Podcast Post Tells of the Land and Sea

July 22, 2010

Veteran broadcast journalist Wendy Garrett got me on the phone today to record a podcast for her intriguing Talk Shoe Internet radio show.  Our conversation rambled far and wide. We conversed about the call of wild, the call of the land, and even the call of the Gulf of Mexico as the insidious industrial oil catastrophe continues to poison the pathways of life over a vast region of our world.

We talked also about the teachings of the south and north as they originate here on Turtle Island (North America), and directly pertain to this stretch of time and world development. From the south direction, we echo the voices of the Maya on the subject of 2012 and the oil spill, and from the north direction we echo the venerable teachings of the Algonquin peoples about the era of the 8th Fire and the health of the land and sea which sustain us all. We spoke also about fusion, the ethers, and their emerging role in the world. Finally, Wendy and I spoke of the hopes and healing potential that arise with the agrarian impulses being given creative expression by so many people in North America and around the world.

Follow the links below to either listen on the web, or to download the 1/2 hour podcast to your iPod, iPhone, or any other digital listening device.

Listen on the web or download the podcast “Steven McFadden, The Call of the Land” dated July 21, 2010.


Sailing to Byzantium -

July 16, 2010

Paul Michael Fitzsimmons, 87 — (1923-2010)

My uncle Paul Michael Fitzsimmons, writer, passed away on July 11, 2010 at the Bath Veteran’s Administration Hospital, where he received excellent care in his last year of life. He was the person who inspired me to become a writer — an occupation I’d never conceived of until hearing him tell of his life. The obituary that follows was written by his children, my beloved cousins.

Paul was born in Boston on June 12, 1923. He was the son of Edward and Julia (Coveney) Fitzsimmons and brother of Marie McFadden, Fred (Audrey) Fitzsimmons, Celestine Gookin, Joan Stinson (deceased) and Richard Fitzsimmons (deceased).

Paul was a veteran of World War II, serving in the Merchant Marine in the Pacific, Atlantic and Mediterranean as second mate and navigator on the U.S. Rum River. He was licensed to sail any ship, any tonnage, on any ocean. One of his most stirring memories was meeting up with his brother Freddie in the midst of the war on the island of Guam, where Freddie was serving with the United States Marine Corps. Their mother, Julia, wept with joy to receive word that her sons had such a reunion in the midst of such times.

Uncle Paul at age 87 with birthday cake and three grandchildren: Sophie, Rowan, and Colin. (Photo by Marie Fitzsimmons Peters)

Paul was a passionate defender of the Constitution and a devoted patriot of the principles of democracy. Until his dying day, he maintained an impassioned plea to the nation to peacefully rebel against the corporate takeover of our liberties. His People’s Manifesto was last published in the Watkins Review in 2008.

Paul is the father of Robert (Mindy) Fitzsimmons, John Fitzsimmons (deceased), Paula Fitzsimmons (Philip Davis), Marie Fitzsimmons (Kirk Peters), and Daniel Fitzsimmons (Dorothy Elizabeth). He is the grandfather of Dr. Coveney Fitzsimmons (Gabriel Gomez), Liam Fitzsimmons, Jores Peters, Jared Peters, Sophie Fitzsimmons Peters, Hilary Davis, Colin Davis, Connor Fitzsimmons, Rowan Elizabeth, and William Fitzsimmons. He is the great grandfather of Zade Ixchel.

Paul began his writing career in New York City, where his early literary successes included Family of Five (1956), End of the Road (1957), By the Light of the Moon (1957) Green Goods and Gold (1959), A Ring is a Precious Thing (1957), The Oracle Machine and Mr. Kessler (1957) and The Way of a Dog (1957). Paul was commissioned by Beacon Press to write the Howard Hughes story and to bring his family to Hollywood to write screenplays. Instead, the family moved to Burdett to an old farmhouse with 100 acres and began their lives in upstate New York.

During that time, Paul authored “Confessions of a Year Round Hunter” for True Magazine, scripts for plays, eloquent poetry, and impassioned political articles. He acted in local theatre with the Burdett Players, worked to bring about the Citizen’s Party, demonstrated against the closing of Sampson State Hospital, and wrote prolifically. After the Flood of ’72, Paul wrote a sweeping ode of the Chemung River Flood. His Christmas Dream, written for his daughter Paula, was loved by Katharine Hepburn, who was touched by the magic of Paul’s writing. Paul resided for many years in Front Royal, Virginia, where he wrote guest editorials for The Washington Post and The Riverton Press. In 1982, at age 59, Paul fulfilled a lifetime dream of hiking the entire Appalachian Trail, 2,175 miles from Springer, Georgia to Mt. Katahdin, Maine. His story was published in the Appalachian Hiker. In 2000, Paul made a trip to Scotland to see his beloved friend and fellow AT hiker, war correspondent Jack Willis. The two writers had a special bond borne from their restless natures and adventurous souls.

