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MONDAY, MARCH 25, 2002
I returned from WoMaMu (Women Making Music) camp just a few hours ago. What a glorious weekend! Believe me, there's something pretty special about being in a community of women whom you know and love and who love you in return, being surrounded by music and dance for four days and three nights, living amidst extraordinary natural beauty and eating delicious homecooked meals three times a day. Add to that having a roommate you love, engaging in rich deep conversations with uniquely interesting women, laughing until you almost lose it altogether, daring to expose your belly and let it jiggle to its heart's content, weeping over song lyrics that reflect your deepest beliefs, creating a song of your own that serves as your teacher, meeting new women who stimulate your mind/heart/spirit, seeing young heifers run playfully after a rabbit who manages to outrun them, singing with others late at night in a candle-lit chapel with acoustics that make you sound like a choir of angels, sitting by yourself with the morning sun on your face and the valley stretched out before you like a lush green patchwork quilt, being part of a late night jam with five songwriters as they share their songs, hearing shape note singing accompanied by the concertina and having your jaw drop open and stay there...and you have about as perfect a weekend as can be imagined.
I'll tell you more about
it tomorrow but now I'm going to listen to my new teacher--my
body--and go to bed.
TUESDAY, MARCH 26, 2002
It is all so precious. Every moment, each person, all the sensations and feelings that wash over me, everything I taste, touch, see, hear and smell.
The pungent scent of cow
dung from the dairy
farm next door. Sounds of laughter coming from Sunset
cottage as Pamela gives her comedy improv workshop. The taste
of fresh buttered peppercorn-seasoned baby asparagus. Saturday
morning's vision of rainclouds
hovering over the vineyards below. Time
alone in nature. The feelings of childhood angst when folks
walk by my table at lunch without sitting and joining me. The
song that wells up as I lie on my bed taking an unwanted but necessary
afternoon nap. The beauty of a solitary California
poppy in bloom. Sun
streaming through windows after morning showers. The wonder
of happening on an intimate jam of shape note singing with the
concertina and Appalachian-style fiddling in the chapel. The feel
of Lenore's fingers kneading out the tension in my shoulders during
Saturday morning's circle warm-up massage. Watching my
roommate dress for the Open No-Mic. The readiness of adults
to become like
children. The unexpected delight of a visitation by chickens.
The silliness of performing a bellydance
routine we inexperienced (except for our teacher Jamie) dancers
had learned three hours earlier. The joy of being with friends
I've known for years but only see at camp. Fiddle
music everywhere I look. Smiles that appear whether singing,
music. The gratitude I feel as I look around Monday's closing
circle at each uniquely radiant face. And today, the faces of
my friends, John
and George, Joe,
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 27, 2002
I was so honored that my cousin Stacey wanted to spend her day off with me today. She got here at 10 AM and I was already sitting out in my warm sunny garden. It isn't just spring here; it feels more like summer. At least a Michigan summer, not the foggy months that San Francisco calls summer. The kind of day that invites short sleeves, ice cream cones (for me) and snowcones (for Stacey).
Before our ice cream and snowcones, we walked/scooted down 24th Street to the taqueria where my niece Carolyn and I had had such a wonderful breakfast during her birthday visit in February. Yum! The Huevos Rancheros--three eggs fried in tortillas covered with tomato salsa and served with refried beans and rice--was just as delicious as I'd remembered. Stacey ordered a breakfast burrito and couldn't even finish it. I, on the other hand, was a member of the clean plate club.
After breakfast we went next door to Balmy Alley. As always, I saw some of the murals with a fresh eye, these three, in particular--mural #1, mural #2, mural #3. Stacey found Balmy Alley most interesting as I knew she would. Walking out of the alley back onto 24th Street, I saw an example of why I always say I feel like I'm in Mexico when I come down here. And it's only six scooter-friendly blocks from my house rather than an airplane ride away. Of course it also feels like Mexico at 24th & Mission Streets where I pick up BART, and that's just two and a half blocks from my house!
We came back to my cottage where Stacey showed me two of her scrapbooks, her most recent and the one she made after traveling from Washington, DC to San Francisco in the late summer. Now, my cousin's route was not the usual east to west, instead she took two months going from west to east. If I remember correctly, she spent time in England, Scotland, Belgium, Austria, Germany, Italy, Greece, Thailand and Japan! She arrived in San Franciso on September 11, knowing nothing about what had happened, but wondering why they were diverted to Los Angeles where they picked up military plants as escorts.
And what Stacey calls scrapbooks, I call picture journals or even artist's books. She places a photograph she's taken--excellent photos, by the way--on the left page and collages tickets, programs, napkins, etc. on the right page with artistically-written notes. The travel journal includes copies of the wonderful group emails that she sent to family and friends describing her adventures. Fascinating stuff!
Being Wednesday, today was Simply Supper day. When I went out front to wait for Scott to pick me up, I ran into great excitement. Julie and Ben were outside watching workmen put up the scaffolding so her beautiful Victorian house can be repainted. I'd heard it was expensive to have such scaffolding erected, but can you believe $6000? Yipes!
Oh, I forgot to show you the newest tulip that just opened in my garden. Isn't it lovely?
Simply Supper was busy because it's the end of the month, but we had abundant volunteers, some of whom were university students on Spring Break. That's a pretty good way to spend your break. But you know who impresses me more than anyone else? A twelve year-old boy who comes every week with his mother. Now that is a wonderful way to raise a child.
I had a number of significant encounters with guests today. One was Dixon, the street philosopher I'd mentioned running into in the Civic Center a few weeks back. Today he and I managed to have a most interesting discussion about religious beliefs and people's actions, generosity among the poor, and life lessons he had picked up during his years working as a machinist ("I learned some machines have large tolerance for error, and others a very small tolerance."). Then a shy, somewhat unstable Asian man with whom I have a friendly but pretty uncommunicative relationship took my hand as he left and said, "I love you with all my heart." It was so genuine and unsexual a statement that I could feel nothing but gratitude for his kindness. He didn't wait for my response but just quickly walked away. I was then delighted to be able to celebrate with a regular guest the good news about his cast being removed earlier today. He grinned and told me that the doctors had said his arm had healed so well that they could even remove the metal pins they had put in his wrist. We talked about simple joys like taking a shower that we're apt to take for granted.
And then there was Kimberly who looked worse today than I've ever seen her. I could see her cringe in pain everytime she bit down on her food, so I went over and asked if she was having trouble with her teeth. All she said was, "I've been homeless for four years now. I kept thinking it would get better, but it doesn't; it just gets worse." There was no self-pity in her voice, merely sadness.
I'd first met Kimberley soon after returning to San Francisco in January. She was sitting on a blanket on Castro at 18th, a very busy block. I'd invited her to come to Simply Supper the next day, and she had actually shown up that Wednesday. I'd never seen anyone eat with such obvious hunger. And I remember she then sat with a cup of coffee on the table in front of her for almost an hour, nodding off a little but apparently not wanting to leave the warm dry room; this was during a real cold snap. I'd not seen her again until last week. Both this week and last, she'd shown up right before we closed at 5 PM, meaning she had to rush to finish her dinner.
The hardest thing about
helping at a place like Simply Supper is realizing that you cannot
rescue anyone; all you can do is treat folks with respect and
care, and maybe point them in a direction where help might be
available. For Kimberly that meant suggesting she see about getting
some dental attention at SF General Hospital, and giving her information
about other places that offer free food, clothing and especially
showers. She was painfully in need of a shower. May she choose
to follow up on the help that is out there waiting to make things
easier for her. Please hold her in good energy.
THURSDAY, MARCH 28, 2002
If ever there were a day of total self-pampering, this was it. Instead of going to the weekly Quaker peace vigil at the Federal Building and then to swim at the YMCA, I allowed myself to sleep as late as my body wanted (11:15 AM). I sat in the sunny garden with Baggs and made my daily phone call to Eddie. After awhile I got on Ona and scooted up the 24th Street hill into Noe Valley.
Once there I picked up a couple of silly Easter gifts for Stacey and Katy. We're spending Sunday together at the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence 23rd birthday celebration in Dolores Park and then we're going to the Palace of the Legion of Honor to see a concert by the jazz artists Dmitri Matheny and Darrell Grant who are performing with the Del Sol Chamber Ensemble. I also took the time to buy a micro-cassette tape recorder. Chris helped me get it ready to go. I want to encourage my songwriting juices to keep flowing.
On Church Street going toward Mia's florist, I decided to stop and do what I've been saying I was going to do for some time--get a manicure and a pedicure. Since my hands are ever less agile, it's become hard if not impossible to cut and file my nails, both on my toes and fingers. I did not want any polish just proper shaping. There was something about having my finger and toenails looking nice that made me want to take care of the only other shabby part of my presentation--my long hairtail. It had not been braided since January and was coming apart at the seams. So after buying a lovely purple flowering plant at Mia's, I went back to 24th Street and had my hairtail braided.
One of the joys of doing errands by scooter in San Francisco is seeing beautiful houses and plantings everyplace you go. Even the main streets are lovely.
I had about an hour at home before setting off to see my friend Barbara perform with the Anything Goes chorus at the Bethany Seniors' Residence on Capp at 21st. Isn't that an amazing mural? Here's a closeup of the women's images. The concert was delightful and seemed to be much appreciated by the handful of residents who attended. As for me, I again found myself mistaken for being a resident. By the way, if you ever visit such a place, please do not assume that everyone you see in a wheelchair or scooter actually lives there. Many of us do not.
On the way home, I happened on a delightful one-block street where folks seemed to take special pride in their homes. I then stopped at Lost Weekend video store on Valencia to rent a DVD. This time it was an Australian film called "Lonely Hearts". I'm halfway through and am finding it to be a tender portrayal of two socially awkward persons who fall in love. It rings true.
