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FRIDAY, JULY 25, 2003
Today was one of those days I will remember. First of all, it was absolutely beautiful. The kind of summer day when dipping into the pool feels utterly delicious. Then, for me, doing my 20 lengths was more delicious yet. My laps were followed by a visit with my friend Brigitte's Parisian grandchildren, Max and Stella, who arrived yesterday for a five week visit. I then met her son-in-law, Terry, and the four year-old twins, Henry and Malcolm. Finally I met her husband and her daughter, Michelle. Her husband and I sat down to have an hour-long discussion about politics and the world condition. As an historian, he gave me an interesting context in which to place the events of our times. It always helps to see things in a larger context; it takes away the fear that things are so bad they can't get better. History shows that change is the only constant. I find that comforting.
And now, even though I have lots more to share about today--including photos of the Raging Grannies and members of the Blue Triangle Network who were in town for a national retreat and planning meeting--I must go to bed. I'll continue my story tomorrow.
The Raging Grannies Without Borders have been closely connected with the Blue Triangle Network since that frigid December day in 2002 when a number of our Grannies joined a demonstration in front of the Michigan headquarters of the INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service) in Detroit. We were there to stand in solidarity with the immigrant men from predominantly Muslim countries who were undergoing a special registration that was reminiscent of the special registrations of Japanese Americans at the beginning of World War II. We were also out on that extremely cold sidewalk to protest this further evidence of racial targeting that our Muslim brothers and sisters of Arab and South Asian descent had been experiencing in the US since September 11. That day I met Bob Parsons, one of the Blue Triangle Network organizers, and invited him to come speak to the Grannies at our next monthly meeting. Since that time, we have demonstrated together numerous times, as well as participating in a BTN program on February 20, the International Day of Solidarity with Muslim Arab and South Asian Immigrants.
So when Bob asked the Raging Grannies to come sing at their Friday social event for Blue Triangle Network representatives from across the country, we were delighted to comply. Ten Grannies showed up in their Granny hats, aprons and shawls. After watching an hour-long film about the current racial targeting of Muslims of Arab and South Asian descent and how it compares with the treatment of the Japanese Americans during World War II, we Grannies stood up to sing. But we hoped we wouldn't be the only ones singing. We'd handed out song sheets, and although there must have been ten songs on the sheet, this group was so enthusiastic that we ended up singing them all! I think they'd had a long day sitting and talking and were ready for something a little more active. Besides, they genuinely seemed to appreciate our songs about the mistreatment of immigrants, the loss of civil liberties, the Patriot Act and Ashcroft himself. It's always a great to sing with people who understand what we're trying to say. And this group definitely did.
After another short film, Bob let me share about Rabih Haddad's deportation and the support rally we're planning for his wife and their children before their deportation on Monday. Again, this group understood everything I had to say. Before we moved from the auditorium in this lovely Dearborn mosque to the community center where we would share food and conversation, this group photo was taken to commemorate the event. When we finally had a chance to talk informally with these representatives from Blue Triangle Networks in San Francisco, San Diego, Hawaii, Houston, New York City and Chicago, it was wonderfully heartening. So many of them are young! What a fabulous generation of activists is coming up behind us.
SATURDAY, JULY 26, 2003
Well, here it is tomorrow and I still haven't finished my story about last night's Raging Grannies appearance at the national retreat and planning meeting of the Blue Triangle Network. But when I explain why, I think my regular journal readers will understand.
Sulaima and I talked on the phone yesterday morning and in the course of our conversation she told me that she and the children had to report to the INS (now called ICE) headquarters here in Detroit at 10 AM on Monday for deportation. It occurred to me that they deserved a loving send-off, especially after how they've been treated by this country's so-called "justice" system. So I told her I would be there myself in front of the INS by 9:30 AM, and that I would get as many people to join me as I could. My reasoning was not simply to show Sulaima and the kids that we care, but to show the INS/ICE folks that we are watching how they treat Rabih Haddad's wife and children. I want this deportation to be under public scrutiny, not handled in secret like they did with Rabih two weeks ago. So I sent out the following email to the groups and individuals in my address book whom I thought might be interested:
Dear sisters and brothers
I just talked with Rabih Haddad's wife, Sulaima, and discovered that she and their four children--Sana, Sami, Rami and Oussama--are to be at the INS Building, 333 Mt. Elliot, just south of E. Jefferson in Detroit at 10 AM on Monday, July 28. From there, they will be transported to the airport to be deported to Kuwait. The promise is that after two days in Kuwait--Sulaima's father and sisters are there--she will be given her visa to Lebanon and the family will FINALLY get on a plane to be reunited with Rabih, who was secretly deported from the Monroe County Jail on July 14 after 19 months of unjust imprisonment. At present, the family intends to make their home in Lebanon with the helpful support of Rabih's mother and extended family.
