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FRIDAY, MAY 25, 2001
This was a very full day; full of such a variety of experiences that I am reeling not only from what I saw and heard but from the different parts of my mind/body/spirit that were engaged along the way.
I got up at 8 AM because I thought I heard the fence people arrive. I wanted to talk to them before they started removing the old and putting up a new fence. I was concerned that they not cut back anymore of my backyard wilderness area than necessary. I ended up getting so intrigued with the process that I spent the whole morning taking a series of digital pictures as they worked.
Around 1 PM, I drove Ed to pick up his car at a body shop in an eastern suburb. When I returned home, I sat at the computer for a couple of hours turning the morning's pictures into web pages and archiving my 15th month of journal-keeping.
In the late afternoon I got back in the car to drive over to Windsor, ONT. I left three hours before my 7 PM meeting hoping to avoid the after-work crush of folks taking the tunnel to Canada for the long weekend. I ended up eating an elegant dinner served by Maja at an Italian restaurant simply because that's where I found a parking place on the street. I then went to the Windsor Peace Committee's forum with Dr. Luis Nieves Falcon, Chair of the Puerto Rico Human Rights Committee, who spoke eloquently about his country, its 100-year history of US colonization and the recent struggle against the US military appropriation of two-thirds of the island of Vieques. It was this meeting around which I'd planned my day.
What a chilling tale! It is hard to hear how my country has dominated Puerto Rico since receiving it as a spoil of the Spanish-American War in the 1890s, and thereafter depriving it of the dignity and autonomy that any peoples deserve. How these islands, essentially 100 miles long and 35 miles wide, have 17 US military bases scattered throughout. How its people were allowed US citizenship so their men could go to war for the US, but have no vote or representation in the government that controls every aspect of their lives. How 15 Puerto Rican political prisoners were cruelly incarcerated in US prisons for 30 years before the US government became so internationally embarrassed that they released all but 3. It goes on and on. And all this was before Dr. Luis even began to talk about what's happening right now in Vieques.
I'm providing two links that offer information about the important struggle to rid the island of Vieques of its US Naval bases and their dangerous bombing exercises: 1) An excellent brief background that was included in the Windsor Peace Committee's email announcing this forum; 2) a web site (www.viequeslibre.org) I found that gives background about Vieques, current updates and simple ways to make your voice be heard. It is through the combined efforts of the Puerto Rican people coming together to protest and increasing pressure from the international community that the US Navy will be removed from Vieques. It can be done.
So I finished the day with a call to action--the same day that had started with action of a very different sort. As with the plumber and our new hot water heater on Tuesday, I have my journal to thank for encouraging me to watch a specialized work that I knew nothing about.
Removing and putting up wooden stockade fences is labor intensive work. The only mechanized tool I saw being used was the hole-digger, and that could only be used on the street side of the job. Cliff and Kevin showed up with a truck filled with sacks of dry cement and a variety of tools. Their first task was to pry our 30 year-old fence panels apart, pull up the posts, carry them to the backyard where they piled everything neatly.
Once the old fence was out, they carefully measured and drew a string line exactly where the new fence would go. After changing its bits, they attached the drill into the hole-digger. About then, their boss--Tom of Tom's Fence Co.--showed up with a box in his arms. Cliff said, "Hey, get a picture of that! We don't usually see him working out here!" After Tom left, Cliff drove the hole-diggerover to a predetermined spot along the fence line and Kevin gave him hand signals as to where to start digging.
Cliff has worked this job for 16 years. When I asked Kevin how long he's been doing it, he said, "Four days." Well, not exactly. More like 4 days and 12 years. Kevin used to work for Tom, but took 10 years off as a tool and dye maker. I got the feeling he and Cliff were pleased to be working together again.
Soon a truck pulled up with an empty trailor for hauling the old fence away, and a flatbed with the new fence on it. Dave, who's worked for Tom for 5-6 years, was driving the truck. All three set to lifting the old fence into the trailor. When that was done, they unloaded the new fence and piled it where the old had been. Dave drove the truck out of the lane and parked it across the street. Then he returned to help dig the post holes. While he and Cliff worked at that, Kevin loaded a wheelbarrel full of dry cement.
After the post holes along the street had been dug by the machine, they still had to be cleaned out with a hand-tool. The next step was to line up each post with a level so it was standing completely straight, and shovel dry cement in the hole. Finally the dirt was stamped down into the hole, and they went onto the next. I was interested to see that the gateposts were metal where the others were wood, and that wet cement was used to lock them in place. Cliff explained that the differences were because the gatepost receives much more stress than the other posts. By now it was time for their lunch...and the end of my fence lesson.
I'd say this was certainly
a day of learning...on many levels.
SATURDAY, MAY 26, 2001
Today is La Lucha my scooter's first birthday. Ed says I should stop personifying my scooter so much, but I told him, when you have such a faithful friend as this, you can't just call her an "it"! No thing I've ever owned has changed my life as much as La Lucha. Well, come to think of it, my laptop is right up there too. Both of these material objects have given me wings to fly.
Happily, my friend Pat K. came to spend her day off from Dayhouse with us today. She brought extraordinary carryouts from a new Bangladesh restaurant...but that's another story. OK, Rima, I know, food, food, food! Anyway she accompanied me to a tiny park near my house where we could celebrate La Lucha's birthday with a simple ritual.
First I cleansed her energy as we begin a new year together by saging her with one of the hummingbird sage sticks I'd bought from Kamaji, a lovely woman I'd met on Valencia Street in San Francisco last March. Pat and I then saged one another.
Next I gave La Lucha her birthday present. I'd created it back in 1995 when I was making and selling Sacred Stones®. It is a small circular canvas handpainted in acrylic with a gold star in the center of a red background edged in brown. In the Sacred Stones® I'd developed in 1994, the star symbolizes Remembering...holding sight of the past to chart the future and understand the now. The color yellow reflects the illuminative element air, red reflects the passion of fire, and brown, the groundedness of earth. Appropriate birthday energy for my traveling companion. I velcroed it onto the left side of her purple plastic battery cover under the seat.
Pat took a birthday portrait to celebrate the event. She then figured out how to use the camera's timer and we were able to take a picture of us together. A bit different from the one I tried to take with Sooz in April!
On our way home, we ran into some pretty high-flying activities on the next street over from mine. Kenny on his skateboard, Peter on his roller blades, and Elyse running and jumping. A truly graced moment occurred with Julie, Kenny's mother, who was babysitting Peter and Elyse. My taking these pictures touched her so deeply she thanked me with tears in her eyes.
I'm always grateful when
my keeping this journal offers someone a gift. And it usually
happens as it did today; when I'm just doing what I do. The more
I take these digital pictures--2758 since I bought the camera
December 29!--the more I see how much it means to people simply
to have someone notice and value who they are and what they are
about. Maybe that's all any of us wants: it is certainly what
SUNDAY, MAY 27, 2001
I realized after mentioning Sacred Stones® yesterday, that I've not written about that chapter of my creative life in this journal. That feels strange because when I was in the middle of it, I imagined those baskets of Sacred Stones® with their explanatory booklet would be what I would be creating the rest of my life. How little we know.
In March 1994, I took a solitary train journey to the Four Corners in the US Southwest. The Four Corners refers to an area of SW Colorado, SE Utah, NW New Mexico and SW Colorado. It is a land with a mix of desert, mesas, First Nation reservations, canyons, pine forests, mountain ski resorts, petrified forests and energy vortexes.
I got off the train at 4 AM--we were 5 hours late--in Flagstaff, Arizona, spent that first night at a bed & breakfast, rented a car the next morning, and started driving toward Canyon De Chelly, with a planned overnight stop on the Hopi reservation. Believe it or not, they run a Holiday Inn there.
I had a hunger to be on land that was home to the first peoples to settle on this continent. I needed solitude and quiet. What better place to find it than on an endless expanse of desert under a huge sky?
There were many graced moments during that eight-day odyssey, but the one that stays foremost in my mind was on my first night at Canyon De Chelly. I'd pulled into the old resort where I was to stay, hungry and tired. I had an early dinner in the cafeteria and soon crashed on the bed in my room, exhausted. I awoke about 7 PM. Though tempted to turn over and go back to sleep, my inner voice said, Here you are at Canyon De Chelly...don't spend all your time in bed. Get up and explore a little.
So I got in my car and turned it toward the Canyon. I didn't really know where I was headed, but soon saw I was driving on top of the canyon's ridge. I stopped the car beside what looked like a lunar landscape to my right. The sky was glowing with unearthly colors as the sun prepared to set over the desert. I got out of my car and started walking toward the ridge. I carried with me the handpainted gourd rattle I'd bought that afternoon from a Hopi man named David at the First Mesa.
At my feet were pools of water from a recent rain; in each pool was reflected a glistening white moon. I looked up and to my left was the full moon rising. So here I was standing between the golds, pinks, blues and purples of a sunset on my right and the tranquil white of a full moon against a dark royal blue sky to my left. And what did I do? I danced. There with pools of moons at my feet, I shook my rattle, chanted and danced. All by myself.
Out of that dance, that journey into the core of the earth, that connection with the First Nations people and their sense of all life as sacred, that extended time alone, came the Sacred Stones®.
I did not plan them. I simply picked up 25 stones from the shores of Lake Huron one spring weekend, took them home and started drawing on them with india ink. I used the symbols with their meanings that flowed through me during two days in April, two days when I felt carried along like a leaf on a spring-swollen creek. When I looked up, Sacred Stones® were lying at my side like fragments of a dream partially remembered.
For two years all I did was go stoning on the Great Lakes that surround Michigan, gathering water-smoothed stones on which I drew suns, moons, frogs, eagles, trees and more. I would then take baskets of these handpainted stones--each set with its own booklet full of simple meanings for each symbol--and set up a table at psychic fairs and holistic conferences, selling what I considered my Life's Work.
Out of the Sacred Stones® came a song, a story, photographic posters, woodburned feather-and-beaded driftwood staffs, storytelling workshops and women's rituals. It was my primary work during 1994 and 1995. I must have drawn on thousands of stones during that time. There is still a corner of my room piled with lake stones ready to be painted.
What happened?, you might
ask. Why did I stop making and selling Sacred Stones®? I could
give a lot of reasons but the truth is that they had their time.
I am deeply grateful for what I learned from the stones. Nothing
can more gracefully give one grounding than stones, especially
these water-smoothed Great Lakes stones. Perhaps it is their example
that taught me to weather physical and emotional storms, to let
them smooth away my rough edges and to roll with the waves of
life as-it-is, not as I wish-it-were.
MONDAY, MAY 28, 2001
Memorial Day in the US. The first thing I heard this morning--besides the song of birds, that is--was the roar of low-flying planes overhead. Bomber planes on their way to perform at the Memorial Day parade downtown. I despise that sound. How could anyone imagine that planes designed to kill people should be used to remember those killed "fighting for their country"? Why isn't Memorial Day a national day of mourning instead of a day of celebration? The only advantage of remembering those killed in wars is to declare never ever to repeat it. But that attitude is shared by too few Americans.
There's a strange Memorial Day tradition in our community, one having nothing whatsoever to do with honoring the war dead. It is called the Greatest Garage Sale. I've never been because garage sales don't particularly interest me, but today Ed and I were a block away after walk/scooting to our favorite lunch place for soup and a bagel, so we decided to stop in. Anything for some different pictures!
It is actually in a garage, albeit a three-floored parking garage. Entrance fee was $1, so we paid up and walked/scooted in. The first thing I noticed were crowds of people clutching plastic bags with their treasures. As I was more interested in people watching than buying, this suited me fine.
I told Ed I was going to call this entry, "Where's Eddie?", kind of like that series of children's books called, "Where's Waldo?". So as I'm snapping pictures of faux-Tiffany lamps, paintings of such luminaries as Marilyn Monroe and Mick Jagger, or even the usual flea market table with a dazzling array of unnecessary objects...there was my Eddie. Don't know how he missed out on getting into this picture of furniture and figurines. Maybe he's hiding behind the armoire.
