New place for Art is Life

Hi everyone! 

I hope you had a great Christmas!

I am taking a little bit of this down time to tell you that I have moved some things around. I have a brand new website at jenicejohnson.com and my blog will live there now. I haven’t been on this blog very long but I do have a few email followers here and other WordPress bloggers. I appreciate the support. Please continue to follow along at this link: Art Is Life. There is a place to subscribe by email there as well. 

I made the decision to get serious about a main website that will house a shop (eventually) and easy ways to pay for my photography and writing services. The overall interface will be a lot more flexible to all of my needs and my friend and amazing designer Laura is working on a brand new logo for my presence.

The coming new year is all about growth and building more success to my work and life. I hope you will join me there!

Happy New Year!

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Photo by Dee Hill

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Tucson by way of Texas, California and South Dakota

As I’m typing this, there is more than an inch of ice blanketing the entire Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex. Trees, cars, flowers, fixtures, parking lots and streets are “entombed in ice” as our local weather cutie Pete Delkus warned earlier this week.

We are basically iced in for the weekend and quite possibly until the first of the week. But the world must go on so stores aren’t closed, weekend workers like my father still head into work and folks like me get to enjoy lounging and of course, blogging. I am certainly going to take advantage of this newfound free time to catch up here.

So I’m moving to Tucson in March — earlier if I can swing it but March is the most sane choice in move date. I know what you are thinking if you know me OR if you have read my words before, “I thought you were going to move to California?” Well, things change and we change along with them. Actually, after living up in South Dakota for almost a year, I was considering moving back to SD after the holidays. Or at least after it warmed up again. But that wasn’t the original plan, which was first decided after I fell in love with Northern California in earnest a few years ago.

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Change is inevitable, change is good

I certainly have much to catch up here. As usual. But in the midst of all that, I’ve finally decided to have a website starting from scratch. Which means these posts will transfer there and the blog will continue, just not on WordPress proper. My hope is that more people will email subscribe there as well as I intend that the new site will lend itself to a lot more opportunities and ways to make what I do (art, freelance writing, photography sessions, coaching) more streamline. I also hope it’s my last stop for a while because it’s really important to gain momentum and not jump around!

I find in online ventures, you just have to keep plugging away and sometimes it means starting over a bit until the right fit happens. I’ll be blogging here until I switch to the full site which will feature more options for my work. Up next is my post about my trip to Tucson but even with this long Thanksgiving weekend, I never got a post started because I FINALLY got out into the world back here in Dallas. I’ll admit I had become a little reclusive after coming back from South Dakota. I missed it so much — still do. But I’m awkwardly adjusting! Although by March, I’m moving again. I’ll explain later!

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A photo can tell a thousand tales

Four years ago this month, I did a body of work for The Dallas Morning News’ neighborsgo covering Veterans. It quite possibly was my favorite photography work other than hanging out with buffalo in South Dakota.

I don’t know what happened to this veteran  I photographed below at the Veteran’s Hospital in Dallas, but his spirits were good. This is the reality of service. What happens later…

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Please check out the captivating work by Suzanne Opton on Studio 360 today as well as other amazing stories on the site. Studio 360 is my favorite journalism. Take time to browse it — even if you have strong opinions about the military.

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Rainy-day epiphany

I haven’t posted my poetry here before until now.

Many people have told me that it’s not wise to post poetry publicly on websites because you may want to publish them someday. But I’m at a point in my life where I would just like to share when I can, in the forum I choose, because keeping words all to yourself defeats the purpose of expression. I won’t post all of my works on this blog, but here and there I become inspired.

Yesterday was one of those days.

There is a saying from Luther Standing Bear that states:

A man’s heart away from nature becomes hard; lack of respect for growing, living things soon leads to a lack of respect for humans too.

I think of this saying often when I fall into the routine of not taking in enough moments of nature that I appreciate when I am surrounded by it. Living in South Dakota was a treasure trove of beauty. The city and suburban life of Dallas/Fort Worth gives you pockets of green space but nothing like what you experience in places that are encompassed in scenery.

