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MONDAY, DECEMBER 25, 2000
When I think of Christmas Day, the word "expectations" comes to mind. All kinds of expectations--what others expect of me, what I expect of others, and what I expect of myself. Somehow this one day of the year seems to carry more than its fair share of baggage. Is that true for most people in our culture? I suspect so.
Today E.D. and I managed to create an expectation-free environment and with it a delightful sense of freedom. No expectations of gifts. No people we needed to see, or places we felt we should go. As it happened I had gotten him a piece of computer software so he will be able to open the photo attacments I hope to send from San Francisco. And he gave me a check to buy the digital camera I'm currently researching. But neither of these were "have to" gifts; they were "want to", instead. Our dinner was simple--leftover pasta and sauteed cabbage, fresh pumpernickel bread, grapefruit juice for me and a diet pop for E.D. Perfection.
E.D. braved our mountains of snow to walk the mile and a half to his office on this bright sunny day. I worked at the computer for awhile, then sat downstairs in front of the window and watched the winter world spread out before me. Dark silhouetted tree branches against an ever-changing background of gold, blue, grey and white sunlit clouds and sky. There was the occasional streak of silver as a plane painted its quickly dissolving contrail. The silence was dense with comfort.
We both had good phone conversations with family. My sister in Los Angeles made me laugh when she told of there being five stations in the park after yesterday's Christmas Parade--stations where people could actually see snow. Didn't know we had such a precious commodity piled up here in our yards!
I also had time to sit and read a library book I'm finding to be exceptionally good--John LeCarre's latest novel, The Constant Gardener. After I finish writing this journal entry and E.D. returns from his after-dinner walk, we'll probably watch a video together.
To me, this day of ordinary activities is the best holiday gift of all.
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 26, 2000
I am at a restaurant with friends. Three of us are sitting in a booth, one woman and I on one side of the table and another woman by herself across from us. Our waitress is a friend of mine from my Michigan singing group who in my waking life actually manages a book store. We order--I choose the corned beef. My friends receive their food, and I am served my small grapefruit juice but no plate of food. As they start eating, a 17 year old boy sits down beside my friend. He is her much younger brother. I work out in my head that she must have been over 20 when he was born. He is served and begins to eat his pancakes and sausage. I'm growing impatient but am reluctant to complain as I don't want to put pressure on my friend who is serving us. I suddenly realize I've ordered corned beef even though I haven't eaten meat in years. I call my friend over to the table and say, "Why don't we just cancel my order. It hasn't come yet and besides I don't even eat meat." She's embarrassed that I had to wait so long but agrees to cancel the order. She gives my friends their bills, but does not leave one for me. As I get ready to leave, I realize she didn't even charge me for the juice I drank.
I am walking by myself in California on a dirt road that cuts through rounded brown meadows and hills. It is a warm sunny day and I am feeling wonderful. I'm walking toward a tall hill, almost a mountain. The dirt road soon becomes a dried creek bed under my feet, covered with smooth stones. I stop and pick up a flat round stone and am in awe of its flawless perfection. Plumes of smoke appear in the valleys and hills before me. Are they fires? After all this is California's dry season. But I soon conclude it must be the afternoon fog gathering, another of Northern California's common sights. When I reach the top of the hill/mountain, I soon see that I have entered someone's living space instead of still being outside. Redwood paneled built-in bookcases and couches surround me, much like a Frank Lloyd Wright house, except open to the sky above. I'm wondering how I got there as I never entered a door. An old man who obviously lives there, welcomes me graciously. We begin to talk and he starts telling me of his life. I wake up.
Until I wrote these dreams
down, I had no idea what they might be saying. But now I sense
their meaning. It is symbolic of my two lives--Michigan and California--and
the transition I'm beginning to make from one to the other. Two
weeks from last Sunday, I will be migrating by train from Michigan
to San Francisco for my winter stay. On April 10, I'll again board
the train to return home to Michigan's early stirrings of spring.
These dreams indicate my inner voice's concurrence with this plan.
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 27, 2000
A dear friend dropped by for a cuppa tea and a chat this snowy afternoon. We figure it must be two years since we've sat together and shared stories. Hers have a lot to do with the costs and benefits of her last five years working for a religious educational institution. "Diminishment" described the costs, and "security", the benefits. She feels ready for a change.
Whenever I'm with anyone who is in close relationship to a religious establishment, I thank my lucky stars that I opted out when I did. I do not miss it for a minute. For 7? years I've followed my own star, lived according to my own best judgement and had the freedom to discover my personal views on life and death. There are so many places in our culture where we have to compromise our beliefs--I think of our choices for US president in November--that it is grand not to have to do so spiritually as well. No more tip-toeing around patriarchal words and constructs. No more fighting to reform a structure that has no desire to change. And for me, no more impotent anger.
There are certainly many
just, compassionate, truth-filled members of religious groups;
it isn't that. It's just that, for persons like myself, the old
song holds true: "Don't Fence Me In!"
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 28, 2000
I've just been through one of those times of learning--three of them in two days actually. All with the same bottom line: say it like you see it. I sometimes get the feeling there is a Teacher-with-a-capital-T in my head saying, "OK now, did you get it?" Because if there's any question, the same learning clothed in slightly different garb will pop up over and over until I do finally "get it."
Each of my current learnings had to do with relating to others in an authentic, Self-preserving way. Setting boundaries and sticking to them. In every case--the particulars of which I don't need to go into--I was tempted to revert to the outgrown "nice" way of relating that characterized my upbringing. "Don't say anything that might hurt someone else's feelings." "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all." "Make some excuse; don't tell them you just don't want to do it." "Don't rock the boat. Just let it go."
The older I get, the more clear I become about what works for me and what doesn't. Not only clear, but insistent. It's as though I absolutely cannot go against that inner authority or whatever I choose to call it, even if it makes things plenty uncomfortable in my dealings with others. But I'm discovering the momentary discomfort is quickly replaced by a strong sense of peace, the peace that comes from being yourself and no one else. I also find the recipients of my straight-talking don't seem to be hurt. In fact, many express gratitude for my honesty.
But as with any learning,
it takes practice. And I can take comfort that I've had lots
of practice lately. I get it; I get it!
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 29, 2000
What excitement! This afternoon I bought a digital camera, the Hewlett-Packard Photosmart 315, and tonight I'm using photos in my journal for the first time. What a user-friendly camera...and what fine image-making capacity. Besides it is SO MUCH fun!
Our friend P.K., who is staying at our house for a few days of holiday, really helped out by driving me to a couple of electronics stores. Though I'd done my share of online research--including asking every digital camera owner I know for their input--until today I'd never even had such a camera in my hands. And that was a very important part of my discernment process. As my hands are not at all dexterous anymore, any camera I bought would have to be easy for me to handle. The HP Photosmart 315 fit the bill perfectly. And I was most fortunate that my salesperson was an expert on digital cameras: his information was up-to-date and geared to my special needs and desires. Thank you, Darryl at Circuit City!
After we returned home, I hunkered down with my instruction book while P.K. went back to her great love--a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle. She is a whiz at such spatial challenges and might have it completed in one day.
Then E.D. came home, all excited about my purchase. I insisted he sit at the piano and tickle the ivories so I could get his picture.
The next task was to come upstairs, install the software and download my eight pictures. E.D. came up in a few minutes saying, "You're either going to be ecstatic or in a state of utter panic." I think it's obvious from the picture he snapped of me at the computer how things were going at the time.
It's amazing to look at
the prospect of sharing not only words but images in my online
journal. Especially images of our snowy world here in Michigan,
my cross-country train trip out west in a little over a week,
and then 3 months in this country's most beautiful city, San Francisco.
It's going to be wonderful to carry you, my readers, with me wherever
I go. Thank you, dearest E.D. for this incredible gift! May I
use it well.
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 30, 2000
I was so excited last night that I couldn't sleep! 3 AM and I was still taking pictures in my mind. Reminds me of when I got my baby blue English two-wheel bicycle with hand brakes (everyone else had coaster brakes) in 1948.