We need to give this family that has suffered SO MUCH at the hands of the U.S. government a BIG SEND-OFF!!! I'm asking all my sisters and brothers to meet in front of the INS Headquarters on Mt. Elliot (just south of E. Jefferson) at 9:30 AM with LOTS OF SIGNS and a readiness to sing! I'll bring special song sheets.
Let's let the INS know that this innocent mother and children are our loved ones, and that we INSIST that they be treated with the care and consideration they deserve. Let your signs speak your heart.
Remember, meet no later than 9:30 AM on Monday, July 28 in front of the INS Building, 333 Mt. Elliot, just south of E. Jefferson in Detroit. Let's have the last sight Sulaima and the kids have of the U.S. be one of LOVE AND SUPPORT!!!
Please forward this message to your groups and frinds.
See you there, rain or shine.
in support of my sister
and her family
I then announced the rally and gave some background of Rabih's case at last night's Blue Triangle Network gathering. Since the BTN's reason for being is to support, advocate for and educate the general public about the threats since September 11 to our Muslim brothers and sisters of Arab and South Asian descent in the US, most of the folks there--folks from as far away as San Francisco, San Diego, Hawaii, Houston, New York City and Chicago--already knew about Rabih Haddad. He's been an international symbol of what John Ashcroft and the Patriot Act have been doing to immigrants in this country, especially Muslim immigrants of Arab descent. Representatives from the Chicago Blue Triangle Network came up afterwards and told me how much it meant to them to hear the latest news about Rabih and Sulaima, as their group had organized support for them during the winter and spring of 2002 when Rabih was being held in Chicago's Metropolitan Correctional Center. One of the representatives said she was going to try to extend her stay in Detroit an extra day so she could attend Monday's rally.
The number of positive responses I've received to my idea of giving Sulaima and the kids a good send-off has surprised me. What I'd originally seen as a small way to support my sister and her children has turned into a BIG DEAL, so big that it will require press releases, speeches, a bull horn, and way more organization than I can manage on my own. After a couple of phone calls and emails to my sister Kristine in Ann Arbor, I was delighted to hand over the organizing to the Free Rabih Haddad Committee that has coordinated all of the local rallies and demonstrations that have been held for Rabih during the 19 months of his detention.
But for me the most important thing is that the last sight Sulaima, Sana, Sami, Rami and Ossama have of the United States will be of people who love them. They deserve it.
SUNDAY, JULY 27, 2003
I finally did my homework! You can scroll down to my Friday, July 25, journal entry to read about the Raging Grannies at the Blue Triangle Network national retreat and planning meeting. Now I must get to bed as my alarm is set to go off at 7:15 AM tomorrow, in preparation for the support rally for Sulaima and the kids at the INS at 9:30 AM. I so hope we'll have a good turn-out.
MONDAY, JULY 28, 2003
I've been in bed for three hours trying to sleep. All I've been able to do for the past half hour is cry. It is finally sinking in. Sulaima and the kids are leaving, never to return. I feel as though it is my daughter and grandchildren who are leaving. Every moment we've shared is coming back to haunt me, especially the first moment we met. It was December 19, 2001 and I didn't know this family at all. All I knew was that something in their story--the story of a Muslim cleric and humanitarian being arrested suddenly in his home in Ann Arbor by INS agents, handcuffed and taken to an "undisclosed location"--touched me deeply. So I went to the immigration court hearing that we'd been asked to attend to offer support, and at one point during those long hours sitting in that waiting room--no one except his lawyer and a few witnesses were allowed inside the courtroom--I was drawn to scoot over and talk briefly with the wife of this man who was being treated so unjustly. We met with our hearts. I don't know how else to describe it. I remember holding her hands in mine, looking deeply into her eyes, and speaking of our connection as members of this one human family, telling her she was not alone, that there were people across the globe who were standing beside her in solidarity, assuring her she was strong enough to handle whatever might come. And then I gave her two boys my Odwalla grapefruit juice that I'd carried into the waiting room. That was how it started. You know, we've never gone to one another's homes, in fact months would go by without our seeing one another. But we both knew the other was always there, offering love and mutual support. For it was not just me supporting Sulaima during these nineteen months, but her supporting me as well. Whenever she saw me her face would light up with such a loving smile, and she'd always come over to give me a big hug. We must have at least four or five photos of us hugging. I feel like my heart is being ripped out of my chest. But, as sad as I feel now, I'd just as soon get this sobbing part of my feelings over and done with tonight. I don't want to bring this kind of energy to the rally, especially not if I see Sulaima and the kids. They're going to have enough of their own raw feelings to deal with, without having to deal with mine. I just want to offer them love and support today, not a soggy tissue-face and runny nose. I wonder if Sulaima can sleep tonight. I hope so. She's got a demanding week ahead of her. At least until she can relax in her beloved Rabih's arms. Ah well, writing my feelings instead of crying them has helped. Maybe now I can sleep.
