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Dispatch from Andy Stepanian (SHAC 7)

Support Andy | 18.06.2008 20:34 | SHAC | Animal Liberation | Ecology | Repression | World

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Dear Friends,

In my daily routine I take notice to when my feet touch terrain other than pavement. I've become accustomed to pavement as I walk on it every day circling within the prison's walls sweeping up trashand listening to my radio. There is much to be said about institutionalization; about how it can bring outthe worst in people, or radically exemplify how we as humans are creatures of habit. Anytime something isout of the ordinary routine it becomes more pronounceddue to confinement. Things that when observed outside of prison would seem quite ordinary take on extraordinary wealth when they appear. Feeling my feet touch grass, even with the insulation of sneakers, becomes profound when I spend most of my time in a sea of pavement, razor wires, and steelbars. I've become hyper-sensitized not only to the feel, but the noise of sneakers sliding against grass, the colors and types of grass, and things suspended amidst the blades. I have developed a keen eye for candy wrappers in the grass, even the clear ones (a skill worthless in itself); but in developing that keen eye i can't help notice the small wonders below my feet; lady bugs, lavender buds, or wind blown evidence of an outside world. if you ever read any writings of mine from within prison you may find are occurring theme of how wondrous our world is, how confinement and deprivation of experience has made megrow fonder of life, more ready to go out and fight for it, and want to experience the most of it. Untilnow i have only given you words, today i hope to give you more.

These are leaves that have blown over the prison walls and onto the sidewalks and grass beneath my feet. Like other breaks from prison normalcy these leaves that blew over the tops of the walls and past the razor wire from the forest at the compounds edge swell with extraordinary worth. Imagine that prison is a sensory deprivation environment; a quarantine of sorts where those who are deemed socially ill are removed from society and denied movement, enrichment, andexperience. If life is to be seen as nothing more than a series of experiences, then some may argue that prison can be a removal from the living. Jack Abbotonce said, "[prison] is like death because it denies you experience." If this statement is true then I can only relate to it in the sense that my removal from life has allowed me to look at it like a spectator looks at a painting, artwork, or better yet like mass theater: a participatory art to which we all play a role. I picked one of these leaves up in my hand and looked at it closely. Each vein, each stipple, each stem, each dot where stomata once exchanged oxygen for carbon dioxide; there were only so many things I could see with my eyes, but countless more I could see in "my mind's eye." Feelings, unanswered mysteries, and brilliance are wrapped up in a brittle little piece of Carolina Beech foliage.

The brilliance that something so delicate, so often seen as infinitesimal (if seen at all) could play the essential role of breathing life into a tree that stands tall and strong, of acting as an interface between the tree and the sun digesting it's complex radiation, and coupling it with lucid carbon and water to make sugars and energy for the tree to grow, for fruit to swell and fall to the ground or into children's hands, or for the sap that a young grrl pours on her pancakes as she laughs with her parents over breakfast conversation. What could have been crushed under the feet of the next passer-by instead wiggled in the breeze while resting in my hands. It was a a promissory note that miracles happen."Kites", as prisoners call them, are notes that make it out of segregation to the prisons general populous or pass from one institution to another. This leaf was a kite flown in from life to the land of the dead,it read:

I am a small miracle.
I made a tree that people climbed,
Where a raccoon took nest,
Where birds perched on limbs sang out countless
Symphonies.I am a small miracle.
What are you?

I held the leaf with the tenderness of a parent first holding their newborn child. I wondered if I had ever "met" a miracle before. How many times have I heard these words, "we can get (such and such) done,but it's gonna take a small miracle"? Well here was the small miracle ready to be cashed in, in exchange for success in another project long since abandonedand viewed as hopeless...

Ask yourself, do I believe in miracles? Then bend your hand back and see the silhouette of the veins running under the skin of your wrists. You are a woven series of structures and chemicals, automated, living, and interactive. You are art, perhaps the most beautiful painting ever made. Our societies are like theater, a participatory art to which we each are involved; each individually beautiful woven chemical portrait singing a chorus like a family of birds on the branch of a beech tree. You are a miracle. You wield incredible power to build and heal, to breathelife, like leaves, into starving structures. Your letters to me are like those leaves blown over the prison walls the way they put hope in my hands. They are silhouettes in ink and loose leaf of your miraculous selves.

Where my present life is a sea of asphalt, razorwires, and electric fencing robbing me of my senses,your life is inundated by a neon billboard wonderland constantly distracting your senses with messages like;"you are not thin enough", "note rich enough","nothing without this product", "anything but amiracle"... Liberation of self happens when one shakes loose of those distractions, to see that you are beautiful if your own shape, money does not make you rich, commodities don't define you, and that without rebut you are a miracle. When you look at yourself as a miracle, miracles begin to happen around you. The projects you once set aside for the eventuality of one day encountering a small miraclebecome reality. I say this because at some point in my life I set out to do what some would consider impossible. The SHAC-USA case showed us that corporate America was devastated by the notion that a handful of bright eyes people could use the same constitutionally protected resources awarded to all of us and derail their agendas. They viewed it as impossible and were shocked when it happened. Many of SHAC's supporters thought it impossible, or at bestwould require a small miracle, but miracles do happen. For a mink pleading for someone to lift up the opening to his fur farm cage, for an egg laying hen ina battery farm, for a Beagle in a vivisection lab sitting in her own congealed blood and vomit, the person who opens the cage and introduces them to freedom is a living, breathing, walking miracle.

As I reflect from prison I realize that this was jus tthe tip of the iceberg. Inspiration is contagious. So as I sit and write and press leaves on paper I make attempts to re-route this process, to breathe life back out past these walls and into your hands, to show you *I'm not dead...I don't even have the wind knockedout of me*, to fly a kite of my own... Let it read: I believe in miracles, because I see one in you. There is no mountain too high or valley too low. There is nothing that you cannot do.

Love and Liberation,

Support Andy
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