Windchime Walker's Journal 2 archive

To read previous journal entries, please go to: Journal 1 archive 2/25-3/24/00, Journal 2 archive 3/25-4/24/00, Journal 3 archive 4/25-5/24/00, Journal 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, Journal 73 archive 2/25-3/24/06, Journal 74 archive 3/25-4/24/06, Journal 75 archive 4/25-5/24/06, Journal 76 archive 5/25-6/24/06

To read my current journal, please go to: windchime walker's journal


It seems odd to be reading of the spiritual path again after all these years. On Tuesday, I accompanied D.W. to Stacy's Bookstore downtown to hear her friend, Andrew Harvey, read from his latest book The Direct Path: Creating a Journey to the Divine Using the World's Mystical Traditions. Andrew, who is often described as philosopher/mystic/author, is a most engaging fellow. His passionate energy sweeps one up and leads to impulse buying of his books. And so I bought!

While reading it today, I found myself transported back 15 years when my "spiritual journey" consciously began. Those intense years! Full of passion, confusion, searching, excitement, mistakes, community, illumination, self-righteousness, change and grace. What a roller coaster I rode...of thoughts, emotions, inner promptings, relationships and down-to-earth body stuff! To go back there, even in memory, is a mix of pain and pleasure. How concerned I was at the time to classify myself as on this stage or that rung of the spiritual ladder. How often I saw myself at the top of the heap. What a laugh!

Now this all feels like a non-issue. I am where I am. I am who I am. And it doesn't much matter whether that is at the top or the bottom of anything. Besides, I've come to see classifications of "spiritual stages" as reminiscent of the patriarchal religion I left behind along the way. If I were to image the spiritual path now, it could only be a circle. More like a spiral. And rather than seeing myself rising to the top of the spiral, it feels more like falling into a place of lush darkness. Comfortably indefinable.

Yet it doesn't hurt to read Andrew's book. Except perhaps my pride (How silly I was!). Even so, it's good every so often to see where you've come from. How your path has wound through this village and slogged through that marsh or arrived at this vast meadow in the sun. Just another slide down the spiral.

SUNDAY, MARCH 26, 2000

I awoke to a bird singing lustily...and that same bird is still singing three hours later! What an auspicious start to this day of song. At 3:30 PM, 40+ members of the Lesbian/Gay Chorus of San Francisco will meet at Entrance #10 to the Concourse Exhibition Hall on Brannan Street, all decked out in tuxes and gowns. At 5 PM we will be on the Main Stage singing "You Are the Light" as thousands of people arrive for the gala Academy of Friends "TimeWalk" Oscar party and benefit for Bay Area HIV/AIDS organizations. Last night's tech rehearsal was quite impressive! The exhibition hall is a full city block long, and now outfitted like the garden of a sumptuous Italian villa.

The bird just came to my apple tree! I think it's a meadow lark. Would that we had such a repertoire of songs!

To get back to the "villa", there are huge plants and floral bouquets standing everywhere, interspersed with columns, sculptures and fountains that look like carved stone but are actually styrofoam. Ten mammoth screens hang from the ceiling throughout the hall. To make us even more nervous, we'll be projected on those screens as we sing!

Well, I'm very excited! I even decorated windchime walker for the occasion. She now wears a rhinestone necklace (from high school days!) draped around her front crossbar. And, of course, her windchime is one of the featured instruments for "Aquarious/Let the Sunshine In".

The tough part about last night--and potentially today--is the distances to walk. At 8 PM on-the-dot last night, we were instructed to move quickly from the 7th Street entrance to the main stage. A full block away! Kind K. stayed back with me as I slowly shuffled along, finally getting there at least ten minutes after the rest of the chorus. My anxiety about today is that I will not be given enough time to get from the performers dressing room to the main stage when it's time for us to go on. So I brought up my concern with our Academy of Friends liasons last night during our group meeting. I think we've got it worked out that I will position myself down by the main stage before the others come down.

In bed last night, I felt uneasy about calling attention to my special needs in that very public way ("I'm disabled and walk very slowly. I'm anxious about getting to the stage in time."). Then I realized that's old stuff from childhood. We were taught not to ever ask for anything special from anyone. Well, that old tape has got to go! As a person with special needs, it's up to me to ask clearly for what I need. No one else knows what that is unless I tell them. Another opportunity to grow...

So now it's time to get ready for the big event. Whoopee!


Wow! The Academy of Friends gig last night was a real party! Now, there was a snafu relating to our performance. They hooked into the satellite Academy Awards show ten minutes early, so we missed the opportunity to sing our second set. Unfortunately that set was to include "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In" and "Time Warp"--our two most upbeat songs--but the party more than made up for it. To me anyway. Don't know if it felt worth it to Nelson, the drummer, and Chris, the bass guitarist, who were to accompany us for those two songs, so never did get to play. Guess that's show biz!

It was fun to see the space transformed. At our tech rehearsal Saturday night, many of the decorations were in place but the exhibition hall was filled with cranes and scaffolds, wires and tech people running around setting things up. When we walked in yesterday at 4:30 PM--an hour after we arrived in the chilly chilly parking lot--the space was sumptuously outfitted with flowers, wind and "stone" sculptures, Roman columns, a huge obelisk, food-and-drink-groaning tables, and human "Oscars" wandering around covered in gold paint. There were mammoth screens on the ground floor, in addition to smaller TVs everyplace on the upper level within view of hundreds of round tables and chairs. In front of the main stage was a large white dance floor with overhanging mirrored globe just waiting for the live band to perform after the awards were over at 9:30 PM. One of the workers told me they were expecting 2000 people, each of whom paid at least $150 to attend...and some as much as $10,000! The money all going to Bay Area HIV/AIDS organizations and programs.

As folks arrived at 5 PM, 49 members of my chorus (Lesbian/Gay Chorus of San Francisco) were on the main stage singing "You Are the Light" (1960 Olympic fanfare), "Begin the Beguine" (Cole Porter 1935) and "Bohemian Rhaspody" (popularized by Queen in the '70s). Felt good about how we sounded, though with a sophisticated sound system in such a large space it's hard to hear yourself as others hear you. And the cameras projected our image onto all those screens, large and small. Don't have a clue how we looked because my eyes were glued on Michael Carlson, our director.

After performing, we were guests just like everyone else. That meant making our way through hoards of folks cruising the free wine and food tables. Some of the best vineyards and restaurants had set up taste-teasers all through the hall. Actually I found having a walker to run interference really helped! People were apt to stand aside to make way for me when they saw windchime walker. The crowd was very friendly; smiles everywhere. And a wonderfully diverse group...drag queens in full regalia, affluent middle-aged gay and straight couples, young folks (volunteers and guests), fellas holding hands, lesbians in tuxes and formal gowns, even two men in flowing robes from Nepal or someplace. Though mostly white, there seemed a good mix of ethnic and racial backgrounds. And everyone dressed in their finest and/or glitziest Black Tie attire. A true San Francisco event!

After grazing through the food, our chorus hung out together at some tables upstairs watching the Academy Awards on TV. There was a roar of approval when the star from the transgender story, "Boys Don't Cry", won Best Actress. After the Oscars were over, the real party began...starting with fireworks at the end of the hall!

Well, we danced till we thought we'd drop! Strange thing was folks' responses to seeing me out there with my walker boogying down with the best of 'em. As my friends said, I was "hit on" more than anyone they'd ever seen! Lots of guys and a couple women wanted to dance with me. Now dancing was all right, but some of these wild men wanted to either "lap dance" or bump-and-grind in front, beside or behind me. A couple times my friends just had to pull them off! Didn't they know I was at least as old as their Moms?! Gosh, when I wanted such attention as a young single thing, how come it never happened then! Weird. But the tone for the most part was gentle-spirited, with everyone laughing, being silly and grinning from ear-to-ear. An advantage for me is that, with windchime walker's seat, I can "sit dance" or "stand dance" whenever I want. Actually T. and I were the last of our gang to come off the dance floor!

What fun! Like a rich dessert, it leaves me with a sweet taste in my mouth. Isn't life good to give us moments like this?


Oh my! Does it never end? Delectable experience after delectable experience. How grateful I am for the ability to enter the world in this way, both-feet-first so to speak. Something in me wonders if now that I'm keeping this journal online, I am experiencing all this wonder in order to share it. I think of my friend M. who lives in Sweden. A chronic condition keeps her generally bedbound these days. She's emailed and said she prints my journal entry every morning to take back and read in bed. Well, M., today you're going on a real San Francisco adventure! Are you ready? Put your feet up and enjoy...

In Oakland, CA about two months ago, three women friends and I attended an extraordinary ritual concert put on by singer/songwriter, Jennifer Berezan, to celebrate her new CD, "ReTurning". This amazing CD was "recorded in one of the oldest underground temples in a chamber created for sound", the Hypogeum in Malta. To join her in song, poetry, ritual, dance and drumming at this event, Jennifer invited some of the Bay Area's most notable women. Among them were Z Budapest, Luisah Teish, Vicki Noble, Starhawk, Dance Brigade and Maya Angelou. Most of the 1300 audience members were seated in the balcony. However, being disabled proved to be a real perk! We wheelchair, walker and cane women (and one man) were down on the stage floor with it all happening in our laps!

Seated in her wheelchair beside me that night, I met a wonderful crone woman, C., and her friend, T. Since then, C. and I have talked by phone a couple of times. Last week we set up a date for today to go see the Georgia O'Keeffe exhibit, "The Poetry of Things", at the Palace of the Legion of Honor here in San Francisco. This date meant C. drove her tree-and-goddess-painted van (very 60s!) an hour and a half down, and an hour and a half back home along the coast north of SF. When I gave her my address in the Mission (she was to pick me up here), she asked, "Is there an avocado tree out in front?" When I answered, "Yes. Why?" She said, "I think I used to own that house!" And so she had!

The Palace of the Legion of Honor is one of the most breathtaking museums imaginable. Perched at the top of a hilly green golf course in the northwestern corner of the city, it overlooks the ocean to the west, the bay and Marin Headlands to the north, SF's downtown skyline to the east, and hills of pastel houses to the south. The museum itself is very old and grand with banks of flowers, heroic sculptures, a fountain, and Roman courtyard through which you enter.

The O'Keefe show was a jewel! Intimate in scale, sensitively hung, and not too crowded, at least when we were there. A number of my favorite paintings were included, some of which I'd only seen in books before today. Looking up a curving brown tree with dark green spreading into the starry night sky. A riotous flame-red canna lily with yellow and lilac accents. A swirling white rose highlighted in spring greens and warm grays. Georgia's favorite doorless opening to her adobe house. An ear of corn in greens, blues and purples. One broken brown leaf lying on another leaf of autumn-scarlet hues. So many treasures. Her work always makes me lick my lips with its moist sumptuousness.

The day didn't end there, although it certainly could have. I'd have felt deliciously satisfied. But it continued...onto Clement Street, San Francisco's real Chinatown. A part of the city filled with restaurants, shops, acupuncturists and herbalists, markets with live everything (including turtles)...where even the Walgreens drug store has all its signs in Chinese as well as English. After sharing carrot cake and tea at an American diner with an Australian waitress (!), C. got back on the road heading home. I planned to catch a cab back to the Mission after going to Walgreens.

But...not done yet! There was a hair salon across the street and I thought now was as good a time as any to get my new "do" trimmed. Grows fast when it's short. What an opportunity to feel like I had traveled to China! Except for one woman who was waiting and spoke to me in English, everyone in the salon spoke Chinese. After watching four haircuts, I saw that I'd happened on a very gifted beautician. When it came my turn, the English-speaker was gone. I had a few nervous-making moments of trying to explain what I wanted her to do with my hair. I put my fingers together about a half an inch and said, "Cut?" Then I couldn't tell if she thought I was saying to cut a half inch off, or to make it all a half inch long. Whatever was understood or not understood, I got a fabulous haircut! Looks like short white feathers.

By now it was about 7 PM. Time for dinner. I walked two doors down to a very crowded restaurant (good sign), and sat at a table near a woman with two youngsters. The little ones were most intrigued with windchime walker and came over to check her out. Very soon 4 year old J. and his sister, 7 year old L., were swinging gently in my walker seat and playing with all her bells and chimes. Actually, earlier in the day, windchime walker had helped a fussy littler one, 1 year old R., make his way through the O'Keefe exhibit. His Mom had smiled as he played the windchimes, and said, "Look, R. She's a fairy woman!"

The day ended with the Yellow Cab--and a most helpful driver--coming right after I called. That's a real plus in the City! All in all, a perfectly glorious day. Hope you enjoyed it too, M. It's been fun sharing it with you.


The word is definitely getting out on the streets about Simply Supper in the Castro! When S. and I arrived at 3:45 PM, the line already stretched out the door to the end of the building. I've never seen it like that before. Of course it's the end of the month which means the welfare checks have run out--how far is $355 going to go in San Francisco anyway?--so we expect our numbers to be up. Maybe 85-90. Well today we served 138 folks! And got rave reviews on the food, I might add. Soy frankfurters for vegetarians, sausage for meat-eaters, baked beans, cole slaw, sour dough bread, oranges and dessert.

We're seeing more and more young people, women and men. And they are relatively well dressed, clean and intelligent. What's going on here? Where techies in their 20s are pulling down salaries of at least $100,000 plus valuable stock options, here are kids the same age eating at a soup kitchen. As they say, what's wrong with this picture? The gap between the so-called "haves" and "have-nots" is becoming disturbingly difficult to breach. How can we turn this around? I suspect the American Dream had best be taken in for an overhaul. "Success" either needs to be given up as a goal or totally redefined. In this culture, success seems to be preceded by the unspoken adjective "material" as its measure. And "material" has come to mean having more--much more--than one needs.

One way I've found to get off the material merry-go-round is to avoid television, commercial radio, magazines and newspapers. Makes it pretty tough for advertisers to get one's attention except through roadside billboards! Of course, one must then find ways to learn what's going on in the world. Alternative web sites like Mother Jones, Common Dreams News Center, One World.Net are good sources of national and international news.

Another aid to non-material living is my disability.The more effort it takes me to get around, the less inclined I am to go to stores, so the less I buy. Especially living in SF without a car. I know a number of people who are intentionally choosing simplicity as a way of life. Wonder if they realize becoming mobility impaired is a certain path to the simple life!


Sitting in the garden this sunny warm morning, I hear a soft whirring sound by my left ear. I turn to see a hummingbird dipping its needle-like beak into the seed-bearing bush right behind me. Not a brightly colored bird, its brownish body nonetheless shimmers blue-green irridescent in the sun. Seemingly unaware of my presence, it keeps at its seed-dipping for timeless seconds, moving from flower to flower. By now it is within 6 inches of my head, its wings fanning my face. Immediately before my  humming friend flies away, it pauses at the edge of my white feathered head as if discerning the nature of this unusual flower!

A moment like this comes once in a lifetime. One never knows when. All I could do after the hummingbird darted away was close my eyes and breathe the words, "Thank you."

FRIDAY, MARCH 31, 2000

A summer day in San Francisco. D.W. and I took a picnic lunch to the ocean overlook above the old Sutro Baths. We sat on a wooden bench in the hot sun, surrounded by the raucous song of black birds, warm winds whipping the Euchalyptus and Cypress trees below us, and enjoying exceptionally clear views of the Farralon Islands out past the Marin Headlands. The ocean was truly pacific today except for white caps whipped up by the winds we've experienced all day. J. at Jump Start deli has heard the same thing all day: "This is earthquake weather. Too warm for SF." He said this morning reminded him of the desert where he grew up in Jordan. We agreed it is definitely a day to spend outside. And so we did!

I am still glowing from last night's concert at Freight and Salvage in Berkeley.The combination of: 1) Returning to the folk music coffee house where I used to work part time in 1996; 2) Connecting with so many folks in the audience whom I've sung with at workshops and retreats over the years (even sang improv with 5 of them while waiting in line to get in!); 3) But mostly, the wonder of seeing and hearing this newly-formed group--We Be Three--made up of two of my most significant teachers--Joey Blake and Rhiannon--singing with Dave Worm, with whom I've also been privileged to sing on occasion. The blend of these three voices singing their Bobby McFerrin Voicestra-inspired improvisations is haunting, utterly engaging, unbelievable at times, humorous, and deeply moving. These are mature musicians who sing out of their richly diverse life experiences, and that creates an exceptional environment for us all. When they led the audience singing in the typical Voicestra way--putting interlocking patterns on different sections of the house--it was like coming home. What could be more spiritual than this? Heart-openning, mind-expanding, sense-tickling, community-forming. Oh I do love to sing...especially in this way with these people!


There is something so sacred about preparing for a gathering of friends in my space. I find it essential to allow a lot more quiet time than scurrying around time. Time to fill myself with a spirit of welcome. That is more important than what I serve, how clean my place is, or knowing how many or even who is coming. I guess this attitude is a natural outgrowth of my feeling that all of life is sacred and every gathering is a form of worship.

Today's gathering is very special. It is a celebration of my friend, Dorothy Walters' new book of poetry, Marrow of Flame: Poems of the Spiritual Journey. I feel so honored to introduce this book to my friends. Dorothy and I spent many an hour in our local coffee house two years ago going over each poem. I find them exquisite in their truth and simplicity. Like Rumi, Dorothy goes right to the heart of the spirit. So today I have invited my friends to a poetry reading and book signing here in my garden. And, of course, the day is absolute perfection. Sunny and warm. An open windows and doors day. A day ripe with beauty. A day created to celebrate friends.


I feel such a strange mixture of languid from the heat and accelerated because of all my activities this weekend. Life on fast forward...with stillness at the center.

Yesterday's poetry reading/book signing for Dorothy's new book was a glorious success. T.G., on leaving, said, "You know I didn't think I was going to enjoy this, but I did. I really did!" Then there was H.G. who is smack in the middle of the spiritual journey Dorothy writes about. For most of the reading her eyes were closed, a Buddha-like smile on her lips, with her head nodding in recognition. There was also M.V. who just kept eating and drinking throughout. We are each in such different places. But for anyone who has been awakened to a world beyond what our senses can comprehend, the poems in Marrow of Flame touch a resonating chord. I'd say at least 23 of the 25 persons in my garden yesterday felt flutterings as Dorothy's poems were read aloud. I know I did.

After losing that hour of sleep last night--drat Daylight Savings Time!--I had a lovely brunch with M.R. at Greens, my favorite restaurant in the city. I've been there so often this winter that R., one of the waitresses, always greets me a big grin, saying, "I heard your chimes and knew you were here!" We had a table by the window overlooking the Bay, Golden Gate Bridge, Marin Headlands and Sausalito. I've never seen it so clear. The heat has cleared out any vestiges of fog so the bridge looked bright red, the headlands all different colors of green and Sausalito covered with pastel houses.

Then upstairs to M.R. and E.S.'s, my friends who own the Victorian house in whose garden I've been living these past 3 months. They are the designing genii who transformed this 1890s dirt-floor shed into a guest cottage that could be featured in Architectural Digest. While munching on fresh donuts (wickedly delicious!), we watched a video of our neighbor J.P.'s appearance on the Rosie O'Donnell adoption show recently. J.P. is the single mother of 2 year old B., an adopted Hispanic-Asian child who is the center of her life. She was excellent--very poised and full of helpful information for prospective adoptive parents.

Now in an hour, S.W. will be by to pick me up. We're off to Berkeley for dinner, and then the piano benefit at the Freight and Salvage. After three years away from the Freight, I'll be there twice in three days! Some of my favorite performers on the women's music festival circuit are playing tonight--Barbara Higbie, Margie Adams and Liz Story. Should be grand for piano lovers like S.W. and me!

Every minute here in San Francisco feels so very precious to me now. In less than 3 weeks I'm scheduled to migrate back to Michigan. Of course when I'm back with my sweetie in the wonderful old shoe of a house we've shared for 29 years, getting together with my fabulous community of women friends, I'll be just fine. It's always the anticipation of leaving that's hard.


dreamt of you while napping.  you were flying me high in the air.  i said to myself "she dont know about flying" and grabbed your arms. you said "let go. i cant fly like this".  i feared loosening, or dropping on ground far below.  woke up.

What a symbolic dream! How often in my life I've flown on an idea, belief system, assumption, creative impulse, another person. The minute I got afraid and tried to "hold their arms" (control the other), I was no longer in flight. So much depends on not looking down!

I'm reminded of a conversation with a friend this weekend. She's in the middle of a situation that is causing her a lot of fear and anger. Because her doctor's office ignored her repeated requests to send certain records to the insurance company, my friend is now temporarily uninsured, with fears of becoming permanently uninsurable. It's hard for her not to look down!

As we talked further, we agreed that no matter how tough things have been in our lives, whatever we needed to make our way through was always there for us. After enough years, one begins to realize that whatever challenges the future holds, it also holds ways of dealing with it. That is not a matter of faith; it is a matter of empirical knowledge. My lived experience says so. Now if I try to "hold the arms" of life as it flies me where I am going, I will probably "wake up" with a jolt. My task is to ride the wings of life without trying to bind them tight with my fears and expectations.

Oddly enough, I've found my progressing disability encourages me to live this way. I could certainly obsess on fears of the future. When I was first diagnosed with MS in 1988, it was important for me to face whatever fears came up. The strongest one was of me bedridden and isolated in a nursing home. But, once acknowledged, these fears have no place in my day-to-day life. I don't have a clue what the future is going to bring, so why even "go there", as they say. Deal with each reality as it appears. Of course, as a responsible human being, one is expected to look ahead and make plans for the future. That's very different from fretting about the future. For instance, I already know what kind of scooter I'm going to buy when it comes time for that. And that time may be soon upon me. That's fine. I'm to a point where I'll use whatever I need to keep my life full and active. That's what adaptive equipment is for--to open up your world, not close it down. I'll fly on whatever keeps me up in the air!


New moon in Aries. According to my We'Moon '00 journal, the moon in Aries is apt to raise identity questions. "You stand stripped bare of formalities, knowing yourself as you truly are."

Yuck! I awoke before 6 AM this morning unable to return to emotions rubbed raw with irritation. Very specific irritation with a specific individual about a specific occurrence yesterday. It was a situation I had smiled my way through, without acknowledging, even to myself, how put upon I felt. But there was no ignoring my feelings today. By noon, I was "stripped bare". As this grudge-to-be started crawling into my mental basement, something cried out, "No! No new grudges allowed!" So I decided to shift gears. I phoned my friend, shared my discomfort and suggested ways we might better handle what had caused me such problems. Though obviously surprised, he agreed to do his part to rectify the situation. The energy felt very clear between us.

Ah yes, self knowledge is a dangerous thing. It generally requires one to undertake new, untried ways of being in the world. Action is its call. Comfort is not its friend. As my wise husband wrote the other day, "Truth hurts less than its absence".


It's always the people.

At Simply Supper today, N. comes over while I'm taking tickets at the dining room door (free tickets from the front door downstairs--our way of keeping count). "Would you like some foccacia bread?", she asks, holding out four slices wrapped in a plastic bag. "Don't you want it?", I ask. "Nope. Don't want to carry it around." So now I have St. Vincent de Paul's fresh homemade foccacia bread for dinner! N. and I talk earlier as I pet Falcon, her beautiful labrador-greyhound dog.  Lying outside on a blanket with a bowl of water at her side, Falcon is what N. calls, "spoiled rotten!" N., attractive and always well groomed, lives on the street. We agree it's a hell of a way to get such a great tan!

J. appears with his guitar slung over his shoulder. I ask, "Will you play for us again today?" He agrees, smiling. So after finishing the popular burrito and taco dinner, J. pulls up a chair in front of me, sits down, and says, "How about some blues?" He covers his index finger with a metal sleeve and starts in to play some of the finest blues I've ever heard. Not only guitar, but singing as well. Looking around the room, I see heads nodding and smiles where I've never seen smiles before. When he finishes, there's spontaneous applause. J. gives us a beautiful non-blues instrumental as encore. That man more than paid for his free supper today!

Sweet-natured P. is back after a long absence. I'm relieved to see him and tell him so. Last time I saw P. it was still the rainy season and he'd been fighting a cold. Living on the streets makes it tough to stay warm and dry. At that time he'd recently adopted a rat. I remember his saying, "I don't know if it's male or female so I named it Elizabeth Joseph, EJ for short. That should cover whatever it is!"  P. carried EJ in a cage everyplace he went--a cage covered with a towel for warmth and filled with whatever rats seem to like! Today P. has no cage with him, so I ask about EJ. "She died", he says sadly, "but not before giving birth to 9 baby rats!" Later he tells me how he didn't leave Duboce Park and the nursing babies for a solid month. That's why he didn't come over to Simply Supper (8 blocks away). When they were 25 days old--"old enough to be weaned"--he began to give them away. "I found good homes for all 9!" He blames himself for EJ's death. "I let her out of the cage one day. She ran into a building where there was a paint store. After 2-3 days, I finally coaxed her out. I think she was accidentally poisoned because five days after that, she died."

Very bad news about M. I hear from C. the director of our program, that M. was hit by a truck over the weekend. Her back broken, she is in a coma. A., her partner, is only allowed one 30-minute visit a day. But the staff at SF General is encouraging him to come every day, hoping that hearing his voice might comfort M. and encourage her to live. As sad as we all are to hear it, none of us is surprised. Every week M. has come in more and more sick and battered. Hepatitis C. An overdose that sent her to the hospital. Black eye swollen shut and gashed lip from a fall ("I was drunk"). A downward spiral. And yet she and A. are so devoted to one another. I think of them everytime I see the wonderful golden metal dragon with the irridescent crystal in its paws that sits under the lamp in my cottage. A gift from M. and A.

How I will miss these people when I return home to Detroit. Every week they ask, "How many more weeks?" The answer today, "Two". I can keep up with my other friends by email and phone calls, but my Simply Supper friends? How will I know if they're all right? G. said today, "Hey, I've got it! We set up a computer monitor here, with a hook-in to your computer in Detroit. You just sit there at home, smile into a video camera and say, "Hi!". We'll keep running it for everyone who comes in the door. We could even have an automated ticket taker!" Maybe he's onto something. Who'd have thought we'd be doing what we do today with computers? Seems like anything's possible.


Today I begin the weaning process. Sometimes I wonder if I've chosen this life with all its partings as a way of working on my childhood fears of separation. Twice a year I say goodbye to people and places I love. At the same time, I say hello to people and places I love! A paradox. So now it is time to start preparing myself to leave San Francisco, even as I prepare to return home to Michigan. Michigan where I live with E.D., my beloved husband of 33 years, in the wonderful old house we moved into 29 years ago on April 30!

I pack a big box to send tomorrow by UPS. This is the first time I've accomplished this task so far ahead of my actual departure (2 weeks from tomorrow), but something in me feels ready to start clearing out. Books, papers, kitchen stuff, winter clothes, black raincoat and red rain hat (somewhat overused this winter!), linens. It will certainly make it easier to pack up at the last, but it's more than that. The first tangible teasing away a strand of the rope of life that holds me here.

I also spend part of the day making travel arrangements to go visit my mother and sister in Maryland the end of April. Again flying out of Detroit. Very familiar process, just a bit strange making the calls from California instead of Michigan.

Bit by bit by bit. Weaning is never accomplished all at once. There's a lot of back and forth with it. So with me. On the one hand, I feel like a bird whose migratory instincts are kicking in. Something's stirring inside. Even in dreams I'm practicing my powers of flight. On the other hand, I feel like a hatchling being kicked out of the nest before she's ready. I feel unsettled and strange. Not quite here; not yet there.


I sit in the garden on this beautiful day. The apple tree at the center of the patio is just beginning to blossom. It's the last tree to respond to a solid month of San Francisco sun. Last Saturday I counted 3 green leaves on its bare branches. Today every branch is sprouting new leaves, pink buds or full blown white blossoms. What fun to watch spring unfold before my eyes.

The strawberry bed I've been weeding now has green fruits peeking out of its leafy white flowers. Tall purple iris proudly sway in today's gentle breezes. A tiny chickadee hops from limb to limb under the lemon green canopy of my neighbor's magnolia tree, chirping softly. Two orange and black swallowtail butterflies visit flower after flower and flutter off. The calla lily by the fence reminds me of a child opening its mouth and sticking out its yellow tongue. Orange tiger lilies tower over the blossoming lavender plants in front of the compost heap. Monkey the cat lies snoozing in the sun. Life is extremely pleasant.

In less than an hour my friend P.M. will pick me and my sleeping bag up for our drive down to camp. The Lesbian/Gay Chorus of SF singing retreat is this weekend at a YMCA camp in the mountains about two hours south of the city. As laptops are not on my "what to bring to camp" list, my journal will need to wait until I return home Sunday afternoon! May everyone who reads this have a good will I.


I return from the chorus retreat glowing with gratitude. Gratitude for hours and hours and hours of singing. My favorite creative activity! It was as if all 50 of us couldn't get enough song. We rehearsed for 3 hours Friday evening, 7 hours Saturday and 3 hours this morning. Then sang around the campfire until late both nights, just for fun! Surprising what songs this transgenerational (ages 23-63) group of lesbian women and gay men knew. From "16 Tons" to West Side Story's "Maria". The Beatles, Bach, Cole Porter, Queen, Peter/Paul/and Mary, Irving Berlin, the Supremes, John Lennon, the Kingston Trio, Rogers & Hammerstein, Elton John...with lots of old camp songs mixed in with newer stuff I'd never heard before. The most amazing thing was that absolutely no one got a hoarse or overworked voice. We must be doing something right!

What a setting in which to sing! Surrounded by towering coastal redwoods and pines, our dining/rehearsing lodge was perfection. Newly rebuilt with a light wooden interior, high ceilings, skylights and panoramic windows, the room also had excellent acoustics. There was something about being in this old YMCA camp that brought back memories of good old Camp Mawavi, where I'd spent 8 happy summers as a child. Maybe it was the musty smell in our sleeping cabin, the feel of cold bathroom linoleum on my bare feet, and serious tick-checks!

Walking to the lodge from our cabin the first morning, we heard two bushes vibrating with clicking sounds. Imagine! Two to three tiny blue-green hummingbirds were darting from red flower to flower in each bush! Being in the mountains meant waking to white foggy skies that cleared by lunchtime. Afternoons, bright sun filtered through the trees, and most of us removed at least one layer of clothing. Even around the campfire at night, I only wore a sweater and light jacket. Very different from the last chorus retreat I'd attended in February of 1998, the winter of El Niño. Wet doesn't begin to describe that weekend!

But, as always, it is the people who touched me most deeply. Such a close sense of community was formed this weekend, with genuine celebration of each person's unique gifts. Whether singing, sharing stories from our lives, laughing and being silly, performing in Saturday night's talent show, helping one another with whatever was needed, or just hanging and love permeated every encounter. What a grace to be part of this group! The Lesbian/Gay Chorus of San friend J. P.'s legacy to me. J., even though you passed at such a young age--and after such a hard struggle with AIDS--your life has changed mine in ways profound and lasting. Thank you, dear heart friend and train buddy.

MONDAY, APRIL 10, 2000

Walking with windchime walker, I struggle to find the classroom where a special workshop is being given for disabled folks. A disabled artist is scheduled to teach people how to transform their adaptive devices into works of art. As a disabled artist who has chosen to do just that with my windchime walker, I'm particularly excited about meeting such a kindred spirit. I enter the room to find the workshop already in progress. Someone else is facilitating--a woman who is able bodied--and circling her are the participants, all of whom appear to be able bodied. I ask, "Where is the artist who was scheduled to lead this workshop?" The facilitator explains that she works with the artist and agreed to take over teaching this class. I then ask, "And where are the disabled participants I expected to find?" A man says, "Well, I'm here to learn how to help my wife who's disabled." I am beyond disappointment. Feelings of betrayal and anger overtake me.

Waking from this dream, I remember an email message I read just before going to sleep last night. C., a disabled artist in the UK recently "stumbled on" my  web site. She's thrilled to find another disabled artist who shares her commitment to transforming adaptive equipment by decorating it, as she's done with her fake zebra fur-covered arm-brace crutches! C. is currently working on the development and funding of a program at the community arts organization where she works in the UK, a program where artists will teach disabled folks how to decorate their assistive devices. Much like my dream last night!

A gift of the dream is in a new awareness of the depth of my longing to connect with disabled artists like myself. C. is the one of the few persons I've encountered since creating windchime walker who obviously puts such a premium on being "creatively disabled." What I had not recognized was how lonely I've felt on my path as a disabled artist. Now I want to open myself to new ideas for creating community. Let's see how Detroit can figure into this. After 20 years in the art world there, I  must have some connections that can be explored. Another thing to look forward to in returning home...


Today was spent with two virtual-turned-real friends.

First M. came over and lunched with me in the garden. It was our first meeting though we've emailed for about a month. M.'s been dealing with a disabling condition brought on by brain tumor surgery a couple years ago, and a mutual friend felt we would have much in common. So true! Our conversation dropped to a deep, honest level very quickly...and stayed there. What a timely answer to my recent dream's expressed need for connection with a disabled artist!

Then dinner over at L.A. and P.A.'s beautiful apartment overlooking the bay, Oakland, the Bay Bridge and Treasure Island. They're also right beside the baseball park. Was I the only person in the Bay Area who didn't know that today was Opening Day at the brand new Pac Bell Park? Well, I found out soon enough! Crowds everywhere, then fireworks over the bay after a rock concert on a nearby pier. We had front row seats out their 6th floor windows. What an unexpected treat!

I first met L.A. last July on Pleiades' Passages, a women's online forum with the theme "women and aging". At that time she and her husband P.A. were living in Atlanta, GA, while I was back home in Detroit. We all came out to San Francisco about the same time--L.A. and P.A. returning after a number of years away, and I making my annual winter migration. The three of us have gotten together several times now and thoroughly enjoy one another's company.

I've heard horror stories of folks not turning out to be in person whom they appeared to be online, but my personal experience has been totally positive. Four out of four isn't bad!


Each day cascades like water
over the falls. Too swiftly
moving to grasp or even see
properly. Drops glisten in my
mind's eye, momentarily frozen
in time. Noted in my journal.

Lunch today with L.S. Then Simply
Supper. Dinner and the ballet
with S.W. Sleep. D.W. tomorrow...
perhaps drive up the coast to see
C. and her friend. Chorus rehearsal.
Sleep. Friday, up to the wine
country with K. Sing and circle with
74 women at WoMaMu music camp.
Return Monday afternoon. Sleep.
Tuesday, D.W. and I drive up to
Pt. Reyes? Get a haircut. Dinner
with V.D.J. Sleep. Wednesday
morning, start packing. Last time at
Simply Supper. Dinner at P.O. and S.W.'s.
Sleep. Thursday, finish packing.
See D.W. Go to chorus rehearsal.
Sleep. Friday morning flight from
SFO airport. Quick change in
Chicago. Detroit and my sweetie.
Sleep at home in my own bed.


I grabbed hold of a limb above the rushing waters of my scheduled activities, and let myself sit alone today in a state of doing-nothingness. What delight! Like the plants in my garden after last night's rain showers, I feel more moist and rooted than I have in a goodly while. The river doesn't stop flowing just because I opt out, but it no longer determines my pace or direction. Got to do this every so often. Especially during these busy days leading to my migration east.

Tomorrow morning I'm off again. This time we head north across the Golden Gate Bridge, past the Marin Headlands, up into Sonoma County. Wo-Ma-Mu (Women Making Music) camp is a twice yearly gathering at a retreat center on top of a hill overlooking the vineyards with mountains in the distance. Hot air balloons often provide bright spots of color in the valley below. And when the wind blows from a certain direction, the dairy farm next door offers most memorable olfactory experiences! But we also reap the benefits gastronomically of being in rich farm country. YUM!

Started at least 8 years ago by Judy Fjell, singer-songwriter-teacher-activist, Wo-Ma-Mu (in addition to her other music camps and activities) demonstrates the depth of her vision called "Music Empowerment". A cooperatively organized 4-day weekend, Wo-Ma-Mu offers creatively tempting choices of workshops facilitated by different women singers/musicians/dancers/actors. The line-up this spring includes Harmony Grisman, Deborah Liv Johnson, Faith Petric, Ellen Robinson and Sally Goldin. Songwriting, swing dancing, union songs, vocal harmonies, rounds and folk the promise of growth-enhancing, silly and poignant moments. This will be my 4th camp since April 1998. Of the 74 campers, probably three-quarters will be women I know and love, with the new folks being sisters-waiting-to-be-met!

As with last weekend, my lap top stays at home. So my online journal will take another breather...until Monday night at the earliest. May your weekend be filled with surprise and adventure!

FRIDAY, APRIL 14, 2000

Had more time this morning than expected...mainly because I woke up early with unsettled feelings to sort through. Funny how going to camp--even a women's music camp--brings up childhood stuff. For me it's feelings of being left out of the "in group". Not just left out, but being looked down on or being talked about. I can't believe at age 57 this silliness can still get to me! I guess the little girl, like an elephant, never forgets. So I got out my journal (my personal one) and let myself spill everything out on paper--my feelings, what's getting triggered from childhood, my adult take on the situation, and how I'd like to handle it. Then I read outloud to myself what I'd just written. That usually helps me hear more deeply what's being said. My standard process for dealing with unsettling situations and feelings.

I'm becoming more and more aware that my life experience reflects what I bring to it. Since going from waist-length hair to a little longer than a buzz cut last month, I have little tolerance for carrying any extra weight. Especially the unnecessary weight of overly-sensitive feelings and negative expectations. Free and clear. That's what I want to be. Accept life as it is. Let go of slights and hurt feelings. Just let things wash through me cleansed by the currents of my inner river.

Well, now I feel ready to go off to camp and have a ball! See ya Monday...


"Snapshot" collage of a 4-day weekend of song with 75 women circling high on a hill in Northern California's wine country. WoMaMu (Women Making Music), the vision and 9-year-old reality created by Judy Fjell and her community of music empowering sisters:

Heavy-laden clouds hunker down over distant mountains, layer-on-layer of grays sliding north above them. Black-and-white adolescent cows with green ear-pierced numbers #371, #311, #332, #317 greet us at the fence as we drive down the hill to Saturday morning song circle. Four umbrellas cover me from pelting rain as I get in L.J.'s car after Sunday night's dinner...then the same four umbrellas form circles of color in a row across the driveway, raising one by one to let us pass as under a military sword salute.  I sit in the center of a circle, my body vibrating with healing energy, and sing with beautiful women as they dance Universal Dances of Peace for the healing of our planet. Seven of us join in a drumming jam in the high-ceilinged circular Meeting House; I hear echoes of a chorus of women's voices singing...but no one's mouth is open. R. keeps the beat on the huge grandmother drum, beating, as she said later, "all my anger and frustration away." Intending to go nap Saturday afternoon, I happen on a blues jam in the Ranch House's west wing with H. and P. on guitar and vocals, and T. on bass...I sit, joining the song and sacred time together. Late Sunday night, rain drumming on the roof, a dozen of us sing together in the acoustically-perfect candle-lit chapel.  I wake on Monday morning, our last morning together and the first day of the week I migrate home to Michigan after 4 months in my beloved California. Harmony's round (Rilke's words) keeps circling in my sleepy brain:

In love practice only this
Letting each other go, letting each other go
For holding on comes easily, we don't need to learn it
Holding on comes easily, we don't need to learn
Practice letting go, letting go, letting go
Practice letting go, letting go, letting go


I sit in the sunny garden this morning, my next-to-last here in San Francisco until next October. Purple oriental irises at my shoulder. Apple blossoms floating down from the tree around which the garden revolves. A blue scrub jay screeching and gyrating to divert the large black crow's attention from its nest in my neighbor's Euchalyptus trees. Hummingbird at rest on the electric wires overhead. Beetle bugs busily crossing the patio stones.

This life I have chosen--to live 4-5 months every winter on my own in SF, and the rest of the year with my sweet husband of 33 years in Detroit--gives me such spiritual opportunities. To practice letting go. To notice and prize each moment. To see, hear, touch, taste and smell life in all its paradoxical realities. To risk living life to the full, no holds barred. To tell your friends you love them. To forgive yourself and others. To be clear and direct, not knowing how much time you have left to take care of business. To give up control of the outcome, while being faithful to holding the intention. Daring to dream, and doing all I need to do to manifest these dreams. At the same time letting life lead me to places, people and purpose I couldn't have imagined would be part of my life.

As I prepare to leave this city and my friends whom I love so dearly, I find myself totally here. The richest spiritual practice of all.


I finish packing with windows and door wide open to this warm sunny San Francisco day. The meadow lark serenades, power saws buzz, hammers pound, a young child laughs and then cries, a dog utters his/her usual high-pitched whine, trucks and cars whiz by outside my gate, occasional horns honk, a plane drones overhead, a fly buzzes by my shoulder, the scrub jay screechs, voices carry from open-windowed apartments nearby. The city I love.

When I journal again on Saturday, I will be at home in Michigan with the man I love. Life goes on. Goodbyes give way to hellos. Sadness leads to joy. Letting go allows me to re-find. The cycle of life.


Home again to yellow forsythia and daffodils, pink and white flowering fruit trees, lime-green fuzzy leaves, lush yet-unmowed grassy lawns, black squirrels begging nuts, and vases of brightly-colored cut tulips, lilies, roses and iris (shared gift from our neighbor A.M.'s 70th birthday celebration).

I sit in my ritual/computer room upstairs and listen to Harmony's voice singing rounds on her tape bought last weekend at WoMaMu. I rock in E.D.'s  great-grandmother's wooden chair and smell fragant clippings of lavender and rosemary from my SF garden, protected in M.R.'s plastic "memory bag". I write this journal entry and suck on a chocolate See's lollipop bought during my 7-hour marathon yesterday in the SFO airport. I run a hand through freshly cut 1-inch-long white hair and see my 12-inch braid lying on the altar where I placed it during my March visit home.

The interweaving of my two lives, sensate strands connecting here with there. All that changes is what is meant when I say "here" and "there". Yesterday, here was San Francisco and there was Detroit. Today, here is Detroit and there is San Francisco. Both places offer opportunities to love, grow, connect, work and create...each in unique ways.

Like the sparrow I saw flying this morning with grasses in its beak, I migrate back to Michigan with 4 months' of experiences, eager to rebuild my Michigan life's nest. How grateful I am to those whom I carry with me, and to those to whom I return in love.

SUNDAY, APRIL 23, 2000

We pedal south along Lake St. Clair on our tandem bicycle, bundled up against the sun-lit chill. Oaks, maples, sycamores, elms, willows and other deciduous trees--some green-topped, some still in bud--tower over private lawns to our right; the lake is to our left. Two ships pass one another in the channel, one heavy-laden and low to the water, the other empty and riding high. Four single-person rowing boats glide silently through calm gray-blue water beside the breakwall. I see a tree by the shore that did not survive the winter intact; one of its two main trunks now lies broken on the ground. Otherwise, all seems idyllic. Pink weeping cherry trees mix with white star magnolias and purple rhododendrons. Yellow daffodils, multi-colored tulips and pansies dot green green grassy lawns. Riding on the sidewalk, we pass and are passed by walkers, runners, bikers and roller bladers. Families in their Easter-best mount the stairs to a church that overlooks the lake. People are walked by their eager dogs.

A friend unexpectedly stops by this morning, sweating from her run. The same friend who had come strongly to mind an hour earlier as I was making my bed. A friend now struggling with serious family problems. A friend for whom I am deeply glad that I can be here at this time.

I am home.

MONDAY, APRIL 24, 2000

Last night our friend P.K. came over to visit. She brought homemade pierogis, mashed potatoes, fresh artichoke, butter cream cake and a story. The food was delicious, but the story took our breath away.

A. is a young woman from Germany who spent a year living and working with P.K. and her community at Day House, a catholic worker-run respite home for women and children in the inner city of Detroit. She recently returned to the US for a visit after more than a year back home in Germany completing her dissertation. While in New York City, A. was hurrying to a meeting. As she approached the subway platform, she saw people scattering everywhere. In the center of the panic was a man holding a gun and another man lying in front of him, still alive but bleeding from a gunshot wound. A. walked over and calmly placed herself between the two men. "If you shoot again, you'll have to shoot me first", she said. She then turned her back on the gunman, bent down and started tending to the injured man. The gunman ran away. A. spent the entire day with the injured man as he was treated in the hospital. He survived.

What makes someone do such an amazingly courageous thing? P.K. remembered A.telling of the time a friend had died in her lap, and A.'s regret that she hadn't done more to help save her friend's life. P.K. also reminded us of A.'s work in the Detroit soup kitchen, where she sometimes served as "peacekeeper", the volunteer/staff person trained to defuse potentially inflamatory situations. I remember A. as a strong beautiful young woman with a warm smile and engaging openness.

Where was the press during all this? I would have expected at least a feature story in the NY Times. My husband who scours that paper daily from cover to cover remembers reading nothing of A.'s story. Perhaps the media's continuing obsession with one Cuban child made them miss it. Wouldn't it have been wonderful to see A.'s extraordinary action celebrated all over the country? All over the world, for that matter.

When folks say the world is going-to-hell-in-a-handbasket, perhaps their perceptions might change if they heard what was really going on instead of what the press/media determines they should hear. There are countless points of light out shining star being A.!

©2000 Patricia Lay-Dorsey. Please use with attribution.

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