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To read my current
journal, please go to: windchime walker's
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 25, 2000
For nine months I've been content to live totally in the moment with this journal. I write a new entry every day, put it up, and go onto the next. It's only recently that I've even been reading my journal archives. And as I read I'm amazed at the richness of life portrayed. This has been a very significant nine months for me. Late February, March and early April on my own in San Francisco. Returning to E.D. and our life together here in Detroit the end of April. The purchase of my first Amigo scooter in May. The five-day OAS teach in/protest demonstrations in Windsor, ONT in June. Music/singing weekends in California and Canada. Women's music festivals in Indiana and Michigan. Volunteer commitments in a SF soup kitchen, Detroit women's shelter, and in Detroit area schools teaching disability awareness. Air travels to Washington DC to see my family, and back-and-forth from Detroit to San Francisco several times. Water aerobics and re-learning to swim. A couple of disability-related injuries and healing. And now this crazy presidential Election 2000. I'm sure there's more but this is what comes readily to mind.
I suspect that anyone
who faithfully kept a daily journal for nine months would be surprised
to discover how much life has been packed into that short
amount of time.
11 PM. I've just returned home from the Detroit Women's Coffeehouse and a wonderful concert by "Me, Her and Her", a favorite local trio. It was the first time I've ever seen the coffeehouse totally sold out--women were sitting and standing in every available inch of space. Since Barbara moved to North Carolina leaving Julie and Yarrow still in Michigan, we've all been afraid the group would disband. Actually this was billed as their final concert--that was what packed the house.
I saw so many women I know...old friends as well as familiar faces from other coffeehouses, the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival, Detroit International Women's Days, activist activities and local drumming circles. The women's community in this part of Michigan is strongly defined, activist-oriented, racially/socially diverse and creatively talented. The eighteen-year-old Detroit Women's Coffeehouse gives women a monthly opportunity to come together and artists a consistently supportive environment in which to perform. I've actually done storytelling there a couple of times; in 1997 performing "Mosh Pit Mama" with Jonia Mariechild from Oakland, CA. What a receptive audience!
Detroit has many hidden
treasures like this. It's a shame that folks from out of town
only think of Detroit in terms of automobiles, crime and maybe
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 26, 2000
Since Election Day a lifetime ago, I've closely followed the circus going on in Florida. Even though I only voted for Gore out of fear of the alternative, I've found myself pulling for him as butterfly ballots and dimpled chads became household words. Today I heard David Broder on "Meet the Press" speak about the dangers of continuing this mad wrangling through court after court, wrangling that by January could see our president chosen by Congress rather than the people. No matter who "wins", Broder believes the next president would encounter ongoing questions about the legitimacy of his holding office--much as we see happening in developing countries around the world. The way he described it, seemed to indicate a threat to our whole electoral process.
It got me thinking. There's been something fun about the feuding in Florida. It takes my attention off other issues, like the devastating blow to the Kyoto Accord on Global Warming that was dealt by US representatives and, to a lesser extent, by European industrial nations in the Hague yesterday. It's been great for TV news ratings and the NY Times has had a whole extra section called "Counting the Vote" in which to sell holiday gift ideas from their advertisers. It gives strangers something to talk about, and E.D. and me rich resources for our ongoing political "discussions". But it's time to give it up.
So I sent the following email today:
Subj: It is time to
concede the election
Date: 11/26/2000 2:11:20 PM Eastern Standard Time
Dear Vice President Gore
I am writing to ask you to consider the best interests of the country and concede the election. It matters little now whether or not you actually "won" the numbers that should have put you in the White House as President. We are all losers the longer this tug-of-war continues.
I appreciate your personal restraint these past weeks. Your public statements have showed maturity and concern for the country. If you graciously bow out of this fight-to-the-finish, I believe your chances to be elected President in 2004 will be greatly enhanced. Any more legal wrangling and the "will of the people" will be so deeply buried that it will never be heard.
Believe me, I am deeply distressed at the prospect of George W. Bush as President. But I am even more disturbed at the extreme partisan divisiveness this ongoing electoral circus has produced in members of our local, state and federal goverments and the people of our country.
Please rise above the lures of personal ambition and a bull-dog determination to prove yourself "right". Now is the time to act on the ideals that shine forth from your public statements and do what is best for the country--concede the election.
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 27, 2000
It's wonderful when the medium of television lives up to its highest potential...as it did today.
After my ophthalmologist appointment (normal eye exam--all is well), I was in our kitchen preparing something to eat. My eyes were still dilated so reading was out. I turned on the TV as the Oprah Show began. Her guest was Nelson Mandela. Wow!
I remember the day he was released from prison in 1990. My tears and smiles mixed together as I sat glued to televised live coverage from South Africa. A few weeks later, I was part of a three-mile march through downtown Detroit to celebrate his freedom, a march that culminated in the coming together of black and white, young and old, city and suburban, women and men at Ford Auditorium by the river. I recall the special kindness of James Boggs, a Detroit civil rights leader, who helped me find a seat in that crowded auditorium (it was the first time I'd used a cane). That summer I attended a huge rally in Detroit's Tiger Stadium where 55,000 ordinary Americans basked in the glow of seeing Nelson and Winnie in person. Never have I seen a more vibrant smile than his! More recently I won a raffle at a Michigan Coalition on Human Rights forum where a Detroit nun told of her experiences as an official observer during South Africa's first presidential election. The prize was a campaign poster she'd brought back--one with Nelson Mandela's face smiling like the sun.
So here was Nelson Mandela on the Oprah Show--this icon of wisdom, forgiveness and humility dressed in a gray-and-white floral shirt and dark trousers respectfully answering Oprah's questions about his life.
How did you manage to
come out of prison after 27 years harboring no bitterness?
We always have a choice between following our emotions and following our brain. My intelligence told me that if I let my feelings dominate, the country could never come together, could not heal. I had to follow my brain.
How did you survive being
in prison for that long?
Those years were actually a gift. I became who I am today because of them. In prison you're given something that we on the outside do not have--lots of time to sit and think. For that I am deeply grateful.
Was it hard coming out
of prison as a public person whom people saw as bigger than life?
It was strange being almost a demi-god to a lot of people, but I knew the truth. It was the movement that was important, not my individual self. Everything I've accomplished has been because of the people who have the vision and have never given up the belief that we would be free, we would have the vote, we would lead our country to freedom--black and white together.
Most people want to be
peacemakers. How do we do it?
The very first thing we must do is be honest with ourselves. To become a peacemaker one must first undergo a personal transformation. Only then can we be a presence of peace to others.
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 28, 2000
I received an email this morning from a dear friend--virtual but real nonetheless--with news of her decision to be hospitalized today so she can undergo aggressive treatments to alleviate her worsening MS symptoms. In addition to physical and occupational therapy, she will undergo a series of steroid treatments. Steroids are commonly favored among neurologists to give a "jump start" to the MS patient's immune system--it is a symptomatic approach.
I wish her well and am sending healing energy with every thought. I know this is a significant decision by my friend since--except for her recent participation in a six month experimental drug study conducted by her neurologist--she has not opted to follow the Western medical model of treating MS pharmacologically. In fact, it was our shared resistance to going the medication route that was among my first hints that we were kindred spirits--that and our outspoken determination to stay on our feet as long as we could.
We both used walkers when we met online through Jooly's Joint in May 1999. I read her introductory posting on the MS Webpals bulletin board, part of which said, "I would love to hear from others who are doing battle with MS and trying to stay off the scooter and out of the chair. I have to fight to stay on my feet, and there must be more of you out there." I responded immediately. We've emailed back and forth several times a week since then, offering support, asking questions and celebrating one another. We even both bought our scooters around the same time, and have mutually delighted in our new-found freedom. She is my best MS sister/friend.
