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WEDNESDAY, APRIL 25, 2001
What a happy moment when an unexpected visitor showed up at our front door this morning!. Ms. Squirrel had been missing for too many days. Actually I was afraid she might have been the squirrel that ran under Ed's car last Friday and was killed. Even though Ed described that squirrel as running from a young playmate when it got hit, my fears remained.
We've known Ms. Squirrel since she was a youngster three summers ago. I first saw this tiny black squirrel taking daily afternoon naps on a maple branch above where I sit out back. Then we saw her with swollen teats the second summer, and finally as a more matronly figure last summer. She's not exactly one for playing wildly these days, but you never know. It didn't help that she hadn't come around since before the accident. Actually that was on the list of things I was crying about Sunday.
So my morning was spent sitting out front in the sun watching and photographing our friend, Ms. Squirrel. It was fun to catch her in action as she made at least seven trips back and forth between the peanuts (in the shell) scattered on our front steps and wherever she was hiding them. From the sidewalk she'd jump onto the step, clutch a nut in her mouth, sit up and adjust it with her paws, scamper back across the stair, and ski-doodle outside the myrtle bed into the yard. Bushes obstructed my view so I couldn't see where she deposited these treats. But one thing was certain, she wasn't through until there was not one peanut left on that step.
Ed came out to watch a bit of the process. While there he spied a swallowtail butterfly on the old maple in front of our house, and took this wonderful picture. Speaking of Ed, he and I enjoyed a song session together yesterday. It is pretty sweet to have a husband who plays piano so well...and totally by ear.
I was at Dayhouse this afternoon by 1:30 PM for a massage with Pat. She's currently studying to become a massage therapist, but has actually been giving massages to friends and family for years. This was my first massage with her since 1993. What a gifted bodyworker!
As I was dressing after the massage, Tigger came and sat in the window. How could I resist taking his picture? Do you think he was jealous that his housemate Katrina had had her picture taken last week and was now known to people all over the world? Now it's Tigger's turn.
I took house duty until we gathered for dinner. Pat's apple pancakes and sausage (soy sausage for Pat and me) were delicious. Ask Ed. I brought him home a doggy bag for dinner. Bow wow.
Around 8:30 PM we went
off for a scoot/walk. Ed started in one direction and I in the
other, with the intention of meeting halfway. Instead of going
down by the lake to start, I turned down a street that runs parallel
to it. I was so glad I did! This was one of the few times since
moving to this community 30 years ago that I saw a sunset. There
are so many houses and trees that sunsets are usually obscured.
But, by chance tonight, I discovered that one can see the sun
go down over the golf course. I suspect from now on, this
will be my normal route at sunset time.
THURSDAY, APRIL 26, 2001
My day was planned. Lunch with Joan, my journalist friend from last summer's water aerobics class. Then to the drugstore to buy a birthday card for my sister Carolyn. Finally home to pack and get ready for my flight to BWI (Baltimore/Washington Airport) tomorrow to visit my Mom. I'll be in the Washington DC area for five days, but my journal entries will continue. Have laptop, will travel.
The laptop is easy, but getting ready to fly with La Lucha my scooter takes special preparations. I first have to go online and print out the Air Carrier's Access Act of 1990. I like to have a copy with me in case there are any problems with how Northwest Airlines handles La Lucha. The "Lift here" and "Do not lift here" tags with which I cover La Lucha must be printed and attached. And finally, I must be sure I have raingear, my fully-charged headlight, and all the scooter recharging equipment packed in her backpack. Packing my clothes is always last on my list.
So I scooted down by the lake at 12:10 PM, happy for the lovely sun and warm temperatures. It took almost 30 minutes to travel the mile and a half to Atom's Juice Cafe where we were to meet, so I was a bit late arriving. Of course, I had had to stop and take a picture or two of the beautiful spring trees and lush green grass I was seeing along the way. Then our lunch conversation was so engaging that I forgot to take a picture of Joan until she was on her way to her car.
After stopping at the drugstore, I scooted home through the neighborhoods, again stopping to take a photo or two. I was drawn to a patch of violets in my neighbor's yard. When I downloaded the photo, I was surprised to see that the only violets that showed up were in the shadow I cast. Later, as I was responding to the following email, it occurred to me that the violets-in-shadow photo might be symbolic of what activists are feeling after Quebec City. Perhaps our task is to accept that we are more visible in the shadow times than in the light.
Subj: (No Subject)
Date: 04/26/2001 3:37:48 PM Eastern Daylight Time
To: firstname.lastname@example.org (email@example.com)
I'm a journalism student from Toronto, Canada. I was looking over your site and found your insights on activism wonderful. I'm doing a paper on the protests in Quebec last week.
If you have the time, maybe you can comment on it? What did you think of the protests? I was particularly interested in your view that there is a new group of young people getting involved. How do you think this new group differs from your generation of activists?
I hope this isn't too much of a bother.
Thank you for your time.
How could such a request be a bother? I'm honored to share my insights about the new generation of activists and what happened in Quebec City.
First of all, I'm deeply troubled by the physical and emotional abuse suffered by protesters at the hands of the riot police in QC. I had first hand experience of their oppressive presence at the OAS demos in Windsor, ONT last June. However, pepper spray rather than tear gas and water cannons were their weapons of choice then. The reports that have been coming out of the QC jails on how badly the protesters were--and in some cases, still are--being treated are appalling. I certainly hope this will come to light in a very public way and that the class action suit already filed will be the first of many.
Personally, what disturbs me greatly is how they are treating Jaggi Singh, a most capable organizer and spokesperson whom I got to know at the OAS demos. He is being scapegoated for his role as organizer, and even though he is totally nonviolent himself and never promotes violence in others, the courts and police are trying to make him out as the king-of-the fence-bashers. Complete lies, yet if the courts choose, they can keep him without bail until his trial, which could be five months! This is an abomination of justice!
When I speak of today's generation of young activists, Jaggi comes to mind. He is totally committed, informed, clear-thinking and nonhierarchical in his organizing. Everything is done through spokescouncils made up of representatives of affinity groups. I see little evidence of the old "isms" that still taint our older activist organizations. Women are as respected as men in teaching, organizing and acting. The methods of organizing reflect the circle paradigm rather than the old pyramid approach that our older activist organizations still reflect. There are no leaders, although the Establishment thinks someone like Jaggi fits that role. He doesn't. It's simply that his gift is organizing, where another's might be direct action, another--like David from San Francisco--might be street theater and giant puppets. There is a place for everyone in the new world of activism.
I don't mean to sound too idealistic. I'm not. There are certainly young activists who do not judge the consequences of their actions before they jump. But that will always be true in any group. My personal experience of these young people is that they are cool-handed and extremely well-informed. They know why they're out there; it is not a game. I admire them greatly.
By the way, I learned a great deal from Naomi Klein, your own Toronto Globe and Mail columnist. She spoke at the OAS teach-ins and I've read her book, No Logos. She describes this new activism in most clear terms as a swarm of bees that the giant-killers cannot swat away. Actually the extreme over-reaction in terms of numbers and the responses by the 6000 riot police in QC only go to show that we are now a true force to be reckoned with. The powers-that-be must fear us greatly or they would simply ignore us. One can also see the effects of our presence in the many sound bites coming out of Ottawa and Washington, DC. They now feel they have to woo the public to their point of view, where before, they could go ahead with no one noticing or seeming to care.
The hard part is seeing how many young activists like Jaggi Singh are going to be hurt before our movement achieves its goals. But I believe we WILL win in the long run. It's just going to be a long struggle. We must not get discouraged. Change will come and it is the young who will bring it.
Best wishes in your work, Kris. We always need journalists to tell our story. That's how we know the power we have.
in la lucha
FRIDAY, APRIL 27, 2001
It's now midnight and I'm just starting to write this journal entry! And tomorrow I may not be able to write at all. I plan to spend the day with Mom and then at 6 PM I'm meeting my old high school friend Luke at the Metro station close to where I grew up in Virginia. He and his wife Bev are hosting a mini-reunion dinner at their house so I can see my old friends. Don't know when I'll get back here to the motel, but I suspect it'll be late. Guess it's a bit more challenging to keep up with the journal when I'm traveling.
Every part of today went swimmingly. No problems at the airport regarding La Lucha. Both Northwest ramp chiefs in Detroit and Baltimore were respectful of my needs and my scooter's needs, and the flight attendants and even the pilots were most helpful. One attendant said, "You must travel a lot. We were saying that you've really got it down!"
When I got to BWI (Baltimore/Washington Airport), the shuttle driver I'd called yesterday was there at the curb waiting to drive me to my motel an hour away. Fernando from Equador has become my shuttle-driver-of-choice because of his kindness, dependability and willingness to deal with disassembling/assembling La Lucha. This was the third time he's driven me to or from BWI airport. Today he even picked me up in his car because his van was in the shop getting repairs.
One of the things I especially like about taking this ride with Fernando is that he goes back country roads instead of staying on the superhighway. Maryland is an exceptionally lovely state with rolling hills, forests and sprawling farms--at least outside the population centers. This time of year is particularly beautiful with the green green trees, wild dogwood, flowering fruit trees and colorful azaleas.
I checked into the same Holiday Inn where I've stayed during my last three visits to Mom. It now feels like a home-away-from-home. After unpacking, I hopped on La lucha and scooted the mile over to Mom's.
She's in Asbury Methodist Village, a mammoth seniors' complex that has everything from independent apartments to assisted living to the nursing facility where Mom has been for about a year and a half. She is very happy here, just as long as they don't make her get out of bed! It is kept up beautifully both inside and out. The grounds are particularly attractive.
I was delighted to see that Mom seemed much the same as the last time I'd visited her in September. Though she is tiny--her lack of appetite is a problem--she looks healthy. At 88, her mind is occasionally very creative and at other times, surprisingly with it. For instance, my sister and I have been amazed that she's remembered the date of my visit since I first told her a month ago. It was so good to see her!
About this time of the day, the batteries in my digital camera gave out. Though I had a rechargable set back at the motel, that wouldn't help for the dinner with Carolyn my sister. We were to meet at a Thai restaurant another mile beyond mother's building. So, unfortunately, I can't introduce you to my older sister--at least not this time.
Carolyn and I had a wonderfully leisurely three hour dinner. The food was superb and we got along as well as I can ever recall. Our relationship--though close--has had its bumpy patches over the past years, so it was lovely to spend such a comfortable time together. There's nothing like sharing family memories and feelings with a sister.
And now it's almost 1
AM and I am ready to hit the hay. It's been a big day.
SUNDAY, APRIL 29, 2001
Good thing I gave warning that I might not be able to write my journal entry yesterday. As it turned out, I spent the night over in Falls Church, Virgina with my old high school friends, Luke and Bev. Took the Metro (the Washington, DC area's rapid transit system) both ways. It was set up differently from San Francisco's BART that I'd gotten used to, so it took me awhile to figure out where I was most comfortable parking on the train. It's a long ride--about 1? hours with a transfer at Metro Center in DC--but everything went smoothly. I arrived back at the motel today about 12:30 PM feeling pretty pooped. When you hear about yesterday, I think you'll understand why.