But, as I said, my real interest was people watching. So I was delighted when we ran into Jay, Alicia and little Claire. Jay grew up across the street from us and was one of the regulars at our children's Christmas parties. He was a pretty good table tennis player too. Ed had been seeing Alicia and Claire around and about lately, but the last time I'd seen either one, Claire was within two days of being born. Actually Alicia was walking around the block that autumn day hoping to get something started! Well, here was this beautiful blue-eyed little girl, now eight months old.
After a short visit, we continued to make our way through the labyrinth of booths. In front of one, Chantel, Whitney and Gail kindly posed for a picture. By then Ed and I were both on crowd-and-garage sale-overload. Once we'd escaped into the sun, Ed bought me a Nutty Buddy ice cream on a stick. But that didn't mean I didn't stop at Zachary and Hannah's lemonade stand for a "bargain"--as Zachary yelled out--at "25 cents apiece, 5 for $1." One glass suited me just fine.
We walked/scooted to Ed's office where I dropped him off, and then continued home. The song I made up as I scooted along went like this:
I'll leave you with a
picture of this lovely iris
garden on our street.
TUESDAY, MAY 29, 2001
Such a pleasant day. I spent the bulk of it working on new web pages devoted to the Sacred Stones®. My recent writing about them must have gotten my creative juices flowing. The first step was to repaint my own faded set of stones with black india ink so they'd photograph clearly.
It is a wonderfully meditative exercise to draw on these stones. I always preferred doing it in silence so my mind could flow into whatever channels it wanted. So often inspirations or intuitions would emerge as I painted stones; today was no exception.
I started thinking about how much time I spend each day in the act of writing: it's usually between 2-3 hours on the journal alone. And then I asked myself how much time I spend making art? None, unless I count working with my journal photographs. So why do I still identify myself as an artist? Why not say I'm a writer? For some reason, that's hard for me to claim. But it is what I do most naturally, with the greatest passion and commitment. I am a writer.
If I'm a writer, why not explore opportunities to become a better writer? What came to mind was the annual Cranbrook Writers Conference held in a northern suburb of Detroit each July. I attended a five-day poetry intensive with Thomas Lux during Cranbrook's first Writers Conference in 1996. It was a profound experience; one that confirmed my dedication to writing. But I have not considered returning until now.
I called Cranbrook and asked them to send me a brochure. What I'd like to work on is non-fiction writing; something that would enhance my journaling skills. I'm excited about the idea!
By mid-afternoon I was ready to start photographing each of the 25 Sacred Stones®. I'm in the middle of the process now, with the first and second of three pages completed. After that is done, I'll write an introduction and perhaps a brief history of the Sacred Stones® as well. Maybe I can use the story I wrote for Sunday's journal about the sunset/full moon dance on the ridge of Canyon De Chelly.
This is something I've
intended to do since I first put up my web site in March 1999.
Interesting how long it has taken to happen. But, as is so often
the case, I'm doing it now in a way I could not have imagined
even six months ago. As the River stone says, the key is
"giving up control and being carried along by nature's timing
WEDNESDAY, MAY 30, 2001
Whenever I see Katrina or Tigger asleep, I'm tempted to purr. Cats are so there...wherever they are. Even when Pat came into the living room, picked Tigger up, lay down on the couch herself and put him on her tummy, he didn't miss a beat. Those eyes closed in half a jiffy. Oh, to be so in-your-body!
Actually I was in-my-body today too. I've gotten in the habit of coming early to Dayhouse. Not to answer phones and the door, but to get a massage from Pat. We missed last week and I could tell the difference. My right shoulder was knotted tight as a fist; it took some serious kneading to loosen it up. It doesn't hurt that Pat is extremely gifted in her newly-chosen field. Those long fingers I've admired for years seem to be doing exactly what they were created to do. And I've never seen her happier.
Most of the women at the shelter were happy today. Kay has found a place to live and is moving on Sunday. Marjory took blood for the first time in her phlebotomy class yesterday. She did so well that the teacher gave her a big hug. Emily will be performing with the All-City Dance Troupe at the Fox Theater tomorrow night. It is the annual Festival of Fine and Performing Arts put on by the Detroit Public Schools. Only Carmen was sad. The outcome of the hearing she attended today was left pending for another week.
My house duty was undemanding: the phone and doorbell each rang twice. The real challenge was our weekly Chickenfoot dominoes game. Kay, Marjory and I played our best, and Marjory beat me by one point! I knew I should have played that double five instead of the six/nine.
Dinner was wonderful. When I speak of Pat's gifts, I can't leave out the culinary. Tonight it was a cheezy spaghetti, fresh broccoli, salad and a homebaked frosted carrot cake. The smiles you can barely make out in this dark picture were before we'd even tasted a bite. You should have seen us five minutes later. Ed loves it when I work at Dayhouse because it means a homecooked meal for him too. Pat never forgets to pack what she calls an Eddie-bag for me to take home.
Now I'm feeling nice and tired. On massage days I usually go to bed early. Of course, early to me means anytime before 1 AM. After all, a journalist (journaler?) has to meet that daily deadline.
Oops! Almost forgot to
show you how Pat's garden
grows. She even shared half of the first ripe strawberry with
Eddie. Now that is friendship!
THURSDAY, MAY 31, 2001
I just returned from my first visit to the pool at our lakefront park where I swam two and a half laps of the crawl and backstroke! Not to brag, but this is an olympic-sized pool. Those who have been reading my journal for awhile might remember my elation over swimming 4 laps of the crawl last September. And that came after not being able to swim a stroke when I started water aerobics class in June 2000.
So here it is almost nine months later, months during which I've not stuck my big toe in a pool, and I can swim laps right away. I feel so encouraged! And quite energized by the exercise. How fortunate I am that we live in a community with a heated outdoor pool that has a lift for the disabled. And it's only three blocks from our house.
I had no intention of going swimming today; I didn't even know the pool was open. All I wanted to do was sign up for the water aerobics classes that start June 18. So I scooted down to the pool office at the park with my $20 registration fee in hand. As Katy registered me, I saw lifeguards seated in their elevated chairs overlooking a deserted pool. When I asked, Katy assured me the water was heated and actually quite warm. This was important as our temperatures today were only in the 60s even with the sun. So I said to myself, Why not try it!
I scooted back home to put on my suit. Minutes after I got in the door, Ed drove up. He couldn't believe I was serious. But there was no question about my seriousness when he saw me scooting out our garage with a towel draped around my neck.
It's a lovely three blocks, especially today at the peak of the rhododendron season. Once there, you see that the lake defines the eastern edge of the park. There's a boat marina and a beach where kids like to play. A sign of the times is that lake swimming is only permitted when the bacteria count is safe. Last year there was no swimming in the lake from July 5 until the end of August. But the pool works fine...especially for me.
I scooted into the pool area and, as always, parked La Lucha right beside the disabled lift. I've been told it was donated by a man with MS who doesn't swim himself but wanted other disabled folks to be able to do so. I thank him everytime I use it.
One woman was in the pool; she said it was toasty warm as long as you stayed in the water up to your neck. I asked a lifeguard (Susie) if she'd take pictures. She kindly agreed.
First I sat on the lift and tried to pull up the lever to get the mechanism started. Today it was really hard to lift so Susie helped me. Once it got going, I was twisted gently into the water. I then slipped off the seat and stood up. It felt so good to be in the pool again. I decided to see if I could swim and was surprised to find I could do my modified crawl with no problem.
I must have stayed in the water between 30-45 minutes. I swam laps and did some water aerobics exercises. I felt very comfortable. Of course it didn't hurt that I had the undivided attention of four lifeguards (Susie, Melissa, Amanda and Lauren). I don't think anything could have gone too terribly wrong. But it was more than that. When I got tired swimming the crawl, I'd simply roll over on my back and do a modified backstroke. I felt like a swimmer again.
As I got out of the water, I heard honking overhead and looked up to see a long line of geese migrating north. It seemed an auspicious beginning to the summer.
I scooted home, grinning from ear to ear. After taking a nice hot shower and getting dressed, I called Ed to brag. Then I sat down at the computer to download the photos and prepare them for my site. Though by then it felt like I'd had a full day, it wasn't over yet.
It's now 11:30 PM and I'm back home after attending an extraordinary music and dance event in Detroit with Pat and Sr. Esther, a longtime friend of Pat's. Emily, my goddess daughter and Pat's birth daughter, danced with the All City Dance Company in the annual Detroit Public School's "Evening of Fine Arts". A thousand high school students showed their families and friends what they've learned this year as musicians, singers and dancers. It was held in the Fox Theater, one of downtown Detroit's most elegant venues.
I can't begin to describe what I saw and heard these young people do with jazz, classical music, modern dance, choral singing and even one men's vocal quartet that had the audience screaming before they even opened their mouths! Their talent, presentation, the direction by their teachers and the enthusiasm of fellow students was stunning. When hundreds of vocalists and a brass ensemble took the stage for the finale after almost three hours, I still wanted more. Now that's a good sign!
So now it's close to 2
AM and I've got to put this deliciously weary body to bed.
FRIDAY, JUNE 1, 2001
Today's weather conspired to keep me home, which was just where I needed to be. After yesterday's marathon of activities, a late night at the computer (to bed by 3 AM), and a long sleep-in this morning, it was delightful to sit here much of this grey, cold, rainy day and work on my Sacred Stones® web pages. They are now up and running, so be sure to check them out.
I was so absorbed in my
work today that I have little to share...besides the fruit of
those labors. My goodness, does this mean I'm going to be in bed
SATURDAY, JUNE 2, 2001
If it's true that each day has a learning, today's was "Just go for it!". Even if the worst happens and it doesn't work out, you'll know you tried. And maybe the best will happen and it will work out. Then you can say, as I'm saying now, I'm so glad I went for it. "It" being the Avalon Bakery's 4th birthday party down by Wayne State University.
Started by Ann Perrault and her partner, Jackie Victor, in the heart of what is known as the Cass Corridor, Avalon bakery is not only earth-friendly in its commitment to organic ingredients, but people-friendly in its commitment to building community. Street folks, university students and faculty, les/gay/bi/trans women and men, group home residents, neighborhood families, and members of Detroit's countless community, peace and political groups find their way through that door. There's always a wonderful mix of young and old, black and white, city and suburban, with everyone feeling at home.
My anxiety had to do with parking. Would I find a spot close enough to use windchime walker, or so far away I'd need my scooter, La Lucha? If the latter, who would take it in and out of the car and assemble/disassemble it for me? I recalled driving around downtown Detroit for 1? hours the day of the anti-FTAA demonstration trying to find someone to help me unload and assemble La Lucha. But I decided the worst that could happen today was that it wouldn't work out and I'd turn around and come home. I knew most of the folks would be partying out front, so I felt encouraged there would be someone I could ask for help if I needed it.
Well, there was no need because I found a parking place in a lot across the street from the bakery. It was still a bit of a challenge making my way around mud puddles the size of ponds, but windchime walker and I made it just fine. And am I ever glad we did!
It was like old home week. I saw people I'd known during several chapters of my life in Detroit. When you've been active in a city for over three decades, it's pretty hard to go anyplace without seeing someone you know.
As soon as I arrived, Ella and Veronica, two drumming sisters, invited me to join them at their table. Then Ann, Avalon's co-owner and head baker, gave me a big hug and found me a chair. I looked around and saw two girls painting one another's hands to match their faces. In front of us was a puppeteer entertaining the children. I got up to go inside and get some food. As I walked by the children's theater tent, I saw a little one grinning with such abandon that it was infectious.
Inside the bakery, the choices of food--free and for sale--were mouthwatering. I bought two loaves of bread, greek olive and rustic Italian, and two slices of foccacia to take home. I then loaded my plate with snippets of this and that, and went back outside. By now, a reggae band had started to play. I sat with my friends and enjoyed not only the music but the people-watching as well. Very soon a little person named Derek discovered windchime walker and proceeded to make his own music.