Yesterday I decided to walk outside to the backyard, sit and take in such a pocket.

 

Absorption

Taking my break

with the patter of rain. 

Each drop reaching
…my core. 
It’s more than sounds of
City blaring, churning. 
It’s the sound of each leaf
becoming wet with just
existing. 
But the rain not quite heavy…
Enough — yet– to snap 

the leaf…

To fall

© Jenice Johnson

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Non-profit on Pine Ridge provides healing camp for Lakota children

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The below story is one of many I had the opportunity to write for tankabar.com and was originally posted on Oct. 23, 2013. I am reposting here as it was another experience that I truly enjoyed during my time on Pine Ridge. I shot all of the photos in this story. 

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A little before the cooler temps and snow of autumn reached the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, SD, one local organization hosted a special camp for youth to reconnect to their Lakota culture.

Located in Porcupine, SD, Wakanyeja Woapiye Wicoti (Children’s Healing Camp) focuses on young people ages 7-12 who have experienced trauma, loss and/or grief. Knife Chief Buffalo Nation Organization created the camp in partnership with Medicine Horse Society. Lakota Oyate Wakanyeja Owicakiyapi, Inc. (LOWO) is a tribal child welfare agency on the reservation that brings some of their children to the nearly weeklong event.

Susan Hawk, a family support specialist at LOWO, said the camp is a place where these children can feel comfortable.

“Regardless of where they come from, all of them feel a part of one,” she said. They belong here and have a sense of identity and culture.”

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The camp allows parents of children in foster care who are working with LOWO to attend the camp as a safe place for them to reconnect with their children. In some cases the camp is the first time these families (including siblings) get to see each other in over a year.

Everyone participates in traditional ceremonies and work on craft projects. Camp attendees also eat three meals a day, which are made possible by donations. Part of the camp took place in a community building in Porcupine and laughter flowed throughout as volunteers worked together to serve food and tend to children’s needs.

“Everyone is supportive and helpful,” Ms. Hawk said.

One day of the camp offered children an opportunity to ride and interact with horses. Each small face lit up as they reached out to stroke their horse before they were assisted on top of saddles to ride as adults pulled the reigns. Several children remarked how much fun they were having and wanted to keep taking turns to ride.

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This is the second time the camp has been in operation, which runs mostly on donations and fundraising efforts. Camp director Ethleen Iron Cloud-Two Dogs stayed busy keeping things running smoothly and organizing all of the volunteers. She expressed the importance of having all of the tipis up during the camp for everyone to stay in and explained the purpose of the structure.

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“The tipi is tiikceya. It is a healing place to sleep and live,” she said as she pointed out how the top of the inside of a tipi resembles a star. “We are connected to the Star Nation. They are our relatives and the tipi is an acknowledgement of that.”

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The Child Protection Office of the State of South Dakota has stated that over 60% of children in foster care are Native American. Emily Iron Cloud-Koenen , executive director of LOWO, said the camp helps Lakota children strengthen their minds, spirits and bodies.

“It is a healing opportunity for children who have been traumatized by loss, grief, abandonment and abuse,” she said. “The children who participate are different when they leave. They are more peaceful because their spirits have returned to them much better in order to cope with life.”

For more information about Wakanyeja Woapiye Wicoti, visit Knife Chief Buffalo Nation Organization.

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The adjustment period or I hope that was a good idea

I’ve been back to Texas for almost two weeks now.

I have a lot to post still from my nine months living on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. I honestly thought I’d already have done that by now but found that the adjustment period of being back in the hustle and bustle of a major city has only just began to calm down for me.

I immediately cried…in traffic… on the way into Fort Worth, car packed and my cat Tiger Lily piled in there someplace! It was only 1:30 p.m. and the traffic resembled rush hour in Dallas on any of the major highways that never seem to be finished. There were no hills anymore. There were no horses running along side the road. Gone were all of the sites, sounds and smells of the country I was so in love with back in Kyle, SD. It hurt a little and I pulled over to get some gas in the car, get my bearings and clear my eyes. My cat, who has been traveling with me since I got her 10 years ago when I was living in North Platte, Nebraska, was reacting to my discomfort and was being hard to deal with by refusing to leave the driver side floorboard after I pumped my gas.