The day started with a visit to my Mom. She really is a cutie. Very easy to be around, quite happy with herself and her life lying in bed day and night in the nursing care facility. Of course, the staff would love to get her up every day to sit in a chair or her wheelchair, but she'll have none of it. Whenever they insist--as they do on bath days--I gather she's pretty hard to get along with. She watches no television and, although they still deliver her formerly-adored Washington Post newspaper every day, I don't think she reads it anymore. But since she is such a positive presence, folks stop by to visit all day. One of her favorites is the priest whom she always tells me wears a red jacket and red socks. Mom thinks that's hilarious.
About 2:30 PM, I scooted the mile back to the motel in order to pick up the courtesy shuttle to the Metro station. Believe me, it took a lot of energy to talk the shuttle driver through my scooter disassembly at the motel and reassembly at the Metro. I felt I had to be particularly engaging to smooth his ruffled feathers. Not my favorite way to relate to others, but occasionally necessary.
I got to Falls Church about an hour before Luke was scheduled to pick me up for the mini-reunion dinner at their house. I wanted to scoot over to our old neighborhood. In September 1999, we'd sold the home our family had owned since December 1943. It was the only childhood home I remember. Mom had lived there by herself after 1983, when Dad's Alzheimers sent him first to a nursing home and then to the VA hosptial on the Chesapeake Bay where he died in June 1987. Then frequent falls and an inability to care properly for herself sent Mom to the Asbury Methodist Village Assisted Living facility near my sister in September 1998. After a year, she was transferred to the nursing facility because she consistently refused to get out of bed. She's been happy ever since (except on bath days).
On my way from the East Falls Church Metro station to our old neighborhood, I passed the creek I used to like to sit beside on visits home. As I scooted up our street I was so grateful that I'd come at this time of the year. Everywhere there were fully-leafed green trees, riotously-colored azaleas, white and pink-blossoming dogwood trees, flowering fruit trees, tulips and daffodils. It really is a beautiful neighborhood.
And there was our house, looking miraculously unchanged. Somehow I'd always expected new owners to do as so many young families have done in that neighborhood, and knock out walls, build grand additions, at least change the color of the trim. But no, it looked as it had the last time I'd seen it...just more loved, with pots of flowers on the front steps, a new dogwood tree at the side of the house waiting to be planted, and a new front door propped up on the porch.
I decided to scoot up the driveway of our wonderful across-the-street neighbors. It was because of this dear young family, plus neighbors next door and up the street, that Mom was able to stay in the house as long as she did. Her daily pattern was to settle into her chair in the living room and watch the world go by outside the front window. She watched their three boys--two of whom I saw yesterday--grow up. Now Peter, Jr. is graduating from high school in a month and Greg has just started riding a unicycle. Their parents, Connie and Peter, were pleased to see me and, after a short visit, offered to introduce me to the new family who lives in our old house.
We couldn't have hand-picked a better family to take possession of the house that held so much of our lives! Richard, Jean, their son Nicholas, and dog--I forget his name--already seem to love the house as much as we did. When I mentioned my surprise that it looked much the same, Richard said, "Guess we're old-fashioned. We bought it because we loved it just as it is." They're now thinking about adding a sun room, perhaps off the living room, which I've always thought would be a good idea. Richard is tearing out the ivy in the backyard himself-a gargantuan task!--so they can have a usable backyard like we'd had as children. When Mom and Dad got older, they planted ivy so they wouldn't have to mow the grass. It was a wonderful backyard in the old days and I'm sure it will be again.
It was amazing to be with people who were genuinely interested in hearing my stories about the house and its history. I was touched by their obvious understanding about how much of my family's life was deposited there. Jean even admitted to feeling Mother's presence so strongly that one time as she was stirring a kettle of soup on our 1960 stove--identical to the one in Elvis Presley's Graceland mansion, according to Richard--she had the strange sensation of becoming older and more bent over. Her saying this reminded me of a wonderful novel I'm currently reading by Elizabeth Berg, called Range Of Motion. The wife in it actually "sees" and "hears" the former owner of their old house, a woman from the 1940s.
As we were outside talking, Tom from up the street stopped by in his car. Then his wife, Carol, came down to say "hi". Carol used to visit Mom every day; she was a dear friend.They've just sold their house (on the far right in the picture of Carol) and are moving back home to Rochester, New York. When my friend, Luke, came to pick me up--as we'd arranged--it seemed that the whole neighborhood was there. Like old times.
And the sense of returning to bygone days had just begun.
Luke and Bev, who visited me in San Francisco this winter, had invited a gang of old classmates and their spouses from the George Mason Jr./Sr. High School class of 1960 for dinner at their house in Falls Church. As I'd missed last year's 40th reunion, I'd not seen most of these folks in at least six years. And even then, we'd had little opportunity for conversations of any depth at the usual reunion dinner dance and picnic. But last night's gathering was small enough to sit down one-to-one or in small groups and really talk. It was marvelous!
The bonds between my classmates has remained strong these 41 years in large part due to Luke's commitment to organizing frequent reunions and dinners like last night. They called me the "guest of honor", which was funny. I mean, my coming to town was simply a good excuse for us all to get together. But as "guest of honor", Luke and Bev even gave me a gift--an amazing Falls Church historical afghan that their dog Special seemed to enjoy too (check out the photo). Speaking of photos, we posed for a group picture, and later, I took these shots as a group of us sat around and shared funny remembrances. It was almost midnight when the last friends had left, so I gladly accepted Luke and Bev's gracious invitation to spend the night. They are the most hospitable couple...not to mention Bev's wizardry with roasted vegetable lasagna. But there I go again, talking about food!
Today I had a relatively short visit with Mom--a couple hours. She loved hearing all the stories of her old neighborhood, the new family in our house, and my high school friends, all of whom asked about her, saying how much they'd always liked my parents. Mom and Dad were always involved. For instance, I don't think they ever missed a George Mason basketball game in all the years my two sisters and I were in school.
Fortunately, Mom's eyesight continues to be good, so she could see my digital camera's small LED screen well enough to enjoy looking at yesterday's pictures. Let's hear it for technology!
I took a lot of pictures of Mom today. She's never taken particularly good pictures, and of course now it's even more of a challenge, but nonetheless, I wanted to have my Mom become part of my journal in a visual sense. Rosa, the meds nurse, and Muriel, one of her favorite caregivers, seemed much more comfortable with my picture-taking than Mom.
So now it's 10 PM and
I am so wiped out that I will be soon in bed. Anyone who knows
my usual sleep patterns--1 AM being more the norm--can appreciate
what I'm saying. These have been three wonderfully demanding days.
It's time to restore myself.
MONDAY, APRIL 30, 2001
It's proving more difficult to keep up with my journal while I'm here visiting Mom than it was on my cross-country train trip a few weeks ago. I spent the day with Mom, then went out to dinner with my nephew John and his dear one, Kirsten. I didn't get back to the motel until midnight. It's now 1 AM and I've just finished preparing the photos to put up with the journal. Now I am too tired to see straight and must go to bed. Tomorrow's my last day with Mom, so time spent with her is going to take precedence over anything else. I know you understand. If I wake up early enough, I'll try to catch up with today's journal in the morning. Otherwise, tomorrow night will have to do.
TUESDAY, MAY 1, 2001
My older sister's birthday. May Day. Beltane. And it's supposed to hit 88º here in the Washington DC area today.
I woke at 10 AM, so I can take the time this morning to tell you about yesterday. It was actually a fairly quiet day. I sat with Mom and read in her chair until mid-afternoon. Two of my favorite nurses were on duty, Mrs. Skinner and Colista. The staff here is amazing! I was able to talk with Mrs. Skinner, who is head nurse on the floor, about the possibility of ordering range of motion physical therapy for Mom. Her left leg is already bent up close to her body and cannot be moved, and now the right one is getting that way too. They use a brace on the left leg three hours a day in an attempt to gently straighten it out, but nothing is being done with the right leg. I've requested a new Physical Therapy assessment.
Mom's spirits were good, as always, and she seemed to nap more than she used to. I expect my visit is tiring to her too. About 3 PM, I scooted outside to enjoy the beautiful day. Mom was delighted for me to do so; she's wonderful that way.
I scooted across campus--that's what they call this mammoth piece of land--over to the lake. On my way, I enjoyed seeing folks out working in the Asbury community gardens. Anyone who wants to, can have a pretty good-sized garden plot in which to plant whatever they choose. Well, whatever's legal, that is! Some plots were already lush with flowers.
Close to the lake, I encountered a family of Canadian geese. The father, with his neck stretched tall, honked a warning, and the mother led four fluffy goslings to safety in the lake. Geese love this lake so one has to run an obstacle course on the path to avoid their droppings. I've heard residents complain about it, but to me, the geese bring life and energy to a place that sorely needs it.
It is truly lovely down there. Benches to sit on, a gazebo connected by a wooden dock to an island planted with flowering trees and red tulips. I called Ed on my cell phone and we had a good visit. While talking to him, two geese waddled over close to the picnic table beside me. I kept smelling a glorious fragrance and finally discovered a flowering lilac bush growing beside the path. I broke off a small branch to take to Mom. Don't tell!
After a couple more hours' visit, I scooted back to the motel to meet my nephew John for dinner. He picked me up in his snazzy white Miata (sp?) convertible--top up, so we could talk--and drove us over to an outdoor Greek restaurant in DC near the border of Chevy Chase, MD. It's the neighborhood where he and Kirsten own houses two blocks from one another. Part of the appeal of this restaurant was that their dogs--Ursula and Elvis--could come to the party too. John is obviously a doting "father"! But the one he dotes on more than any other is his dear Kirsten.
After a delicious dinner and interesting conversation, John drove me over to see his house. This was my first time there and it was good to see our nephew--Ed's brother's oldest son--so comfortable in his own space. It suits him. John is one of the original computer wizards and it's not hard to see evidence of it in his house. One laptop--a really cool new iNote--sits on the dining table, an older iMac notebook in his family room, and an office upstairs with his iMac desktop. I need not say whether he is a PC or Apple person. While there, he showed me some old movies of his growing up years that he's converted to video with his high-tech digital video camera. What fun to see images of Johnny III and John together! And what fun to see my Eddie as a young man running around playing with his adorable niece and nephews. Were we ever really that young?!
After a brief visit to Kirsten's lovely home, John drove me back to the motel. As I mentioned in last night's entry, that was about midnight.
So now I'm on my way over to Mom's for my last visit this trip. As always, I'll stop at the Asbury cafeteria and pick up her favorite ham sandwich-with-mayo-on-white, iced tea with lemon and three sugars, a small bag of ruffled potato chips and an oatmeal rasin cookie for dessert. This has been a perfect visit thus far. I feel so grateful.
Today went as well as all the days before. It was the last day of my visit to Mom at the nursing care facility where she lives in Gaithersburg, Maryland. Tomorrow my plane leaves for Detroit at 12:30 PM.
I sat with her from 1-6:30 PM with a break from 2:30-4 PM when I scooted over to the lake. While there I took many pictures of the Canadian goose family I'd first seen yesterday, had another good talk with Ed on my cell phone, and had the glorious good fortune to see the resident blue heron for the first time this visit.
