Changing Moons: A Native American Perspective on Climate Change


Spring Moon

“The climate is changing fast,” said Lee Sprague an elder member of the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawastomi Indians.

Native Americans traditionally used moons rather than Gregorian months.

“Instead of October, we say it’s the time of the Leaf Moon,” he said. But, because moons correspond to local conditions, Tribes in other areas might refer to the moon in October by a different name.

Native Americans depended on their moon calendars, but Sprague said, “Now, the moons are out of place.”

For example, when it gets too warm too quickly in the spring, fish like sturgeon that traditionally run in May might spawn a month early and, “that’s a different moon,” Sprague said.

The changing moon cycles are a sign of a changing climate, and Sprague said the Anishinaabe (Native Americans living in the Great Lakes region) understand the significance of these signs.

“People have to remember that this is not our first time. We adapted to the first ice age and to settler reservations, so adaptation to all kinds of climatic conditions is what we do,” Sprague said.

He said one of the cultural problems with the federal government’s reservation system is that it does not account for traditional Native practices.

“The federal government expects us to stay static and shelter in place — but that’s not how we survive the last ice age,” Sprague said.

In 1830, Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act which authorized the forcible removal of all Native Americas to reservations located west of the Mississippi River. According to the Library of Congress, the violent removal of Tribal members from their ancestral lands became known as The Trail of Tears.

Sprague believes the Anishinaabe can even handle the accelerated rate of today’s climate change because his ancestors adapt when they were forcibly moved from the Great Lakes region to the Central Plains of North America.

“They don’t have Maple Syrup or Sturgeon Moons in Kansas,” Sprague said. “My ancestors had six months to adapt to a completely different climate – or die.”

They adapted, because, “survive is what we do,” he said.

Reaching for the Moon
This image is used with permission from

Angie Shine is a member of the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of Pottawatomi Indians in Battle Creek, MI and office manager for their environmental department.

“I look at the bigger picture on what needs to change in this world in order for things to get better with our climate,” Shine said.

And, the solution starts at the top she said.

“Instead of taking care of our planet, the mainstream government is a system that cares about nothing but money,” she said.

“If you look at the way we eat. How we consume things. All the plastics in the ocean. How we use transportation,” Shine said. “ALL of that, our entire lifestyle needs to change in order for our planet to get better — or we wipe ourselves off the planet.”

Shine said she understands how population growth has contributed to climate change, “because you’re constantly trying to provide for a lot of people.”

“I understand why,” she said. “But it needs to be done differently. The entire system has to change.” She’s hoping for a societal-awakening because, “This is about the continuation of the entire species.”

Sprague said surviving climate change will require all species to adapt very quickly. And Native Americans know the time is coming.

“The moons are already jumping around,” he said.

Summer Fields
Wildflowers play an important role in Michigan’s natural habitats. Image by Kathy Johnson

A Whole New Experience

Life is an Adventure
One of America’s most famously disabled citizens, Helen Keller once said, “Life is an adventure, or nothing at all.” Image and graphic art by Greg Lashbrook

Jada Johnson said the Whole Foods Market on Mack Ave in Detroit was bustling with customers when she stopped in to pick up a few items. 

Johnson’s afternoon shopping excursion took longer than usual because she needed to use the store’s complimentary scooter.

In 1990, Congress passed the American Disabilities Act to address the needs of people with disabilities. According to the website, this civil rights legislation does not require businesses to provide mobility devices for customers.   

Yet, like most national retailers, Whole Foods does provides mobility devices in every store as a courtesy for their customers.

Johnson said this was her first experience using a scooter. She found the device “big and bulky” and “difficult” to maneuver through the store’s aisles.

At one corner, Johnson miscalculated the turning radius and hit a display stand, knocking over a dozen tubes of children’s bubblegum-flavored toothpaste.

“It was soooooo embarrassing,” she said.

She said the “worst part” was having to just “sit there” while store employees scrabbled to pick up the scattered tubes.

“If you’re walking it’s so easy to just say excuse me and slip around someone,” Johnson said. “But I found myself waiting for everyone else cuz I didn’t want to be a headache for them.”

As she scooted through the store, Johnson said, she became “uncomfortable” with “everyone” looking at her.

“They weren’t really curling their nose up, but… you know, they’re looking down at you…it’s just so awkward,” she said.