Before I went back to bed, I went to my inbox to reread Sulaima's last email to me. This is what she wrote:
I regret not knowing ,seeing, hugging you more often dearest Patricia. There are no words to describe how I feel now. Mixed mixed emotions mainly very happy that now he is free free free and with his loving mom. But leaving you guys, that is totally different. I pray to GOD that you all stay safe and healthy for many many years to come to continue your priceless work.
love you more than you will ever know Sulaima
Can you see why I love her so much?
Today we gave Sulaima, Sana, Sami, Rami and Oussama the kind of send-off they deserved. It was full of love, outrage, tenderness, song, tears and lots of TV/radio/newspaper interviews. We who have supported this family in their ongoing struggle for the release of Rabih Haddad, their husband and father, during 19 months of detention without charges, came together, as one sign put it, as "One World, One People." We were old and young, women and men, Muslim and non-Muslim, Raging Grannies Without Borders, Free Rabih Haddad Committee members, folks from the Blue Triangle Network, Peace Action, Ann Arbor Area Committee for Peace, MECAWI (Michigan Emergency Committee Against War In Iraq), the Flagpole Protestors (from my local high school), and individuals who were there because they believed in the pre-September 11 American principle of law that said one is innocent until proven guilty. There was one man who captured the attention of the media and press by spray painting "Remember 9-11" on a piece of construction plywood across the street, but his was a voice that was not needed to be heard in this crowd. If there is any segment of American society that can never forget 9-11, it is our Muslim brothers and sisters of Arab descent. They bear the consequences of that tragic action every day of their lives.
Ed had followed me downtown on his way to work so that he could get my scooter out of the car and set it up for me. I could not possibly do what I do in the world without the support of this loving man. Anyway, that got me to the INS building a half hour early, at 9 AM. When I arrived, one TV truck was already there. And then the supporters started to arrive. We had a wonderful gaggle of Raging Grannies in attendance, two of whom--GranMotoko and Granny Carol Yamasaki--had driven an hour to get there. And there was a good group of brothers and sisters from Rabih and Sulaima's mosque who had caravaned by car and van 50 miles from Ann Arbor. The surprise to me was the large number of press and media who not only showed up but got interviews and/or photographs of just about everyone, and who stuck around for hours until the INS van had finally loaded up Sulaima and the kids and taken off for the airport at 12:20 PM. For those of us who had felt silenced and invisible every time we'd read or seen or heard the media and press repeating the Justice Department's--John Ashcroft's--unsubstantiated accusations of Rabih and his Global Relief Foundation being tied to terrorists, having a chance to say our say was both healing and empowering. It seemed as though the press and media were finally catching on to the fact that if the Justice Department had had anything on Rabih Haddad, they would never have let him go free, in Lebanon or anyplace else. It was now clear to any thinking person that the government had tried to get something on Rabih and his group for 19 months and had come up empty. All they had on him was a usually-fineable visa violation, and so they deported him, his wife and children. What a miscarriage of justice.
So when I was interviewed today--the question usually being, "Why are you here?"--I not only talked about wanting to support this family who had been so mistreated by the American government, but gave my opinions about how the government had handled the case and how the media and press had reported it (shameful in both cases). Many of the thoughts that had kept me awake last night came pouring out. I have no idea exactly what I said, but I know it came directly from my heart. What I do remember saying over and over is that, in deporting Rabih Haddad, the United States has lost an exceptional asset to our country, that I saw in him a link to persons like Nelson Mandela, Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., that this has been one of the worst chapters in American history, and that we supporters will continue to fight for Rabih Haddad's and the Global Relief Foundation's names to be cleared. I also said that Rabih Haddad's only "crime" was being a humanitarian who tried to alleviate the suffering of others. Anyone who interviewed me got an earful.