There were so many people to see, but these two doting grandmothers especially tickled me. Nine months ago Jackie gave birth to this little girl, her child with Ann Perrault. I remember seeing Ann and Jackie at last Labor Day's Jazz Festival downtown. It was days before Jackie delivered and she looked extremely uncomfortable. But all is well now; co-mothering obviously suits them both.
As we were getting down--is that the hip expression?--to the reggae music, the rains came. Folks scattered: some went inside the bakery and the rest of us ducked under the tent. Oh my! This was a real storm! Thunder, lightning, sheets of rain and even a little hail. But, as often happens when it moves in so fast, it was gone and the sun had returned within a half hour. Unfortunately, the act most of us were looking forward to--Detroit's all-woman jazz band, Straight Ahead--had another gig that prevented their staying to perform for us.
I decided this would be
a good time to leave. By now the parking lot's pond looked more
like a river, but I got across it and into my red car with only
slightly sloppy sandals. Believe me, I was happy for my timing
about an hour later when the rains returned. What a wet spring!
SUNDAY, JUNE 3, 2001
I'm beginning to tire of this extended spell of cool, grey days with rain either actively coming down or the threat of rain hanging heavy in the air. Seems to me this has been going on at least ten days. It doesn't help that they're predicting more of the same through next Saturday.
June in this part of the world is supposed to be sunny and warm. Days when one is happier outside than in, when people are buying flowers and planting their gardens, and La Lucha and I are out on the road scooting hither and yon. Not staying inside the house because conditions outside are so inhospitable.
But as often happens when a blue funk threatens to lay me low, events and people conspire to cajole me out of it. First, Eddie smilingly asked to take this picture of me at my laptop. "They should see where you work!"
Then I had a wonderful hourlong phone call with my older sister, Carolyn. We've ridden some rough waves of misunderstanding and conflict the past ten years, but today gave us both hope that we might be sailing into smoother seas. I sincerely hope so: there's no one like a sister with whom to share family memories and perspectives. Though each of us--we also have a younger sister, Emily--had different experiences of how we were mothered and fathered, we share a common language and way of seeing ourselves in relation to the world. This is where I sat while we talked, in Ed's great grandmother's rocking chair under an acrylic painting I made back in the '80s when I was struggling to find myself.
After the conversation with Carolyn, I went down to the kitchen and prepared Ed's dinner--another enlivening adventure. It is the second meal I've made him since deciding to cook again. I'd taken at least eight years off! Tonight was Chicken Divan, a simple recipe that was always one of Ed's favorites. I put it in the oven a little after 6 PM, with a projected dinner time of 7:30 PM. By now the sun was shining, so I decided to take La Lucha out for a ride.
Outside our front door I saw that the peonies are almost in bloom. They're among my favorite flowers, with their outrageous beauty and fragrance. I was soon scooting along the lake, enjoying the play of sun on sailboats, trees and flowers. After going up and back a mile each way, I turned into our community's lakefront park. Since I hadn't been down to the boat docks since the season had started, I scooted out there. I've always loved the view from the end of that dock. By now it was 7:20 PM, time to head home.
I took the back way so I could show you our new fence. And who should I hear shoveling dirt on the other side, but my hero, Ed! He's been gradually working away at the hill of dirt that was preventing our new gate from opening.
The final antidote to
my blue funk was Ed playing the piano and our singing together
before he went to bed. As I told him, I can physically feel
my heart open as I sing. It is such a gift to be married to this
man who plays piano with a gentle touch and totally by ear.
MONDAY, JUNE 4, 2001
The sun was kind enough to make an appearance today. I responded by getting in La Lucha and going for a nice long scoot. I had alterations to pick up and used that as my destination. But I would have been out on the roads today no matter what. I suspect yesterday's funk had more than a little to do with my being stir-crazy. It had been a long time since La Lucha and I had been out for good ride.
Nini had not yet completed my order when I arrived at her alterations shop, but sent me off for 20 minutes with the assurance, "Then it'll be ready. I promise!" I scooted a couple doors down to the bagel restaurant for lunch. Vegetarian split pea soup and an Odwalla juice. As I parked La Lucha at the table, a woman nearby said, "I like your colors!" I was, of course, a study in shades of purple. I noticed she was journalling with Julia Cameron's book, The Artist's Way, on the table beside her. We started talking.
It turns out that Ann is in the middle of writing two novels, both of which sound fascinating. She is employed as a grant writer for the Detroit Institute of Arts and was allowing herself the day off after meeting a big grant deadline last Friday. We exchanged phone numbers and email addresses with the thought of possibly getting together as a two-person writer's group. Actually, another writer comes to mind who might also be interested. We'll see if it's an idea that wants to fly.
When I returned, Nini had my clothes ready. This means a lot as I don't have many clothes and the four pieces she was repairing are among my favorites. I have a habit of wearing clothing out, so Nini is often called upon to turn up ravelled or worn-out seams, not to mention increasing my elastic waistbands an inch or two.
I stopped to buy a couple items--spring water and Odwalla juices--and then scooted home. On the way, this flowering bush and the first rosebuds I've seen this season caught my eye.
I was home about an hour before it was time to take off again, this time in the car for Windsor, Ontario. The Youth Organizing Project was sponsoring a rally today to mark the first anniversary of the OAS (Organization of American States) General Assembly and the resultant anti-globalization demonstrations held in Windsor last June. Today also marked the start of this year's OAS General Assembly in Costa Rica. This time the OAS has been mandated by the Summit of the Americas (Quebec City, April 2001) to approve the Inter-American Democratic Charter.
This Inter-American Democratic Charter will "be used to define for the Americas what is and what is not an acceptable democracy, in the eyes of the United States and Canada. This Charter will be used as a justification to interfere in the internal affairs of countries of the Americas which stand up to the dictate of the United States in defence of their sovereignty..."
The Windsor Peace Committee
had requested to present its report "The Criminalization
of Dissent" to City Council tonight to demand an apology
for the actions of the City of Windsor during the OAS General
Assembly, but were put off to the Police Commissioner instead.
That did not stop a diehard group of activists
and their children from gathering in front of the Windsor
City Hall at 6 PM today with signs
As was true during last year's demonstrations and teach-ins, I
was so impressed with the commitment of the youth.
After the rally, two young women--Margaret
and Katherine--helped me put La Lucha in the car after the
rally. It is Margaret who was treated so cruelly by the police
last June; her trial is still pending.
TUESDAY, JUNE 5, 2001
As I sit at my computer each day, I see in front of me a postcard I created after the Persian Gulf War. It is a black and white drawing of a rising sun with its rays stretched out in all directions; printed on it is a quote from Gandhi, "The future will depend on what we do in the present."
What am I doing in the present? A dream I awoke with this morning asked much the same question. My answer in a semi-waking and now fully-awake state is that I am getting out there as best I can and then writing about it in this online journal. So often it is small, like yesterday's OAS rally in Windsor, ONT. I'd guess there were no more than 35 of us out there with 4 of those under the age of 11. But it was not about numbers; it was about commitment to ideals. And our small numbers did not stand alone; we were standing in solidarity with people all over the Americas.
It's so easy to get caught up in the dominant culture's definition of success as bigger is better. I must constantly remind myself of the title and message of E.F. Schumacher's classic book on economics, Small Is Beautiful. Numbers do not define success; I'd say that intention and commitment do.
I've been dealing with this issue on a more personal level of late. It has to do with my online journal. There is a counter attached to my site that keeps track of the number of visitors and hits each day. It also gives me the numbers on what they call my "top pages". Because the average number of visitors to my site as a whole has gradually risen to an average of 200 per day, I'd somehow assumed most of these folks were visiting my journal. Not so. Yes, the journal is my "Top Page", but, according to the counter, only a third of my visitors go there. And of those, only one-fifth actually click on the photo links.
Now, one can't always trust computer-generated numbers, but if the counter is even somewhat accurate, how do I feel about that? I was initially disappointed. I guess because I'm so obsessive about updating my journal--often staying up until 2 AM doing so--I had imagined I was writing for a sizable group of regular readers who would expect a new entry every day. But rather than stay stuck in my feelings of disappointment, I decided to sit with this new awareness and see where it took me.
A question emerged in the sitting: For whom am I writing this journal? Myself or others? If I write it for others, the number of visitors is going to be a big issue. If I am writing it for myself, numbers mean very little.
I can't say I've totally shifted my focus away from number-counting, but I'm getting there. I've become aware that I write this journal because it nourishes me to do so. Journal-keeping has taught me that each day, no matter how simple, has things about which to write and images to share. I keep my eyes and ears open in ways I had not done before. And since adding digital photos, I've met people I wouldn't have met and learned things from them that I would surely have missed. Besides, the feedback I do get from journal readers is rich and full of life.
So I'd have to say how I live in the present--simply showing up and writing about it--is exactly how I hope my future will be.
Speaking of future, let
me show you the future our peonies
came into today.
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 6, 2001
Challenge, learnings, gratitude, hope, stress, success. This day had it all.
Last night La Lucha my scooter wouldn't start, so this morning I took her over to the dealer with whom I had a 2-year labor warranty; the company, Amigo, gives a 3-year parts warranty with every scooter. Alas, it turns out he is no longer an Amigo dealer or service agent. He had a long story to tell about his unfair treatment by Amigo, but what it boiled down to is that I had lost my labor warranty and was on my own to find service for my sick machine.
At his suggestion, I called and then drove over--10 more miles beyond the 20 I'd already travelled--to another Amigo dealer/service agent. I encountered a most difficult situation with the owner who said he would not honor my parts warranty from the company. In the midst of what I perceived as his unpleasantness, I had to call a "time-out" to take some deep breaths. After I'd clarified with him how I'd like us to communicate, things went better. I left La Lucha there--the only other local Amigo dealer was another 30 miles away--in hopes that he will repair it before the weekend. But he was making no promises. So I am presently scooterless.
My gratitude kicked in when I thought about how this scenario could have played out. I could have been in San Francisco when my scooter went bad. That would have meant getting a friend to drive me to a distant East Bay suburb for service, probably being without La Lucha for who-knows-how-long, and then having to bum another ride back to pick it up. It would have been like losing my right arm as La Lucha was my primary means of transportation in the City. Or she could have died while I was on a ride miles from home here in Detroit. Instead she kindly went bad in the garage when I was not using her. Another plus is that I don't have any dates coming up this weekend where I was counting on using my scooter. And today being another in an endless series of cold, grey drizzling days, I wasn't inclined to be out on La Lucha anyway. But happily, they say sun is on the way.
The success of the day was in the field of plumbing. All day Brian Cicotte and his co-worker, Bob, worked in the depths of our cellar's crawl-spaces totally repiping our house. As he said, many of the pipes were not only closed off but rotting. Sounds like we've been very fortunate not to have had a major water disaster. For the first time since we moved into this old house 30 years ago, water now actually gushes out of the faucets instead of dribbling. Tomorrow they'll finish the job by replacing the upstairs risers (pipes) that are almost completely rotted out. This will not be a pleasant part of the job for us because it means cutting a hole in the wall of our upstairs hall that will have to be replastered at a later date. But it'll be worth it to me. I can't imagine enjoying a shower that actually showers you with water! But, all going well, I'll experience that delicious pleasure tomorrow night.
I must say that throughout
this long day Eddie was a boon companion, giving help and support
when he could and applauding how I handled things when I was out
there on my own. It sure helps not to feel alone on tough days.
THURSDAY, JUNE 7, 2001
We woke to a most amazing phenomenon...sun! What a difference it made in my attitude toward life. Three weeks of grey chilly often rainy days can begin to drag down even the most positive-minded person. And one day of sun, blue skies and warm temperatures can soften even the hardest heart.