This morning I got up early so I could catch E.D. at his nap. As long as we've been married--34 years--he's taken the same pose on the same couch every morning. When I imagine E.D. during my months in San Francisco, I'm apt to see him napping on the couch, playing the piano or reading/writing in his maroon leather chair.
It was a lovely quiet day. P.K. was engrossed in her jigsaw puzzle. She finished it tonight at 9 PM, 1000 pieces in a day and a half! It snowed off and on much of the day, adding to the mounds we've had on the ground since December 6. The view out our front window looks like a winter wonderland--especially appreciated on days like today when I didn't have to go out in it. But at least I did a little biking for exercise.
When E.D. came home around 7 PM I was in a computer panic mode. For some reason the pictures wouldn't download from the camera to my computer. After changing the batteries, replugging the USB chord into my laptop and the camera at least five times, and finally restarting my computer--it acted like it should. Don't know what that was about, but I'll keep an eye on it.
After all that sweat, it was with delight I came downstairs to hear E.D. at the piano. We sang until our tummies said it was time for dinner. We enjoyed delicious Polish stuffed vegetarian cabbage that P.K. had brought with her from the shelter. Now we'll probably watch a video before turning in.
Believe me, taking your
vacation at our house, as P.K. is doing, is much like going on
retreat. Quiet, reflective and simple.
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 31, 2000
The last day of the Millennium...truly, this time. I lay in bed this morning--soaking, as my mother used to call it--and thought about the year 2000 and what it meant to me. It was a good year.
E.D. and I have never been closer. We share good strong belly laughs, have wonderfully raucous political arguments, respect one another's uniqueness, offer support in tangible ways (at least E.D. does that for me), listen and give opinions when asked (OK, sometimes when not asked too), and expect pretty much what the other is capable of giving. Besides we really like one another.
The most transformative addition to my life has been La Lucha, my Amigo RT scooter. With her help, I've regrown the wings that my disability had seemed to clip. Rides by the lake, water aerobics at the park, enjoying our neighborhood juice cafe, picking up special treats at the market, going to the library, 4 days at the OAS (Organization of American States) teach-ins/protest demonstrations in Windsor, Ontario last June, the National Women's Music Festival in Muncie, Indiana also in June, a week tenting with 6500 womyn and childen at the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival in August, visiting my mother in Maryland and being able to travel back and forth from the motel to her nursing facility on my own, San Francisco in October with the city available to me in ways it hasn't been in years, WoMaMu (Women Making Music) camp in the California wine country where I could finally go up and down the hill under my own power...and just being able to go for a "walk" with my husband again.
My web site that I first put up in February 1999, went official with its own domain name and web host support in January of this year. And on February 25, I started keeping a daily online journal that continues to give me life and energy, besides introducing me to wonderful readers worldwide. And now, with my brand new digital camera, I'm seeing its evolution into an illustrated online journal.
And, as always, this year was all about the people. My mother who is happy and well cared for at a nursing facility in Maryland. My two sisters--one on the East Coast, the other on the West coast--both of whom are priceless sharers of my herstory. Three nieces, four nephews, three wives, three SOs (Significant Others) and three adorable grand-nephews. My dear friends in Michigan, Ontario and California. Old friends scattered across the country. New friends in this amazing cyberworld that knows no geographical limits. Women in a Detroit shelter, men and women from San Francisco's Simply Supper, folks I met on the streets and when traveling, sister and brother singers and drummers, and the children in Detroit schools to whom I taught disability awareness.
It was not necessarily an easy year--lots of learnings--but I leave it feeling rich with experience and full of gratitude.
E.D., who had already turned in, just came upstairs to kiss me Happy New Year. At the stroke of midnight--as we heard our 13 year old neighbor and her girlfriends screaming and laughing, and fireworks exploding not far away--he took this picture. I've heard it said that what you do on New Year's Day, you will do the rest of the year. Why am I not surprised?
Happy New Year! May this
year bring our world closer to authentic peace, inclusive justice
and respectful equality.
MONDAY, JANUARY 1, 2001
A bright sunny day. The snow on the roof outside my upstairs window glistens like millions of tiny crystals scattered on a puffy white cloud.
P.K. went back home late yesterday afternoon so E.D. and I are on our own again. What a perfect houseguest she was with her gentle undemanding presence and ease of relating...not to mention bringing three delicious pre-cooked meals for us to share. I'll miss her when I go to San Francisco. A true friend.
Even so, it was grand to settle back into our normal routine today. Every New Year's Day, I appreciate one of the advantages of not decorating the house or putting up a Christmas tree. What is not done in the first place does not have to be un-done. So today E.D. and I read the paper in the morning, ate a simple lunch together while watching the Rose Bowl Parade, then sang at the piano. While he did a load of laundry and took a nap, I went upstairs to work at my computer. In the mid-afternoon he drove over to his office to do some writing. I stayed upstairs.
It was good to have my computer back in its normal spot in the front room. I'd moved it to the desk in my back bedroom since this was P.K.'s room during her visit. I've always loved this room. The afternoon sun pours through the front window, and I can look out the side window next to my laptop and see the western sky. This room has had many incarnations during our almost 30 years here: my art studio; a gathering place for individuals and circles making ritual together, creating art, singing or sharing stories; a place of solitude where I've read, journalled, just sat or danced in candlelight; and most recently, my window on the world where my laptop keeps me connected with people no matter how many feet of snow fall on the ground outside.
The closer I get to going
west for the winter, the more attached I get to E.D. and our home
together here. It's hard to leave. At the same time I know life
is good for me in San Francisco...especially in light of Michigan's
hard winter so far. Being able to be out and about on La Lucha
my scooter will give my energy the boost it needs. The less active
I am, the weaker I feel. My body says it's time to migrate. Now
I just need to talk my heart into it.
TUESDAY, JANUARY 2, 2001
One week from tonight Amtrak's California Zephyr will pull into its final destination at Emeryville, CA and I'll get off the train. My friend S.W. will be there to meet me. He--often with his partner P.O.--has met me every visit since January 1996 when I first migrated to San Francisco for the winter. I have many dear friends in the Bay Area but these two fellows are like family, the ones I put down as next-of-kin when I need a local name. I doubt if I could have manifested this dream without their help.
When I write that, I feel the stirrings of excitement. Now I need that excitement to translate into getting off my duff and starting to pack. Not even pack, simply gather and organize. It isn't that I need to carry a lot of stuff with me, but I do need to prepare to be away for the next three months. See to my part of the taxes. Organize my banking materials. Arrange for bills to go to my SF address. Start up long distance service on my SF phone. Fill out the mail-forwarding cards. Get insurance coverage for my new digital camera. Gather my SF papers, maps, disability taxi-vouchers, stamps and envelopes, various instruction books, battery chargers and electrical cords, kitchen utensils, afghan and towels. I need warm coats and serious raingear. A few books and CDs. Of course, my laptop and printer. La Lucha must be ready with her usual travelling "Lift Here" and "Do Not Lift Here" labels affixed in appropriate places. A couple of questions remain. Will I bring my drum this year? Will I take the time to go across the river to Windsor, ONT for a much-needed haircut, or wait until I get to SF. Hope Jennifer over on Clement Street is still there--she defined my idea of a "white-feathers" haircut.
So here I sit. And when I was not sitting at the computer today, I was looking at everything around me with nostalga. Nostalgic before I even leave. Sparkling icicles dripping in today's "heat wave" of 28º F. The back corner in the kitchen where I like to eat lunch. The view of our neighbors' yards that I see when sitting on our back stoop in warmer weather. Our own snow-burdened bushes.