Darrice Cain had a similar experience when using a store scooter recently.

“I felt like people were judging me,” Cain said.

A factsheet on aging and disabilities by the University of Washington reports that physical disabilities have historically been perceived as a weakness.

The university researchers who are studying the social stigmas attached to disabilities found, “some people choose to conceal their disability in public and may be reluctant to use assistive devices, such as mobility devices.”

Rolling thru Life
The Center for Disease Control reports that more than 17 million Americans are unable (or find it very difficult) to make one lap around the average big box store. Image and graphic art by Greg Lashbrook

“I felt like people were judging me for why I was on that cart,” Cain said.

Cain said making purchases at a deli counter was another challenge.

“I couldn’t see what I needed, cuz the seat’s so low,” she said.

The CDC reports that 17.6 million Americans are unable (or find it very difficult) to walk a quarter mile. According to the Time website, the average Home Depot and Walmart superstores are 100,000 square feet. Making one trip around the store equal to about a quarter of a mile.

Johnson said as a child she played on parked store scooters and always imagined it would be great fun to ride one through the store.

She said her experience using a scooter in Whole Foods turned out to be a much different experience than her childhood imaginings.

Kaleidoscope of Life
Multiple copies of the same image have been combined to create this kaleidoscope effect. Image and graphic art by Greg Lashbrook

Are electric vehicles getting ‘Blocked’ at Wayne State?

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Electric vehicle drivers are saving money while helping the environment, and some combustion engine drivers aren’t happy about it.

Erin Issacs began commuting from Ferndale to Wayne State University’s main campus last fall. Since then, Issacs estimates she has stopped for gas a total of three times. Issacs drives a Chevy Volt which runs on gas and electric power.

While Issacs goes to class, her car recharges in the campus parking structure.

“We save a ton of money on gas,” Issacs shared via email.

EV costs infographic

According to the WSU Parking and Transportation webpage, it’s never acceptable for an internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle to park in a spot designated for plug-in vehicles.

Electric Vehicle Stations
Electric vehicle stations are marked with large green signs. Image: Kathy Johnson

Melton Godette has worked as a parking attendant at WSU for 27 years. He tries to give ICE drivers the benefit of the doubt if he finds their vehicles parked in EV spots.

“I give ‘em a written warning the first time,” Godette said.

“Blocking” is a trending form of protest where ICE drivers intentionally park in EV spots to block charging access. These protesters typically back large pickup trucks into EV spots. In the past month, there have been two suspected cases of blocking in Parking Structure 2.

"Blocking" is a new trend
Combustion engine drivers are intentionally blocking access to electric vehicle charging stations. Image:

“I saw a big truck backed in last month,” Issacs said in her email dated March 11, 2019.

On March 18th, Godette found a truck backed into an EV spot in Parking Structure 2. The truck’s hood was open, but the driver was gone. The EV charging station connector was attached to a battery on the ground. Another cable ran from the battery to under the truck’s hood.

Godette removed the EV connector and gave the truck a warning.

“I’m glad the parking attendants are really on top of that,” Issacs said in her email.

Jon Fredrick, director of Parking and Transportation Services said electric vehicle (EV) charging stations were installed in 2013 as part of the department’s sustainability initiative.

EV charging at WSU
While faculty, staff, and students conduct business on campus, their vehicles are charging in the parking structures. Image: Kathy Johnson

Electric vehicles help the environment by reducing fossil fuel usage and greenhouse gas emissions. In an article in the Journal of Chemical Education, researchers estimate that electric vehicles on the U.S. grid emit 30% less CO2 as comparable gas or diesel vehicles.

Electric vehicle ownership helps to diversify energy usage and stimulates tech investments, but the new industry faces challenges.

Where to locate stations? How many are needed? How to build for a rapidly evolving technology? And who pays the installation costs? These are just a few of the infrastructure questions city planners are grappling with.

Finding charging stations is also a challenge for many EV owners. According to a dissertation published by Wayne State University in 2017, lack of readily available charging stations currently undermines EV ownership.

WSU offers single port level two EV charging stations in 10 locations around campus. Charging is free with access to the campus structures and lots. Each charging station includes a plug and two dedicated parking spaces. With only one plug for two spaces, EV drivers have learned share.

