced level.

All sins of the social, economic, and judicial systems are deposited in the minds and bodies of our country’s prisoners, the sacrificial lambs of an idolatrous system, –a system paying homage  to the use of force as a way of life.

Today’s gospel reading in Mark 6 is about the beheading of John the Baptist—the capricious murder of those who are holy and good, who speak out against what is unlawful.

The words “criminal” and “law breakers” still ring in my ears from the prosecutor’s soft voice in his southern drawl.

But hope comes from the language that the Treaty of the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons gives us. The nine nuclear states and five states that host nuclear weapons are now put on legal notice. Today is the day that the new START treaty was renewed. By the skin our teeth it is kept in place.

The 110 countries that have declared their lands a nuclear weapon free zone are to be commended for their courage in standing up to the nuclear weapon states.

Let us pray that Biden and Putin will work together like Reagan and Gorbachav did in the late 1980s, and JFK and Khrushchev did during the Cuban missile crisis.

Of course these men and their efforts were sidelined. Who called for the head of Kennedy?

The platters of today are the Pacific islands and bodies of the people of the Marshall Islands, Nevada, and too many other sites around the globe, that received the radiation. The GIs were made to stand and watch, exposed, then told to never speak of the experience/experiment.

Today is the feast day of Pedro Arrupe, SJ, who cared for the bodies of the Japanese civilians after the U.S. bombing of Hiroshima. In the personal works of mercy he recognized the need for structural changes in the systems of the state. Like Dorothy Day, his sensitive insight was marginalized and Mother Church shied away from this Christ-centered approach.

Are politics not going to be bumped up against when the Gospel teachings are brought into practice?

My latest prison readings bring me headlong into the legacy of our U.S. history school of thought followed by men like Barry Goldwater.

“I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice!”

Under the guise of freedom, Black Virginian students were denied access to schools for five years, obstructing the integration laws for equal education.

The events of January 6th, Epiphany, of this year at the Capitol, did not come from a vacuum and we shouldn’t be blindside by the violence. It is in the DNA of the founding of our country.

Nancy McLean’s book, “Democracy in Chains,” lays the history out for us to see if we so choose. She writes about the purposeful breaking down of the trust between “the governed” and “the governing” in the name of  economic freedom as a basis for the “master class” to have its way with the rest of us.

The deserving and the underserving as my mother used to say of the class war.

The motives of “compassion, fairness, solidarity, generosity, justice, and sustainability” are all suspect.

My two months stay here has so far gone by quickly. Having many hours to pursue reading, writing, prayer and reflection is a gift.

Psalm 27:3 “though war be waged upon me, even then will I trust” brings solace amidst the prison interruptions of this sabbatical.

Women are amazing creatures, carrying on the life-giving tasks despite the injustice and adversity, the purpose of this institution.

Being called out to shovel snow at 5:00 a.m. is both a joke and a blessing, what can I say?

But now I am taken off that duty due to my age. A humbling experience, after so many years of work and freedom in Vermont on the farm and at Maryhouse for hospitality.

The discovery of an intact guitar in the closet has given me a new vocation for the women to enjoy. My skills are minimal, but gently appreciated. We are here for each other.