So why am I feeling so unsettled? I guess because she's walked through a door--one I choose not to enter--and left me standing here by myself. Intellectually I know that each of us who are diagnosed with MS must make our own way through the often confusing plethora of treatment options. For persons diagnosed with the relapsing/remitting form of MS, ABC drugs can be most effective. But for those who experience a progressive form of MS--either primary progressive like mine, or secondary progressive like my friend's--the medical establishment offers no promise of improvement with any of the drugs currently on the market. That does not stop them from encouraging all persons diagnosed with MS to at least try a pharmacological approach. And most do.
Whenever one visits an
online MS bulletin board or discussion group, it seems that 80%
of the questions and concerns are drug-related. I just don't want
to go there. Maybe it's my fundamentally stubborn nature, maybe
the influence of E.D.'s professional discomfort with the medicational
movement in psychiatry, maybe the fact that I feel so healthy
and would like to keep my system clear of any substances
(I've taken in no alcohol, caffeine or meat for years). Whatever
it is, my feelings are strong--not in relation to others, but
for myself. It was just nice to have a sister walk/scooting beside
me on this sparsely populated path.
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 29, 2000
Such lovely stay-at-home days of late. Grey skies, frequent rain and/or snow showers, temperatures hovering in the 30s. I'm perfectly content to alternate sitting in our upstairs front room at my computer, with reading or talking with E.D. in the living room downstairs.
Among my reading today was a newsletter from the American Friends Service called "The Vision: Religious Organizing against the Death Penalty Project". It highlighted their recent efforts to form a broad coalition of abolitionist groups by putting on a national conference--"Committing to Conscience"--that was held in San Francisco November 16-19, 2000. I'd already heard about this conference from H.H., who was part of the planning committee.
H.H. and I met one bone-chilling night at a candlelight vigil in front of San Quentin prison on the bay north of San Francisco. It was February 1996. William Bonin, convicted of several horrendous murders, was scheduled to be executed at 12:01 AM. Though a longtime anti-death penalty advocate, I had no experience of actually vigiling outside a prison because Michigan, my home state, still outlaws capital punishment (good for it!). But when I read of this scheduled execution in the morning SF Chronicle , I knew I had to be there. It was more than simply idealism. I'd gotten to know an inmate on San Quentin's death row through a peace network I'd helped form in 1991--had even visited him there a couple of times--so I had a face and story that came to mind every time I read of state-sanctioned executions.
I remember immediately sitting down with a black magic marker and red paint. I made a sign that said, "Do not kill in my name", covered with drops of red paint like blood. I searched my sublet apartment for candles and paper cups in which to shield their flame from the winds. All I could find were two children's cups decorated with dinosaurs and two small candles. I shoved gloves and a warm scarf into my bag and set off for the long journey to San Raphael. At this time I was a pretty strong cane-walker.
My travels took me on a shuttle bus to the McArthur BART station (I was living in the East Bay that winter), the BART train to San Francisco's Embarcadero, and a ferry across the bay to Larkspur. As the ferry passed San Quentin, I saw more than the usual towers with rifle-carrying guards rising above its walled grounds. Dozens of tall television towers were planted outside the gates, surrounded by vans, cars and masses of people milling around. This was obviously a media event of international proportions. After disembarking the ferry, I called a taxi from the phone box and waited for it to appear. The cab driver was sympathetic to my cause, which felt good since I was feeling pretty alone in this by then. He drove me to the prison gates. Actually, not quite to the gates. As it happened, we were stopped two blocks away by three state police cars that were blocking the entrance to the prison. They said I'd have to walk from there.
Am I repeating myself here? If so, please skip over the next few paragraphs. That's the danger of keeping a journal for so many months. You can't remember what you've written!
I draped my sign around my neck--I'd thought to add a string to it so my hands could be free--and started walking up the road leaning on my cane for support. It looked as it always had until I turned a corner and saw the prison gates up ahead. Hundreds of photographers, reporters, news anchors, radio commentators and television camera-persons were lounging around waiting for something to happen. I guess they thought I was it. Within minutes I was surrounded by cameras, microphones were stuck in my face and disembodied voices were shouting questions. What I learned later was that the anti-death penalty folks were not expected to appear for another 2 hours, and I was the first one there. The "other side" was already set up with picnic tables and champagne chilling in coolers for their celebration at 12:01 AM. Their signs and paper hats were printed with such slogans as, "Kill the bastard!" and "An eye for an eye." Some of them were family members of William Bonin's victims.
As dusk came and cold winds picked up across the bay, hundreds of anti-death penalty activists began to gather. It was a well organized vigil with speeches by activists, the father of a murder victim and even a few celebrities. We listened to their words and sang songs of peace and resistance. The more we heard of the personal and social costs of executing prisoners, the more virulent became the shouts from the other side. Things got pretty tense, but the voices of non-violence managed to prevent anyone coming to blows.
As our vigil and the shouting went on outside the prison gates, the scene inside the gates was like something from a bad movie. Lines and lines of riot-garbed militia and prison guards stood shoulder-to-shoulder with rifles at the ready, faces devoid of expression. Their commander--and later the prison warden--was perched high up on a spot-lit scaffolding giving them orders.
During the passing of this strange night, H.H. and I met and started talking. I think we both appreciated not feeling so alone. I shared my candles and cups with her and we stood together with dinosaurs-gleaming through paper cups and candle-light illuminating our faces. This was the image that ended up on the front page of the next morning's SF Chronicle.
At 12:01 AM we stood in silence, many of us weeping softly. It took eight full minutes for William Bonin to die. When the warden announced his death at 12:09 AM, the celebrators cracked open their champagne, the vigilers consoled one another and the militia never moved a muscle.
H.H. and I remain friends.
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 30, 2000
What I'd always hoped would happen during my weekly house duty at the women's shelter actually happened today. Two of the guests sat with me--at different times--to talk privately about their lives and struggles. The greatest privilege I can imagine.
When I started volunteering back in May, I'd imagined such conversations would be a regular part of my time there. For some reason it just hasn't worked out that way. Most of the guests either stay up in their bedrooms or are out of the house. We see one another at dinner and around the house, but meaningful conversations have been rare.
My friend P.K. and I often use this time to visit, either talking at the dining room table or in the kitchen as she prepares dinner. Her daughter, E.K.--my goddess daughter--sometimes comes in from high school and sits down and chats for awhile. When the Spanish-speaking mother and her three children lived at the house, my afternoons were full of talk, play and occasional help with homework. And a few of the other guests have sat briefly with me before today. But this was the real thing--deep sharings that came from true feelings of trust and friendship.
Even the phone--my responsibility to answer--conspired to help this happen. It didn't ring once in three hours! An all-time first. We had uninterrupted time to do what we needed to do--talk and listen to one another at length.
May these courageous women
be given all they need to have the kind of lives they want and
so richly deserve. May they know they're not alone.
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 1, 2000
Once in a long while a book comes along that makes you feel rather like Alice falling down the rabbit's hole into Wonderland. The story that is being told becomes your story, or at least the story of persons you care about. Such is the magic of good writing, especially good fiction. I am at this moment slowly climbing out of the rabbit's hole I fell into several days ago when I began reading Ruth Rendell's (writing under her pen name, Barbara Vine) latest novel, Grasshopper. I finished it--after a full day of reading--about 5 PM this afternoon.