I spoke again with Mrs. Skinner, the head nurse on Mom's floor, this time to check on Mom's weight. Her appetite is so poor, she's apt to lose weight pretty quickly. Of course, she's a tiny woman anyway, probably no more than 4'8". But I was unhappy to learn she had lost 2 pounds last week and was down to her lowest weight--73.2 lbs. Mrs. Skinner is going to start ordering her a ham sandwich every day, since that's her favorite food. I've been delighted to see her finish half a ham sandwich, a cookie and a bag of chips every lunch since I arrived. I've been buying it for her in the cafeteria.
Well, the weighers came by this afternoon and after much coaxing, Mom agreed to let them weigh her (she doesn't like it because it hurts when they lift her from the bed to the sit-down scale). She weighed 76.1 lbs! What a gift! And Mrs. Skinner had already talked to the Physical Therapist about giving Mom range of motion exercises with her legs: that is set to begin this week. I feel I've done what I can do.
To celebrate the end of a good and productive visit, I scooted through old Gaithersburg to the wonderful Thai restaurant where Carolyn and I had met for dinner last Friday. The pad thai at the Old Siam restaurant is as good as it gets, the setting is lovely and the people most gracious.
Now that the visit is
over, I'm ready to admit how hard it has been. Part of
what I struggle with is seeing my mother as she is now. But there's
more to my discomfort than that. It is very disturbing for me
to be in such a place where I am often taken for one of the residents.
It pushes all my buttons regarding my long-held fear that I'll
end up in a nursing care facility sooner rather than later. And
it does not help when I hear such things from elderly volunteers
as "My, you get around very well, don't you!", or "Is
there any way I can be of help to you, dear?" I want to scream
when I hear such well-meaning comments and questions. Gawd! To
be honest, I couldn't get away from there fast enough this evening.
I want to get out in the world again where people don't assume
I live in a nursing home. Heavy stuff.
WEDNESDAY, MAY 2, 2001
Ah, it is sweet to be
home. Home where going for a scoot does not mean having
to cross eight
lanes of traffic as it did in Maryland. Home where I can scoot
the street and feel safe. Home where Ed
feeds the grey squirrel when it shows up out front. Home where
the trees have just unfurled their tender
green leaves and flowering
fruit trees take your breath away. Home where Ed never tires
of watching and listening to his two favorite arias from Der
Rosenkavalier on his
office computer DVD. Home where a scoot might take me to a
track meet I didn't know was going on. Home where we are going
to watch a video together when Ed returns from his after-dinner
walk. Home where it is so warm my screened windows are open and
the radio is tuned to a classical piano recital on CBC (Canadian
Broadcasting Company) out of Windsor, Ontaro. Home where I can
finally unpack from California, knowing my suitcases can be put
away for a good long spell. Home where I will sleep in my own
bed with my own pillow. Home where I miss my Mom and love being
with my sweetie.
THURSDAY, MAY 3, 2001
If I ever forget what an incredible city Detroit is, let me remember tonight. San Francisco may have it over Detroit in natural beauty, but it would be tough for any city to beat Detroit in its people. This city has a huge pulsing community heart with countless arteries supplying it life and carrying that life to all its extremities...especially the extreme margins of society. Whether formed around political issues, labor struggles, environmental abuses, police brutality, welfare injustices, the safety of children, homelessness, neighborhood block concerns or a multitude of other issues, Detroit attracts community organizations like San Francisco attracts tourists. The challenge is getting these groups to come together in their work for change.
But there's a relatively new group in town that is drawing members from a variety of community organizations: it's called the Committee for the Political Resurrection of Detroit or CPR. For the past six months or so, they've been meeting at Dayhouse where I help out every week. Early on, my friend Pat said she felt this group would be a good fit for me. Tonight I discovered she was right.
I'm not really sure how much I have to offer, but I already see immense benefits that the group offers me. Simply knowing what's going on in Detroit, for a start.
We heard firsthand about a consolidated effort to keep the city from building a new school on an environmentally contaminated plot of land that has been used for years by industry and the military. And how the city is pushing this because developers want the land where the current school is located and how that would bring in more taxes. Saturday at noon there will be a human chain of parents and members of the community surrounding the area to insist on keeping the old school open. We're encouraged to be there.
We heard about the mayhem caused on May 1 when all Michigan welfare checks and food stamps were converted to electronic ATM cards. The people who have to use this new system had not been prepared and huge numbers of them have no idea how to access their benefits. That is especially true of the elderly and disabled. As a representative from the Center for Independent Living said, "How are the blind going to use an ATM machine? If they ask for help, they're putting themselves at risk of theft." We were reminded that October 1 will mark the first cut-off for people who have received welfare for five consecutive years. The jobs most folks have been getting pay minimum wage, which is impossible to live on. Promised work training programs have been nonexistent.
There is a long history of police brutality in Detroit, and now there is a very active community group working to combat this abuse. We heard of a 77 year-old retired policeman who was held in contempt of court and sentenced to a month (I think) in jail for wearing a T-shirt in court that had been put out by the Police Brutality Coalition. They're asking for community support in trying to get him released.
And these were simply the announcements!
CPR is currently defining itself. As I understand it, the group intends to blend community building with community defense (resistance to injustice). As Abayomi Azikiwe, chair of the Communications Committee, wrote in an email to the membership, "I personally see no contradiction between what is considered community building and community defense in my thinking about the movements for social revolution have evolved over the last several years." He then gives examples from national liberation movements in Africa and the United States' own Civil Rights movement. As he said, "Perhaps it depends on what people consider community building. It is a two sided process in that once the institutions are built, they must be defended and enhanced."
The most heated discussion tonight centered around how to define membership obligations and requirements. I was pleased to see an open exchange of opinions and then a determination by the chair to take it back to the Steering Committee for more work.
Detroit will soon elect a new mayor and city council and the CPR intends to put forth its own slate of candidates. Not only that, it will mount a massive voter registration campaign and voter education materials and meetings. This group is serious about promoting change.
After the official meeting ended, many folks took time to connect with one another. I was most fortunate to talk with Arnetta of the Police Brutality Coalition and Abayomi. Later, Pat and I talked about globalization with Brenda Smith. She was one of the Labor Notes Conference organizers who had put on the excellent workshops Pat and I attended during Detroit's anti-FTAA demonstrations two weeks ago.
Perhaps the most beneficial
part of it all was simply being in a room with 24 committed activists
and community organizers. Nothing could give me more life than
that. Just this morning I'd said to Ed, "I need to find something
to sink my teeth into here in Detroit." We'll see how things
develop, but I feel honored to have been there tonight.
FRIDAY, MAY 4, 2001
Today was just the day I needed, quiet and relaxing. Nothing that had to get done, no one to see, no agenda at all. Seems to me this may have been the first such day since I returned from San Francisco on April 12. It felt grand.
I awoke at 7 AM, looked out the window by my bed, saw the rising sun reflected in our neighbor's upstairs bathroom window, took a picture, turned over and went back to sleep. When I finally did get up it was somewhere around 10:30 AM. Not surprising since I'd not finished yesterday's journal entry until after 1 AM last night.
I caught up with emails, called the school where I'm scheduled to give the Attitudes disability awareness program to first and second graders on Monday, made myself a cream cheese and peanut butter sandwich on pumpernickel bread, sat and read by the open back door in the kitchen, came into the living room, exercised on my stationary bike for ten minutes, read the NY Times Circuits and Weekend sections of the paper while listening to classical music on CBC radio, and went upstairs to get socks to wear with my Birkie sandals because the heatwave has passed.
About 4 PM I set off on a scoot toward our community's shopping area. On the way I enjoyed seeing evidence of the colors and textures of spring. There was even a lemonade stand with Henry, Mary Grace, Marty and Susan serving up delicious ice cold pink lemonade for 25¢ a cup. Their Dad, Bob, kindly allowed me to take a picture of his wonderful kids.
I completed my shopping--colored tissue paper for an art project I'm doing with a friend next week--and scooted over to see Ed at his office. This is the street I took. We visited awhile, and I then went to the market nearby to pick up veggie lasagna and shrimp for dinner, along with some breadsticks and cheddar cheese spread and, of course, Odwalla juices.
I took the lake home. It was beginning to look grey to the west and the air had a definite chill, but that didn't stop the parade of runners and walkers. One man with a cocker spaniel smiled when he saw me and said, "That's quite a scooter you've got there!" He then asked where I'd gotten it. I told him and asked, "Do you know someone who might be interested in getting one?" "Yes", he said, "my wife." I'm beginning to notice when someone has more than a passing interest in La Lucha. As this gentleman said, Amigo should give me a discount on my next scooter for all the business I send them. It's true!
When I turned up our street I was surprised to see how the warm weather had proded my favorite tree into leafing up in its usual purple-greenery. Ed and I call it the Marriage Tree. It got this name because of how the trunk bifurcates about five feet off the ground, and then has wire cords holding its two strong branches together about two-thirds of the way up. We see it as reflective of the progress of partners becoming themselves within a marriage, growing strongly on their own paths, yet staying connected by some indefinable cord.
I stopped to visit with neighors who were working in their yard, and in no time at all, Ed pulled up behind me on his bicycle. He'd ridden it to his office today. The grey skies had encouraged him to start home earlier than usual.
Once home, we read for awhile before dinner. After we'd eaten and cleaned up, Ed went for his nightly walk and I came upstairs to check my email. When he returned we watched a highly recommended British film--"The War Zone"--that was particularly disturbing in its graphic portrayal of incest and murder. Yikes! Why did I keep watching it? Ah well, videos like this merely strengthen my natural reluctance to watch TV.
And here it is, again
close to 1 AM. Time for bed.
SATURDAY, MAY 5, 2001
If I were to plan the perfect Saturday, this would be it.
Ed and I drove to Ann Arbor--an hour away--and got there close to noon. We found street parking beside Wheeler Park down by the train station--miraculous in itself on a Saturday! We then scooted/walked up the hill toward the Ann Arbor Farmers Market, our destination.
It was fun to look at the variety of houses--new, older and oldest--that made up this comfortable neighborhood. The gardens were colorful and imaginatively landscaped. But of everything we saw, what will stick with me was a drawing on someone's driveway made with colored chalks. It said, "Hello, I am a reincarnate GREEN IGUANA named MOTHER." Only in a progressive university town!
The Farmers Market was hopping. It was packed with flats of flowers and plants, hanging baskets, fresh picked asparagus and rhubarb, Michigan honey, artist-made jewelry, handbuilt wooden furniture, potatoes and the first of the mushrooms. Folks were scouring each farmer's wares to find the perfect whatever-it-was-they-wanted. Before Ed and I got into a buying mode, we decided to go eat lunch.
Usually we go to Jo-Jo's Juice Joint, sit at their sidewalk tables and order spinach pies or tuna fish sandwiches. But today felt a bit chilly, so we ended up going to someplace new, an Italian restaurant next to the market. What a good choice! Ed and I could talk easily, and our lunches--spicy eggplant spaghetti for me and spaghetti and meatballs for him--were delicious. Ed even took a picture of me sitting at the table that turned out well enough to use for my journal. He's always managed to take good pictures of me, probably because my love for him comes through the lens.
Now it was time to buy and I knew just what I wanted--two hanging baskets of flowers, one for the front of the house and the other for the back. It didn't take long to find them. Ed was concerned about how he was going to carry these heavy baskets down the hill to the car, but I knew we had nothing to worry about. La Lucha was here! And did she ever do the job. The flower vendor from whom we bought these beautiful baskets offered to take a picture of Ed and me together.
