About Pooh and the Brown Piglet
Make your own playground…stop playing in their playground! You are what you dream you are – become greater – make your own place – make your own universe.”
Pooh and the Brown Piglet-Cindy Pickard and Jody Armijo live off the grid on 31 acres in the mountains of northeast New Mexico.
Coming from vastly different cultures and walks of life, both of us have experienced the very dark and painful side of life and have worked hard to climb out of that dark place. But we have, and we have found the joy, and the appreciation for life that perhaps can only come from experiencing deep suffering.
Working together with an understanding that goes beyond words, beyond any language or cultural barrier, we have created a beautiful place, surrounded by an animal family: Tilly the dairy cow, the horses, Puck and Redman, the wolfdogs , Dakota and Shiloh, Phantom, the cat and several doves/pigeons.
JODY milks the cow and takes care of the animals..sometimes it’s challenging…..
And I work on our documentary films, learn more about growing food in the greenhouse……. And have an idea of something new to create almost every day………..
Our relationship is best expressed by this quote:
Piglet to Pooh: “If you live to be 100, I hope I live to be 100 minus 1 day, so I never have to live without you.
”–POOH’S LITTLE INSTRUCTION BOOK
I have been wanting to write this blog for a while, in order to share projects, ideas, our films, art, photos and things we are learning that may be helpful to others as we are always learning something new and creating things here in this remote and beautiful place I call HOBBITON…..
And as the so called ‘news’ is almost always dark, ugly, violent and fearful,*
*News’ Headlines October 15, 2015
- Obama says he’ll keep more troops in ‘fragile’ Afghanistan
- Hastert attorney says former speaker intends to plead guilty
- Oscar Pistorius to be released on parole on Tuesday
- Police disband sit-in at Baltimore City Hall, arrests made
- Police: Brothers were beaten in church to make them confess
I want to write something that expresses Beauty and brings Hope, Inspiration, something that could make someone’s day a little happier, maybe more hopeful…
I have to write about some of what I have experienced in this lifetime because really, it has been the many losses and the hard times that have led me to the work I do and brought me to this place. I have to write about the past to get to the present.
LOSS, GRIEF AND DEATH
“If you had not suffered as you have, there would be no depth to you, no humility, no compassion.”
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross often said “If you sat in a beautiful garden all day and someone served you beautiful food what would you be?” And the spiritual teacher, Eckhart Tolle frequently talks about people who have had a difficult childhood as “being destined to go very deep” and about suffering: “If you had not suffered as you have, there would be no depth to you, no humility, no compassion.”
The early years of my life can be summed up by these words: loss, grief and death: my mother when I was nine to cancer, my 16 yr old brother, Flip to suicide when I was 19
loss of almost all of my family, the homes and places and people that I loved… just about everything.
I was in fourth grade, coming to terms with my mother’s death and the life changes it brought about, when a child psychologist suggested to my dad that he get me a horse [I loved horses!]. He did and I was so happy. I rode every day, feeling free in my own world but most of all having someone to love who loved me-my horse, Smokey
And then I was twelve and my dad came up to my room and asked me if I wanted to go to a wedding. “Whose?” I asked. “Mine” my dad said. “What will happen to Wrighty?” I asked. “She’ll find another job .” said my dad.
Wrighty [Mrs Wright] had come to live with us and take care of my brother and me when my mother first got sick. She had lived with us for 4 years and had the gift of understanding young children. She made fudge and beautiful paper mache costumes and her favorite saying was “Pretty is as pretty does” Flip and I loved her and she loved us. We thought that she would always be there.
But suddenly, very suddenly it seemed to me, we got a new family-a stepmother, two stepbrothers and a stepsister and later a half sister. We got a new house too and a new, formal lifestyle [my stepmother was a former Texas debutante] and we were given 2 weeks to start calling our new stepmother ‘Mom’. Which was confusing because that’s what we had called our own mother.
From second grade on, I went to The Hockaday School in Dallas. I liked school but I was not one of the popular girls, which was very disappointing to *my stepmother. She suggested that I copy their personalities so I could be one of them. At the dinner table-we always had formal dinners served by the maid-she told me how ugly I was. My skin was very broken out then and my hair, no mater how often I washed it, was very oily.