EV charging at WSU
Jerry Wu plugs in his vehicle before heading into a meeting at Wayne State University. Image: Kathy Johnson

Jerry Wu drives a Honda Clarity. He said University policy permits EV drivers to unplug another vehicle providing the green indicator light is off, signifying their charge is complete.

EV charging at WSU
A green indicator light notifies drivers when the car is done charging. Image: Kathy Johnson

To find more charging stations in the Metro-Detroit area, visit

How Do You Count Sturgeon?

The MDNR wanted to count lake sturgeon in the St. Clair River, but they had no idea how to go about it!

Lake Stugeon St.Clair River

Researchers at the Michigan DNR fisheries station in Mt. Clemens wanted to determine how many lake sturgeons lived in the St. Clair River and Lake St. Clair.

“We had no idea how to count them,” said Mike Thomas a retired fisheries biologist. Thomas was one of the lead researchers on the MDNR’s St. Clair River lake sturgeon assessment project.

Traditional fish sampling methods such as electroshocking or netting would not work in the river’s strong current. So, the biologists turned to the commercial fishermen who, at that time, were still allowed to take lake sturgeon from Lake St Clair.

Thomas said knowing how many fish are in a system is critical for management. If there are lots of fish then the DNR can open up a fishing season. If there are not a lot of fish then the DNR might implement protective measures like restricting boat access near the spawning grounds.


Copying the commercial fishermen, the researchers placed long lines covered with massive hooks on the river bottom. The biologists returned 24-hours later to retrieve the lines and tag any captured sturgeon.

“Gobies were a big breakthrough for us,” Thomas said. The small fish proved to be an excellent lure and because gobies are an invasive species, they did not require any special paperwork when used as bait. 

The DNR research team spent 10 years catching, tagging and releasing lake sturgeon.

DNR tweet

After tagging and releasing fish for several years, researchers begin to recapture (or recap as they say) fish that are already tagged. Each season a higher percentage of fish will be captured with existing tags. Researchers use recapture data to estimate populations, or rather computers do.

Thomas said the recap point is not a specific number but rather a refinement of range. For example, in the fifth year, they might recapture enough fish that the computer estimates the population at 10,000 – 24,000 fish.

That’s a pretty big spread.

But the next year’s data might produce a range of 12,000 – 18,000 fish. Using this method, the longer the researchers survey the more exact the population estimate becomes.

The Michigan DNR’s assessment of the lower St. Clair River put the population of spawning lake sturgeon at roughly 12,000 adults.

Greg Lashbrook is a National Geographic accredited underwater cameraman who specializes in freshwater. Lashbrook worked with the MDNR to help them document the lower St. Clair River spawning site.

In 2014, a group of sturgeon supporters formed a committee to plan and host a Lake Sturgeon festival. The mission of the event is to celebrate – and bring awareness to – the fact that the St. Clair River has the largest, remnant, free-range, population of lake sturgeon in the entire Great Lakes basin!

The Blue Water Sturgeon Festival takes place on the second Saturday in June each year. The festival includes a Native American drum ceremony, hands-on children’s activities, a craft show, a beer tent, educational workshops, a sturgeon touch tank, and live sturgeon river cruises.

Sturgeon Fest tweet

Jenny Olsen is a co-host of Michigan Outdoors on Detroit PBS and owner of the sightseeing cruise ship Huron Lady II. Olsen is also one of the sturgeon festival’s founding committee members. As part of the sturgeon festival, the Huron Lady II offers three live river cruises.

The Huron Lady II is rigged with big screen TVs which are connected to a live camera feed. Divers, Adam Lintz and Greg Lashbrook, take turns drifting through a lake sturgeon spawning grounds while passengers on board watch the action live. Olsen said the sturgeon cruises are one of the most popular events of their season.

“Some years the tickets have sold out in 24 hours,” she said.

To learn more about the sturgeon festival in Port Huron  – visit the event website at Blue Water Sturgeon Festival.

To learn more about the lake sturgeon’s life cycle read my blog post “A Lake Sturgeon’s Life”, or check out this timeline featuring images from each stage in a sturgeon’s development.

Color Fish tweet


A Lake Sturgeon’s Life

Lake sturgeon are the largest and oldest fish in the Great Lakes. A typical adult female is six-foot long, weighs over 100 pounds and can live for more than 100 years.

Lake Sturgeon Spawning
Adult lake sturgeon only spawn once every 3 – 4 years. Image Greg Lashbrook.