Paul recently celebrated his 87th birthday at the music recital of his grandson Colin, enjoyed a beer at the Stone Cat Café, and ate homemade cake prepared by his son-in-law Kirk. More than anything, Paul was most proud of his children and expressed enormous gratitude to their mother. Paul died having held each of his four children on the last day of his life.

As Paul lived by the pen, your remembrances may be sent to C/O Fitzsimmons Family, 5550 Peach Orchard Point, Hector, New York 14841. Perhaps you would like to buy a lottery ticket, make a contribution to the Watkins Glen Library to offset his many late charges, or hike a portion of the Appalachian Trail in his memory. Or simply start a peaceful revolution. As Paul would say: “Good Deal.”

The family will receive friends at the Stone Cat Café near Hector, New York on Saturday, July 17th from 2-4 p.m.

Sailing to Byzantium

That is no country for old men. The young
In one another’s arms, birds in the trees.
- Those dying generations – at their song,
The Salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.

An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.

O sages standing in God’s holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing-masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.

Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.

- William Butler Yeats


Honoring a Venerable Keeper of the Land

July 11, 2010

“Central to all of Elder Commanda’s teachings are the fundamental concepts of equality, as well as respect for Mother Earth, for all life and for people of all racial and cultural backgrounds…Chief Commanda is convinced that the future of life on the planet depends on our learning to live together in harmony with nature upon the land…”

- Remarks of Robert Chiarelli, Mayor of Ottawa upon presenting Grandfather Commanda with the Key to the City in 2006.

Grandfather William Commanda

My beloved friend and mentor for over 20 years, Grandfather William Commanda, is cruising through the environmentally and economically  severe summer of 2010, headed resolutely for his 97th birthday come November. Among his adventures this summer in service to the land: meeting England’s Queen Elizabeth again, and asking her support for preservation of sacred land. He first met the Queen in 1953 at her coronation. This time she came to his land, Ottawa, capital city of Canada. The story of their encounter this summer is recorded on the blog kept by his companion, Romola Treblecock.

In 1995-96 I had the honor of being one of the walkers with Grandfather when he served as spiritual guide for the Sunbow Five Walk, a pilgrimage lasting eight months. We took our initial steps at First Encounter Beach on the Eastern seaboard of the Atlantic, as native and non-native peoples of all colors and faiths walked in continual ceremony across the continent to take prayers and messages of sustainability and peace-building across the land to the Pacific. All this I chronicled in Odyssey of the 8th Fire.

But Grandfather had a long and illustrious history before that pilgrimage. Arriving with the Morning Star in 1913 on the eve of the First World War, he was given his first name by his mother, who called him Ojigkwanong after the star that signifies illumination from darkness. He was born into the Squirrel clan, and like the Squirrel, was destined to walk the hills and valleys, the ups and downs of his life, head first, never going backward. He is the Keeper of the sacred Seven Fires Prophecy Wampum Belt in the time that the teachings are unfolding with the promise of an 8th Fire if the land is respected and honored.

A former maker of birch bark canoes and a wilderness guide, he has been widely acknowledged and honored for his “courage to care” by Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples, and is the recipient of both the Wolf and the Harmony Awards for his efforts to create a “Circle of All Nations.” This is the most special of his activities, an annual spiritual gathering that he hosts at his home on the shore of Lake Bitobi in Maniwaki, about 100 kilometers north of Ottawa. The gathering is tradition that has been free and open to all for over 40 years. Almost a thousand people participate every year coming from Canada and the USA, as well as from such distant locations as Japan, Australia, Switzerland, Holland, and France. The dates for this summer are August 6-8, 2010.

Now, above all at this stage of his long life, Grandfather Commanda is resolved to realize Asinakba, his vision to establish a global healing center at Victoria Island. The Island is a jewel of nature, strategically located in the middle of the river that runs through downtown Ottawa, Canada’s capital city, under the shadow of Parliament Hill, where the government of Canada meets.  For countless centuries, Victoria Island was a traditional spiritual meeting ground for the Algonquin peoples.

For the sake of all the land and all the people, Grandfather envisions returning the island to its spiritual purpose by establishing an International Peace Center at the Sacred Site of Asinabka -Chaudière Falls. The center would host programs and processes for individual, group, and planetary healing, development and peace. Toward this end, heading on toward his 97th birthday, he perseveres — a venerable Keeper of the Land.

Asinakba - Chaudiere Falls at Victoria Island, Ottawa, Canada


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