[*I want to add that in the last years of her life, my stepmother and I came to truly appreciate each other and I was able to understand that she was trying to raise me in the way that she had been raised–the only way she knew. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross often said this was what was meant by the Bible verse “The sins of the father shall be passed down..”]
It was the summers at my grandparents’ cottage on Lake Michigan that kept me going during those years. From the time I was a year old……..
playing Capture the Flag with my cousins and taking our inner tubes out to ride the waves after a storm.When I was 16, my grandparents, who never recovered from my mother’s death, sold the cottage. My grandmother told me their plans and I went outside and sat in the sand and I have never cried that hard in my life…before or since.
I had been able to hold on, knowing that summer would come and I could escape from my miserable life in Texas but when the cottage was sold, life became unbearable and I often prayed to die. I fell into a deep depression, which led to self-torture and a dark hopelessness. Often I wondered what awful thing I must have done to deserve this kind of life.
There was a time in my 20s when I slept all day and nearly drank myself to death. I lived on the dark side. I had a small son and I was raising him mostly by myself. I loved him so much and I tried to keep living for him
He had been the one greatest thing in my life. I was 22 when he was born and while I was in labor, a nurse came in and asked me if I would like to participate in some special programs available for the babies born at that time. I said no, not because I didn’t want to participate but because I knew that nothing that came from me could live…everything always died. I had already had a miscarriage on my 21rst birthday.
But then, just a little later, there he was, Andy my beautiful boy, healthy and weighing a little over 8 pounds. So I tried to keep going for him but just staying alive was getting more and more difficult.
And then came a miracle…
ELISABETH KUBLER-ROSS, MD
“People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.” -Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
A friend sent me a ticket to a lecture given by Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, the pioneering teacher and author of the international best seller, On Death Dying. The lecture was at the University of Houston but shortly after Elisabeth began to speak, the sound system in the auditorium failed and Elisabeth, who was very soft spoken and had a heavy German accent, asked everyone who wanted to hear her to move to the front row.
It seemed most of the audience preferred to remain in their seats and complain but I felt this as a life-changing event and I moved up to sit directly in front of her. That afternoon, I put my name on the six-month waiting list for the next available workshop. It was the beginning of hope and the beginning of tremendous change
LIFE, DEATH AND TRANSITION
“In our most anguished moments may reside the greatest of gifts – not only for ourselves but for the world.”
-Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, MD
My first ‘Life, Death and Transition’ workshop was at The Old Mission San Luis Rey in Oceanside, California. There were sixty people, many of whom had experienced life’s most painful experiences: a man whose wife had died the week before in a plane crash, a woman who had watched helplessly as her 10 year old son skied off a mountain and fell to his death, a couple who had lost their young son to cancer and were now losing their 12 year old daughter,
https://poohandthebrownpigletcom.files.wordpress.com/2015/10/file_01-ekrkhamala2.jpga young dentist dying of ALS… all working directly with Elisabeth in a group setting, reminding us that on the deepest level,
as the Lakota People say: Mitakuye Oyasin “We are all related”
Many who experienced Elisabeth’s workshops went on to create some type of helping organization almost as if they were compelled to do so and so in 1988, I founded a non profit organization called AIDS Care and Assistance, now known as Rites of Passage. In 1988, in Austin, Texas, it was the beginning of the AIDS epidemic.
RITES OF PASSAGE/ THE AIDS EPIDEMIC
“They were the worst of times, they were the best of times”
-Charles Dickens<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/118699933″
We never really tried to be a home heath agency though we had a license. Rather we provided friendship, cooking, cleaning, and transportation to the doctor, the hospital etc. Most of our patients then were young, male and gay and many were professional people who suddenly found themselves with nothing….dying.. alone. The movie, Philidelphia pretty much exactly expresses what those times were like.
We were providing homecare for several of these patients and then one day something happened which would dramatically change our mission.
We were asked to provide care for a family with AIDS and were once again reminded that the greatest teachers and the angels often come in the most unexpected forms.