Native Americans call lake sturgeon, Nmé meaning grandfather fish. Like the buffalo to the Plains Indians, lake sturgeons were sacred to the Great Lakes Peoples. And just like the buffalo, the European settlers decimated North America’s sturgeon populations.

One of the biggest challenges for lake sturgeon is the need for fast-water spawning sites. Unfortunately for sturgeon, humans like to use fast water to generate electricity. When dams are built, the structures frequently eliminate access to the fishes’ historical spawning grounds.

Adult sturgeon will only return to their natal ground (birthplace) once every three or four years to spawn.

An 80-year-old female lake sturgeon returning to the Big Manistee River in 1919 to spawn suddenly finds her passageway blocked by the newly constructed Tippy Dam. The sturgeon is carrying 500,000 eggs and like many species, she is extremely particular about where to lay her eggs.

If the female lake sturgeon cannot reach her natal spawning grounds, she will not release her eggs.

The female leaves the Big Manistee River and reabsorbs all the eggs into her system. In two or three years she’ll try again. And she’ll keep returning every 3 to 4 years for the next 20 to 30 years, or the remainder of her life.

If restoration efforts are successful, one spring this female may find her passageway is no longer blocked by a hydro-electric dam.

I’ve created a timeline which illustrates why sturgeon use deep gravel for spawning and how many survive from each stage of their development. I’ve also included photos and video of each stage in a lake sturgeon’s life – from freshly-laid egg to spawning adult.

For more information visit Michigan DNR

C & K in a Day’s review of “Hate Crimes in Cyberspace” by Danielle Citron

Hate Crimes in Cyberspace by Danielle Keats Citron was the topic of discussion on the first episode of the C & K in a Day Podcast

Hate Crimes in Cyberspace by Danielle Citron
Hate Crimes in Cyberspace is an award-winning book by Danielle Keats Citron. Image courtesy of the author’s website

In our first podcast, co-host Charlo Jarmons and I share our impressions and takeaways from Hate Crimes in Cyberspace by Danielle Citron.  

I think Citron does an excellent job of illustrating how cyber crimes harm individuals by sharing a variety of victims’ stories. From cyber mobs who intentionally generate false Google results to revenge porns sites, cyber crimes have a direct and often lasting effect on victims’ “real” lives (p 4). 

Citron notes that 60% of women, including nearly all minority women, have experienced some form of online harassment (p 13).

As a journalist, the 1st Amendment’s Right to Free Speech is a frequent topic of conversation amongst my peers. The Society of Professional Journalist agrees with the author’s summation. While the U.S. courts regularly uphold the 1st Amendment Right to Free Speech, the law does not consider this an “absolute” right (p 42).

You can’t yell fire in a crowded building – if there is no fire. You can’t take and sell pictures of naked children – unless you’re Anne Geddes.  And, technically, you’re not allowed to post lies about other people online. Citron discusses the challenges of law enforcement for cyber crimes in chapter 6.

In chapter 6, Citron also dives deep into the rights of individuals, content-generators, and site hosts including a detailed overview of precedent-setting legal cases which helped to establish internet filtering standards in the early days of the cyber industry (p 169). 

Have you been harassed online? If you, or anyone you know, has been a victim of cybercrime crimes – Click here for victim support information

Listen to the full C & K in a Day Podcast here,

Read the publisher’s review & purchase the book at Harvard University Press

Hate Crimes in Cyberspace review by the International Journal of Cyber Criminology

Hate Crimes in Cyberspace review by The Guardian 

If at first, you don’t succeed – Storytelling with Twine

If at first you don’t succeed, or in my case, if your beta test bombs – try, try again.

Except it was spring break, and now my partner and I had to spend time redoing our beta bomb.

Twine is a new program for creative storytelling. It allows readers to take a more active role in how they obtain information.  A recent assignment for my online journalism course required us to create a Twine story about a current social issue. We also had to work in small groups.

I ended up in a group of two. Technically we were not a group as a group by definition requires three members. Smallness had advantages like more individual expression and disadvantages like a heavier workload. I was ok with small.

We decided to do our story on the pipeline which runs under the state of Michigan. Line #5 crosses under the straits at Mackinac and news coverage tends to focus only on this area.

But I’m more concerned about – and I think more people should be concerned about – where else Line #5 goes, namely under the St. Clair River just 30 miles upstream of Detroit.

