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1 archive 2/25-3/24/00, Journal
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4 archive 5/25-6/24/00, Journal
5 archive 6/25-7/24/00, Journal
6 archive 7/25-8/24/00, Journal7
archive 8/25-9/24/00, Journal
8 archive 9/25-10/24/00, Journal
9 archive 10/25-11/24/00, Journal
10 archive 11/25-12/24/00, Journal
11 archive 12/25/00-1/24/01, Journal
12 archive 1/25-2/24/01, Journal
13 archive 2/25-3/24/01, Journal
14 archive 3/25-4/24/01, Journal
15 archive 4/25-5/24/01, Journal
16 archive 5/25-6/24/01, Journal
17 archive 6/25-7/24/01, Journal
18 archive 7/25-8/24/01, Journal
19 archive 8/25-9/24/01, Journal
20 archive 9/25-10/24/01, Journal
21 archive 10/25-11/24/01, Journal
22 archive 11/25-12/24/01, Journal
23 archive 12/25/01-1/24/02, Journal
24 archive 1/25-2/24/02, Journal
25 archive 2/25-3/24/02, Journal
26 archive 3/25-4/24/02, Journal
27 archive 4/25-5/24/02, Journal
28 archive 5/25-6/24/02, Journal
29 archive 6/25-7/24/02, Journal
30 archive 7/25-8/24/02, Journal
31 archive 8/25-9/24/02,Journal
32 archive 9/25-10/24/02, Journal
33 archive 10/25-11/24/02, Journal
34 archive 11/25-12/24/02, Journal
35 archive 12/25/02-1/24/03, Journal
36 archive 1/25-2/24/03, Journal
37 archive 2/25-3/25/03, Journal
38 archive 3/26-4/24/03, Journal
39 archive 4/25-5/24/03, Journal
40 archive 5/25-6-24/03, Journal
41 archive 6/25-7/24/03, Journal
42 archive 7/25-8/24/03, Journal
43 archive 8/25-9/24/03, Journal
44 archive 9/25-10/24/03, Journal
45 archive 10/25-11/24/03, Journal
46 archive 11/25-12/24/03, Journal
47 archive 12/25/03-1/24/04, Journal
48 archive 1/25-2/24/04, Journal
49 archive 2/25-3/24/04, Journal
50 archive 3/25-4/24/04, Journal
51 archive 4/25-5/24/04, Journal
52 archive 5/25-6/24/04, Journal
53 archive 6/25-7/24/04, Journal
54 archive 7/25-8/24/04, Journal
55 archive 8/25-9/24/04, Journal
56 archive 9/25-10/24/04, Journal
57 archive 10/25-11/24/04, Journal
58 archive 11/25-12/24/04, Journal
59 archive 12/25/04-1/24/05, Journal
60 archive 1/25-2/24/05, Journal 61 archive 2/25-3/24/05, Journal 62 archive 3/25-4/24/05, Journal 63 archive 4/25-5/24/05, Journal 64 archive 5/25-6/24/05, Journal 65 archive 6/25-7/24/05, Journal 66 archive 7/25-8/24/05, Journal 67 archive 8/25-9/24/05, Journal 68 archive 9/25-10/24/05, Journal 69 archive 10/25-11/24/05, Journal 70 archive 11/25-12/24/05, Journal 71 archive 12/25/05-1/24/06, Journal 72 archive 1/25-2/24/06
To read my current journal, please go to: windchime walker's journal
*Now that I have a digital camera, journal entries may be linked to related photos. Download time should be no more than 5 seconds. The easiest way to navigate going back and forth between photo links and journal text is to click on your "back" button at the left of your tool bar.
SATURDAY, AUGUST 25, 2001
This day marks the 18 month anniversary of my keeping this online journal. That is a year and a half, or 547 days. I missed 3 of those days for no reason, and a number of weeks when I was either without my laptop or did not have access to the internet (as on the train and at the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival). In most cases, I put up the missed journal entries as soon as possible. Other than that, I've written and put up a journal entry every single day, rain or shine, in sickness and health, whether I felt like it or not.
And I thought running a marathon took endurance!
I just looked back over my first few months of online journal-keeping to see what I'd written about how I felt about keeping it. I was surprised to find that it wasn't until the beginning of the third month that I mentioned my feelings at all. Here's what I wrote then:
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 26, 2000
I'm surprised that I've been keeping this online journal for two months now. When I wrote the first entry on February 25, I didn't know if I'd want to continue. It's such a vulnerable, public place to be. I've kept journals on and off for over 15 years as a tool to make my way through life with a measure of grace and objectivity. Privacy was a prerequisite so I could say anything and hear myself saying it. This journal is about as open and out there as anything could be. I have no idea who might be reading it or how they might interprete what I write.
First off, I had to find a way to protect the privacy of other people in my life. Maybe I'm willing to tell my story to the world, but they've made no such choice. So I decided to use initials instead of names, except for folks who are already public figures. And as honest and forthright as I've tried to be, I wasn't interested in making readers listen to carping or negativity. It's one thing to say it like you see and feel it; quite another to wallow in mindless muck. Actually--journal or no journal--I've been avoiding dreary places within myself of late. Seems like something shifted when I got rid of 9 years worth of hair in March. No more carrying around unnecessary weight, whether in the form of a braid or grudge or snivelly complaint. If something's awry, I try to address it as clearly and directly as I can. Maybe stupid stuff gets in the front door but I generally usher it right out the back! No taking up residence, thank you.
The journal helps. In being mindful of what I might write, I find that each day offers an abundance of experiences, thoughts, reflections and stories. Such a simple way to celebrate the present. I can't remember feeling better than I do right now. Can't say I walk or use my hands any better than before, but dammit I feel pretty terrific!
Don't think I'd change a word of that entry 16 months later...except for my decision to use first names instead of initials. I discovered that the persons I write about are quite comfortable being named. Actually, I gather the use of initials made my journal hard to read.
It continues to be a good tool for living life in the present rather than the past or future. And since adding digital photos last December 29, it has offered even more opportunities to celebrate and share the wonderful people and places I'm privileged to encounter day-to-day. I love making folks "famous", a fact that was not lost on 8-year old Max from Paris, France.
And I still try not to use this journal to work through my own personal stuff, but, of course, it helps me do that whether I intend to or not. Simply writing the truth, as best I can, cannot help but change me and the way I look at things.
For instance, tonight Ed and I hit one of those tough moments when communication became uncomfortable for us both. But keeping a journal has helped me get in the habit of staying with the truth even when I'd rather not. In these 18 months I've learned that difficult things can best be addressed with directness, clarity and respect. Silence may be safer but change requires risk.
I now can't imagine living
each day without taking the time to write about it at night. It
seems to complete the process for me. Without keeping a journal,
I might slide through life only half aware of the wonders of each
day. Life goes by fast enough; I don't want to miss a minute.
SUNDAY, AUGUST 26, 2001
Today was Penny's Michigan Womyn's Music Festival Memories party. After encountering a downpour on the 30 mile drive to her house, it was sunny and mild when I arrived at 6 PM. We sat out back and shared stories and food. Isn't that the way it's been with women for millennia? We drummed later, and perhaps that too was women's perogative in times past.
Seven of us had been at festival two weeks ago; two had been in Newfoundland and Labrador; one had travelled to Alaska, and one had kept the home fires burning. We had lots of stories to share, and much good listening to enjoy. We didn't just share stories; of course I had to show off my sunburn-body tattoo! My friends spontaneously formed a woman-shield so Penny's neighbors wouldn't get an eyeful. There was Nancy's set of photos to look at and from which to choose copies to take home. We each husked our own piece of fresh Michigan corn while snacking on Sooz's salmon dip and crackers.
I looked around this circular table and saw the loving faces of so many of my sister-friends with whom I've shared song, laughter, tears and deep connections over the years. There was no place in the world I would rather be than here.
After a delicious potluck dinner, we moved inside to drum. After all, we had to experience Jackie's new drum that she'd bought from Raven at festival, the very drum that Edwina Lee Tyler had used at the Acoustic Stage while performing with Evelyn Harris on Friday afternoon. Nancy and Judy added to the percussion with instruments they'd bought at the National Women's Music Festival in June; I used my Nigerian cowbells. Even McGee the dog was treated to his own ecstatic moment!
Ah, I do love these
MONDAY, AUGUST 27, 2001
The last day of summer. Well, not really, but it seemed so. The kids start back to school tomorrow. Isn't that the traditional end of summer?
The pool was full of children and parents taking advantage of this perfectly beautiful day. There was a poignancy to it all, even as they screamed and splashed and carried on. And poignancy also for us older folks in the water aerobics class. Since the lifeguards are returning to high school--the ones who haven't already gone off to college--the pool will only be open from 4-8 PM until it closes for the season on September 9. Fortunately, that doesn't hold for Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday of Labor Day weekend. Because there's no school those days, the pool will open at 10 AM and not close until 10 PM, the regular summer hours.
I celebrated the summer's passing by swimming 15 laps of the crawl! My most laps ever. A half a mile according to Ed's calculations. It felt great!
You know, I recently discovered this exercise regime has done more than just make me feel strong and develop some bicep muscles; it's actually lost me a few pounds. To be honest, weight is pretty much a non-issue with me. I probably stand on a pair of scales once, maybe twice a year. Since I wear big billowy dresses and ankle-length elastic-waisted skirts, any fluctuations in weight make no never mind in terms of comfort. But yesterday I did happen to stand on Eddie's doctor's scales and found I weighed the least I have in years. As my eating habits have not changed, it must be the swimming.
Back to the park...I ordered and ate another of Patricia's special slices of pizza for lunch. If you've been reading my journal for awhile, you might remember that, early in the summer, I'd asked the concession stand owner to keep non-meat pizza slices on hand for me since there were few vegetarian options on the menu. He'd kindly gotten a large cheese pizza--was it 16 slices?--that was to be kept frozen with a big sign on it saying, "Cheese Pizza--For Patricia Only!!!" Well, there are only two slices left. Just enough to finish out the summer.
One of the ubiquitous seagulls stood watch as I ate my lunch. OK, I know I'm not supposed to, but I gave her/him just a little snack. Later on, as I got ready to go in our front door at home, another creature turned up looking for a handout. Young grey squirrel--not to be confused with the more mature brownish black Ms.Squirrel--scrambled down the tree trunk and looked longingly at the screen door to the vestibule (where we keep a supply of peanuts in the shell).
This silly young 'un doesn't seem to understand that squirrels are supposed to bury something for the cold winter months, because when Ed and I went out later for our after-dinner walk/scoot, the base of that tree looked like a peanut shell garbage dump! That silly squirrel had obviously sat there and eaten every single nut. Ms. Squirrel would never do such a thing; she only seems to eat one out of every eight or ten nuts, the others being carried to unknown hiding places. But I suspect we were dealing with a callow youth here today.
Speaking of youth, I felt
like a four-year old when I finally got upstairs. Although I'd
intended to handle some phone and computer business, I could not
stay away from my inviting bed. Naptime! And nothing feels better
after a good long swim than to stretch out on my beddy-bye, close
my eyes and sink into slumberland. I didn't wake up until it was
time for dinner.
TUESDAY, AUGUST 28, 2001
For each of us, our days are made up of encounters with this person and that, some of whom we know by name and others not. I decided to honor just a few such individuals who crossed my path today by taking their picture and posting it here on my site.
John at the gas station was first. He often helps me fill up and, although I'd not asked his name until today, I've enjoyed his wonderfully quirky sense of humor. First thing out of his mouth was, "My allergies are really a kick in the butt today." That was in response to my offhand, "How ya doin?"
After I'd shot a couple pictures, I said, "Hey, John. Everytime I point the camera at you, you stop smiling."
"I never smile in pictures", said he.
But then, as he was waiting at the pump to get the sales receipt, he looked in the car window with one eyebrow raised, and there it was. A picture of John that, although dark, captured the man. And because I took the time to connect with him in this way, I found out a little known fact. John is the regular chauffeur for Soupy Sales, a legendary Detroit entertainer.
My next encounter was with Dave at the Dearborn, MI Amtrak station. Yesterday, I'd made train reservations by phone for my winter trip out to San Francisco. November 10, 2001-April 18, 2002 are the dates. I've reserved the handicap accessible compartment as in years past. The best sleeping room on the California Zephyr, in my opinion. It is on the lower level of this two-level train, with windows on both sides, its own toilet, sink and convertible seats/bed. But I couldn't pay by credit card over the phone because I had a $100 voucher to cash in from last spring's 12-hour delayed arrival home. As the Amtrak station where I'll catch a commuter train to Chicago--and the California Zephyr--that November morning is just 15 minutes west of Dayhouse, I decided to take care of business before starting house duty at 1:30 PM today.