And now I'm ready to take
this manicured, pedicured, hairtail-braided body to bed. See you
FRIDAY, MARCH 29, 2002
I'm warning you right up front: if you don't like looking at digital pictures, you'd better find something else to read today. On the other hand, if you're one of those unusual folks who beg to look at your friends vacation slides, this is the place for you. I don't even know how many photos I'm going to show you, all I know is I had a mighty hard time deleting any of them. That's the way it is when you go to San Francisco's Golden Gate Park.
My dear friend Dorothy and I spent much of the day at Stowe Lake, walk/scooting around the inner path and sitting by the lake to enjoy our tunafish sandwiches and juice. As always, we talked about everything from our spiritual journey to our concern over what is happening in our country and the world. Dorothy read me some of her poems and I sang her my newly composed song. I took some photos for her ever-growing publicity needs as an author and reader of her poetry. She took a photo of me that I liked so much I put a cropped version of it at the top of this journal page. Our friendship goes back several years and is one of San Francisco's greatest gifts to me.
Instead of trying to string these photos together with words, I'm simply going to list them and you can pick and choose which ones you want to look at.
in their hidden cove.
A turtle sunning on a log.
The lakeside bench we chose as our lunch spot.
The woman in whose memory that bench was named.
The path we took around the lake.
Tree-lined green slopes on our left.
Views of Stowe Lake to our right.
Wooden steps leading to the path that spirals up the hill.
The leafy plant I call "flower in a plate."
A view of the fog-covered city through the trees.
The stone bridge from above.
Wildflowers at the side of the path.
Twisted tree trunks.
The stone bridge at ground level.
A family in a rowboat.
Friday afternoon rush hour on the lake.
A profusion of wild calla lilies.
A natural sculpture.
The pagoda given to San Francisco by sister city Taipei in 1981.
The path home.
SATURDAY, MARCH 30, 2002
It's almost 1 AM and I've just gotten home from Yoshi's Jazz Club in Oakland. This was a lovely day from beginning to end. I had nothing planned so everything was an unexpected delight, and because I was on my own I met wonderful people everyplace I went. Nick and Mia walking on 24th Street up in Noe Valley. The Nikkola family with their nieces who were visiting from Dearborn, Michigan (!) at Mitchell's Ice Cream. Paula, a former member of the Lesbian/Gay Chorus of San Francisco, with whom I used to sing. Ron who shared my table at Yoshi's for the 8 PM show, and Will and Valerie who shared it for the 10 PM show. And it wasn't just the people who made this day special: it was the hot sunny weather, my yummy choice of one scoop of avocado and one of white pistachio ice cream at Mitchell's, the unbelievable talent of the Geri Allen Trio whose concert I saw at Yoshi's, and my awareness that every minute here in San Francisco is precious since I have less than three weeks to go.
And now I must go to bed!
SUNDAY, MARCH 31, 2002
I've just had the best easter of my life. I wouldn't call it exactly a traditional easter, but it suited me and my friends to a T. My cousin Stacey, my neighbor Katy, her dog Baggs and I set off for Dolores Park about 11:30 AM this morning. With us we carried a sumptuous lunch, a quilt on which to sit, lots of sunblock and Bagg's Superdog costume. We were on our way to the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence 23rd birthday party. To read about the Sisters and their long history of community service, you can go to www.thesisters.org.
What a San
Francisco scene! Our favorite Sister--Sr.
Merry Peter--and these four
Sisters along with another group
of six were just a few of the outrageously beautiful Sisters
of Perpetual Indulgence who made everyone--including
us--feel so very welcome. The children had special events
like an easter egg hunt, cupcake walk, egg-on-a-spoon race and
received more sugar than they'd ever seen before. One little one
even came up to Stacey and generously shared
her bounty. The dogs had a costume contest and our beloved
came in second! There was entertainment,
an easter bonnet contest, and an abundance of good-natured silliness.
was there...even San
Francisco's finest. I'd definitely say a good time was had
by all, especially
That certainly would have been enough, but our day didn't end there. The three of us--without Baggs this time--went over to the Palace of the Legion of Honor for an early evening concert by jazz greats Dmitri Matheny on flugelhorn and composer/arranger Darrell Grant on piano performing with the Del Sol Quartet, a gifted chamber string ensemble. I'd seen the six of them perform together last year at Yoshi's and had been blown away by their originality, musical wizardry and enthusiastic stage presence. And tonight? Absolutely amazing!!! I am just waiting for these folks to cut a CD together.
After the concert, Katy and I dropped Stacey at her home and came back to my place to share our lunch leftovers. We ended up having an extraordinary conversation, one of those moments that you think of later with gratitude and awe.
As I said, it was the
best easter of my life.
MONDAY, APRIL 1, 2002
I met with one April Fool's joke after another today. I wish I'd found them funny. The first came this morning as I sat in the shower and reached over to turn on the water. A thin trickle came out. OK, I said to myself, obviously the workmen up at Marci and Evan's house have turned off the water main again. So I got out of the tub and in my bare nakedness proceeded to walk the short distance to my closet near the bed. As I passed the glass french doors I was startled to see a man's face pressed against the window. I shouted, "Get out of here!" and he quickly left. I slipped on a dress, opened the front door and saw him standing among a pile of work equipment near Katy's back door. I said, "That was an unpleasant encounter. Did you want to see me about something?" "Oh, I'm sorry", he replied, "I was just curious about that building." I glared at him and closed the door. I must admit I felt quite violated.
I then picked up a phone message from Evan in which he apologized for neglecting to give me advance notice about the water being turned off this morning. I emailed him and told him about my experience with the window-peeping workman. Turns out the guy was replacing Katy, Laura and Tim's sliding glass door. I soon saw a forlorn-looking Baggs out in the garden by himself; the workman had obviously let him out. I invited my four-legged friend into my cottage and we enjoyed a nice long visit. It tickles me that he feels so at home here.
Since I'd missed last Thursday's swim and had spent lots of hours in my scooter chair yesterday, I felt the need to go to the YMCA and swim some laps. The window peeper was apparently on his lunch break but managed to continue to disrupt my life, this time by leaving the old sliding glass door propped against the shed so Ona my scooter was blocked in. My feelings about this individual were going from bad to worse. I walked--as always with the help of windchime walker--out to the front of the house, hoping the fellow might be eating his lunch in his truck. No such luck. But one of my neighbor Julie's painters kindly came over and moved things so Ona could get out.
I made it all the way down to the BART station entrance before I realized Baggs had been left outside without any water. So I took the elevator back up to the street level and turned toward home. A view of Baggs' nose greeted me from under the wooden stockade fence as I scooted up to the gate. I checked to see if the new sliding glass door at Katy and Laura's was unlocked but it was impossible to budge, so I filled Bagg's outside bowl with water and set another one on my kitchen floor. I left my cottage door open so he would have a cozy place to sleep, and scooted back down 24th Street to the BART station.
Happily, there were no April Fool's jokes at the pool My 24 laps went wonderfully well.
On the way home I was grateful that I'd brought my polar fleece jacket and warm muffler as the temperature had dropped dramatically. I had a taste for pizza so I stopped at Frida's Pizza on Mission and ordered one slice of cheese to go. I got home safe and sound, put Ona my scooter to bed and came inside the by-now chilly cottage. I tried to turn on my gas heater but discovered the pilot light had gone out. I then put my pizza in the oven and tried to turn it on...with no success. Seems my gas had been turned off by mistake.
After another call to Evan, their contracter came over to turn my gas back on. Well, he got the oven to work but never could get the heater pilot to ignite. He promised to come back and try again in the morning. Actually, Evan has just showed up--at 10:15 PM--and gotten it to work. And you want to be a landlord? I think not.
If I remember correctly,
my childhood idea of an April Fool's joke was to put salt in the
sugar bowl. Seems the stakes get a bit higher when you're an adult.
Think I'll go to bed early and sleep through until April 2.
TUESDAY, APRIL 2, 2002
If it isn't your normal milieux, walking into the midst of lunchtime corporate-style can be like traveling to another planet. People dress differently , move briskly, speak in a foreign tongue, and have cell phones growing out of their ears. Today Dorothy and I joined them at one of their favorite restaurants. They even do that differently. You walk down a buffet line and fill a large plastic plate with an assortment of cold and hot vegies, salads and pastas. At the end of it all, the woman at the cash register weighs your plate and tells you what you owe.
We were on our way to a matinee showing of the Danish movie, "Italian for Beginners." What a sweet film!
Since returning home about 4 PM, I've worked on computer tasks like transferring my old email address book to my new computer. Time consuming but necessary. Actually I had to do it before I could send out email invitations to what I'm calling my 60th Unbirthday Potluck Brunch on Sunday, April 14. Since I never get to celebrate my June birthday with my California community, I thought it was time to at least take note of my upcoming passage into a new decade.
I spent some time with
two of my favorite creatures today--Baggs came visiting this morning,
and on our way home, Dorothy and I saw Sampson and shy Sunny sitting
with their owner Fred on his front steps. For some reason my camera
spooked Samson and literally ruffled
his feathers. That was a first. Fred said not to worry, that
Samson been a little weird lately. So have I; maybe it's in the
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 3, 2002
How does one respond when the Universe, or whatever one calls the Divine, has its own idea of what one is to do? I guess one just says, OK. And so I say, OK.
I had intended to show you some wonderful pictures I took of my friends today at Simply Supper. I actually downloaded them a few minutes ago but, you know, they just disappeared into some computer-version of a Black Hole. I can't find them anywhere.