I had driven out so Ed drove home. There's a ton of expressway closures and slowdowns due to construction, but he manuvered through it all with the skill of local. We arrived home to find our friend Pat K. already here--we'd left the door open for her to come over whenever she wanted. Saturday is her day off from Dayhouse and we often invite her over to relax.
At noon she'd joined the "human chain" to support the school we'd heard about at Thursday's CPR meeting. McMillan elementary, the oldest school in Detroit at 106 years, is currently under threat because the city wants to sell that land to developers. The children would be sent to a school that's being built on an environmentally polluted site across the expressway. Pat made a wonderful two-sided sign that told the story on both the front and the back. I appreciate her being there.
Pat and I are now on our way to see a musical at the downtown Music Hall Theater. "2001 Hastings Street" is an original play written and acted by Detroit's Mosaic Youth Theater, a group of 100 urban and suburban middle and high school students. Hastings Street in the 1940s, when the musical is set, was the heart of Paradise Valley, where Black life and culture flourished in Detroit. The play is based on oral histories collected from former residents.
I've just returned home after a marvelous evening. Not only did we see an excellent play, but the Mosaic Singers gave a pre-play concert. I was knocked off my seat by the quality of voices, sophisticated arrangements, engaging dynamics and professional presentation of these young people. Their director, Kenneth Anderson, deserves high acclaim.
It was certainly the
place to be in Detroit tonight! The Music Hall Theater, a
good-sized venue, was totally sold out. And the kids did it all--acted,
sang, danced, took care of sound and lights, designed the scenery
and costumes, and wrote the play. The Mosaic Youth Theater and
Singers offers so much to the youth of Detroit, and they, in turn,
give the gift back to the community. Another example of the richness
and vitality of this city.
SUNDAY, MAY 6, 2001
If I were to bottle a weekend to savor on cold rainy days, this one would be a good choice. After yesterday's sweet time at the Ann Arbor Farmer's Market with Eddie and last night's marvelous Mosaic Youth Theater play, "2001 Hastings Street", with Pat K., today's time spent with dear women friends provided a surprising twist. Believe it or not, I actually went to church!
Now, anyone who knows me is well aware how unlikely that is. I've not been one for religious services of any kind for over eight years. But today, my friend Pat N.--another non-church person--invited me to join her at the UU (is it Unitarian Universalist or the other way around?) church in her hometown of Windsor, Ontario. The draw was our friend Penny, an ordained UU minister from Michigan, who was going to conduct the service with Nancy, our Notable Women Chorus director, as the featured singer. After service, we planned to go out to lunch together.
I do know that of all the churches, the UU is considered the most accessible for non-church folks...and that was my experience today. There was no mention of Jesus or even God, that I recall. The community is relatively new, having recently broken off from a more conservative church out in the county. Pat N., who knows and is known by every social and political activist in Windsor, said that everyone she saw today is active in social justice and environmental issues of one kind or another. A funny moment came during the time of sharing "joys and concerns". June, the president of the church board, got up and lit a candle of joy over the surprise of seeing Pat N., one of the women she admires most in Windsor, actually attending a church service!
Penny had invited folks to bring symbols of what they consider holy. A small table in front of the altar was covered with their offerings--stones, books, a picture of a newborn grandchild, a goddess pendant, an orchid, a child's drawing, a stick of sage and more. Penny talked to the children who gathered in front of the table before they were sung off to their own time of activities. Megan is the child in my picture.
Nancy's songs, many of them by our beloved Carolyn McDade, were truly soul-stirring. So often we only hear her in a choral setting, so this was indeed a treat. And Penny's reflections were well suited for this dedicated community of activists. The core of her message, as I heard it, was to ask folks to reflect on why we don't take time in our busy lives to nourish our souls in whatever ways call us most deeply. Penny is a wonderful poet who facilitates poetry-writing in a women's jail, so I was not surprised to hear her creative use of poetry throughout the talk. It was a lovely service.
After it was over, I had a good talk with Heather, a very creative activist. She told me of her experiences at the Summit of the Americas meeting in Quebec City. Heather works for an alternative radio station at the University of Windsor, so was inside The Fence with a press pass. She is a courageous--often outrageous--woman who always does what she feels is right, no matter how others may perceive it. Apparently she spent the weekend singing protest songs directly to the heads of state including Canada's Prime Minister Crétien and US President Bush. She said no one made her stop. This is Heather with her daughter Myrriah and Pat N.
For me, Penny's reflections spoke of the soul-nourishment I experience with dear friends like Penny, Nancy and Pat N. After sharing cookies and conversation with the UU community, we four went off to enjoy time together at a Windsor restaurant that serves the best pizza in the world. We had three months of catching up to do, so our lunch was a leisurely affair.
I then dropped Pat N. back home (send her good house-selling energy, please!) and took the tunnel home. Thirty minutes from door-to-door. One of Detroit's greatest advantages is being so close to Canada.
I picked up some Odwalla
juices at the market (Penny's coming over to make art on Tuesday
and has requested Odwalla), stopped by Ed's office to say hi,
and was met at my front door by guess who? If you said
Squirrel, you win a Mango Tango Odwalla juice. I suspect her
soul-nourishing comes from an endless supply of peanuts-in-the-shell.
MONDAY, MAY 7, 2001
There are only two times that I nap, when I'm sick and on days that I've taught. Today's nap was a two-hour-long affair that made me feel like I'd been knocked out by a two-by-four. How do teachers do this every day? I love the kids but they plumb wear me out.
Today I again donned my hat as volunteer teacher of the Attitudes disability awareness program sponsored by the Kenny Mobility Center. I taught a first grade class for 45 minutes in the morning, and a double class of second graders after lunch. The kids were particularly well-informed, enthusiastic and easy to teach.
The Attitudes program is well designed for this age group. Lots of interactive conversations and activities, a short animated video about a disabled child, role play with fore-arm crutches and a child's manual wheelchair, followed by an art project after I leave. It moves along quickly and uses up a good deal of energy on the part of both students and teacher. Of course, when you're six and seven, energy-depletion just doesn't seem to be an issue. But when you're almost 59 and differently abled, it's another story.
I've learned that two classes a day are my limit, and that I need a lunch break in between. One thing that I might want to change is my habit of using windchime walker when I teach. Some of those school halls can seem awfully far to walk. La Lucha might be a better choice in schools like the one today that was accessible. I teach at another school next week and will check into that possibility.
After I awoke from my nap, it was time to go for a scoot and breathe some fresh air. Showers had been forecast for today, but all we got were some splatters. By 6:30 PM, the skies no longer looked threatening. Ed and I arranged by phone to meet our friend Jack at our favorite family restaurant about two miles from home--I would scoot and Ed and Jack drive separately.
I took a neighborhood route, going past the middle school playing field where soccer parents were lined up cheering their children, and a baseball game was being played. I scooted down quiet streets, and took time to stop and admire yards that were particularly beautiful. I arrived at the restaurant in 35 minutes, 10 minutes ahead of Ed and Jack.
We had another in our series of political discussions at dinner, this time about California's energy crisis. Jack is pretty conservative and enjoys asking what I think about this and that, knowing full well I will take the progressive position. Sometimes I don't have the energy or inclination for such conversation, but tonight my nap gave me the resources I needed. After dinner, I scooted home, this time making it in 25 minutes with no stops for picture-taking.
It's fun to know I can
scoot out to dinner with the fellas. It's funny that I never did
this last year, but I suspect San Francisco has given me greater
confidence in La Lucha's ability to travel long distances at night.
The halogen headlight certainly adds to that confidence. A well-spent
TUESDAY, MAY 8, 2001
I've just finished watching the video, "That Is What Democracy Looks Like". Compiled by IndyMedia using film footage taken by 100 activist media photographers on the streets of Seattle during the WTO protests, it is the most radicalizing educational tool I've ever seen. It'd be hard to imagine anyone who watched this through to the end not being profoundly affected by it.
For me there was a personal sense of connection because of my experiences on the streets of Windsor, Ontario during the OAS protests last June. When you've been face-to-face with lines of police in riot gear, had police rifles trained on you from rooftops, seen people with blistered faces and red tearing eyes from pepper spray, and known the whrrr of helicopters overhead, you're not apt to forget it. Besides, I recognized a couple of the protesters who were interviewed on the video. One was David, a giant puppet coordinator, who was an important part of our OAS demos in Windsor, as well as the Anti-Bush Inauguration rally and march that drew 15,000 protesters in San Francisco on January 20, 2001.
This copy of "That Is What Democracy Looks Like" was loaned to me by my Windsor activist sister Pat N. She had videotaped it when it was shown on the Canadian television show "The Passionate Eye" a couple days before the anti-FTAA protests began in Quebec City. Those of us in the US should contact PBS (Public Broadcasting Service), and ask that they show it as well. It is a landmark film.
Earlier today, two women friends, Penny and Sooz, came over to create art. The idea for our getting together had come out of Penny's reading one of my journal entries from San Francisco. She was intrigued by the creative project my SF women's group had used during our March meeting held at my cottage. At that time, Susan had facilitated our creating collages using cut-and-torn pieces of colorful tissue and pasting them with acrylic medium onto white paper. Penny came up with the idea of our using this process to make more songbook covers for this year's Carolyn McDade retreat. Happily, Sooz agreed to join us.
We had such a wonderful time--not simply making art, but sharing the delicious lunch Penny and Sooz brought, and then sitting and talking--that we've decided to make this a monthly happening. Just what I need! How I value time spent with friends. Here's a picture of our songbook covers and bookmarks drying on the floor under the piano. Aren't they wonderful?
Just after they left about
3 PM, I saw this prism
rainbow in the front hall. Art is everywhere.
WEDNESDAY, MAY 9, 2001
Sometimes we're simply in the right place at the right time.That's how it felt for me today at Dayhouse.
I'd just received my weekly massage from Pat, and was preparing to take my delightfully mellowed-out self onto house duty (answering the phone and door). I passed one of the guests on my way into the living room; she was sitting with her face turned away, looking out the window. I said "Hello!" She didn't answer, so I repeated my greeting. She turned her head a bit and said "Hello" in a choked voice. There were tears rolling down her cheeks. I sat down beside her and put one hand on her back and the other covering her hand. She told me what had happened.
I listened, asked a few questions, let her express what feelings she needed to express, and remained silent when she was silent. Off and on the rest of the afternoon, we sat together while she grappled with this crisis. By dinnertime, she had changed her original decision because "It doesn't feel right in here", pointing to her belly. I certainly trust her gut response.
I often feel when someone shares a difficult problem that I have to help them sort things out. Today I learned that the best gift we can give a friend who is struggling is simply to sit with them as they struggle. Each of us is perfectly capable of making our way through whatever comes our way; what we need is someone beside us who believes in us and can remain silent until we come to believe in ourselves. I'm deeply grateful to my friend for teaching me this lesson.
The day had begun with an early (for me) wake-up call by Ed. "Why don't you get up", he said at 8:15 AM, "and let's scoot/walk down to the grocery store?" So a little after 9 AM, we were on our way.