Everything went well today. Brian the plumber returned and he was able to replace the riser pipe to the upstairs bathroom without cutting a big hole in the hall as he'd feared. Now, he paid the price with some pretty cut-up hands, but that dear man managed to do what he had to do through a small hole he cut in the bathroom floor and wall. Most of the damage will be covered when the floor molding is replaced. And, yikes! Do I ever have gushing hot water up here for the first time since we moved into this house in 1971! Can't wait to take a shower.
I spent the day sitting out front in the sun. I talked with two dear California friends on the phone, read Mary Catherine Bateson's latest book, Full Circles, Overlapping Lives: "Culture and Generations in Transition", watched kids walking with their teachers back to school after obviously enjoying a day at the park, visited with Dot our longtime postal carrier, smelled the fragrance of peonies now in full bloom, and gave our friend the squirrel two servings of peanuts after she pathetically begged for more.
Tonight I drove to Dayhouse to attend my second meeting of the CPR, the Committee for the Political Resurrection of Detroit. As before, I learned a great deal about this city I've been committed to for 35 years. The topics that stirred the most interest had to do with the city elections to be held next autumn. Believe it or not, 179 persons have requested petitions that, once signed by 200 registered voters, will allow them to run for the 9 City Council seats, and over 60 candidates have requested petitions to run for Mayor. Confusion reigns. CPR is endorsing a slate of their own candidates, most of whom were at the meeting tonight.
I was also interested
to hear from a woman named Rhonda that she is working to open
a Sierra Club chapter in Detroit to address urban environmental
issues. That is a subject that everyone in this group seems to
feel strongly about. I continue to be impressed with the
mix of women and men, black and white, young and old, city
and suburban that make up the CPR. I also appreciate that leadership
is shared, with each meeting being chaired by a different member
of the Steering Committee. I don't yet know what I can offer to
the group, but certainly feel grateful to be part of it.
FRIDAY, JUNE 8, 2001
I hardly know where to begin telling of this day. Not at the beginning because I'm too tired to write it all up. It's now 10 PM and I was out of the house from 10 AM until 9:30 PM. And not involved in some sedentary activity. Oh no! We're talking about tandem biking for hours in Ann Arbor where I took a lot of photos I'll show you tomorrow. And it didn't stop there.
I bought a new scooter!! This was certainly unexpected but feels like an excellent choice. If you've been following my journal this week, you already know about my difficulties trying to get La Lucha, my one-year-old Amigo RT scooter, repaired after she came up powerless on Monday night. I won't go into the boring details but what it meant today was Ed's driving at least 60 miles back and forth, and forth and back between two Amigo service/dealers, one of which was willing to help us while the other wasn't. All this driving was in addition to 100 miles round-trip to Ann Arbor. What a champ!
It just happened that there was a used Amigo RT Express, the new-and-improved version of my RT, on the floor of the Mobility Center that had agreed to repair La Lucha. It had been owned by a little old lady (90 years old and 4'8", according to the salesperson) who only used it inside her house for two months before she died. Sounds like a used car salesman, doesn't it? But I believe them. They were selling it on consignment for her family. The only evidence of use I could see were a couple of scrapes on the front steering column and bumper. They say she loved to drive it fast in her house. More power to her!
As I waited for Ed to return from one of his back-and-forth excursions to the other dealer, I sat in this scooter, looked under the battery cover, and took it for a test ride in the parking lot. I liked it very much! It isn't purple but a rich shade of blue. And the fact that the repairman, helpful as he was, couldn't even begin to diagnose La Lucha's problem until he has returned from vacation on June 18 did not deter me from seriously considering this purchase.
Well, Ed returned, thought it was a good idea and we did it! Here I am on the new scooter just as we're getting ready to plop down our money. Happily, the new scooter disassembles and fits in the trunk exactly the same as La Lucha. We'll decide next week whether to have them sell La Lucha on consignment or keep her as a back-up.
When we got home and Ed unloaded and assembled my new companion, I immediately took her out for a spin. I was surprised to see how much better she rides than La Lucha. Part of it must be the more stable design--instead of a plastic front-wheel cover, the foot platform extends over the front wheel, creating more leg room and a sturdy bumper. In addition, the seat is much better padded. It felt like the difference between riding in a Porshe and a Corvair. Not that I've ever ridden in a Porshe, mind you, but you know what I mean. Besides, this model has a battery indicator that has four settings to show how fully charged your battery is. That's a real advantage over La Lucha's battery light that would simply start blinking shortly before the battery was getting ready to kick out.
Now all that I'm saying positive about the new scooter is in no way meant to take away from La Lucha and how well she served me this past year. I will always be grateful to her for the freedom she offered and her willingness to take me wherever I wanted to go, whether demonstrating on the streets or climbing San Francisco's hills. As Ed says, she owes me nothing.
At dusk tonight, while out on the new scooter, I saw a pheasant hen on someone's lawn. We often hear pheasants around here, but rarely see them. I stopped to admire her. Instead of running off as did her male partner, she calmly studied me and then continued foraging for food in the grass. It was a graced encounter. I feel the new scooter and I were blessed by her presence.
So come back tomorrow
(June 9) and I'll take you through Ann Arbor via tandem bike and
digital photos. Until then.
SATURDAY, JUNE 9, 2001
So let me show you around Ann Arbor, Michigan from the back of a tandem bike. These are pictures from yesterday.
As is our habit when biking in Ann Arbor, we parked the car at Gallup Park down by the Huron River. Ed's the one who does most of the work on these play-days of ours. First he takes that big bike on and off the bike carrier he installs on the back of the car, then he clips my cane onto the rack on the rear of the bike, next he helps me lift my foot over the bike so I can get into the foot-clip pedals, and finally he gets onto the front seat and takes responsibility for balancing, steering and braking the bike for us both. What do I do? I help pedal and look at his back in front of me and the world going by to either side. Yesterday I also took digital pictures.
On the way toward the University of Michigan campus downtown, we passed by the house Ed lived from his birth until the age of five. This is the route we usually take. From the University Street side of the campus, we cut through the U of M Diag (short for diagonal) beside the Library. Ed then wanted to show me a hidden street he'd found on one of his visits when I was in California. It put me in mind of the '50s with tree-shaded old homes that are now rented to students.
Ed was really getting into this digital camera tour I was creating of Ann Arbor and took us along the plaza side of the Student Union up to State Street. From there we turned left toward Liberty Street, and passed buildings like Angell Hall and Newberry Hall that are icons of the university. As we prepared to turn right off State Street toward the Michigan League, he took this picture of the Nickel's Arcade where he has spent much time both as a child and an adult. And in front of the League I snapped this picture of the famous Burton Tower.
We had lunch at the Michigan League. It has always been Ed's favorite eating place in Ann Arbor, partly because of its good homecooked food, but I suspect also because he has fond memories of being given birthday parties here as a child.
We biked a different route back to the park and our car. It took us beside the University of Michigan Hospital complex, Fuller Park where we used to swim, and along the bike path that runs between the railroad tracks and the Huron River. Do you recall the photos I took of this area on my train ride home from Canlifornia in April?
Yesterday was our first time tandem biking this season. I was pleased to see that I can still do it. But I did find my legs became like noodles so that it was hard to walk with my cane when we went inside the League for lunch. And even though Ed gave me his arm to hang onto, I still took a spill. I think it'll work better if we eat at one of Ann Arbor's many outdoor restaurants on biking days. Then we can let me off right at the table and I won't have to walk so far. I'm just not much of a cane-walker anymore. But at least I'm still a biker!
It's after 1 AM so I'll
put off telling you about today's adventure riding my new scooter
over 9 miles. But I'll leave you with a picture of the two
of us on the green grass of one of the Ford (automotive) estates
beside the lake. I'll tell you tomorrow what I was doing there!
SUNDAY, JUNE 10, 2001
To answer the question I left you with yesterday, I was at the Edsel Ford estate for an annual art fair called Art on the Pointe. The "Pointe" to which they refer is the estate's location in a city called Grosse Pointe Shores and the fact that its 87 acres comprise a point of land on Lake St. Clair. I'd never attended this event before because of the amount of walking required. But this year? Hey, my new blue scooter and I were ready for action.
Action, in our case, meant a ride of over 4 miles each way, plus at least a mile inside the estate on a mix of paved roads, grassy lawns and gravel paths. My new as-yet-unnamed scooter handled it with ease.
Except for the location, it was your usual art fair with perhaps 100 artists' tents, art-related activities for children, entertainment, food and drink. I visited only one artist's booth. While there I happily ran into a former student from one of my art classes. My student Carol and April Bates, the artist, have had a working relationship for years--April creates and Carol buys. I entered a similar relationship with April yesterday as I purchased one of her pieces of wearable art. You'll see me exhibiting it in today's pictures.
My main interest was exploring the grounds. I remember when Ed and I still had our 13' Boston Whaler boat, we occasionally motored into the inlet beside this estate; it's a favorite anchoring place for boaters. Over there beside trees and water, the art fair seemed a world away.
I was fortunate to strike up a conversation with a delightful woman named Sue. Coincidentally her son is currently employed as a gardener/grounds keeper here at the Ford estate, so Sue could give me insights into what is entailed in keeping these 87 acres so manicured. The mansion--my picture of which got accidentally erased--is open to the public for tours and available to rent for meetings, conferences, weddings and such. Sue and I walked/scooted in front of the mansion to the lake. That's where Sue took the picture I showed you yesterday of my new scooter and me.
So that was yesterday.
Today was another gorgeous summer-like day; I decided to spend it at the park. My friend Judy called and I invited her to meet me over there about 1 PM. Ed saw me off as the new scooter and I left our garage. Around the corner I encountered my daredevil friends, Peter and Elyse with Ellen, Elyse's friend. I even got to meet their Dad, Jim.
Once at the park, I scooted down to the lake. Sailboats and power boats of all sizes were taking advantage of this, our first good weekend since mid-May. Fisherfolk--two men named Paul and Frank--were quietly at work. As I snapped this picture, you can see Frank's rod is bent down toward the water. He caught this good-sized small-mouthed bass with the yellowish-green lure he holds in his right hand; the fish is in his left hand. This was a fortunate fish because Frank had to throw it back. The bass season doesn't start until next Saturday.
I scooted by the tennis courts on my way over to the beach. When I got to the beach there were two individuals--Robin and Mike--preparing to put their kayaks in the water. They said I could take pictures of the process.
Most people store their kayaks on boatracks beside the beach. Then they carry them across the sand and put them in the water. It's shallow there, so it's quite easy to get into your kayak and paddle it out into the lake. The whole process seemed to take Robin and Michael less than 10 minutes, and they were still out there over an hour later. It looks like great fun.
As I scooted away from the beach I saw two lifeguards I'd talked to earlier--Andrea and Amelia--and took their picture. By now it was close to 1 PM, time to meet Judy at the entrance to the park.
After she'd parked, we walked/scooted to a bench beside the lake--one in the shade--where we sat and had a good long talk. Judy is a woman I've sung with in Notable Women Chorus for several years, but we've only recently begun to develop a closer friendship. I very much like and respect her.
After awhile we got up and walked down toward the fishing area. A woman kindly took a picture of Judy and me together. By now, clouds had quickly gathered, covered the sun and brought cool air in their wake. As I scoot/walked Judy to her car, separate big fat rain drops began to splatter the pavement. I said goodbye to Judy and turned toward home. But less than a block later, I looked up to see blue skies coming through. So I turned around and went back to the park. I really wanted to go for a swim.
And so I did. The pool was lively with children but I was able to swim some laps and do water exercises with no problem. I worked out for 45 minutes without stopping. Part of that time I practiced walking properly in water up to my shoulders. When I say "properly", I mean consciously picking up each foot and putting it solidly down on the ground with my toes spread, bending my knees and lifting my thighs at the hip joint. I believe this sloppy-footed shuffle I've gotten into the habit of using is causing my feet and legs to forget how to walk. I want to reeducate them in the water so that when I get on land, my feet and legs will remember how to move and walk more effectively. A longterm project, but one I feel encouraged to work on.