So that was what I'd intended to write about tonight, my friends at Simply Supper. But, to be honest, that topic flew out of my heart as soon as I looked at today's mail and saw an envelope with my address printed in pencil. The return address was Rabih Haddad 30189-039, MCC Chicago, 71 Van Buren, Chicago, IL 60605. And the date on the envelope was February 21. It had taken over 5 weeks to be delivered!!! Gawd, I knew my mail service here was screwed up, but this beats all.
Anyway, I opened it up and found 3 sheets of yellow legal-sized lined paper covered on 5 sides by a long letter written in a mature, steady hand using a blue ball-point pen. It started, "Dear Patricia, Dear Sister". That's when my eyes began to well up.
As close as I have felt to this man, his wife and family, this was the first time I had ever had direct contact with him. We have never met or spoken. But somehow when I read that December 16th group email from an activist friend in which they told of this well-respected Ann Arbor Muslim leader's arrest and imprisonment without bail, I was as touched as if I were reading about an old friend. Then when I ended up being allowed to stay with his wife, children, witnesses and Muslim friends in a small Immigration Court waiting room that Tuesday afternoon (December 19), when I felt compelled to be a silent witness for peace and justice in that room filled with shock and fear, when I scooted over and took his wife's hands in mine and told her she was not alone, that there were thousands of people the world over who were with her and her husband during these difficult days, I knew we were members of one family who loved and cared for one another.
These almost 4 months of demonstrating on the streets with Rabih's Muslim community from Ann Arbor, becoming friends--actually more like sisters--with his wife Sulaima and her friend Huda, writing countless group emails and journal entries about what has been happening to Rabih and the injustices of his case, helping to get Congressman John Conyers involved through what he read in one of those emails, talking regularly on the phone and exchanging emails with Sulaima, writing Rabih only one letter but telling his story formally and informally everyplace I've been since coming to San Francisco in January, and now hearing his voice speaking to me in a letter all feels like a lifetime of knowing and caring about this family.
I want to share parts of Rabih's letter because I know many of you have been with him in spirit for as long as I. I want you to know what kind of man you have been supporting.
This is how his letter begins:
This letter has been long overdue! I've grabbed my pen countless times to write and gotten choked up and overcome by emotions every single time. My story with you started Dec. 19. That's the day Sulaima met you for the first time. During our phone conversation later that day, she gave me the details of your encounter which brought tears to my eyes. Later she would tell me of your efforts and activism. Needless to say how blessed I felt to have you as supporter and, more importantly, as a friend who seems to know and understand the innermost flickers of our emotional, mental, and psychological plight. Your words are dipped in the nectar of hope, they sap of compassion and sympathy and I have suckled on them (as I'm sure Sulaima did also) repeatedly.
I have only received one letter from you. I also read one of your emails to Sulaima along with your appeal to Amnesty Int'l, but it doesn't take much to be touched and moved when words are coming straight from the heart. I've always said that sincerity is like two wings attached to the words that take off from the heart of the sender and land them directly in the heart of the receiver. Your words have landed in my heart, and like it or not, you've gotten yourself a friend for life.
Rabih then writes of the way he is being treated in prison and how it feels. This was back when he was allowed one 15 minute phone conversation with his wife per month, and only 4 hours in visits per month. He wrote just days after Sulaima had been sent the 250 miles back home without being allowed to see him because the warden had not told them the 4 hours could only be used in two 2-hour visits rather than four 1-hour visits. Rabih said that when " I pleaded with the warden later in the afternoon that no one had mentioned to me that the 4 hrs. can only be utilized in two sessions, his answer was, 'Well, now you know."
He described many ways in which he was being treated differently from other inmates also being held in solitary confinement. [Rabih was in solitary confinement from December 14 until about two weeks ago after Congressman Conyers had made an "oversight visit" to Rabih's cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, a federal prison in Chicago]. For instance, his visits, unlike the others, were to be "non-contact", meaning he and his wife and children were separated by bars and heavy plexiglass. Also his shower days were different from all the others, and he and only one other inmate--a man from Saudi Arabia--were watched by camera around the clock. He told of the suicidal condition of the inmate from Saudi Arabia and how Rabih managed to counsel him by yelling through the sound-proofed walls of their adjacent cells, that is until the authorities separated them so they could no longer have any conversation. He told how there were two "inmate orderlies" in his unit who usually ran small errands for the inmates like getting them toilet paper, soap and picking up their empty food trays. But these orderlies were not allowed even to come near Rabih's cell or that of the man from Saudi Arabia, in essence "making our isolation complete." He told of the strip searches, especially degrading experiences for a Muslim man who "is bound by his faith to cover his private parts." He also wrote of having his hands shackled to his waist and chains on his feet whenever he left the unit.
And this is a man who has been charged with no crime, has never broken any law in his life and who was not allowed bail because he owned a registered hunting rifle from Kmart, a rifle with which he and his sons used to hunt geese.
Yet, after describing these horrendous conditions under which he was living--he has recently been moved out of solitary into a shared cell with the general population--Rabih went on to say:
All this has driven me to a state of transcendence (I'm not sure the word exists). I feel like I'm looking at all that is happening to me from a distance. That's when I begin to feel sorry for my jailers because in actuality they are the prisoners and I am free. I am free because my spirit is free and that allows me to look at matters from afar. But they are imprisoned by their fears and apprehensions, by their rules and regulations, by their never-ending striving after worldly wreckage that someday they will have to leave behind. I am free by my faith and refuge in Almighty God. Their increased cruelty only increases my hope in my imminent deliverance.
Your words of encouragement and solidarity, your commitment to see this ordeal through till the end are major contributing factors to my endurance and perseverance. Your encouragement and support of Sulaima have done wonders for her, believe me I know. Her and the children are all I think about. I can't begin to tell you how proud and blessed I feel for the way they've carried themselves through these difficult and trying times. The credit goes to Almighty God first and then to Sulaima. God knows I wasn't there for them as much as I should have because of my relief and community work. But my solitude has given me a chance to take a long hard look at what are the most important things in life and I've rearranged my list of priorities to have my family right there at the very top!
So this is the man the INS wants to deport to Lebanon because he has overstayed his tourist visa, while they want to deport his wife and three of their four children to Kuwait. The 8 year-old boy would be allowed to stay in the U.S. because he is an American-born citizen, but of course Rabih and Sulaima wouldn't leave him here by himself! When I talked with Sulaima on the phone Monday, she told me of their joint deportation hearing at Detroit's Immigration Court--Gratiot at Russell if you can attend--at 10 AM on Wednesday, April 10. I'd spent this morning sending group emails to Detroit-area activists urging them to join what I'm sure will be a large demonstration in support of Rabih, Sulaima and the children that day. How I wish I could be there myself, but I will certainly be with them in spirit.
Isn't Rabih an amazing
person? As I wrote in my letter to him tonight, Gandhi, Nelson
Mandela and Martin Luther King, Jr. come to mind when I think
of him. May his story have a happy ending.
THURSDAY, APRIL 4, 2002
Today had everything...all of it good. It started with my receiving the following email:
Congressman John Conyers,
Fourteenth District, Michigan
Ranking Member, Committee on the Judiciary
Dean, Congressional Black Caucus
April 3, 2002
Conyers on Haddad Ruling:
" A Victory for Fundamental Fairness"
In reaction to today's Eastern District of Michigan ruling to open up the U.S. Department of Justice's detention hearings involving renowned Michigan religious leader Imam Haddad, Congressman John Conyers, Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee issued the following statement:
"The decision to restore Imam Haddad's fundamental constitutional right to an open immigration proceeding is a blow to those who would destroy our constitution in a misguided effort to save it and a victory for the fundamental fairness of the American judicial system. This is a repudiation of Attorney General Ashcroft's strategy of pushing the envelope when it comes to the Bill of Rights.
The Justice Department, in its zealousness to protect our freedoms by detaining Middle Easterners without disclosing evidence and by holding secret hearings, has attempted to whittle away the constitutional foundation that has made America a beacon of freedom for the world. Today's decision illustrates how far the Bush Administration has gone in transgressing the boundaries established by our founding fathers in pursuit of national security."
Conyers joined the ACLU and others in petitioning the court to open the proceedings. The Justice Department had sought to exclude Conyers and other members of the public from attending the proceedings.
That is the first good news we've had in relation to Rabih's situation. Could it be that folks are waking up?
The next good news of the day came at the weekly Quaker demonstration for peace in front of San Francisco's Federal Building. Never before have so many people stopped to take our leaflets and express solidarity with our position regarding war. Yes, it really seems as though people are waking up.
After the demonstration I had a particularly wonderful swim at the YMCA. I completed 22 laps of the crawl at a faster pace than ever before. It was as if my body had kicked into a higher gear. Even my formerly puny flutter kick had some punch to it. It felt fabulous!
Then on my way to the Civic Center BART station I saw that the Thursday open air market was still open. I decided to see if I could possibly find any small gifts to take home. I've had a dream of finding something that I could bring to the children I work with at the school in Dearborn, Michigan. And amazingly, I was successful! Zhang, A generous-spirited woman from Mongolia gave me an assortment of Chinese New Year's horoscope animal charms at the unbelievably low price of 20 cents apiece. I think the kids will love them.
Now don't get tired, my day isn't over yet.
I stopped at a neighborhood coffee house and devoured a cup of soup and a sandwich on my way home. I knew I was going to need some sustenance. Just as I was unpacking stuff from my scooter, I heard my cousin Stacey at the gate. She had taken off work early to have time to make us both up and dress us in glitter and rhinestones for the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence monthly bingo party. They were going to give a prize to whomever was the most rhinestoned person in attendance. Stacey had bought some gloriously glitzy fabric for me to use as a shawl, a vintage '60s dress and sparkly stockings for herself, and had had her Mom overnight express her jewelry box and vintage coat. In addition to these treasures, she had brought glitter make-up, eye shadow, heat-sensitive sequins for our faces, and two very special wigs. Stacey loves to dress up!