In my front upstairs room, I see the altar I've been creating for many years. On it lie my first basket of Sacred Stones®, a Tibetan bowl, my long white braid cut last March, crystals and stones, the love icon E.D. sent me last Valentine's Day, the hand-carved rose quartz bear I bought from a First Nations woman in Sante Fe, NM in 1993, a silk pouch with dirt from a Chinese temple brought back to me by my acupuncturist, a brass dragon with an iridescent crystal in its paws (a gift from M. and A., a homeless couple I know from SF's Simply Supper), the three-bowled raku vase I made in 1981, assorted feathers, my hand-painted rune stones, the wooden figure that was a going-away gift from S.W. and P.O. after my first SF winter stay, a candle created by my friend P.K., an Ortega's handwoven rug bought during my road trip to NM with two women friends in 1990, a Navaho weaving I bought on a solitary trip to Arizona's mesa country in 1994, the peace pipe from a Detroit Pow Wow I attended with refugees from the shelter where an artist friend and I used to facilitate weekly art therapy sessions. The seeds of so much of my life is contained in these small objects.
Every winter, I find myself
seeing and valuing with fresh eyes and open heart all that I am
leaving behind. It must be a way of placing my Michigan life so
deep within that I carry it with me. Perhaps this is the most
important "packing" I need to do.
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 3, 2001
If I hear one more recorded message that begins, "We've changed our options to better serve you. Please press 1 for this, 2 for that, 3 for the other thing, 4 if you're bored waiting, 5 if you're ready to scream, 6 if you want to throddle whoever designed this system, 7 if you're going to hang up." By the time I find a human voice--if I ever do find a human voice--I'm hardly fit to relate to anyone. Isn't there a better way to handle business? After four such calls to three phone companies and one credit card company, I was a basket case. And I'm not even going to mention the "music" I got to listen to while I waited--15 minutes in one case--before I finally got to talk to that live voice. And then there was the call checking on claims made for Blue Cross coverage of my scooter where the fellow couldn't evenfind my file--"Must have been misfiled. You know we've got 6000 files over here. It happens sometimes." Yuck.
I'd have to say today was not at the top of my hit parade. Not only the frustrations on the phone, but the mess that now surrounds me. I'm the kind of person who doesn't mind messy drawers or closets--if I can close them off from sight--but when my living space gets cluttered, it disturbs me. That's why I didn't want to start packing. Once I start, everything's out there until it's time to leave.
Even so, I know I got a lot accomplished. Still need to finish pulling together my tax materials and fill out my mail-forwarding cards, but that shouldn't take long. I'd like to have all my non-clothing organized by tomorrow. I've sorted most of my papers and made piles of what I want to take to California. I even packed one box for E.D. to take to UPS. The rest of the stuff will go with me by train.
By 6 PM, I needed something to restore my serenity (sanity?). As I've done so often before, I lit a candle and incense, put on Barbara Higbie's solo piano CD "Variations on a Happy Ending", turned out the lights and sat down in E.D.'s great-grandmother's rocking chair. An hour later, I was feeling human again.
I sense tomorrow will
be an easier day. At least I have no more phone business to conduct.
That is a major plus!
THURSDAY, JANUARY 4, 2001
Every time something threatens my being able to keep up with this journal, I see how much it means to me. This morning I heard a loud beep-beep after pushing the boot-up button on my laptop. Within seconds I was met with a black screen that had "keyboard error" in a small box at the upper left corner, and two boxes on the lower right and left saying, "F1 to boot" and "F10 to set up". Telephone tech support was the next button I pushed--on my phone, that is.
Long and short was that either I would need to buy a new keyboard or perhaps the little bit of water I'd dropped on the keyboard last night was messing up the works. The techie recommended going over it with a hair dryer in hopes that might dry up the problem. I couldn't find a hair dryer. When one's hair is no longer than an inch and a half, one has little use for such appliances. Anyway, I unplugged my laptop, set it on my chair, and pushed said chair to stand directly in front of the heat vent. And then I went on with my day.
Tax materials gathered and organized. Return mailing labels filled out and left for postal pick-up. Bills paid. A package mailed to a friend in Vermont. And then it was time to go off to work at the women's shelter, my last time there until next April.
The house was quiet; most of the women were out. I talked P.K. through an old recipe for baked pork chops, rice, tomatoes and onions that I remembered from my cooking days. One of my game-playing buddies returned home and we sat and played UNO and then our favorite, chicken-foot dominoes. P.K. went to pick up E.K., her daughter--my goddess daughter--from high school. When they got back to the house, E.K. let me take a quick picture of her beautiful 16-almost-17-year-old self.
Another of my game-playing friends spent the afternoon at a free medical clinic nearby, in hopes of getting some meds to help fight whatever infection has had her feeling so punk lately. What a heck of a way to spend one's 60th birthday! But she was in good spirits when she returned, and thoroughly appreciated the cake, presents and card from the staff and guests.
I learn so much from these women. Here I was going into major distress mode because a malfunctioning computer keyboard might keep me from updating my online journal today, while my new friend--who has several serious health problems--is smiling and laughing over her birthday celebration in the shelter where she now lives. Puts things in perspective.
So I came home and the
laptop was fine and dandy. Just hope I don't forget the learnings.
FRIDAY, JANUARY 5, 2001
Well, I DID accomplish one thing today...regarding my packing that is. The clothes I'm taking for my 3 month stay are now rolled (more efficient than folding) and spread out on the futon in the front room. That's a plus. Of course, there are still piles of papers and stuff on my table, desk and floor. But, hey, I still have one more day! Reminds me of how I handled term paper deadlines in high school.
So what have I been doing for the last couple of hours? Creating what I call a "home collage" of photos to use as a screensaver for my desktop, that's what. Important stuff! Just as long as I don't think about what needs to be done before Sunday at 6 AM--when we leave here to go to the train station--I'm perfectly all right. But I know it'll get done. It always has and I expect it always will.
Tonight a dear couple who moved a few miles away last spring are having a gathering of former neighbors over for dinner. Lovely farewell occasion for me. E.D. and I have been extremely fortunate to live in a neighborhood that is like the olden days where everyone looks out for each other, enjoys getting together, but respects one another's privacy. Their kids were the ones we loved having in our home all those years ago.
So now I have at least
and hour and a half to get something done in real time rather
than virtual. Let's get at it!
SATURDAY, JANUARY 6, 2001
Last night's party was so sweet. Though our friends who gave it moved a few miles away last March, they will always be part of the neighborhood. It's actually been amazing in these days of rush and change that the people who move into our neighborhood seem to stay for long periods of time. Of the folks who were at last night's party, we've been in our house almost 30 years, the D.'s for 24, the F.'s for 22, and the B.'s lived here for 21 years before they moved. Their children grew up together and we adults have all now passed the half-century mark. As always we engaged in one of our favorite neighborhood pastimes last night--singing together with E.D. on the piano.
So this will be my last journal entry before I travel west. My friend P.K. showed up at our door this afternoon and used her considerable jigsaw puzzle skills to puzzle out how to pack everything into three small bags. What a feat of spatial thinking! So now I am finally at ease and can put my energies into more important tasks...like implanting those I love here in Michigan in my heart and mind. My dearest E.D. is at the top of that list.
I'll be offline now until
Wednesday, January 10, but will bring you photos of my train ride
across the country when I return. Until then...
MONDAY, JANUARY 8, 2001
This is just too high tech! Here I am stopped right outside Winter Park, Colorado (probably waiting for another train to pass), looking at two beautiful views--one outside my left window and the other outside my right--writing a journal entry on my laptop. I'm not sure I'm ready for this!
It's now three hours since I wrote the first paragraph. We've been following the Colorado River for much of that time. I've been amazed at its determination to keep flowing no matter what. Everything may be encased in ice and snow, but the river manages to keep a channel open.
OK, a train just passed us--that must be why we stopped. I expect we'll start up again shortly. Yes, we just did.
Fifteen minutes ago, I saw a bald eagle fly to a tree beside the river. Its white head and wing tips made it easy to identify...besides, it was no more than 50 yards away. The eagle that symbolizes Spirit and Vision. May its medicine guide me as I begin this new chapter. For that is what I'm seeing on this journey, that I am being given a priceless opportunity to use the next three months in some uncharted creative way. I need only stay open like the river and trust what is to come.