I remembered Dave from before, but again, had never known his name. He patiently took care of the voucher and called to see if I could redeem my Amtrak Guest Reward miles--similar to Frequent Flyer miles--for an additional discount. The answer was not until I have collected 5000 miles can I use them for a reserved compartment (I have 2,194 thus far).
The most significant piece of information Dave gave me had to do with the survival of Amtrak, especially their long distance service. He asked that I please contact my Senators and Representative in Washington, DC and request that the government continue to subsidize Amtrak beyond the current cutoff date of 2002. Amtrak cannot survive without government help.
When I think of how unpleasant it has become to fly, I will do whatever I can to support this people-friendly alternative, and I hope others will do the same.
My friend Pat was the third individual I photographed today. Her service to me was priceless: an excellent massage. This woman transforms body work into a delicious dance between two individuals with a single goal in common: to relax, heal and celebrate the body. Not simply the body alone, but its interrelationship with every part of the human person. And though it was my body being worked upon, Pat describes the resonance this connectedness sets up in her body as well.
What a privilege to celebrate
these three. May they receive back in equal measure all that they
gave me today.
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 29, 2001
Why is it that mosquito bites don't start itching until night falls, and then YIPES!!! I've been very fortunate this summer...until now, that is. I hadn't gotten one mosquito bite until day before yesterday, and now I have three. One on my left ankle, another on my right calf and the third in my left armpit. And I'll be honest. They are driving me crazy! Before I go to bed I'll slather some anti-itch lotion on them and hope for the best.
Well, I guess if that's the worst of my problems, I can't complain.
Speaking of complaints, I occasionally hear from friends about how difficult their elder parents are. I commisserate but, to be honest, I just don't know what it's like. For some unknown reason my mother has only gotten sweeter as she's aged. In her younger and middle years, she could manage to be pretty durn unpleasant at times. Like most of us. But now? At 88, she is an absolute doll...just as long as no one tries to get her out of bed, that is! But you know, at this age I figure it's her right and privilege to live exactly as she pleases. Fortunately, she's in a nursing facility where she is loved and cared for exceptionally well. When I ask her how she's doing, she always answers, "Just wonderful! I'm so happy."
She's made only one request of me all year. When I called just after returning from the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival a couple weeks back, she asked me to send her some pictures as she'd like to see what I've been up to. Today I finally printed out a small selection of my digital photos: my tent at festival; me at the pool; Eddie and I together; the close-up I use here in the journal; La Lucha and I carrying flowers at the Ann Arbor Farmer's Market; a picture I took today of our house and one of Eddie, whom she adores. Since she doesn't get outside anymore, I included a picture of the butterfly I'd seen in my neighbor's garden in July, and one of Ms. Squirrel who came calling today in search of her usual peanuts-in-the-shell.
It was fun to do this
for Mom. Hope she enjoys them.
THURSDAY, AUGUST 30, 2001
Each person encounters a few individuals in a lifetime who always fill you with life, energy and enthusiasm whenever you're together. My Canadian friend Pat N. is such an individual for me. And today we were together. Yippee!
After 15 years in a lovely old roomy house in Windsor, Ontario's downtown district, Pat moved a month ago into a two-bedroom apartment in a high-rise building two blocks away on the same street. Oddly enough it is an apartment building where her mother lived before her death years ago. Pat says she hopes to live here until she dies...which had better be sometime in the far distant future!
It is such a delight to see her so happy in her new home. There is a beautiful, sparely-decorated living room with a wonderful balcony that Pat says has become "my sacred space". Instead of houses, grass and cars driving by, she now sees tall buildings, treetops and her favorite thing, the sky. Dawn, sunsets and stars at night keep her enthalled.
I was honored to be the first guest she's had for a meal. Pat is such a tease that when she said she was determined to beat out our friend Pat K. (whose terrific food at Dayhouse I'm always raving about in this journal), I knew I was in for a culinary treat. And it was. A salad with basalmic vinegar dressing, parmesan cheese ravioli with mushrooms and fresh garden peas, with raspberries and cream for dessert. Now I'm not going to get into comparisons because both Pats are my friends and they both read this journal; I'll simply say it was delectable!
Pat N. is my sister anti-corporate globalization activist with whom I engaged in protest demonstrations and teach-ins when the Organization of American States (OAS) met in Windsor in June 2000. For both of us it was a defining experience, one that radicalized us even more than we were before. Now, for Pat, that really means something as she was right in the middle of the leftist union activities of the 1960s and 70s. She is also a foremother of the women's movement in this town, having co-founded the still-active Windsor Feminist Theater in the early 1970s. Pat is deeply commited to women and their struggles to be fully themselves. This now takes the form of facilitating a weekly group in a women's substance abuse treatment center, and being one of the founders and a current volunteer at a shelter for women who are homeless and without resources, a shelter that offers educational and job training, emotional support and counseling, as well as food and housing. Empowering women, that's what Pat is about.
Last winter while I was in San Francisco, Pat cast and directed a private showing of "The Vagina Monologues" with our Detroit/Windsor community of women who sing together with Carolyn McDade and with Notable Women.They're still talking about it! Believe me, that was one time I was truly sorry to be in San Francisco rather than Detroit.
Today I was thrilled that Pat N. agreed to work on a proposal to the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival organizers regarding an Intensive workshop for political and social activists at festival next August. Now there are three Patricias working together on this project! The other Pat--from Madison, Wisconsin--is the one who suggested we do it in the first place. She and I participated in the "Women and the Corporate State" workshop at this year's festival, and when we met by chance later in the week, she encouraged me to join her in making such a proposal for next year. It was Pat from festival who said, "We need to turn Michigan into a movement!" And it is the prospect of just such a movement that hooked Pat N. into joining us in the effort.
Pat and I have shared more than political action and song in our years of friendship; we were part of a weekly drum circle at Dayhouse for a year back in 1998-9. At that time we were using African-style and Middle Eastern drums like the djembe, ashiko and doumbec. Today she showed me her latest drumming challenge, the frame drum. It is a beautiful but demanding instrument that takes extremely agile fingers. Definitely not for me.
You know, Pat and I so
often meet in groups like Notable Women and our monthly women's
book group, that a day like today--with just the two of us--is
very special. Thank you, my friend!
FRIDAY, AUGUST 31, 2001
I'm writing this in the early afternoon, which I expect will be my pattern for the next four days. Labor Day weekend in this city means the Ford Detroit International (formerly Montreux Detroit) Jazz Festival! And for a jazz lover like me, everything else is put aside for these four days and nights. Pat K., a sister jazz lover, will be arriving here in about an hour to stay for the weekend. That way she and I can easily drive downtown together every afternoon and stay until the music stops at midnight. Last Labor Day weekend we listened to 30 hours of jazz!
As is so often the case in Detroit, the entire festival is free of charge. It's held at Hart Plaza on the Detroit River downtown, involves four stages of continuous music running from 1-12 PM Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and 1-9:30 PM on Monday. It is a glorious place for jazz fans to be: great music, a good mix of older stars and young up-and-coming musicians, attentive audiences, all set in the Noguchi-designed Hart Plaza with its dramatic views of skyscrapers, river vistas and Noguchi's fountain that locals irreverently call the stainless steel donut-on-legs.
The fact that it's free means everyone shows up! The street folks who regularly sleep in this plaza, suburban auto execs and union activists, politicians looking for votes in Detroit's September 11th primary, high school and university jazz musicians from all over the city and state, young families with strollers, members of Detroit's old Graystone jazz community, out-of-towners and anyone who wants to enjoy a great party weekend.
I adore everything about it!
So I'll take photos at
the festival, then write and put up my journal entries each morning
or early afternoon before we take off for another day of music.
And have fun yourselves doing whatever gives you pleasure on this
last summer holiday weekend. Talk to you tomorrow.
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 1, 2001
WOW!!! It's going to be tough not to dither on and on about how great last night was at the Ford Detroit International Jazz Festival. I mean if you weren't there, how can I help you experience the wondrous music we heard? I don't use audio on this site, and even if I did, it couldn't begin to match the joy of hearing music live and in person. Especially at an outdoor city festival on a perfect afternoon and evening.
What I can share is one of the best photographs I've ever taken. And I feel as though I had little to do with it. All I did was turn around to catch a quick shot of the audience clapping for the young piano wizard, Benny Green (this is not the special photo!). I didn't even look closely through the viewfinder; I just snapped. And when I downloaded it this morning, this is what I saw. Yipes! That's Detroit's tallest building in the background--the Renaissance Center--and the audience is sitting in the Noguchi-designed sunken Amphitheatre. When I showed Ed this photo, he suggested I submit it to the Detroit Free Press; so I did.
Now, aside from my excitement over the photograph, it's the music that will stay with me...especially the poured molasses notes that Detroit-born jazz-great, Tommy Flanagan, found within his piano. If you have never heard this man, please do yourself a favor and listen to one of his CDs. He makes it sound like every other pianist in the world is just working too durn hard, even masters like Oscar Peterson. When Tommy played Gershwin's "Lady Be Good", the audience literally gasped aloud in awe.
Don't say I didn't warn you about dithering on and on!
And it wasn't just Tommy. We got to the festival a little after 5 PM and came in via the new Riverfront Promenade. Our favorite parking garage--$5.25 for Friday evening and $3.50 total on weekends and holidays!--is beside Hart Plaza down by the river. We happened on an artist I'd wanted to see--Faruq Z Bey, the Detroit poet and jazz saxophonist. Again, what happened next was a pure surprise. Faruq and his brother sax, bass and drum players were wonderfully experimental in the sounds they put together, but it was when a guest artist joined them that things really started happening. This artist was a woman named either Bickey or Mickey Alexander who was on the baritone sax.
Have you ever seen or heard a baritone sax? It is a huge, obviously heavy instrument that, in its lowest notes, vibrates your innards like the didgeridoo. Unbelievable! Well, these folks got an improv going that will stay with me as long as I live. The power was enhanced when Faruq added his poem "Speaking in Tongues" to the mix. No one wanted them to stop, but this festival has to stay to a tightr schedule to try to pack everything in.
It is now close to time that Pat and I need to get back down there so I'm going to breeze over some parts that really deserve more atention...but, hey, you do what you can do!
Christian McBride, the young bass extraordinaire, with his quartet of exceptional musicians--piano/keyboard, soprano and tenor sax, drums--proved to be not only musically excellent, but personally engaging. He wore an almost continuous smile and a Detroit Tigers shirt and baseball cap, utterly delighting this homegrown crowd.
On our way from seeing Christian McBride at the Amphitheatre to seeing Tommy Flanagan at the more intimate Pyramid Theater, we ran into two CPR (Committee for the Political Resurrection of Detroit) friends, Elena and Jim. They were in front of the Noguchi fountain I'd told you about yesterday...which looks like a pretty elegant donut-on-legs at night!
There's one more sight I want to share with you before Pat and I take off for downtown: that is the lights of the Ambassador Bridge that connects Detroit to Windsor, Ontario. This picture was taken on the Riverfront Promenade last night.
OK, I'm out of here! See
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 2, 2001
I've decided that I must define the term "extrovert", if an extrovert is one who is energized by being around people. Because energized is a small word for what I experienced yesterday, on the second day of the Ford Detroit International Jazz Festival downtown! And part of the greatest fun was making new friends.
Friends like these two elegant women, Doreen and Frances, who were sitting behind Pat and me at the Amphitheatre stage for five hours last night. And later, their husbands, Donald and Charles, and Marcia, the woman who was sitting behind them. Through taking these pictures I got to know Joe and Gloria, who were sitting in front of Doreen and Frances. They come up every year from their home in Elyria, Ohio near Cleveland, stay at a downtown hotel and immerse themselves in the Jazzfest. Then there was Louise, who was sitting on my other side. She comes to the Jazzfest every year from her home in New Jersey, stays with her son John and his wife Pat, and joins them here day and night for the music, which she loves. Here is a photo of Louise, Pat and John.
A most special connection happened when I turned to the women standing behind me to say, "Don't you just love this woman bass player (Melissa Slocum), who's playing with Kevin Mahogany?" One of the women said, "You know, my son is the pianist!" Well, didn't we have fun talking! Turns out Gertrude came up from her home in Youngstown, Ohio to see her son, James Weidman, perform with Kevin here at the Jazzfest. She's staying with her sister, Logania, who lives in Detroit. She told me a little about how James is a regular member of the vocalist Kevin Mahogany's band in New York, in addition to teaching at a university there. Here's Gertude and Logania.
And it wasn't just new friends who gave me joy, but older friends--not in age but in the amount of time we've known one another--like Jackie and Ann with Rafaella, their precious daughter. We laughed about how different this festival is from last year's for them. At the 2000 Jazzfest, Jackie was within a week of delivering Rafaella and was here, but not exactly comfortable sitting for long periods of time! I couldn't resist taking one more picture of Ann and Rafaella as Ann wrote down the spelling of their little one's name for me.