Well, I won't keep you in suspense any longer. Here is myself (at home), aka Anastasia Louise, and here is Stacey (at bingo), aka Charlene Fairchild. Scott, whom we called our driver, took this portrait of two cousins ready to go on the town.
The Sisters bingo is a very popular event. There were hundreds of people in line in front of MCC (Metropolitan Community Church) before the doors opened at 7 PM. However, we knew it would definitely be an advantage to be with someone in a scooter...me. They let us in early and we got the best seats in the house, right under the stage where the Sisters called bingo. There was much posing and silliness, the traditional spankings of "bad boys", dedicated bingo players, big time prizes ($100-250 per game), and lots of laughter. Tonight we had a special film crew from Belgium filming the event, which added an air of excitement. Even though we didn't win the prize for wearing the most rhinestones, a good time was had by all.
As Charlene Fairchild
said, "After living like this, how could you ever
go anyplace else?"
FRIDAY, APRIL 5, 2002
I spent much of the day trying to educate myself about what has been happening in Ramallah, Bethlehem and the West Bank. I knew I'd never get the truth by reading mainstream news so turned to my old standby, Alternet.org. They have devoted an entire section of their web site to the War in the Middle East. Of all the articles I read, I was most touched by one called, "Bringing Non-Violence to the West Bank" by Eve Pell and Will Evans. Perhaps one of the reasons it resonated so deeply with me was that Kate Rafael, a member of San Francisco's Women In Black, was among the civilian "internationalists" being interviewed. These are persons from around the world who have arrived in the West Bank, Ramallah and Bethlehem to act as human shields between the heavily armed Israeli military and the unarmed Palestinian civilian population. Their courage is unimaginable.
After studying the issues--past and present--I have come to view what is called the "War in the Middle East" as Ariel Sharon-led and United States-backed genocide. It is about as much of a war as is the United States "war" on Afghanistan. My definition of the word "war" implies at least somewhat equal combatants. Anyone who sees Palestine as equal militarily to Israel or Afghanistan as equal militarily to the U.S. is living in a dream world. The U.S. government's outrage over Palestinian suicide bombers becomes ludicrous when you weigh those casualties against the millions of civilians killed by Israel over the years using United States-supplied weapons, bombs, planes and missiles. Did you know that even now the U.S. is giving Israel $22 million per day to do with as they please?
My need to learn more about the situation in the Middle East was fueled by my determination to join the San Francisco Women In Black at their vigil this afternoon. So who are the Women In Black? According to their flyer, "Women In Black is an international movement of women opposed to militarism, racism and ethnic violence. Begun by Israeli women in 1988 in solidarity with the first Palestinian Intifada, this powerful form of protest was adopted by Yugoslavian women protesting their own government's oppression of Albanians and Muslims. There are now Women In Black vigils in Australia, Spain, Italy, Colombia, India and many cities in Europe and the United States. Women In Black of Israel and Serbia were nominated last year for the Nobel Peace Prize." The San Francisco Women In Black flyer lists three key demands: "Israel Out of Palestine; End U.S. Aid to Israel; and Stop Racist Attacks at Home." This group--there is also a Berkeley WIB and a Bay Area WIB--hold a monthly vigil on the first Friday of every month at 5 PM at the corner of Montgomery and Market Streets downtown. According to the organizers, today's numbers had swelled dramatically. It took three pictures--one, two, three--to get us all in.
For the most part, the vigil is held in silence. Women either carry signs provided by the group or bring their own hand-lettered messages. Men are welcome to join us and several did. The responses of passers-by ranged from a young man and woman who yelled out a loud "Thank you!" to an older man who walked back and forth in front of us holding his nose. Some people passed by as if we did not exist while others stopped and read every single sign and banner. After we'd stood in silence for perhaps a half hour, a couple of women spoke briefly, one of them a Palestinian woman who assured us that her people at home know about our commitment and demonstrations. We then returned to silence for another 20 minutes. I had the happy surprise--although it shouldn't have been a surprise--to meet up with Faith Petric, an activist/singer with whom I've been privileged to sing at several WoMaMu music camps. Believe me, this woman is in it for the long haul.
As we stood on that bustling
downtown corner in silence, I kept hearing snuffling sounds around
me. At first I thought someone must have a nasty cold, but I soon
saw that some of the women were weeping. I then overheard two
women say how hard this was for them because they are Jewish and
have family in Israel. But they agreed that it must stop.
SATURDAY, APRIL 6, 2002
Have you ever been given a free day that you didn't expect? That happened to me today. My sister Emily, her husband Gorsha and I had a date at 1:30 PM to drive up to Muir Woods, one of the last protected homes of California's giant redwoods. Afterwards we planned to come back to my cottage and have an Indian dinner delivered. Instead, I got a phone call from Emily at 9:30 AM saying she was sick. After my initial disappointment, I breathed a huge sigh of relief. A whole day and night with nothing to do. Just what I needed.
And I used it so well! Wonderful phone conversations with Eddie, my mother and my sister Carolyn. By the way, although my mother is still on oxygen and eating practically nothing, she has perked up quite a bit and seems more with it mentally when we talk on the phone. As her caregiver said, "Your mother is a very strong woman." I then visited with Katy and Baggs out in the sunny garden. After four cold foggy days in a row, the sun was particularly welcome.
In my phone conversation with Carolyn I'd offered to write the first draft of Mother's obituary, so I took my laptop outside and plugged away at that for awhile. It's interesting to try to see one's mother's life as a whole; I found that several dates escaped me. Hopefully my sisters will be able to fill in the gaps.
I then simply sat in the sun. Positively yummy. Of course, my eyes kept alighting on beauty everyplace I looked, so I had to go get my camera. I guess it's become a bit of an addiction. But how could I not share these strawberry flowers, purple tulips, calla lilies and little white unidentified flowers with you? I even walked across the garden and sat under the bamboos. I was particularly taken with this view of the garden where I've spent so many happy hours. And the apple tree is in bloom which always makes me smile.
What a perfectly lovely
SUNDAY, APRIL 7, 2002
Today my women's group--Dorothy, Helen, Susan, Betty and Joyce (Donna was in Europe)--met at Helen and Richard's beautiful home in Sebastapol, about an hour north of San Francisco. Their house is nestled among giant redwoods and forests of pine, oak, eucalyptus, cypress and other trees whose names I don't even know. It is about as idyllic a spot as one could imagine. If you're a regular reader, you might recall my raving about and posting pictures of our gathering there last Spring. To be honest, photographs can only give you a hint of what it feels like to be in this wondrous place. I mean, how could I ever show you how it feels to be utterly dwarfed by the redwood trees? It definitely helps us humans see our place in the scheme of things.
Helen (and Richard who had peeled the shrimp) put on a sumptuous lunch. If I remember correctly, we had tender asparagus with a special sauce, spinach and strawberry salad, a tofu/vegetable rice dish, herbed shrimp, breads and crackers with spreads, and a rich chocolate cake for dessert. As we explained to Julia, Susan's friend from Wisconsin who joined us, folks here in Northern California are definitely oral! Besides eating, we talked and talked. First around the table, then outside on the deck, and finally in the living room. We were silly, serious, touched, honest and caring toward one another. We even learned my song--the one I'd composed at WoMaMu--and sang it to Joyce as Richard gave her a therapeutic massage on her painful lower back.
One of the gifts of this group to me is their political consciousness. I was deeply touched when Joyce showed us the necklace she'd bought at a RAWA (Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan) benefit in December; it had been made by an Afghan woman in a refugee camp. And the conversation Joyce, Dorothy, Betty and I had on our drive up to Sebastapol also meant a great deal to me, especially Joyce's perspective as a Jewish woman about what is currently happening between Israel and the Palestinian people. I'd received an email from a friend who had expressed concern over my use of the word "genocide" in relation to Ariel Sharon (in Friday's journal entry). He is worried about what he perceives as a growing anti-Jewish feeling and questioned whether using such strong language might "foment people's hatred." As anyone knows who reads my journal regularly, the last thing I would ever want to do is to promote hatred of anyone, at the same time I generally say things like I see them. I was interested to hear Joyce use the same word--genocide--in describing what is currently happening in Ramallah, Bethlehem and the West Bank. Not that that says we are right, but simply that we see things in the same way.
My friends and I didn't
leave Sebastapol until after 6:30 PM, but were delighted to see
that Daylight Savings Time gave us an extra hour of light. We
even got to see the still-sunlit city of San Francisco spread
out before us as we approached the Golden Gate Bridge. By the
way, I took two pictures on the drive up to Sebastapol, one of
Gate Bridge as we passed over it, and the other of the green
hills of Marin
County, testimony to the effectiveness of this year's rainy
MONDAY, APRIL 8, 2002
Occasionally an unexpected question will elicit an answer you need to hear. So it was for me today. The following question was posed in an email sent by a dear friend/gifted artist/inspired teacher in Windsor, Ontario:
at the moment i am thinking about hope and wondering what brings it about and how do we sustain hope. what do you think patricia? what gives you real hope in your soul in the body hope?
Hope is such a strange word to me. I remember the days when I was filled with an optimistic-type of hope; those days are long gone. Actually, for years I banished that word from my vocabulary; it carried too many memories of painful disillusionment. Only lately have I found it creeping back into my consciousness. Of course now any talk of hope is balanced by strong doses of reality. Hope is what I feel when I think of young activists I have seen and been taught by in the U.S. and Canada. They, and their sisters and brothers the world over, are the hope of this planet's survival. Their song of struggle--informed , community-based struggle--sings in my heart, mind and spirit.