As a scuba diver and lifelong water lover, I am extremely concerned about Great Lakes water issues. I have dozen of story ideas I’d like to cover in the future and Line #5 is definitely on my list.

I found Twine very user-friendly. With only one classroom lecture and 30-minutes of playtime, I was ready to start. I also had a step-by-step cheat sheet from my professor if I got lost.

In terms of writing game code, Twine makes it super easy! It took a little practice to get the flow working properly. I found it really helpful to be able to check the layout and formatting in real-time.

Unfortunately, our first attempt failed. The pipeline idea screened ok, but our game wasn’t really a “game.” We’d created more of a click to read the story than an actual game. And it was kinda boring to boot!

The second time around we had the advantage of having watched a couple of really good games from our classmates. We took all their feedback and the professor’s comments and started over.

This time we wrote a script.

Our story would be told in dialogue form because we thought this would be more engaging for players. Our characters would be fish or aquatic inhabitants. With a little more time I think we’d come up with something cleverer than Sammy the Sunfish and Tammy the Turtle, but we were on a deadline. And working on break.

Sammy travels up and down the Detroit River gathering news in a variety of interesting ways. Like a turtle, Tammy spends all of her time eating and napping on the north end of Belle Isle.  The two are friends and Sammy often stops to give Tammy news updates.

Sammy’s breaking news is about the pipeline upstream from Detroit… play the game to get the turtle news alert!

My only criticism of Twine is that the program automatically overwrites files each time they’re opened. I figured this could be an issue. It was. The saving grace – entering content is a lot faster the second time!

And, the second draft is usually better too.

Low-water levels threaten Germany’s Rhine River

Fish are dying from heat exhaustion. Tourists are getting stranded. Businesses are shutting down. And the Rhine River drought is only getting worse.

Germany's Romantic Rhine River
Each year tourists from around the world spend hundreds of thousands of Euro’s to cruise down the Romantic Rhine. Image: K. Johnson

Your trip of a lifetime was booked.

From Detroit, you flew to Amsterdam where the Avalon cruise ship Affinity awaited. Your 8-day luxury cruise on the Rhine River included stops in six picturesque Germany cities. At the end of the week, your ship docked in Strasburg France for shopping and pasty before heading to the final port of call in Basel, Switzerland.

Your one-week vacation cost $10,800 per couple. By comparison, you could have taken an 8-day Royal Caribbean cruise for only $2,500.   

The travel agent, cruise websites and online reviews all promised the experience was worth the price. You paid the non-refundable deposit. You’d broken in new walking-tour shoes. You’d packed and repacked a new suitcase. The dog sitter was booked. Dollars have been exchanged for Euro. Passports in RFID pouches were ready to be stamped.

In August you’d be sailing through Europe in the highest of style – or would you?

Online new reports said the Rhine River was experiencing a severe drought. Surely, the headline claims that there wasn’t enough water to float boats was just click bait?!


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Martin Mauermann, head of the hydrology and water management section of the federal body responsible for European waterways said in a Nov 4, 2018 article published in the New York Times that the Rhine River, “…is simply the most important river in Germany.” According to Mauermann, nearly 80 percent of the 223 million tons of cargo transported by ship in Germany each year travels on the Rhine.

BBC World News reports that the low water levels have led to increased water temperatures and lowered oxygen levels, making it hard for fish to survive. Temperatures on the Swiss section of the Rhine have risen to more than 77 F causing the death of thousands of fish. Fisheries authorities set up coldwater pools along the river where aquatic animals could cool off. But despite their efforts, tons of fish – between a quarter and a third of the Swiss 2018 yearly catch – died.

In November of 2018, Bloomberg reported that normally upwards of 100,000 tons of diesel-like fuels flow up the Rhine from Rotterdam each week, while gasoline is shipped downstream. A spokesman for BP Plc was quoted as saying that low-water levels present a logistical challenge for the entire mineral oil industry and for filling stations along the Rhine, especially in the Cologne area.

Eliav S-T tweet from @est987
An article on www. details how “Europe’s most important river is running dry.”

On August 12, 2018, you boarded the Affinity. A quick eight days later the ship docked at a pier in Basel, Switzerland. Along the way, you shot 864 pictures 90% of which included a castle, you ate three 4-course gourmet meals every day, and you were thoroughly spoiled by the 24/7 cabin service provided by your personal steward.