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But we collected ourselves and carried on to Arlington — our destination. Once I got through all the traffic and the noise, I finally arrived to my old home and was greeted with a hug by my father. The funny thing is the city has been working on the roads in my parents’ neighborhood and have been for months. Driving up it felt like being on the Rez — trying to drive through and around the very unfinished or gravel roads. It kind of made me happy, to tell you the truth.

I know now, without any doubt, I will be happiest living places where there is scenery all around me. And where there aren’t several highways for constant traffic and environmental toxicity that the traffic creates. My time home is meant to regroup and enjoy the holidays with family and friends, but I don’t plan to stay. It’s been beautiful so far, seeing everyone again, but I’m plotting my next destination. Until then, I plan to catch up here on my blog and continue to share the many great things I experienced before I came home from my home away from home.

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Pondering by moonlight

This is my last week in South Dakota and even now I know that when I return to Texas for a while, I will have so much writing to catch up on about my time here.

The thing about experiencing life and writing it all down is that while you are living in the moment of it all, you just want to absorb it. All of the echoes of life hollow out the grooves of your brain and become branded on your spirit. I had big ideas to write every second down in real time but reflection on it all seems more fitting.

It’s 3:30ish in the morning and the cabin living room is full of boxes and items in disorder. I imagine it won’t all fit in my little Yaris and will create a little unease for my four-legged passenger, Tiger Lily — my odd-tempered cat. This is an ambitious endeavor…

I will miss so much of this place. Convenience will be a welcome change but the remarkable silence, views and people are not replaceable. The year ahead will be a welcome perfect puzzle as I discover whether or not I am meant for other destinations for semi-permanent residency. The journey will reveal.

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Wazi Paha Festival marks the approaching end of a great South Dakota summer

Since living on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, I’ve had the opportunity to attend a lot of the regular events that take place over the summer. Many of them I still haven’t uploaded all the photos from yet! But I have to say that my favorite by far is the Wazi Paha Festival which took place on the Oglala Lakota College Pow Wow Grounds.

There were so many things to enjoy — fresh garden veggie contests, tug-of-war, sack races and pow wow competitions including Switch Dance where the men and women swap regalia and dance routines. That was probably one of my favs.

My friend Corey is in the center of this photo in the jingle dress he made. The Men's Switch Dance was a fun competition to watch!

My friend Corey is in the center of this photo in the jingle dress he made. The Men’s Switch Dance was a fun competition to watch!

A little later there was a jalapeño-eating contest and I don’t know what got into me (probably the Texas roots) but I entered it. My friend Shannon took photos and I proceeded to be handed about 10 small jalapeños. Each contestant received two large peppers but they ran out of the large ones by the time I decided to join the contest. Other than one other person, (standing next to me in this photo) I was the only one who had to eat a bunch of small ones to make sure things were fair. You can see my response to that below.

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The Candy Man can

You never know who you will bump into when you venture out. Last weekend I met the FIRST black fireman of Rapid City, SD — been there since the 70s. He flagged me down at a gas station because he saw my Texas plates — where he’s from originally.

His name is Stanley “Mr. Candy Man” Kinnard. He told me I had to put that in there. He was with his teenage son who just smiled because this is the kind of thing his dad just does. When I asked Stanley what his name meant, he said to guess and I of course referenced Sammy Davis, Jr.’s song (the correct assumption). I admitted that, in today’s times, folks assume that means dope dealer. He agreed.

This man can talk. And mostly he told me about how he often threw block parties to give families safe things to do together and how he tried to mend fences between people — gangs even. As we were standing there talking, several people honked at him as they drove by — many of them were just kids when he first met them.

He invited me back to play dominoes and although I was tempted, I had plans for the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. I told him I would post him up on the internet and gave him my card. Maybe I’ll take him up on dominoes before I go.

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