Things look different in the morning. The light is different, birds are chirping, folks are out jogging and Eddie's pretty darn chipper! A laker shimmered out in the middle of the lake. The flowering fruit trees seemed more vibrant than ever, and I was happy to be scooting along beside my sweetie on my trusty steed, La Lucha.
We did our shopping--two crab cakes, taboulee, falafel, hummous and herbal teas for me--and then walked/scooted over to the bagel store for a snack. We sat outside in the warm sun and shared my toasted cinnamon raisin bagel with cream cheese. Ed had a decaf coffee and I devoured a Serious Energy Ginseng Odwalla juice. There I go again--food, food, food!
I dropped Ed off at his office and started home, choosing to take the smooth recently-paved street that's so wide I can scoot on the street instead of on the sidewalk. I feared my grocery bags would bounce around too much on the bumpy sidewalk by the lake. I ended up being very happy I'd come this way because I ran into a friend, Julie, and her grandchildren in front of her house. Eliza and Patrick became quickly enamored of La Lucha's pink horn, and I became equally enamored of them!
I arrived home with what felt like a sinus headache, an extremely unusual condition for me. I suspect I might have been reacting to all the pollen in the air. One whole side of our property is lilacs, now in full bloom. I adore their fragrance, but guess I'd best not bring any into the house this year.
My time at Dayhouse allowed
me to connect with quite a few of my friends. Among them was Aileen,
with whom I consistently have good conversations, my goddess daughter
(Pat's daughter) Emily
and her boyfriend, Jason, and Tigger,
who manages to enjoy the simple things of life, as every cat should.
THURSDAY, MAY 10, 2001
Ed teases me because I'm always talking about how we should reduce our use of fossil fuels and then I drive all the way to Canada to get my hair cut. He's right. But, durnnit, if I could find someone as good as Leesa here in the States, I'd be happy to go to them. I guess one of my vanities is my hair.
I realized it's nothing unusual for me to hop over to Canada, but for many folks who don't live in a border city, it would seem pretty special. I thought I'd take you through the tunnel to Windsor, Ontario via my digital camera. Unfortunately I got distracted on the US side by a mammoth semi that pulled ahead of me after I'd paid my $2.25 tunnel fee, so my pictures didn't start until I got to customs on the Canadian side.
As a number of these pictures were taken through my front windshield, they may not be of super high quality, but they give you the idea.
At customs, you drive up to one of the open windows, and an agent usually asks where you live or what country you're from. Then she or he will ask where you're going and are you bringing anything into the country. They often specifically mention cigarettes, alcohol and firearms. If your answers satisfy them, you're waved on your way.
My car has not yet been searched at the border in my 35 years of going back and forth between Canada and the US, although I certainly know people whose experience has been quite different from mine. For instance, during the OAS protests last June, over 500 suspected activists' cars/trucks/vans were turned back at the Windsor border, most after extensive searches. I've heard that number was much increased in connection with the anti-FTAA demonstrations in Quebec City a few weeks ago. They need give you no reason for denying you entry into either the US or Canada. I don't know if there's an appeal process, but I doubt it.
After going through customs in Windsor, you come to Park Street where there is a welcome sign in French and English--Canada is officially bilingual--decorated by a bronze maple leaf and three flags flying beside it. Because I was dropping something off at my friend Pat N.'s house, I turned left on Park. The first intersection I came to was Ouelette Avenue, Windsor's main drag; it defines the east and west sides of town. I stopped at Pat's on Victoria Avenue, a wonderful residential street lined with old houses, and then continued north about a mile and east 4-5 miles over to Leesa's Hair Designs.
I think Leesa has a perfect setup. Her salon and home are in the same building. She and her husband have three children: the oldest is in school full time; the middle goes to kindergarden in the mornings; and the youngest generally goes to morning daycare. Since the living area is connected to the inside of the salon by just a few steps, the little ones come and go freely whenever they're home. Seems like a nice way to raise kids.
Emily, the middle child, joined us as Leesa finished cutting my hair. She had fun ringing windchime walker's chimes. And even though she's shy, Emily let me take her picture with her mom. Please notice her beautiful lace dress.
I always come away feeling happy after spending time with Leesa. Not only do I like the haircuts she gives me, but I like her as a person. She's gentle spirited.
The tunnel was slow coming home. Since Windsor built a huge casino beside the river downtown, the tunnel is apt to be clogged up with cars and charter buses full of seniors during the afternoons. Guess they want to get home for dinner. I found myself a bit anxious yesterday because I had a date with a friend at 4 PM back home. I made it with 15 minutes to spare.
Yesterday I'd received an email from Kathryn, the sister of former neighbors. We'd seen her at a dinner in their new home a day or two before I left for San Francisco last January. At that time I'd just started taking digital pictures to illustrate my journal. I remember sending Kathryn an email with an attachment of a picture I'd taken of her that evening, and also including a link to my journal
In yesterday's email, she told me she'd taken up crocheting over the winter and had made me a purple scarf! Wonder how she knew I like purple? (That's a joke!) She asked if she could bring it over today.
What a beautiful gift.
Not only is it my favorite color, but it is made of soft warm
yarn that wraps
perfectly around my neck. Just the kind of scarf I need during
San Francisco's cool rainy season. Kathryn's
generosity reminded me of that 1980's saying about "random
acts of kindness." They always take me by surprise.
FRIDAY, MAY 11, 2001
I sure am glad I didn't go into the business of collaging walkers and canes. So often when folks would see my decorated walker, they'd say I should do that for a living. I almost did.
When I first started using an aluminum cane--I think it was 1993--I came up with the idea of collaging colored tissue paper onto its surface. It changed both my feelings and other people's responses toward it. Instead of an orthopedic device, my cane became an art object: it looked like a rainbow.
For six weeks in 1994, I participated in my one-and-only MS support group. During that time I collaged a couple of the other women's canes for a nominal charge. It seemed a natural step to have cards and flyers made up advertising what I called Cane Art. Fortunately, I had very little response.
I say "fortunately" because collaging adaptive devices is quite time-consuming...especially when it comes to walkers. In November 1996 when I graduated to a walker, I immediately started collaging it. It took two days to complete the process (specific instructions are on my Creative Disability web page).
After being the star of my web site since it first went up March 1999, poor windchime walker had become the forgotten step-sister. Since I'd gotten La Lucha the scooter last May, all my decorating energy and enthusiasm had centered on her. It wasn't that I didn't use windchime walker--I use her all the time--it's just that I had lost interest in her.
Believe me, after two years without a lick of redecorating, that walker looked pretty tacky. The craft tissue I use fades over time and normal wear-and-tear leads to ripped, peeling surfaces. Seeing as how I'd be dressing up tomorrow to sing with the Notable Women Chorus at the Bat Mitzvah of one of our members, it seemed the perfect time to restore windchime walker to her former splendor.
Well, collaging my walker no longer takes two days, but it certainly takes the better part of one day. I started after lunch, kept plugging away bit-by-bit, and finished after dinner. The final step is to varnish the paper collage so it will be protected from rain and the hard knocks of everyday life. When I opened the old can of acrylic polyurethane varnish, I found it hard as a rock. My hero Eddie drove right down to the hardware store and brought me back a can of spar varnish. That will probably work even better. It should, seeing as how that's what they put on the wooden hulls of boats.
walker and I, fast friends again.
SATURDAY, MAY 12, 2001
Some days are so rich you must savor them before they can be properly digested. That's another way of saying I am just too darn tired to write my journal tonight. When you hear about it all tomorrow, I think you'll understand. Suffice it to say, I left my house this morning at 7:45 AM, didn't return home until over 12 hours later and put 90 miles on the odometer. It's now almost 10 PM and I am ready to hit the sack.
Let me give you two teasers. Both are action shots: one of women dancing during my singing sister Ellen's Bat Mitzvah, and the other is of activists outside a Windsor, Ontario union hall having an lively discussion about the role of the OAS (Organization of American States) in the formulation of the FTAA (Free Trade Area of the Americas).
SUNDAY, MAY 13, 2001
Yesterday started with the alarm going off at 6:45 AM. Yikes, I said to myself, why did I ever agree to be out in the northern suburbs by 9 AM? But, as so often happens, I wouldn't have missed having been there for anything.
It was Ellen's Bat Mitzvah at Congregation Shir Tikvah (Song of Hope). We are sister singers in the Notable Women's Chorus, and she'd invited our group to sing during the service. When we arrived, our group found an empty room to practice our two songs, Ysaye Barnwell's "We Are" and Carolyn McDade's "There Is A Time". I am fortunate to be able to sing in whichever section our director, Nancy N., needs me: yesterday I joined the low voices. We had a good number of sopranos and altos, so the balance sounded fine.
After our practice we took our seats with the congregation and put on the black yarmulkes decorated with musical notes that Ellen gave to each person attending her Bat Mitzvah. Not only was it the first time I'd ever worn a yarmulke, but it was the first time I'd been to a Bar or Bat Mitzvah. Even though I'd grown up in a neighborhood with many Jewish friends, in those days--the 1940s and '50s--my religion forbade us from attending any worship service but our own. How narrow! At least I was able to go over to my friends' houses during holidays and enjoy their wonderful food. That's where I first developed my taste for challah (the twisted egg bread).
Such a rich religious tradition, and in this congregation, such a creative blend of the old and the new. I could now understand why Ellen had worked so hard for over two years to prepare for this day.
We entered the Bat Mitzvah service--a regular Shabbat--with song and drums. I guess Congregation Shir Tikvah chose their name because of their incredible love of song and dance. Seems like every minute or two we were either chanting, someone was dancing and others were drumming. We'd been invited to bring tambourines or other small percussive instruments, so I played my walker's windchimes throughout!
There were many touching moments during the service, but one that will stay with me was when Rabbi Arnie prepared to hand Ellen the Torah for her to read from in Hebrew, the privilege she had earned as Bat Mitzvah. He said that this congregation's Torah had come from a synagogue in Czechoslovakia that was destroyed during the Holocaust. It brought such a powerful sense of what the Jewish people have faced in their history of persecution.
But what will stay with me more than anything is this congregation's capacity for celebration.
After the service, Ellen and Rabbi Arnie, a most gentle-spirited man, let me take their picture. I was also delighted to take a picture of my sister singers, Jackie and Nancy W. It's about time Jackie had her picture in this journal! She's been one of my most faithful readers since I started keeping this online journal in February 2000.
Although the morning had been chilly and gray, the sun shone on Ellen's reception for the congregation on the patio. A young member seemed to delight in ringing my windchimes while the adults gathered around the food table. I received a number of compliments on my decorated walker. Sure was glad I'd taken the time to re-collage her on Friday. By the way, Ellen did everything she could to make us all feel welcome. Here she is with Penny and Mary, three Notable Women together.
It wasn't over yet. Now it was time for a sumptuous luncheon for invited guests. I couldn't help taking a couple pictures of the dessert tables--I know, I know! What was funny was how Nancy N. later used those pictures in the camera's LED screen to point out to the caterer what she wanted for dessert (she had to leave before our table went up to the dessert tables). Ellen was such a gracious hostess as she came around to greet each table.
My friend Rosalie and I left at 3 PM. I wanted to be in Windsor, Ontario by 5 PM for the showing of a video by members of the Windsor Peace Committee. As they say, there are two seasons in Michigan, winter and construction. There's no question which season we're in now! Seems like every expressway is either closed or down to one lane on the weekends. But I did manage to get over to Windsor in time.