I also see hope in the shifting fault-lines of spiritual/political/environmental/social justice awareness among peoples of all classes, ethnicities, gender preferences, ages and countries of origin. It seems that the more we see of hatred and fundamentalism, the more we experience tolerance and new ways of thinking/acting/being. There is hope in this cataclysmic period of change.
So I guess I'd say that any hope I find is based on personal experience and the teachings of "what is" rather than "what I wish it were." That to me is the difference between optimism and hope; only hope is real.
In times like these when extremes of human cruelty stand beside models of profound courage and compassion, each worker for and holder of the energy of change must discover what gives them hope and drink from that well daily. Thanks to Elaine's question, I now know my source of hope and where to find it.
This picture I took today gives me hope. It is of my
friend Peter who helps his brother John run the corner deli/organic
grocery, and of Antonio (with the stickers on his face) who helps
his mother Antonia whenever she works there. The youth are our
TUESDAY, APRIL 9, 2002
The farce continues. After holding Rabih Haddad in prison with NO CHARGES against him for almost FOUR MONTHS, most of it in solitary confinement, the INS has again asked for and received a continuance of his Immigration Court hearing that was scheduled for tomorrow, April 10 in Detroit, Michigan.
Of course, this time they were going into an OPEN courtroom because of a federal judge's decision last week in favor of the ACLU lawsuit filed by Detroit Congressman John Conyers, the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, Metro Times and Ann Arbor News. For once, the INS was going to have to show REAL evidence and be held accountable for it. It appears they could not do this and so they arranged to have his hearing postponed once again. The new date is supposedly April 24, but who knows?
Can you imagine the pressure this puts on Rabih, Sulaima his wife and their four children, ages 12-4? For this hearing was not only a detention hearing for Rabih, but one for Sulaima and three of the four children as well. All of them are looking at the possiblity of not only being deported, but being separated with Rabih going to Lebanon, of which he is a citizen, and Sulaima and the children being sent to Kuwait, of which she is a citizen. Their only "crime" has been staying in the US after their tourist visa expired.
I just talked with Sulaima by phone and she said she is ready to stand up and say publically, "Either charge the man or let him go!" It is the first time I have ever heard such strong anger in her voice. Good for her!!!
I ask everyone to contact your senators and representatives, write letters to the editors, speak up on radio talk shows, in essence do EVERYTHING YOU CAN to let the government know that this kind of abusive treatment of human persons is totally unacceptable. A public outcry is what we need! For background on this type of post-September 11 abuse of power, go to www.alternet .org and read the article, "Amnesty International Comes Down on the INS" by Abby Scher.
If their Immigration Court hearing actually happens on April 24, I will be there--I return to Detroit on April 20--and will do everything I can to help pull together a massive show of support in front of the Immigration Court for this horribly mistreated family.
What an outrage for this to happen in a supposedly "free country." Free for whom? Obviously only for non-Muslim, non-Arab persons. Doesn't anyone remember how things started in Nazi Germany? Isn't this all too familiar?
As so often happens, the Universe or the Divine Symphony or whatever it is that orchestrates such things gave me exactly what I needed. After talking with Sulaima and then sending out group emails to my activist community about the postponement of her and Rabih's hearing, I was feeling pretty angry. It's like I'd about had it with this messed up governmental/judicial system that has no respect for human rights and protections. I wrote the above journal entry, put it up on my web site and went off with my neighbor/friend Katy to see Tom Keller, another friend, perform at the International Cafe's Urban Tuesday performance event. My cousin Stacey was to meet us there. I spent much of our time in the car venting about what had just happened to Rabih and Sulaima. All of my friends by now are familiar with their story. As I said, I was in a pretty raw space.
Katy let me off in front of the cafe and Tom came outside and greeted me. He then led me to a table where a man sat who resembled him greatly. It was his father, another Tom, who had come from Minneapolis to see Tom perform. What a wonderful thing for a father to do! Soon Katy joined us and after awhile Stacey showed up too.
There were four performers: a rap artist, a woman doing spoken word, a music and spoken word ensemble, and my friend Tom Keller, a performance artist. How can I give you a sense of what it's like to see/hear/experience Tom perform? Imagine a train bearing down on you as you sit on a railroad track, or an eagle soaring overhead, or a lion swishing its tail as it poises to strike, or a hammer relentlessly driving a nail into your head and heart, or a crying child sitting by himself on a cold muddy road leading out of a wartorn city. What I am trying to describe is the experience of being touched in your innermost parts by the Truth with a capital T. It hurts, comforts, jars, resonates, disturbs and will not let you alone. Believe me, people in that cafe were hanging on Tom's every word, gesture and expression, whether they wanted to or not. This is performance art as transformative agent.
For me personally, he
spoke, shouted, acted out all that I was feeling/thinking about
this US government/military/judiciary that has been behind keeping
a good man like Rabih Haddad in prison since December 14, not
just in prison but cruelly treated in solitary confinement,
a man whose only real crime was to be a humanitarian who saw the
need for a worldwide relief organization, founded it and dedicated
ten years of his life to its work. Tom spoke tonight for people
like Rabih who have been rendered voiceless since September 11.
For that I am deeply grateful.
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 10, 2002
As beautiful as this city is--and on days like this it is unbelievably beautiful--when it comes time for me to return to Michigan it is the people I find it hardest to leave. People like my friends at Simply Supper: David, Johnson, Guy & Al, Allen, Daniel & John, our cook & servers, Reagan & Jeff the project director, Roger whom I met on Dolores Street yesterday. These are just a few of the folks I see every Wednesday, many of whom I've known for three years. As hard as it is to contemplate leaving, I never really say goodbye. All going well, I'll be back again next winter, sitting at the door to the Simply Supper dining room taking tickets and schmoozing every Wednesday afternoon.
And it isn't just my friends at Simply Supper whom I'll miss, it's people like Donna whom I've known for years. This year I've been able to help her celebrate getting a job helping an elder stay in her home. And it isn't just the people, it's creatures like Marci and Evan's cat Ditch.
Well, I may be preparing to leave San Francisco in a week, but today I had the joy of leaving a legacy that I suspect will endure. I was able to connect two poets, Nellie Wong and Elizabeth Ching. As soon as I heard Elizabeth at an Open Mic back in March, I knew these two women should meet. Was I ever right! You should have heard them discover friends in common, activist issues in common, and begin to hatch the idea of reading their poetry together publically! You know, I love nothing better than this type of creativity, the art of helping to forge connections between people.
The day also included
a sweet dinner at Pablote's Mexican restaurant with Marci, and
then a cup of hot tea and some quiet time with Katy and Baggs.
Ah yes, it is not easy to leave San Francisco. But whenever these
feelings wash over me, they are accompanied by relief to be returning
to Eddie, my cozy home near Detroit, my Michigan and Ontario women's
community, Pat and Emily and the folks at Day House, Susan and
the kids at the Dearborn school where I help out, and of course
Sulaima, Huda and the Muslim community working to get Rabih Haddad
released from prison. I'm so fortunate to have rich, full lives
in two places. By the way, did I ever mention that I'm a
Gemini sun sign?
THURSDAY, APRIL 11, 2002
Did anyone else notice strange energy today or was it just me? I guess I should say, or was it just me, Baggs, Katy and Darrell? For poor Baggs was totally spooked by some noise the construction workers were making this morning. We have construction going on at Marci and Evan's upstairs from Katy and Laura's, as well as work being done next door, so it was hard to determine where the sounds were coming from. Katy said Baggs had torn up a plant and spent the morning running around their flat making pathetic wimpering sounds. When I stepped into the garden about 11 AM, he ran up and whimpered at me too. I'd never heard him do that before. Katy had to work pretty hard to calm him down, but we knew he was feeling better when he went back to his usual fly-catching activites.
The next part of the day--Katy driving me to mail a UPS package home to Michigan--went fine. No strangeness there. But when I showed up at the YMCA for my swim, things were definitely out of sync. Someone had thrown away the small wooden ramp Darrell had built for me to use as I enter the pool area. Whoever it was apparently thought it was just an unnecessary piece of wood. My advocate/friend Darrell handled it graciously but firmly by cell phone and the individual who had thrown it away went out to the dumpster and found it. Fortunately.
From then on things went swimmingly. (Sorry, couldn't resist it!) I even had the medium speed lane basically to myself for 18 of my 24 laps. And I again discovered that for me there is nothing more soothing than swimming. All the stress and upsetness I've been feeling these past few days about Rabih Haddad and Israel/Palestine slipped away like water off a duck's back. Now I know what that really means.
After I'd finished at the YMCA, I scooted from the Tenderloin over to Valencia at 17th in the Mission. Dorothy and I had a dinner date at Yum Yum's, our favorite Chinese restaurant. If you ever go there, be sure to order the prawns with walnuts and the Yum Yum eggplant. Exceptional! But it wasn't just the food that was exceptional, it was the deep connection that I experience with this true heart friend. Dorothy and I meet on so many levels--spiritual, creative, political and intellectual. A friend like this helps one make it through tough times like these. When I say "tough" I'm referring to what is happening in the world and in this country; as Dorothy says, these are urgent times.
Walk/scooting home we saw Twin Peak's Sutro Tower floating on a blanket of fog. How I love that sight, one we see most late afternoons in this neighborhood.
I had the luxury of a quiet night at home. Do you know how I chose to spend it? "Painting" the portrait of Sr. Chastity Boner and Anastasia Louise that was taken at last Thursday's Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence bingo party. It may be my favorite picture ever--a guaranteed giggler.