And of course it wasn't just the people who gave me joy. After all, we'd come for the music! For me, there were a couple of wonderful surprises. Thornetta Davis, for one. A well-known Detroit blues vocalist, this woman plumb knocked my socks off (if I'd been wearing any)! What a power-filled delivery and exciting presentation, not to mention an amazing voice. She had the huge crowd on their feet, dancing and clapping.
And then there was James Carter and his "Chasing the Gypsy" band. I don't even know how to put words to what this young man does with a saxophone--actually, the soprano, tenor, alto and baritone saxes. He makes you think you've never heard that instrument before! And he is such a kindly, enthusiastic, gentle soul who obviously loves and respects the incredible musicians in his band. Now get this! His band includes a woman (YEA!!) on violin, and men on drums, piano, bass, guitar and accordian! What an eclectic mix of instruments and it works fabulously. Detroit adores this hometown musician-made-good (he's been in New York for 6 years now).
And it wasn't just people and music! The sights were special too...the Riverfront Promenade with the Ambassador Bridge to Canada in the background, a cityscape from the promenade area near our parking garage, the Renaissance Center sparkling in the sunlight behind the path into Hart Plaza, a photo of the Amphitheatre Stage taken from the circular railing above it, the audience there--with Brazilian flags waving--clapping for Rich K Brazil & Beyond. And for pure delight I couldn't top this picture of four boys enjoying Noguchi's fountain from the inside, so to speak! Well, I guess this photo Pat took of me scooter-seat dancing to Thornetta Davis would have to be up there too.
And as soon as I put up
this journal entry, we're off again! I just can't get enough of
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 3, 2001
I thought Saturday's photos of joy-filled folks would be hard to top, but I didn't figure on meeting the man who put this whole Ford Detroit International Jazz Festival together! Now if you want to see a happy face, just click on this picture of Frank Malfitano. It probably didn't hurt that it was taken immediately following Freddy Cole's set, Nat King Cole's grammy award-winning brother.
Frank came to Detroit last September as artistic director of the Music Hall for the Performing Arts. That position included being director of the Ford Detroit International Jazz Festival as well, the largest free music festival in North America. What a fabulous job he has done! He trimmed the hours and the number of stages, put a giant video screen in the middle of the plaza, improved the live televised portion of the weekend so we didn't have to wait through commercials or talking heads, and has brought in the most diverse, interesting lineup of performers I've ever seen. When you see him, it's as though this man is levitating in pure bliss! I was so happy to be able to connect with him and give him the kudos he so richly deserves.
You know, after three full days of jazz--10 hours yesterday alone--you'd think I'd be ready to stay home. No way!! I can't wait to finish this journal entry and get in the car and go downtown for more! And I'm sad to think today is the last day. How I love this Detroit weekend.
Where to start? Well, I guess I could start at the beginning. On Sunday, Pat and I got down to an already crowded Hart Plaza about 2 PM. We started at the Pyramid Theatre, probably my favorite venue because of its intimacy and great acoustics. We were delighted to find a shady spot under the sound engineer's tent...well, it was shady for awhile! The performer was a local guitarist named Paul Abler who, with his musicians, put on a wonderfully mellow Sunday afternoon concert.
After his set, we walked/scooted up toward the Jefferson Avenue Student Stage. It's always fun to see and hear these high school and college-age musicians, some of whom are pretty darn good. But the special treat for me was running into my old friends Pat and Steve. We hadn't seen one another in a number of years so I had to hear all about their kids, David, Adrian, Zachary and Lauren. The kids and I used to go on regular outings together back when they were younger; it's hard to imagine David is now in his third year of college and little Lauren is in fifth grade. It was particularly sweet to hear that this was Pat and Steve's 19th anniversary. Good for them!
This is the view we saw of Hart Plaza as we walked/scooted back into the thick of things.
By now we were ready for some serious shade. That drew us down to the river near the Waterfront Stage. Lots of folks had the same idea, including Pat's sister BJ. We happily hooked up with her for the rest of the day and night. I took a picture of Pat and BJ, and Pat took a picture of me before we headed down to the Amphitheatre for some performances we wanted to see.
We set up in a great spot right behind the VIP barricade to stage right. Our view of the stage included buildings and people lining the circular walkway above the sunken Amphitheatre. Happily, Bob was stationed there, a festival volunteer we'd gotten to know on Saturday night. Without his kindness in allowing us to walk/scoot through a corner of the VIP section after James Carter's set, we'd still be there today. The crowds that night were unbelievable!
Well, we sat in that same spot--one of the best in the house--for seven full hours of music. Before Freddy Cole (here's a picture of his audience), we saw a Detroit flutist, Debion Jackson, and her wonderful friends on harmonica, congo drums, percussion, bass guitar, guitar, harmonica and vocals. Great fun!
After Freddy we were treated to one of my favorite acts of the weekend...and it was no one I'd ever heard of before. A bass guitar/vocalist named Richard Bona, from the Cameroon. He brought together the most global band imaginable--an incredible sax player from Seattle, guitarist from Israel, hand drummer from Puerto Rico, percussionist from the Bronx, and keyboard player from the Sudan.
Ah, how can I describe the magic that man and his band wrought? All I can say is that when he sang a ballad from his native country, I was transported beyond the limits of time or space. He also got me on my feet during the fast numbers, dancing my heart out while hanging on tight to the barricade to keep my balance!
Actually that very dancing helped me connect with a most interesting woman. She'd been sitting in the VIP section and came over to speak to me after Richard Bona's set. Turns out she remembered me from a flight we were on together maybe 3-4 years ago. At the time she was coming home from Portland, Oregon and I figure I must have been coming home from San Francisco. Anyway, we didn't speak on the plane but she noticed me. Since then she says she's been seeing me dancing at every Detroit festival! Her name is Carolyn Robinson, and to add to the story, she and her sister Joan Whitfield--both of them jazz producers--wrote this festival into being back in 1973 or 74. As she said with a smile, "But we were young and just gave it away. At that age, we didn't know any better."
For the first time this year, Pat and I stayed for the late show. But, I ask you, could we have walked away from a chance to hear Herbie Mann on flute? I doubt it. To tell the truth, it was his companion, Dave Farentin, who absolutely blew me away with his music. Zowie! A fella to watch. Here is a somewhat blurry picture of Herbie and Dave fluting away.
Now it's time for another
day of music. Happy Labor Day.
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 4, 2001
I awoke this morning already feeling jazz-deprived. After spending 32 hours--four days and nights--at the Ford Detroit International Jazz Festival at Hart Plaza downtown, it feels strange not to be rushing to get down there again today. Well, I am under a similar time deadline because I'm scheduled to take house duty today at 3 PM at Dayhouse, the respite home for women and children near the old Tiger Stadium.
Yesterday. What a glorious day! Not just the music, the people and the setting, but the weather. Actually, the weather was perfect this entire holiday weekend. Bright sun, clear blue skies, light breezes, no humidity, comfortable temperatures in the evenings...and even a full moon! That being said, I have to admit that yesterday's sun was pretty intense; so much so that Pat and I went from shady spot to shady spot as best we could. Our few ventures into the sun brought forth Pat's umbrella that handily became a dainty parasol. Now, this search for the sun meant that we didn't always have the best view of the stage. For instance, this is all we could see of the National Jazz Orchestra of Detroit's Tribute to Harold McKinney and later, Jane Bunnet & Spirits of Havana, both at the Waterfront Stage. But with jazz the important thing is the sound, and that was just fine, thank you.
It was in one of our shady spots that I got two of my favorite pictures of the day: this one of Shantell and her brother Corey climbing a tree, and another of 2-year-old Ausar, who didn't even know Shantell and Corey, but who wanted desperately to climb too. Another favorite was of these little ones playing in the fountain. Actually I had to work pretty hard to get this picture because they kept running and running around the fountain, rarely stopping to take a breath!
It was a truly festive crowd yesterday. Among them were families with kids, elders walking strong and those using canes, disabled folks in wheelchairs (I only saw three other scooters all weekend), some teenagers and the middle-aged masses. On the whole, jazz seems to appeal to a more mature crowd. Of course, with all these people hanging around for hours, special accomodations were required. I was particularly impressed by the elegant setting for this row of porta-johns, my favorite being the accessible one on the far left.
With downtown skyscrapers to the north, the Detroit River and Windsor Ontario to the south and the Renaissance Center to the east, Hart Plaza is a beautiful urban setting for such a festival. Nochuchi's fountain is at its hub with the two main stages--the Amphitheatre and the Pyramid--having rows of cement seats that drop down from street level. You can see the arrangement of the Amphitheatre in this photo I took as we listened to the fabulous 93-year old swing violinist, Claude "Fiddler" Williams. It was one of the few times we didn't go down to sit close to the Amphitheatre stage.
Of course it would be pretty tough on the tushe (spelling?) to sit on cement for 10 hours a day, so all savvy festi-goers carry their own fold-up chairs and/or seat cushions. Not just chairs, but their food as well. Although there is a large food concession area at Hart Plaza, most of what's offered is fried, whatever its ethnic origin. So Pat and I brought assorted Middle Eastern fillings for pita bread, fresh tomatoes from her garden, chips, cookies, fruit and Odwalla juices in her canvas cooler every day. With the addition of the free Planter's snack packs being given out all weekend, our food needs were deliciously met!
I connected with a couple of friends while listening and dancing to the soprano sax player, Jane Bunnet, and her Spirit of Havanna band spin a web of Cuban-inspired music in the late afternoon at the Waterfront Stage.
Marion and I always seem to meet wherever there's music, whether at our city's many free festivials or at the monthly Detroit Women's Coffeehouse. By the way, she's one of the best dancers I know. And Margaret is a political activist and organizer I've learned from and demonstrated with in her home city, Windsor, Ontario. As she's fluent in Spanish, committed to and tremendously well informed about Latin American issues, and married to Pedro, a delightful fellow who was born in Colombia, South America, I wasn't surprised to see her at Jane Bunnet's performance. It was great to have her join us in our shady spot under a tree. Here's a picture of Margaret and Pat enjoying the music.
As soon as Jane Bunnet and her group ended their set, it was time to go over to the Amphitheatre to check out the latest glittering star in the jazz vocals world. For at least a year, I've been reading in the New York Times about Jane Monheit, a 23 year-old singer who's being compared to such jazz greats as Ella and Sarah. In every story, however, mention has been made of the dramatically differing assessments of her talent and potential staying power. But at least for now, she's as hot as they get. I wanted to see, and more importantly hear, for myself.
And my assessment? Jane Monheit has an exquisite instrument, no question about that. But I guess I'd like to close my eyes and simply listen to her voice until she matures a bit. I found her posturing and pouting quite off-putting, especially during solos by members of her band. It'd be better if she weren't so doggone pretty, but I can't really expect her to do much about that. As they say, time will tell.
Speaking of time, it seemed all too soon that we were watching the final act of the weekend, Marcus Belgrave and the Detroit All-Stars Tribute to Louis Armstrong. After four days of pretty serious jazz, this felt like a family reunion! That's not to say the music wasn't great--it was. If I didn't know better, I'd think Satchmo had taken up residence within this longtime Detroit jazz musician's trumpet and gravelly voice. And the All-Stars were just that--some of our city's finest jazz musicians. Maybe it was that most of the out-of-towners had already left; maybe it was simply that no one wanted it all to end; and maybe it was the magic that Marcus Belgrave can bring to a stage...whatever it was, we felt like family there in that packed Amphitheatre last night. Folks were shouting encouragement, whistling, saying things like, "You sing it, brother!" and "Let it rip, sister!". And all this on a warm night with the full moon rising behind us. What more could we ask?
Well, a couple more sweet things did happen! Emily and Jason showed up to give Emily's mother, Pat, and me, her goddess mother, big hugs and kisses. And then, shortly before the close, Marcus and the other horn players surprised us by parading through the audience with trumpet, sax and trombone wailing. At the finish, the audience was on its feet, with wide smiles on every face, applauding not just Marcus Belgrave and the Detroit All-Stars, but a perfect weekend of music and fun.
And I say thanks to Frank
Malfitano for so creatively putting together this 22nd annual
Ford Detroit International Jazz Festival, and to all the sponsors
they had us clapping for all weekend, especially the Ford Motor
Company. Now everybody, let's get out there and buy a car!
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 5, 2001
Is there anything more precious than late summer days? And today was especially beautiful. But autumn is already dropping hints of its imminent arrival. A few maples are changing from their summer green frocks into more flamboyant ones of orange and gold. And the last two mornings and evenings have had a definite nip to the air.
But summer reigned supreme when I went down to the pool for a swim late this afternoon. With the lifeguards in school during the week, pool hours are now 4-8 PM. I scooted down a little before 5 PM and found the pool more of a senior center than usual. There were a good number of older men swimming laps and I joined them.
Oh, my 10 laps of the crawl felt so delicious! It had been a full week since I'd been in the pool and I'd missed it. Happily, we're getting an extra week before it closes. September 16 will be the last outdoor swimming day of the season.