E.D. introduced me to Ruth Rendell years ago. It was her murder mysteries, always with a decided psychological slant, that first captured his attention. And her superb writing. The book I will not forget was called Judgement in Stone. There was no mystery to it. The reader knew from the first page who had committed the murder. It was the why of it that made up the book. For the first time, I had a glimpse into what it would be like to be totally illiterate in today's world. The woman who killed her elderly employees did so because of a paranoia that grew out of a succession of misunderstandings brought on by her being unable to read even simple street signs. A memory from my childhood helped me to understand.
When I was growing up around Washington, D.C. in the 1940s, there was only one small stretch of freeway in the city, the Whitehurst Freeway. An elevated highway, it passed to the right of a large old warehouse down in the industrial district near the wharves. I must have been in first or second grade when I made a confusing discovery. Being extremely proud of my new reading skills, I took every opportunity to use them. Every time we drove down this freeway I'd carefully read the words on the side of that warehouse. "Home of Washington" followed by something that looked like a scribble to me. I never said anything to my parents, but this seemed like a very strange place for George Washington, the "father of our country", to have been born. But there it was, printed big as life. It wasn't until perhaps third or even fourth grade that I learned to read the scribble under his name. It was the word flour. That warehouse was the home of Washington Flour, not the home of our first president. If I didn't know what a word meant, I just pretended it wasn't there. And so it was for the woman in Judgement in Stone.
The book I finished today
was not a murder mystery at all, although there were a couple
of deaths in it. Grasshopper looked back on a chapter of
a woman's life when she and her young friends spent their nights
"roofing", or climbing along London's rooftops. It told
of their relationships, adventures and misadventures. A wonderfully
good read. Ruth Rendell, whether writing under her own name or
the name Barbara Vine, certainly knows people. Not only that,
she does not judge others, merely describes them with unerring
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 2, 2000
I'd forgotten how exhilarating cold weather can be! I tackled it today and came home tingling with life and energy...also numb in a few extremities. It was pretty cold--somewhere below freezing. How did I know? Because the dusting of snow we'd awakened to this morning was still carpeting shaded sidewalks and lawns. But the main thing was the sun. The first we've seen of that old friend in nine days. Sun makes a big difference! It wasn't that it offered much warmth, rather that it transformed our winter landscape from bleak into sparkling.
La Lucha handled the cold
very well, even scooting with ease over lightly snow-covered sidewalks.
Going down to the library, the sun was in my face--gloriously
so--and the wind behind me. It was most pleasant. Coming home
was just a bit more challenging. The sun was behind me and low
in the sky, so it was no longer such a sweet companion. More significantly,
I was now riding into the wind--not a strong wind but definitely
noticeable. Brrr! My face and hands felt it the most, but my lap
blanket kept my legs and trunk quite comfortable. I didn't try
to go down by the lake where it would have been even colder, but
stayed on one of our finally resurfaced neighborhood streets.
It was so smooth, I could even sing on my way..."Sleigh bells
ring, are you listening? In the lane, snow is glistening. A beautiful
sight, we're happy tonight, walking in a winter wonderland, etc."
Getting into the spirit a little bit...
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 3, 2000
Another glorious day on the road. Still cold but, oh, that sun! It made up for any chill in the air. E.D. and I struck out around 12:30 PM, him on foot and me on the scooter. Lap blanket tucked tightly around me, wearing ski mittens (not like yesterday when my hands in light knit gloves turned to ice), my white buzz cut protected by a colorful knit hat, and wool muffler tied around my neck--I was ready! We walked/scooted 1? miles down that smooth street I'd enjoyed so much yesterday.
A cloudless blue sky with bare tree branches reaching up to touch and be touched by the sun. Bundled-up walkers being walked by their dogs. Early-leavers from a local church obviously happy to get out of the parking lot before the crush. An old knarled tree neither of us had ever noticed before, one we agreed the kids in the neighborhood would know because it was such a good climber with its low-hanging branches. Three mammoth construction vehicles parked along the side of the road, reminders of the mess this road had been all summer during the interminable city sewer replacement project. A sheltie yapping and running around his/her yard as we passed. And the man I love most dearly walking at my side.
Though E.D. was more inclined to grab a sandwich at the local franchise restaurant, he agreed to go to the organic juice joint with me instead. As it turned out my friends at this six-month-old addition to our community have been slapped with a lawsuit paid for by that same franchise restaurant. Something about their pre-existing lease guaranteeing no competing restaurant to be put up on the same block. Not that there would be much crossover customer traffic between these two establishments. Their food--and nutritional consciousness--being totally different. Signs of the times. Huge multinational corporations trying, and too often succeeding, to devour local Mom-and-Pop outfits like an open-mouthed whale scooping up schools of glittering fish. My friends are having to use their start-up money to hire a lawyer to fight the suit. Their trial date is this Wednesday. May they--and our community--win.
E.D.went on to his nearby office, while I turned down toward the lake. The beautiful deep turquoise blue lake. No freighters or lakers in sight, but surprisingly, four small sailboats out in front of the sailing club. Not only sailboats, but a canoe with two paddlers. Hardy Michigan folk!
I went down to the lakefront
community park where I'd spent so many happy summer days. No one
was around. Devoid of tables and benches, the park seemed so much
larger. I scooted past the empty harbor out to the lake, parked
La Lucha facing into the sun, and sat there for close to an hour.
Sun on my face, white sails out in the water looking like winged
birds flying in formation, the soothing sound of waves lapping
against the breakwater, canoers passing by and waving, low-lying
elongated white clouds on the horizon. Pretty sweet.
MONDAY, DECEMBER 4, 2000
I just woke up from a very sound nap. Actually, I'm not much of a nap-taker, but on days that I've taught the Attitudes program to six and seven year olds, sleeping afterwards seems to come with the assignment.
Today's second grade classes--three of them--were in an east side Detroit public school not far from my home. Happily, although it was an old school, I had no stairs to climb or long hallways to make my way down. I use windchime walker not La Lucha for these gigs--few schools are truly accessible. Every place I needed to go today was close to the front door. Sure helped my energy level!
I don't know if anyone remembers those old grade schools with endless locker-lined halls and huge double-tiered staircases, but I've now seen the insides of more than I'd like to admit. Funny, when I was a kid, running down those halls and up the stairs was something I wanted to do, but got sent to the office for it if I tried. Fortunately today I could just look at them from a distance.
The youngsters were adorable as always. Engaged, curious, hands waving to be called on--sometimes even before I'd asked a question. These classes were wonderfully behaved and I suspect a lot of it has to do with having an exceptional group of teachers and administrators. My staff liason made things so easy for me by personally meeting me in the parking lot to help with my equipment--a child's arm brace crutches and wheelchair--as well as introducing me to each class. They obviously respect her because her presence immediately settled the kids down. She even assigned W., a fifth grade boy, to stay and help me all day. What a thoughtful idea!
Lunch in the teachers' lounge was as much fun as I'd always imagined it must be when I was a kid. Normally everyone is quite hospitable, but often the conversations are not too interesting--to me anyway. This group of folks spent the whole lunch hour sharing their favorite films, many of them foreign. I wish I'd been taking notes.
I feel good about the Attitudes program I present. It seems to accomplish its purpose of giving first and second graders a sense of what kinds of disabilities there are--especially in relation to being mobility impaired, blind or deaf--the assistive devices available, hands-on experience of how it would feel to use some of them, and a basic understanding of disabled people being "the same as you and me; they just do things differently".
I'll be returning to this
school in a week to teach two more second grade classes. I look
forward to it.