But it wasn't simply our opinions that we shared today, it was a song that had come to me full blown as I awoke yesterday morning. Even though it was a bit of a tongue-twister, almost everyone learned and sang it with gusto. We sang it to Sulaima and the children through the windows of the van that had carried her and a good number of sisters from Ann Arbor to Detroit. We sang it into microphones held by TV camerapersons and radio interviewers. We sang it to Rami and Sami when they came out of the INS building to say goodbye. We even sang it to Rabih himself! For one of the most amazing moments of this day came when one of the brothers held up his cell phone and said, "It's Rabih on the phone!" Granted the connection only lasted for three minutes at a time, but with the speaker phone (!) turned on, Rabih was able to make a personal statement of thanks to his supporters. Even the hardboiled press and media were shaking their heads in wonder at that.
In addition to interviews and songs, we expressed what we wanted to say in the form of signs. Yesterday I'd made six myself--#1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6--not counting two with the words to our theme song. The sisters from Ann Arbor had a whole batch of excellent signs, and everyplace you looked up and down the line, there were signs in evidence. At one point I scooted across the street and took a series of photos of rally participants, looking from left to right--#1, #2, #3, #4. It was then that an INS guard came up and said, "Shall I confiscate your camera now or later?" America, home of the free and the brave.
But, as often seems to happen, there is one moment that I'm sure will always stay with me. It came about a half hour after Sulaima and the children had disappeared inside the bowels of the INS building. To be honest, I did not expect to see them again. But I looked up to see ten-and-a-half-year-old Sami coming toward me on the sidewalk. He walked right into my arms and gave me a big hug. I whispered, "I don't want you to go", and he said, "I don't want to go either." By now the cameras and microphones had closed in on us like we were M&M or something, but Sami and I didn't care. We were seeing only each another. I told him how his Dad was waiting for him, and how he'd told me he was afraid he'd "gobble up" his family, that he loved them so much. We talked about Lebanon and also about his being able to see his granddad in Kuwait for the first time in years. I told him I was planning to come visit, as were a lot of his friends from Ann Arbor. Soon I saw Rami kind of hiding behind Sami and had to coax him over to get a hug. It was obviously a very emotional time for these boys, but, as always, they handled themselves with dignity and grace. Oh, I'm going to miss these kids. But, as I said to Sami, all we want is for their family to be together again.
Most of us--supporters and media/press--waited until Sulaima and the children were to be transported to the airport. We supporters wanted one more chance to show them our love, and the media/press wanted one last photo op. But as time went on, we realized the INS was probably going to try to get them out without our seeing them. So we stationed some of our folks at one entrance on E. Jefferson Avenue, while the rest stayed in front of the gate on Mt. Elliot. Suddenly we heard a cry, "They're taking them out the E. Jefferson entrance." Everyone ran--I scooted--over to that entrance and we were able to wave to a van that our brothers assured us they'd seen Sulaima and the children get into. But instead of using the entrance where we stood, the van--with its tinted windows to prevent anyone seeing who was inside--turned toward a back entrance and drove out of sight. We ran/scooted in that direction, but they were gone. The press and media agreed with us that this was typical of how the INS operates these days. Everything is done in secret, even when they have nothing to hide. Ah well, Suliama and the kids know we were there, and more importantly, know how we feel about them.
Sana, Sami, Rami,
Whether here or Lebanon,
We love you like a family.
TUESDAY, JULY 29, 2003
Do all your good deeds now, today! Tomorrow may be too late. Did anyone give you a contract on life? Or whisper in your ear the exact number of times your heart will beat?
Thump, thump, thump. It's a countdown and you've just lost three beats.
...from Reflections From Solitude, Part 1, by Rabih Haddad, June 15, 2003
Rabih knew in ways the rest of us only suspect, that this moment is all we have. Tonight I value his words in a way that I didn't just a couple of hours ago. I am filled with the deepest gratitude for the wonders I experienced today.
The beauty of a summer garden, in particular two flowers, one purple and the other the palest pink. Eighteen lengths of the free style in a lap lane all to myself. The beach at our lakefront park, with two boys, one digging and the other wading. A lone seagull on the beach, and a group of gulls on a portion of the pier they have claimed as their own. The welcome news that my sister Sulaima and the children finally arrived safely in Kuwait at 1:30 PM EDT today after a grueling trip. Walk/scooting with my sweetie down to our favorite restaurant for dinner. Ed at my side to help me this evening when my leg buckled and I twisted my ankle. A scooter now beside me upstairs, at the ready to help me get around until my ankle heals. And now a bed that is calling my name.
Yes, every moment is precious.