Your under-weight suitcase leaving Detroit now contained a nearly over-weight cargo of tulips and lace from Holland; candles, steins, and nutcrackers from Germany; and truffles and fashion accessories from France.

Water News Global Tweet @WaterTrends
River cruises during the Christmas season is a popular choice for American travelers. Story from

By early fall, the Rhine River typically was unnavigable and cruise companies were forced to implement their “contingency plans” said Kevin 7161 a customer service specialist at Avalon Cruising. He said the Avalon fleet has been specifically designed with low draft hulls to handle low water conditions.

When water levels were too low for their ships, Kevin said their solution depended on the location. Avalon might bus or day ferry passenger through the shallow section of the river to a ship waiting on the other side. Alternately, the cruise ship might turn around and backtrack up the river stopping at new ports.

CJ, a travel agent with AAA, acknowledges these plans are far from ideal. Rather than traveling by water at night and waking up in a new port each morning, travelers are moving during the day from one ship to the next. Daily hassles include never fully unpacking and no lazy mornings or afternoon cat-naps in your own cabin. 

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“… extremely disappointing. Our cruise turned out to be more of a bus tour with excursions to the boat” one angry cruiser posted on the TripAdvisor website in Dec 2018.

When asked if your cruise was worth the final price of $11,500? You hesitate. Was it worth half a year’s pay for a first-year teacher? Or a year of college tuition? The cruise was awesome, but if you’d moved cabins every day or saw the countryside through a bus window instead of the deck of a ship? No way!

Travelers with dreams of cruising the Rhine River might want to book a trip soon. Because, if the drought continues, there won’t be enough water left to fill all those lifetime buckets.

Humanitarian Henna

Music, dancing, food, and henna –

YSA Zafat Event Decor
The Yemeni Student Association shared examples of their culture at an event on the WSU campus Jan 16, 2019. Image by: Kathy Johnson

The Yemeni Student Association hosted a zafat (wedding), in the WSU Student Center Ballrooms on Jan. 16 to celebrate Yemeni culture and raise funds for humanitarian efforts in Yemen. Al-Hakimi suggested the UNICEF website as a good source for charities and humanitarian organizations that are working to make a difference in Yemen.

Board members of the YSA enacted different roles during the cultural event at Wayne. President Ragih Murshed took on the part of “groom” while treasurer Julinar Al-Hakimi became a “bride” for a day – or rather a few hours, as the event took place from 2 – 6 p.m.

Al-Hakimi said the YSA re-launched in the fall of 2018 after taking a break for a few years. The group has new members and fresh goals. According to the YSA Instagram page, the group is “…here to provide a sense of belonging to all Yemeni Wayne State University students and also shed a light on our home country, and it’s culture.”

The distinctive rippling of a sitar wafts from the ballroom doors on the second floor of the WSU Student Center. The YSA board hopes the traditional sound of the Middle Eastern will draw in passing students. It works.

Entering the ballroom, guests are greeted by board members dancing in traditional clothing. Murshed is performing a groom’s dance with a small, ceremonial knife called a jambiya. According to the BBC, the curved blade of the jambiya is designed to rest securely, and comfortably, under a man’s belt for easy access.

Heart-shaped, almond-flavored cookies on silver platters, alternate with gilded cake stands dripping with crystals. The golden pedestals hold a traditional Yemen delicacy called hareesa (visit the chefindisguise blog for recipe ideas).

Urns adorned with gold filigree complete the dessert table. The family-sized coffee pots are functional and symbolic.

“We’re tied with Ethiopia as the inventors of coffee,” Al-Hakimi says.

A dozen or so ladies fill a row of tables on the far side of the ballroom. The women rarely glance at the dancing men. They are far more interested in the creativity of YSA event planner and henna artist Warda Saleh.

Saleh started working with henna at age 10. She turned pro at 18. She’s 22 now. For a $5 donation to a Yemen humanitarian charity, Saleh applies henna to the back of each ladies hand and wrist.

Saleh never stops working, and yet the line of waiting women never seems to get shorter.

No one minds.

Henna is a traditional pastime for women. It about sitting and socializing – not rushing.

Henna (Lawsonia inermis) is a flowering plant that grows in Africa and Asia. The leaves are dried and ground into a fine powered. When applied to skin and hair it dyes them a deep burgundy tone. The color lasts about three weeks. Henna can cause allergic reactions which is why Salah does a small spot test before beginning.