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 5, 2000
It may not be the Solstice quite yet, but no one told Mother Nature. She's giving a pretty good imitation of a winter day here in Michigan today. Highs in the low 20s F. Gusting winds that are expected to provide a wind chill factor of -15º. Snow swirling outside my window that reminds me of those paperweights I used to love as a child. Remember? The ones you'd turn upside down and shake, creating a winter wonderland. A lovely day to stay inside with a hot cup of tea and a good book--both of which I have on hand.
The holiday season swirls around me like the snow outside...swirls around but not within. I gave all that up a number of years ago. When I became what I call "post-Christian" in 1993, I began walking away from the December madness as well. Last year E.D. and I decided to give up the last holiday obligation that remained--giftgiving. Except for the youngest and the eldest members of our combined families, we no longer put ourselves through the shopping frenzy that is among America's most enduring cultural traditions.
What freedom! My stomach no longer starts clutching up around Thanksgiving. I can relax and enjoy wintery days like today. And we are not adding to the over-accumulation of goods that characterizes our country.
One holiday tradition
we've retained--by choice--is exchanging cards with old friends.
Our cards are usually reproductions of my artwork--a project E.D.
and I enjoy working on together. And we add some lights to brighten
these long winter nights. Our decorations this year consist of
one string of white sparkling lights draped around our front window
"garden", a whimsical 6" gazebo with colorfully
lit Christmas trees inside (E.D.'s lovely addition) on the glass
table in front of the couch, and a 5" green pottery tree
with colored lights shining on the piano. When the reading lamps
are turned off in our combination living/dining room, it looks
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 6, 2000
My friend, D.W., sent a wonderful email today that contained her recent article, "How I Write a Poem." It set me thinking: How do I write a poem?
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 7, 2000
Snow started falling this morning, granular flakes that looked like rain but coated the world in white. It was lovely to look at through the window as I worked on various projects, but by 2 PM I knew it was time for me to brave going outside. Thursday is the day I'm scheduled to take house duty from 3-6 PM at the women's shelter in downtown Detroit, about 10 miles away by freeway. My first task was to make my way down our three front steps without slipping. Using a liberal coating of salt and E.D.'s help, I made it safely into our garage where he kindly had my red Neon already warmed up for me.
Once out on the expressway, I began to doubt my wisdom in doing this. The roads were slick, snow flakes larger in size and falling ever more densely, cars and trucks around me driving at normal speeds--normal being 65-70 MPH. Yikes! I became more and more uncomfortable, not just with the current conditions, but with thoughts of what it would be like when I returned home after dark. I gave it up and turned around.
After calling the shelter to make my apologies and then checking in with E.D., I called two more numbers: Northwest Airlines and Amtrak train reservations. Until this afternoon, I'd been considering staying home in Michigan until late January before going out to San Francisco for the rest of the winter. I usually stay at least 3-4 months, but I was thinking about trimming it to 10 weeks. Somehow the thought of being away from E.D.--my non-travelling spouse--was beginning to get to me. I'm pretty darn fond of that guy. But today's snow--and my discomfort trying to get around in it--changed my mind. I'd forgotten there were such tangible reasons why I choose to migrate west.
As I remembered from last year, the airlines make it unreasonable to fly anywhere if you're planning to stay longer than 30 days. The cost quoted today was close to three times what I'd paid for the same journey a couple of months ago--the only difference being that I stayed in SF 2? weeks in October and would be staying 3 months this winter. So I called Amtrak, just as I did last year.
I'm now booked on the California Zephyr out of Chicago at 3:30 PM Sunday afternoon, January 7. I have the disabled sleeping compartment,which is a large room on the train's lower level, with windows on both sides, my own private toilet and sink, and at a reduced rate. They will carry La Lucha my scooter and three bags in cargo, provide me with a lift onto the train and assistance with all my baggage. As always, three meals a day are included--excellent meals, I might add. All going well, I will arrive in Emeryville, CA (just across the Bay Bridge from SF) at 6:10 PM Tuesday, January 9. In those 2 days, I will have met interesting people, seen the great plains, Colorado Rockies, Nevada desert and California's Sierra Nevada mountain range. On Tuesday, April 10, I'll turn around and come back home. Happily, I can take a commuter train from Detroit to Chicago at 7:30 AM on January 7. I even have a $100 voucher from last year when we were delayed 4 hours on the leg from Chicago to Denver.
All is well.
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 8, 2000
Well, I certainly stand corrected. After what happened today with the Florida Supreme Court, I'm glad Al Gore didn't follow my advice and concede. Who would have thought that court would rule in favor of Gore and order a manual recount of tens of thousands of ballots...especially now, just four days before the state electors must be chosen.
If this were a made-for-TV movie--which I'm sure it will be once they know how it ends--critics would say it was too overdrawn, not really believable. What a roller coaster ride. Not just for Bush and Gore, but for our country and the world as well. Unfortunately--to my way of thinking--the position of President of the United States holds way too much individual power and influence. Maybe this electoral circus will open our eyes to the danger of investing so much in one person. I've often thought a triad of executive leaders might be a safer, though more cumbersome, arrangement.
Ah well, at least this country of mine is eating a little humble pie. After all this, it's going to be hard for us to continue setting ourselves up as experts and final arbiters of democracy worldwide. But one thing can be said for the process here: it has avoided the chaos and violence that might have erupted elsewhere. Bureaucratic and legalistic, yes; but a system that is proving itself under fire. So far, that is. Now if we get to the point where Florida sends two slates of electors and Congress has to choose which is authentic, with the tie-breaking Senate vote coming from the standing Vice-President who also happens to be one of the candidates...well then, maybe we won't be so impressed with ourselves!
When I stayed up until
2:30 AM November 7 watching the election returns on TV, could
I ever have imagined that 31 days later we still wouldn't
know who won? I guess Las Vegas is making a bundle these
days...Las Vegas and the lawyers.
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 9, 2000
Today E.D. and I went to Ann Arbor--an hour's drive from our home--to have lunch with old friends. When I say "old", I'm not referring to their ages, rather to the duration of our friendship. For me, that is over 30 years with F.B. and 17 years with his wife, L.B. And my husband and F.B.? They have been friends for 63 years!
E.D. was born in Ann Arbor in 1930. When he was 5 and his brother, 7, the family moved to Vienna, Austria so his father could study with Freud. They moved back to Ann Arbor in 1937, and E.D. and F.B. were classmates at Angell School ("Hinky, dinky Angell School", E.D. just sang when I asked how to spell it). Two years later, E.D.'s father took a position in the medical school at Wayne State University and the family moved to the Detroit area. He and F.B. remained friends and would visit one another on weekends. Years later, they reconnected when E.D. started consulting at the same rehabilitation center where F.B. was a staff physician. They've been close ever since.
Happily, when F.B. married L.B. in 1983, our friendship not only endured but grew stronger. We don't visit that often but whenever we do, our time together is touched by the magic of mutual understanding and deep concern for one another. Conversation is always stimulating--today we had a lot to munch on with the election news--and at some point, E.D. usually sits at the piano and the four of us sing together. E.B. and I like to talk woman-to-woman as well, so we often leave the fellows happily talking about their stuff and find a private corner of our own.
But it is more than shared conversaton and song that makes visiting them so enjoyable. It is that everything they touch--whether it be food, plants or furnishings--is a work of art. Nothing opulent or overstated, just beauty in its purest form.
Is there anything more precious than such friendships? Some might say, good health; I say, friends endure even when your health goes. Others might say, family; I say, family is who you are given, friends are who you choose.