And now it is almost 11
PM and I intend to be in bed before 11:30 PM. I know it's early
for me, but my friend Steve will be here for a visit at 10 AM
tomorrow. The crack of dawn for this night owl.
FRIDAY, APRIL 12, 2002
The day started early, early for me at least. My alarm went off at 9 AM and my friend Steve showed up about an hour and a half later. Steve and I first met in October 1996 when I sublet his apartment during the three months he was in Guatemala. We had connected through an ad I'd placed in the Bay City Guardian. His apartment was a sweet third floor walkup next door to where I live now. It's hard to imagine that I could actually walk up all those flights of stairs, but in those days it was still do-able. Steve and Tina now live up in Chico with William, their precious six month-old son. He and his co-worker Joe stopped by on their way home from an educational convention at Stanford. In addition to seeing me, Steve had a few neighborhood items he wanted to pick up: double raisin bread from the Noe Valley Bakery, and down on Mission Street, Chinese chalk ( a nontoxic way to remove ants), papayas, mangos, homemade tortillas, and a burrito-to-go from Farlito's. When you live in this neighborhood it's easy to get attached to things you can't find elsewhere.
After Steve and Joe left at noon, I called Dorothy to see if she wanted to do something special with this absolutely gorgeous warm sunny day. She suggested going to the Strybing Arboretum and Botanical Gardens in Golden Gate Park. What a perfect idea! As always we needed help putting Ona my scooter in the car and this time three young women from the nearby girls high school helped us. Thanks, Jocelyn, Nora and Leanne...and a big thank you to John who finished the job and also unloaded her (Ona) when we returned home several hours later. I also have Lisa and Kate, and a man named Jack to thank for helping us unload/load Ona at the park. I find people are so generous-spirited with their time and abilities.
Now, I offer my usual warning to folks who don't like pictures of the beauties of nature--this is definitely not the journal entry for you. But if you want to take a leisurely walk/scoot through the botanical gardens, here we go.
This is the first view we saw after entering the gardens. From there it was a matter of winding our way along paved and unpaved paths, beside a running brook, blossoming cherry trees, a man who had found the perfect place to take a nap, brilliant red camillias against a blue sky, a young man playing the guitar to his beloved, a lazy green pond, a lichen-decorated rock, the dramatic African flowering bushes called Veldt Fire and Protea, giant rhododendrums at their peak, a majestic tree that stood alone, and a view of the Sutro Tower from the other side of Twin Peaks.
As spectacular as it all was, we both agreed that this field of California wildflowers touched something deep within us. My poet friend Dorothy referred to the flowers as beauty that breaks your heart. She then said, "You can't actually hold all of this in mind; it's like standing under a waterfall trying to comprehend each drop."
My final pictures are not of flowers but of people, each extraordinarily beautiful in their own way. First my friend Dorothy, and finally a new friend named Alexander who loved my scooter's windchimes.
Well, I thought
those were my final pictures of the day, but that was before Laura
came over at 11 PM to tutor me some more on how to use my new
iBook and the graphics software she'd installed. When you see
what she did with the photo of the African Veldt Fire bush, you'll
understand how fortunate I am to have her as my coach. It may
take awhile to download, but it's worth it. Here is Laura's
SATURDAY, APRIL 13, 2002
Such a hot lazy day. I loved every minute of it. From my quiet time this morning sitting in the garden among tulips, iris and day lilies, to picking up my laundry and getting a few last minute items for tomorrow's brunch at the corner deli where I visited with Iyah, John and Joe, to my scooter ride down Valencia on my way to the distribution point for the latest issue of War Times (which wasn't there), to the stunning views of sunbathers--left, middle, right--above Dolores Park, to noticing the wisteria when I arrived home, to downloading today's photos beside open windows, to a relaxing afternoon in the garden where I watched an industrious inchworm extend its glistening thread inch by silken inch, to this minute as I prepare today's journal entry before Stacey and Drew pick me up at 6:30 PM to go hear Cheryl Wheeler and Tret Fure perform in Berkeley.
Do I have a rough life,
SUNDAY, APRIL 14, 2002
I'm trying to remember exactly when I put on my first San Francisco potluck brunch. I'm guessing it was in the winter of 1996-7 when I first lived in Steve's apartment next door. Then I definitely recall having one in April 1997 at Marcia's Chattanooga Street apartment that I sublet after Steve returned from Guatemala. I'm sure of that because I have photographs of Phil and Gwen, Steve's former girlfriend, playing a serious game of hopscotch on the sidewalk in front of the apartment. I also have pictures of Jamie and Mark covering every available inch with sidewalk chalk-colored drawings.
Well, today Marcia, Jamie and Mark were again in attendance. Actually, once you're on my potluck brunch guest list, it's pretty hard to get taken off! It's become a twice-a-season tradition: the first is held soon after I arrive, and the second right before I leave. In all these years I think we've only had one rainy-day brunch, knock on wood. Today was perfection--bright sun, blue skies and a gentle breeze. Instead of hopscotch and sidewalk chalk, the favored activities were conversation, henna painting (thanks to Marcia), bubble-blowing (thanks to Tom), eating (thanks to everyone), and for me, dress-up (thanks to Stacey). For, as I told my friends when they arrived, Patricia couldn't make it today but Anastasia Louise had come from the Hamptons in her place. Photo Ops then became another activity of choice, at least for Suzanne and Jamie.
There is something wonderful about watching people you love, meet and resonate deeply with one another, as happened with Suzanne and Dorothy. I also get special pleasure out of inviting folks I might have met only briefly, like Tom whom Scott and Stacey and I had met in line and then sat with at the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence bingo party on April 4. And it was a delight for me to see Suzanne's kids, Lucea and Gabe, whom I'd taken a picture of at Mitchell's Ice Cream last year, and had not seen since. And as any regular reader of my journal knows, there is always at least one four-legged guest at my brunches. Mr. Baggs gave and received special attention today, gracious fellow that he is. Things wouldn't be the same without him.
I seemed more inclined to take posed pictures rather than my usual candid shots. Maybe that's because so many of my candids seem to catch people with their mouths wide open taking a bite of food or something equally attractive. Actually, I was fond of this unposed picture of Laura, Ken and Tim. Unfortunately, I missed getting pictures of my sister Emily and brother-in-law Gorsha, probably because they arrived on the late side and I'd pretty much stopped taking pictures by then. I'm also sorry I don't have a shot of Jamie's sister Karen and her friend Kathy who were visiting from Edmonton, Alberta.
Unlike other brunches, this one had a special theme--I called it my 60th Unbirthday Brunch. Since I'm never able to celebrate my June birthday with my California friends, I decided to give myself an unbirthday party to help mark my new decade of life. I set up a small shrine/altar with my baby christening picture, my silver name bracelet, a photo of Ed and me, the photo taken at this year's Vagina Monologues performance, and a few other meaningful items. My friends graciously helped me celebrate.
As I write this entry
I'm hear winds whipping the trees outside my window. Shortly after
my last guests left at 6 PM, the weather changed dramatically.
It is now quite cold and so windy that my plastic folding chair
was just blown over. I sure am glad my brunch was today and not
MONDAY, APRIL 15, 2002
I had declared today to be packing day and so it was. But what engaged me more than that mundane but necessary task were three things I read. First was a poem sent me in email form by my friend, Dorothy. A copy follows:
What Is Needed
(apologies to Mary Oliver)
No one requires
that you be perfect,
that you turn away from the world
and live in a dark cavern
like a saint preparing to ascend.
Or that you stripe your back
with lashes, expiation
for the world's gross blunders,
your own hidden miscalculations.
It isn't even necessary
to be fully informed,
to know all about everything,
or even a single thing,
for that matter.
What is important
is to be who you are,
to come ahead
with your small allotment of wisdom
garnered through the years,
your residue of compassion
eager to be shared.
If you paused
to feed the pigeons
in the park one day,
that will count for you.
If you saw what was happening
to the forest
or sullying the noble sea,
heard the cry of the children
and raised your voice
that will suffice.
dance as naked as you can.
Breathe your secret breath.
Let the world's warm currents
enter your body,
show you the way. Dorothy Walters/ April 5, 2002
The second was another poem, this one by Tom Keller. I had seen him speak it as part of his Urban Tuesday performance at the International Cafe last week. At yesterday's brunch I asked if he would email it to me, and last night he did. You can click here to read "Why I Want To Fly The U.S. Flag, But Can't." After you've read it, Tom invites you to write him at firstname.lastname@example.org with any thoughts you might wish to share.
The third thing I read that touched me today was the hot-off-the-press April issue of "War Times". Not only does this free tabloid offer truth during these times when, as they say, "the first casualty of war is truth", but they actually included an article called "Fit the Profile, Go to Jail" which focuses on Rabih Haddad (with his photo) as an example of the 1200 persons of Middle Eastern and South Asian descent who have been unjustly jailed since September 11. What a comfort to know that progressive folks all over the country will now recognize Rabih's plight.
I spent the evening with Katy and Laura, my dear neighbor/friends. We ate Indian pizza--the best pizza in the world!--for dinner and then watched the video "Home for the Holidays" together. How I am going to miss these women...not to mention Baggsy-boy!
Speaking of canine companions,
I couldn't resist taking a picture of these two
puppies today as they waited patiently for their driver to
TUESDAY, APRIL 16, 2002
I am nicely tired after a pretty full day, my next-to-last in San Francisco. I talked to Ed on the phone and discovered Detroit was enjoying 80º weather, while we had grey skies and chilly temps here. Yep, it's time to migrate east!