The video showed the Windsor delegation's experiences on the streets during the recent Quebec City FTAA protests. Not too many people were there yesterday, but almost every face was familiar to me from the OAS demonstrations and subsequent gatherings of the Windsor Peace Committee. I feel quite connected to this community. And one of the things I appreciate is their diversity in age, gender, ethnic background, and political beliefs. We have university students, older activists, union workers, educators, artists, communists and progressive liberals, to name a few.
This diversity was highlighted in a lively discussion that followed the videos--they also showed the Indy Media's "This Is What Democracy Looks Like"--between an older, more traditional and a younger, more creative activist. Their discussion continued in the union hall parking lot, with a few folks joining in. These are folks I admire a great deal.
Are you surprised to hear I slept 12 hours last night?
I awoke to a beautiful day. Ed and I took off for a walk/scoot to the grocery store about 11:30 AM this morning. As I stepped outside, I was immediately awash in the heady scent of lilies of the valley. Then the lilacs kicked in as I pulled out of the garage onto the lane beside our house. Once down by the lake, we saw sailboats--some with colorful spinnakers flying and some without--from the sailing club near the end of our street. Though it was somewhat chilly in the shade, by the time he'd been walking in the sun for a mile, Ed stopped to change from a long-sleeved to a short-sleeved shirt. He isn't shy!
We ran into Lancea on her three-wheeled bike that is identical to the one I used to use. Turns out we'd been in water aerobics class together last summer, and had had a couple of significant conversations. I was happy to hear that she is now free of pain.
Once down in our community's commercial district, we quickly took care of our grocery shopping and then went up the street to the bagel restaurant where we both ordered soup. I enjoyed seeing the parade of children's art painted directly on the windows of all the stores. I was particularly taken with this green alligator who appears to be flying over a range of brown mountains.
Near Ed's office, where he planned to stay and write for the day, we encountered a sister scooter-rider, Sally, with her daughter, Natalie. Sally and I had met in the same block at the end of last summer, and had had a wonderful conversation. I remember our discovering we had a lot of things in common, including both having grown up in the Washington, DC area. I was sorry I'd not gotten her phone number then, so I got it today. I look forward to our getting together.
It is now almost 1 AM
and I am happy to come to the end of writing about this full and
wonderful weekend. It is definitely time for bed.
MONDAY, MAY 14, 2001
The more I read, the more I see, the more I think, the more radical I become. The information that is coming my way about "business as usual" among governments, corporations, law enforcement officers, media and the press is so disturbing that I cannot quietly sit by and watch them trample on everything that I believe in. The freedom of dissent. Protection of human rights. Honest communication of information. Concern for the environment. Open discussion of issues that affect people and the earth. The people's right to determine how their country interacts with others. The privacy of citizens. The tenets of the so-called "democracy" we are said to live in.
I spent the morning reading a most chilling document compiled by the Windsor Peace Committee called, "Windsor OAS Days of Action: The Criminalization of Dissent." I read the testimonies of dozens of people, protesters and nonprotesters alike. I saw through the eyes of participants and witnesses the appalling physical and verbal violence and abuse heaped on those who dared to stand publicly as dissenters during those four days of shame in Windsor, Ontario last June. Not only those four days, but for weeks before and now almost a year after.
A 17 year old high school girl was kicked, beaten, grabbed in the crotch, isolated in a prison cell for two nights and three days, and verbally abused and cursed by local and provincial police. Her crime? Standing with a group of youthful protesters on a street corner at lunchtime across from the Walkerville High School. Three adult neighbors who were eyewitnesses to these violent arrests, wrote,
...an officer's signal brought a police truck to a screeching halt in front of the group on the corner, and armed officers began to wade into the group of students with their batons raised, and, it seems, their minds closed. There was absolutely no effort to communicate with anything other than violence, and the scene almost instantly turned into a kind of riot. Police, either randomly or by design, selected certain individuals from the group, pushed them face down onto the street and began to handcuff and otherwise manhandle people who, until the police began to interfere, made up as nondescript bunch as that corner has ever seen.
Let us be clear: the police initiated the conflict and, given the unprovoked nature of the attack, the young people were, on the whole, remarkably composed and even patient with the men who were abusing them.
After reading 40 pages of such testimonies and reflections on what had actually happened to dissenters--especially youthful dissenters--during the OAS protests that I'd been part of last June in Windsor, Ontario, I received a forwarded email this afternoon with a speech given by Maude Barlow of the Council Of Canadians to protesters on April 21, 2001 in Quebec City.
This time it was the meeting of the Summit of the Americas, a group with a similar agenda but more power than the OAS. The violence against dissenters escalated as the numbers of riot police rose from the 3,000 in Windsor to 6,500 in Quebec City. And what had been a chain link fence enclosing 6 blocks in Windsor was now a fenced-in wall enclosing six miles in the center of Quebec City. Arrests in Windsor numbered close to 70; in Quebec City it was 500. Six protesters are still in jail today.
As so often happens, the media and press focused everyone's attention on the dozens of folks who vandalized buildings and vehicles, ignoring the tens of thousands of peaceful protesters who were subjected not only to indiscriminate arrests and violent attacks by riot-garbed police, but to over 6,000 canisters of tear gas that harmed protesters and nonprotesters alike.
Time will tell what really happened in Quebec City, but you can be sure the truth will come out...at least from alternative news sources like the Independent Media Center.
How can it seem so clear to growing numbers of people that these so-called democratic countries in which we live have become inimical to peaceful public expressions of dissent, while the silent majority sits in front of their TV screens shaking their heads and decrying these "violent" protesters who should stay home and shut up?
What gives me hope is the youth. They are no longer content to buy the American or Canadian Dream of getting a job, settling down, and keeping to themselves. It is their world we're fighting for, not mine. Heck, I'm almost 59 years old. I've not got a lot more years. But what years I have are going to be spent in solidarity with these young idealistic activists who are not willing to give up when the powers-that-be say, Oh, go home. Globalization and Free Trade are already here. Your fight is worthless.
No, it is not too late. There is still time to change direction, to recognize the importance of people over profits, of the earth over our consumer needs, of the truth over lies. Join the struggle. You don't have to go out on the streets, but educate yourself, stay abreast of the issues, form your own opinions and discuss them with the people in your life. Often the most effective tool of activism is conversation. Dare to ask questions and to speak your mind.
As Gandhi said, "The
future will depend on what we do in the present."
TUESDAY, MAY 15, 2001
When I awoke to the sound of rain, my first thought was, Oh darn! That means I can't ride La Lucha down to have lunch with my friend. My second thought was, Let it rain. The earth is so thirsty. My third thought was, Why can't I ride in the rain? I certainly did in San Francisco. All these thoughts before I even considered getting out of bed!
Well, I did ride La Lucha to meet my friend. By then it was a light sprinkle, but I was prepared for anything. Plastic rain jacket under my red teflon-coated silk poncho, rain hat on my head, and my feet cozy in a plastic bag (Ed's brilliant idea--wish I'd thought of that in SF last February). I had to avoid puddles, but still preferred riding in the street. It was chilly enough that I was delighted to warm up with a hot cuppa chamomile spearmint tea after I got to Atom's Juice Cafe.
Judy soon showed up and we ordered soup--organic tomato florentine for me, and shitake mushroom rice for her--and shared an avocado/tomato/lettuce wrap sandwich. It was our first lunch together. She and I originally met through the Notable Women chorus, and most of our encounters have been in connection with that group. Actually today's lunch date came about because of Ellen's Bat Mitzvah last Saturday. After the ceremony Judy said, Let's get together for lunch this week. And I agreed.
I'm so glad we did. Judy, unlike myself, is quiet in groups so I've rarely had an opportunity to sit down and talk in depth with her. But I do remember a very special meeting we had last summer.
I was scooting along the lake one fine afternoon when I heard a car honk as it passed. I waved even though I couldn't see who it was. Having lived here 30 years, eventually it seems like you know everyone and everyone knows you. When I reached the next driveway, there was Judy getting out of her car. It had been she who had honked. I remember she was all dressed up and I asked where she was going. It turned out she was coming from the memorial service of a woman who had been very dear to her. I sense Judy had stopped that day simply to feel a connection with a living friend. Today she gave me a book written by her friend.
After lunch I decided to go by the lake on my way home. The threat of rain had lifted though there was still a chill to the air. But the greens were so green and the fragrance of the earth so rich and musky that I was grateful I hadn't chickened out and driven over by car.
You know, I realized today that I'd never get the pictures I do if I used a car instead of my scooter. You never see nature properly by car, not to mention meeting people, especially children. Let's hear it for La Lucha!
Anyway, I turned down our usual sidewalk shortcut toward the lake. It looked so lovely, almost magical. And for the first time I saw a large fungus growing at the base of a tree. A good looking fungus like that always reminds me of my old friend, Fred the Fungus.
Ed and I found Fred in the autumn of 1975 while hiking the Appalachian Trial near my parent's retirement home in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. I carried it back to Michigan and used it as the subject of a Basic Drawing and Perspective class assignment at the art college I was attending. Fred the Fungus had the honor of being drawn and painted 100 different ways that semester. Believe me, I got to know that fungus pretty well!
Farther down the path was a flowering honeysuckle bush. Now honeysuckles always make me think of my childhood summers on the Rhode River, an inlet off the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. I remember learning to pull the stamen through the bottom of each honeysuckle flower to draw forth that one delicious drop of sweet nectar. But either I've lost my touch or Michigan honeysuckles are different from their Maryland counterpart. I've never gotten one drop of honey from the flowers around here: the blooms are too small.
Once down by the lake I was impressed by the whitecaps and spray crashing against the breakwater. I scooted across the street at one point and pulled into a rather muddy pebble-filled driveway to try to get a good picture of the rough water. But, as always, the camera flattened the effect. Don't think I'll try that again as La Lucha was definitely not a happy camper on that kind of surface.
There was a barricade
blocking the sidewalk right before my street, so I went up a side
street instead. The smells up there were luscious, especially
when I scooted by wet pine
trees. And as I admired a garden of scarlet tulips,
I realized they will soon be gone. Spring's beauty is fleeting.
WEDNESDAY, MAY 16, 2001
Another big day. I'm beginning to feel like I've been running a marathon of late. All good stuff though; I wouldn't have missed any of it.
This afternoon I taught two classes of the Attitudes disability awareness program to first graders. Actually the first class was two first grade classes combined. You know, the kids were great, even though I know they must have been at the end of their attention spans for the day. And as always, they all wanted to volunteer to use the crutches and wheelchair. That's the hardest part of teaching these classes, seeing the disappointed faces of those who aren't chosen. And since I can only choose five volunteers, that means most of the class ends up feeling somewhat disappointed. Ah well, the challenges of being a teacher, even a volunteer one.
I came home for about twenty minutes and instead of taking my usual nap, hopped right back in the car, this time to go meet a friend for dinner in Windsor, Ontario. I was early for our date so drove to a parking lot by the river to take pictures of downtown Detroit's skyline. Even on a gray day like this, Windsor has the best view of my city. As I snapped the picture, an ocean-going freighter passed by.