All the way home in the
car from Ann Arbor, E.D. kept saying, "Let's talk some more
about what a good time we had today with the B.s!" Precious
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 10, 2000
Thirteen women sit in a circle and sing. Slushy snow coats sidewalks outside this suburban Unitarian Universalist church where we meet. Grey afternoon skies darken early. Solstice songs are sung, songs based on old christmas carol melodies. We savor these new lyrics, words that speak to our hearts and beliefs in ways the old carols have not done in years. It is like coming home.
We've been singing together for years now: first, as a larger group we called the Notable Women chorus; and more recently in this smaller, more intimate song circle. What glorious women! Strong, creative, committed to feminist ideals, many of them longterm activists in the community, lesbian and straight, American and Canadian, mothers/grandmothers and child-free, always there to support and celebrate one another. Ten of the thirteen are self-identifed crones.
Something happens when women circle, when women sing. We go to a local Lebanese restaurant afterwords for dinner and the young woman who waits on us wonders why we are so much fun, so full of life. I would wish every woman and girl in the world could be part of such a circle. How it would change things.
Our favorite Solstice song is based on the tune for "We Three Kings". It's called, "We Three Crones", author unknown.
We three crones of
Bearing gifts, we traverse afar,
Field and fountain, moor and mountain,
Following yonder star.
Oh--Star of wonder, star of might.
Star of radiant beauty bright,
Inward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us with thy magick light.
Gold I bring, the earth's
Guards our mem'ry, draws forth our dream;
Weary-curing, strong, enduring,
Holding time's circling stream.
Frankincense I carry
Incense aids the spirit to see;
Analyzing, wise, up-rising,
Sense of the earth, flow free.
Myrrh is mine, its
Lifts new life--a magickal broom;
Prying, flying, purifying,
Away with old ling'ring gloom.
Glorious gifts of wimmin
Maiden, Mother, Ancient of Days;
Strength, and sense, and energy--whence
Return to our sacred ways.
MONDAY, DECEMBER 11, 2000
I'd forgotten what a real snow storm is like! We're in the middle of one now and the world is being transformed into a magic fairyland. Of course, that perspective assumes one is snug at home and not getting ready to brave rush hour traffic. I suspect persons who are still at work might be thinking of something beyond beauty right now. And I've just begun to hear the sound of freezing rain/sleet against my window. No, definitely not driver-friendly weather.
I actually did have to drive in it a few hours ago. Today was my day to teach disability awareness to the remaining two second grade classes at the Detroit school where I'd taught last Monday. When I arrived at 10 AM, the snow had just begun to blow. This snow is not one that evokes the word, "fall", as in "falling snow." It has been seriously blowing out of the north from the start.
By 2:30 PM it was time for me to go home. Luckily I don't live far from the school--maybe 15 minutes by surface streets. Ms. W. and my 10 year old assistant, W., accompanied me out to the parking lot. Good thing! I'd neglected to put a snow scraper in my car, so Ms.W. got a broom to brush about 3" of snow off my windshields.
Driving was treacherous and visibility poor, but folks were taking the bad conditions to heart and driving with great caution. My real concern was how I would make my way safely from our garage into the house. To do so requires walking outside for fifteen feet, then opening the vestibule door and climbing up three stairs--all of this in the open, with no protection from the elements. I expected a significant accumulation of snow on the sidewalk and stairs, making it even more challenging for my bootless feet and wheeled walker to negotiate.
Well, it was obviously time for another learning--don't fret about things that might not happen at all. As it turned out, E.D. was home, came out to help me, shovelled the sidewalk and stairs, and carried windchime walker into the house. I hardly even got the hem of my long dress wet.
Once inside, I immediately
turned on NPR (National Public Radio) and was able to hear the
last of the taped arguments from this morning's US Supreme Court
hearing that will probably decide our next president. I hope these
nine men and women come to a more impartial, constitutionally-based
decision than they did on Saturday when they summarily halted
the Florida Supreme Court mandated hand-recounts of ballots. That
vote of 5-4--split down ideological and politically partisan lines--was
deeply disturbing to most legal scholars and editorial writers,
not to mention at least half of the American people. Our country
needs today's deliberations to reflect the justices' grandest
and most far-sighted vision of the law. May it be so.
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 12, 2000
We awake to a day sparkling
diamonds. A six inch blanket of
snow tossed on the ground. Ice-
covered branches painted silver by
the sun. Evergreens strain under
their weight of white. A wash of
blue stains the skies.
I hear a symphony of snow
shovels scrape sidewalks and
driveways, salt trucks rumble past,
children shout and laugh. School is
closed and forts waiting to be built.
Forecasters predict the wind-chill
will drop to 15º below zero.
Yet the calendar insists
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 13, 2000
I wrote a poem that started with this stanza on November 14, a lifetime ago. Little did I know that four weeks later these words--with "Supreme Court Justice" in place of "Florida state judge"--would be so apt.
George W.Bush will become the 43th President of the United States of America because of one vote being cast in his favor 35 days after the election.
I'm having trouble getting my head around this. My feelings are pretty raw right now. Disappointment bordering on disgust. Major disillusionment. But then I ask myself, why would I expect more of those nine men and women who happen to have been appointed--not even elected--to the Supreme Court than I would expect of anyone else? Our country is divided, with most people lining up on one political side or the other. Why would I imagine it would be any different in the Highest Court Of The Land? Just because they say they make decisions based on law? Just because they sit on a pedestal--literally--so much higher than any other judges? Phooey. The Supreme Court is nine men and women. Period.
So now everyone's talking about "abiding by the court's decision", "getting behind the new president", "uniting the country", "forming bipartisan alliances". Fine, but first we need to look at what happened here.
The Supreme Court--one branch of the federal government--selected the President--another branch of the federal government. And the "selection" was made on a clearly partisan, politically-motivated basis.
Until yesterday--no, make that Saturday--this long drawn out electoral process, though messy, travelled a path set forth by the Constitution. When the Supreme Court came to its first 5-4 vote to intervene and stop the Florida Supreme Court mandated manual ballot recount, the Constitutional thread snapped. The justices stepped outside the bounds of federal propriety and in so doing denied a state--and its voters--its rights. Then last night they decide--again with a 5-4 vote--not to allow that same state an opportunity to impose equitable state-wide guidelines on how to determine the "voter's intent", because there wasn't enough time left before meeting a non-binding December 12 "deadline" for selecting electors. Wouldn't there have been enough time if they hadn't stopped the recount on Saturday? There would certainly have been time before meeting the only legal deadline of December 18 when the electoral college will cast its votes for president.
So now I'm going downstairs to listen to Gore and Bush address the nation. Will either one of them speak the truth?
Al Gore was superb--gracious, mature, humorous, reflective and even honest. As the news commentators said, if he had been like this during the campaign, things might have turned out very differently. But, you know, I don't think he could have been like this before. I suspect it is the last 36 days that brought out this magnanimity. And now I'm wondering if perhaps all Gore needs to become a truly good leader is a 4-year interim period to grow into himself, outside the spotlight for once. He's done this before. Wasn't it in 1982 or something that he lost a close election, one he'd expected to win? It was following that loss that he devoted himself to writing his book on the environment, Earth in the Balance--a contribution to our world that goes way beyond politics. It'll be interesting to see how he uses his time after January.