I spent the morning packing. About 2 PM I set off--all bundled up--to go for my last swim at the Central YMCA in the Tenderloin. On my way down to the 24th/Mission BART station, I saw these big red roses blooming in front of a house. They looked beautiful even on a grey day.
My 24 laps of the crawl went well. A fellow-slow-lane swimmer even complimented me on my swimming style. That was a nice farewell gift. I couldn't leave without getting one last picture of the pool. I've had a wonderful time there.
I took BART home instead of scooting the two miles like I usually do. It had started to drizzle when I got outside the YMCA, making it feel even colder. Once back in my neighborhood, I did a little last-minute shopping at Walgreen's and a place called Dharma. At 5:45 PM, I met Dorothy at my favorite restaurant, Saigon Saigon, for an early dinner. After eating, we walk/scooted down to BART and took it to Glen Park, the next stop south of 24th/Mission. Our friend Kit Kennedy was reading her poetry with two other women at a book store there.
It was a good reading. We stayed around a short while afterwards and then took BART back home. It had stopped drizzling so I accompanied Dorothy to her house. I just wanted to have a little more time with her. It's hard to say goodbye to Dorothy; she's my true heart friend. Ah well, there's always the phone and email.
I scooted home, parked Ona in the shed, plugged her in and got inside the cottage just as the rains started to fall in a pretty serious way. Very good timing!
I'll close with what I call "painted arboretum". I created it before going swimming today. I'm finding that playing with this new graphics software is both fun and relaxing. Maybe you remember this picture from my April 12th journal entry--it was my first view of the Strybing Arboretum and Botanical Gardens in Golden Gate Park.
And now to bed.
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 17, 2002
I'm going to put this journal entry up early today because I want to pack my iBook before I go to Simply Supper.
San Francisco is offering me a beautiful sunny day in which to take my last scoot to the Castro this afternoon. What a fickle lady! Yesterday she was cold and drear, and today she's bright and sparkling. In the past three months I've seen her at her best and her worst, but I always find her engaging. It helps to know I'll return, hopefully next December.
Even as I feel sad about leaving, I feel happy about the prospect of returning home to my sweetie, my friends and my rich life in Michigan. And I anticipate three days and two nights on the train with nothing to do, nowhere to go, no one to see--a time to read, listen to music on my Walkman CD player and simply look out the window at the world passing by. Sounds like heaven.
I won't return to the
internet until Sunday, April 21. Until then, I wish you a lovely
Spring weekend. See you back in Michigan!
THURSDAY, APRIL 18, 2002
My last night in San Francisco--Wednesday--was happily spent with three of my favorite people--Scott, Phil and my cousin Stacey. We went to dinner at a Spanish tapas (appetizers) restaurant in my neighborhood and enjoyed not only delicious food and lively conversation, but music by a strolling mariachi band. I felt like a 10 year-old who had robbed her piggy bank when I handed the musician a plastic bag full of coins that I was tired of lugging around in my wallet. He took it with a smile. After I returned home two more of my special friends--Katy and Baggs--came over to say goodbye.
This morning, Scott and Phil arrived at 7:30 AM to pack the car with my baggage and Ona my scooter. Phil and Havah (their dog) walked home while Scott drove me over the Bay Bridge to the Emeryville Amtrak train station. The California Zephyr pulled in a little after 9 AM and we were on our way a half hour later.
I intended to relax on this trip and not take digital pictures or write any journal entries; I figured most readers had already seen the sights with me a couple of times before. So I brought along two books--Barbara Kingsolver's latest book of essays called Small Wonders and a prize-winning first novel by Shana Mootoo called Cereus Blooms At Night--and my CD Walkman player with a good assortment of CDs. I nestled happily into the handicap-accessible sleeping compartment with its couch chairs that fold down into a bed, toilet and sink (one of the few such private accommodations on the train), and windows on both sides. Since it's not too smart for me to climb the steep stairs and try to walk through lurching cars to the dining car, I asked Dave, the sleeping car attendant, to bring my meals to my cabin. I saw these three days and two nights as a retreat from people and the active life.
Well, my decision not to take photos lasted about an hour. When we hit the California Delta with its lemon green hills and lush wetlands, I just had to take a picture, and that started me off. But I tried to hold myself to only one or two pictures of each new sight. Seeing as how we travelled through the Delta, into the snow-covered Sierra Nevadas with its breathcatching vistas and lakes, along the Truckee River as it snaked through foggy California and arid Nevada, into the Nevada desert with its unlikely farmlands, highways studded with cross-country semis, industrial plants belching probably-polluting smoke, sunlit ridges and eery salt flats on this first day, I stayed pretty busy! The sky alone was a wonder as late afternoon turned into a dusk tinged with pink.
I spent the evening hours
downloading and making my photos web-ready so I wouldn't be faced
with 100s of raw photos when I returned home. And now, three days
later, I am most grateful for those hours of jouncing around in
my train compartment trying to keep my fingers steady enough to
work the computer. I'm happy to say I also got in a lot of good
reading and listened to some wonderful music. Jazz great Mimi
Fox on solo guitar proved to be the perfect companion for today's
FRIDAY, APRIL 19, 2002
I slept well in my little nest. Right before dawn I got up to use the toilet and saw this frosty landscape out the window. We were in Utah. After sleeping a couple more hours I got up, dressed and rang for Dave to put up my bed and get my breakfast. Talk about service!
We were still in Utah, but the landscape had changed. By now, we were cutting through rocky ridges with mountains in the distance. On the outskirts of these eastern Utah towns would be green fields and farmhouses, but as soon as we were back out in the open, the desert returned to its natural state. Some of the images made me think I was looking between an elephant's toes. I took this photo of the inside of my compartment; you can see my view out the window.
By mid-morning we met up with the Colorado River, although we were still in Utah. As the terrain began to change, signs of spring were nonetheless present. Our last views of Utah were starkly beautiful.
Once in Colorado the vistas expanded, farmlands appeared and the Rocky Mountains could be seen up ahead. However we soon returned to carving a path through layers of earth's history. I couldn't help but think it was like peeking up the skirt of the earth's surface, so intimate a view did we have of all that had gone before. We never stopped following the twists and turns of the river. We began to climb and as we did, the train slowed down and almost made chugging sounds. This portion of the trip never fails to remind me of my favorite book as a child, The Little Engine That Could. "I think I can, I think I can, I think I can."
The music I chose to accompany this leg of the journey was from "The Vine" CD by Kitka, the women's vocal ensemble that specializes in Balkan and Slavic songs. Their haunting voices cut to my heart as did portions of this terrain. The rusty red ridges, especially, reminded me of the carnage presently being unleashed against peoples the world over, but then I'd see the fragile green of a spring tree and hope would return.
One of my favorite stops is Glenwood Springs nestled high in the Rockies. I always want to get off the train for a few days and take the opportunity to swim in the resort's huge outdoor hot spring-fed pools. Maybe someday I will.
Not far out of Glenwood Springs I was able to photograph the engine and front cars of our train as we took yet another in an endless series of serpentine turns. Although I saw this image many times, it was surprisingly hard to capture with my camera, partly because the minute I'd see the engine, it would disappear into a tunnel cut through the mountain.
Much as I hated to miss anything, my eyelids would not stay open and I napped. When I awakened, we were on the top of the mountains with the world spread out below us. The vistas continued for miles as we travelled across the rolling crests. Finally we started our descent through rocks and trees. Here red oxide had stained the hills in dramatic ways. The last picture I took was of green pine trees standing beside the rushing Colorado River. Soon the sun dropped below the mountains and dusk set in. By the time it was completely dark, the lights of Denver were sparkling brightly in the valley below.
I stayed up late downloading
the day's photos, late that is by Dave's standards. When he knocked
on my door and said, "It's 11:40 PM wake-up (Central) time.",
I let him put down my bed and was soon fast asleep.
SATURDAY, APRIL 20, 2002
I slept late on purpose. Since I didn't know what this day would bring, I thought I'd better be well rested. Throughout the night I had fretted about the unlikelihood of my making tonight's close connection in Chicago. As I only had two hours between trains and we were already running between 2-3 hours late, my mind was scurrying around trying to imagine the best possible scenario. I was booked on the last commuter train from Chicago to Dearborn, so it looked like I might be spending the night in Chicago. Even if we made up some time, I still had to get my three checked bags and transfer them myself (with the help of a Redcap) from the Chicago baggage room to my Dearborn train. I was feeling pretty anxious.
When Dave came to make up my bed, I told him of my concerns. Do you know what that man did? At the next two stops, he and the conductor found my suitcases on the baggage car and hand-carried them to my car. What a terrific guy! He then assured me that if we didn't have any more delays, we'd make it into Chicago in time for me to make my connection. Apparently they pad the schedule by an hour or so. That helped me enjoy the day.
I only took two pictures out the window: the first was as we approached the old trestle bridge that would carry us over the Mississippi river, and the second was of the river itself. The rest of the day was spent reading, listening to music--Virginia Mayhew's jazz CD "No Walls"--and looking out the window as we passed freshly-turned and newly-sprouting Iowa and Illinois fields and the old sections of towns.
Dave was right; I made my Dearborn train with no problem. The car was handicap accessible so I had a restful trip home. I called Eddie on my cell phone outside Jackson, Michigan and that sweet man was there to greet me after midnight at the Dearborn train station. Was he a sight for sore eyes! Three months is a long time to be away from the person you love.
We stayed up and talked
awhile before I happily crawled into bed. Home again, home again,
a happy red hen.