Two hours have passed since I last wrote. We are now slowly making our way down the other side of the Colorado Rockies. Every time I think I cannot take in one more beautiful sight, a new image appears. Can one get tired of beauty? I've been looking so avidly, snapping pictures every few seconds (it seems), that I almost wish the sun would decide to set. Strange statement from this visually oriented person. Maybe it's partly the altitude headache that's been my companion off and on all day.
Now we're making a scheduled stop in an old town called Glenwood Springs, CO. It's where folks who are on their way to Aspen for a skiing holiday get off to catch a shuttle bus. I see an illuminated blue-and-red sign for "Juicy Lucy's Steakhouse" to my left and a large multi-storied old yellow brick building complex with red roofs that looks like a monastery on my right. I somehow doubt that's what it is, but you never know.
We've just gotten on our way again and now I see a huge highway to the right with a K Mart. In the Rockies? Ah well, so much for back-to-nature.
It's now 4:30 PM Mountain Time and the sun has just dipped below the mountains. But the sky continues to be blue with wispy white clouds combed through it. Will the clouds turn color when the sun actually sets? And what about tonight's full moon? What a fortunate sense of timing for a train ride across country.
I just took a series of photographs of the sun setting over a distant ridge. And now the sky is taking its turn for grandeur. By the way, my headache has disappeaared since we've entered the foothills. But it's a lot harder to type because they've really opened her up now that we're on the flats. We're probably going 75-80 mph.
All I needed was the moon.
I've just spent the last half hour soaking up its radiant golden
light as darkness fell. What healing power. I realize all day
long I've been looking into bright sun. This deep velvet blue
sky with its full circle moon is the perfect antidote.
TUESDAY, JANUARY 9, 2001
It's the skies that I love. Big broad expanse of sky that meets the earth as an equal partner. No trees, just sagebrush. Subtle colors ranging from light ochre to burnt siena to sandy beige to deep umber to russet to yellowish brown...all the earth tones I remember using sparingly on my watercolor palette.
It is now 10 AM Pacific Time and we're about an hour east of Sparks, Nevada. The sun has just appeared after a misty, cloudy morning. But grey clouds still crowd the sky, with peeps of blue scattered throughout. A range of mountains stands off in the distance, mostly brown but the taller peaks are glazed white. Now a shaft of sun is illuminating white houses off to the left. We're just passing through a small town with gas stations, wooden houses with trucks parked in front, a school with shining metal bleachers beside its playing field, liquor stores and some small industrial-type buildings.
It is now 11:30 AM Pacific Time. We've just left Reno, Nevada where a lot of passengers came on board. A few minutes before that we'd stopped--and been allowed to get off the train and walk up and down the platform for about 20 minutes--in Sparks, NV. It's serious gambling country through here, but on a small scale. You can almost taste the strange mix of promise and despair. There are a few glitzy casinos with flashing signs but nothing can change the fact that these are small towns in the middle of the desert.
We're now following the Truckee River into California. In less than an hour we'll stop at the town of Truckee which is the closest we come to Lake Tahoe. Within a matter of minutes we've moved from desert to pine trees, mountains with sparkling river rapids and snow-covered hills. What a dramatic shift! We've obviously entered the eastern Sierra Nevadas. For the first time I realize why this mountain range is called such--at least the "Nevada" part. I now see Tahoe's ski slopes in the distance. And now there is snow on the north side of the tracks and not on the south. Here we are in Truckee, CA. A small town, old and quaint. We are now only 45 minutes behind schedule. And that's halved since this morning! We may be on time into Emeryville yet.
Speaking of snow, it's been strange to note that even through the Colorado Rockies, I never saw as much snow as we had in Detroit when I left on Sunday. That includes the ski resorts.
We're now going through a very long tunnel. It must cover miles. Before the tunnel, there was a lovely lake off the the right. Here comes the light. I just saw a ski tow off to the right, and now the pines are covered with snow. It is very beautiful. A snow-covered lake or field is off to our left. And now we're in another tunnel--a relatively short one this time. We just passed a ski hill on our left.The clouds look heavy like it wants to snow. I now remember when I came through the Sierra Nevadas last winter it looked mostly green then. Now everything is white.
It is 3 PM and I've just returned from lunch. I was delighted to spend more time with M., who is visiting the US from her home in the south of England. She'll be in San Francisco for 3-4 days and we're planning to get together.
We've just speeded up
going down a hill and the abrupt side-to-side motion is playing
havoc with my typing. I think it's time to pack up anyway. So
I'll sign off for today. See you in the city!
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 10, 2001
I wake to the drumbeat of rain on my roof. But rain does nothing to dampen the beauty of the garden outside my window-walled cottage, or my delight at seeing flowers blooming in January and the bathtub hidden among bamboo shoots.
This day has been full, perhaps too much so. But it's my own doing. I've been going through the digital photos I took on the section of my train ride from Denver, Colorado through the Sierra Nevada mountain range in California. A rather massive undertaking since the photos number over 200. I am choosing which ones to use for links to the journal entries I wrote on the train, then resizing/compressing and creating a web page for each one. Now, no one gave me this assignment except myself. But I really wanted to share this journey with you, my visitors. Especially my regular readers. You were so present with me as I travelled by train across the US from Detroit to San Francisco that I wanted to give you an eye into what I saw and felt.
Well, after spending hours and hours on this project--in addition to unpacking and getting settled in my studio cottage, and volunteering at Simply Supper--I realize it cannot be finished today. But I'll share what I've accomplished thus far. We can wait until another day to sit down over a leisurely cup of tea and talk.
Right now I'm one tired
puppy. Be sure to check out the previous two entries--they are
the ones I wrote on the train and added photo links to today.
THURSDAY, JANUARY 11, 2001
Such a lovely--though very rainy--day spent with my friend from the train, M.C. We didn't let the weather stop us and walked/scooted a mile down to Balmy Alley, the Mission's most famous street of murals. I'll take photos of it some other time as my camera is not particularly fond of being used during downpours. We then stopped in at the Precita Eyes Mural Center, which has been at the heart of San Francisco's mural tradition for the past 20 years. After that, we went across the street to a Mexican/Salvadoran taqueria for lunch. Steak and onions for M.C. and shrimp with onions for me, with rice and beans for us both. Delicious!
After our wet wanderings we came back to my cottage for...quess what? A cup of Earl Grey tea (decaf) with milk, of course. M.C. has had a most interesting life already--and she's still in her 30s. She spent years working in Kenya, Sierre Leone and Nigeria, and is now back living and working in her home country, England. For much of that time, she's worked in the volunteer sector, as her father did before her. She's extremely well informed about global issues and fascinating to talk with. I thoroughly enjoyed our time together.
On Saturday morning, she's off on the rest of her train journey--San Diego, Tucson, AZ or El Paso, TX, then on to New Orleans, and finally, Washington, DC. After this three week holiday, she'll return home to a new position in the national organization for which she works in London. Thanks to email, we can stay in touch.
As I was checking my email messages after M.C. left, my neighbor K. and her dear dog, Bags came to visit. She and her roommate live in the ground floor flat of M.R. and E.S.'s house, so we share this glorious garden. When I visited in October, Bags and I became good buddies. It didn't hurt that I'd let him out during the day to play in the garden. K. came over because they want to invite M.R., E.S. and me over for dinner next week.
I wondered why K. was home early from work, but the reason she gave does not bode well for those of us in Northern California. PG&E (Pacific Gas & Electric) implemented another Stage 3 alert today, meaning there can be rolling blackouts without warning. Her company--a major national corporation--received an email from PG&E at noon warning of such a blackout at their corporate headquarters in San Mateo. At 4 PM, with no further notice, everything blacked out. She said the employees felt like they were getting a snow day. Makes me glad I brought extra candles, afghans and flashlights, just in case. Could be a very strange winter.
Tonight being Thursday,
it was my chorus rehearsal night.