George W. Bush's speech was gracious as well, especially in his numerous references to Al Gore and his family. It just struck me as more political, but I guess that's the name of the game. Many of the commentators remarked that during his campaign and again tonight, Bush spoke most often of his desire to bring people together, to heal the divisions in our country. I often wonder if the sentiment underlying such a message is a desire to stifle dissent and have everyone agree, rather like we seemed to do back in the '50s.
May our country, the world
and, most especially, this fragile planet on which we live be
protected from harm during these next four years. And may we progressive,
liberal, left-leaning, green-thinking women and men continue to
speak our truth and stand up for the earth and her people in non-violent
ways...even at the risk of further dividing our country and the
world. Unity is not always the highest good.
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 14, 2000
Were we really as innocent in 1936 as Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers would have us believe? E.D. rented a video--"Follow the Fleet"--at the library yesterday. As we watched it tonight, it brought back memories of a simpler America, one where folks believed that song and dance could make you happy. A country whose Navy was just a group of fun-loving guys stopping at every port to chase blonde women in feather boas and tap shoes. A world where all that really mattered was boy-meets-girl, boy-and-girl-fall-in-love, boy-loses-girl, boy-and-girl-get-together. Even though it was the teeth of the Depression, life was elegantly attired in cream-colored satin and glittering sequins. And everyone was young and pretty or handsome.
Do movies reflect the times? Or were movies such as "Follow the Fleet" intended to lift people's spirits, to give them hope that things would get better? Even if that was the intent, would today's people accept such sugar-coated fanciful doses of fluff? I doubt it. Maybe we're growing up.
Do countries go through the same stages of growth as individuals? I often think so, especially when I compare this young wet-behind-the-ears America to ancient cultures like China, Egypt or Greece. We seem so crass, like kids playing, screaming and pushing one another in the playground. We "know it all" like a high school sophomore, often lecturing more mature countries on how they should do things "our way". We get crushes on leaders and ideologies, only to feel betrayed and try to destroy them. We want desperately to be "good" but the more we try, the worse we become. Above all, we want to liked and don't understand why we're not.
As I see it, we're in the adolescence of our country's history. Our rooms are messy, yet we get angry when other countries tell us to pick up our stuff and put it away before telling them what to do. We're still trying to discover who we are and what we want to do with our lives. We ride a roller coaster of emotions and just can't sit still long enough to reflect. We feel no one understands us, but we don't really understand ourselves. The older cultures are amazingly tolerant. Of course they're nervous that we might throw another temper tantrum and attack some weaker nation, as we've done before. We tend to step in the middle of someone else's fight then wonder why both sides end up hating us. Life is rarely what we want it to be, but we have yet to realize that much of what happens is the logical consequence of our own words and actions.
But, like an adolescent, we have tremendous potential for growth. We are not set in our ways, rather in a state of constant flux. We have a big heart and, once touched, an unlimited capacity for compassion. We try to follow the rules our forefathers set forth, even though we have trouble interpreting them in the context of today's complexities. We squabble like siblings in a large family, but pull together when anyone outside the family attacks us. More and more, we are learning to respect our differences and listen to our many voices. Our young are waking up to their responsibility to lead us into the future through action based on ideals. Communities of like-minded persons are building coalitions that go largely unnoticed, but are already transforming our culture, local group by local group.
And we are growing
up. Our current divisions and disillusionments are indicators
of that. Children do not care so deeply about issues and concerns
outside of themselves. Adolescents are too self-centered for such
active participation in discussions of process. And in the last
36 days, our nation has demonstrated a most mature quality: patience.
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 15, 2000
I have such wonderful people in my life!
Since our two snowstorms this week dropped a total of about a foot of white stuff on the ground, I've been rather homebound. For the first few days it was fine. I read, worked at the computer, occasionally used the stationary bike or did some stretching exercises. And of course there was plenty of national news to follow. But this morning I woke to a stirring of desire to get out and be with people.
This was originally to be a full day--first working at the women's shelter, and then going to an evening performance by my goddess daughter's high school dance group. After we woke to another 5" of snow on the ground yesterday, I started making calls cancelling out of the next few days' activites. The shelter and dance performance today. Sunday's Solstice gathering in Canada. Teaching disability awareness at a local school on Monday. I just felt uneasy trying to walk and/or drive in these conditions. I'm not even sure I can drive wearing my boots, which are more bulky than my shoes. So I was looking at a lot more time at home, besides missing things I really wanted to do.
This morning I looked out and the roads seemed clear. I began to wonder if maybe I could drive. So my dear husband, E.D., shovelled out my side of the driveway, just in case. I took my morning shower, washed my hair and got dressed. After "all that", I was pooped! It's amazing how much energy such simple tasks take these days. I again doubted my abilities. Then my friend from the shelter called with an idea. What if she and one of the guests drove over, helped me down the steps and into her car, drove me to the shelter and later to the performance, and then took me back home...would I feel comfortable with that plan? What a dear and thoughtful friend! I said, "Yes, thank you very very much!"
So I'm not going to give
up yet on Sunday's Solstice gathering. After all, that's two days
away. Anything can happen...even more snow (whoops!).
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 16, 2000
Yesterday's adventure started with my hearing the scrape of a snow shovel on our front stairs a little after 3 PM. I looked out the window and saw P.K. clearing a way for me to get to her car in our garage. She and R., another of my friends from the women's shelter, helped me down the steps and through the tunnel of snow--that E.D. has kept shovelled--between our front door and the garage. Once at the shelter, they carefully assisted me and windchime walker over the snow-packed ground from the car to another set of stairs leading to their front door. Whew!
I was able to take house duty--answering the phone and door--for a couple of hours while visiting with some of the guests, my friends. R. taught me how to play a game of dice. I even won. Then she and M. and I played "Chicken-foot" dominoes. What fun! I came in a distant third out of three in that game. We'd thought the Teamsters would be bringing our dinner--leftovers from their holiday party--but realized 15 minutes before we normally eat that we were confused about the dates. It's next Friday instead. P.K. rushed into the kitchen and produced a fabulous meal of apple pancakes and sausage.
When I saw those two plates of browned sausage links, my heart dropped. I'm a vegetarian who still misses the taste of sausage and bacon, but I just can't eat anything made of pig. Well! One of the plates was soy sausage! Oh my gosh, I fairly slurped up that meatless "meat"...not to mention the delectable pancakes. (I'm making myself hungry just writing this)
After dinner it was time to go to E.K.'s dance performance at her high school nearby. I've been watching my goddess daughter (P.K.'s daughter) dance in recitals since she was 7. She's now almost 17 and an experienced dancer (ballet, jazz, Dunham and modern). The school she transferred to this autumn is a Detroit "institution": Cass Tech High School. P.K.'s grandfather took classes there and she's 57...so it's been around a long time. Cass is recognized as an excellent school--academically, technically and artistically. In how many high schools are students like E.K. given the opportunity to "major" in dance? That's in addition to her solid academic studies. Most importantly, she's happy there; it feels like a good match.
P.K. had checked ahead of time about how accessible it would be for me to get from the car to the auditorium. It seemed simple enough with street parking in front of the school's entrance, and the auditorium right inside the door. At least it had seemed simple before all this snow. A handicapped parking spot was right at the door waiting for us, but the terrain to be travelled from my side of the car to the curb was awash in deep slushy snow. P.K. went inside and enlisted the aid of a strong male student, and even pulled a "Sir Walter Raleigh" manuver by covering the river of slush with a blanket from the back of her car. I felt like a royal personage entering my domain--a rather cold wet foot-dragging royal figure, I must admit. But we made it.
