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Archive for March, 2015

Our neighbors across the drive are moving out. A potted palm has been sitting among boxes of trash outside their garage for two days—joined, today, by a dying Christmas tree. Christmas was three months ago. It’s March, unseasonably warm, though a front is moving through, bringing wind and rain. I’m grateful. I miss winter. Snow. Cold. Dark. Short days, people inside. At these times I go outside whenever I can, find comfort in winter’s silence and mass. At these times my thoughts are clearest, my heart quiet and capable of anything. So I’m grateful for the change in weather; I’m glad to see the palm fronds thrashing in the wind, for the roar of wind in the stovepipe, for the press of wind against the door—the weather making itself known, unmistakable. The weather making its way inside.

My old workplace, a center for homeless and at-risk youth, has been in the news lately. “Allegations surface against director of Billings youth services,” etc. The organization is called Tumbleweed, and I’m among the former employees who have raised these allegations. The word, “allegations,” seems imprecise. “Complaints,” perhaps. “Concerns.” I’d like to remove my words from the language of courthouses and lawyers and to restore a sense of reality to these things that happened while I worked there, and to my own memories.

These experiences are particularly painful because I had been forced to stop doing something that I loved, something that—even while I was doing it—became unforgivably obscured by the day-to-day realities of working in a corrupted place, a place I’ve referred to as “haunted” (I think of Hill House from Shirley Jackson’s novel, its uneven floors and endlessly shutting doors, its ugliness and decay—known to all, and yet beyond address). I say “unforgivably” because, even though there was nothing else to be done, I can’t accept the outcome: I left. Why does this feel like failure? Whom did I fail? I don’t know—all I know is the undeniable weight and shape of loss, the particulars of which I still struggle to define. I suspect such questions only serve to shift the focus from its rightful place. Like many, I hope that Billings’ youth remain at the center of our discussions, even as we talk about these allegations, these concerns.

I let the weather in because I can. I enjoy the cold because I don’t have to live in it. I refer to my own pain but I don’t dare call it trauma—I can’t. I have the choice to look at it, to decide whether I can stand more.

The board issued a statement almost two weeks ago in response to articles such as this one. Their claim that they are “continuing to look into data and into the former employee’s allegations” (“employee”–curiously singular, when the case is otherwise) was unconvincing. Most alarmingly, the statement places suspicion firmly on employees—whether current or former—who report fraud or who question potentially unethical activities. The statement also fails to address the enforcement of policies and practices that suppress such information and which contribute to an environment of silence and fear.

Looking outside, the weather is unmistakable.

I sit here, safe *inside*, and whatever clarity I might believe I have can’t tell me how to find the narrative, how to question those who do not answer, how to right—or even name—that which places itself beyond address.

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