WEDNESDAY, JULY 30, 2003
Last night I discovered that what I had hoped was simply a twisted ankle was something more. I'd guess a pulled or torn ligament and a bad sprain. Whatever it is, my right leg and foot are painful and can bear no weight. I'm fortunate I was able to get upstairs (on my bum) soon after the fall while the injury was still in the numbed-out trauma stage. At least I'm in my beloved space for the duration.
As I tried to sleep during the night, I asked myself if I would have done anything differently had I known my excessive activity would lead to this. Especially when I realized that this injury might keep me from attending the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival for the first time in nine years. The answer was a resounding "No!" Being able to do what I could do for Rabih and Sualima these last two weeks was worth missing the festival, or missing anything for that matter. Every moment was a privilege.
And I found that the injury didn't keep me from continuing that work today. I sent a group email titled "Rabih & Sulaima" to hundreds of individuals and groups, as well as a letter to the editor of the Detroit Free Press. As I told the media and press interviewers on Monday, we aren't going to rest until we've seen Rabih Haddad's name and the name of his Global Relief Foundation cleared.
Being an activist doesn't always require you to be out on the streets. Sometimes a keyboard works just as well.
THURSDAY, JULY 31, 2003
"Fall seven times. Stand up eight." - Japanese proverb
I read that quote today in the singer/songwriter/bellydancer Jamie Andersons's online newsletter. As you can imagine, it spoke to me.
Actually, I felt like I'd already stood up--at least symbolically--by spending much of the day researching and then buying (online, of course) camping equipment that will make it possible for me to go to my beloved Michigan Womyn's Music Festival) in a week and a half. I found a wonderful tent that looks handicap-accessible so I can drive my scooter inside. I got a cot that is stable enough that it won't tip over when I try to get out of bed (never easy for me in the best of times.) And on top of this Swedish-made cot, I'll have a comfy self-inflating foam camping mat. Now all I need is to get a ride from my friends, but that should be no problem.
Michigan here I come!
FRIDAY, AUGUST 1, 2003
As is so often the case, the real war isn't fought until the battle is done.
I think of the hard questions that George W. Bush and his advisors are now facing about why they insisted on attacking Iraq. Remember how the Commander-In-Chief landed on an aircraft carrier off the port of San Diego on May 1 and announced that "Major combat operations in Iraq have ended?" Maybe the President should ask the soldiers still over there--who are dying on an average of one a day--how they feel about being part of a combat operation that isn't considered "major."
I think of John Ashcroft and the USA Patriot Act. Yes, it was passed with little discussion and even less careful examination by a frightened Congress soon after September 11, 2001. Well, as of today 143 cities have passed resolutions banning its enactment by local law enforcement agencies, last week the U.S. House voted 309 to 118 to overturn key provisions of the Act, and on Wednesday the American Civil Liberties Union and six Muslim groups brought the first major constitutional challenge to the Patriot Act to federal court. Their lawsuit seeks to have Section 215 of the Act declared unconstitutional on the grounds that it violates the privacy, due process and free speech rights of Americans.
As a baseball great once said, "It ain't over till it's over."
I think of the case of Rabih Haddad. I'd guess that the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security breathed collective sighs of relief on Monday when the last of Rabih's family--his wife and children--were deported to Kuwait. With Rabih Haddad--the man they'd kept imprisoned for nineteen months with no charges and no bond--secretly deported to Lebanon on the night of July 14, there was no more reminder of their fruitless search to connect him to terrorism. Out of sight, out of mind. Or so they thought. Well, it's not panning out that way. Yesterday such a public outcry and flood of emails descended on the offices of two Kuwaiti newspapers that had inaccurately described Rabih Haddad as having been charged with funneling funds to al-Qaeda, that they had to print retractions on today's front pages. Now I learn that Sulaima's brother, Ezz Yacoub al-Rushaid, has just been quoted in al-Seyassah newspaper in Kuwait as saying he plans to sue the U.S. government "to bring dignity and clean my sister's and brother-in-law's names." And on Thursday's "Democracy Now" radio program, Amy Goodman interviewed the ACLU lawyer Noel Saleh, who had also served as attorney for Rabih and Sulaima. Although most of the interview dealt with the ACLU lawsuit challenging the USA Patriot Act, Goodman also asked her guest to briefly discuss the related case of Rabih Haddad. Noel Saleh concluded the interview by saying, "Rabih was a symbol of American jurisprudence gone astray."
And so, as Rabih wrote this afternoon in his first-ever email to me, "The struggle continues!!"