The performance was exceptional! Much of it was choreographed by these gifted young dancers to the music they listen to and love. After 16 numbers, I didn't want it to be over. That's a very good sign. And it was particularly sweet to see E.K. up there in her element with sister and brother dancers obviously doing what they do best. Anyone who puts down Detroit public schools must not have experienced Cass--its students, teachers and administrators. E.K. was radiant when we saw her later in the lobby. I so admire how my friend is raising this wonderful young woman.
Going home was easier because we found a better way for me to get back in the car. I walked up to the traffic light and P.K. pulled onto the sidewalk where there was no slush at all. A piece of cake, as my southern Mom would have said.
All it takes to appreciate
such an outing is to have felt homebound, even for just a few
days. And all it takes to appreciate friends is to watch them
in action. My special gratitude to P.K., to R. and to M., the
student who literally lifted my right foot through the slush.
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 17, 2000
I've just decided to be
daring and try to drive over to Canada for my annual women's Solstice
dinner/ritual this afternoon. We've had snow much of the day but
it looks like it's only accumulated 1"-2". Winds are
gusting but the snow itself has stopped falling. Darnnit, I really
want to go...so I am! If the roads are too bad, I'll just
turn around and come home; if I need help I'll call E.D. (or AAA)
on my cell phone. Wish me luck!!!
Home again safe and sound after an extraordinary evening of food, ritual and song. A circle of women--12 of us tonight--has been gathering for many years to celebrate the Winter Solstice together. This ancient holiday marks the days getting longer again after December 21, the longest night of the year and the start of winter.
We always meet at a friend's lovely old home not far from the tunnel between Windsor. ONT and Detroit, MI. A sumptuous potluck dinner with appetizers, entree, salads and desserts is traditional. Lively conversation starts while we're eating appetizers in the kitchen, and then follows us into the dining room with our entree and salads. This is a group of politically aware, socially committed, creatively inclined women, so our topics range widely, often including a lot of laughter.
Next comes the ritual. We sit in the living room gathered around a roaring fire with our candles lined up on the mantlepiece. Each woman, in turn, lights her candle after she has shared what the return of Light means to her. This year we heard poems, excerpts from essays, a children's story, quotations, songs, personal stories and silence. My singing "The Way You Look Tonight" started something new--an old-fashioned songfest.
Our group includes Canadian and American women between the ages of 40 and 70, so our knowledge of songs is rich and varied. I was particularly touched to hear our older sisters singing songs of their youth from WWII, especially English songs remembered by the Canadian women. It's amazing how many lyrics are sitting in our heads just waiting to be sung. Such a treat!
Driving over at 4 PM was no problem at all--it was 30ºF and the streets were clear. Took me no more than the usual 35 minutes. Coming home was another story. My friend had invited me to spend the night and, as it turned out, I should have. When I left her house at 10 PM, temperatures had dropped to 12ºF, it was snowing with strongly gusting winds, and the roads were basically snow-covered ice. I drove slowly and was pleased to see how well my Neon gripped the road. I had no close calls, but was certainly happy to get home by 11 PM.
Imagine! We still have
three more days of autumn. Autumn???
MONDAY, DECEMBER 18, 2000
Yesterday morning E.D. said these words are my motto. He's noticed that the less I am able to use my legs, the more I seem to fly in my ideas and attitudes.
He's right. When I was able to run and dance and bike and walk, my powers of imagination didn't need much exercise. Oh, I used them in my art and writing, but that was different. In creative activities I would see images or linkages of words in my mind's eye, but as engrossed as I might become, my body stayed where it was, planted solidly on earth. Not anymore.
For instance, at Friday night's dance performance, I was able to jump, spin, skip, kick, undulate and pulse with the rhythm of each young dancer. I quite literally put myself into their bodies, feeling the stretch, twist, reach and energy of each move as they felt it themselves. I do the same with birds--flying on their backs--and with squirrels--scrambling up trees and springing lightly from branch to branch. With runners, it's easy. As a former marathoner, my body remembers the supple working of muscles, the slap of feet on pavement and that airborne quality of movement after one has settled into one's pace.
We all have this capacity
to "fly", as E.D. calls it. How often do we use it?
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 19, 2000
How did we ever make our way through challenging times before the internet? I'm not talking about tough personal times--although the net can help there too--but rather tough national or even global times. In particular, what would I have done during this crazy (s)election process without the support of like-minded sisters and brothers and their blizzards of forwarded messages? Especially the jokes. Could I have survived without regular doses of humor?
My favorite arrived today. It's based on the 1940s series of children's books about a monkey called Curious George. Guess who stars in today's cyberstory? You're right! "The Story of Curious George W" by Dave Itzkoff now has its own web site. Cautionary warning: not suitable for staunch Republicans.
I remember how isolated I felt ten years ago this January when George W's father started dropping bombs on Baghdad. The pain of the fact was equal to the pain of feeling so alone in my horror. During that time, the press and media were in lockstep behind the big guns in pedalling manufactured stories like the one about Iraqi soldiers ripping babies from their incubators in a Kuwati hospital. Gawd! The public was lapping it up like cream from a saucer, and tying yellow ribbons around anything they could find, even innocent trees. If we'd had an active World Wide Web then, their propaganda wouldn't have had a chance.
And so this new US presidency
is going to have to prove itself to a very sophisticated, informed
community of people. And national lines have little meaning in
the sands of cyberspace. We're all together in this: what affects
one, affects all. What an amazing tool for change! I believe we
have only begun to imagine how this technoage can transform the
planet in ways that will ensure her survival. And shared humor
is the oil that will keep those gears moving smoothly.
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 20, 2000
This time of year certainly evokes childhood memories. I think it's the music that does it for me.
I remember the year we bugged Mom so much that she let us open just one present on Christmas Eve day. We considered it a miracle because our family was rigidly traditional about every aspect of Christmas. For instance, we were not allowed downstairs until dawn broke on Christmas morning, and even then the opening of wrapped--not Santa Claus's unwrapped gifts--had to wait until after we'd come home from church. Even after my sisters and I had married, Dad was still in charge of the gift-opening ritual. He would remove each present separately from under the tree, read the tag and give it to the recipient. Then everyone watched while the gift was opened and properly exclaimed over before Dad went on to the next. As you can imagine, this was a long drawn out process that must have been tough on his daughters' unsuspecting new husbands. Even though I moved to Detroit after marrying E.D. in 1966, I don't think I missed a Christmas "at home" in Virginia until the early '80s.
Anyway, the gift Mom let us open that Christmas Eve was a Julius La Rosa Christmas album--one of the new 33 rpm LPs (long-playing records). Julius La Rosa, whom Arthur Godfrey had recently fired from his show for "not being humble enough." My mother, my sisters and I had been outraged at Godfrey's poor treatment of our favorite singer. He was so handsome. This was the early '50s, so I would have been around 9 or 10, my sister C., 11 or 12, and Miss E. (as we called her) around 6 or 7. I can see the three of us sitting on the floor around our old Victrola, playing that record over and over. "White Christmas", Mel Torme's "The Christmas Song", "I'll be Home for Christmas", as well as more traditional carols like "Silent Night" and "Joy to the World", finishing with "Ave Maria", dedicated to his beloved mother. I now realize a number of those songs were relatively new, having been written in the '40s. At the time I was so in love with Julius La Rosa that anything that man sang I adored. I wouldn't be surprised if my enduring love of "The Christmas Song" ("Chestnuts roasting on an open fire...") had its origins that Christmas Eve.