When it came time for
me to get out of the pool, I needed help pulling up the lever
on the disabled lift; it is very stiff this year. I asked three
boys, about 10 years of age, if they would give it a try. It was
too hard for them too. So I said, "I guess we'll need to
ask...", and one of the boys chimed in, "A heroic
adult! I'll go ask my Dad." As Dad came walking through the
water to the lift, I smiled and said, "Did you know your
son considers you a heroic adult?" He laughingly replied,
"Sure! Didn't you hear my theme song playing as I approached?"
MONDAY, JUNE 11, 2001
I was out on Ona the scooter for much of today. Ona. That's her name. Ona, of Latin/Irish/Gaelic derivation, meaning unity. Ona, the first name of my new scooter's original owner, a 90 year-old woman whom they say stood 4'8" tall and bought this scooter two months before she died last winter. From reports I've heard, Ona was a wild woman who loved to drive the scooter very fast around her home. And the scooter has the scars to prove it!
I like commemorating this woman I never met, her zest for life up to the last breath. I feel close to her as I ride her scooter outside in the fresh air, beside June-blooming roses, both in a garden and climbing up a picket fence. I can almost hear her whisper, "Faster, faster!"
So that was the sweet of this day. The sour was the execution of a human being by the government of the country of which I am a citizen, the only "civilized" Western nation that still does such things. And this was not simply a state-sanctioned killing, it was a media circus. A circus that the American people seemed to lap up with perverse pleasure. Even the time of execution was contrived to get the most media and public attention possible.
I look forward to the
day when this country and its leaders recognize that killing a
killer--even someone like Timothy McVeigh whose actions created
unimaginable sorrow and loss--brings less closure than shame.
TUESDAY, JUNE 12, 2001
I'm making my way through a tough time. Had a sleepless night; finally dropped off at 5:30 AM. Dark abysses to dredge through and impossible peaks to climb. I often think these times come simply because it is their time to come. They like to hide behind whatever issue is our tender spot, and try to make us believe it is the issue that is disturbing us rather than the energy of disruption/transformation itself. For me anyway, there are no shortcuts. I have to wade through whatever issues appear and let them have their way with me. Only then can I begin to see the larger picture. Disturbances like these usually presage a new level of consciousness and growth; but knowing that doesn't make me like it any better.
However, it is times like this that make me grateful for all the years I've lived. I know what must be done to protect my tender self at the beginning stages of this process: take time alone, do not try to relate or talk about what is going on, close the door, burn incense, read if I have an appropriate book, journal what is going on inside me, and work some of it out in exercise.
It is this latter step--exercise--that's been missing for me in recent years. Before I was diagnosed with Chronic Progressive MS, I would run or bike through whatever came my way. Actually my body was a grand resource when it came to handling life's challenges. I was a marathon runner who could easily run 10-15 miles; at the end of which I would feel lighter and freer than before. Or I'd bike. For awhile I biked 23 miles every morning; it helped prepare me for the double century (200 mile) biking weekends Ed and I liked to do. But becoming disabled seemed to close the door on those options. And now I've discovered swimming.
So after taking a quiet morning alone with incense burning and Joanna Macy's new memoir, Widening Circles, to read, I got on Ona the scooter and went down to the park swimming pool. For 45 minutes I worked my body to its limits--9 laps of the crawl and water exercises to strengthen my legs. I felt like a new woman! What grace to have this accessible pool only 2? blocks from my house, and to have refound the gumption to push my body beyond what I think it can do.
By the time I returned home, I was in another stage of growth. Now I could reach out and talk about what I needed to talk about. New definitions are emerging already.
And now I must put this
wonderfully weary body to bed.
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 13, 2001
Since I gave you no pictures yesterday, I think it's only fair that I start with a few today. Actually these are photos I took during last night's after-dinner ride on Ona my scooter. It was such a mild summer evening that I travelled a couple of miles along the lake before turning into the park. Once there, I went beside the marina toward the beach. Though by now it was after 8 PM, there were still a number of children playing there. I found my eyes drawn to this girl and her brother whose sand castle with moats and streams had obviously been under construction for some time.
On the other side of the park was a rousing game of volleyballthat reminded me of my 40th birthday present--a week at Oxbow Art Camp near Saugatuck, Michigan--and how seriously everybody took our nightly volleyball games there. I loved playing even though I'd instinctively close my eyes every time the ball came to me. Needless to say, playing blind did not help my game...or my team. I remember one of the volleyball stars finally giving me private lessons in a vain attempt to improve my style of play. I never could get the hang of keeping my eyes open--all those years wearing contact lenses, I guess.
As I comfortably sat in Ona watching last night's game, the sun disappeared behind the trees leaving behind a beautifully painted sunset sky.
I have no pictures today from Dayhouse, the women's shelter in Detroit where I take house duty once a week. That is because our newest guests--a mother and her two daughters, ages 5 and 8--are victims of domestic violence so I must protect their identities. But, pictures or no, we had a wonderful time playing dominoes using rules we made up as we went along. Happily, each of us managed to win at least once. I then asked the girls to pick out books that they'd like to read from our children's collection.
I can't remember seeing young ones these ages read so well. I mean, is it common for a 5 year-old to read aloud fluently from a book she's never seen before? And not just "Dick and Jane have a dog named Spot", but, "At the edge of the cave under a cloudy gray sky was a Mama Sponge and a Daddy Sponge." And her older sister was busy with a magic book that sounded pretty complex to me.
It's grand to have youngsters
in the house again; they bring such life and uncluttered energy.
THURSDAY, JUNE 14, 2001
The next time I write in this journal, I'll be in my 60th year. Yes, it's birthday time again. And this one--my 59th--is going to be spent in the most glorious way imaginable. For the entire weekend I will be singing in a circle of women I love and admire.
Carolyn McDade, the most transformative singer/songwriter I've ever met, will come from her home on Cape Cod to join us as we musically reflect on Joanna Macy's theme of "The Great Turning". This will be the sixth or seventh weekend since 1993 that I've sung with Carolyn and women from Canada and the U.S. at Crawfton, a retreat center near Kingsville, Ontario. Our singing space is perfection--a second-floor room, windowed on three sides that overlooks Lake Erie. There is an open balcony extending in front of the singing room where, at different times, we've danced, sung, recited poetry and met in small groups.
We've been there during hot summer days and nights--like we're having today--and cool rainy times; we've seen promising springs and the early blaze of autumn. Double rainbows have bent over the lake as we sang of rainbows. Herons have skimmed the surface of the water as we sang of herons. Migrating geese have flown in arrow-like formations as we sang of geese. Sun has sparkled on waves as we sang of sun. Full/waning/waxing/dark moons have accompanied us as we sang of the moon. And raindrops have hammered on the roof as we sang of rain. It is truly a magical place.
Part of the magic resides in Carolyn's way of facilitating these weekends of song. There is no teaching per se, unless we're singing one of her newly created songs. Even then, she encourages us to play on the wings of her songs rather than stay within any hard-and-fast notes or harmonies. "Sing from your open heart", is something we've heard Carolyn say for years now. I find my voice goes places I didn't know it could go when I sing this way. And Carolyn models what she encourages us to do, soaring and darting in and around her own tunes and lyrics. Singing like this is an act of worship.
As I approach this final birthday in my 50s, I am conscious of the "Great Turnings" that have marked this decade thus far. How often they have been connected to the creative triad of song, art and writing. Word Art activist drawings in 1991-2, the awakening of my feminist consciousness while singing with Carolyn McDade in March 1993, becoming post-Christian following a women's spirituality conference in Albuquerque, NM in April 1993, starting to write and tell original stories and fables in summer 1993, Sacred Stones® coming into being in April 1994, my first Michigan Womyn's Music Festival in August 1994, creating my friend Joel's memorial booklet and tape as he was dying of AIDS in November 1994, first dreaming the dream of spending my winters in San Francisco while in California for a singing retreat with Rhiannon in February 1995, starting to work as bookseller and storylady at a Detroit Barnes & Noble March 1995, subletting my first apartment in Emeryville, CA for ten weeks starting in February 1996, getting my 3-wheeled Joyrider bike June 1996, starting to sing with Detroit's Notable Women summer 1996, subletting Steve's SF Mission neighborhood apartment for the first of two winters in October 1996, getting Windchime Walker in SF the day before Thanksgiving 1996, beginning to sing with the Lesbian/Gay Chorus of San Francisco in December 1996, getting our first tandem bike in Detroit in June 1997, starting to sing at Joey Blake's Voicestra improv classes Berkeley in February 1998, going to my first WoMaMu (Women Making Music) camp in April 1998, taking Computer Made Simple class September 1998, buying my laptop October 1998, staying in Detroit except for two SF visits during the winter 1998-99, putting up my web site March 1999, spending my first winter months in Marci and Evan's "tiny urban cottage" next door to Steve's apartment in January 2000, beginning to volunteer at SF's Simply Supper January 2000, starting my online journal February 2000, beginning to volunteer at Detroit's Dayhouse April 2000, buying La Lucha the scooter May 2000, being part of the OAS (Organization of American States) demonstrations/teach-ins June 2000, starting water aerobics classes in at our community pool in June 2000, swimming 4 laps of the crawl in September 2000, buying a digital camera to use for the journal December 2000, La Lucha's first winter in San Francisco January 2001, being part of the SF Bush Inauguraral protests with 15,000 others in January 2001, beginning to work on the Women's Global Strike Day-SF committee in February 2000, joining Threshold Choir in SF February 2001, buying Ona the scooter in June 2001, swimming 9 laps of the crawl at our community pool in June 2001.
What's interesting to me is what I put onto that list of Great Turnings and what I left off. For instance, I didn't mention Ed once, but that's because he does not represent a "turning" in my life, rather a tree planted solid and deep. I didn't mention friends or books. If I had the list would have quadrupled. I didn't mention becoming a vegetarian or giving up caffeine. I mentioned very little about the MS--really only in relation to my assistive devices. I said nothing about my looks or way of dressing. I didn't mention poetry at all. There's nothing about acupuncture, chinese herbs or massage. And this list of what-I-left-off could go on ad infinitum.
I will be offline from
tonight until Sunday night, so the journal will not be updated
until then. But I do plan to take digital pictures to share later.
Now, let me leave you with a photographic
collage I created in 1999 using pictures from that summer's
singing retreat with Carolyn McDade. Please be patient as this
will take longer than usual to download, about 9 seconds according
to my photo compressing software.
FRIDAY, JUNE 15, 2001
Tonight we sang one of Carolyn McDade's most poignant songs:
What is your name
The one you call yourself
It can't be given, only claimed,
It can't be stolen or bartered away.
In the midst of the singing we were invited to say the name we call ourself. What I said was:
I am she who rings
bringing healing wherever she goes.
How I long for that to be true.
The weekend has begun in joy, regret, wonder and gratitude. The joy, wonder and gratitude, I expected; the regret came as a surprise and a call to change. I don't need to go into details but among the first words out of my mouth when my friend Pat K. and I reached Crawfton was a sentence that betrayed my racist attitudes. With the theme of our retreat being "The Great Turning", Joanna Macy's reflection on these times of change in which we live, I was immediately humbled and made aware of a Great Turning I have yet to accomplish, no matter how much work I have already done trying to root out my own racism.
Within this awareness has come the wonder and gratitude I always feel when in the company of Carolyn and these women. I sincerely hope that each woman here feels as deeply loved, valued, seen and heard as I do right now.
Pat and I arrived early, as did a few others like Sooz and Mary who are helping to organize the weekend. We came from a hot humid city to idyllic cooling breezes off the lake. Most of our number put on swimsuits before unpacking and waded into the inviting arms of Lake Erie. I sat happily in the shade and soaked up the beauty of this magical space.