Since the winter of 1996, I've sung with the Lesbian/Gay Chorus
of San Francisco whenever I'm in town. This chorus is another
of my friend J.P.'s legacies to me; he sang with them until he
grew too ill prior to his death in November 1994. I love this
of men and women and am always enlivened by singing with them.
Our current director, Michael
Carlson, is gifted musically and makes rehearsals not only
fun but educational and engrossing as well. As this year's winter
concert is only five weeks away, I'm not sure I'll try to perform.
Just singing with them for three hours every week is enough to
make me happy.
FRIDAY, JANUARY 12, 2001
I wake to a bright sunny day, mild and inviting. As is my habit on such days, I go outside to sit in the garden in my nightgown and bathrobe. And who should join me but sweet Bags, my neighbor's dog. Such a gentle-spirited companion.
Today I want to take you through my "tiny urban cottage", as M.R. and E.S.--who created it--call it. The structure itself was a dirt-floored shed until two years ago. We assume it was built in 1896 at the same time as their Victorian house. It had four doors and four windows along the garden side which makes us wonder if it might have been used as dormitory housing for railroad workers...or maybe even a brothel.
In the winters of 1996 and '97, I sublet a third floor apartment from S.K.--originally found through a newspaper ad--that was next door to M.R. We met across our back balconies and became friends. I remember the day she joined me for tea and said, "I'd like to tell you of a dream I have, but I don't want to disappoint you if it doesn't work out." Her dream was to turn the shed in her backyard into a guest cottage for friends and family, with the idea that I could rent it during my winter stays in the city. She and her former SO/present husband, E.S., an architect, planned to design and then contract out the work as a prelude to developing their own design company here in the Bay Area. They figured it would be a good way to learn the ins-and-outs of the trade. By last winter, the cottage was ready for my first stay. As you'll see, it is a masterpiece of artistic, architectural and ecological design.
To visit me, you will follow a cement walk between two Victorian houses. When you get to the tall wooden privacy fence, just press the buzzer and I'll come let you in. Your first view will be of the garden, with my cottage behind the fig tree on your left. As you enter through french doors, you'll see the kitchen directly in front of you. To your right is the main living area with a computer desk and built-in bed at the far end. When you look back from the bed, there is an L-shaped couch on the right and a long wooden window seat on the left. Behind that area is the kitchen and finally, the bathroom. The kitchen is fully equipped, with plenty of cabinets, a gas stove, sink and half-sized refrigerator. The bathroom is large enough for a wheelchair and I've outfitted it with a tub-rail and shower chair for better accessibility.
They designed this cottage like a boat so every inch of space is utilized. For instance, there are storage bins under the couch, deep drawers under the bed, a large closet in the living area, and a smaller one in the bathroom. The only free-standing furniture is a wooden table in front of the couch and my computer chair.
Even on grey, rainy days--like yesterday when I took most of these pictures--the cottage is bright and cheery. That is because of their inspired choice of colors (yellow and green for the walls and outrageous orange in the bathroom) plus two skylights in the roof and the windows and french doors facing the garden. The floor is stained cement divided into blocks that resemble Mexican tile.
It is a most livable,
pleasant environment. I count myself among the most fortunate
people in San Francisco to have this as my winter nest...and to
have dear M.R. and E.S. as friends who so graciously share their
SATURDAY, JANUARY 13, 2001
The day began with a long phone conversation with E.D. As we talked, I lay in bed and looked out the window at another beautiful San Francisco day. We talk every day, but Saturday and Sunday are special because our conversations can be more leisurely. Our call meant a lot to me today as I'd been hit with a strong wave of missing him last night. Much as I believe SF is the best place for me in the winter--particularly this winter--that never stops my bouts of homesickness. When they come, it helps me to imagine being with E.D. wherever he might be at that moment. Good thing I have a good imagination and that E.D. is pretty predictable in his habits so I usually know where to find him.
After our talk, I got dressed, hopped on La Lucha my scooter and ventured out into the neighborhood. First stop was an auto repair shop where I asked the mechanic for help with my scooter. Since I've been back in the city, she's been creeping when she's supposed to be in brake mode--a dangerous situation in this city of hills. I'd called the scooter shop in Michigan on Wednesday and they recommended blowing out the freewheel switch with an air hose to remove any possible grit that might be messing up the mechanism. This mechanic, K. by name, was most helpful. He stopped what he was doing and removed my scooter's chair and battery cover. When I looked more closely at the mechanism, I saw a wire was loose. K. tightened and replaced it and then used the air hose to clean everything out. La Lucha now works like her old dependable self. Whew!
I scooted down to Mission and 24th where I planned to take BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) to the Embarcadero. A number of years ago there used to be a farmers' market near the Ferry Building on Saturday mornings. I wondered if by chance it might still be happening. But even if it weren't, I figured it'd be fun to go downtown.
There was an older woman on the BART with her cat in a carrier. As we sped along, she let it out and then asked a young man sitting near her to open a can of cat food. He did so and she set the can on papers in her lap where her cat happily ate its breakfast. This is why I like taking public transportation in San Francisco--a slice of life.
Well, there was no farmers market, but I didn't mind. I scooted down Market Street past lines of tourists waiting to ride the cable cars at Powell Street, musicians with open music cases in front of them hoping for tips, old men playing chess, and a large number of homeless folks either sleeping or pushing loaded shopping carts down city sidewalks.
I saw a small import store near the Civic Center that had beautiful carpets. A friend in Michigan had recommended that I could counteract the cold cement floors in my cottage by getting a rug, so I went into the store to check things out. F., the shop keeper, turned out to be a generous-spirited woman who let me set my own ridiculously low price for a machine-made oriental-type carpet and we struck a deal. She rolled it up and I shoved it under one arm and out the front of the scooter to carry it home. It looks and feels great in the space by the couch. I think it's going to help me stay warmer this winter.
After answering a few
emails, I got back on La Lucha and headed up 24th Street to see
about getting a long-overdue haircut. Ran into K.
and Bags, my neighbors, sitting in front of the laundromat.
After a short visit, I went into a bagel shop for a late lunch--jalapeña
cheddar bagel with vegetable cream cheese and tangerine juice.
Then it was on to the hair
salon where I waited an hour but ended up with a fine cut
for a low price. Three more stops--to pick up a few things at
an organic grocery, to get a bunch of orange tulips with yellow
tips at a flower
shop, and to buy Alice Walker's By the Light of My Father's
Smile at the book store--and I was ready to call it a day.
A wonderful day, at that.
SUNDAY, JANUARY 14, 2001
I like Sundays in San Francisco, especially when--like today--there is such a perfect blend of quiet time, talking to my sweetie, singing with women, and getting together with friends for a meal. Nothing was rushed or forced; things flowed naturally, one into the other.
This afternoon I sang rounds for a couple of hours with seven women. This group was formed about a year ago when K.E., with whom they'd been singing for years, discontinued teaching her classes. It is a performing group that has sung in retirement homes, hospitals, at a memorial service and other settings...anywhere that seems appropriate to accapella rounds singing. I was invited to join them by B.F., a wonderful womanI've known at WoMaMu (Women Making Music) camp for the past few years. I was also delighted to see A. there, another friend from WoMaMu. After hearing the quality of sound this group produces and seeing their level of commitment, I am honored to be singing with them during my winter stay. Happily I already knew two of the rounds we rehearsed today, and was quite taken with the other three that were new to me. From today forward, rehearsals will be twice a month.
My next stop was a tamale-making party with friends in the city. Actually I was there in time to reap the benefit of their two days of marketing, shredding meat and cheese, mixing the fillings, wrapping 150 tamales by hand in corn husks, packaging them for freezing, and then cooking an assortment for our dinner. This is a group I've known for years and throughly enjoy spending time with. We always laugh as much as we eat. Tonight was no exception.
And now I'm home and ready
to hit the hay, as my southern mother used to say.