I'm just grateful to be in it. During times like these, what could be better than to be smack dab in the middle of the struggle for truth and justice.
SATURDAY, AUGUST 2, 2003
How is it that I feel so sleepy, yet I haven't done much of anything all day? With this bum foot, I seem to be on a totally different schedule--I go to bed early and get up early. This morning it was 7 AM.
The most exciting part of my day came this afternoon when I wrenched my neck transferring from my scooter to a chair. All of a sudden it was like there was a huge knotted rope across the back of my shoulders and I could tell it was only going to get worse. I called my dear friend Pat Kolon, the massage therapist, and within a couple of hours she was at my side. Within a half hour, she had loosened that knotted rope out of my shoulders and left me feeling delightfully relaxed. What a healer! She then went for a swim at our park, and took a rest on the couch when she returned. After a pizza and salad dinner with Eddie--they joined me upstairs for a picnic--Pat started in on another task, and that was to pack my camping gear for the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival. A few days ago I'd called and asked if I could hire her to do this for me. There's not a lot I can do with a foot that is swollen like a sausage and can't bear any weight. But Pat is one of the world's best packers, so she did a magnificent job. Once my new tent and cot are delivered on Tuesday, my stuff will be all ready to go. My stuff will be ready; now I want to get my foot ready. One more week should help a lot, as long as I don't go stir-crazy first!
SUNDAY, AUGUST 3, 2003
I can't say I'm finding this enforced solitude/inactivity the easiest thing to endure. After five days, the novelty has definitely worn off. Even though I know it's good not just for my sprained ankle but for my tired self, I'd still rather be "out there." For instance, it's now 7 PM and I should be at a Detroit peace community commemoration of Hiroshima singing GranMotoko's song, "No More Hiroshima" with the Raging Grannies. At least I was able to help rehearse with four or five of my sisters by phone during the week. But it's hard not to be there.
And I miss swimming. I miss sitting out back in my secret wilderness. I miss scooting around in the fresh air. I miss the lake. I miss being with people.
Ah well, enough self-pity for now!
Today I made a new photo collage to use as my desktop background. It was more a therapeutic exercise than a creative one. I needed to show myself who I am and what I'm usually doing when not nursing a sore foot. Made up of a selection of photos from July, this collage gives me some small idea of why my body finally said, "Enough already!" It shows: 1) the Raging Grannies marching with the Ann Arbor Area Committee for Peace in the July 4th parade; 2) me drumming at the Concert of Colors at Chene Park in Detroit; 3) the moonrise on Saturday of that glorious Concert of Colors weekend; 4) the Great Lakes Basin women singing at the tip of Ontario's Pt. Pelee at the same time that our Atlantic Canada sisters were recording their portion of the O Beautiful Gaia CD in Halifax; 5) my goodbyes to Sulaima and the children at the picnic in Ann Arbor on Friday, July 18; 5) singing with the Raging Grannies at the national retreat and planning meeting of the Blue Triangle Network at a mosque in Dearborn on Friday, July 25; 6) our send-off/support rally for Sulaima and the kids in front of the Detroit INS building on Monday; 7) grounding myself in the woods at Belle Isle after the emotional upheaval of that rally and seeing the family depart for the airport; and finally, 8) the beautiful purple flower I saw on my way to swim on Tuesday afternoon just hours before my fall. It comforts me to look at this collage and know that soon enough I'll be back among 'em, raging and dancing. Patience, patience...
MONDAY, AUGUST 4, 2003
Rabih, Sulaima and the kids are together again. Ebtehal, Sulaima's dearest friend here in the States, just called to tell me. All she said after my "Hello", was "It's Ebtehal. They're reunited! They're together!" She kept talking but I had to ask her to give me a minute. I couldn't hear anything except that they are together. Tears started falling down my cheeks and Ebtehal started crying too. So there we were, sobbing our joy into the phone, with her trying to tell me the news.
Sulaima had just called her fifteen minutes ago. She said the kids are all excited and keep saying they can't believe their Dad is driving a car. It turns out that Sulaima was talking to Ebtehal on her cell phone as the family was on their way up to Rabih's mother's home in the mountains. He's been up there for almost two weeks getting things ready for his family.
I can't believe it. Oh oh, here come the tears again.
But they're together. Happy isn't a big enough word to say how I feel. Even ecstatic is too small. There are no words, just tears. Thank God or Goddess or Universe or Creator or Whoever for allowing this dear family to be together again. May they NEVER be parted again!