Soon Carolyn McDade and a number of old and new friends joined me at the redwood table under the canopy of Crawfton's huge old trees. We shared conversation and our suppers of egg salad sandwiches, grape leaves and hummous wraps, chilled fresh baby asparagus, raw carrots and, for Pat and me, Odwalla juices.
Our retreat officially began at 7 PM as we gathered in the singing room upstairs. The opening ritual took the women downstairs and then up the stairs again, chanting and weaving around our room. They then went out onto the balcony and danced a spiral dance. I happily sat and "held the energy", while chanting along with the women. I was touched by Carolyn's sensitivity in coming to my side and dancing beside me while the others were still outside.
We then took time to go around the circle with each woman putting on the altar an object she had brought that symbolized a Great Turning in her life. The sharings were rich, deep and unique. After placing her object on the altar, she would light one of the 27 candles and hand the lighting candle to the woman beside her. At the completion of this opening ritual, the altar was ablaze in light, books, pictures, stones, pendants and even a wedding dress.
We sang and sang, each song taking us deeper into the mystery of ourselves, this community, the world and our galaxy. At one point Carolyn spoke of the wondrous planet on which we live, how we must love her with a fierce protective love during these times of threat to its creatures and ecosystems. Night began to fall and the candles blazed brighter.
When I sing as we sing in circle with Carolyn--full out, with nothing held back--my heart literally begins to burn with warmth. I can feel it open wide, and with the opening, can come tears--tears that fell as I sang out for the healing of Viequés, people suffering with AIDS, children who are abused, woman on the streets who are alone, hungry, homeless. That is the kind of singing we do.
And after the singing and showing of a beautiful series of slides of the micro-and-macro-cosmos of which we are a part, we did as women have done for all time...we sat down and shared our snacks and stories.
And tomorrow is my birthday.
What a fortunate person I am.
SATURDAY, JUNE 16, 2001
This was a most glorious birthday! We awoke to sunny, non-humid weather with temperatures in the 70s. Last night's brief rain had brought relief from the heat and truly perfect conditions.
We met downstairs for a breakfast of freshly cut-up fruit, homemade muffins and granola. At each table, women engaged in animated conversations: Ellen and Julia across from me; Deanne, Mary and Susan at one table; Patty, Judith, Jeanne, Peg and Viv at another.
Before a morning yoga class, we gathered on the balcony overlooking the lake. I was happy to have some time with Jackie and Jan, two of my most faithful journal readers. It was interesting to hear their perceptions and remembrances of my life. I often find that persons who regularly read my journal remember more of what goes on with me than I do myself. It probably doesn't hurt that both Jackie and Jan are therapists!
Instead of going down under the tree where the yoga class was being held, a small group of us stayed on the balcony and did our own modified exercises. The images of the women were wonderful from that vantage point.
The rest of the morning was spent in song. As always with Carolyn McDade, we entered deeply into the world, looking at the imbalances, injustices and threats to our planet, changes that are needed, and our individual responses to this call to action. She has an amazing capacity to wed song with a strong sense of social consciousness. What will stay with me was when we sang the phrase, "It (They) shall continue", as women in the circle placed us in different venues that had meaning to them. The halls of power in the US Congress and Canada's Parliament. Viequés and its people. McMillan School in inner city Detroit school that is threatened with closure, with plans to send the children to a school built on a toxic industrial site. United States national and Canada's provincial forest parks. The places where plants grow naturally and unmodified from their own seeds. Young activists who are taking to the streets all over the world insisting on change. It was a profound experience of standing in solidarity with other human beings, creatures and the earth. And it triggered a most significant discussion at my lunch table that lasted until 3 PM.
Saturday afternoon on these Carolyn McDade singing retreats here at Crawfton is traditionally a time of play, artistic activities, swimming, rest and/or getting together with like-minded women. The writers got together on the lawn and wrote. Deanne and Sooz went down on the beach and created a labyrinth. I first watched and then participated in a small yoga class on the grass.
I found it to be such a good fit that I've asked Janice, the woman who had come from Detroit to facilitate, if she'd be interested in giving yoga classes at Dayhouse. Maybe it will just be Pat and me, but it would be there for any of the women who wanted to join us. Janice was most excited by the prospect. What a perfect use of the birthday check my dear Eddie gave me for today's birthday!
We gathered for more singing before dinner. After moving in a rousing fashion through a series of freedom songs from the movement, we began to learn an exquisite song in four-part harmony, "Beginners", written by Norma Luccock, a friend of Carolyn's from British Columbia. Its lyrics are based on a poem by Denise Levertov. It is a challenging piece of music that we managed to sing with beauty after applying ourselves for about an hour to the glorious task.
A delicious dinner of vegetable lasagna and salad created by our caterer, Chef Romelle, with the help of her friend, Vicki, gave our bodies the sustenance they needed after such an active day. We were truly fortunate to have Chef Romelle join us this weekend as her food--that many of us have enjoyed for years at the Detroit Women's Coffee House--is cooked with a health-conscious creative flair...not to mention large doses of love. As I helped with clean-up, Vicki and I had a fascinating conversation about her work in Ann Arbor as an aquatic specialist who works with children with special needs. I will be forever grateful to these women for their mature forgiveness of my unconscious racism.
Before and after dinner, I was pleased to be able to share some digjeridoo healing with a number of the women. Of course, the healing is always reciprocal.
As dusk settled, the women went down to the labyrinth on the beach, walked it, sang and danced the Elm dance from Russia. As they did so, my dear friend Sooz helped me handle a computer problem that had cropped up earlier in the day.
Our Saturday night circle, has another tradition--the sharing of our varied creative gifts. Mary and Joan's duo violin concert brought down the house! Jeanne touched us deeply with the writing she shared, and Nancy, our fearless choral director, taught us a new round and sang a beautiful house blessing for Carolyn, who has recently moved to a new town on Cape Cod with her granddaughter, Anna. I taught one of Mary Buckley's rounds that I learned in California and told them about the Threshold Choir. This brought forth sharings of women's stories about how they've used song to companion loved ones to the door of death. Then Joan told us about the book she's compiled of the stories of women she's known in the Dominican Republic; it will be published there this autumn. We stood and sang a rousing rendition of "De Colores" to honor these women.
Before dinner and again
in the evening circle, my birthday was celebrated by song, first
in English by the whole community and then in Spanish by Julia,
my OAS activist sister, who has spent 20 years of her life living
and working with the poor in Mexico. It's hard to imagine feeling
more "specialled" than I did today. Blessed be.
SUNDAY, JUNE 17, 2001
The first thing I heard from outside my room this morning was birdsong; the second, was Pat N.'s voice directing the women who were to act out Anita Barrow's poem for our closing today. As I had been asked to be the narrator, I hurriedly slipped on a dress and wheeled windchime walker into the singing room to join them.
This poem, a beautifully painful reminder of what is happening to the earth and its people, had been a thread woven throughout our two days and nights together here at Crawfton. Although Carolyn McDade is primarily a singer/songwriter, the theme of this retreat--the "Great Turning", Joanna Macy's vision of this time of change in which we live--had entered our consciousness in a variety of ways: certainly through song, but also through seeing slides of the earth, reading and acting out poetry, participating in dance and yoga, and listening to the profound teachings from the lives of our sisters in the circle. Our closing--the retreat was to end with lunch today--would incorporate many of these creative threads.
We 27 women gathered in the brightness of our sunny singing room--loving one another as Pat N. and Carolyn so richly showed--and stood to sing to the morning, our earth and ourselves as women dedicated to protecting the earth, its plants, creatures and people. My eyes travelled with gratitude around this circle of singing women--spinning, spinning, spinning, spinning--until I turned back within myself, conscious of the need to drop to a new level of commitment to change.
Carolyn gave us the call to love fiercely and act boldly on behalf of simply one part of the whole, whether it be the Detroit river, the schools, the air, a specific plot of land, a species of creature. She then invited us to meet as a Council of Beings at our next retreat in one year and share the wealth of where this fierceness has led us. In silence we went out onto the balcony under a canopy of leafy green trees with blue sky above, lush grass below and miles of water extending toward seemingly limitless horizons. Anita Barrow's poem was then proclaimed in voice and movement.
The photo links I include are both from our earlier practice session and from the closing ritual as it was happening (wonderfully photographed by Sandy H.). My only regret is that I missed photographing my dear friend Pat K., who so exquisitely proclaimed with her body the two stanzas that begin, "The hills stripped of trees...".
And I would travel
to the places of our shame
The hills stripped
of trees, the marsh grasses
oil-slicked, steeped in sewage;
The blackened shoreline, the chemical-poisoned water;
I would stand with
you in the desolate
places, the charred places,
soil where nothing will ever grow, pitted desert;
fields that burn slowly
for months; roots of cholla & chaparral
writhing with underground explosions
I would put my hand
there with yours, I would take your hand, I would walk with you
through carefully planted
fields, rows of leafy vegetables
drifting with radioactive dust; through the dark
of uranium mines hidden in the sacred gold-red mountains;
I would listen to you
in drafty hospital corridors
as the miner cried out in his first language
of pain; as he cried
the forgotten names of his mother; I would stand
next to you in the forest's
final hour, in the
of helicopter blades, police
sirens shrieking, the
tremor of light between
leaves for the last time Oh I would touch with this love each
The closing continued with the community circling around three women who held representatives of the earth and its life forms. The outer circle then danced the Elm Dance that was created by a small Russian village whose elm forest was lost to them after it was radioactively contaminated during the nuclear tragedy at Chernoble. We finished by singing two songs to send us on our way back out into the world.
Late in the afternoon,
I arrived home from this transformative weekend to discover that
the letter I'd fired off on Thursday to the New York Times after
reading of President Bush's plans to stop the military abuse of
Viequés in May 2003, had been published
in today's Sunday edition. It felt like the perfect start to this
new year of commitment to protect the earth with a fierce abiding
love. As Carolyn said countless times throughout the weekend,
it is good.
MONDAY, JUNE 18, 2001
Today is a day to be celebrated! It is the first time since I was diagnosed with chronic progressive MS (Multiple Sclerosis) in 1988 that my body has grown in strength and ability in the span of a year, rather than the opposite.
The water aerobics classes started up again at our community pool, and I was there early to warm up with 3 laps of the crawl before class. Last year at this time I could not swim a stroke and was quite terrified of the water. At the first water aerobics class I insisted on staying within arm's length of the side of the pool, and did everything while hanging onto a kickboard. And today? I was with the rest of the class in water up to my shoulders, feeling quite at ease. What a difference! It makes me feel very encouraged about regaining some of what I thought I'd lost forever. "Chronic progressive" can also apply to progressing in positive terms!
I spent much of the rest of the day at the computer, catching up with my journal and emails from the weekend. At 6:30 PM, Ona the scooter and I made our way down to a family restaurant where I met Ed and his bachelor buddies, Jack and Bob. We enjoyed a pleasant dinner together and then I got back on the road toward home. Along the way I stopped to pick up trash from the sidewalk and the grass beside the curb. The most littered spot was along the fence bordering the middle school baseball and soccer fields.
As I leaned down to pick up yet another flattened paper cup, I saw a man with a dog approaching. He asked, "Is that an Amigo scooter?" We started talking and he told me his wife, Eleanor, is totally debilitated after 38 years with MS, so much so that she no longer has any use of her hands or legs. He uses a sling lift to move her out of bed into her chair, and naturally she has trouble with feelings of depression. But he also said she had been a University of Detroit beauty queen in 1940.
That led into a discussion of his wartime experience of being on the USS Shelton, a destroyer escort ship that was hit by a Japanese torpedo on October 3, 1944 off the coast of Borneo. Of the 300 men on board, 29 died, and he and the rest were rescued by a American ship just before the boat sank. This August, eight of the survivors will meet for a reunion in Borneo; Bob plans to attend if he can get someone to care for Eleanor. Apparently such help will not be coming from his sons who are busy lawyers in town. May Bob be able to attend.