JASON THE WAY WE LIVE TODAY
“………For if I were on Earth no more, and happened up on Heaven’s door, I’d see an angel dressed in white, my son to greet me..a beautiful sight…”
Jim and Gerri Briggs were 24 and 22 years old and their son Jason was six months. A poster book family, Gerri was Hispanic, dark haired and beautiful, Jim was blond, friendly and outgoing. Both had been honor students in high school. Their baby Jason was also beautiful: chubby and wise beyond his years. Never able to really speak, he communicated everything with his large, brown eyes. An old wise soul.
The Briggs family had no money-AIDS took everything they had. We had no money either but somehow, with the help of devoted and dedicated caregivers we provided care for Jason until his death at the age of 2.
Jim and Gerri wanted to make a short film about their experience, something that would help others. My son, Andy was then majoring in Radio-Television-Film at the University of Texas and so we were able to make the film they wanted.
Jason-the way they live today simply put, is a short film about living with AIDS, about being 22 and 24 years old, watching your baby die and knowing that you also are destined to die…of AIDS. More than that however, it is a story about courage, about appreciation and making the most of each day.
At that time, I had a small grant to educate community and church groups about AIDS as there was a lot of ignorance, judgment and prejudice. I remember showing ‘Jason’ to an adult Sunday school class at an Episcopal church in Austin. This group was made up of well off, people from the upper class who would likely never have to encounter AIDS in any form. I remember watching the audience change as they watched the film: from standoffish and judging to compassion and understanding, to actually [some of them] wanting to help
Because of Jason-the way they live today , I discovered the tremendous power of film to reach an audience on a very deep level, the power to create change, to inspire, to bring people together.
And from that time on, our mission became education-we could reach a much larger audience through the visual arts and to date, we, my son Andy Pickard and I have produced about 20 documentary films, many of them award winning, as well as 3 photo/oral history exhibits: on AIDS, on Aging and on Loss and Grief.
“It is very important that you only do what you love to do. You may be poor, you may go hungry, you may lose your car, you may have to move into a shabby place to live, but you will totally live. And at the end of your days you will bless your life because you have done what you came here to do.” Elisabeth Kubler-Ross MD
Beginning sometime in my late twenties, I became aware of three things that I was particularly interested in: working with terminally ill patients, Art and the Native American culture. These things were always somewhere in the very back of my mind but they made no sense.
First of all, after visiting my mother a few times when she was dying, I hated hospitals! I hated the smell, the ice-cold feeling and the all-pervading inhumanity [and I still do only more so!]. So how then would I work with dying patients?
For a few semesters I studied art at Hollins University but I wasn’t especially talented and I gave up all that up anyway after my brother’s death.
And I knew of no Native Americans in Texas. I had even heard someone say that all the Native People had been killed and there were historical markers to prove it.
But these three things were starting to become a part of my life experience because when I got involved with Elisabeth, I also got involved with terminally ill patients, first working as an occupational therapy assistant at Hospice Austin and then founding RITES OF PASSAGE [AIDS Care and Assistance]
And I began doing art related projects with my hospice patients and later, with our AIDS patients when we created an art class which was so successful that we had an exhibit at the University of Texas called Life is a Terminal Illness. The exhibit featured some of our patients’ work-pottery and paper mache- and a photo/oral history exhibit I had done called Portraits of People with AIDS
Still I had no contact with Native Americans though there had been one small sign: I was riding in a cab with Elisabeth in Washington DC. She had been speaking at a National Conference on AIDS and wanted to get away and go shopping. The cab driver asked Elisabeth where she was from “Zurich” she said. “Where’s your friend from?” he asked. Elisabeth answered: “She’s part Native American.” Later that day she bought me a small dream catcher which is hangs in my car.
STARBLANKET AND THE TURTLE LODGE
They will come to a fork in the road. One road will lead to Materialism and Destruction…..for almost all living creatures….The other road will lead to a Spiritual Way upon which the Native People will be standing…This path will lead to the lighting of the 8th fire, a period of eternal peace, harmony and a “New Earth” where the destruction of the past will be healed
And then as I moved through the world of death education, I happened to go to the national conference of “The Association of Death Education and Counseling” in Toronto, Ontario. I had read the brochure online and had noticed that the keynote speaker was a Cree Chief, Chief Noel Starblanket and I felt compelled to go.