My 34 Christmases with
E.D. have added to my love of holiday songs. We've always sung
around the piano during this season, as he plays most anything
you can think of by ear. During our 12 years of Christmas parties
for the neighborhood kids--often up to 70 screaming, squirming,
laughing, running, playing youngsters from babies on up--part
of our tradition was singing carols around the piano. Even now,
with this year's mounds of snow glistening outside, we keep the
holiday with music.
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 21, 2000
In 1997, on the Winter Solstice, I wrote a set of precepts in my journal. They were later named, A Crone's Credo. Today--Winter Solstice 2000--I ask myself if any new precepts are sitting inside waiting to come out.
1. The highest human attainment is to become fully human.
2. Power is in the struggle rather than its outcome.
3. To effect true reconciliation, one must exist within the opposites.
4. Life requires more derring-do than acceptance.
5. What I think is how I act.
6. The deepest wound is invisibility.
7. Justice is less about fairness than inclusivity.
8. To be a voice for someone else, be sure you hear what they are saying.
9.We can live with a poor outcome if we respect the process out of which it came.
10. Hope must be replaced by conscious intention.
11. Never carry more than you're ready to lose.
12. Change is the only
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 22, 2000
After four days at home looking out the window at snow and more snow creating a seemingly inaccessible winter wonderland, I was out among people all day!
First E.D. and I attended a holiday party at the Detroit hospital where he consults once a week. He was in charge of the music--bringing his keyboard and song sheets--as well as providing my "wheels" by tucking La Lucha the scooter into the trunk of our car. Cold temperatures--a high of maybe +5º F--made La Lucha recalcitrant in the hospital parking garage, so we put her on "free wheel" and E.D. pushed us into the lobby and down the halls to his department. Once there, I again tried the ignition and was pleased to find La Lucha had thawed out enough to go under her own power. Of course, I expect my leaving the scooter in our open garage during this spell of bitter cold and endless snows was not exactly what the manufacturer might have recommended. (La Lucha is now cozy and warm in our pantry, where she'll stay until I leave for California on January 7.)
Though E.D. has worked in this hospital for many years, today was the first time I'd met his co-workers. What a wonderfully diverse, interesting group of people! A number of the physicians are originally from India and had arranged for an Indian restaurant to cater our lunch. I was delighted as it is my favorite food. There was also a woman doctor who was born and grew up in Israel after her Jewish parents moved there from Germany in 1933. She and I connected in a deep way in a short amount of time. E.D, who knows me very well, had always said that I'd like her. He was right. The rest of the staff was most welcoming and hospitable; a few even hugged me when we met. After eating, we sang such non-religious holiday songs as "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas", which we agreed was not exactly our dream this year, but would certainly be the reality.
Next, I was expected at the women's shelter about 2 PM to take house duty (answering the phone and door). E.D. drove me over there, helped me up the stairs and into the house. Brrr! It was getting colder. But R. made me a cup of hot herbal tea and we settled down with M. to enjoy another Chicken-foot dominoes game. This time I even won. Our dinner--chicken and onions for the meat-eaters and Italian pasta for us vegetarians, salad and mixed vegetables, plus canneloni and assorted creme-filled pastries for dessert--was provided by the Teamsters headquarters across the street after their holiday party. My, but I was the beneficiary of holiday parties today!
My goddess daughter, E.K., drove me home on this freezing night--by now the temperature was around -6º F--and stopped in to visit. What a gift! She is now almost 17 and has made her way to the other side of those adult-avoidance teen years. It was as though she had been restored to us after a two year absence. Our conversation travelled deep, honest and unique paths, sharing more as peers than adult/child. I so admire her and am grateful to my friend, P.K., for her part in helping to bring this wonderful young woman into our world. E.K. honored us by staying a couple of hours--not leaving until 10 PM.
And now I am really
sleepy and need to go to bed. And so I will...warmed by thoughts
of this wonderful day spent with exceptional people.
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 23, 2000
Tonight's party at our neighbors was more than simply a lovely festive occasion; for E.D. and me, it was a "family gathering". Five of the kids who hung out in our home in the 1970s were there tonight. From Manhattan, Martha's Vineyard (Massachusetts), the Hamptons (Long Island), Boston and Denver--they were all visiting their parents over this long holiday weekend. These "children" are now in their mid to late 30s, some have partners, and one even brought her 6-month old baby. We had not seen a couple of them in at least 15 years. What a treat!
It's always interesting to see oneself reflected in the mirror of another's stories. D.McK. recalled the time he was in our walk-in closet with a bunch of kids watching our cat Puck give birth to a litter of kittens. "I wanted out of there, but you said, 'Now, D., try to sit still. You're going to see something amazing'. Finally I got away and ran home. I told my Mom your cat was having a bunch of kittens and it was gross. She said, 'That's why I sent you over there!" Parents routinely asked me to call them when Puck started going into labor because they wanted their kids to see the "miracle of birth"--and for me explain the facts of life at the same time. D.McK. also said he learned to play poker at our knees!
Conversation turned to the Christmas parties we used to give the neighborhood youngsters--all 70 of them. "You even gave each kid a present!" "Remember the gingerbread candy houses you used to make? They were so incredible, at first we'd just sit there not wanting to touch it. But once one kid took a piece of candy off, the rest of us tore into it!" "I remember every inch of your house--you let us play in every room." "Remember how everyone always said, 'No rough-housing at the D.s'?" "I've never met anyone else who did for kids what you and Dr. D. did for us."
L.M. recalled that our doors were always open to the kids. "Anytime we wanted, we knew we could go to the D.s." She also said, "You taught me how to sing 'Perfidia'." It was our singing around the piano while E.D. played that they all remember as a highlight of our years together. So they begged him tonight to go to the M.'s piano so we could sing some of their favorites. "Ragtime Cowboy Joe", "Perfidia", "I'll Build a Bungalow", "Tea for Two", "Five Foot Two", "Coney Island Babe", "Heart and Soul" and some carols. To see the smiles as they sang carried me back 25 years.
So without expecting it,
we were given the best holiday gift of all--to be with our kids
again. Our wonderful grown-up "children", their loving
partners and even one precious "grandchild".
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 24, 2000
It snowed today. It snowed yesterday. It snowed the night before that. Actually, I'd be hard pressed to remember a day or night when it didn't snow! Three weeks ago tomorrow we had the first big snow of the season. It dropped about 6" of snow as I recall. Since then nothing has melted--only compressed and been added to. Not only snow, but cold. Temperatures ranging from highs of +30ºF to lows of -8º F, often hovering in the teens. I've lived in Michigan 35 years and can't remember a December to equal this one. Even E.D. said this morning, "This year I can understand better than ever why you go to San Francisco for the winter."
I'm not by nature a fearful person but when trying to make my way over icy snow-covered sidewalks with my walker, I am definitely uneasy. Last night was an example. Our neighbors had invited us to a holiday party. They live across the street and in the second house down a cul-de-sac. There was no way I could walk over there. So E.D. drove to where their long front walk meets the street. They'd obviously worked hard to shovel the walk as clear as they could, but it was still quite slippery. I pushed windchime walker slowly and carefully up the walk, doing my best to keep my footing. By the time I'd made my way up their two front steps and E.D. had rung the doorbell, I was not in top form. That's what I'm finding this winter--getting from point A to point B takes a lot of energy, even with the kind help of others.
Two weeks from today I'll be on the California Zephyr train heading west. When I think of leaving E.D. for 3 months, it makes me very sad. But then I think about again having La Lucha the scooter available to ferry me around--even in the rain--and I know my choice is a good one. Especially this year.
All that being said, the snow is positively beautiful.
©2000 Patricia Lay-Dorsey.
Please use with attribution