While there, I ran into our old friends, Pam and Charlie. Charlie was doing 22 laps after a full day on the golf course! We originally met back in the '70s when their kids were among those hanging out at our house, the unofficial neighborhood youth center. And although health issues are a part of Charlie and Pam's lives these days--as they are for Eddie and me--it doesn't keep them from being one of the most delightful and best-looking couples I know.
One more summer image greeted me as I scooted from the pool area. Ulli, her son Riley and her friend Mary Anne at the beach. As it turned out, Ulli and I had met a couple of years back at the florist; she remembered the windchime on my walker!
Ah summer, don't be too
quick to leave.
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 6, 2001
My day had everything: special time spent with Eddie, an opportunity to scoot along the lake, time working at the computer, and a chance to meet with some of Detroit's most dedicated community and political activists.
I'll start with this evening's meeting of the CPR (Committee for the Political Resurrection of Detroit) held at Dayhouse.
The Detroit City Ombudsman, John Eddings, met with our group to answer our questions and discuss issues of concern. I found him to be quite candid in his assessments of the city's present situation. According to him, Detroit is close to bankruptcy and has terribly poor morale among its employees. Part of the problem is that the city is 4000 workers short of what it needs to operate properly, meaning the folks who do work there are overwhelmed.
One way the city is trying to manage their financial crisis is to privatize as many services as they can. Of course when something is in the hands of a private business, they are no longer bound by the Freedom of Information Act, meaning it can be next to impossible for citizens or watchdog community groups to obtain information about how money is spent, contracts awarded or priorities set. Mr. Eddings said privatization is a fact of life; the only question is how it's going to be done. He recommends privatizing only half of each service and leaving half of it with the city, just in case the private business jacks up its prices and/or does not perform up to par.
Brenda Smith, an extraordinarily articulate well-informed critic of the system, says she is totally against privatization. As am I and all the anti-globalization, anti-corporate activists I know.
John Eddings was also real clear that groups like ours need to set definite priorities and see to it that the city honors our demands. Since Detroit doesn't have the money to do everything that needs doing, we need to figure out, for instance, if garbage collection is more important to us than paved roads. He says there's no way we're going to have both. And as one who has recently brought the city to court unsuccessfully, he warns us to do our homework ahead of time if we ever want to bring charges against the city. "You'd better see if it's against the law. If it isn't, you're dead!"
I must say, it all sounded pretty discouraging to me. Does this ever make it clear why CPR has come into existence and why we've put forth our own slate of City Council candidates! As Mr. Eddings says, we've got a political problem here and it's going to take a political solution to put things right.
Well, his talk was a good lead-in to the real work at hand tonight, and that was to make our final preparations for Tuesday's Detroit City Primary Elections. CPR has three candidates running for the City Council--Abayomi Robert Norfolk, Charles Simmons and Maureen Taylor. There are nine seats open, six incumbents running and an unbelievable number of candidates, somewhere over 50.
We had 20 members in attendance tonight and every one of them volunteered for some portion of the work. Most folks will hand out literature in front of their precinct polling stations and also serve as poll challengers, assuming our credentials come in by Monday. On Tuesday, Pat and I will hold the fort at "campaign headquarters"--Dayhouse--so precinct workers and candidates can call in with messages and/or questions while the polls are open (7 AM until 8 PM). Then we'll put together some food for these same hungry folks when they gather at Dayhouse to compare notes and watch election returns on TV after the polls close.
I am so grateful that I can offer some kind of help to this amazing group. Our three candidates would each make excellent City Council members, and whether or not they "win" on Tuesday, Detroit has already won because of their sustained commitment to the transformation of this city. Their work will continue whether inside or outside the system. And CPR's Mission Statement will continue to guide the group in its ongoing community building and resistance to injustices.
The earlier part of my day was laid back in comparison with tonight's meeting.
I awoke to another glorious September day. After seeing one appointment on the west side, Eddie got home before noon and came upstairs to chat. He sat down in his usual chair beside the table where I was working at my laptop. We decided to meet at his office in an hour and then go to his favorite place (Subway) for lunch. He would take the car and I'd scoot on Ona, my trusty steed. As you can imagine, on such a beautiful day I chose to go by way of the lake.
The first thing that caught my eye--before I even got to the water--was this colorful garden. I'm always touched when someone creates and tends a garden that they can't even see from inside their house; it is so obviously a gift of love to the community.
The air had that early autumn quality of clarity; colors so bright you had to squint to see them. Even this familiar view of the lake through a tree's leafy canopy made me gasp. A man on a bike became some mystical messenger. A gnarled tree trunk was the portal to the unknown. A red hibiscus, the promise of passion-fulfilled.
See what this time of year does to me? My concrete descriptions quickly deteriorate into melodramatic metaphors and sentimental similes.
Well, I promise not to get too mushy as I write about going to the library with Eddie after lunch. Thanks to Stephanie and Carol, two of our wonderful library staff, I came home with a couple of good books, one a mystery by the British writer, P.D. James, and the other, an autobiography by the woman war correspondent who was at one time married to Hemingway. If I weren't so tired I'd go downstairs to find out the author and title, but that'll have to wait.
It's 1:30 AM and I must
take this weary body to bed.
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 7, 2001
I'm bleary-eyed already (well, it is 12:15 AM), so this journal entry is going to be pretty concise. I guess I'm bleary-eyed because I've been busy at my computer for a lot of the day. My self-imposed task was to pull together the Labor Day weekend journal entries from the Ford Detroit International Jazz Festival and provide a link to them on my renamed "Music Festivals" web page. And now it's all done.
Happily I didn't spend
this entire lovely warm day at the computer. In the morning I
sat out on the back porch/stoop and started reading the latest
P.D. James mystery that I'd gotten at the library yesterday. What
a superb storyteller she is! Then at 5:30 PM--after a number of
hours at the computer--I scooted down to the pool and swam a rather
quick (20 minutes) 10 laps of the crawl. It was especially fun
because a 7 year-old friend, Alexandria, swam like a dolphin beside,
in front of and under me much of the time. After I returned home,
showered and dressed, Ed and I went out to dinner at our favorite
neighborhood restaurant. Then it was time for our usual walk/scoot
along the lake, with some drops of rain cooling us down toward
the end. Once back home, we settled in front of the television--me
with a dish of vanilla ice cream and honey--to watch our third
night of a BBC adaptation of an Edith Wharton novel. It's actually
quite well done. At 10:45 PM I came upstairs to call my sister
Emily in California and wish her a happy birthday. And now I've
almost finished today's journal. I'll put it up online and then
to bed. Oh, that bed's going to feel good!
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 8, 2001
May I be perfectly honest, my dear journal-reading friends? I just want to go to bed right now instead of staying up late (it's 12:15 AM again!) and writing my journal entry. May I do what my very tired body wants to do?
I think I just heard a chorus of voices saying, "Of course!"
Thanks. Talk to you tomorrow.
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 9, 2001
Can you believe it? I'm not waiting until after midnight to start writing this entry! Gosh, I might even finish it before midnight tonight.
I have to admit I've not been my usual upbeat self of late. I've been irritable when I'm out among people and just generally not in a good space. Do you think I've been burning the candle at both ends? That's what Ed always says when I get like this. And, to be honest, if I were to read my own journal for the last month or so, I might have to admit he's right.
As you know I have loved--more like adored--everything I've been doing of late. The Michigan Womyn's Music Festival. Swimming laps. The Ford Detroit International Jazz Festival. Volunteering at Dayhouse. The Committee for the Political Resurrection of Detroit (CPR) meetings. Getting together with friends.
It's just that, with the exception of swimming laps, everything on that list involves being around people. Now, I've already admitted to being an extrovert (energized by being around people), but that doesn't mean I don't also need time alone. I guess I'm feeling out of balance.
This week I have two "people" commitments--on Tuesday I've agreed to be a phone contact for CPR workers and candidates during Detroit's primary election, and on Wednesday evening, I meet with my women's book group in Windsor, Ontario. Other than that, I'm going to lay low. I promise.
Maybe part of my out-of-sortness is that I'm again entering one of my twice-yearly times of transition. On November 10 I'll be getting on the train bound for San Francisco and five months away from my sweetie, from my Detroit/Windsor friends and activities, from my home. Certainly I'm going toward a place that I love, where I have good friends and worthwhile activities, but that doesn't stop the feelings of loss as I leave my life here. Somehow I didn't realize November 10 was coming up so quickly until I attended two of my favorite women's gatherings for the last time until spring.
Last night it was the Detroit Women's Coffeehouse, a monthly event that showcases local and national women musicians, poets, comics and performance artists. The coffeehouse was started by Ann Perrault-Victor 20 years ago and draws its audience from the US and Canada; some women even travel as far as 90 miles to attend. The headliner last night was Dred, a well-known drag king (woman performing as a man) from New York. Her performance was a wonderfully quirky, gender-bending tour de force. But the highlight of the evening for me was sitting with two wonderful women friends, Mary and Sooz.
Today was our monthly Notable Women song circle. This gathering is at the heart of my women's community here in Detroit. We sing and sing and dance and laugh and share and go out to eat together afterwards. In fact, it's become a tradition for us to sing to the staff and guests at the Middle Eastern restaurant where we always go. Tonight our waitperson must have asked us three times when we were going to sing to them. When we finally said "Now!", he called all the available staff members to gather around our booths. Such an appreciative audience!
Even though this was the last month until spring that I'll be with them at the song circle, we'll be gathering at Peg and Jeanne's place in the country for an Autumn Equinox ritual and introduction to a Council of Beings on September 22. I sure am glad I didn't have to say goodbye to them yet! I dearly love these women.
Well, I did it! It's only
11:15 PM and I'm ready to put this entry up on my site. How about
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 10, 2001
I wonder if ginko really works? I told my friends, Brigitte and Joan, at lunch today that they should treat me to a cup of ginko tea if we try to set up another date. Today's date totally escaped my mind. Thank goodness, Joan called a half hour after we were to meet and patiently asked where I was. I quickly hopped on Ona the scooter and met them at Atom's Juice Cafe, where they greeted me with kindness and good humor. Isn't it nice to have forgiving friends?
I discovered an important truth at lunch today, and that is how little we know about one another. At some point our conversation turned to the subject of dividing family treasures. My sisters and I will be doing that in mid-October and Joan was sharing how she and her brothers had done it. Brigitte listened and then simply said, "We had nothing to divide." She said this with great equanimity, and added, "It helps you realize how unimportant things are." I asked her to talk about what she meant, that there was "nothing to divide." Brigitte's story slowly emerged. Again it was spoken with no sign of self-pity or bitterness, just a sense of this is what it is.
Brigitte grew up in a city that was formerly part of Germany and then became Polish after the first World War. She was 11 when the Nazis invaded. Her mother and father stayed in the city with their infant daughter, Brigitte's sister. Brigitte was sent off with five other children under the guardianship of two teachers. For a year, they lived as refugees in Germany, never staying in one place more than 2-3 days at a time. She said the hardest part was the hunger; they never had enough to eat. In fact, they would steal carrots and potatoes from farms and lived under great fear of being caught. Actually they were caught a couple of times and she said it was bad. Not only hunger, but cold. "We didn't have enough clothes to stay warm." And beyond the hunger and cold were the bombs. But Brigitte says that was not their major concern. "We'd just hide until they were done."
During this entire year--from age 11 to 12--Brigitte had no idea where her parents were, nor did they know where she was. I said something about the terror she must have felt. "No", she said, "we just lived in the present." After the war ended, her parents applied to the Red Cross in hopes of finding Brigitte. And happily, she was found and returned to her parents. By then her father was an invalid and the three of them--mother, father and their now one-year-old daughter--were living in two rooms of a friend's apartment in their city. "All that my parents had left was my sister's pram."
As I say, there was not a hint of sadness, pain, regret or anger in Brigitte's voice as she told her story. When I asked if she was still able to live in the present moment, she smiled and said, "Definitely!"
Isn't it amazing how adaptable we human beings can be? Especially when we're young.
I was reminded of the children I'd known at the Detroit/Windsor Refugee Coalition when I used to facilitate art there in the 1990s. Children who had been present during the Tutsi massacre in Rwanda, the war in El Salvador and the Palestinean struggle in the Middle East. I recalled how they could still laugh and play, but how often their drawings were filled with images of bombs dropping from planes, army helicoptors buzzing overhead, trucks exploding, guns shooting people and knives cutting off their limbs. I remember being most concerned at the kids' total lack of affect as they'd draw these atrocities. Yes, children adapt, but at what cost?
I wonder if it was Brigitte's story that helped me notice the colors more vividly in this late summer garden, see the approaching signs of fall in a single maple leaf on the road and in a cluster of yellow leaves hidden within this still-green tree? Was it her story of that year of homelessness that made me view our house with such gratitude and fondness? And her memories of being cut off from family and friends that made me so appreciate running into our old friends, Goody and Claire?
