Mary Strachan Scriver

Oct 17, 2021

5 min read


Listening to Robert Reich’s explanation about why people are deserting the work force, I realize that I did what he is describing — bailed out by accepting a much less comfortable lifestyle — twenty years ago. But in that twenty years things have gotten much worse along the same lines. I thought the bad stuff was because I was in a big city and that was partly true. I was working for the City of Portland where I had been born in 1939 and where my parents had thought they were on the bedrock of modern life.

I financed my jump partly by planning: scouting small High Line villages near the Blackfeet rez, paying off my pickup, acquiring clothes I could wear in a rural setting, and living low to the ground — not even picking up minor ties to local writing. When my mother died, that was my ticket out. I took a few vacation days to drive to Valier, bought this house on the day I saw it, which was possible because I had already made a check list and because I hit town at a time when sales came hard. I paid full price, though people told me I was a fool because I should have used the equity to buy a second house to rent for income.

My goal was not money. It was Time. Right now. I might not live much longer. So my next enabling factor was a short gap before retirement, a scary time. The third leg was a small job with a local advertising paper which turned out to be corrupt and soon fell through. I had already remembered from the Sixties how people around here cut corners both legally and illegally. My whole family has always been willing to live on peanut butter sandwiches for long stretches. My luxuries were books and I already had enough to read for many years. My first undergrad years in theatre were crucial in framing a role with a “spine.”

Once I was retired and on social security and medicaid, I was home free. I killed the television set. But then came the Internet so I still had access to something, like streaming vids. Blogs were a breakthrough and I began to build a body of work. At first I still had the drive to get a book about Bob Scriver done. It was published by the University of Calgary Press, underpowered and ignorant of the larger world. “Bronze Inside and Out.” 750 copies, five complimentary copies, no money. But it was like owning a house: the culture’s marker for acceptance in a certain circumscribed world. was owned by Google and runs as a zombie — no input from me — but can be read and downloaded and gets me invitations from people in curious places who claim they will make me rich and famous. They just can’t find me because I changed my email because Google tried to own it.

Now I write for where they claimed to want to identify and support fine writing. They can’t figure out how to do that or what that even “is”, but I can post there and slowly acquire readers again. I don’t read most other people’s blogs because they are shallow and repetitious. Someone told me my blogs were good sources for ideas no one else had, to use in their own blogs. My chequered past through Western art, dog-catching, non-theist religion, civic infrastructure, and indigenous culture on the northern prairie have given me a unique set of skills and knowledges. The dissolution of my birth family has added questions many share.

Speculation about one’s own family and transgenerational trajectory means very little unless it is related to the larger movement of thought and action across all demographics on the continent and maybe around the world — particularly now that we are now in the process of reconciling forces that have been sequestered by space and oceans.

This statement comes close to what I know.

Naked political power was not something that could be easily exercised. One did not simply strategize or attempt to sway other human beings to his or her cause. In large part this is because that which was personal was not merely located in one’s body. It was often extended outside one’s body, distributed among an array of places, things, elements, and unseen forces. It could be held in the hands and might be wrapped up, literally, in a bundle of portable things.

(Chapter 4 from “An Archaeology of the Cosmos” by Timothy Pauketat It can be downloaded from Another source of these ideas is the Master’s Thesis of Ryan First Diver (formerly Ryan HeavyHead). “Feeding Sublimity: Embodiment in Blackfoot Experience.” These pieces are not woo-woo mysticism. Pauketat studies midwestern cultures while First Diver participates in the northern prairie world where he also has developed a small near-spiritual but also ecological function as a rattlesnake wrangler. When they turn up in inconvenient places, he takes them back to their proper homes. For many years he worked closely with Narcisse Blood and Alan Pard, who are still missed.

I am only an observer, a maker of notes and memories, but with a small set of methods from U of Chicago Div School and novelist Richard Stern. And I had what seems now like “early” contact which was so late that most of the buffalo people were long gone. I watched the generations after them struggle, die or succeed, turn into different kinds of people but still related to this place, these forces — wind, grass, extreme heat and cold, mountain melt-water, gumbo soil, strange symbolic skies, huge bones weathering out of the ground, many small scampering lives, horses and dogs as companions.

Technically, the wife of a bundle-keeper remains in that role even if the husband is gone. I keep no “things” but our Bundle is in my mind as ideas always with me. They are not beliefs but dynamic principles. There is no formal institution, no building unless you count circles of stones in the grass. The crucial understanding is that one is connected to a community and what one does affects the People for good or for bad. But who are my People?

I refuse to choose. Everybody. Radical inclusion. That means history, the inanimate, the yet to exist. The best thing I can do to help them all is to understand as best I can and write about it across nations, assumptions, and aeons.

This vid is not a bad version of the situation.