Petty Thoughts

Petty Thoughts

petty |ˈpetē|
adjective
1 of little importance; trivial
• characterized by an undue concern for trivial matters, especially in a small-minded or spiteful way

I have to admit that I feel satisfied that Richard isn’t a part of the new Co-op.

I like strolling the new wine department–in all its expansion–knowing he doesn’t get to be there.

These are petty thoughts, of course, given the weight of what happened; but the feeling is my own personal vengeance for what was stolen.

Good riddance, Richard.

You don’t belong here no more.

Kelly Salasin, July 2012

ps. but what’s up with the cheese department?

an afternoon with… cheese

an afternoon with… cheese

Against my better judgement, I signed up to work the cheese “stroll” following the annual Heifer Parade, thereby prolonging the mayhem of Brattleboro–instead of making the mad dash out of town right after Bernie waves–which is when the crowd cheers and moves en masse toward the fair upon the “Retreat” Grounds–which I might have to check into after today.

When I descend the steep hill from the Town Green to the fields below, and find my way to the Co-op’s tent, I am surprised to discover that I won’t be standing right behind the platters of cheese like I’ve seen workers in aprons do in years past. Instead, the role that my husband and I are assigned to is: behind the lines to cut the cheese. (I never noticed those people before.)

Champlain Valley Creamery’s beautiful soft ripened triple crème cheese with a bloomy white rind

I’ve never cut the cheese either, and as I attempt to learn the varieties in front of me, I wonder why the coordinator doesn’t just rely on member workers from her own department. It would make her job simpler; but she says that she likes to spread the wealth. And spread, we do; because Casey and I are assigned to the spreading table.

Olive and herb goat cheese.

Camembrie.

Triple Cream.

Bijou.

Ash.

After an hour, I find myself in a rhythm of cutting and spreading, discreetly placing the broken rice things dipped in cheese aside for my own covert snacking; and carefully wiping the leftover cheese crumbles from the cutting board onto my salad for the lunch I will eat when  this two hour shift is done.

I’ve never realized how sensual a cheese can be; and despite the heat and the crowds, I am happy.  I don’t care how much cheese people eat, and whether they appreciate it, or whether they consider visiting the Co-op to buy it, because I am one with the cheese, and its virtue transcends consumerism.

I am so happy (and a bit delirious) that when it is finally time for me and cheese to part, that I decide to stick around at the fair, and listen to music, and dance, and eat my salad with the assorted cheese crumbles.

Somehow cutting the cheese made the difference between fleeing from–and floating through–this afternoon in Brattleboro.

I am still on the grounds when the day closes, licking brie from my fingers.

It’s not that cheese is new to me. I’ve visited France. And I’ve always appreciated the cheese department of the Brattleboro Co-op–back to the days when Henry cut the cheese.

But now I have a greater intimacy with this craft. It’s become personal–and local–made right here in the Green Mountain State– by small farms with names I know~

Jasper Hill Creamery.

Champlain Valley Creamery.

Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery.

Blythedale Farm…

Now when I’m shopping, I pause even longer at the cheese counter… My husband and I pick up one familiar soft friend after another, and gently caress it like a lover. We consider signing up for the same shift next year, and in the meantime, we decide to make a date with a baguette, a bottle of wine, and some artisanal cheeses from around our state.

Kelly Salasin, June 2011

ps. Casey & I did sign up to work the cheese stroll in 2012–and cheerfully reported to duty–even in the pouring rain.

for more on the Brattleboro Co-op:

Farewell Brattleboro Co-op

Blogging for Food, a tribute to my Co-op, Blog Action Day

Open for Business in Brattleboro!

Richard at The River Garden

Richard at The River Garden

Note: This post was written in the year following the murder at the Co-op. In the comments that ensued below, readers suggest the naivete of–Richard at the River Garden–saying that I do not understand the magnitude of his act.  What about the Rwandans? 

Finally, there is news of Richard Gagnon, and the trial that we have been dreading–and waiting for–so that we might put this nightmare behind us.

But alas, the news is that the trial is tentatively set for: fall–more than a year after Richard shot and killed a fellow co-worker in our community co-op.

The new store will be open by then, and perhaps the old one will be demolished; but of course, there is no demolishing the loss we have suffered.

It’s true that we can now walk into the Co-op, and just for a moment, forget that it ever happened. We can almost step foot into the wine department without thinking of Richard. We might be able to complete an entire round in the store without a thought of the back office where blood was shed. (Who can imagine having to work back there?  Wouldn’t we be the first to volunteer to begin the demolition? With a vengeance.)

My heart aches when I think of this trial and all it represents; and all it avoids.

Of course, Richard was mentally ill when he shot his boss. Anyone who shoots another human being must be mentally impaired. The level of guilt assigned by the courts is irrelevant to Michael Martin who is dead. Forever. Michael’s sentence can never be shortened, and neither can his family’s. There is no compensation for a life that makes any sense. Not years or a lifetime or even another death.

My idea is this: place Richard in the center of the River Garden each day where the rest of us, one by one, can come to meet him. Each will share his loss. Some may cry, some may scream, some may sit in the silence of unspeakable pain.

Richard’s “sentence” will be to receive–as long as people keep coming.

When he is not scheduled at the River Garden, Richard will report to the family from whom he has stolen a loved one. He will stack the wood, and clean the car and fix the fences like Michael would have done. Afterwards, he will make rounds at the homes of fellow staff members-to offset the time they lost to grief and outrage and despair. He’ll help with the laundry. He’ll take out the trash. He’ll do the dishes. He’ll clean up after the dog.