Many people don't realize that Detroit is an international harbor, in fact one of the busiest waterways in the world. The Detroit River is connected to Lake Erie which is connected to the Welland Canal (Niagra Falls) which is connected to Lake Ontario which is connected to the St. Lawrence Seaway which is connected to the Atlantic Ocean. Sounds like a song--"The heel bone's connected to the ankle bone; the ankle bone's connected to the shin bone..." One of the first things I learned after moving to Detroit in 1966 was how to tell the difference between lakers (Great Lakes ships) and ocean-going freighters. Ed and I used to have a 13-foot Boston Whaler runabout and one of our favorite activities was to ride up close to these ships, sometimes cruising in their wake. They looked like mountains close-up.
After taking the skyline pictures, I drove west along the river to a park near the Ambassador Bridge. I guess they used to run passenger ferries back and forth between Detroit and Windsor, but now there are only two choices--the tunnel or the bridge. Both of them date back to the early 1930s. I usually take the tunnel because it's closer to my house and I can avoid the expressways with their construction delays. The tunnel entrance is right in the middle of downtown Detroit, and the bridge is perhaps 6-7 miles west of downtown; I live east of downtown.
As I was raising my camera to take a picture of the bridge, a woman and her dog came walking along. She started rushing to move out of my way, but I invited her and her dog to stay and be in the picture. I didn't get her name but the dog is Joshua. After they went on, here came the freighter I'd seen in front of downtown.
It was now time to meet my friend Penny at Shin Shin's, a favorite Chinese restaurant here in Windsor. We enjoyed our usual free-ranging conversation as we shared their delicious garlic green beans and vegetable fried rice. After dinner, Penny followed me over to our monthly women's book group.
When we got to Mary Margaret and Elaine's, I just had to take a picture of their new plantings. Mary Margaret is an artist whose medium is the earth, while Elaine's art is painting and sculpture. Their home is lovely.
Mary Margaret, Pat N. and Penny helped me up the attractive but challenging front walk with its stone steps. This was the first I'd seen some of my friends since returning home from California. What an intelligent, interesting, politically and socially aware group of women. I am always enlivened by our discussions.
Tonight we were finishing the book I read while in San Francisco, E.F. Schumacher's recently-reissued 1973 classic, Small Is Beautiful: "Economics As If People Mattered." It prompted a lively discussion about globalization, a subject dear to my activist's heart. We completed the evening with each of us offering suggestions about what book we might read next. Most had to do with global threats of one kind or another. Did we want to examine US imperialism, militarization, the dangers of radiation, neuroscience or the multinational pharmaceutical industry? Penny made the welcome suggestion that we try to find a book that might inspire rather than depress us. We've tackled pretty tough issues in our choices of books lately.
I got back home close
to 10 PM, feeling tired but happy. It was a good day.
THURSDAY, MAY 17, 2001
The strangest thing happened last night...well, I guess you could call it this morning. After that long day, and the time spent writing about it in my journal, I finally went to bed. It must have been around 2 AM. By then, I was past tired; exhaustion would better describe it. The thoughts of my bed--especially with the clean sheets I'd asked Karen to put on during yesterday's bimonthly cleaning--filled me with anticipation.
So the lights were off when I pulled back the covers, and got ready to tuck myself in bed. It was then I could tell something was not quite right. For one thing, the bottom sheet--which should have been fitted but wasn't--was barely covering the bed. I got in anyway and discovered there was no top sheet at all; the nubby blanket was directly against my skin.
Now I'm not going to go into the black thoughts that seized me right about then. Anyway, I got up and saw that the sheets Ed had brought up from the laundry were twin size instead of the full size needed for my double bed. I figured Karen had not known what to do and had tried to accommodate as best she could. All this did nothing to soften my sense of betrayal.
Isn't that strange? It was betrayal I felt. As if someone had shortsheeted my bed just to make my life difficult. Remember that old camp trick? Anyway, I was in a bad way. I went back to my one-sheeted bed and tried to sleep. No way! That nubby blanket drove me crazy. So I gave up and went downstairs to join Ed in his bed.
He was most understanding, and even went back upstairs to get me my pillow. But neither of us slept very well. However, when I woke up, that sweet man had already washed my full-size sheets and put the fitted sheet on my bed (I have trouble doing that myself).
This afternoon I found a note from Karen telling me about how she'd tried to handle changing my bed with the wrong-sized sheets. It sure would have helped if I'd seen her note yesterday.
All this is being detailed not to put Karen down, a most capable and considerate woman. Rather, it just goes to show what can get under your skin with no warning. I learned my relationship to my bed is almost infantile. And I'd never known that until suddenly it was not there for me as I'd expected it to be.
Luckily my only commitment today wasn't until 1 PM, so I could sleep in. I had a bizarre dream about being on a sumptuous blimp over Indonesia. But I could hardly enjoy it because, in the dream, I kept trying to find my way back to my seat, but somehow never could find it.
When I finally got up and out of the house, I found it to be a hot humid day with fog still covering the lake. Joan and I were meeting at Inn Seasons, probably the oldest and best known vegetarian restaurant in Metro Detroit. It was our first opportunity to catch up since I'd returned from San Francisco. We both ordered the vegetable tart and organic lemonade...and then shared a Michigan peach and pecan cobbler. Is it any wonder I've been putting on the pounds? Here's Joan holding up our tempting dessert.
I got home about 3:30 PM. By then, I had very little energy, so I kicked off my sandals, got an Idwalla juice, a good book and took myself out back to sit in my special spot. Ed was home napping, and came outside later to take this picture.
Where I'm sitting is a
cement back stoop with a small roof overhead. It is surrounded
by my idea of the perfect garden--plants and bushes gone to seed
and doing exactly what they choose to do. Moss and last autumn's
leaves feed the soil. Nothing is cut back; everything is wild
and uncontrolled. It makes me feel like I'm in the country. The
birds and squirrels like it too. I've seen owls back there, and
once a cottontail rabbit came to call. My only concession to normal
gardening is the hanging basket of scarlet
impatiens that I put in a clay pot I made years ago. Here
are some views of what I see when I look to the southeast,
feet tell the tale. It is my place of healing.
FRIDAY, MAY 18, 2001
Thank you, spinal cord for sending messages from my brain to the rest of my body. Thank you, sternum for protecting my heart and lungs and for holding my ribs together. Thank you, left and right index fingers for all your work on my laptop keyboard. Thank you, quad muscles for lifting my legs so I can climb the stairs up to my computer room and my bedroom. Thank you toes for your help walking and keeping my balance.
And so it went for the entire hour that Pat K. gave me a massage today. Somehow, a lightbulb went off and I suddenly realized what a wonderful body I have, and how hard it works to satisfy my demands. Especially this week. It kept me going as I taught two classes of first graders on Wednesday. It walked the long distance from the handicapped parking place to the front door of the school and back. It got in and out of the car 12 times that day alone.
I mean how could I take all this effort for granted? So, as Pat worked with each part of my body today, I expressed my gratitude for all it does. Not out loud, of course, just within myself. It's so easy to look at what my body can't do, especially since I've been living with a chronic progressive condition. But there is much much more that my body does than what it doesn't do. Half-full and half-empty glass, and all that.
After Pat's glorious massage, I took house duty for a few hours. It was a quiet day with maybe three phone calls, two of them being women asking if we had space in the house. We don't. I had good conversations with Pat and Aileen. Then when Emily came home from school, she brought down her most recent photo album to show me pictures of a dance workshop she attended last weekend at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, and of Spring Break with her girlfriends on an island off the coast of Texas.
Emily and I go way back. She was 7 when we first met; she's now 17 and finishing her junior year in high school. I was her godmother at her combination baptism/communion/confirmation in 1992, and now identify myself as her goddessmother. As Pat is a single mom, Ed and I have been privileged to be part of Emily's extended family for the past decade. She means a great deal to us both.
At some point during the afternoon, I walked from the living room into the dining area. Who should be acting as a doorstop but Katrina, our furry friend.
Before I left to go home, Pat gave me a brief garden tour. She is a passionate urban gardener who has already planted the lettuce that just starting to come up, green beans, sunflowers, morning glories and more. The iris is already in full bloom. Pat was shy about my taking pictures before there's much to see, but I told her it would be fun for folks to be able to follow the garden's progess throughout the season. So this is the first installment.
My day ended with a scooter
ride--part of it with Ed--along the lake. And then we finished
watching a video that we'd started yesterday. It's now only 11:30
PM and I think I'm going to get to bed before midnight. Will miracles
SATURDAY, MAY 19, 2001
Today was just what I needed. Quiet and undemanding. A dear friend, Deborah, came over for lunch, but it was no stress because our main interest was conversation, not food.
Deborah is my oldest friend here in Detroit. We first met in the Pediatrics unit of the old downtown Detroit Receiving Hospital in 1968. She worked in the Pediatric Playroom and I was a volunteer on the floor. Actually it was in that playroom doing crafts with the kids that my latent artistic abilities surfaced. That led me to enter art college in 1976, at which time I quit my volunteer job at the hospital. Deborah stayed on as an Occupational Therapist until 1999. For the last ten years her passion has been storytelling. Though she has a day job substitute teaching in the Detroit public schools, her storytelling business is flourishing. Her dedication, hard work, creative imagination and networking skills have made it so.
To me, one of the joys of a longterm friendship is that we share a history or herstory. For instance, today I mentioned an anti-racism workshop I'd taken 12 years ago and Deborah immediately smiled and said, "Oh, yes, the expensive one!" It's grand not to have to explain or offer background; you simply know your friend understands.
After Deborah left, I took a nap. Oh, but I was tired. This has been such an active week. It felt utterly delicious to lie on my bed listening to birds singing and children playing. Since I do it so rarely, taking a nap reminds me of childhood.
Ed and I had a simple dinner and then I got on La Lucha to enjoy the last of this lovely day. The boats out on the lake were shining brightly in the lowering sun. I decided to take a tour of our waterfront park. As I scooted through the gate, I noticed a large banner with the word "encampment" on it. I had no idea what that meant.
The first thing I saw was a table of folks dressed in tennis clothes having a picnic. Next, it was children and a mother at the playscape. Then I began to see signs of the encampment. There were perhaps 20 tents set up and men and a few women dressed in period costumes. As I scooted past one of the tents, I asked the two men sitting there if they could tell me what was going on.
Coincidentally, I'd happened upon the organizers, Dale and Tom. Apparently the encampment brings together individuals and groups whose shared avocation is the history of this area from 1650-1820. It includes both civilian and military perspectives of the English, French, French Canadian voyageurs and Native American peoples. The participants are spending the weekend giving workshops, demonstrations and talks during the day, then cooking outdoors and sleeping overnight in their tents. It is sponsored by our community historical society in conjunction with the celebration of Detroit's tricentennial.
It's always good to meet folks who are living their dream; that is certainly what seemed to be happening here.
After my conversation with Dale and Tom, I kept scooting out to the end of the park. This is one of my favorite places with its broad expanse of water and sky.
I then left the park and scooted along the lake, looking out for my Eddie on his nightly walk. We soon met up and walked/scooted home.
As I say, this was just
kind of day I needed.