Noel Starblanket at age 29, had been the youngest chief ever of all Canadian Indians. Now in his fifties, he had not wanted to speak at this conference, to a group, which he felt would be made up of a of highly educated White Americans. His wife had talked him into it. But his speech on the Losses of the Native People was so powerful, that to his surprise, he received an overwhelming standing ovation. Afterwards there was a long line of people wanting to talk with him. I was one of those people and when I finally got to the head of the line, I asked him if I could come to see him in Saskatchewan-I was working on a photo oral history exhibit called Between Now and Forever and wanted to interview him. He said yes [I asked him three times to make sure] and so I traveled to Saskatchewan, bringing with me a pouch of Redman tobacco because I had read that one must always bring tobacco to a Chief or an Elder.
And that began a new chapter in my life because I was able to enter a magical and mystical world that few people have the opportunity to experience: A world where dances and ceremonies dating back hundreds of years are still performed and celebrated.
Noel invited me to a sweat lodge, far out on his reservation. I was the only non-Indian among 20 Cree men and women participating in this ancient ceremony. Inside the lodge, around the heated rocks, the headman spoke the prayers in Cree
And I remember when my son and I went to the Starblanket Reserve the first time to film our documentary, Starblanket A Spirit Journey. We drove for a long time through a forest and then suddenly we were in a clearing where tipis were part of the landscape and women were cooking meat over the fires. No movie set, it was the real thing.
Our documentary, STARBLANKET A SPIRIT JOURNEY won Best Short Documentary at the American Indian Film Festival 2006 in San Francisco
From my time spent with Noel, more opportunities came, to be with Native People: while working with Noel Starblanket, I was introduced to Anishnabe Elder, Dave Courchene…
I worked closely with Dave for several years to produce two more films: THE 8TH FIRE and MANITOU API/Where the Sun Rises
Dave took me to the sacred site of the Anishnabe People, where petroforms, thousands of years old, can be seen
and I went to ceremonies at his Turtle Lodge, the sacred center he had created to bring people of all ages, races and cultures together….
“Thank you GOD for giving me another day”
-Amarante Cordova, the oldest man in Milagro THE MILAGRO BEANFIELD WAR
Finally with these films completed, I was able to finally move out of Texas . I moved to northeastern New Mexico and began another life in a tiny mostly Hispanic, mountain community where many things remain much the same as they always have. While I had never felt I belonged to the world, the society in which I grew up, now in northern New Mexico, where three cultures primary cultures are represented: Native, Hispanic and Anglo, I felt at home.
JODY ARMIJO’S STORY
“You see you wouldn’t ask why the rose that grew from the concrete
had damaged petals. On the contrary, we would all celebrate its
tenacity. We would all love its will to reach the sun”. –Tupac Shakur
Jody Armijo was born and raised in a rural mountain community in northeast New Mexico. He was taught by his grandparents who lived and understood the skills needed to live off the land.
When he was 16, he moved to Colorado and later, when he was in his 20s, got involved in dealing drugs-mainly cocaine. He was sent to prison for five years in Colorado and when he was released, he moved back to New Mexico.
After he was released, he got in lots of fights and got stabbed so severely that he almost lost his life.
His attitude changed after that and he moved back to the rural community he was raised in. He is very close to his grandma….
and to his uncles who live in the community.
It is his nature to help wherever and whenever he is needed whether it be changing a tire, shearing sheep, branding or rounding up cattle, cooking for his grandma or cleaning out a spring for a friend….When he moved back to his community, he also returned to his art, which is continuously evolving….
He is an example of someone who has been able to completely transform himself…from a lifetime of violence and the darkness of prison to a creative and peaceful life….from a devil to an angel, from a monstro [as he and his uncles were once called] to a BROWN PIGLET
*Jody Armijo also appears in our documentary in progress: THE LIGHT IN THE SHADOW here is the preview: