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TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 25, 2001
"Love, stay strong . . . stop and give in to beauty. . . your beauty, the beauty that you always find so easily . . . I hold you in the energy of this soft day, the house finch and chickadee, the squirrel at the feeder also, and our beloved black cat Orion. . . I give thanks for you, good friend."
I can read words upon words--which I've been doing in earnest of late--but there comes a startling moment when I actually hear. And so it was with my dear friend Carolyn's email today. It was as though I were Sleeping Beauty being awakened from a two-week-long sleep with the kiss of one word, beauty. And once awakened, I set out on my search for that Holy Grail, ever-present yet easy to ignore.
I didn't have to look very far. The window sill here at my right elbow where Gandhi's quote--"Non-cooperation with evil is a sacred duty"--rests beside Sadako's Peace Crane that is perched on the polar bear chip of granite, a gift from the sculptor, Inuk. Hanging above them is a camel strap brought back from Jordan by Joan, a member of the Base Community I belonged to in the early 1990s. And on the table directly in front of my laptop was the journal I'd decorated one warm sunny July afternoon with my friends Penny and Sooz during our Art Day together .
As I walked toward the door to the upstairs hall, my suddenly appreciative eyes saw the different shapes, textures and colors of the Great Lake stones piled up waiting to be painted with Sacred Stones images. Nestled beside them was the blue-and-white checked plate holding an open hand, a reminder of a sacred night of ritual with my friends, Margaret and Jesse.
On my way to the bathroom I was struck by one of the many cards and art objects hanging on the wall above my desk: it was the one that read, "Beauty is, after all, as much of divinity as can be expressed in any one form", a gift from my dear friend Nan. Even looking out the bathroom window offered opportunities to view beauty. Don't you agree?
My bedroom at the back of the house is full of beauty. It is where the morning sun streams through a crystal prism in the eastern window and generously paints rainbows on my quilt. And sitting on my two small chests of drawers are remembrances of people and places in Oaxaca, Arizona and New Mexico, as well as gifts from friends and a picture of 2-year-old Patsy smiling her mischievous smile.
All this beauty and I hadn't even gone downstairs yet! But as today was Tuesday, I had the opportunity to extend my search to Dayhouse, a women's respite home in Detroit's inner city. I know my regular readers can guess what's coming next...and you're right. Pat's garden! The rain-drop glistening green pepper. A cluster of marigolds. Subtle plants and flowers at the edge of the front steps. Beauty everywhere.
Of course, it wasn't just outside the house. There was Tigger at rest on the chair beside me as I took my turn answering the house phone. Katrina waiting in the kitchen for me to give her another fish-skin snack. Pat's healing hands on my body as she gave me one of her glorious massages. And my dear friend who at the age of 9, opened her first can all by herself today. And as I had been encouraged to do, I saw in this photo taken by her 6-year-old sister, the beauty that resides in me as well.
Would that I could show you the wondrous beauty of these two little girls, but alas, it might put them at risk. Just trust me when I say that these youngsters and their loving hearts radiated the most breathtaking beauty I experienced all day.
And my only task was to
wake up. Thank you, dear Carolyn, for the kiss of your words.
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 26, 2001
We never know when our shell is going to crack wide open and our inner stuff is going to come spilling out. Usually it is at an unexpected, often inopportune, moment when we're in the middle of doing something terribly important.
Well, my shell cracked this afternoon as I was exercising on my stationary bicycle. I was alone in the house and would be for another hour. Not bad timing, as these things go. And what precipitated the breaking open of my heart? Lots of things, I guess, but the immediate instrument used was a voice. A voice in song. Carolyn McDade's voice in song, to be specific. And what spilled out? The depths of my feeling about the deaths of 6,000 people on September 11. A pain I had kept carefully hidden--from myself--by anger and action. Hey, it was a lot easier to move directly from shock to the streets carrying banners, and to the computer writing words and forwarding emails. Being an anti-war activist was lots more comfortable than being a broken-hearted sister to thousands of persons lost forever in those burning, crumbling infernos.
So there I was minding my own business, pedalling along to Carolyn and her friends' CD "As We So Love." After 12 meditative minutes, I stopped moving my legs and started rotating and stretching my arms and shoulders. It was then that I heard Carolyn's voice swelling over and under the others. I've listened to this portion of the CD countless times before, and have always been moved by what happened when she let her voice out of the cage of choral singing and finally allowed it to soar with all the passion of which she is capable. And that is, believe me, a lot of passion!!!
Well, this time her voice penetrated my heart-shell like the beak of a chick pecking from the inside. Soon I was not just crying but sobbing, moaning, wailing. And it didn't stop. Not until I came to the heart of it.
"Stop it! Someone, stop this cycle of hatred!"
And my voice then went to a place I didn't want it to go. "It's my cycle of hatred! I've got to break it myself!"
As I said when I started writing this, "lots of things" brought me to this place. Not just Carolyn McDade's voice in song. No, it was her invitation to me yesterday to "stop and give in to beauty." It was my doing exactly that. It was the email I received today from a man I didn't know; an email that thanked me for yesterday's journal entry and said, in part, "Recently I've been too much anti-war and not enough pro-peace. The difference is subtle, I know, but the first one drags you down, the second one lifts you up." It was Marietta Jaeger signing my web site guestbook this afternoon. Marietta who goes all over the world as a powerful spokesperson against the death penalty. Marietta who of all people in the world has every right to want revenge after the torture, rape and murder of her 7-year-old daughter Susie back in the 1970s. Marietta who wept as much over the suicide of David, her daughter's killer, as she wept over Susie's death in telling me the story during an interview in the late 1980s.
Not too surprising that my shell cracked, I guess.
So what now? I'm going to try to do as Marietta told me she did during a black night soon after Susie's death: I'm going to try to learn how to love. Not just the innocents but the terrorists. Not just Rep. Barbara Lee but President George W. Bush. Not just my friends but those who have hurt me. And I'll use Marietta's rule: no speaking ill of the "unjust", either by me or by anyone around me. If I get a forwarded email that tars President Bush with the unkind, demeaning brush I've so happily wielded myself in the past, I will ask that I not receive such emails in the future. I will not defend him, but I will love him.
Oh my. Please hold me in good energy, dear friends, for I can already tell I've never taken on a more challenging task. But if I don't stop the cycle of hatred and violence within myself, where will it all end?
And that word "love"?
It is about as sentimental as a bulldozer, isn't it? Tough pledge,
but it's time. For me anyway.
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 27, 2001
I have received a good number of responses to yesterday's journal entry. Among them was an email from my friend Joan who lives in British Columbia, Canada. She wrote:
...in a little book called "Wisdom of the Master, the Spiritual Teachings of Abdu'l-Bahá" is this quote from a talk that he gave at The Church of The Ascension, New York City on June 2, 1912:
"Love is greater than peace, for peace is founded upon love. Love is the objective point of peace, and peace is an outcome of love. Until love is attained, peace cannot be...."
And today I received the following email from Margaretha in Sweden:
There are two words for peace in Swedish. "Fred" is the opposite to war, while "frid" is more of an inner peace or harmony. Barbro [her mother] and I discussed it while washing up after dinner and came to the conclusion that you can't get peace (fred) on earth without inner peace (frid). And how do you give everybody the chance to find harmony? It's a very long way and I'm convinced that we won't reach that point unless we create a world where we share the world's resources among us in a better way (totally different, that is) than we do today. There will be neither "fred" nor "frid" as long as poverty and oppression exists.
Today's meditation was not easy or restful but I stayed with it. The drawing that emerged showed ribbons that wove so tightly through one another that it was impossible to disentangle them. From that image came these words:
of terrorism and love bind us
together whether we want to be connected or not.
No hatred is strong enough to break these bonds.
Coming together in war or peace is all the same;
We are one no matter what we do.
So we might as well give in to love--
It's going to get us in the end.
The title declared itself to be "We Are One."
Those words proved prophetic, for within the hour my phone rang. I answered it and heard a soft voice say, "Patricia?" It was my online friend Margaretha calling from Sweden! Have you ever had a longtime virtual friend call or come to see you? Such magic. Margaretha and I talked easily and deeply, as old friends do. Email is wonderful but there is nothing like actually hearing a friend's voice, and being able to carry on a spontaneous conversation. What a gift she is to me.
And now I must get off the computer and out into this autumn day. Ona must think I've forgotten her. Got to keep my scooter happy!
Oh, was Ona happy...and so was I! It was so good to be out in the fresh air. I scooted down to the park where the only other folks in sight were a few mothers watching their children playing on the playscape and workers planting flowers and bushes. Before I left, there was one bundled up person standing by the lake, fishing.
It was definitely brisk. I was quite happy in my turtleneck, sweatshirt, light jacket and neckscarf. But after awhile the dark clouds gave way to blue skies and sun. There's nothing like a sunlit golden autumn tree to make one smile...unless it's scarlet flowers.
I scooted beside the gazebo, past the boats in the harbor, out to the edge of the lake where I sat and let its soft grey expanse calm my over-active brain. Here's an auto-timed portrait of Ona and me at rest.
And when I arrived home, there was Ms. Squirrel by the front door looking for her peanuts-in-the-shell. As I went into the vestibule to get her a handful, our other squirrel-friend, young Bushytail, showed up. Well, those two animals didn't handle sharing resources any better than we humans do, especially Ms. Squirrel, who as the elder and first one there, seemed to think we were her exclusive peanut suppliers. She chased her young competitor halfway up the tree, but in the end both Ms. Squirrel and Bushytail managed to take turns, and in that way, got all the peanuts they needed.
Good teachers, squirrels.
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 28, 2001
I've been through times like these before; times when the new comes whistling in on winds of pain. Why is it the hardest times often lead to spurts of creative energy? Maybe because our hearts have to crack open before we can hear the new crying to be born.
Out of unspeakable personal trauma during the Persian Gulf War came my Word Art pen-and-ink drawings. They in turn led to the birth of a business that took me to peace conferences across the Midwest where I sold my Word Art postcards, posters and t-shirts. These same drawings introduced me to Iraqi-American women here in Dearborn, one woman especially with whom I forged a deep bond.
And it didn't stop at Word Art. In the summer of 1991, I helped found what became an international network of 250 individuals and groups called Co-Creators of Peace with Justice. Through editing their newsletter, I connected with artists, writers and musicians from many places. The ones who touched me most deeply were inmates in prisons across the US, a number of whom I corresponded with for several years. The Gulf War also inspired me to start facilitating weekly tell-your-story-in-art sessions with adults and children at the Detroit/Windsor Refugee Coalition (now called Freedom House).
And now we've come to September 11, 2001.
I'm already experiencing bursts of inspiration that presage new things on the horizon. For instance, I received a phone call this morning from my Refugee Coalition friend, Marlene, who is interested in my bringing tell-your-story-in-art to the Arab American students at the Dearborn school where she is a teacher's assistant. Apparently the principal and art teacher are interested in the idea and want to meet with me on Tuesday.
Then Pat and I have invited our local singing and drumming sisters to be part of a weekly women's group that will meet on Tuesday evenings at Day House for creative support and sharing. Last night an "inspiration bubble" floated into my head that maybe this group would want to include our Arab American sisters as well. Christine, my Iraqi-American friend from the Gulf War, came immediately to mind.
Who knows what's coming, but whatever it is seems to be centered here in Detroit. Much as I love my friends and my life in San Francisco, time will tell when or if I will migrate out there this winter. I've already changed my train ticket from November 10 to January 20. Fortunately it only costs another $30 to change it again, if need be. We'll see how I feel when confronted with Detroit's winter weather; I might change my tune lickety-split!
Tonight I'm taking my friend Pat out to celebrate her birthday at a dinner/jazz club here in Detroit. And tomorrow I'll spend the day across the river in Canada at an all-day teach-in called "The Struggle for Democracy", to be followed by a vigil march for peace and against war & racism. It will be held at the University of Windsor and is sponsored by a coalition of community groups and organizations including the Windsor Peace Committee, my old friends from OAS protest days. I'm pleased to have this opportunity to meet and march in solidarity with the demonstrations being held tomorrow in Washington, DC, San Francisco and cities across the world. There are more of us peace folk out there than they know. Probably a lot more than even we know.
WOW!!!! How could I live in Detroit for 36 years and not know one of the sweetest little jazz clubs in the world was just 7 miles from my house? Well, I guess it's only been there the last 20 years, but even so. However, now that my jazz-loving sister Pat and I have discovered this treasure, we'll be back. Every week if we can!
What is this? Some conspiracy
to make me want to stay in Detroit and not go to San Francisco
this winter? If so, it's being pretty darn successful.
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 2001
This was a day filled with opportunities to learn, think, listen, speak and connect. Especially connect. It was also my first time back in Canada since September 11.
Crossing the border coming back into the US tonight was the only sour note of the day. I didn't mind the wait--50 minutes getting through the tunnel and customs instead of the usual 15 minutes--but I was very offput by the intimidating manner with which the border guard treated me as his partner searched my trunk. Most unpleasant.
But other than that, I wouldn't change a thing.
The all-day teach-in put on by a coalition of Windsor peace and community groups--many of whom I consider friends--was excellent. Then our 5 PM peace vigil, held across the street from the entrance to the Ambassador Bridge between Canada and the US, brought together a rich mix of university students and professors, union auto workers, families, members of the Islamic community, old-time activists and community organizers for a march with signs and banners and time for speechs. Finally, the Chinese dinner I enjoyed afterwards with my activist sister Pat N. and four members of the Windsor peace community provided good food and fascinating conversation.
And now all I can think
about is bed. Please come back tomorrow and I'll share photos
and stories from this wonderful day. Until then.
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 30, 2001
To my mind, America's toughest challenge is to begin to recognize that what we do profoundly affects people all over the world. Maybe that is to be our single most important learning from the horrific events of September 11.
Too often the country in which I live has acted in oppressive or punitive ways toward other nations without seeming to be aware that those nations are made up of people, and it is these people not the governments who suffer the consequences of our actions. I guess our geographical location and position as a world leader had led us to believe that we were impervious to repercussions on our own soil resulting from these actions. Well, I'm afraid that now we know differently.
But it is more than simply what we do to others; it is just as much what is done to us that affects the members of our global community. For instance, are you surprised to hear that our neighbors to the north in Canada have been deeply traumatized by what happened in New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania?
When I stopped in a Windsor, Ontario 7-Eleven store yesterday to buy a bottle of water, this sign greeted me at the door: "Please help us help our American neighbors by donating to the Canadian Red Cross. Donation canister inside." Even more surprising to me was the sight of American flags waving from cars and in house windows. Apparently the Windsor Star newspaper enclosed American flags in last week's Saturday edition and folks have been displaying them ever since.
Now I have to admit that I'm not personally entralled with the idea of such flag-waving, especially if it means our Canadian sisters and brothers are in support of my country's leaders' determination to start a war. But I suspect much of the American flag-waving in Canada is coming out of a similar impulse to the flag-waving seen here: a simple desire to do something to express sadness and solidarity with all who are suffering. At least I'd like to believe that flags are flying for that reason rather than a desire for military retribution.
While I may not know the views of all Windsor, Ontario residents, I know for certain that there's a strong community--a diverse community--of women, men and children who are willing to stand up in public and say Yes to Peace and No to War. A group of us met at the entrance to the Ambassador Bridge between Canada and the USA at 5 PM yesterday. And although our numbers were not huge, the horn-honkings we received in response to our signs and banners were most encouraging. Photographs of a few of these signs and banners follow:
"Our Grief Is Not a Call for War"
"Workers say NO! to
-aggression & war
UNITY is our greatest security!"
"An Eye For An Eye Makes the Whole World Blind"
"No To Vigilante Justice"
"Global Justice Not Global War"
"Peaceful Solutions for the
"One World One People"
"Canadians Must Decide! Not NATO"
And the only flag waving at our peace vigil was of the Canadian flag, an appropriate symbol of these people's voices.
And it was the voices we heard at this peace vigil that will stay with me. Manse an oldtime Windsor activist whose retirement in 1989 only gave him more time to devote to the peace, justice and anti-captialistic beliefs he holds dear. Melinda, a University of Windsor student who has been at the heart of the students' anti-globalization movement since the OAS (Organization of American States) met here in Windsor in June 2000. Dr. Ishmail Peer, a professor at the University who spoke for the Islamic community when he said, "What is behind these acts of terrorism? Let's try to find solutions not simply retaliate!" Ayman, a graduate of the University who spoke with passion when he said, "Islam is love. These people who are killing? These people are not Islam!" Heather, a creative activist who sang a song called "The Universal Soldier" that brought home the true costs of war. Marion, a povery lawyer who read a Call for Peace put out jointly by Windsor's communities of worship.
These voices were not just preaching to the converted. We had the joy of seeing families and children in our midst. Imagine being raised to honor peace before hearing cheers for war! And as has been my experience during these last few years of activism, it was the university students who stayed and vigiled and sang after we older folks started wandering off to go to dinner. They are the hope for our future and strength of our present.
This peace vigil was the culmination of a day-long teach-in that was held at the University of Windsor and had been organized by a coalition of community groups, including the Windsor Peace Committee. I feel privileged to be a friend of this community and to be invited to their gatherings. And I have special gratitude to three persons for helping to make it possible for me to attend: Eddie for disassembling and putting Ona my scooter in the car before I set out for Windsor; Richard--a man I called out to on the street--who graciously helped me find out where we were to meet, and then took Ona out of my car and assembled it for me to use; and Enver Villamizar, the president of the University of Windsor student body and a founder of the Windsor Student Peace Committee who took the time to lead me up to the auditorium via the handicap-accessible route. Here's a picture of Enver and Richard.
Gosh, I just realized there are three more people who helped me get home last night! My activist sister Pat Noonan who walked with me the 6 blocks from the restaurant to the university parking lot, and then asked a kind man named Yonas to disassemble my scooter and put it in the car for me. Unfortunately the picture I took of him didn't turn out, but I won't soon forget his smiling face. Finally there was my sweet Eddie who came out to the garage to greet me when I returned home, listened patiently to my rant about how nasty it had been getting across the border, took my scooter out of the car and prepared it for recharging.
You know, if I were ever to write down the names of all the people who have helped me get from this place to that in my life, I think the list would be the size of a telephone book!
The teach-in was excellent. It had been planned before September 11 so the presentations were not directly related to the events of that day and the impending war, but needless to say, these realities were discussed in many different contexts throughout the day. One of our most animated discussions came out of Enver's presentation based on a pamphlet--"The Criminalisation of Dissent"--published by the Windsor Peace Committee, detailing protestors' experiences when the OAS (Organization of American States) met in Windsor in June 2000. This subject hit home as we now look at even more restricted opportunities to express dissent in light of September 11 and the prospect of war.
It would be impossible to share here all that I learned yesterday...from Pedro Villamizar about Plan Colombia, from Shaun Hupka of the Citizen's Environmental Alliance about the environmentally-destructive plans to further industrialize Windsor's riverfront, from Marion Overholt about the declining state of housing, welfare and disability benefits, and job security in Ontario under Premier Mike Harris, and finally, from John Clark of OCAP (Ontario Coalition Against Poverty), a Toronto-based organization of poor persons--working, unemployed and homeless--who told us about "Economic Disruption", a series of activist actions designed to shut down Toronto's financial district on October 16.
What most interested me was the process used by OCAP to organize such a mammoth province-wide network of actions. As John said, it is a "painstaking process" that relies on touring the province and speaking in union halls, around kitchen tables, wherever anyone will listen. Yes, he said, the internet is great for finalizing plans but the key is person-to-person contacts. I was also struck with OCAP's commitment to "victory" in their actions. Our anti-globalization movement could learn a lot from these people.
The day offered many opportunities to ask questions, offer perspectives and discuss a variety of issues. Every presentation was followed by a time for discussion--like when Margaret and later, Melinda, spoke. At lunch, discussions continued downstairs in the University of Windsor Student Center restaurant where our group took over several tables.
I feel so at home in this community that I was comfortable sharing my perspective and asking questions throughout the day. I even spoke at the vigil. I had two messages I wanted to share there: 1) not all Americans want to go to war, as the press and media would have them believe; 2) we must each work locally to help combat the anti-Arab racism that is sweeping the West.
Well, now it's time to tell you--or more like, show you--what Eddie and I did today. Earlier this week he'd heard about a 1950s-type drive-in restaurant on our side of town. Believe it or not, its name was Eddie's Drive-In, and today was to be its last day of the season.
We'd tried to go there last Wednesday night, but found it was only open this week from Thursday to Sunday. So we returned tonight. Oh my, what a memory-laden experience! You have to understand that drive-in restaurants were at the heart of my social life in high school back in the '50s. Tops Drive-in on Rte. 7 across from George Mason Jr. Sr. High School to be exact.
So here we were in 2001
at a drive-in with two waitresses--Holly
and Liz--on roller skates (not blades!), wearing poodle skirts
and pony tails. "Peggy Sue" was playing on the loudspeaker
as we drove in. One end of the parking lot was crammed with retro
cars and there was no one--except Holly and Liz, that is--under
the age of 50. I felt right at home. Even got fries and a shake.
You know, I almost expected to reach up to my face and feel zits
instead of wrinkles!
MONDAY, OCTOBER 1, 2001
At 1 PM I scooted over to Atom's Juice Cafe for lunch with my friends, Joan and Brigitte. We agreed that the last time we'd lunched together--September 10--marked the End of Innocence. I believe most of us would say the same about that particular Monday.
But even with lost innocence, I could not ignore the beauty of this day. The sun shining on a tree ablaze with color. Roses in full bloom reaching above a white picket fence. Temperatures so mild I could leave my jacket at home.
After lunch I scooted over to the drugstore to buy a package of my trusty Slip-On diapers; I was home about 3:15 PM. By 5 PM I was at Day House where I'd agreed to take house duty so the people in the house could go off to a Chinese restaurant to celebrate three birthdays.
At 6:30 PM Abayomi showed up early for the CPR (Committee for the Political Resurrection of Detroit) meeting and we sat around and talked about what everyone talks about these days. Soon Cindy appeared, followed by Charles. The meeting got underway about 7:15 PM and for the next hour and a half we shared thoughts and ideas about the Detroit Primary campaign we'd recently completed and where we want to go from here. Out of this discussion came plans to hold a Public Forum to share what we learned from the campaign, and to offer an opportunity for the wider community to share their concerns with us.
I was particularly pleased to see Grace Boggs in attendance again. Her commitment to the community building portion of CPR's mission always resonates with my own vision of how I'd like to see our group proceed. Probably the old social worker in me. But, as one would want to hear in such a group, each person there has her or his own perspective on things. Yet even with our differences, it is obvious that the members of this group of longterm activists share a common goal of recreating the base of power so it will truly be held by the community as a whole, rather than by some "leaders" at the top. We're about building a movement more than winning an election or influencing people to see things our way.
Many persons spoke tonight. Abayomi gave his assessment of the campaign as seen through a candidate's eyes. Maureen spoke with clarity and wisdom when she recommended our letting the people tell us what is important to them at the Public Forum rather than imposing our agenda on them. Brenda passionately encouraged each of us to live every day according to the CPR mission rather than just bring those ideas to the meetings. Sue told us about the upcoming meeting of a strong coalition of folks who are working on mass transit for the Detroit metropolitan area. Jim reminded us of the benefits CPR Detroit already possesses due to the work done over a year ago in an ongoing facilitated process of defining goals and setting up committees. With our recent focus on the campaign he fears we might have forgotten much of what we already have in place. There were many others who spoke tonight and Charles, one of CPR's co-chairs, had his hands full keeping us on task.
Being part of such an
active, committed group of people helps me make my way through
these tough times. Such a tangible enactment of the saying, "Think
globally and act locally". I am deeply grateful.
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 2, 2002
Is there something lucky about all those 2s in today's date? I'd say so from the way my day went.
At 12:30 PM I met with the principal and art teacher at the Dearborn school where my friend Marlene works. She and I had originally met at the Detroit/Windsor Refugee Coalition in the 1990s. At that time I was part of a team that facilitated weekly art therapy-type sessions with the adults and children who were living in the shelter. For over two years Marlene has had the dream of bringing me to her school to do similar work with some students who were having trouble assimilating to this culture. Today her dream--and mine, as well--came true. Tom, the principal, enthusiastically accepted my proposal to offer this type of art to his students. Not only Tom, but Susan, the art teacher, welcomed the idea with openness and generosity.
What an amazing school! The student body is almost entirely Arab American, ages 5-10 (kindergarden through fifth grade). It is such a neighborhood school that they only need two school buses for over 600 students. I was there when the kids got out of school today and saw what it means to be a "neighborhood school": mothers, fathers and younger siblings waiting outside to walk the children home, with some cars lined up in front of the school. But nowhere near as many cars as one sees at most suburban schools.
Susan, the art teacher, graciously invited me to sit in on her afternoon classes. Can you imagine, in these school budget-strapped times, having a fully equipped art room, a full-time art teacher, with grades 1-3 going to art class once a week for 45 minutes and grades 4 & 5 going twice a week for the same amount of time? Not only that, the students have regular music classes. And there's even an elevator to make things easy for folks like me! As Tom the principal said, "Dearborn values its schools." What fortunate kids. And now, what a fortunate Patricia (me).
The question I heard all day from the kids was "What are you?" Not "who" but "what". I soon discovered that meant, was I a parent or a teacher? I didn't really know how to answer. I'm not a parent nor am I a teacher. Actually what we anticipate my doing, once I feel comfortable with the kids and they feel comfortable with me, is to spend time with individuals and/or small groups of students whom the teachers, principal, vice-principal and school social worker feel could benefit from art therapy. Actually I'm not too comfortable calling what I intend to do with the kids "therapy". First of all, I'm not a trained art therapist even though I do have a masters in social work, and secondly, I'm not looking at "treating" the kids, rather spending time with them and giving them the opportunity to express their feelings in art. I'd rather call it "feelings art". So maybe I will.
We arranged that I will start on Monday, October 22 (after my trip east to visit my mother and handle family business with my sisters) and continue coming every Monday from then on. I could not ask for a more pleasant, accommodating, talented art teacher to be connected with or more wonderful children. I fell head over heels in love with every single one of them.
After school I went to Day House, took house duty for a couple hours, had lots of fun with my two young girlfriends, ate a delicious dinner (stuffed acorn squash from the garden, tabouleh made with Pat's garden parsley and tomatoes, and homemade apple pie). I then took a half hour nap on Pat's massage table. At 7 PM it was time for our new women's group to meet.
As my Eddie always says, I'll facilitate a group if only one person shows up. And he's right. Today there were five of us: Pat, her sister BJ, Carlotta (a new guest at Day House), and our youngest guest, my 6-year-old girlfriend. We had a wonderful time together. We played percussion instruments, used a set of my Sacred Stones to introduce ourselves and engage in communal storytelling, shared our feelings about what we want from the group, and ended by humming "She'll Be Coming Round the Mountain", "Blue Moon" and "Summertime". The humming came after BJ told us about its potential to heal. We'll meet next week with a focus on sharing our challenges and successes, followed by fingerpainting. What a good group.
So, was this my lucky
day or what!
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 3, 2001
OK, how many readers noticed the error in my journal entry yesterday? I only received one email about it--congratulations, Ramona Jane!--and didn't see it myself until then. Yep! It was my dithering on about all the 2s in yesterday's date. I guess I liked the sound of October 2, 2002.
So here we are 364 days earlier...
What a glorious day! And from the weather reports it may be the last of its kind for some time to come. Rain starting tomorrow and by Saturday we're looking at highs in the 40s F. But today? Perfection. And I used it to the hilt.
I started out on Ona my scooter at 2 PM, but after only three blocks the battery indicator showed my charge was rapidly depleting. I turned around and went home. Since I'd had a similar problem the last time out, Eddie packed Ona in the car so I can take her for a service check tomorrow. He then got trusty La Lucha ready for me to use. Ask me how happy I am that I have two scooters!
I don't know how warm it got today--probably the low 80s--but there was a refreshing breeze and crystal-blue skies under a bright sun. I was perfectly comfortable in a short-sleeved cotton dress and my Birkies without socks.
So I don't overdose on superlatives, I'll leave it to the pictures to tell the tale.
on the lake.
The shortcut I took to get from the lake to the library.
An orange-colored tree on a side street.
Looking inside a maple tree.
A sidewalk cafe in our shopping district.
A changing tree against the blue sky.
The sidewalk going home along the lake.
The sail club with a boat sailing nearby.
A golden tree.
The view of the lake at the end of our street.
Do you see why I can't trust myself to stay concrete?
My first stop was the library. I wanted to see what books I could find on Islam, the Arab American experience, and conducting art therapy with children, particularly in school settings. I definitely feel the need to educate myself before I start working with the kids at the Dearborn school I told you about yesterday. Well, this was as much my lucky day as was yesterday. I happened on a librarian-extraordinaire named Jane. She ran a most productive search on her computer and found two books on the shelves for me to take out today, plus nine books and one video that will be sent over from other libraries. Amazing resource!
I then scooted down to the bagel shop, got a bowl of split pea soup and an Odwalla juice, and started reading the first of my books. I can hardly put it down. This is a 1999 biography of Homa Darabi, the well-respected Iranian child psychiatrist who set herself afire and died in 1994 as a statement against the oppression of women and children by the Islamic regime in her country. It is written by Parvin Darabi, her sister, and Romin P. Thomson, her nephew, and is titled, Rage Against the Veil: "The Courageous Life and Death of an Islamic Dissident." Although it is unlikely that Homa's life reflects the attitudes of the mothers and/or grandmothers of the students I'll be seeing, her story offers a glimpse inside the Islamic world, especially what it is like for women. What a powerful place for me to begin.
My next stop was the grocery store. After that, I scooted up to Eddie's office to visit. My poor sweetie had had dental work on a tooth transplant this morning. Can you see the swelling under his ice bag? But that didn't stop him from jumping up to show me a wasp that was perched on the outside wall of his small patio. When he saw the picture he said, "Now be sure you tell them they can see the wasp right there!" So be sure not to miss it, my friends.
I scooted next door to see if by any chance I could get a haircut. I usually go to Leesa in Windsor but after my unpleasant experience last Saturday night, I'm reluctant to cross the border unless it's absolutely necessary. Michael, the owner of this salon, couldn't see me today but gave me an appointment for tomorrow at 3 PM. Allison kindly opened the door for me to scoot through. Happily, this salon has a ramp up to the back door, so it's quite accessible.
Gosh, I might even get
to bed tonight before 1 AM. A record of sorts.
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 4, 2001
Three weeks and two days later, I thought I was ready to stop going over and over the events of September 11. In fact, I had a compelling need to clean out the hundreds and hundreds of forwarded messages and personal emails I'd sent and received since that day.
Something about starting fresh from today forward.
But before making my mass deletions, I took a few minutes to read today's new emails. One was obviously another forwarded message about the tragedy. I almost deleted it unread, but something stopped me. It was probably because the subject was "Thich Nhat Hanh". Now, he and I go back a ways.
It was the mid-80s that I first encountered this Vietnamese Buddhist monk who had worked for peace in his war-torn country during the 1960s. In reaching out to both sides--North and South Vietnamese--he ended up being exiled by both. Since that time he's written many books on the art of mindfulness and the living of compassion, given retreats all over the world (except in Vietnam) and established a monastery in the south of France.
Although I'd never seen or heard him in person, I was so drawn to his unique way of living compassion, that I used one of his quotes as the basis for a Word Art drawing in 1992. It read, "What we need are people who are capable of loving, of not taking sides so that they can embrace the whole of reality as a mother hen embraces all her chicks with two fully spread wings."
After completing this drawing, I sent Thich Nhat Hanh a copy and asked if he'd feel comfortable with my converting it into postcards, posters and stationery to be sold at peace conferences. He graciously agreed. You can see the drawing on my Word Art Visionary Voices web page.
For me, it is Thich Nhat Hanh's insistence on seeing all sides of every situation--of loving both victim and torturer--that sets his message apart from those made by other religious leaders. And it was his bringing this spiritual perspective to the horrendous event we all suffered on September 11 that allowed me to hear what he had to say, even though I thought I could not take in one more word.
So I want to end this
journal entry with the words of Thich Nhat Hanh. If you are interested
in reading more about him, simply click on Thich
REST IN PEACE
by Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh
I am a World Trade Center tower, standing tall in the clear blue sky, feeling a violent blow in my side, and I am a towering inferno of pain and suffering imploding upon myself and collapsing to the ground. May I rest in peace.
I am a terrified passenger on a hijacked airplane not knowing where we are going or that I am riding on fuel tanks that will be instruments of death, and I am a worker arriving at my office not knowing that in just a moment my future will be obliterated. May I rest in peace.
I am a pigeon in the plaza between the two towers eating crumbs from someone's breakfast when fire rains down on me from the skies, and I am a bed of flowers admired daily by thousands of tourists now buried under five stories of rubble. May I rest in peace.
I am a firefighter sent into dark corridors of smoke and debris on a mission of mercy only to have it collapse around me, and I am a rescue worker risking my life to save lives who is very aware that I may not make it out alive. May I rest in peace.
I am a survivor who has fled down the stairs and out of the building to safety who knows that nothing will ever be the same in my soul again, and I am a doctor in a hospital treating patients burned from head to toe who knows that these horrible images will remain in my mind forever. May I know peace.
I am a tourist in Times Square looking up at the giant TV screens thinking I'm seeing a disaster movie as I watch the Twin Towers crash to the ground, and I am a New York woman sending e-mails to friends and family letting them know that I am safe. May I know peace.
I am a piece of paper that was on someone's desk this morning and now I'm debris scattered by the wind across lower Manhattan, and I am a stone in the graveyard at Trinity Church covered with soot from the buildings that once stood proudly above me, death meeting death. May I rest in peace.
I am a dog sniffing in the rubble for signs of life, doing my best to be of service, and I am a blood donor waiting in line to make a simple but very needed contribution for the victims. May I know peace.
I am a resident in an apartment in downtown New York who has been forced to evacuate my home, and I am a resident in an apartment uptown who has walked 100 blocks home in a stream of other refugees. May I know peace.
I am a family member who has just learned that someone I love has died, and I am a pastor who must comfort someone who has suffered a heart-breaking loss. May I know peace.
I am a loyal American who feels violated and vows to stand behind any military action it takes to wipe terrorists off the face of the earth, and I am a loyal American who feels violated and worries that people who look and sound like me are all going to be blamed for this tragedy. May I know peace.
I am a frightened city dweller who wonders whether I'll ever feel safe in a skyscraper again, and I am a pilot who wonders whether there will ever be a way to make the skies truly safe. May I know peace.
I am the owner of a small store with five employees that has been put out of business by this tragedy, and I am an executive in a multinational corporation who is concerned about the cost of doing business in a terrorized world. May I know peace.
I am a visitor to New York City who purchases postcards of the World Trade Center Twin Towers that are no more, and I am a television reporter trying to put into words the terrible things I have seen. May I know peace.
I am a boy in New Jersey waiting for a father who will never come home, and I am a boy in a faraway country rejoicing in the streets of my village because someone has hurt the hated Americans. May I know peace.
I am a general talking into the microphones about how we must stop the terrorist cowards who have perpetrated this heinous crime, and I am an intelligence officer trying to discern how such a thing could have happened on American soil, and I am a city official trying to find ways to alleviate the suffering of my people. May I know peace.
I am a terrorist whose hatred for America knows no limit and I am willing to die to prove it, and I am a terrorist sympathizer standing with all the enemies of American capitalism and imperialism, and I am a master strategist for a terrorist group who planned this abomination. My heart is not yet capable of openness, tolerance, and loving. May I know peace.
I am a citizen of the world glued to my television set, fighting back my rage and despair at these horrible events, and I am a person of faith struggling to forgive the unforgivable, praying for the consolation of those who have lost loved ones, calling upon the merciful beneficence of God/Yahweh/Allah/Spirit/Higher Power. May I know peace.
I am a child of God
who believes that we are all children of God and we are all part
of each other. May we all know peace.
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 5, 2001
Dear friends, this lovely rainy day brought with it a series of computer problems that made it impossible for me to go online for a couple of hours. I don't want to imply that it was the fault of the rain or the day. No, it was more likely because of my messing around with things. Anyway, I wanted to let you know because if you find my journal is not updated one of these days, it will be because my computer is acting up again. Actually, I have no idea why it connected me now.
This technology is fabulous when it's working properly. And when it's not? Yuck!
But there was life today before the computer tied me in knots. Most significantly, I received an email from Jan, a friend who regularly reads my journal. She was responding to yesterday's entry on Thich Nhat Hanh. And in responding, she managed to give me exactly what I needed: a spiritual and psychological context in which to place the hate-inspired terrorist violence of September 11 and the large-scale retaliatory violence now being planned by US leaders.
My mind works in this way: if I can place events within a universal perspective then I can handle most anything, even if the choices made by others go against everything I believe in. But when I stay mired in the particulars of a situation, I usually view them judgementally and emotionally. My mind is my great stabilizer.
Jan spelled things out in words and concepts that I could grasp, and in so doing, helped me on my path toward compassion and peace. She agreed to my sharing her email with you, my readers. May her words give you what they have given me: a good dose of insight and understanding.
Subj: Thich Nhat
Date: 10/05/2001 12:05:03 PM Eastern Daylight Time
Patricia, I, too, have been a reader of Thich Nhat Hanh for many years. This morning as I was reading The New York Times online, I came across a section that was devoted to firefighters and rescuers who were lost during efforts to save others on September 11. I found it heartbreaking to see picture after picture of those who died.
Then I logged on to your journal. How good to find the words of Thich Nhat Hanh. "I am a child of God who believes that we are all children of God and we are all a part of each other." My own belief is the same, or if not exactly the same, then very similar. I believe God had one child and we are all that one child. What we see going on in the world is to me a split personality disorder of cosmic proportion. It reminds me of the classic Pogo cartoon that ended with the line, "We have met the enemy and he is us." (I may or may not have that quote exactly right.) Unfortunately, until we are healed of our belief in separateness we will continue to see situations in terms of victims and persecutors. And as long as we are unable to transcend this way of viewing events we will not be able to experience the peace Thich Nhat Hanh wishes for us all.
Have you ever read Karen Horney? One of her central concepts dealt with the Pride Syndrome. The term "dysfunctional family" came after Horney. However, as a shortcut to explaining her theory, I think it can be used without distorting her underlying position, which is that a child who grows up in a family which does not affirm its real self, i.e. a dysfunctional family, develops a deep rift between his/her real self and the idealized self he/she fashions in order to feel worthwhile and lovable. Over time, as this idealized/pride self grows in power, it pretty much dictates how the person functions in the world. According to Horney, the pride self can be manifested in very different personality types. The common theme that motivates all these personality types is what Horney refers to as "neurotic pride."
You may wonder where all this is leading. This morning, I found the following in Horney's book, Neurosis and Human Growth:
"The pernicious character of neurotic pride lies in the combination of its being vitally important to the individual and at the same time rendering him extremely vulnerable. This situation creates tensions, which because of their frequency and intensity are so unbearable that they call for remedies: automatic endeavors to restore pride when it is hurt and to avoid injuries when it is endangered.
"The need to save face is urgent,and there is more than one way of effecting it. As a matter of fact, there are so many different ways, gross and subtle, that I must restrict my presentation to the more frequent and important ones. The most effective and, it seems, almost ubiquitous one is interlinked with the impulse to take revenge for what is felt as humiliation. We discussed it as a reaction of hostility to the pain and the dangers involved in hurt pride. But vindictiveness may in addition be a means toward self-vindication. It involves the belief that by getting back at the offender one's own pride will be restored. This belief is based on the feeling that the offender, by his very power to hurt our pride, has put himself above us and has defeated us. By our taking revenge and hurting him more than he did us, the situation will be reversed. We will be triumphant and will have defeated him. The aim of the neurotic vindictive revenge is not "getting even" but triumphing by hitting back harder. Nothing short of triumph can restore the imaginary grandeur in which pride is invested. It is this very capacity to restore pride that gives neurotic vindictiveness its incredible tenacity and accounts for its compulsive character."
Horney's theory is focused on explaining the functioning of a neurotic personality. I think it can also be applied on another level to the ongoing armed struggles between countries, clans, tribes and others, including terrorist activity. I also like to apply it on a spiritual level. To see God's one child as somehow having developed a neurotic conflict between its Real Self and its Pride Self. The Real Self knows there is only one of us. The Pride Self sees itself in a sort of fun-house mirror that reflects a distorted, faceted image, which supports its belief in separateness and dichotomies of all types. To journey back to the experience of our oneness is the essential task of life as far as I am concerned.
I know that I have a long, long, long way to go. But this morning after looking at the faces of men who died on September 11 - firemen, rescuers and terrorists - and then reading the words of Thich Nhat Hanh in your journal, I am again struck by the thought that we are all children of God and the only way we will ever truly know peace is to realize our oneness. I recently heard someone say that it is impossible to humiliate a humble man. I do not know if those words were original to him or something he read or heard but the simple truth of this statement has stayed with me.
How can I be anything but humble if I see all I look upon as a reflection of one Self of which I am a part. I think that way lies sanity and peace. And how can I be anything but grandiose, and so vulnerable to humiliation, if I see all I look upon as an other to be judged good or bad, superior or inferior, worthwhile or repugnant, according to how closely it resembles that with which I identify or differs from it. That way lies insanity and war, which I think are the same thing. I loved the way you closed your last email to me, Patricia,and echo it now -
your sister in love
and peace, Jan
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 6, 2001
It's late now--actually early morning.
My friend Pat and I went to see an Australian film at the Detroit Institute of Arts tonight. Called "Innocence", it told the story of a man and a woman who meet again in their 70s, and find their old love for one another still has power. It is a non-sentimental jewel of a film. I recommend it highly. After the film we went to a jazz club that is famous in Detroit, Baker's Keyboard Lounge. It's been open for 67 years! Eddie has memories of going there to see the pianist, Pat Flowers, with his girlfriend Joan D. back in 1951-2. It was Pat's and my first time at Baker's.
Close your eyes and imagine yourself in a jazz club of the '50s...except without the smoke. Crowded, intimate, dark, with patrons of all races and ages. Mellow sax, bass, piano and drums pulsate like a common breath. I was transported back to the Stable jazz club in Washington, DC in 1958-9. My 16-year-old jazz loving classmates and I the only white folks in the place. Listening to the greats, like George Shearing, Thelonious Monk, Dave Brubeck, Ahmad Jamal, Mose Allison. Well, tonight at Baker's Keyboard Lounge, it was the George Benson quartet. Old time Detroit jazz favorites.
Pat and I agree; we'll
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 7, 2001
Today the Mexican American community here in Detroit chose to sew the threads of love rather than follow their government's leaders by ripping apart the seams of our common humanity. I was proud to be in their presence.
I intended to write a lengthy journal entry and show you the photos I took at today's Detroit Institute of Arts screening of "Los Repatriados: Exiles from the Promised Land", or as it said in the program, "a tribute to our elders who were repatriated during the Great Depression (1929-1939)." There was also a panel discussion of this terrible abuse of the Mexican American people, followed by an elegant reception with live music and food in the DIA's Diego Rivera Court. Unfortunately, exhaustion is knocking at my door.
Before I could work on my journal, I was busy contacting folks about two anti-war demonstrations being held in Detroit tomorrow. I'm attending the one from 5-7 PM at the corner of Woodward & Warren near Wayne State University. I then spent time composing an email to the principal of the Dearborn School where I will be facilitating "Feelings Art" with the students, most of whom are Arab American. He had asked for a proposal detailing what I intend to do.
Tomorrow Eddie and I are
celebrating our 35th anniversary by going to Ann Arbor. Even in
the midst of war, life must continue to nourish us--otherwise
how can we stand firm against its false promises. After we return
home from Ann Arbor I will be out on the streets with my sisters
and brothers saying "No!" to war.
MONDAY, OCTOBER 8, 2001
Whatever poor choices the US government leaders made today, Ed and I chose to celebrate life on this, our 35th wedding anniversary. As we walked out our front door, we were met by one of those perfect autumn days: crystal clear blue skies, bright sun and brisk temperatures. The drive to Ann Arbor--our favorite getaway--was beautiful.
Once there we walked/scooted onto the University of Michigan campus. I had hoped that there might be a noon-time anti-war rally at the Diag, and there was! Our first indication that such a rally might be happening was the sight of a television news truck parked near the Diag, and the second was this chalked notice drawn on the sidewalk.
The rally had attracted a crowd of folks standing around listening to speeches, people holding signs, a baby stroller making its own peace statement, as well as a pro-war contingent with American flags waving and occasional heckling. A most articulate, energetic student organizer coordinated people's turn at the mike--I took my own turn--led chants and announced a busy schedule of campus anti-war protest rallies and meetings. As I told those gathered, I am so impressed with this new generation of activists, their vision, commitment, informed decisions and hard work. Ed got a kick out of seeing his wife-the-activist in action!
After enjoying a terrific pizza lunch at a restaurant that reminded us of our former glory as Detroit-to-Ann Arbor bicyclists, we walked/scooted back to the car. On the way home we stopped to retrieve Ona the scooter from the service center where she was being checked over. And then Ed kindly offered to drop me off at Wayne State University for the 5 PM anti-war demonstration, with the promise of picking me up later. Happily I was able to hitch a ride home with John Z., an old activist friend who lives near us, but Eddie's willingness to help me out in this way meant a great deal. That man is a prince!
The Detroit anti-war protest was well attended by a good mix of folks. We had a man from the street join us, an 11-year-old on his way home from school, university students and faculty members, old activists, families and people of diverse nationalities and races. You know, we used to do our demonstrations downtown at the Federal Building, but I think this new location in the University/Cultural Center is an improvement. Not only do plenty of cars drive by, but we're more likely to have folks join us who happen to see us on the street. Besides, these new coalitions that are centered in the university attract a younger mix of people. Back in the '80s we were a pretty white-haired bunch!
For me this demonstration was old home week. I saw so many people from different chapters in my life. Like Jessica from the Detroit/Windsor Refugee Coalition. Not only old friends, but I was delighted to make new friends like Hope from Ann Arbor and DeAnthony, our 11-year-old compatriot who took this picture of me doing my thing. Do you know what he yelled out to cars? "We're all brothers and sisters! We shouldn't be blowing up each other!" In case you're wondering, we got a lot of horn-honks from sympathizers.
Some of our signs were:
Doris holding "We've Seen Enough Victims"
John Z. with his Guernica-inspired "No Other Way?"
"Money For Human Needs, Not For War"
Abayomi holding "Stop The Bombing Now"
Fred with the sign, "Stop U.S. Terror"
With support like this, I know I'll make it through these tough times. I just hope I sleep better tonight than I did last night. My personal commitment to breaking the cycle of hatred within myself made it really hard to get to sleep. I can't tell you how tough it was not to go into my knee-jerk anger at the people who cause such unimaginable suffering to others. And I'm not talking about the pilots.
But I won't give up on
my own inner peace work, what my Swedish friend Margaretha calls,
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 9, 2001
I don't know about you but what I need today is to hear sane voices. A new journal reader named Thomas has offered me a couple of threads to follow toward that end. He wrote to tell me that the poem, "Rest In Peace" that I quoted as written by Thich Nhat Hanh was actually influenced by Thich Nhat Hanh and written by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat. The poem and their reflections can be found on the web at: http://www.spiritualityhealth.com/newsh/items/blank/item_3297.html
Another place I visited to find wise words of peace was Starhawk's web site. Her URL is: http://www.starhawk.org
And for news stories that make sense to non-flagwaving peace folks, I like to go to http://www.alternet.org and http://www.commondreams.org
The most important thing to remember during these trying times is that you are not alone. You will not learn that from the mainstream media, whether on the television or radio or in the newspapers. They would have you believe that everyone in the United States is in support of bombing Afghanistan and getting Osama Bin Ladin "dead or alive", as the US president from Texas put it.
That is simply not true. I have personally only talked with three people since September 11 who believe that military retaliation is the way to go; everyone else--progressives and traditionalists alike--voices concern that dropping bombs or firing missiles or sending ground troops will only feed into the cycle of violence. But their voices are not heard in the media or press. Why? Because war is good for the economy and the communications industry is dependent on the financial support of corporations and businesses. I'm stating a fact not making a judgement.
Stay connected with like-minded, like-hearted folks. Join a group that is discussing the issues, planning teach-ins and/or on the streets demonstrating. If that is not feasible, get together with friends who you know are peace-loving people, or telephone or email them. Go to web sites that give you this other perspective. Feed your spirit through art, music, dance, meditation, being out in nature or attending worship services--whatever it is you do to restore yourself. It is your spirit that will give you strength these days. Avoid people, places and things that do damage to you in any way.
I personally cannot stomach looking at television news, reading the newspapers or listening to radio news during times such as these...so I don't. I learned to set clear boundaries for myself during the Persian Gulf War over yhten years ago, and those boundaries still apply. Don't listen to people who say you must stay informed. Much of what you see, read and hear is propaganda anyway; you certainly don't need to take that toxic substance into yourself. I learn everything I need to know through personal conversations, emails and online resources. That's all I need to take in right now.
Please don't isolate yourself from others. Community is essential to make your way through these days, weeks, months, who-knows-how-long. Stay active in working for that which you believe. Do not get discouraged or depressed when it seems your work for peace is not changing one single thing around you. It is. It's just that the effects of our work are more subtle than the effects of bombs and missiles. Stay clear and focused. Believe in yourself and your own inner knowing. You are the only authority you need right now. Even if your partner, family members, friends and co-workers are responding differently from you to this war, don't give in or give up. We need your voice and courage to bring peace to our world.
And come visit this website
anytime you want. My voice will continue to ring out the truth
as I see it. Whatever you do or don't do, please take time to
beauty around you and to say "Hi!" to your neighborhood
friends. We're all in this together.
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 10, 2001
Before I take off tomorrow for Maryland, I felt the need to pull together a new web page offering my responses to the events of September 11 and the current war. I call it "Reflections on Tragedy and War". Even though my regular readers will recognize the journal entries I used, seeing them in this form might offer a slightly different perspective. It did for me.
I'll be on family business in Maryland, part of which I'm anticipating and part of which I'm uneasy about. I am very much looking forward to visiting my mother. As you know if you've been reading my journal for awhile, she is in a nursing facility in Maryland, just outside of Washington, DC. If no one makes her get out of bed, she's as happy as can be. When I visit, I sit and read in the chair near her bed and it satisfies both of us just to be together. So seeing Mom is a treat.
What causes me concern is that my two sisters and I will be meeting on Saturday and Sunday at a storage place nearby to divide up the family treasures. I do not look forward to this at all. It isn't the things--I only have 7 items on my wish list--it is the likelihood that unresolved feelings between us will be churned up by this process. Please hold us in good energy.
I'm looking forward to the drive--it should be especially beautiful going through the Pennsylvania mountains at this time of year. And my friend Pat K. is making the trip with me which will only add to my enjoyment. She'll be visiting friends around Washington, DC and Baltimore, MD while I'm seeing my family. We anticipate taking two days going and two days coming home, so that makes for easy drives of only 250 miles a day. We leave tomorrow at 3 PM, will spend the night in a motel off the highway near Pittsburgh, and probably arrive at our destination in the early afternoon on Friday. I want to be sure to have time to see Mom that afternoon since Saturday and Sunday will be taken up with this other task. Then I'll have three and a half days to devote to Mom next week before we take off for home on Thursday afternoon. I anticipate being home by Friday, October 19.
I'm taking my laptop but making no promises as to when I will be able to update my journal. Certainly not tomorrow, but hopefully I can catch up a little on Friday night. So if you're a regular reader my advice is to check in every so often. I'll write when I can, not so much for you but for me! Keeping this journal helps me stay grounded and connected to myself...which is going to be essential this particular weekend.
Until then, stay full
of peace and life.
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 12, 2001
Well, I'm here at the motel in Maryland near my mother's nursing facility. My laptop is set up and working fine; I'm going swimming in a few minutes; I had a nice hot fish sandwich for dinner; and I've already checked in to see my Mom. All's well with my world.
Our drive here from Detroit was pleasantly uneventful. I drove the five hours yesterday and my friend Pat K. drove the five hours today. Both of us encountered rain for part of the time. I guess yesterday's was more of a factor, but I simply slowed down and took my time. Fortunately my trusty red Neon has good windshield wipers and grips the road nicely when it's wet, so I never felt uncomfortable.We even happened on a good motel right off the turnpike in Cranberry, Pennsylvania about 8 PM last night. It was not only reasonably priced but had the best designed handicap-accessible room I've ever seen. Turns out our unit was only one month old. My compliments to the Red Roof Inn!
As we'd anticipated, the autumn colors were stunning. Pat took two beautiful pictures in Ohio yesterday as the afternoon sun illuminated the orange, gold, burgundy and green trees.
I just came back from swimming in the motel pool downstairs. How fabulous! It isn't real large but by swimming diagonally across it, I got in some good laps. And I have a lifeguard named Laura to thank for helping me find a scooter-friendly way into the pool area. There was no disabled-lift but by scooting right up to a sturdy handrail and taking the wide shallow-end steps down into the water, I felt perfectly safe. This will surely help me manage any stress I might encounter this weekend.
To get back to the autumn foliage, riding through the Pennsylvania mountains today was a real treat. Although the skies were grey until Maryland, the mountains looked like a patchwork quilt of fall colors. And it wasn't just the color that was beautiful, it was simply being out of the city and seeing farms and forests. Even the highway looked pretty....not to mention this rest stop where I took a picture of Pat walking back to the car and the lovely view beyond the picnic area.
So we got to my motel in time for me to go over and visit Mom this afternoon. The only problem was how to get there on the scooter. The route I'd worked out before was under construction, so it took real nerves of steel and my good friend Pat at my side to make my way across one street where there was no traffic light, stop sign or crosswalk. Yipes! Then there was the 8-lane highway with bumper-to-bumper Friday afternoon rush hour traffic to negotiate without proper curb cuts to make my way easier.
After that nightmare, I had to calm myself before going to see Mom. My energy would not have been particularly healing or peaceful. Luckily the entrance I took into her retirement village was close to the residents' gardens, so I scooted down there.
I wish I could give you an idea of how mammoth the garden area is. I guess you could say it is the equivalent of two city blocks. There were a few people out working in their plots; one woman showed me her winter squash. She says they grow to be 40 pounds! Right down from her was this lovely rose bush. I was feeling better already.
As the lake was nearby, I decided to scoot over there to consolidate my calmness. The water was hidden in parts by tall stands of grasses and wildflowers, but when I could see it, the lake looked like a jewel. Such a healing place.
My mother has faded as a rose in late autumn. She knew who I was and was happy to see me, but couldn't really keep her eyes open for long. But she did enjoy looking at my pictures through the LCD screen of my digital camera. I recall she had enjoyed that on my last visit. I didn't stay long.
When I returned to the motel lobby, Pat was there waiting for Paul, her friend, to pick her up. Washington, DC area rush hour and inaccurate directions had delayed him. But he came soon after I arrived and I was able to take a picture of him and Pat before they left to make their way through more traffic. I was happy to be already "home".
Now, it is definitely
time for me to turn in. Tomorrow's going to be a big--and early--day.
My gratitude to the friends who emailed with promises of sending
good energy my way. I feel your support and it means a lot.
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 13, 2001
Just checking in to let you know the marathon day of sorting family treasures with my sisters went fabulously well. What a relief! And more than a relief. I feel as though the most precious treasure I received was having my sisters restored to me. Now, that's the real "family treasure".
We worked hard from 9:30 AM until 6:30 PM with nary a huff or pout or martyr-face between us. And everyone seemed pleased with what they got. I chose the fewest things but am delighted with my choices, some of which I'd planned and some of which just happened.
Probably my happiest "thing" is now sitting on my left ring finger...my mother's wedding ring. I've always loved it and never imagined that someday it might come to me. But it fits like a dream and the little diamonds sparkle like my Mom and Dad's love for one another. Most evocative. One of my other treasures is the old butter churn we always had in the living room beside the fireplace. It was made by Uncle Alec, the black man who worked for my mother's grandmother in Shelby, North Carolina. My sisters and I remember trying to churn butter a couple of times when we were young--it was a lot of work and ended up pretty runny! An unexpected gift was Mom's bugle that she always used to call us kids home from playing outside. Our neighbors used to gather their visiting friends out on their front steps to see and hear this neighborhood phenomenon! Actually my mother was a pretty darn good bugler; she'd learned at camp in the mountains of North Carolina.
I also received the black-and-white portrait of Mom at age four perched on her Great-Grandaddy's knee. He was famous in our family stories because he'd lost a leg in the Civil War. As a child, I always wondered which knee Mom was sitting on, the real one or the wooden one. Questions kids ask, right? Another surprise was getting the color-tinted portrait of my sister Carolyn and me when she was four and I was two. Quite adorable. I also now have Mrs. Silver's hand-painted photograph on canvas of me at age eight. It was the year she wouldn't let me smile because my grin was so self-conscious. The three portraits of us girls always hung in stairsteps--my family was big on stairsteps--over the living room couch.
Speaking of stairsteps, it was funny what happened with our sorting plan. We'd agreed by email to choose numbers and then keep going around the circle taking turns choosing. Well, older sister Carolyn chose #1, younger sister Emily chose #2 and I chose #3. Emily looked at her number and said, "I can't do this. I'm always #3. Patricia, please go second!" Aren't family patterns funny?
The nine hours we spent on this task was a short amount of time considering the generations of family history we saw. Old photos, family bibles, old silver, baby clothes, boxes full of assorted treasures, Mom's jewelry, Grandfather Lay's (Dad's father) journals from the Spanish-American war, Revolutionary War swords, Dad's government work papers and photos, even our Great-grandmother Miller's wedding dress (Mom's grandmother).
Among my favorites was Grandmother Lay's handwritten draft of her husband's obituary (Dad's father). I am named for her--Lockhart, her maiden name, is my middle name--yet I never met her as she died a year before I was born. She seemed so real as I held in my hand a yellow legal-size piece of paper on which she had written in pencil about her husband's life. Another highlight was when Emily, my sister who is an experienced actress, read aloud a college literary journal article that Mom had written at 18. "Being Short" was not only well-written and funny, but gave a lot of insight into her perceptions of herself as a young woman. We also enjoyed seeing a photo of our young-married parents really kissing each other at a New Year's party in the 1930s. We'd never seen them kiss like that! And finally, it was my Dad's nail clippers that brought him most vividly to mind. The three of us started giggling as we recalled how he would always cut his nails while sitting in his red leather chair, gather his cut nails in a pile in the lap of his trousers, and hold it up like a skirt as he walked across the living room to the wastepaper basket by the desk.
Even after working so hard--at least Carolyn and Emily worked hard; I pretty much sat on my duff--we three were still in a good enough frame of mind to enjoy a family dinner together with my nieces, their partners, my nephew and his wife. We missed our other nephew Jimmy, his wife Kristin and two boys, Ollie and Harper, but being with Bill and Misty, Erin and Mike, Gretchen and Matt was a special treat for me. How nourishing to be in the bosom of my family. That old-fashioned phrase truly captures it for me.
Thank you, thank you for
sending good energy. It helped make this onerous task a true delight.
May it be so for every one of you when your time comes...if you
haven't already been there. I am smiling in my heart tonight.
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 14, 2001
Today was a lovely quiet day. I had strange sleep patterns last night--in bed at 10:30 PM, slept till 4:00 AM, got up to write a short journal entry on the computer, back to bed at 5:30 AM, slept till 7 AM, got up, worked at my computer before talking to Ed on the phone, back to bed at 9 AM and slept till 11:15 AM, when I got up for good. I then showered and worked at the computer until almost 3 PM preparing the 21 photos and completing the text of yesterday's journal entry.
Although it looked like it might rain, I still scooted the mile over to visit Mom. I really needed the fresh air. She was more alert than she'd been on Friday and expressed interest in my stories about our sorting the family treasures. She was particularly pleased that my sisters and I had gotten along so well. After 45 minutes, she said "I'm so sleepy I can barely keep my eyes open." As she slept, I continued reading my library book, Arab Detroit: "From Margin to Mainstream" (edited by Nabeel Abraham and Andrew Shryock. Wayne State University Press, 2000). It's giving me excellent background and insights into the community I'll be working with when I return home. I'm scheduled to start helping out at the Dearborn school on Monday, October 22.
By 5:30 PM I was feeling hungry--I'd not eaten yet today--so I kissed Mom goodbye, told her I'd see her tomorrow, hopped on La Lucha and ventured out under an even more heavily-laden sky for the ride back to the motel. My red teflon-coated silk poncho protected me from the occasional sprinkle. After a dinner of pizza and a caesar salad in the motel restaurant, I came up here to my room, made some phone calls and just finished writing today's journal entry. As I said, a lovely quiet day.
Now I'm off to the pool
to swim some laps. Lucky me!
MONDAY, OCTOBER 15, 2001
When loneliness comes
stalking, go into the fields, consider
the orderliness of the world. Notice
something you have never noticed before,
like the tambourine
sound of the snow-cricket
whose pale green body is no longer than your thumb.
Stare hard at the hummingbird,
in the summer rain,
shaking the water-sparks from its wings.
Let grief be your sister,
she will whether or no.
Rise up from the stump of sorrow, and be green also,
like the diligent leaves.
A lifetime isn't long
enough for the beauty of this world
and the responsibilities of your life.
Scatter your flowers
over the graves, and walk away.
Be good-natured and untidy in your exhuberance.
In the glare of your
mind, be modest.
And beholden to what is tactile, and thrilling.
Live with the beetle, and the wind.
This is the dark bread
of the poem.
This is the dark and nourishing bread of the poem.
from "The Leaf and the Cloud" ©2000 Mary Oliver (Da Capo Press, pp. 6-7)
How could I have known what I thought would be hard would be easy, and what I thought would be easy would be hard? The dividing up of family stuff with my sisters was pure delight and I had dreaded it for years. This visit with my mother is truly painful and I had anticipated it without reserve.
She just isn't here much anymore. At least not today. When she wasn't asleep--which was rare--she was blank-faced and empty-eyed. The only things that engaged her attention were photographs--from my digital camera lCD screen, and from her 1929-30 high school photo album. I now believe she has put forth extraordinary effort to be "with it" during recent phone calls and visits.
A friend headed her email today "waning moon", and that is how I experience Mom...waning.
What fed me was a solitary cloud, a young maple and an old oak. What taught me was the peeling bark of a tree. What touched my heart and cracked it open was Mary Oliver's poem, "The Leaf and the Cloud". What comforted me was a phone call with my Eddie and a visit from my sister Emily. What helps me see things more clearly is writing in this journal.
This is the poem of
And this is the poem of don't know.
My hands touch the
my hands touch the
and I say, not easily
the words round in the mouth, crisp on the tongue--
dirt, mud, stars, water--
I know you as if you were myself.
How could I be afraid?
From "The Leaf
and the Cloud" ©2000 Mary Oliver (Da
Capo Press, pp. 44-45)
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 16, 2001
It is more than my Mom's diminishment that I'm grappling with here. And more than the weariness I feel after the successful day sorting family things with my sisters. It is the continued bombing of Afghanistan day after day. It is living in a motel awash in American flags and government military workers and a loud TV that is always tuned to CNN that I must pass everytime I get off the elevator. It is being away from home, from my sweet Eddie, from my friends and communities. It is being here in the Washington, DC metro area, in the belly of the beast.
I want to go home.
But that is not yet possible, so I do what I can to support myself. I read Mary Oliver's poetry. I write my own poetry. I swim laps in the motel pool. I go off on my scooter knowing the rains are coming but needing fresh air more than I need to stay dry. I visit Mom for an hour instead of yesterday's ill-advised marathon. I have a delicious Thai dinner with my sister Carolyn. I call Pat at her friends' house and leave a message that instead of extending our trip to include an overnight in Virginia's Blue Ridge mountains, I want to go home on Thursday. And I share the following poem from my own heart with my faithful journal readers who are an ongoing source of loving support to me.
What I knew no longer
serves. My world view is too
small, too innocent, too pure.
These times insist on new ways of
looking at things.
It is not enough to say
life is simply as it is. It is not
enough to say humans are destroying
the planet and all living creatures. It is
not enough to say, think globally and act
locally. It is not enough to say my mother is
tired and must be allowed to close her
eyes and pass on if she wants.
No words can say
what must be said.
I cannot continue to walk
the sound of television news. I cannot grind my
teeth everytime I see the flag of my
country waving from a car antenna. I cannot
turn away from those who say this war is
right and just and we must have the stomach
to fight for decades to protect the American
way of life.
I cannot keep my head
in the sand without
More than the towers of
up, burned and crumbled that blue-skied
day in September. More than 5-6000 persons
Those three planes crashed
confidence that this country of malls,
skyscrapers, banks, computers and
SUVs would always be safe from
More than the country
Afghanistan, Osama Bin Laden, the
Taliban and terrified women, children,
elders and men are being bombed
Those bombs and missiles
collateral damage not measured by the
Pentagon; they are blowing up our
So now what?
How to live in a world
gone mad, a world where
hatred reigns, a world
where what they call news is
lies, where what they call
democracy is a police state,
where what they call
patriotism is revenge.
Don't forget the warm
sun on your face or the rise and fall of
the cicadas' acappella chorus on hot
I cannot crawl into a
cave and hide. I cannot surround
myself with a stockade fence of
like-thinking persons and call that
living in the world. I cannot feel in
the muscles, lungs, heart and gut of
my body each and every bomb dropped
A new world view, a new
being, must arise from the ashes, from
the millions of tons of rubble, of my
formerly-held assurances. Yet I must
be willing to exist in this painful, discomfiting,
unsettled in-between space until then.
And maybe I will never
container large enough or flexible
enough to hold the events that are to
come. If that be so, I must find a
way to exist in the unknowing.
Don't forget the bite
of ice crystals
in your nostrils or the scent of rain hanging
heavy in the air.
How many persons in how
lands have walked this
treacherous path before me?
It is surely time that I, that
we, trudge along at their sides.
Remember the gurgling
a baby and the feel of your strong
arms churning through the water.
Don't forget the taste of life.
© 2001 Patricia Lay-Dorsey.
Please use with attribution.
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 17, 2001
I am SO happy to report
that my friend Pat is willing to leave for home today. We'll again
make the trip in two days, so, all going well, on Thursday night
I will again be sleeping in my own bed with my own non-foam-rubber
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 18, 2001
I am so so SO happy to be home!!! My friend Pat, who's staying for dinner, says I have said that same thing about 12 times since we walked in the door at 3 PM today. I expect I'll say it at least 20 more times, if only in my head, before I go to bed tonight. One way I know how happy I am to be home is how quickly I unpacked. That's always a sign.
And now my home here with Eddie has so many reminders of my childhood home that they feel connected in a way they never have before. I realize that the few dolls and toys I brought back after my sisters and I cleared out and sold the house my family had lived in for 56 years, were the first tangible things I'd ever had from "home".
As I sit here writing this entry, I delight in the knowledge that--thanks to my friend Pat--the picture of 3 year-old Emily (my mother) sitting on her great-grandfather Torrance's knee is hanging over our dining room table. My great-grandmother Miller's butter churn is in the pantry. Mrs. Silver's hand-painted photograph on canvas of Patsy (me) at age 8 is on the wall in the den. A color photograph of Dad sailing "Harem", our beloved 28' Chesapeake Bay Cruisekin, is on the wall beside the kitchen table. The color-tinted portrait of Carolyn and Patsy at ages 4 and 2 is here beside me on the wall in my computer room upstairs. The watercolor portrait I made of Jimmy (my father) from a photograph taken of him at age 4--our gift on his 70th birthday in 1981--is hanging above the bookcase in my computer room as well. Mom's bugle that called us home all through my growing-up years is standing beside my doll chest in what I call my "childhood corner". Dad's mother's silver hand mirror engraved with LLLL is on the countertop in my bathroom. And I still have a small bag of photos and assorted treasures to unpack.
I am so happy to be home.
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 19, 2001
On Wednesday, Pat and I took a different route home. Instead of going through Breezewood--a city of gas stations and fast food restaurants--we headed west on I 68. This is a scenic highway that follows the northern edge of Maryland, cuts through a small portion of West Virginia and, after making a few highway name-changes, ends up in the town of Cranberry, Pennsylvania. From there it is easy to get on the Pennsylvania Turnpike heading west. For five hours we were treated to breathtaking views of cloud shadows cast on colorful hills, rolling mountains, valleys, farms and tree-lined ridges, not to mention skies filled with dramatic cloudscapes. What a healing after the tough visit with my Mom.
Actually, when I stopped in to say goodbye to Mom before we left on Wednesday, she was the most alert I'd seen her the whole time. Because they were spraying the rooms for bugs (!), she was out of bed and in a wheelchair. That was the first time I'd seen her sitting up in almost two years. I found her happily finishing her breakfast in the dining room. What a nice way to conclude my stay. She even managed a little smile for the camera. As she kissed me goodbye, she said, "I'll see you when I see you." Pretty with it, I'd say.
To get back to Pat's and my drive that day, we stopped in a charming Maryland town just east of West Virginia around 3 PM. We were taken with its name--Friendsville. And we were soon taken with the friendliness of its people as well. We went to the Old Mill Grill, the only restaurant we found on the main street. There we met Mary, Cindy and Robin. We're still talking about their homemade fruit-of-the-forest pie and old-fashioned strawberry milkshake poured out of a metal blender. Yum!
About 6:30 PM we found ourselves exactly where we wanted to be--back at the Red Roof Inn in Cranberry, Pennsylvania where we'd stayed overnight the week before. We again got one of their well-designed handicap accessible rooms and watched a mindless movie in the room before we turned in nice and early.
The next day--Thursday--we
took the usual route along the Pennsylvania Turnpike into Ohio
where we picked up their turnpike. About 12:30 PM, we turned
north toward Toledo and arrived in Detroit a little after 2 PM.
It was an easy journey. And, as I said yesterday, home has never
looked quite so good.
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 20, 2001
If I were collecting beautiful days, this one would definitely qualify. Blue skies, warm sun, sweater temperatures and bright autumn colors at every turn. I was outside scooting around for hours and am now feeling the effects of all that fresh air. My eyes are growing heavy. May I show instead of tell?
A colorful street.
A carpet of leaves.
An orange tree.
A golden street.
The sidewalk cafe where I enjoyed a cold herbal tea and a danish.
My first view of the lake coming home.
A bank of old trees.
Carolyn's dog barking at me.
The sidewalk along the lake.
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 21, 2001
I do not tire of trying to make sense of it all. My mind and spirit are fed by hearing and reading words, assessments, analyses and opinions that try to bring some sense of perspective to what the world is like now, a time I call post-September 11.
I know there are others who simply want to get back to normal. Normal being putting up Halloween decorations, going to the mall to buy a new winter coat, planning holiday vacations, talking to friends without "September 11" or "terrorism" or "war" coming up once.
I do not judge these folks. Change of such mammoth and lasting dimensions is hard to comprehend, much less adapt to. For change is what September 11 is all about. Not change in truth or reality, but change in perceptions.
The reality that the United States is hated by untold numbers of individuals, groups and even nations around the world is not new. The truth that this vast country of unthinking consumers takes far more than its fair share of global goods and resources is not new. The reality that the United States uses military might and unsavory alliances to protect its oil interests in the Middle East is not new. The truth that our governmental leaders are more concerned with satisfying the desires of corporate giants than listening to the wishes of this country's citizens is not new. The United States' vulnerability to terrorist attacks is not new.
What is new is that the events of September 11 opened our eyes to these truths and realities. That is, if we want to see. If we do not want to see, it is still possible, for awhile anyway, to be given an enemy to hate, a war to cheer, and measures to take to insure our safety. Never mind that the enemy has not been brought to trial or convicted, or that the war is against an innocent people who are already facing starvation and oppression, or that the measures taken to protect us will rob us of our Constitutional freedoms and civil liberties. Never mind that we do not need terrorists to destroy democracy: our governmental leaders are doing that with no help from outside forces.
So how does one stay sane and centered and focused during these times of turmoil and unrest? How do we stay awake and aware without dropping into the depths of despair? How do I go on about my life with its normal demands and joys without losing heart?
I listen to music. I read and write poetry. I stay connected to and informed about the world through the web and email. I go to peace and anti-war meetings and demonstrations and teach-ins. I read all I can find on Islam, the Arab people, the history of United States' involvement in the Middle East, critical thinkers' and creative writers' views on the current situation. I spend time outside in nature watching my friend Ms. Squirrel and the colorful turning of the trees. I find a way to help out in a school that is located in an Arab American neighborhood. I keep this daily journal. I spend time with my sweetie, my friends and the communities that mean a lot to me. I spent time alone.
And today I attended the CPR (Committee for the Political Resurrection of Detroit) Open Forum at the UU Church near Wayne State University. I sat in a room full of 35 community and political activists--among them journalists, educators, union workers, Green party members, Labor party members, an organizer of welfare moms, artists, writers, the founder and the director of a Detroit center to nuture community leadership, three former candidates for Detroit City Council, one former Detroit mayoral candidate, labor organizers, media specialists and a physician. The agenda was to discuss CPR's recent experience of putting up a slate of candidates in Detroit's September 11 primary, and to talk about where we, as a group, want to go from here.
Discussion was lively with the "talking stick" moving from hand-to-hand for over two hours. We came to no decisions, but that was not the point. We were together. We openly expressed our opinions, feelings and dreams. We respected one another as individuals who each has something worthwhile to share. We were honest, forthright and real. We gave ourselves hope and a continuing sense of purpose. We claimed our power as a community dedicated to justice, peace and cultural transformation. We nourished ourselves for the struggle. We enacted the message on Fred's t-shirt:
If not here, where?
If not now, when?
If not us, who?
MONDAY, OCTOBER 22, 2001
Ah, children. Simply being in their presence is restorative. Today was my first day volunteering at the school in Dearborn and I loved every minute of it. Of course, I had to come home and hop right in bed afterwards for a nap! Their energy is amazing.
Susan the art teacher is so welcoming. She seems happy with my hanging out in her classes for as long as I want. It really is the perfect way for the kids to get to know me and I them before I start doing any art therapy with individual students. Whenever I begin a new endeavor like this I like to immerse myself in the place and see what is needed. The ideas I come in with are often simply what gets me there. It is what happens next that determines how things will develop. The place and the people will tell me if I take time to listen.
So I will continue to do as I did today, at least for awhile. The classes I sat in on were one fourth grade, two fifth grades and one first grade. I must say the challenge is clear. The fifth graders are so full of themselves, so bright and energetic. Of course, being the oldest kids in the school puts them in a special position...and they seem to know it! I did manage to get the noise level down by inviting them to be perfectly quiet for five minutes, just to prove to themselves they could do it. As I said to Susan afterwards, I think it only worked because I'm new.
The first graders were pure delight. Susan let me read them a story and then give them a creative task. I read from an Eric Carle book that had them stomping their feet like an elephant, turning their heads from side to side like a penquin, scratching their sides like a monkey and hunching their shoulders like a buffalo. Imagine a gaggle of little ones sitting at your feet, eyes trained on your book, and gap-toothed smiles lighting up the room. Golly, how could I have let myself be away from kids for so long? After reading the story I asked them to draw whatever animal they liked and then put it in the place it belonged. We had gray elephants almost as big as the paper, giraffes with six legs each, multicolored parrots, a cat on a leash and birds flying around rainbow-colored trees.
The kids are mostly Arab American, with some of the girls already scarved, but kids are kids. Some shy, some needing lots of attention, some exceptionally intelligent, some struggling just to keep up...almost all of them curious. To me: How old are you?, How long have you been married?, What year were you born?, Is that your real hair? (referring to my braided "tail" that hangs over one shoulder), Do you speak Arabic? I simply answered their questions, and in relation to whether or not I speak Arabic, I asked them to teach me how to say "Hi. How are you?"
Marhaba. Kayfa haluk?
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 23, 2001
Tuesday is Day House day.
I took house duty--answering the phone and door--for an hour before Pat arrived home from class. For the next hour I was the grateful recipient of one of her glorious massages. It had been weeks since my last massage and my body was like a hard dry riverbed. But soon enough, the waters were again running strong and clear. That woman has amazing hands.
When we finished, the girls were home. Carlette, who picks them up from school and watches over them while their mother is at work, is also gifted with hair. She kindly braided my tiny long "tail" while the girls waited for me to play with them. We soon got silly pretending to be different animals. I take that back--the girls got silly while I told them the story I'd read to the first graders yesterday. Here are two donkeys getting ready to kick their legs out behind them.
Soon it was time for dinner. Fresh-picked apples made into pancakes with sausage (vegetarian sausage links for Pat and me). After dinner my 17-year-old goddess daughter Emily (Pat's daughter) and I had a wonderfully unexpected heart-to-heart talk about friendships and such. And finally our weekly women's group--today it was Pat, Carlette and I--sat around the table and shared how we've met challenges in our lives. Privileged moments.
And now Eddie and I have
just finished watching half of a Hercule Poirot video and are
both feeling ready to hit the hay. It was a simple yet satisfying
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 24, 2001
The closer it gets to the end of October, the more precious each sunny warm day becomes. Some of the colors sting your eyes with their brilliance. Leaves still paint their red, gold and orange hues against cerelian blue skies, but the occasional bare sentinel signals the coming winter. Lawns carpeted in leaves evoke the smell of childhood bonfires. Canadian geese gather on the grassy shore as the lake draws your eye toward its open horizon.
Such a healing in the midst of war.
I used this day well. After a most satisfactory phone conversation with our Community Education program director, I scooted the mile and a half over to sign up for indoor lap swim sessions. Until mid-December I'll be swimming laps on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday nights. The pool is in a middle school less than a mile from our house. On good-weather nights I can go down by scooter. What a wonderful prospect!
I then scooted about three miles to the library where the book An Arab Family was waiting for me. There I ran into my friend Joan. We walk/scooted over to the Juice Cafe for a visit. We're relatively new friends and I am growing to value her tremendously. A wise, humorous, honest human being. Can't ask for much more than that!
Next was a short visit with Eddie, followed by a brief conversation with Keith who is landscaping the front of the building where Ed rents his office. I've asked him to come over and look at the front of our house. What used to be a myrtle bed when we moved in 30 years ago has long lost its identity, not to mention the bushes that years of heavy snow have shifted from vertical to horizontal. It sure would be nice to spruce things up a bit, especially since our house looks so good after its summer paint job. After stopping at the market for an assortment of Odwalla juices and Middle Eastern foods, I scooted home, singing all the way.
It is now (9 PM) thunder-and-lightning
as a storm approaches. So this day is offering the two things
my California friends miss the most--autumn colors and thunderstorms!
I love Michigan.
©2001 Patricia Lay-Dorsey. Please use with attribution.