SUNDAY, MAY 20, 2001
It's now midnight and I've just started to write in my journal. For that reason, I'm going to cut it short and simply write about the day up until 4 PM. Tomorrow I'll put up lots of pictures and take you to Peggy's magical 60th birthday party at her and Jeanne's home in the country.
My sleep pattern last night was truly strange. I went to bed between 12:30 and 1 AM, but by 3 AM was still wide awake. That's why I avoid taking naps! So I got up, went downstairs and finished watching "Tuesdays with Morrie" on video. I returned to bed after 4 AM and happily dropped right off to sleep.
So when Ed came upstairs about 10 AM and offered to do our grocery shopping on his bike, I sleepily agreed. I got up a little after 11 AM, shortly before he returned home.
You know, two things I looked at last night affected me deeply: one was "Tuesdays with Morrie" and the other was an online journal I read shortly before turning in. This journal was written by a man I know whose wife Jeanie has been living with a brain tumor since Labor Day 1998. Bill's way of dealing with this unimaginally hard situation--a blend of love, grief, gratitude, faith and reality--made me reassess my own way of dealing with life. In particular, my way of living in relationship with Eddie. I'm afraid I saw a good deal of selfishness on my part.
But it helped me take time today with this good man who shares my life and talk about a lot of important things. I feel closer to him now than I have since returning home from California. And I suspect he feels the same. How easy it is to take the person you love the most for granted. I needed this wake-up call and am grateful that I heard it.
The moments we shared today were simple and precious all at the same time. A conversation that started in the kitchen and continued in the living room. Going out front together to see the runners and walkers in a local hospital's 5K Run/Walk that went by our house. Chatting with our next door neighbor Jan. My stopping by later to visit him in his office between picking up a birthday card for Peggy and getting Odwalla juices at the market.
And then seeing the
house we've shared these 30 years with a renewed sense of
gratitude. A truly good day.
MONDAY, MAY 21, 2001
On my way into my computer room a few minutes ago I looked out the window to see the furry hind end of an animal rummaging around inside a big old hole in the maple tree in front of our house. Suddenly its masked face peered out the hole. A raccoon! It's now a half hour later and the raccoon is still in there; now it's preening. As Ed says, she's probably "preggers" (pregnant) and building a nest. Will we soon see a number of tiny masked faces peeking out the hole?
I'm so glad today was today and yesterday was yesterday. Today brought the rain we so needed, while yesterday brought the beautiful weather we wanted to celebrate Peggy's 60th birthday.
She and her partner Jeanne live out in the country north of Detroit. It was my first time at their place, but as soon as I saw the land, pond and woods out back, I felt at home. It reminded me of our friend Nan's place where Ed and I spent so many pleasant vacations back in the early '90s. Even the same chorus of frogs ushered in the night.
Peg's son Danny was hosting this celebration of his Mom. Danny lives in San Francisco and is day manager at Sparky's restaurant in the Castro. I felt like I was back in the city just being around him! Sweet fellow.
Most of the guests were women I know and love. As so many of us are drummers and singers, the evening was filled with music. Penny even led women in a dance that spiralled around the tree. There was delicious food (pot luck with desserts provided), silliness and laughter, and even a political statement or two. Jeanne, Peg and Wendy had just returned from a two-day drumming camp in Ontario and led us in some of the patterns they'd learned. We posed for pictures taken from strange angles, delighted in seeing Jeanne, Peg and Danny together, and talked and listened as women have done for millennia. It was the perfect party for a woman who deserves every happiness.
One thing that Detroit
does exceptionally well and that is to build a strong sense of
community...especially among its women. What a privilege to be
part of it.
TUESDAY, MAY 22, 2001
A pantoum that was triggered by yesterday's view out the window.
Today's excitement happened right here in my own basement. Well, cellar is a more accurate term. Night before last Ed discovered our 15-year-old hot water heater had heated its last drop. It was leaking, so he turned off the water supply. He said that yesterday's morning shower was a real eye-opener! I called the plumber who, fortunately, could work us into his schedule today.
In a lot of basements a leaking hot water heater would cause damage, but in ours? No problem. The floor is cement and an open drain is in the center of the room. Actually our cellar is a most interesting carrier of our house's history. We've never seen the records, but judging by doors, moldings and the soft pine floors, our house is at least 100 years old. It was moved to its present location long ago when they extended one of the nearby cross streets. Guess our house was in the way. What this means is we have a partial basement with several crawl spaces, old plumbing and old electrical wiring that we had replaced maybe 10 years ago.
Brian Cicotte came about 12:30 PM, just as he'd said. Last year we'd had him out to do something with faucets and toilets--can't really remember what--and we'd actually begun to explore what it would cost to repipe the house. So I felt comfortable enough to ask if he'd mind my taking pictures to put up on my web site.
You know, if it hadn't been for this illustrated online journal, I would have missed a most interesting conversation, not to mention watching a skilled craftsman at work.
The first step was to disconnect the old hot water heater, roll it closer to the drain and tilt it so the stored water would empty out down the drain. Next, he replaced the pipes that would connect the new hot water heater to our water supply. Then it was time to go out to his truck, load the new heater on a dolly and bring it into our house. That meant 4 steps up to the front door and at least 15 down to the cellar. Whew!
After he'd unboxed the new heater, Brian attached its fittings, placed it where it belonged next to the furnace, and connected it to the pipes in the ceiling. He then sealed the joints with a blowtorch. That was my favorite part, mainly because I'm a closet pyromaniac. I didn't get a picture of him transporting the old hot water heater out to his truck, but just imagine the early process reversed.
Now that's what I saw, but what I heard is what will stay with me...in particular his story.
Married at 20, he went into business for himself as a plumber at 22. Two years later he took over an already established plumbing business and kept them both running. All was well until he was hit by a drunk driver (the driver was killed in the crash). For two years he could not work. He had to sell both his businesses and use all his energy healing his body and regaining his strength. Surgery, rehab, all of it. After that, as he said, "I started over from scratch." But I heard no self-pity or bitterness, only gratitude. "I learned things I could never have known otherwise."
This is a man who loves life. He knows where to place his priorities. He never works Saturdays and gets home in time to play with his three kids. A year and a half ago, he and his wife moved to a community they love, into a neighborhood where folks stop by to visit and pitch in when help is needed. It sounds like Brian's house is already the hub of the neighborhood. As he says, "I like people." And I'm sure they like him.
As I said, I have this journal and my digital camera to thank for this wonderful encounter. Without it, I would have stayed upstairs and simply been there to hand over a check when the job was done. How poor I would have been!
To conclude this day,
let me share two images I saw on the way home from scooting to
meet Ed and Jack for dinner. The sky
kept drawing my eye, and I expect you can see
WEDNESDAY, MAY 23, 2001
I looked out my window at 5 PM and lo and behold, there s/he was again looking just as cozy as on Monday.This raccoon looks like s/he's here for the long haul. And why not? I'm sure that's a nice roomy hole to cuddle up in. It's in a old maple tree that has been hollowed out by ants--LOTS of space in there.
I received the following email from a journal-reading friend today:
Ah, it is cute AND a pest. Not just either or, in my view.
Too Emersonian? Yet do heart and mind have to battle 'til one is vanquished?
My friend is right, of course, it is never either/or, rather both/and. My head and heart must wed not war.
Today I finished reading an excellent book, the Pulitzer Prize winning debut collection of short stories by Jhumpa Lahiri, Interpreter of Maladies. As so many have said before me, how could an individual of 34 know what she knows and write it in such distinctive prose? I concur with the words of a Newsweek review that said, "Lahiri's language is uncluttered; she's sparing with metaphor, and the riches accumulate unobtrusively."
Uncluttered language.That's what I admire and what I try to write. Say no more than you need to say so the story takes center stage rather than the words. But I must say I found myself sucking in my breath as she described her characters; it was the ordinary stuff she noticed that I found exceptional. This is an individual who sees what goes on around her.
For example, in the first story, "A Temporary Matter", Lahiri writes:
She wore a navy blue poplin raincoat over gray sweatpants and white sneakers, looking at thirty-three, like the type of woman she'd once claimed she would never resemble.
She'd come from the gym. Her cranberry lipstick was visible only on the outer reaches of her mouth, and her eyeliner had left charcoal patches beneath her lower lashes.
It seems so simple, yet so recognizable that you say to yourself, yes, I've looked like that or I've seen someone who looks like that. She mentions details that we usually notice but don't consider important enough to comment on even to ourselves. But it's just these details that we make us unique.
As much as I savored reading it, I couldn't help sympathizing with the author as she writes and prepares to publish a second book. How would it be to win a Pultizer Prize with the first book you ever published? Talk about high expectations! May she continue to write for herself, as she so obviously did in Interpretator of Maladies.
Probably the most remarkable
thing that happened today is that I cooked Ed's dinner. Those
who know me will realize the significance of this event. His smiles
and groans of pleasure were something to behold. And over a simple
pork chop, onion, stewed tomato and rice casserole that my mother
taught me decades ago. It made me think of that old cream of mushroom
soup/mayo/lemon juice/curry powder standby we called Chicken Divan.
Remember? Guess that will be my next culinary adventure. But not
too soon. Don't want to build up any unrealistic expectations!
THURSDAY, MAY 24, 2001
Is it my imagination, or do kids today have way more style than we had at their age? Maybe it's the sophistication of today's television and films, but I can't remember our looking anything like Emily and Jason looked tonight for Jason's senior prom.
For Emily the night was a marathon. Her high school spring dance performance was at 7 PM and the prom started at 8 PM. Since she's a dance major at one of Detroit's most highly respected schools, there was no way she could miss it. Even leaving at intermission, she was still going to miss the dinner at Jason's prom. And I'm sure that was going to be some dinner as his school was holding their prom at an upscale restaurant/dance bar on the Detroit River.
So Emily's mother--my friend Pat K.--and I drove the five minutes over to see Emily dance, then took her back home at intermission. I'm always touched by how the Dayhouse community supports Emily in her ventures--both Fr. Tom and Phyllis came to watch too. What we saw of the performance was excellent.
The minute we got back to the house, Emily ran upstairs to shower, dress, curl her hair and put on fresh makeup. Jason arrived by limo about 45 minutes later. Wow! What elegance! I suspect you can tell by this closeup what a wonderful fellow he is. Emily came downstairs looking poised and lovely. You would never have known she'd been a sweaty dancer just an hour before! They posed for several photos--I was particularly taken with this one--and were soon off in a limo driven by a very nice woman.
How sweet of Emily to invite me to witness this high school rite of passage. She's a most thoughtful goddess daughter.
Earlier in the day while I was on house duty, Pat, Aileen and I had played a rousing game of chickenfoot dominoes. Fun game! We'd then enjoyed a great dinner cooked by Pat--tuna noodle casserole and sauerkraut salad--before going to Emily's performance.
As I'd promised last week, here's an update on the Dayhouse garden out front. There are new tomato plants, parsley, impatiens, and strings for the morning glories to climb up beside the porch. And as we waited for Emily to dress, we saw this beautiful sunset out the dining room window.
It's now 12:30 AM, a rain
shower has just ended and I trust Emily and Jason are having a
ball. My idea of a "ball" at this moment is finish this
entry and trundle off to bed. That's the difference between being
17/18 and 58!
©2001 Patricia Lay-Dorsey. Please use with attribution.