Now I just want to sit back and imagine them in my mind's eye. I want to SEE Rabih behind the wheel, smiling so much his face might crack wide open. With Sulaima beside him, reaching out her hand to touch this beloved man whom she feared she'd never touch again. The children--Sana, Sami, Rami and Oussama--in the back seats, talking and smiling and falling all over themselves to tell their Dad EVERYTHING that's been going on in their lives. None of them able to believe this is real. That they are REALLY together and safe. That the nightmare is over.
May the nightmare be over...over forever for this family who has suffered so much. May they be held safe and protected. May they have everything they need to start a new life. May the changes they've undergone draw them closer together. May they be gentle with themselves during these first weeks and months of learning how to be a family again. May they let go of unrealistic expectations and accept one another as they are. May they touch and touch and touch to their heart's content. May fear be thrown out the window as they drive up into those beautiful mountains. May they laugh and have a lot of FUN!!!
What a grace and a gift. How I love imagining them together. Thank you, thank you, thank you...
Here is the Haddad family--Rabih, Sulaima, Sami, Rami, Oussama. Now imagine them all together in one picture with 13 year-old Sana--her Dad's "Princess"--also at their side:
After I'd somewhat composed myself--although it continued to be a mix of smiles and tears--I sent a group email to the hundreds of individuals and groups who have grown to care about Rabih and his family during his long months of imprisonment and these final weeks of riding an emotional roller coaster. But this day--both before and after I heard the news about Rabih and Sulaima--were spent writing a personal essay called "Courage Found." I didn't write it for any reason except that I needed to explore the subject for myself. But as it developed, so did its meaning. I dedicate it to Rabih Haddad and to Sulaima al-Rushaid, two of the most courageous persons I've ever known.
TUESDAY, AUGUST 5, 2003
The nice thing about keeping a daily online photo-journal is that you can use it for any purpose you want. Today I want to use it to go to Belle Isle.
Belle Isle is Detroit's Central Park. An island in the middle of the Detroit River, it is 6 miles in circumference. Belle Isle is home to seagulls, Canadian Geese, ducks, swans, squirrels, deer and more species of creatures than I will ever know. A road runs along its outer perimeter in addition to other roads through the wooded interior, all with a speed limit of 20 MPH. People come there to fish, run, bike, walk, swim, row, picnic, play golf, tennis, baseball, handball, soccer, feed the deer, go to the aquarium or conservatory or flower gardens, meet lovers and friends, and escape the heat. A week ago yesterday I went there to ground myself.
It was 1 PM and I'd been in front of the INS building on East Jefferson Avenue since 9 AM. I'd just seen Sulaima and the kids take off in an INS van on their way to the airport to be deported. I was feeling sad at seeing them go and gratified because of the great rally we'd had for them as a send-off. I was exhausted after a poor night's sleep on top of two solid weeks of organizing, activities and communications in relation to Rabih, Sulaima and the Raging Grannies. As I got ready to pass Belle Isle on my way home, my car turned onto the bridge on its own accord. That was when I knew I needed to see my deer and to sit in the woods.
Well, I never did find the deer, but the woods were green and inviting. I pulled my car onto a dirt road that was posted, "Keep Out--Authorized Vehicles Only", went a few yards, stopped, turned off the motor, opened the door and placed my feet on the earth.
This is what I saw--photo #1, #2, #3,#4, #5.
Belle Isle comforts me, even virtually.
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 6, 2003
Since being homebound with a sprained ankle, I've read dozens and dozens of articles and op/ed pieces about current events. After a week of study, I've come to the conclusion that George W. Bush is the most consistent president in American history. He consistently supports big business, tax breaks for the wealthy, corporate interests, privatization of government services, secrecy, weapons manufacturers, oil interests, the Saudis, industrial polluters, companies owned by his friends and family, logging/mining/drilling in pristine wilderness areas, "diplomacy" that uses bribes, threats and blackmail, a "justice" system that jails Muslim men of Arab descent with no chance of due process, domestic surveillance of anyone and everyone...
I just called Sulaima on her cell phone in Lebanon! It was a poor connection so we had to yell, but she sounds SO HAPPY!!! She said she and Rabih were just driving back to the house after having had their first day alone together. "We still can't believe it!" She asked me to give everyone her love, and said how much my phone call meant to her. How I love imagining the two of them driving together through the countryside, smiling all the time, I'm sure.