MONDAY, JANUARY 15, 2001
I had hoped to go downtown this morning and join the Martin Luther King, Jr. parade that started at 10 AM, but my body had other ideas. Guess I was pretty tired as I didn't wake up until 11:30 AM. I'm fortunate to be able to allow my body to restore itself in this way without forcing it awake with an alarm clock. I find alarms quite abusive instruments.
My first order of business was to call Yoshi's, the jazz club in Oakland, to get a ticket for tonight's CD party/performance by Jack West & the Curvatures, described as an "8-string guitar virtuoso". I'll take BART over to the 12th Street station in Oakland, scoot about 13 blocks to Jack London Square--where the new Yoshi's is located--and enjoy the show. It's probably been three years since Yoshi's moved from their old place near where I lived during my first winter in the Bay Area. I was a regular on Monday nights when the cover price was reduced and the acts were less well known but still excellent. Since then it's been beyond my physical capacity to make my way over there and I've missed it. But now that I have La Lucha my scooter, Yoshi's, here I come!
After my phone call to Yoshi's, I sat in my sunny garden and read the Pink Section (arts and entertainment) from yesterday's Sunday San Francisco Chronicle. It was the first day I've allowed myself to slow down and just sit like this. My eyes delighted in the more subtle sights of a lone strawberry nestled in the raised stawberry bed to my left, the luxuriant calla lily beside the wooden fence behind me and one magnolia in bloom before its time on my neighbor's tree. The song of a meadow lark seranaded me for at least a half hour. They manage to go the longest without repeating themselves of any bird I know.
While still in the garden I used my portable (not cell) phone to call both E.D. and a dear friend on the East Coast. Their news was of a disturbingly similar nature. E.D. told me of a close friend who we knew had been feeling poorly for months. He's now in the middle of extensive tests and something has been found in his lung. My woman friend has also not been feeling well and is in the middle of tests. "Something" has been found in her uterus and her colon, but there is no definitive news yet. At times like this, the most I can do is hold them both in good strong health-filled energy during this time of suspense and dread. May whatever is wrong be receptive to healing, and may they feel at peace in the process.
It is now 4 PM and time for me to begin to get on my way.
Well, it's now almost 11 PM and I'm home again (obviously!). The evening was a huge success. It took me much less time to get over there than I'd anticipated--only an hour--so I stopped at a Peruvian restaurant in Oakland and had a delicious bowl of seafood chowder.
The new Yoshi's is perfection--totally accessible, a raised stage that makes it easier to see the performers, wonderful acoustics, and more room between the chairs and tables to get around. They had reserved me a table three rows back in the center. I was most comfortable sitting in La Lucha and had a grand view.
Jack West and his band--vibes, bass, drums and a guest cellist--performed original work that showed off their skill and offered a unique blend of jazz, folk and world music. I was especially taken with the piece he had composed after returning home from the WTO protests in Seattle a year ago. I closed my eyes and was transported to Windsor, Ontario and the OAS demonstrations I was part of last June.
This evening went so well
that I bought a ticket to see my favorite singer, Nancy Wilson,
on Tuesday, February 13. Maybe I'm going to become a Yoshi's regular
TUESDAY, JANUARY 16, 2001
Another beautiful sunny, blue-sky day. I had a lunch date with my friend, D.W., at our favorite cafe on Dolores Park. Though I've now been in the city a week, it was our first opportunity to get together. Although we stay caught up by phone and email when I'm in Michigan, nothing can replace the opportunity to hang out together and let our thoughts and words flow like meandering streams. We both ordered the curried zucchini soup which was as spicy and delicious as our conversation.
After lunch I scooted over to Cliff's Hardware in the Castro to buy a cooking pot and some poster paper. I need to make a sign for Saturday's noontime demonstration at the Civic Center. There will be protest demonstrations across the country on January 20 to coincide with the presidential inauguration in Washington, DC. We need to raise our voices against Bush's reactionary policies and appointments. Hopefully this will inaugurate four years of activist liberal involvement--we're going to need it.
On my way home, I scooted by the Women's Building at 18th Street between Guerrero and Valencia. The extraordinary murals on this building were completed just before I visited my friend, J.P., shortly before he died in autumn 1994. Though he was very ill by then, he insisted on taking me over to see them. "I just knew you'd love these murals!", was his comment. My photos are of only one side of the building; the front is equally glorious.
I take Valencia home because it is the flattest street around. It's also a most interesting mix of small businesses, Victorian houses, restaurants, storefront churches and a couple of schools. It's not unusual to confuse a building's exterior with a work of art.
Speaking of art, my favorite house is on 24th Street between Valencia and Guerrero. I call it the easter egg house. Actually I think the owner paints houses for a living and uses his own as advertising. Very effective!
After a few hours at home, it was time to go to the Lesbian/Gay Chorus of SF's women's sectional rehearsal tonight. My friend, P., was planning to pick me up but had a dead car. I waited a chilly half hour out in front before I came back inside and got her series of phone messages. She arranged for Y. to pick me up and we made it in time to nibble a couple pieces of pizza before we started singing. The song we worked on was called "Big Dogs and Wild Wild Women" with low, middle and high parts. Michael Carlson directed and accompanied us on the keyboard. A couple of my photos mixed the sections or made them look like two separate groups, especially the middles/lows, and highs.
It is now 11:30 PM and
time for bed. It'll feel good to stretch out. It's been a big
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 17, 2001
What a gorgeous day. Now maybe it wasn't so gorgeous for those folks who lost power in the first of the long-threatened rolling blackouts in California. The big question in San Francisco today was, "Which block are you in?" The blackouts happen block by block. Now a "block" is not a geographical neighborhood, rather a predetermined set of residences, businesses and traffic lights in San Francisco, San Jose, Chico--anyplace in Northern California. I guess PG&E (Pacific Gas & Electric) is trying to be fair about this and not close down whole cities or areas at one time. As far as I understand, blocks 1-6 were scheduled for rolling blackouts today, which last anywhere from 60-90 minutes. For all I know I could be on that list--I don't yet know what block I'm in--so if the day comes that I don't get my journal entry posted at the usual time, just figure my block came due.
For those readers who have no idea what I'm talking about, California is in the throes of a recent state-wide energy deregulation gone bad. For a number of reasons, there is simply not enough energy available to keep this state--if it were a country, it would have the sixth largest economy in the world--plugged in. Anyway, the powers-that-be are currently attempting to re-regulate the power sources, but one of the problems is that there are simply not enough power plants to meet the demand. For ten years prior to deregulation, industries stopped building power plants in California so things are going to be tough for a goodly while.
The PG&E folks have begged, borrowed and maybe stole all the power they could get from other states, but since they have no $$ to pay--their debts are in the billions of dollars and growing--those sources are understandably reluctant to "sell" their power. Besides the winter demand in their own states is tightening things up. And, of course, California's citizens--good activists that they are--had anticipated problems and insisted on a legal cap to how much the utilities could pass onto customers in rate increases during this first year of deregulation. It's a mess. I really feel for those individuals who wake up every morning with the task of trying to find energy for that day from someplace, anyplace. Talk about stress!
But, happily, the sun was brightly shining on those folks who lost electricity today. I sat in the garden and read by myself for awhile. Then Bags came to visit and settled in his favorite--now off limits because he's digging up the plants--spot in the sunny corner of the strawberry bed. Bags was followed by L. who lives in the ground floor flat with K., Bags and G. After she and I had a wonderful conversation, E.S. joined us from upstairs to eat his french-inspired bacon-and-egg salad. And tonight we'll all be getting together again because K., L. and G. have invited E.S. and M.R. and me for dinner. Such wonderful neighbors!
At 3:30 PM, S.W. picked me up to go work at Simply Supper, a free dinner offered from 4-5 PM on Wednesdays and Fridays--we just work Wednesdays--at MCC (Metropolitan Community Church) in the Castro. This time I brought my digital camera and was pleased that a number of workers and guests were comfortable with my taking their pictures.