Then he started to tell me about Goldie, the mixed breed--part golden lab, part fox terrier--dog who was waiting patiently at his side for her walk to continue. Apparently Goldie had been a circus dog with Barnum & Bailey in her youth. She was now an overweight 10 years of age and could only sit, beg and roll over. He'd originally found her at the Humane Society. We had some difficulty, but finally got Goldie to pose with Bob for a proper picture.
As I continued my trash pick-up, I saw this lovely sunset sky to the west. A little farther along, I was struck by how different the sky looked to the northeast, almost as if it were hours earlier over there.
May I never lose sight
of the extraordinary beauty in the so-called ordinary.
TUESDAY, JUNE 19, 2001
How many people can say that their car knows what's best for them? Well, I can.
Around noon I went out to the garage intending to drive my little red Neon over to Dayhouse (30 minutes away) to get a massage from Pat, take house duty for three hours and join the women for dinner. I'd changed from going on Wednesday, my usual day, because of Pat's schedule at massage school, my water aerobics class, and my reluctance to overbook myself on the day before I take off to drive the 300 miles to Muncie, Indiana for the National Women's Music Festival (I leave bright and early Thursday morning).
Well, I turned the key and...nothing. No thing at all. No colored lights on the dashboard and total silence from under the hood.
Happily, Eddie-my-hero, was home and came to the rescue. He jump-started my car and followed me down the street to our trusted auto repair shop. The guy there assured us it would be fixed by tomorrow.
My response? Total relief! I had not even allowed myself permission to realize how bone-tired I was. But my car knew! So I've used this day as a rest day and do I feel better. I must remember that I always need a day off between energy-demanding activities, even ones that fill me with life.
Thank you, little
red Neon (photo from 4/17/01). You know me better than I know
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 20, 2001
When was the last time you swam in the rain? It had been years for me; actually, I think of childhood when I think of swimming in the rain. (That is not to be confused with singing in the rain)
At 12:30 PM, the air was rather chilly with grey heavily-laden clouds overhead. But I never considered cancelling out of my second water aerobics class of the season. So I slipped my purple plastic rain jacket over my cotton dress that was over my bathing suit, hopped--as much as I can hop these days--on Ona the scooter, and made my way merrily down the hill to the lake. The guard at the entrance to the park waved me through and said, "Now don't get wet!" But, but...
Anyway, I scooted up to the disabled chair lift inside the pool area, removed my clothes--except for my bathing suit, silly!--and covered my dress and towel with my rain jacket in the scooter's basket, just in case. The water felt warmer than the air. I swam 1? laps of the crawl before it was time for class to begin. Even with the threatening weather, our class was full.
We were doing the underwater can-can when the rains began, not heavy rain, just steady drops. Drops that were colder than the pool water, I can tell you that. But no sign of thunder or lightning--unlike last night when we got a rip-snorting thunderstorm that lit up the skies for a half hour--so the lifeguards gave no hint of closing the pool.
It was fun! I felt like I was 8 years old and splashing around in the Rhode River off the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. I knew Mommy wouldn't call us to get out of the water unless she saw some lightning or heard thunder. There was always something slightly forbidden-feeling about swimming in the rain. As if you were just plain lucky to be able to stay in those few extra minutes. It felt that way today.
The raindrops continued but we just kept on doing our thing. The Irish jig, washing machine, crosscountry skiing, the scissors-kick, running in place, smiley faces at the wall. And after our end-of-class stretches, we heard Melissa, our wonderful 19 year-old teacher, said, "Nice going, class! See you on Friday." We clapped as usual. I swam another 1? laps before I got out of the pool, dried off, and put on my dress and rain jacket.
On the way home I still felt like a kid because the rain didn't bother me at all. After all, wasn't I already wet?
Now, I must say "so long" for awhile. Tomorrow morning, hopefully around 9 AM, I'll be in my little red car--perky with a brand new battery--driving west on I94 almost to Battle Creek, Michigan, then dropping south down I69 to Muncie, Indiana. There I will gather with 3-4000 women for three days and nights of music performances, workshops, drumming, singing, crafts booths, dancing and more at the National Women's Music Festival. As it is my fifth festival, I'll be with a lot of wonderful women whom I know and love. Is there anyone more fortunate than I? But with that good fortune comes profound gratitude. I am ever-grateful for the gift of being with communities of women.
It's going to be late
Sunday night before I return home, so can you wait until Monday
to hear about it and see tons of pictures? Know I carry you with
THURSDAY, JUNE 21, 2001
The rain was sweet most of the drive from my home in Detroit to the 27th National Women's Music Festival at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. Scattered showers crossed my path for 150 miles but the views of Indiana farmland were still lovely out my car window. It wasn't until about 40 miles north of Muncie that it started raining cats and dogs, as my southern mama used to say; but I just slowed down and kept moving. I arrived at 1:30 PM, Central Time.
A gracious security worker named Tracy helped unpack and assemble Ona my scooter. Next came my drum and didgeridoo, windchime walker, my quad cane, a black plastic bag with my pillow--Ed calls it my "pill-pill"--and Nan's crocheted afghan, followed by a small softsided bag with my clothes. We disabled folks don't travel real light, but one thing that helps is I always bring my own dolly to such events.
Registration went smoothly though there was a pretty good line. Then getting set up in my room was a piece of cake with the loving assistance of Access Central volunteers, Jules and Carol. They even moved my car from the unloading area to the parking lot and brought me back the key.
I must say being disabled at women's music festivals can be more of an advantage than a bother. At National, we get air-conditioned dorm rooms with doors that open with the swipe of a card, not to mention front row seats for every concert. At the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival, in addition to great performance seating areas, we have our own lines to buy clothing and snacks, as well as our own meal tent with chairs and tables (able-bodied womyn either sit on the ground or bring their beach chairs to meals).
Wouldn't it be great if society as a whole would make such adaptations for its differently-abled members? You know, we could each start by doing something outrageous like inviting a less able-bodied person to cut in front of us in line. Try it; it just might catch on!
After unpacking and calling Eddie, I scooted over to the cafeteria for an early dinner. The food is very tasty at Ball State but my favorite part of mealtimes is the opportunity to meet and talk with new and old friends. This time my new friends were Beverly, Terpie and Bobbi, and my old friends, Jan and Cindy from Detroit and Madeline, a wonderful woman from Columbus, Ohio whom I'd connected with at last year's festival.
You're going to see many such pictures on my festival journal entries. It was the women individually, as couples and in small groups that touched me most deeply.
I knew I was back at National when I started hearing live piano music at dinner. It's become a tradition for Sherry K--our National Women's Music Festival Chorus accompanist--to give us a dinner concert in the cafeteria. I'd first heard Sherry K play her original compositions in Ginni Clemmens's song circle at festival two years ago. Her music was so glorious that I asked her to mail me her brand new CD when it came out that summer. She did and I've loved playing it ever since.
The Mainstage concert starred women's music icons, Holly Near and Cris Williamson. It's always moving to be in an audience of women when these two perform. The energy currents fairly crackle! And it wasn't just Holly and Cris who turned the audience on: there was also a lively latin percussion/vocal duo from Albuquerque, NM called Café Mocha, and the funny Jamie Anderson as MC.
After Mainstage one could either go watch videos at a late-night pajama party in the dorm or attend the NWMF (National Women's Music Festival) Prom. I opted for the latter and enjoyed spending some time with another friend from last year, Heidi. She kindly posed under the rainbow-balloon trellis so I could show you what a prom picture should really look like! For many of the women who may not have been able to be out as lesbians during their high school years, this prom gave them the chance to relive it in a more authentic way.
To me that's one of the great gifts of these women's festivals, that women can be themselves without fear of encountering bigotry or prejudice. It is a place for all women along the heterosexual-to-homosexual continuum, with each person being accepted for themselves. And at National, transgender women are as welcome as everyone else; that alone makes it unique.
I was back to my room
by 12:30 AM. I downloaded the day's digital pictures onto my laptop,
and went gratefully to bed with my alarm set for 7:50 AM. Sleep
was obviously not going to be an important item on my festival
schedule for the weekend.
FRIDAY, JUNE 22, 2001
I don't usually eat breakfast, but by 8:45 AM I was definitely ready for some nourishment. As good as my spicy cheese sauce-covered scrambled eggs tasted, my true nourishment came from the people around me. I joined Madeline and her friends, Jane and Laura Kolb, one of the gifted Mainstage sign interpreters. Now I know what they mean when they say a good breakfast is the best way to start your day. I just don't know if they're referring to the people you share it with; but I am!
I scooted from the cafeteria out onto the front lawn to participate in the annual Opening Circle and Festival Blessing. The circle was cast by first calling in the Four Directions. That was followed by drumming and chanting. The pulsebeat of the drums was held by Wahru, one of the most power-filled performers/workshop facilitators at festival. But I needed to leave early to go to my first NWMF (National Women's Music Festival) Chorus rehearsal.
Joining the Festival Chorus entailed a huge commitment of time and energy. In essence, chorus would be our festival. But for women who love to sing, that was just fine. Actually I'd missed one rehearsal yesterday afternoon because I hadn't read my festival material closely enough. However, that was not a problem as we had four more rehearsals scheduled--not counting a soundcheck--before we opened on the Saturday night Mainstage. Besides, I'd worked with Justina Golden, our director from Northampton, MA, last year and knew her magic in pulling together 30-40 voices in a short amount of time. It was not simply her exceptional musical abilities, but her wit and terrific sense of fun that had brought me back.
In addition to Justina, we had the privilege of being accompanied by Sherry K on piano and Rachel Alexander on cello. And this was before we even started working with the soloists and musicians who were scheduled to perform with us tomorrow night! During our afternoon rehearsal we began to get a clue as to what was coming when the whiz guitarist, Kara Barnard showed up to rehearse "Under The Boardwalk" with the chorus, Rachel on cello and Sherry K on piano. Heather Bishop, our soloist for that number, was there too but had to save her voice for her Friday night Mainstage performance. Actually we'd already figured this was going to be an unusual piece when Justina had the altos holding their noses to sing part of the song! Then Lucie Blue Tremblay, a most original singer/songwriter from Quebec, joined us to rehearse her solo in the haunting Appalachian folk song, "Bright Morning Stars Are Rising".
All of these women--although well-known performers--were delightfully easy to work with. I was especially touched to see Lucie Blue's attempts to get Justina to let her sing her solo an octave lower than it was written. But Justina stayed true to her original vision and was so right in doing so--Lucie's high notes were breathtaking in their clarity and passion.
Lunch offered another treat, and this one came in the form of a very little person named Sarah. Again I joined Madeline--she has great friends!--and met Debra and her daughter Sarah, and Naeemah, a Priestess of Osun in the Yorùbá faith. I especially loved hearing Naeemah's story of 20-month-old Sarah being part of the community recently attending a sister's birthing and how she shook a rattle as the baby was born. We all agreed that Sarah is definitely an old soul. I was honored at how she took to me.
Between lunch and our afternoon rehearsal, I made a quick trip to the Crafts Area. Festivals are where I buy most of my clothes, so was particularly pleased to find one of my favorite artists in attendance. Helen Peterle of Down Cellar Clothing is from Connecticut and, in my estimation, one of the most gifted textile silkscreen artists around. The purple cotton jacket I bought from her two years ago has been my uniform; every time I wear it, someone wants to know where I got it. I used my birthday money well and bought a stunning dress. Are you surprised at the color?
These gatherings of women simply ooze creative talent. As I approached Helen's booth, I ran into Gloria whom I'd sat with at a couple of Mainstage performances in years past. She took the time to show me a small book with photographs of her textile art. Zowie! What amazing stuff. She calls them Gloria's Goddesses, and I can see why.
On my way over to afternoon rehearsal, I passed a drum jam happening at the Café Mocha latin percussion workshop. I stopped and added my didgeridoo to the mix for a short while. Such fun!