How grateful I am to Brigitte
for sharing her story with us today. It has changed me.
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 11, 2001
I didn't even want to write this date knowing how it will live in our memories.
Words. Words are totally inadequate today. And to be honest, I'm not very comfortable trying to create words on my keyboard tonight. Unfortunately, I took a fall this evening and banged up my right index finger so I'm trying to do my usual 2-fingered typing using my third finger on my right hand. Not too terrific.
Actually I tried to go to bed without writing a journal entry at all today. By the time I got home at 11 PM after 13 hours working at our CPR Detroit "campaign headquarters" at Dayhouse, after the daylong anxiety about whether our niece who works in NYC was all right, and after Eddie and I had stayed up talking until midnight, I was beyond tired. But I couldn't sleep for thinking about all the families and friends of the dead and injured who can't sleep either. So I decided to get up and see if I could write something.
I am filled with a mixture of raw feelings. Shock and disbelief even after seeing TV pictures of the World Trade Centers dissolving into smoke and flame. Relief that we finally found out at 10:45 PM that our niece Carolyn was out of town instead of working in downtown Manhattan today. Anger at my country for so arrogantly antagonizing other countries and their people so something like this was bound to happen eventually. Fear over what the US leaders will do to retaliate. Exhaustion from working hard all day on the Detroit city primary elections (that went on even though everything else in the city closed down). Gratitude to have been with sensitive, politically aware, like-minded folks who gathered at Dayhouse after the polls closed tonight. Sadness for all the suffering this tragedy has caused innocent people, their families and friends. Distress over what this will mean in terms of increased military spending, the more-likely construction of Bush's Star Wars missile shield, even greater restraints on our already-compromised freedoms of speech and assembly, an increase in anti-immigrant feeling among the American people.
What hard times. How I would like to think America could learn from this rather use it as an excuse to escalate their already violent attitudes and actions towards other countries, especially Arab nations in the Middle East. Whatever happens, we will never forget this day when America finally discovered it was vulnerable to the same horrors so many nations and their people have faced for countless generations.
And now to try to sleep.
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 12, 2001
I have heard from many friends since the tragedy occurred. This morning, phone calls came in from Carolyn, our niece in New York whom we had feared we'd lost, and from Pat N., my activist sister in Windsor, Ontario. My friend Rima called me at Dayhouse yesterday after her 30-story San Francisco office building was evacuated and she was sent home. Countless others have sent emails. Almost everyone has expressed hopes for peace, whether in forwarded announcements of virtual prayer vigils or an invitation to light a candle of peace on a web site or simply telling of their own personal attempts to embrace the pain and transform it into love and peace.
We are each doing our best to take in the reality that crashed into our consciousness yesterday, and somehow learn to live with it in a way that will not do damage to us or to those around us.
For myself that meant staying quiet much of the day. I read, sat out back and let the trees, birds and squirrels speak to me, went for a l-o-n-g swim (20 laps of the crawl), and sat out on the dock letting the sky, wind and water move through me. It felt like I was recuperating after a serious illness.
Two friends sent messages that I want to share with you. The first is a poem by a wonderful woman whom I have met through my web site. Joan is a musician and poet who lives near Calgary, Alberta in Canada.
September 11, 2001, New York City.
I heard today
the wailing of the worlds
as ten thousand voices rose up crying to their God.
Deadly silver birds, innocents housed in their bellies,
struck with terror at the heart
and hung their banner of hate
between twin towers for all to see.
Infernos raged, annihilation rained down,
smoke devoured the streets below.
Black and white ideologies burned to grey ash,
erupting onto live and dead alike.
Everywhere, death, destruction, despair.
Black emotions ,blacker than the blackest night,
obscured all reason.
Horror, terror, anger, revenge filled the cavity
where the heart once lay.
All seemed lost.
But wait, from that death cloak comes movement.
Grey-shrouded zombies stagger out:
"I saw the light", "the light guided me",
"I struggled on, somehow, towards the light".
Hope rises like a phoenix from the ashes of our hearts.
Across the land, we reach out and hold one another
in this blackest night, family, friend or stranger,
it makes no difference.
One candle lights another until the dark is ablaze with light.
Ten million prayers rise up to our God:
prayers for the dead, prayers for those alive; prayers for peace.
Beyond all reason we know, with faith, we will abide.
The next is an excerpt from an email message sent to our CPR Detroit (Committee for the Political Resurrection of Detroit) from Charles Simmons, one of our Detroit City Council candidates in yesterday's primary election. Although our three candidates were not among the top 18 candidates who will go on to run for office in the November election, Charles takes our CPR vision and commitment to building community into a much broader sphere when he writes:
I am convinced even more than before the campaign that our mission of hope, of building, of creating new conditions from the ashes, should now be shared with the broadest population we can reach.
If ever these ideas were needed, it is now, as this nation confronts anew the terrifying ghost of McCarthy and the drumbeats of the cold war. We will have to begin at once to integrate our ideas about local resurrection with the ideas of peace, justice and love on the national and international front. We will have to remind our friends and neighbors and cousins that in spite of our apparent strength, in any and every military engagement where we may have won the war, we have always lost the peace. Each bomber we build is the loss of one high school, each tank we produce is the loss of several hospital surgery rooms. Each navy battleship is the loss of an entire hospital. Just as we oppose the plunder of Brush Park [in Detroit], we must oppose with all our might the nightmarish national call for revenge and terrible violence in the international community. Each time we take action against police brutality at home, we will also have to shout loudly and continuously from the rooftops that only a policy of peace and justice at home and abroad will prevent the horrors of war and destruction everywhere. We must call on city councils and schoolboards everywhere to proclaim that all governments must decrease their military spending so that all world's people can have their share of the earth's resources: food, housing, clean water and air, productive and safe agriculture, and free education and health care for all. That is the only road to peace and justice.
This [CPR Detroit City Council] campaign has been the beginning of a great awakening, now we must evaluate where we have been, then we must get busy organizing and building and we must join hands with others who are walking along the same path. From the ashes of despair and pain, from the shadows and the bloodshed, we must resurrect new human beings as well as a new city and nation and a bold defiant democracy where truth is proud and tall.
co-chair, CPR Detroit
As always I am in awe of our human capacity to rise above pain, bitterness and a perhaps-natural desire for revenge. But we each have the choice to make for ourselves, and our choices may differ drastically from others.
For instance, the United States leaders' promises of violent retaliation against what they call an "act of war" is certain to go against everything that I believe in and have worked for all my life. I recall how during the Persian Gulf War they made me believe they were dropping those bombs on the Iraqi people "in my name". But no more. I now know in every fiber of my being that no one can use my name to justify their actions or attitudes without my express consent.
I do NOT give George W. Bush, the Pentagon or even the Congress, if it comes to that, the authority to do violence to any person, nation, cultural group or portion of the world in my name. Not now or ever. And I will continue to do all that I can to encourage myself and others to find more creative, healthy ways to respond to atrocities like the ones we experienced yesterday.
I am not saying I will immediately rise above the horror I feel today. I am merely saying I will do my best not to add to the devastation by bringing more darkness to the world, rather, let me offer light. Even if it is the light of honest pain. But no revenge. No retaliation. No more death and destruction in my name.
May peace become our reality.
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 13, 2001
If you're like me today, you're on information and emotional overload. Too many words, too many horrible images, too many fears, too many questions. I just want to calm down, sit in a quiet place and reflect on what I know. For instance,
I know who suffers when a nation's leaders decide to exact military retribution.
I know the love I've experienced from my Arab-American brothers and sisters.
I know how rich life is when persons of different ethnic/national backgrounds meet and become friends.
I know that the butterfly does not make a distinction between the colors of the flowers whose pollen she spreads.
I know the sunset's beauty touches all peoples whether they live in a country of wealth and influence or one that is war-torn and filled with oppression.
I know it is better to stand back and see the whole picture before rushing in with a quick "solution".
I know the redwood trees can teach us patience and endurance in the face of threats to our feelings of security.
I know threatening clouds either bring rain or dissolve in time.
I know the children have a right to play without fear of being the victims of someone else's war.
I know that if people sing together they cannot stomach killing one another.
I know those who love the creatures of this world cannot make decisions that will cause their death and destruction.
I know the tide comes in and goes out without needing human intervention.
I know the calla lily will not resist the snail's slow travels across its surface.
I know people
can get along given half a chance.
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 14, 2001
Healing, healing, healing. It takes a city like mine to know how to heal; a city that has lived with wounds and pain for a long time. And how do we heal? We come together as a community.
We pray together in remembrance. We play with sand together in front of an ever-evolving sand sculpture. We boogie down to rock music together. We laugh at an outlandish Shakespeare company together. We connect with friends and talk about what this week has been like for us. We watch the untainted joy of babies. We eat food from India or China or Greece or Lebanon or the American South, or nibble on cinnamon roasted almonds or salted sweet fresh popped corn.
We go on living...but we never forget. We weep together when Brother, a rock band from Australia plays "Amazing Grace" on the bagpipes as their final song. We know that "enemies" can become friends when the Saigon Water Puppet Theatre performs for the first time in Detroit, and the audience cannot stop smiling and joins in yelling out Vietnamese phrases and words that they don't need to understand.
Detroit decided, after much soul searching, to go ahead with its beloved annual Festival of the Arts. Of all the free festivals in the city, this one is the most community-based. It is a street party held on twelve blocks in the heart of Detroit's Cultural Center. Wayne State University, Center for Creative Studies (that I attended from 1976-79), the Detroit Institute of Arts, the International Institute, the Detroit Historical Museum, the main branch of the Detroit Public Library, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African-American History, the Children's Museum and the Detroit Science Center are all located in this area. The festival has juried artists' booths, nine sound stages with music, dance, spoken word and theater featuring local, national and international artists, a special children's fair,and food booths run by local ethnic restaurants.
It is real down home Detroit. I always run into people I haven't seen in years. Today it was Rhonda, whom I'd known back in the early 1970s when we worked together at the old Detroit Receiving Hospital, she as a psychiatric resident and I as a pediatric volunteer. The surprise of our reconnecting was heightened by the fact that her husband, Steve, was the one who introduced us to one another. And how did Steve know me? He didn't! He simply remembered seeing and hearing me sing with my song circle in the Lebanese restaurant last Sunday night. Not only that, when I introduced them to Pat, it turned out she and Rhonda already knew one another. Get this! Rhonda is the mother of Pat's daughter Emily's boyfriend, Jason. Now I've known Jason for almost two years, love him dearly and have often heard him speak of his mother with whom he's very close. But how could I ever have imagined that she and I were old friends? Detroit is a very small town.
Another connection that fed me greatly was with Jackie and her baby, Rafaella. Jackie and I were able to talk about the events of the week, our feelings about what had happened and some of our reflections on the causes and learnings we were grappling with. This was the first such conversation I'd had since Tuesday; it meant a lot to us both. And, of course, simply being around Rafaella is healing. I mean how could you stay down when you see this little one raise her head after enjoying a breast-snack and burst into applause! As I said to Jackie, she's clapping for the cook!
And do you know what Jackie and I saw on the corner of the DIA (Detroit Institute of Arts) lawn? A stainless steel frame on which was engraved this message: "Caution: excess hate damages everything."
How grateful I am to be
part of this community.
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 15, 2001
What a wonderful respite I have had from the horrendous events of this week and the distressing prospect of what next week is likely to bring. I am deeply grateful to all individuals and groups connected with the Detroit Festival of the Arts for offering us the opportunity to come together as a community and celebrate life this weekend, instead of death. We have each had enough of death and I fear will have more of it in weeks (months? years?) to come.
I am still terribly saddened by Tuesday's attacks and the unimaginable numbers of people who died, but after this weekend I feel ready to face whatever comes next. And that includes standing firm against any actions of war taken by the country in which I live. No matter how much America--especially its governmental leaders--may want revenge, bringing more death and destruction to our already wounded world will not bring back those who have died and it will surely do damage to us all.
Well, my friends, I look forward to sharing with you my digital pictures and word stories from today's Festival of the Arts, but not tonight. It's after 2:30 AM and I must take this weary body to bed. I'll tell you all about it tomorrow.
But let me leave you with three images of life and joy; there have been so few for us this week. The first is an updated picture of the tropical rainforest sand sculpture being created by Sandscapes, a group of artists from California. The second is an image from the gloriously outlandish production of "Twelfth Night" by Quebec's Repercussion Theatre. And the third is a picture of a couple dancing in the dark on the lawn of the Detroit Institute of Arts during the intermission of "Twelfth Night".
And on that note, I
say, good night.
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 16, 2001
For each of us, healing comes in different ways; for me it most often involves music and community. And that was exactly what this weekend's Detroit Festival of the Arts offered in abundance. And I was so fortunate to be part of it for two full days and nights. I've already written about Friday, so let me now tell you about Saturday.