E. is the amazing coordinator of this most sucessful program. I often hear from our guests that the food at Simply Supper is at the top of their list of free meals in the city. I can attest to that because today I just had to taste E.'s tuna casserole and found it excellent! G. and A. are friends whom I always enjoy seeing and talking to. G. checks out my web site every so often on his computer so I hope he likes his photo. F. frequently sits near where I take up tickets as guests come to the dining room to eat--tickets are handed out by S.W. downstairs at the front door to help us keep track of numbers--and he and I have had some interesting conversations. Our workers serve food from the kitchen, clean trays and dishes, help cook, pour juice and water at the tables, and generally keep things running smoothly.
Today a young man complimented the dinner as he left. "You know, the ingredient that makes your food taste so good is the love."
It's now 11 PM and I've
just returned home from dinner at K.,
G. and L.'s apartment next to mine in the garden. We had homemade
miso soup, brown rice with tofu and other treasures, a main dish
of sauteed eggplant, long beans and asparagus, with angel food
cake covered in hot spiced apples for dessert--all created by
L. What an artist! M.R. and E.S.,
our friends and owners of these wonderful spaces we rent, were
there, as well as L.'s
friend, P. Their other roommate, G., got up from a sick bed
to join us...and of course Bags, K's dog, was hanging out under
the table hoping we'd drop a crumb or two. He must not have realized
it was a totally vegetarian meal. Conversation was what one always
hopes for at a dinner party--interesting, inclusive and entertaining.
A perfect evening.
THURSDAY, JANUARY 18, 2001
Oh, I really needed this day of quiet. In the middle of the night I realized my difficulty getting a ride to tonight's chorus rehearsal was offering me an opportunity to reconsider my options. Since Thursday=chorus in my mind, I'd not even thought about not going. But when I looked back on this week, I saw that I'd been out the last four nights. That would give me tomorrow night at home, and then I'd be out again on Saturday night. Too much, already. I needed a time-out to restore my Self to myself. So I took it.
I spent much of the day curled up on the couch, reading. My friend, D.W., had loaned me a book by a former colleague of hers from the days when she'd taught in university. Motherhouse by Jeanine Hathaway is a novel based on her life as a nun and the spiritual journey that took her into and later out of the convent. Hathaway is a poet as well as a creative writing professor, so the book is a pleasure to read. Though I was never in the convent--didn't even go to Catholic school--I still recognize a lot of the mystical allure that she describes. Her book evokes a simpler era when many of us believed there was one true path to spiritual fulfillment clearly defined by our traditional religion. I've not gotten there yet, but I'm expecting to read of her disillusionment with the religious system and resultant struggle to find her own way into the uncharted territories of authentic spirit.
As I took this precious day to myself, I received a phone message from a woman I know who asked me to return her call at specific times that are convenient to her. Why do I object to such a summons? And why do I feel I have to obey her command to return her call? Well, on this day of listening to my inner voice rather than the "shoulds", I chose not to answer and that feels just fine.
How valuable to take a
day apart. I'd almost forgotten how to be with myself alone.
FRIDAY, JANUARY 19, 2001
Today was one of those sunny, mild San Francisco January days. A day that makes you forget this is supposed to be the rainy season. And my friends and I used it to the hilt!
We started with lunch at my favorite restaurant in the city, Green's. All dishes are not only vegetarian, but made with fresh organic produce from Green Gulch Farm, a Zen retreat center near Muir Beach. As you enter the front door, a mammoth bouquet of fresh flowers, grasses and branches always greets you. Today it stood perhaps 8' tall and was made up of yellow forsythia and cream-to-gold tulips just starting to open. The restaurant is in Fort Mason and overlooks the marina, Golden Gate Bridge and the Marin Headlands across the bay.
Our party was special. D.W.'s friend, J. from Texas, was in town for a few days and D.W. wanted her "three muses" to meet. These were the writers/poets who helped when D.W.was putting together her first book of poems, Marrow of Flame, that was published last spring. She even dedicated the book to us--J., K.K. and me. As we entered the restaurant, J. fell in love with the huge old-growth redwood tree fragment that gives character to the place.
After lunch and a quick tour of one of the nearby art galleries, we started off on a driving tour of San Francisco, with our gracious out-of-town guest at the wheel. First was the Palace of Fine Arts, originally built for the World's Exhibition at the beginning of the last century. D.W. and J. got out and chatted near the car. Then up the very steep Divisadero hill and right on Clay Street over to the Sea Cliff district where mansions overlook China Beach, a favorite surfing spot. Still further west towards Land's End that has a most beautiful view of the Golden Gate Bridge from the ocean side. We drove past the Palace of the Legion of Honor museum where there is currently an exhibit of John Cage's art. Then to D.W.'s and my favorite overlook above the Cliff House with the Pacific Ocean spread out before us. Ocean Beach was our next stop. Though I've seen the waves a lot more spectacular than they were today, it was still deeply satisfying to watch them crashing against Seal Rock. On our way home we drove through Golden Gate Park. Every place you look in this park--even just to the side of the road--is filled with beauty.
This evening, after J. and D.W. left me off at home, I hopped on La Lucha my scooter and went down Valencia Street in search of an Indian restaurant. I had such a hankering for samosas, chana masala, poori bread and sweet lassi to drink. I found a small restaurant on 16th that, believe it or not, serves pizza slices and Indian food! My dinner was delicious and the owner complimented me on my choice of food. "Have you been to India? What you ordered goes so well together." I wonder what other patrons order.
I came home and worked
on my sign for tomorrow's protest demonstration against Bush's
inauguration as president. It is on black poster board and has
the following printed in silver ink: "George W. Bush, tell
me...What about women's right to choose, the rights of persons
of color, the rights of G/L/B/T, our planet???"
SATURDAY, JANUARY 20, 2001
San Francisco's presidential inauguration protest demonstration and march was so like this city--densely populated, diverse, creative and a lot of fun. The estimate on the radio was 10,000 participants, but I'm inclined to think that might be on the conservative side. It was certainly one of the largest demonstration/marches I've ever attended, and that includes two national marches in Washington, DC--the 1990 tenth anniversary march to honor El Salvador's assassinated Archbishop Oscar Romero, and the 1996 AIDS Quilt candlelight march. La Lucha my scooter made it possible for me to rally and march the miles we traveled without running out of gas, figuratively or literally. Besides she so graciously carried my sign. By the end of the day, folks were asking to hitch a ride on my bumper.
There were babies, teenagers, older folks, activist women, dancers, drummers, lots of young adults, even a giant puppet maker/organizer I'd met at Windsor, Ontario's OAS demonstrations last June. Folks were in good moods even though the reason we were together was not something to make any of us happy. At a protest demo like this, the good feelings come from being among other people who share your views, at least your views about this particular issue. Though we might have very different reasons why having George W. Bush as president disturbs us, we gathered today as a chorus of voices in harmony with one another. Socialists, communists, labor unionists, college students, homeless, feminists, persons of color, middle class families, immigrants, lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender persons, working poor, environmentalists, death penalty abolitionists, Gore supporters...they were all there.
The weather cooperated with gray skies and a chill to the air--no rain--during the noontime Civic Center rally and 3 mile march. By the time we arrived at a Western Addition park in mid-afternoon for another series of speeches, the sun had come out and warmed things up. By then it just felt like a wonderful street party. I ran into several friends, including P.McD., who kindly posed with an unidentified man and his little one while I snapped their picture.
I'd say that one image
stands out as symbolic of what I experienced today. It is an image
(hope). What started in Seattle a year ago, has steadily grown
in numbers and commitment. The people are awakening to their power
to effect change when engaged in a common purpose. They will not
give up. No matter what Bush or members of his administration
do, our eyes will be watching and we will hold them accountable.
Public apathy is a thing of the past.
SUNDAY, JANUARY 21, 2001
My day was spent with women I love.
It began with brunch at our local deli/organic grocery with M.R., from whom I rent this "tiny urban cottage". It was our first opportunity to sit down and talk since I arrived almost two weeks ago. I greatly admire her honesty, dedication and creative responses to life's challenges. Besides she really knows how to be a friend.