After our rehearsal I went back to my room and lay down for a brief rest. The day wasn't over yet. I ate a quick dinner and scooted over to Mainstage. I was delighted to park beside my new friends, Judy and Barbara from Lincoln, Nebraska. And then the housing goddess Susan appeared in all her splendor. This woman has a wonderful sense of style. Every year I look forward to seeing how she transforms the need to wear clothes into such unique statements of art.
After I did not find the
comic sensation Vickie Shaw the least bit funny, I knew it was
time for me give it up and go home to bed. I mean that woman had
everyone else literally screaming with laughter, and I
barely smiled? Enough already. Unhappily, I missed seeing Heather
Bishop's set, but something bigger than my "wants" had
taken over; I was in bed by 10 PM.
SATURDAY, JUNE 23, 2001
I awoke feeling rested and ready to go. Good thing! This was going to be a big, BIG day.
My breakfast was graced by my new friends, Naeemah, Debra and Sarah. Ah, that child has totally captured my heart. But don't you think that would happen to anyone who met her? And what a glorious way to raise a little girl, to bring her to gatherings such as this. She's a fortunate child to have a mother like Debra. I never saw anything but love pass between them.
Soon it was time for our first chorus rehearsal of the day. While we were warming up, I asked my friend Judith to take pictures--1 and 2--of the chorus. By now our numbers were pushing 40. Justina and Sherry K took us through three of our four songs before it was time for us to go to the Emens Auditorium for soundcheck. We arrived in the middle of Lucie Blue Tremblay's soundcheck, and it was great fun to watch it from backstage. That was another perk I experienced because of my disability--the able-bodied members of our chorus waited in the audience seats out front.
I enjoyed watching the inner workings of backstage life, especially the stage crew and complex equipment, like this wall of ropes that operated the curtains. And I want to offer my gratitude to Sandy, a sister chorus member, who helped me through the soundcheck/performance by carrying windchime walker--I was using her onstage--and opening the necessary doors. After her soundcheck, Lucie Blue and her singers, Bobbie and Ruth, took time backstage to review a song. Then it was our turn.
It was eerie to hear this disembodied voice echoing through the darkened auditorium directing us through our soundcheck. I learned about onstage monitors--the small black boxes you see on the floor in front of performers--and how the sound they project is a second or two behind the actual sound being made. When you're singing with other instruments and/or voices, that makes it challenging to stay together. But Justina assured us if we kept our eyes trained on her and did not trust our ears, she'd keep us in time. For a singer like me whose ears are her best teacher, that was a real trick!
After soundcheck, I scooted over to the Crafts Area. In the night, I'd decided I just had to buy another jacket from Helen of Down Cellar Clothing now that I had the opportunity. I also wanted to check in with Merribeth, my beloved didgeridoo teacher. She'd been at lunch when I'd visited the Crafts Area yesterday.
I happily accomplished both tasks--tasks?!?--and scooted back to the dorm for a quick lunch before our afternoon rehearsal. I passed Cindi and the Access Central gang hanging out in front of the dorm. These women make it possible for so many of us differently-abled women to attend this festival; that and the fact that Ball State University is among the most accessible campuses in this country. I sure hope the National Women's Music Festival doesn't go back to Indiana University like they're thinking about doing. IU is a beautiful campus but nowhere near as accessible as BSU.
At lunch I sat with Barbara and Pat. Barbara shared about her life as a career military officer who played percussion first in the WAC band and later in the Army Reserve Band. She's close to retirement now from her post-military job at the Post Office, and she and Pat are looking forward to more time for travel and hanging out together. You know, every single story I heard over this weekend was fascinating. We may think our lives are ordinary, but to someone else they're new and different.
At 2:15 PM, we were back together singing, this time over in the Music Building. Had our numbers swelled or did we just look more impressive spread out in two rows instead of bunched together in four? Judith kindly took two more pictures of the chorus--1 and 2. Soon the Voices of Africa joined us to rehearse "Endangered Species".
What a privilege to sing with this group whom I'd admired onstage here at National two years ago and at the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival last August. I'd even been listening to their CD on the drive down here on Thursday. The words and melody they had us singing deeply touched and stayed with me.
We finished rehearsing about 4:00 PM, with our performance call scheduled for 6:15 PM back here in the Music Building (it opens onto backstage). I scooted back to my dorm room, downloaded the day's digital pictures, lay down briefly, then got dressed in my long black skirt and solid color purple shirt, washed my face, brushed my teeth and went off to dinner.
I wasn't feeling particularly nervous, but still thought I'd do well to eat a light supper. One of the ever-helpful Access Central volunteers, Terry, helped me get a salad and take it to the table. I sat with Kassie, another purple-shirted chorus member, and finished my meal pretty quickly. It was now time to get over to the Music Building. All the way over, women were shouting encouragement to me. That's partly why I wasn't nervous; I mean, how can you be nervous when you know there'll be a couple thousand women in the audience wishing you well!
I obviously took no digital pictures myself, but Susan Daniel, the NWMF photographer, kindly emailed me this picture that she took of our NWMF Chorus performance that night. It was a truly wondrous occasion. I have no idea how we actually sounded but I do know we had a terrific time doing it. At the end of our performance, the women in the audience were on their feet shouting and clapping. Such an abundance of love!!
Now, performing was grand but what happened next is what will stay with me for life. We'd been hearing throughout the weekend--and even last year--that the NWMF was in very bad shape financially. Costs have gone up and attendance has been down. There was a huge question as to whether this 27-year icon of women's music would be around to celebrate its 28th year. During Lucie Blue Tremblay's luscious set, she'd committed to go on a Midwestern tour in October with all the proceeds being donated to the National Women's Music Festival. After her set, two women got up and spoke about how much this festival meant to them. One of them, a social worker and mother of three children who is helping to support her elderly mother, held out a check for $200 made out to NWMF, saying this was the best she could do but if she had it, she'd be giving much more.
Now here was the miracle. Joyce, the festival producer and only paid staff member, got up and announced that they would be passing a basket for women to give whatever they could to help the National Women's Music Festival stay alive. It didn't hurt that the basket would be passed by Vickie Shaw, one of the funniest women in the world, and that she'd said folks could shove their $$ down the front of her shirt if they wanted! Joyce was real clear about what they needed: $30,000. And if they collected $25,000, a woman who owned a company in Indianapolis would kick in the final $5,000 to put them at goal.
The women in this audience were not rich. It was not an opera or symphony crowd: these were postal carriers, teachers, UPS drivers, small business owners, social workers, hospice nurses, construction workers, policewomen, single mothers, retirees, you name it. In 15 minutes, Joyce appeared back on stage, tears in her eyes, saying, "I can't believe this! We've just collected $22,000!" While she stood there, someone came up to tell her that now it was up to $25,000! The business owner who'd pledged $5,000 joined Joyce to great applause. The Voices of Africa came back onstage--they'd already finished their set that had had folks dancing in the aisles--and played and sang a celebration song for the community. Women were on their feet dancing, tears streaming down their faces--I was very wet-eyed by then--everyone was clapping and singing. Such a celebration!
And it did not stop there. When I scooted out to the lobby after the show, women were auctioning signed T-shirts, and Jamie Anderson--tonight's bellydancing MC--and Vickie Shaw were out there collecting $$ in most creative ways! Everyone was smiling and laughing, having been brought together and touched by the magic of this dream being manifested so unexpectedly.
Although I'd expected to be utterly exhausted after such a long day, I was bursting with life and energy! I first went to drum with Wahru and Lori at the late night drum jam, and then finished the evening--by now morning--with a sandwich, chips and juice at the Goddess Jam Coffeehouse in the cafeteria. Everyone was still smiling! And it didn't hurt the mood a bit when a group of Coffeehouse, Showcase and Mainstage performers got up to sing and play together.
I was in bed about 2 AM
with a silly smile still plastered to my face and my inner voice
singing about the magic of women!
SUNDAY, JUNE 24, 2001
My last morning at festival was spent packing and then arranging with my wonderful helpers, Carol and Jules, to load my car while I went off to the Crafts Area. Merribeth had invited me to come to her booth with my didgeridoo because she had a crystal singing bowl in the key of F, the same key as my didg. She wanted to see how the two sounded together. The answer was glorious!
But before that note sounded, I'd run into an old festie-friend, Dannyn, outside the gymnasium that was housing the Crafts Area. Dannyn and I had hooked up at Wahru's drum jam last night. It was she who had tied my new Nigerian cowbells onto Ona the scooter's handlebar for ease of playing. And here she was whipping out her tape measure to measure my basket because she had an idea for constructing a more perfect cowbell holder that she planned to send me in the mail. Now is this a dyke-thing, or what? I love it! I asked a passerby to capture this moment for all to see. Just one more example of the loving women I am privileged to meet.
And there was more generous-spirited love to come. After Merribeth and Harriet had played their didgeridoo/singing bowl duet, Merribeth asked if I was able to stretch out comfortably on the floor as she wanted to share a special vibrational healing with me. I answered that it was easy for me to get down on the floor, but getting up might take some help. That would be no problem, said she.
Merribeth, the didgeridoo and I go back a few years. She first gave me a didgeridoo healing at the National Women's Music Festival in 1999. I vibrated for hours afterwards! Then last year she did the same thing again. By the way, Merribeth always offers these healings to me freely, with no mention of payment. But last year I was able to do more than simply receive her healing; I was able to buy my own didgeridoo from her with my ever-welcome birthday money. I wanted to share this form of healing with others, even as I healed myself. With the didgeridoo, the vibrations set up equally for the one blowing as for the one being blown upon. A true example of the healer being healed.
I remember scooting all over festival last year with my brand new didg in my lap, blowing it every time I went outside. It takes awhile to get the hang of the loose-lipped style of blowing needed to get that low drone associated with the didgeridoo. But with the encouragement of my sister festie-goers, I was beginning to get the knack by the time I packed up to go home.
At the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival last August I remember two extraordinary times when I used the didgeridoo for the purpose of healing. One was with Jack, a differently-abled boy of 5 who immediately stopped crying when I started blowing the didg near him; the other was a young woman who was 4 months pregnant. As I blew on her belly, she felt the baby move for the first time. Since then I've blown the didgeridoo on friends in San Francisco, at WoMaMu (Women Making Music) camp in the California wine country, and at Carolyn McDade's retreat in Ontario a couple weeks ago.
Merribeth now proposed that we add a new dimension to our usual didgeridoo healing by using what she called the Chi Machine. So we started with my lying stomach-down on blankets on the floor and Merribeth blowing the didgeridoo over my back, legs, arms and head. Then I turned over onto my back and cradled my ankles in the Chi Machine. Merribeth turned it on (it's electric) and I felt my body being rocked sideways back and forth as she began to blow the didgeridoo on me. This must have been quite an interesting sight, but, believe me, I was not aware of that at all; I was merely feeling all that I was feeling. And it was grand.
I was up again--still feeling inner vibrations--and sitting in Ona my scooter when my Detroit friends, Nancy and Judith came by. I wanted to take their picture, especially since Judith had not been in any of the chorus pictures she'd so kindly taken for me on Saturday. And there was one more person I needed to celebrate with a photo before I left the festival: Holly. It was she who had helped me at Mainstage every night as I made the very tight turn on the narrow wooden wheelchair-accessible platform to get myself in position to exit going forwards instead of backwards. So many people had helped me throughout the weekend.
After a quick lunch, I scooted to the Access Central desk, asked Jules and Carol if they could bring my car around, and met them out front. They then most graciously disassembled Ona and packed her away in the car. What would I have done without the help of these two women!
The drive home was easy.
It was a beautiful sunny day, and everything looked lush and green
out my car window. Michigan
along I94 was particularly inviting. I was home in only 4 hours,
happy to see my sweetie.
©2001 Patricia Lay-Dorsey. Please use with attribution.