I'm sure you're not surprised to hear that I returned to see another performance of the Saigon Water Puppet Theatre. This ancient Vietnamese art form weds water, puppetry, song and traditional instruments. Imagine a Vietnamese Punch & Judy show on water and you'll begin to get the idea. Saturday's audience was huge, with children crowding the "stage" of water. Of course when they got splashed, as they were bound to do, screams and giggles filled the air. It remains a mystery to me as to how the puppeteers--who came out and took a bow at the end--manage to coordinate such delicate movements from behind a curtain. How can they see what they're doing?
I had a more intimate encounter with three of the musicians later in the day. This was the U.S. debut performance for the Rup Tung Cack ensemble, and their smiles while performing showed their pleasure and excitement. In addition to performing, they had a display of handmade crafts and traditional instruments to sell. When I scooted over to their table, a flute player was demonstating his instrument as two of the women musicians played and spoke with a Vietnamese-American woman. A little later, he and I actually played a flute/wooden frog percussion duet!
Could I ever have imagined back in the dark days of the Vietnam War that 30 years later I would be sitting on a Detroit street corner jamming with a gentle-spirited musician from that country? May I never forget that "enemies" are a political and media construct. That term has nothing to do with our common humanity.
The music I heard this day could only remind me of the closeness of peoples the world over. After the Vietnamese ensemble, it was a Karelian-Finnish group called Myllärit Karelian Folk Band. And then I heard Millish, a newly-formed local Irish-American group. What was particularly fun about them was that their fiddle-playing leader was the same young man I'd marvelled at hearing play during the Ann Arbor Art Fair in July, Jeremy Allan Kittel by name. And that wasn't all! The Gratitude Steel Band from Detroit had folks up dancing the hustle. Then Emeline Michel and his reggae band from Haiti had us all moving to their music before things closed down for the night.
Many of the scheduled acts, especially those from far away, were prevented from coming because of the massive flight cancellations this week. Although I was sorry to miss Miriam Makeba, a favorite of mine since the early '60s, and Project Bandaloop, the vertical dance artists I'd seen dance/climb up the outside wall of the San Francisco Public Library in 1996, it meant many local groups like Millish were able to take their spots. It was good to see our homegrown talent--and does Detroit have its fair share!
But it wasn't just music that surrounded us on those twelve blocks of Detroit's Cultural Center. Whether as part of "Connections", a collaborative project put together for the 300th birthday of Detroit by high school students in Windsor, Ontario and Detroit, or the children's murals painted on the Detroit Institute of Arts construction walls, or the sand castles being created by children and adults playing together all weekend, or adults and children proudly walking around with decorated paper bag hats on their heads, or sidewalk after sidewalk covered with colored chalk drawings--art was everywhere!
And as always, friends made it all come alive for me. Joan and Nick who so kindly gave me and Ona my scooter a ride down to the festival, and then hung out with me for awhile. My best buddy Pat K. who joined me at 5:30 PM after being in an all-day massage workshop. She was my companion for the rest of the evening and gave me a ride home after we'd watched Quebec's Repercussion Theatre's utterly delightful production of "Twelfth Night". Friday night had turned so cold, we'd left halfway through the first act. Last night was much more comfortable.
As on Friday, I ran into a dear old friend on Saturday. Janet Ray, a profoundly wise and compassionate woman, was director of the Detroit/Windsor Refugee Coalition (now called Freedom House) back in the early '90s when I co-facilitated weekly art therapy sessions there. Janet and I had not seen one other in at least five years yet time had not diminished our strong connection. It was especially life-giving to be with her in times like these because of our shared commitment to peace and nonviolence. We'd originally met just after the Gulf War and it was Janet who had encouraged my idea about developing an art program for persons suffering the effects of wars and displacement. Here is Janet (on the right) with her friend Amy.
If you scroll down to yesterday's entry you'll see a couple more of my favorite pictures from the festival.
Now, here I've written all about yesterday and I've still got a bit to share about today. Do you have the energy to read more? If not, just sign off and come on back later. Don't want to overload you!
I'd say a highlight of today was the time Ed and I spent together this morning talking about all that is going on in the world. Although we are so often on different sides of the political fence, there is one thing we always agree on--no war. Both of us are horrified by the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and especially the resultant deaths and suffering to so many people. Ed said he finds himself unable to sleep and that he becomes teary-eyed without warning these days; my symptoms are similar to his. But we've lived too long to believe that mounting a war on an already-suffering people would accomplish anything except to add more death and destruction. And wouldn't it only serve to further entrench the hatred so many people of the world feel toward the United States? Besides, how could dropping bombs and firing missiles on innocent people help bring the perpetrators to justice?
But whatever happens, I am so grateful that Ed and I are together on this.
Another highlight was my last outdoor swim of the season. Today was a perfectly lovely day and I was happy to be able to go to the pool on this, its final day of operation for the summer. Lancea, a friend from water aerobics class, even gave me her place in one of the two lap lanes--an amazing gift! She later took a picture of me after I'd swum 16 laps, and then took another picture of me swimming my 17th lap. I finished the season by swimming 20 laps of the crawl. When I recall my excitement a year ago at completing 4 laps on my last day of swimming, I feel pretty durn pleased! I intend to join the San Francisco YMCA when I get out there in November and continue swimming laps three times a week.
And, as is the common thread of my life, it was my unexpected encounters with people that also gave me joy today. The most significant was my time spent with Christy, a woman Ed and I had known when she was a child. We talked for quite awhile, catching up on the last 10 years or so. It's always a treat to see our former "kids" and discover what marvelous adults they have become...for that was my feeling about Christy.
As Christy and I visited in front of our community's carillon, I enjoyed seeing the participants in a treasure hunt searching for the clue that I'd helped a friend hide earlier today. Here's Jami reading the clue after she'd found it.
And as Christy, Frog her dog and I walk/scooted down the street towards home, we saw another common friend, Lisa, pushing a baby carriage. Turned out she was walking Carson, the 3-month-old baby of her son Michael, who had been Christy's classmate in high school. It was good to hear about both of Lisa's children--Nancy and Michael--who had been regulars at our annual children's Christmas parties back in the '70s and '80s. Here's Lisa and Carson.
I feel as though I'm being
given everything I will need to make my way through this next
dark chapter of our country's history. Even the video Ed and I
watched tonight was particularly apt--"The Fantasticks".
Until Tuesday I guess I still expected happy endings. And now
that I am sadder but wiser, I'm nonetheless grateful for life
exactly as it is.
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 17, 2001
Do you find that the events of Tuesday changed everything in your life? That things that seemed so important last Monday do not even cross your mind anymore? That places you were sure you were going to go and plans you'd made are now totally up for grabs? And that new inklings and ideas are taking their place?
For me, the last two hours have offered dramatic, yet quiet, evidence of that kind of shift in thinking that catches you unawares. Where I was absolutely certain I would be getting on the train headed for San Francisco on November 10 and stay there until April 18...now I'm not so sure. My shift occurred as I read an email from Dorothy, one of my dearest friends in SF. In it she asked, "Do you think you'll still be coming out in November?" Until I heard her question, it had not occurred to me to reconsider my plans. But once asked, my answer was unclear. I'm feeling stirrings that during these troubled times, I might have work to accomplish here in Detroit before heading out west.
In particular, I recall a friend asking me about a month ago to consider facilitating art therapy sessions like I did at the refugee coalition, but this time for Arab-American students at a Dearborn school. I had declined her offer, but after today's demonstration, march and rally, I am definitely reconsidering.
Do you remember the butterfly that landed on my heart at the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival as I was letting my body painting dry? And how my friend Turtle saw that as a sign that I would undergo major change of some kind this year? I think of that now.
What has precipitated my rethinking my winter plans was this afternoon's demonstration, march and rally that I attended on the campus of Wayne State University in Detroit. Its primary purpose was to offer support to our local Arab American community. Not only was the front window of the Islamic Center on the WSU campus broken last Tuesday night, but since that day Arab American people in Dearborn and Detroit have been harrassed and attacked physically. Many students are staying home rather than risk coming out into the larger community where they feel so vulnerable. And the flame of this anti-Arab prejudice is being fanned by media reports and announcements coming out of the White House.
And why are the city's activists so concerned about this anti-Arab sentiment? Because Dearborn, the city that borders Detroit on the west, is home to the largest Arab population outside of the Middle East. Whatever hurts Arab Americans hurts us all.
So a coalition of activist groups--led primarily by students--put together this demonstration, march and rally within two days, and thanks to the internet we had an enthusiastic crowd of over 300 folks. And the best part was the diversity of people who came together.
Pat and I met a WSU student from China, Liwei Sun, who told us of an ancient Chinese proverb that the recent events have brought to mind. It states that the person who forgives all has no enemies. A number of Arab Americans marched with us, and at the rally, we were able to hear the perspective of an Arab American man who said with feeling, as he pulled up his shirt, "Look, my flesh is the same as yours. My heart beats the same as yours." We heard from a young African-American man who linked the racism we're seeing toward Arab persons with the push towards war. Grace Boggs, Detroit's 85-year old activist and community organizer, spoke powerfully at the rally, as did one of our CPR Detroit candidates for City Council, Abayomi Norfolk. Students spoke--the youngest of whom was a girl of 10--as well as white-haired women and men who have been on the frontlines of countless struggles for peace and justice. I saw so many old friends, including Jessica (on the left), who was a tireless immigration legal advisor at the Detroit/Windsor Refugee Coalition when I worked there. And as I looked around at the faces of the people listening, it seemed that I was seeing every race, nationality and age that I could imagine.
So when you hear the relentless drumbeats of war, think of our drumbeats instead. When you wonder if you are the only one who thinks war is a bad idea, just return to this journal entry and click on the following pictures of signs that were carried in our march today. For this demonstration was not just to show solidarity with our Arab American sisters and brothers, but to show our resistance to any form of violent retaliation by the government of the United States of America. Among the signs were ones that said:
For a non-violent person, the whole world is one family (Gandhi)
End the cycle of violence: understand and change the source
We defend Arab Americans
Stand against anti-Arab attacks
More killing of innocents is no answer
War and racism are not the answer
Arabs and Muslims are not the enemy; they are our sisters and brothers
No more violence
Resist the drive towards war
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 18, 2001
Children. Aren't they the perfect antidote to the swirl of feelings that have assailed us this past week? Not that they haven't suffered too; they have. It's just that they are such present-livers that it's hard to stay stuck in grief and fear around them.
The children in my life right now are two little girls, aged 6 and 9, who live at Dayhouse with their Mom. Domestic violence brought them to the shelter so I can't show you their picture--darn it!--but I can try to share the essence of their wonder and simplicity of spirit. Even last Tuesday as I sat with them after school and listened to their concerns about the terrorist attacks...even then, they were filled with life and energy. And the fears they felt were not of their making, rather they had come from insensitive remarks by a "lunch parent". Imagine telling 9 year-olds that they couldn't go out and play in the playground because a plane might come and attack them! Talk about speaking out of fear. Well, I guess none of us was at our best last Tuesday.
You know, I never did put up the digital pictures I took that day. Actually, I didn't even download them until Friday. It wasn't that they were depressing, it's just that I couldn't think about dealing with photos...or much of anything, for that matter. I now know I was able to take pictures on Tuesday because I was in a state of shock.
I had not heard anything unusual that morning. I was busy trying to get ready to work the CPR (Committee for the Political Resurrection of Detroit) telephones at Dayhouse for the primary elections. Although I listened to CBC radio 89.9 FM in the car on the way over, it was not time for the news and I only heard the usual classical music. I parked in the driveway beside Dayhouse, got windchime walker out of the back seat, and started making my slow but steady way up the front walk. I was halfway to the front steps when Pat opened the door and came out. I remember her face had an expression on it that I'd never seen before.
"Have you heard? Someone's run a plane into the World Trade Centers! They've totally collapsed; nothing's left at all. And another hijacked plane crashed into the Pentagon. They're saying there might be more planes still up in the air."
I remember feeling a sort of numb shock, like somehow I couldn't take it in. I stood there with my mouth literally hanging wide open. It felt like I couldn't move. But I did.
And as the day wore on, I seemed to get somewhat used to it. But I wanted nothing to do with the television that Pat had going in the living room. After she went off to class, I muted the sound so I wouldn't have to listen to it anymore. I sat at the table Pat had set up with all our polling materials and turned my back to the TV. But somehow I couldn't quite turn it off. Every so often I'd catch a glimpse of images of people running through the streets of New York, of white soot-covered firefighters scrambling in the middle of rubble, of news anchors--I think we were watching Peter Jennings--with faces like masks and mouths always moving. It all seemed surreal.