SUNDAY, APRIL 21, 2002
I'm home, happy and tired. It is SO good to be within hugging distance of Eddie, to sleep in my own bed--the most comfortable bed on the planet, in my humble opinion--and to be on a solid surface that does not lurch from side to side whenever you try to walk! The train trip was perfection from start to finish. I had an exceptionally fine sleeping car attendant--Dave Juhl from Hart, MI (outside of which the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival is held every August)--read a good book, listened to terrific music, saw amazing sights and had a restful trip. I even took some great photos (if I do say so myself) that you will be seeing anon. I completed the journal entry for the first day--Thursday, April 18--this afternoon. Go check it out.
And now I'm going to bed
early. I am one very tired puppy.
MONDAY, APRIL 22, 2002
Happy Earth Day! I was fortunate enough to be part of a wonderful celebration of this very special holiday. One of our Notable Women chorus members, Peg Case, teaches fourth grade and invited our chorus to sing at her school's Earth Day assembly. Marilyn, a new chorus member who lives near me, kindly gave me and Ona my scooter a ride to Peg's school which is about an hour north of here. I immediately figured we'd have a lot in common when I saw her bumper sticker, "Close the School of the Americas." And was I ever right! It turns out she is a retired fourth grade teacher herself who volunteers two afternoons a week at Freedom House, the refugee shelter in Detroit where I used to co-facilitate weekly art therapy sessions with adults and children. Small world.
We met our sister singers at 1 PM in the school library for a short rehearsal. Was it ever good to see these women again! We had lots of catching up to do, such as Judith showing me her beautiful new teeth. She's been going through a hugely expensive, painful process for over a year and finally finished up this winter. Doesn't she look great?
The children at this K-5 (kindergarden through fifth grade) school gathered in the gym for the Earth Day assembly. What a gloriously diverse group of students, a real world community. Seeing them made me more excited than ever about returning on Thursday to the Dearborn school where I volunteer. Peg's fourth graders had just gotten back from a four day environmental education camping trip. During that time each child had chosen a creature or plant to speak for in today's Council of All Beings.
The Council of All Beings as imagined into being by Joanna Macy and John Seed involves humans becoming the voices for our voiceless co-inhabitants on this planet. They generally create a mask, study about their chosen animals or plants, especially taking note of any threats they might be experiencing to continued survival as a species. I'd first read of the Council in the book, Thinking Like A Mountain: Towards A Council of All Beings, and was reminded of it at last summer's Notable Women singing retreat with Carolyn McDade. At that time, she invited us to spend this year preparing to have a Council of All Beings at our June 2002 retreat.
As part of today's Earth Day Assembly, representatives of the fourth grade classes came up onto the stage and while holding their masks before their faces, read what they had written in the voice of their voiceless friends. The manatee, garden spider, lynx and endangered plants were among those from whom we heard. It was both powerful and poignant. Between the children's recitations, our chorus sang songs, some of which our director Nancy taught to the kids. They sang with spirit and enthusiasm. What a terrific school!
During the last song, "All God's Critters", the chorus members joined Nancy on the gym floor while the fourth graders, who had learned the song in prpeparation for today, came up onto the stage to sing. Because I was in my scooter I got to stay up there with them. Lucky me! The kids and I had a lot of fun together, with a few of them even managing to honk my pink horn a couple of times. After the assembly lots of kids came up and thanked us. "You sing really good!", we heard more than once. Well, so do they.
Peg took us out back to show us the fourth grade garden that she and Jeanne have helped the students create. It's considered a special treat for the kids to come out and work in the garden after they've finished their classwork. Many of us felt connected to this garden because we'd given Peg gardening trowels for her 60th birthday last summer. That's all she had asked for. So like Peg.
I asked the Notable Women who were in attendance to pose for a group picture and also took the opportunity to celebrate Nancy Nordlie, our dedicated chorus director, by photographing her under the flowering cherry tree. I do love these women.
Aren't I fortunate to have so many people I love in both Michigan and California?
Speaking of friends, I
was happy to see our four-legged friend, Fatty,
before Marilyn picked me up this morning. I suspect he was less
interested in me than in the three walnuts-in-a-shell I gave him
to eat, but that's OK. I'd feel the same if I were him. And speaking
of things I love, here is an April portrait of Ed's
and my home. At the end of this month we will have lived here
31 years. What a good choice we made so many years ago.
TUESDAY, APRIL 23, 2002
I didn't get accomplished all that I'd intended today--specifically putting up the journal entry with photos of the Utah desert and Colorado Rockies from my second day on the train--but what did happen was exactly what I needed to happen. Do you know what I mean? So often we have agendas for ourselves that have nothing to do with what we really need. And what I needed today was to find ways to feel at home here again.
This migratory lifestyle I've chosen brings with it twice-a-year adjustments to different places, people and ways of life. Where San Francisco is exciting, Michigan is mellow. The sounds and sights of city life are replaced by that of a quiet residential village nestled between a big lake and an industrial city. When I return home to Michigan I need to s-l-o-w down and smell the roses, literally and figuratively.
My photo ops are more subtle here. Well, I guess this star magnolia in full bloom is pretty showy, but the lake offers a rest for the eyes. How different it is from the rambunctious Pacific Ocean! The spring-green trees don't knock your eyeballs out like those lemon-green hills in the California Delta, but are nonetheless beautiful. And Michigan's flowering fruit trees paint streets in pastel colors that echo French Impressionists rather than the Van Gogh-like exuberance of Northern California.
Instead of ethnically diverse meals in Vietnamese, Spanish or Indian restaurants, a simple tunafish salad sandwich at the local Subway with my sweetie is all I need to make me happy. And having one friend pull over in her car, another stop and chat during his walk, and two more honk their horns and wave certainly makes me feel welcomed home. Then stopping to say hi to our local seamstress--who always asks Ed how I am when I'm in California--and going to the library where I'm known by name by most of the staff adds to my growing sense of at-homeness.
The theme continued tonight as my friend Pat from Day House came over and brought us home-cooked salmon patties, buttered cabbage and beets for dinner. As she and I have done for the 11 years of our friendship, we then sat and talked of whatever came to mind, some silly and much of substance. And tomorrow early-early-early I'll be down at Rabih and Sulaima's deportation hearing, hoping to get one of the 60 seats in the courtroom but ready to demonstrate out front if need be.
It's good to be home.
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 24, 2002
I just met a mouse on a scooter and a man who restores canoes. See, even in this quiet community you never know who might be around the next corner. The mouse and her scooter (of the two-wheeled manual variety) was across the street from me and my scooter (of the three-wheeled battery-operated variety) as I returned home from a dinner out with Ed. She nodded her head when I said, "Is that a mouse I see riding that scooter?" And what a cute mouse she was with her pink nose and gray pipe cleaner whiskers scotch-taped to her human nose, big pink paper ears pinned to her grey sweatshirt hood that was pulled over her head, and four white socks with black paws painted on them.
Soon after we'd said goodbye, I scooted by an open garage with a man standing there working on a beautiful old wooden canoe. Skip Gibson was only too happy to tell me about his latest find, a 1929 Oldtown (Maine) canoe that had been hidden away for decades in a farmer's barn near Lansing, Michigan. For the past 12 years Skip has been restoring any wooden canoe he could get his hands on, mostly through the internet. If you know of such a treasure, simply click here to send Skip an email. I get the feeling he is not deterred by distance.
I needed such delightful encounters as it had been a pretty discouraging day. Rabih and Sulaima's deportation hearing had been postponed until June 19 because of yet another appeal by the Justice Department to try to keep it closed to the public. Unfortunately I'd not heard of the postponement so had gotten up at 6:30 AM, been on the road by 7 AM and had waited in front of the Immigration Court until 10 AM. I kept expecting to see TV News trucks and busloads of supporters from the Ann Arbor Muslim community, but all I saw were people going to work. Ed gave me the news of the postponement when I returned home; he'd read it in the morning paper after I'd left.
I didn't mind the inconvenience to me, what I minded dreadfully was the thought of Rabih having to spend two more months in prison. It is so wrong to keep him locked up when his only "crime" is overstaying his tourist visa. Even if they deport him at least he'd be free.
Well, I did what I could. I sent a group email to my activist friends and communities, wrote a long letter to Rabih, and sent the following letter to the editor of the Detroit Free Press:
How Long Will They Keep Rabih Haddad in Prison?
I was disappointed to read in this morning's Detroit Free Press (4/24/02) that the Immigration Court hearing for Rabih Haddad, his wife Salma Al-Rushaid and three of their four children had been postponed yet again because of another appeal mounted by the Justice Department. Apparently the government was not happy with the 6th Circuit Court decision to uphold the Detroit Federal judge's ruling that the hearing would have to be open to the public and the media, instead of being held in secret like before.
By playing these endless legal games, they continue to keep Rabih Haddad, a respected Ann Arbor Muslim leader, in prison for at least another two months with no chance of bail and no charges having been brought against him. At the next scheduled hearing on June 19--if it goes forward then--Rabih will have been in prison for over six months! His crime? The only thing they seem to have on him is that he overstayed his tourist visa for three years. And for this he was held in solitary confinement for almost four months and is now being held in a federal prison 250 miles away from his wife and children.
Is this really America?
In my letter to friends I added this paragraph:
Please keep pressuring your elected representatives to right this wrong, not just for Rabih but for the 100s of other Arab men who remain hidden away behind bars with no chance of justice or release. Write letters to the editors, call in to talk radio shows...do whatever you can to keep this issue alive. Don't let Rabih and his brothers rot away in prisons. They have NO VOICE but ours.
Ah well, tomorrow I'll
be with the wonderful kids at the school in Dearborn. The
hope of our future and the delight of my present. May this country
become all that they deserve it to be.
© 2002 Patricia Lay-Dorsey. Please use with attribution.