Then it was time for my San Francisco women's group to meet. To be in a circle of women who have shared life for a period of time is like soaking in a warm tub...relaxing, embodying, supportive. So it was this afternoon. This is a small circle--7 women--that has been meeting monthly for ritual and sharing since May 1999. They're kind enough to let me be part of the circle whenever I'm in town. Today there were 5 of us present. Since we were meeting in my cottage, I was to offer the focus of the gathering.
I had asked each woman to bring two objects: the first was to symbolize where she was in her journey at the end of the year 2000; the other, to show where she hopes to be at the end of 2001. I chose a feather to symbolize the wings that La Lucha my scooter gave me last year, and a local weed (I think it's called oxsala) with beautiful yellow flowers to show the growth I dream will happen with my web site this coming year. Each woman had equally unique responses. We also had a time of check-in/sharing, voice toning, and silent meditation. We ended with 4 of us going to a new Thai restaurant in my neighborhood for dinner.
Our conversation centered on our new president, his divisive cabinet appointments (especially Ashcroft), the new activism that has been generated by his (s)election, the threat we feel he and his advisors pose to our planet, and how each of us plans to keep our sanity and sense of humor during the next four years. It helps that we share environmentally-friendly, feminist, non-violent views and beliefs. Of course, so does the vast majority of people in this wonderfully liberal city!
Speaking of San Franciscans and their political ideology, I read in today's Chronicle that our inaugural protest demonstration and march yesterday had 15,000 participants instead of 10,000. Many of the marchers said it was the first time they'd ever demonstrated about anything. I had thought as much. There was certainly the usual cast of characters, but I also saw lots of "unactivist-looking" folks there with signs.
It is very encouraging
that the American people are beginning to wake up. That's probably
the most beneficial result of this country's long-drawn-out election
fiasco. May we stay awake and ready to take to the streets whenever
necessary. Unfortunately I suspect we'll have lots of opportunities
to do so in the next four years.
MONDAY, JANUARY 22, 2001
People often ask how I have enough energy to do all that I do, to go all the places I go, especially while here in San Francisco. My secret is taking low key days like today. I did not budge from the garden from noon to 3:30 PM, when the sun began its descent behind the apartment building on the next street. I spent most of that time reading. I'm in the middle of Alice Walker's In the Light of My Father's Smile, a lusty, magical tale of two women and their relationships with present lovers and past family members. She is such a storyteller.
So on this beautiful January day, I soaked up the sun in the garden where my cottage sits as in a fairy tale. Overhead, pink magnolia blossoms were beginning to pop open and the lime-green fern tree was unfurling its newest branches against cerelean blue skies. Behind me and extending to my right were lemon-fragrant yellow and iridescent magenta flowering bushes, lushly covered with green leaves. Facing me to the left was the three-story Victorian house where I sublet S.K.'s apartment in '97 and '98. It is the top balcony hidden behind the juniper trees.
As I sat, I heard the sounds of the garden and my neighborhood. The #48 Muni bus groaning up 24th Street. Children's screams from St. Paul's school playground a couple blocks away. The buzzing of a big bumblebee and smaller flies. Chirps, clicks and trills of birds. The whine of sirens and rumble of cars, trucks and motorcycles passing out front. My neighbor's dog's excited yelps when his owner returned home. The drone of a small plane overhead. A phone ringing in someone's apartment. Then late in the afternoon, my own voice talking with E.D. on my portable phone.
In our conversation, I promised to show him the shed that serves as my scooter garage here in the garden. It works wonderfully well.
It's now only 6 PM and
time for me to get on that lively vehicle and scoot around a bit.
I have delicious leftovers from the Indian restaurant to eat for
dinner, but first I need some activity!
TUESDAY, JANUARY 23, 2001
Each of us has a very particular music embedded in our body. When it is played or sung in our presence, we recognize more than hear it. So it is for me with jazz. And when that jazz is played live by musicians who also have it embedded in their bodies, a mutual vibration sets up between us that spiritual seekers hunger for. Tonight's performance at Yoshi's in Oakland was just such an experience of bliss.
McCoy Tyner on piano, Terence Blanchard on trumpet, George Coleman on saxophone, Charnett Moffett on bass and Brian Blade on drums. Each a master on his instrument, but together? That indefinable spark of magic passed back and forth, connecting hearts and hands, minds and breath. As the youngsters say, totally awesome! This quintet had never played as a unit before. What an inspired pairing. To be honest, the bassist was the star tonight, doing things with his instrument that we had never seen or heard before. But what I appreciated even more than his extraordinary talent was his complete attention to his fellow musicians. Whether backing up a companion's solo or playing as an equal part of the ensemble, Charnett Moffett was no place else but there.
I was so happy I had invited my neighbors, K. and L., to join me this evening. They were as delighted as I with what we saw and heard. It was a great audience--responsive, attentive and appreciative. Real jazz lovers. That was part of what helped create such musical magic.
Will I ever get to sleep
tonight? I'm still vibrating, as if I were the instrument being
played. I think I was.
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 24, 2001
I am at a gathering of women, men and children that is being held on a college campus. We are staying in the dorm. Since getting here, I've been hanging out with a boy and a girl, both about 10 or 11 years old. I leave my dorm room in search of them, and find them down the hall in an empty room...empty, that is, of furniture, but with a baby in a baby carrier sitting in the corner. The kids are all excited as they hand me a book that was tucked in with the baby. "He's yours!", they shout. "He's your new baby." My reaction is pure dismay. "What do you mean?" "Look at the book--it's all in there." The book says that this is a foster baby that is being given to me. I pick up the baby--who is a naked little boy--and am surprised at how heavy he is. This kid is dead weight; I can barely hold him. A woman, who appears to be the mother of my young friends, comes running into the room, all smiles. "How do you like him?", she asks, "I bought him for you!" "But I don't want him...besides I can't even carry him, he's so heavy." She is obviously angry and disappointed with me. I can tell the kids are also disappointed, but, darnnit, I never asked for this baby and I refuse to keep him. I awaken.
I told my dream to M.R. this afternoon when she stopped by to visit. Her response was, "So what do you think it means?" As I started to speak, I saw a relationship between this dream and my feelings about working toward having my online journal published in book form. It feels like a heavy baby, too heavy for me to carry. Besides I don't even want it. I did not know that before this dream.
Tomorrow it will be 11 months since I put up my first online journal entry. My original intention was to answer the question I often heard in emails from visitors to my site, "How do you stay so positive and upbeat in the face of having a progressive disability?" I could think of no way to explain it other than letting folks see for themselves how I live day-to-day and let them come to their own conclusions. Since keeping the journal, I've found it serves other purposes as well. It helps me stay conscious of the uniqueness of each day. When I'm away from my E.D., it helps him feel involved in my life...especially now that I have digital photos illustrating most entries. That is the same for San Francisco friends when I'm in Michigan and my Michigan/Ontario friends when I'm in SF. My site now averages 160 visitors a day, so I guess there are a number of folks out there someplace who like to check in with me on a regular basis.
So where did this "heavy baby" idea come from? If I remember correctly, it was first mentioned by an online friend who wanted her non-computered friends and colleagues who are also diagnosed with MS to be able to read my journal. I was pleased with her suggestion--probably, I should rephrase that to say my ego was pleased with her suggestion. Over the months other people have said similar things, and so I began to transpose my journal archives into a WordPerfect document. But I did not find myself particularly enthralled with the project. For instance, it's been over three months since I last worked on it.
What I realize today is that this journal was never intended to be set in stone, ie., put into print. From the beginning, my favorite part of working on the internet has been its capacity to change and evolve. It is such an organic medium. And the journal, by definition, is best viewed day-to-day. I trust whomever is meant to see it will do so. My responsibility is to write entries and put them out there. What happens after that is not my concern.
Isn't it great when dreams
answer questions you didn't even know you had?
©2000-01 Patricia Lay-Dorsey.
Please use with attribution