Saleh makes henna application look easy. She’s that good. She claims anyone can learn.

“You just have to believe in yourself,” Saleh says.

Henna plays an important role in Yemeni celebrations, holidays and most particularly zafats. Saleh says, in addition to hands and arms, brides like to cover their upper backs, feet, and legs with elaborately detailed designs. Saleh likes The site includes a detailed history of henna, faqs and helpful application tips.

Yemeni women at the WSU zafat admit to spending hours on Pinterest, Instagram, and other sites looking at henna designs. Their devices are bursting with ideas. And more often than not, the women want Saleh to replicate a design they’ve found.

“I can copy almost anything,” Saleh says.

“Well,… maybe not a wolf.” She adds with a chuckle.

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Upcoming YSA events –

Bake Sale Feb. 1 featuring traditional desserts. WSU Student Center Fri. 9 am – 2 pm.

The Detroit Center for Civil Discourse is partnering with the YSA to present, “Making Sense of Yemen: Past, Present & Future” on Feb. 4 at 4 p.m. in the WSU Student Ctr. Hilberry rooms B & C. Visit @YSAWSU for a list of panel members. Reception following. This event is free and open to the public.

Visit YSA Instagram or  YSA Facebook for details. Or go to the WSU Get Involved site for more information.

Henna art in red and black, by Warda Saleh.
YSA event planner Warda Saleh creates an Arab-style design in red henna (left) and Indian-style design in black. Image by: Warda Saleh

Holland, Germany, France & Switzerland in 10 days!

Took a “quick” trip down the Rhine River in Aug 2018.

mainz 0601

This trip had been on my mom’s bucket list for years. At 87, she decided it was now or never. We picked the Amersterdam to Zurich route with Avalon Cruises, booked the trip in July 2018 and left in August.

Avalon - KJohnson, 2018

My personal OMG moment occurred in Amersterdam – a city known for ah-ha moments. I could devote the remainder of this blog to extolling the virtues of Amersterdam, but I’ll limit myself to suggesting a trip to Rembrandt’s studio is a must for any art aficionado.

To stand in the exact spot, bathed in the same light as the Master is a gift worthy of the 14 euro ($16) entrance fee.

Watching pigment blending and printmaking demonstrations by museum staff was an unexpected bonus.

Rembrandt's Studio, Amsterdam

Our stop in Mainz Germany turned out better than I could have hoped. When the museum docent in the Gutenberg Museum asked for a volunteer I wanted to yell, “Pick Me! Pick Me!” But, given that I was the youngest member of the group by a good 30 years, I bite my lip and waited.
“No one wants to help?” The stylish women in the dark navy museum uniform asked.

“Sure,” I said. I tried not to knock down any geriatrics as I excitedly ran forward.

She pulled a rope aside and signaled me to step beyond the public barrier. In front of me loomed the original Gutenberg press. The massive wooden machine cast deep shadows in the dimly lit room.

We inked and set the type together. She laid a single piece of paper on a plate and gestured to a two feet wheel, reminiscent of a pirate ship’s wheel laid on its side. We each grabbed a spoke and pulled. The century-old machine creaked and groaned as the paper compressed against the type and the ink transfer completed.

The docent removed the newly printed page, covered it with tissue-thin paper, rolled it up, slid it into a cardboard tube specifically designed to hold the scroll and turned towards me.

“You get to keep this,” she said.

mainz 0541

Have I mentioned the food? Oh la la, genuine European gourmet three times a day!

boat 0501     boat 0281

Cruises are notorious for the copious amount of food options they offer. Avalon goes for quality and variety. Each dining room service provides a minimum of three courses: the captain’s dinner started with a creamed caviar amuse-bouche and continued for six more courses.

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We spent the majority of our week visiting German cities along the Rhine River.

A quick stop-over in Strasburg, France. And our journey ended in Zurich, Switzerland.

I did want to mention the terrible drought conditions we witnessed in Europe. Not good…

I could share stories about the interesting passengers from Australia, India, England, Scotland, South Africa, Spain, Wales. Or the hard-working crew from Croatia, Germany, Italy, and Russia….but I’ll save those for another time.

am 0110    Amsterdam 2018 - KJohnson

For sure, I’ll spare you any more of the 786 images I shot!