The next day, Richard will return to the River Garden for his scheduled appointments. Children will send pictures they drew after the murder. Mothers will share how they held their children through the nights afterward. Lovers will tell of sweetness lost. Colleagues will share the heartbreak of loosing both Michael and Richard.

Richard will continue to show up each day until no one comes. And then he will sit with his own pain. He will teach others how to listen. How to be conscious. How to take responsibility for anger or resentment or even depression.

He will bless our community in humble service until we have healed.

Kelly Salasin, April 19, 2011

Previous posts: BFC Tragedy.

Retrospective Reluctance

Retrospective Reluctance

Now that 2011 is behind us, I’d like to skip the retrospective and forget that there ever was a fire or a murder  or a flood; But the stores are still closed on Main Street, and Michael Martin’s sister just posted on my blog, and MacArthur is not the road it once was.

I search on the internet and the find that the only thing new about Richard is my own writing on this blog. What’s happening? It’s been almost half a year. Wouldn’t it be convenient to imagine Richard never existed?

But then I think about the Martins. How are they moving forward? How important is the trial to them? When is the trial?

(I was just called for jury duty; but not for a criminal case–Thank God.)

Yesterday, I came upon a poem about being in prison. My son was home sick and asked if I’d read to him while he ate his soup. I picked up the book that I found at the Marlboro Book Swap last year, and blew off the dust. I had intended to read excerpts from A Call to Character on a regular basis, but the practice died long ago.

“Let’s find something about kindness,”I say.

My son smirks with embarrassment.  Just a moment earlier he snapped at me in that sardonic “tween-age” fashion.  In my best NVC, I let him know it stung. With his big heart, it pains him to know that he’s hurt me, even if he can’t help himself.

“Darn, there’s no section on Kindness, only Compassion” I say. “But you’ve got plenty of that.”

“Read anything,” he says, delighted to have me seated beside him all day.

I flip through the stories and plays and fables, and a poem catches my eye in the Self-discipline category. I begin reading… to myself.

“Read aloud,” my son begs.

“This one is about being in jail; I don’t think you’ll like it.”

“Read it,” he says; and so I proceed:

Advice to Those Who Will Serve Time in Prison

...To wait for letters inside,
to sing sad songs,
or to lie awake all night staring at the ceiling
                              is sweet but dangerous.
Look at your face from shave to shave,
forget your age,
watch out for lice
                       and for spring nights,
       and always remember
              to eat every last piece of bread--
also, don't forget to laugh heartily.
And who knows,
the woman you love may stop loving you.
Don't say it's no big thing:
it's like the snapping of a green branch
                                             to the man inside.
To think of roses and gardens inside is bad,
to think of seas and mountains is good.
Read and write without rest,
and I also advise weaving
and making mirrors.
I mean, it's not that you can't pass
        ten or fifteen years inside
                                       and more--
               you can,
               as long as the jewel
               on the left side of your chest doesn't lose its luster!

(Nazim Hikmet)

Kelly Salasin, January 2012

ps. My apologies to those of you who clicked the link to MacArthur Rd above. I couldn’t help myself. That song won’t leave my mind today, especially as it rains on top of our long-awaited snow.

Should Richard Smile?

Should Richard Smile?

A friend comments that Richard isn’t a danger to anyone else, suggesting that–theoretically–he could be set free until the trial; but, of course, that would be wrong. VERY wrong. You can’t kill a man and rob a family of their loved one and keep going on with your life. You have to suffer as much as possible. It’s only fair.

Actually, it’s not even fair. There is no fairness in this situation. There never will be.

This makes me ponder the point of prison. It’s punishment right? No doubt Richard deserves punishment.

On the other hand, as a parent and lifelong educator, I know that punishment isn’t very effective in terms of changing behavior. It actually exacerbates it. Then again, the threat of punishment, can serve as a deterrent.

It’s too late for deterrents for Richard.

Do people, who feel murderous, really not kill someone because of the consequences?

What about the death penalty?

Have any lives been saved because someone thinks to herself, “Hey, I’m in Texas, and they have the death penalty, so I better drop this gun and walk away.”

What about Norway?

They don’t have the death penalty, and apparently killers there serve an average of 14 years jail time. Anders Behring Breivik, the good-looking man who massacred all those students in July, will serve the longest sentence available–21 years. Even so, those with the maximum sentence can be released after serving two-thirds, and many are given weekend parole after one third.

Despite being “soft on crime” however, Norway has a lower crime rate than us, and their incarceration rates are among the lowest in Europe.

I’m inspired by the thought that how we respond to criminals says much more about us than it does about the acts they commit.

Are we a murderous, vengeful, punishing people?

In the case of Richard, what do want?

Is death really fair?

Wouldn’t having to live a long life in the face of his horrid act be more in line with justice?

Given the irrevocable loss of Michael Martin, it’s hard to imagine Richard doing anything nice. Visiting with his wife. Reading. Meditating. Working out.

That’s when I have to turn my thoughts away from what he did to what I want or what I don’t want. I don’t want a world filled with any more murder, vengeance or hatred; and I don’t want to support the idea of “us” and “them” because within that separation is permission to do all manner of things which have terrorized humanity forever.

When I enlarge the context like this, I know that Richard’s “time” must be more than punishment; and I know that I must find my way to allowing him his smile.

Kelly Salasin, October 2011

For more posts on the BFC Tragedy, click here.