But I had a job to do and I kept doing it. Allan and Cindy came over to get their poll challengers' badges and letters of authorization. Elena and her twin 13 year-old daughters--whom she'd taken out of school--came over. She and the girls watched the television, but I didn't join them. Later, they hung our CPR Detroit banner from the front porch overhang and Elena took this picture of me standing under it. Unfortunately the banner didn't make it into the picture.
After they left I decided to sit out on the porch beside the curtain of morning glories. I'd brought my mobile phone from home so I could continue doing my job out there. I fielded phone calls and took down the voter counts our people were gathering at precincts all over the city. I read the P.D. James mystery I was in the middle of. And it was out there that I talked to the girls when they returned home from school.
I didn't cry at all. Not then anyway.
But my anxiety was rising because Ed and I had not yet heard from our niece Carolyn who works in Manhattan. He and I must have phoned each other at least 10 times that day. And although he'd left numerous messages on Carolyn's phone machine, we heard nothing back from her. I tried calling her myself several times on my cell phone, but got no answer. Then I tried her brother, our nephew John, in Washington, DC. Busy, busy, busy. Ed started saying things like, "I think we should prepare ourselves for the worst." But we just kept trying to reach her.
Jeanne, a longtime friend of Dayhouse, came over to spend the afternoon. Before going inside to watch the television--the guests were now glued to it--she sat with me out on the porch. Her energy was so grounded and peaceful that I could feel myself settling down. Jeanne just smiled and said, "I want to pick some flowers." She went to the stand of cosmos beside the parking lot and picked a small bouquet of delicate pink flowers. She then calmly stripped the stems and deadheaded the blooms that had gone to seed. When I asked if I could take her picture for my web site, Jeanne smilingly agreed.
Pat made a delicious dinner of macaroni and cheese cooked with onion. And because she'd removed the tomato plants from her garden the day before, there were green tomatoes to fry up like my southern Mom used to do. I ate two helpings of everything. Of course, I hadn't eaten a thing all day.
After dinner, the CPR Detroit poll workers started assembling. Pat had put out the Middle Eastern food I'd brought, crackers and cheese, chips, her macaroni and cheese, salad, cherry tomatoes, lemonade and iced tea. We'd assumed folks would be plenty hungry after working the polls all day, and we were right. Soon the house was full of people--close to 30--and I was busy writing down everyone's voter count numbers. The television and/or radio was on for much of the evening until folks got tired of hearing the same things over and over. A lively discussion soon started about all that had happened that day. It was a comfort to be with similar-minded folks...left-wing progressives all.
We never could get much election information on either the radio or the TV. By 10:30 PM almost everyone had left and I got ready to go home myself. Before leaving, I tried to call Ed to tell him I was on my way, but our phone machine took my message. By now I was beginning to feel it was likely that our niece Carolyn had perished.
There were few cars on the expressway. As I started to make the turn onto the street next to ours, I saw the phosphorescent lights of an animal's eyes. I stopped so as not to hit this cat or dog, whichever it might be. That was when I saw a light-colored furry animal, the size of a small dog but definitely not a dog, cross right in front of my headlights. It was a fox! No question about it.
Now I've never seen a fox around our neighborhood in the 30 years we've lived here. I mean we live in a totally residential community. Actually, Ed once saw a fox on a grassy median perhaps 4 miles from our house, but that was at 4 AM on an early morning bike ride. This was now 11 PM on a Tuesday night. On the Tuesday night.
I finally pulled into our garage, exhausted. Ed came right out and said, "Carolyn's OK. She was out of town!" I burst into tears and sobbed my way into the house.
And here I thought I was
going to write about the girls tonight. Ah well, this journal
definitely has a mind of its own.
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 19, 2001
A quiet day at home. Gentle misty rain. Slept late because again I got to bed around 3 AM. Have I gone to bed before 3 AM since September 11? Maybe once. For some reason my journal is taking more time and thought than usual. Well, of course it is.
Joe came to paint our front door and we sat down and talked about the events of the last week and where we as a country should go from here. It was my first discussion with someone who views the possibility of retaliation against Afghanistan in a different light from me. We listened well to one another.
I then sat at the kitchen table and finished reading P.D. James' latest mystery. It is a good story, well written and engaging. Spent the rest of the day at my laptop trying to clear out my email inbox. 130 unanswered emails; 215 total since September 11. I felt overwhelmed, so, instead of responding individually, I composed and sent a group thank you to 50 folks who had been kind enough to write me personal messages or forward significant items about these trying times. I feel I can breathe again.
But the most promising moment of this day came in my phone conversation with Marlene, whom I originally met at the Detroit/Windsor Refugee Coalition in the early 1990s. She's had a dream for a couple of years that I, or someone with my experience, could do art therapy with the Arab American children in the Dearborn school where she is a teacher's assistant. When she called about a month ago to see if this would interest me, I did not feel I could take it on. After all, I would be going to San Francisco on November 10, not to return home until April 20. Of course the events of September 11 have changed all that. I will not be going to San Francisco until I feel that is where I can best be of use during these times of probable war. After being part of Monday's anti-war demonstration, march and rally at Wayne State University in support of our threatened Detroit/Dearborn Arab American sisters and brothers, I remembered Marlene's invitation. That was when I decided to postpone going to San Francisco until January (at least).
Today I asked if there might be some way in which I could be of help at her school. My background as a social worker and the years I spent facilitating art with refugees might be of use in helping the children grapple with their fears and feelings during these times of anti-Arab attacks on their friends, families and perhaps even themselves. But whatever I do, I don't want to go in there as an outsider who's going to save the world. Oh no! I would only feel comfortable if I could first get to know the children and then maybe work with someone already in place, like their art teacher, so we could develop a program that would address the specific needs of this school and these kids. Marlene is going to talk with her principal tomorrow and see how he feels about it. I trust things will unfold as they are to unfold; I can only open myself to creative possibilities.
For most of us, the best we can do during such times of national and international turmoil will be small and hidden actions and words in our own communities among our sisters and brothers of all races, religions and nationalities. But there are certainly those whose voices are meant to ring from the rafters. I know each of us has received forwarded messages or been sent to the web sites of many such persons. After cleaning out my email inbox, I found the following five voices spoke most clearly what I needed to hear:
Bomb Them With Butter, Bribe Them With Hope
Not In Our Son's Name
Words of Tamim Ansary, an Afghani-American journalist
A World Out of Touch With Itself: Where the Violence Comes From
Hold The Vision
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 20, 2001
I would so like to write about something besides the recent tragedy and the threat of impending war, but if I did I'd be ignoring what is truly on my mind most waking hours these days. I can think of little else, and judging from my emails, neither can the majority of my friends. But I do want to share with you an email I just received today. It is the text of Rep. Barbara Lee's (D, California) statement on the floor of the House of Representatives on September 14 in opposition to S.J.Resolution 23, authorizing the use of military force.
Ms. LEE: Mr. Speaker, I rise today with a heavy heart, one that is filled with sorrow for the families and loved ones who were killed and injured in New York, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. Only the most foolish or the most callous would not understand the grief that has gripped the American people and millions across the world.
This unspeakable attack on the United States has forced me to rely on my moral compass, my conscience, and my God for direction.
September 11 changed the world. Our deepest fears now haunt us. Yet I am convinced that military action will not prevent further acts of international terrorism against the United States.
I know that this use-of-force resolution will pass although we all know that the President can wage a war even without this resolution. However difficult this vote may be, some of us must urge the use of restraint. There must be some of us who say, let's step back for a moment and think through the implications of our actions today--let us more fully understand its consequences.
We are not dealing with a conventional war. We cannot respond in a conventional manner. I do not want to see this spiral out of control. This crisis involves issues of national security, foreign policy, public safety, intelligence gathering, economics, and murder. Our response must be equally multi-faceted.
We must not rush to judgment. Far too many innocent people have already died. Our country is in mourning. If we rush to launch a counter-attack, we run too great a risk that women, children, and other non-combatants will be caught in the crossfire.
Nor can we let our justified anger over these outrageous acts by vicious murderers inflame prejudice against all Arab Americans, Muslims, Southeast Asians, or any other people because of their race, religion, or ethnicity.
Finally, we must be careful not to embark on an open-ended war with neither an exit strategy nor a focused target. We cannot repeat past mistakes.
In 1964, Congress gave President Lyndon Johnson the power to "take all necessary measures" to repel attacks and prevent further aggression. In so doing, this House abandoned its own constitutional responsibilities and launched our country into years of undeclared war in Vietnam.
At that time, Senator Wayne Morse, one of two lonely votes against the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, declared, "I believe that history will record that we have made a grave mistake in subverting and circumventing the Constitution of the United States.........I believe that within the next century, future generations will look with dismay and great disappointment upon a Congress which is now about to make such a historic mistake."
Senator Morse was correct, and I fear we make the same mistake today. And I fear the consequences.
I have agonized over this vote. But I came to grips with it in the very painful yet beautiful memorial service today at the National Cathedral. As a member of the clergy so eloquently said, "As we act, let us not become the evil that we deplore."
The vote to give President Bush the power to use "all necessary and appropriate force" to respond to the terrorist attacks on the United States was 420-1 in the House and 98-0 in the Senate. In effect, our legislative arm of the federal government has bowed out, leaving the executive branch with none of the checks and balances that were set in place in the US Constitution.
Where does one person get the courage to stand up and say, No! I will not go along with everyone else. I will stand alone if necessary to protect the world and its people from a devastating war? How I admire her. How I wish my Representative, Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, had stood with Rep. Lee. How I wish my Michigan Senators, Debbie Stabenow and Carl Levin, had had the courage and conviction to vote "Nay".
If I were a Congressperson, would I have been able to stand alone as Rep. Lee did?
I'm trying to think of a time in my life when I didn't follow the crowd and dared to stand alone in a public forum.
What comes to mind was a meeting of a large body of bishops, priests, nuns and lay people back when I was active in the world of organized religion. I was the moderator of this unwieldy group, with the responsibility of not only coordinating our work of advising the archbishop, but of running day-long quarterly meetings of 65 leaders with nary a follower in the group. The challenge was further enhanced by my having to sit beside a very difficult man who happened to be archbishop at the time. As I would be trying to remember everyone's name and keep the meeting running according to Robert's Rules of Order, this gentleman would proceed to vent his anger and disgust at what was being said by loudly whispering in my ear.
Are you surprised that my first symptoms of MS appeared that year? Are you further surprised that I have not been part of any formal religion in over 8 years?
It was the last quarterly meeting of my term as moderator. That year our group had been in the process of implementing major changes insisted upon by a rather critical outside study of our organizational structure and committee management. It had not been an easy transition. This would be the final meeting for a number of longtime members who were being forced out because of the institution of term limits. One of these gentlemen stood to give his final committee report. In it he attacked me and the way I had done my job as moderator. I expected to hear some defense from members of my executive committee, or at least from our only paid staff person with whom I'd worked closely all year, but no one raised their hand to speak. I was left completely alone to handle the unreasonable criticism expressed by this man. I did it but at a high cost to myself.
So I guess it wasn't exactly like Rep. Lee. I was certainly standing alone and voicing a singularly unpopular perspective, but this was more a case of defending myself from hostile attack. Whatever it was, believe me, it was most unpleasant. After the meeting, a few people came up to offer me words of support, but I had to wonder where they'd been when I'd needed them.
Probably each of us has at least one such memory. But nothing I have ever experienced could possibly compare with what Rep. Barbara Lee did on September 14. She is my friend Rima's Representative. How fortunate are Rima and her Berkeley community!
You may have noticed that my font looks different. I received an email from a new reader who kindly told me how hard to read she found the bold font I've been using on my site. What do you think? It's easy enough for me to go back and change the font in all my web pages if that would make it more comfortable for you, my readers. While we're at it, how do you like my use of the grey background? Would you prefer white? Again, that's easy to change.
Would you please let me
know your preferences? Specifically, do you prefer bold or non-bold
font, and grey or white background color? Simply click on my email to write me a brief
message. Thanks, friends. I'd like to make this site as easy to
read as possible. Don't want to lose anyone because of a font
or background color! If I lose them because of my political views,
that's something else ;~)
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 21, 2001
When the Catholic Worker and Detroit Peace Community started planning a 25th birthday party for Dayhouse--the women's respite home where I volunteer--they had no idea how welcome such a gathering would be. I mean what could be more perfect than to bring together folks who have been at the heart of our city's work for peace and justice--many of them since the 1960s--not to demonstrate or march, but to eat, sing and play. Oh my, did we ever need this!
The potluck dinner was held in the basement of St. Paul's Church on Trumbull across from the old Tiger Stadium. It is where Fr. Tom , the only Dayhouse co-founder who still lives there, Marianne, who has been part of the community since 1980, and a committed group of people host the Manna Meals soup kitchen five days a week. Manna Meals, along with Dayhouse, form the hub of Detroit's Catholic Worker activities.
For me, it was a marvelous opportunity to reconnect with a lot of wonderful people with whom I've protested, gone to national peace conferences, organized activities, and generally liked and respected for years. Because of my recent winter migrations to San Francisco, I'd not seen a number of them for a long time. Then there were the ones I'd just seen when we demonstrated together last Monday. And the joy wasn't simply seeing old friends but enjoying new friends as well, especially the two sisters who sat with me at dinner.
After dinner we went upstairs to the church proper where we were entertained by a delightful mix of musicians and comics. Most of the performers were members of the Dayhouse community, some of whom had grown up attending the Sunday afternoon Dayhouse mass and potluck dinner since they were babies. Two such fellows, Benjamin and Daniel, treated us to a very funny "Who's On First?" routine that I thought was better than Abbott and Costello. After singing an exquisite set of folk songs, Benjamin's mother, Julie, invited Carl to join her on his violin. Then Jim got up and told the story of how he'd bought that violin in Ireland years ago, had put it away without using it until John, Carl's father, one day said that his 10 year-old son wanted to play the violin but he couldn't afford to buy him one. That's the way this community is--real family. Speaking of family, when 17 year-old Sean got up to play his original compositions on the guitar, his little sister, Meghan, couldn't restrain herself from joining him. Carl also played his violin as part of a group that laughingly calls itself the Cost Plus Serenaders because they do so much street performing in front of stores.
But the highlight of the evening came when the children who have been raised in this close-knit Dayhouse Peace Community got up to sing their own original song called "Happiness is". It was certainly obvious that they were part of peace activist families when we heard the stanza,
Happiness is starting
making a banner
lifting it high
Happiness is writing a leaflet
getting arrested for the very first time
Happiness is being alone every now and then
and happiness is coming home again
The official entertainment concluded with our singing a peace song together. The community spontaneously got to its feet, held hands or put their arms around one another and swayed as everyone sang in full voice.
But the party wasn't over yet. Rick, a delightful priest, put on some dance music and tripped the light fantastic with several ladies, including Chris. And I was pleased to see Jeanne for the fourth time in 10 days, after not having seen her in years! Here she is with Ande, who remembers helping to paint Dayhouse 25 years ago.
What a life-giving evening. I will hold tight to this memory when the first bombs are dropped.
By the way, non-bold font
won the popularity contest, and the grey background was unanimously
preferred to white. So today I changed the whole site to the non-bold
font. I like it much better! Thanks for giving me your feedback,
and special thanks to Boo for mentioning the issue in the first
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 22, 2001
Like a drought-stricken tree, my roots are lapping up the life-giving moisture so freely given this weekend by my friends, music, nature, laughter, creativity and ritual. I feel I am breathing deeply for the first time since September 11. And I'm beginning to feel ready to handle the horrors to come. Not "handle" in terms of controlling or influencing them, rather handle in terms of bringing a spirit of active peace and a willingness to do whatever I can do to counter the lies and darkness that always accompany times of war.
After gathering last night with the Detroit peace community, today it was my women's community that lovingly enveloped me. And as with the 25th birthday party for Dayhouse last night, today's gathering had been planned long before that fatal Tuesday. How sweet is the Universe to allow such perfect timing!
Our intention today was to begin preparing for the Council of Beings (see the book, Thinking Like A Tree) that we will participate in at Carolyn McDade's song retreat next June. In addition, we planned to share food and friendship, to drum and ritually celebrate today's Autumn Equinox. Those of us who could get out to Peg and Jeanne's home in the country by 2 PM would also have the opportunity to share a time of writing together. Pat and I planned to make it by 2 PM but our long-rather-than-short way of getting to Peg and Jeanne's meant we were over a half hour late. But happily we were still able to join the writing group.
You know, this day was such a joy and in many ways, a profoundly transformative occasion, that I want to write about it with the respect and attention it deserves. For instance, I'd like to share one of my writings that emerged from the exercises set forth by Judith. I'd also like to tell you about the ritual that Wendy so creatively facilitated...not to mention showing you 12 digital photos. But as it is already almost 2 AM, let's save it until tomorrow.
I'm anticipating there will be no more problems with my web server. If you tried to access my site this morning, you know what I'm talking about. Apparently their California operations center closed down last night (due to a virus?) and all affected web sites--like mine--had to be rerouted to another location. Let me know if you still have problems. It seems to be working OK as far as I can tell.
Talk to you tomorrow. And blessed Equinox. Autumn is officially here.
Afternote: Well, I
guess my assurances about the web server being back in working
order were premature. When I attempted to put up this journal
entry at 2 AM and again at noon on Sunday, I discovered my webhost
was still down. The message on their tech support phone line said
a virus--I think it's called Nimbas--was making it difficult for
them to reroute the affected web sites away from their Fremont,
CA operations center, which was infected. They assure us they
are working on it and will have things operating again as soon
as possible. I don't really know if you'll be able to access
this entry, even after I'm able to put it up. But living
in a state of unknowing is becoming the norm of late, isn't it?
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 23, 2001
How can I wrap words around the wonder of yesterday? Being in a circle of loving, mature, peace-promoting women was just what I needed. For, as active as I've remained since September 11, I hadn't felt fully alive until yesterday.
Our circle included women from my Notable Women singing community, members of a book group called Breakfast and Books, two teachers from Peg's inner city Pontiac school, a couple of friends and partners, and Ellen's mother who was in town from Miami to celebrate Rosh Hashana. There were 21 of us altogether.
As I mentioned in Saturday's journal entry, a small group gathered in the early afternoon to write together. Judith--who did not actually arrive until later--had created three superb exercises to which we could respond in writing during three 10 minute timed sessions. The first exercise related to finding and describing our inner place of peace; the second allowed us the opportunity to express our rage; and the third had to do with forgiveness and our spiritual paths. After each 10 minute session, we were invited to read our writing aloud. It was, for me, a grounding and graced experience of creativity and community. Although I write at least 3 hours every day, writing a journal for the world to read and writing in a flow-of-consciousness are two very different things. I sometimes forget that I need both.
After this special time, there was a natural rhythm to our moving outdoors to Peg and Jeanne's wooden deck. More women had arrived and together we began the process of exploring what is a Council of Beings and how we want to adapt the idea for ourselves. Although we don't expect to formally convene this Council until Carolyn McDade's singing retreat next June, the process is one that takes time and creative deliberation.
In short, a Council of Beings, as put forth originally by Joanna Macy in Thinking Like A Mountain, is a gathering of humans, each of whom speaks for a non-human member of our common home, the earth. They might wear handmade masks--like the one Sooz had made to celebrate Autumn--create costumes, play musical instruments, sing, dance, shriek, laugh, cry, moan or do whatever the Being they represent insists on doing. But the important thing--and what takes time in preparation--is to study this non-human Being or entity through close observation, meditation, scientific research, environmental study and creative exploration, so that when you speak it will truly be in the voice of your chosen Being.
Members of our community brainstormed about whose voice they might like to bring to the Council. Among them were a spider, a blue heron, water, top soil and lake stones. We decided to limit our choices to Beings that are indigenous to our bio-region of the Great Lakes. At our next gathering in November we will play with creating masks and costumes. Then in January we will practice what and how we want to speak.
Our connection with the natural world was enhanced by meeting out in the country at Peg and Jeanne's home set among acres of meadows, trees and a spring-fed pond. Although I was unable to join them, the community took a short hike to see the bottled genitians blooming in a nearby meadow. Pat kindly took pictures so I could share in experiencing the beauty of these endangered flowers.
Not only the setting added to our planning of a Council of Beings; some creatures decided to join us as well. There were the cardinals, woodpeckers, chickadees, tufted titmice, finches, doves and sparrows who crowded around the bird feeders hanging from the sheltering arms of the tree beside the deck. At one point a perfect arrow-formation of geese flew directly over our heads going north. For the rest of our time together we either heard their honking voices or saw them in flight travelling this way and that.
And it wasn't just birds and geese who joined our circle. In the warmth of the afternoon, Pat had removed her denim jacket and put it on the floor of the deck beside her chair. During our discussion about which animals we were drawn to represent, she reached down to pick up her jacket. Nestled comfortably inside the sleeve was a praying mantis. This Being managed to keep its dignity as we each exclaimed over its beauty. I certainly hope Pat chooses to speak in its voice for I think it was very clear about wanting to be included.
Wasn't this a perfect exercise in reverencing our planet and its inhabitants? One that is especially needed as the drums of war--that human choice which destroys human and non-human Beings indiscriminately--are reaching a fevered pitch in this country.
After sharing a delicious potluck meal--and welcoming even more sisters to our circle--we brought out our drums and percussion instruments. But we were not in rhythm with the frenzied beats of war, rather with the heartbeat of the earth. The mix of drums, shekeres, tambourines, my Nigerian cowbells and Vietnamese wooden frog soon had Sooz and Jeanne on their feet dancing. How I love being part of a women's drumming community!
It was soon time for Wendy to facilitate our Autumn Equinox ritual. As she described it, the ritual would unfold like this: After grounding ourselves and Casting the Circle, we were to call in the Four Directions and invite the Goddess Demeter, Cybele and others to join us. Next would be a Thanksgiving ritual in which each woman would pour a libation of water into a crystal bowl while giving voice to that for which she was most grateful. We would follow by singing "There Is A Time", one of our favorite Carolyn McDade songs.
That was all lovely, but what came next will stay with me the rest of my life. We conducted what Wendy called a Crowning of Middle Age. The circle was rearranged according to age, with sisters spanning the decades from the mid-40s into the 70s. Starting with our youngest sister, Helen, sitting in the center of the circle, we toned--wordless song--the vibrations we felt emanating from her. And when that had naturally died down, we spoke out loud a litany of the wonderful qualities she possesses. Then Priscilla, our respected elder, came to her, gave a blessing with words and sprinkled the top of her head (crown chakra) with fairy dust. Helen then received glistening moon and/or stars stickers on her forehead (third eye). Finally she was crowned with a sparkling tiara of starburst tinsel. And so it went around the circle, with each of us receiving the gift of toning and verbal affirmations, being blessed and dusted with fairy dust (the former picture is of our youngest blessing and fairy-dusting our eldest), having the moon and stars placed on our forehead, and being crowned with stars.
Can you imagine how this felt? It was like being washed in the warm loving waters of your mother's womb. At least that's how it felt for me. Now I need to add that all this wonder was occasionally touched with lighthearted humor. For instance when it was my turn to be in the center of the circle, the toning energy seemed to shift gears. Where the women before me had heard soothing harmonies that played briefly in the air, the toning for me moved into a long-lasting symphony of sounds somewhere between wild and silly. Then the first words I heard describing who they saw me to be were "quiet", "reserved" and "shy". After peals of laughter, they overwhelmed me with a bucket load of amazing affirmations. Finally as Priscilla, our fairy-dusting elder, had blessed me with loving words, I said with a grin, "She likes me best!" This was spoken in honor of our missing Canadian sister Pat Noonan who always says that about Carolyn McDade.
Can you see why I so love these women?
Technical note: I will
be putting up my daily entries whenever my web server is operating
properly, so please check in at odd times during the day and night.
Some readers are still having trouble accessing my site. If you
can't pull it up, try changing the URL address to either .com or .net, whichever
one you weren't using. Another trick is to click on the "Refresh"
icon on your tool bar. Or maybe my web server is down again for
who-knows-what-reason, in which case please be patient and try
again later. I fear our national crisis is playing havoc with
more than our emotions and the stability of our leaders!
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 24, 2001
I've really been struggling with staying centered. Since that Tuesday--can you believe it'll be two weeks tomorrow?--I've let myself be flung this way and that with thoughts, feelings, words, information, fears.
I'd almost lost my Self.
And I know that once this country I live in starts dropping its bombs or sending its missiles or ordering its ground troops to invade another land, it's going to be very hard for me not to take it all inside myself and carry the deaths and destruction within my body. I've been through this before; I know my tendencies toward embodying my compassion (to suffer with).
So how do I break out of this cycle of personal destruction and re-find the place of peace that lives inside me? Saturday's writing exercise showed me what I've been missing. My left brain (verbal, rational) has been on overdrive, when it is my right brain (creative, intuitive) that will save me from despair.
So today I did something I haven't done in a long long time. I turned off the computer, closed the door to my room, lit incense, prepared my Prismacolor pencils and journal, and sat in silence. I meditated. It was as though I were returning to a place I'd formerly loved but had forgotten existed. Such a feeling of comfort. Like coming home.
Yes, my mind cackled its multitude of messages, but I just let it dither on. It didn't matter what it was saying, I was in a place of quiet, a place of peace. And when it was time, I opened my eyes, picked up one colored pencil after another and just let it have its way with the paper. It makes no never mind what came; it was the doing of it that was important.
And now I have the internal knowing that if I take time to return to this wordless place within myself on a regular basis, I'll be all right. I'll be able to become the peace I talk and write about.
Just in the nick of time.
©2001 Patricia Lay-Dorsey. Please use with attribution.