Our consistent president supports Karl Rove's advice, fundamentalist Christian ideas and rhetoric, punitive policies towards countries with a high incidence of AIDS, "scientific" proof that fossil fuels are no problem and global warming doesn't exist, intelligence analyses that support his position, representatives of the media who only ask scripted questions, political appointees who share his ideology, countries whose leaders do what he tells them to do, international treaties that allow the United States to make its own rules, economic forecasts that say all is well, talks to groups that guarantee frequent standing ovations, opportunities to dress up and pose for heroic pictures.
I could go on but you get the picture. Consistency,that's what we have in the White House...at least until 2004. I don't know about you, but I'm going to look for a Democratic candidate who is unpredictable, contradictory and complex.
I have two pictures today: 1) my new scooter-accessible tent that Eddie put up on the porch preparatory to sealing the seams; and 2) Granny Charlotte who stopped by after the Raging Grannies had sung and GranMotoko had offered remembrances of Hiroshima at tonight's peace community picnic. She came to pick up two new songs I wrote for the Oak Ridge, Tennessee anti-nuclear vigils and actions that she's going to this weekend.
THURSDAY, AUGUST 7, 2003
"I don't know whether suddenly I'm hearing more talk about democracy because I'm listening better, or prompting it. But if the clearest essential for a vigorous democracy is a citizenry that cares, I'd rather think that my conversations are signs of a nation rousing itself in defense of democratic traditions and institutions."
Interested, Involved Citizenry is Vital to Democracy" by
Published on Thursday, August 7, 2003 by the Madison Capital Times
So I'm not the only one.
I, like Margaret Krone, had wondered if the reason practically everyone I talk to nowadays talks about Iraq, WMDs, Bush, the media, civil liberties, the 2004 election and similar subjects was that perhaps I'm the one who brings it up. But maybe not. Maybe there is a groundswell of interest--more like concern--that is arousing the apathetic and politicizing the apolitical. I certainly see it happening in the community where Ed and I live.
As I've said before, we live in a politically conservative community. During the 2000 presidential campaign, I saw two Nader lawn signs, maybe fifteen for Gore and at least fifty for Bush. So I've been surprised at the number of community members who continue to show up for the weekly peace vigils still being held every Sunday evening at a street corner in the middle of our two blocks of shops. Even more impressive has been the turnout for the three "peace lectures" this group has sponsored since they first came together during the build-up to Bush's war on Iraq. Last night they put on a Pointes For Peace family picnic to which they invited the Raging Grannies to sing and our own GranMotoko to share her recollections of living in Toyko on the day that the United States dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Sixty people showed up at the lakefront park to share food, friendship and to remember August 6th, 1945.
I love the story of how this group came into being. Two friends and members of our local Unitarian-Universalist church--Carol Bendure and Mary Read--decided they needed to find other persons who shared their feelings of horror at George W. Bush's headlong rush to attack Iraq. So they drove up and down every street of our comunity looking for "No War" signs in front lawns or in windows. They wrote down each address and sent a note inviting these unknown people to gather and talk about their feelings about this proposed war. I believe they said sixteen people showed up for the first meeting. Their email list is now over 250!
An amazing part of this group, to me anyway, is our diversity. Not only do we have a good number of Muslim members, but we also have a faithful group of high school students (remember the Flagpole Protestors?). We have weekly vigilers who were originally from Albania, Egypt, Syria, England and Germany. I'd say we range in age from 16 to 80. We also have different backgrounds in terms of activism. Two of Detroit's most committed and longterm activists are part of our group, as well as a good number of women and men whose last protests were against the Vietnam War. Some folks are in it for the first time.
When we meet on that street corner every Sunday at 7 PM, we usually plant a peace lawn sign or two in the flower garden beside us. Occasionally we've had an unpleasant-sounding shout from a passing vehicle--usually a truck--but more often folks will nod and wave. Two weeks ago a couple I've known for years walked by, stopped to say "Hi" and asked why we were gathered there. The signs were down by then and several of us had stayed on to continue our discussion. Now I have to admit a prejudice here. For some reason I've always thought this couple was not simply conservative but reactionary in their politics. And maybe they were. But when they heard we were there as part of a peace vigil, the man said, with deep feeling, "I hate this war. And I despise Bush." So much for my stereotypes.
No matter what the polls say, I think the American people are waking up. And once they do, George W. Bush had better start packing up 'cause he's gonna be out of there in 2004.
FRIDAY, AUGUST 8, 2003
In the last two days I've charged my two scooters, the rechargable battery that operates my scooter's halogen light, my cell phone and the rechargable batteries for my digital camera. Now all that needs to be recharged is ME! I really am running on empty. This year has been long and hard. It has also been full of joy and grace. Life is such a paradox. But whatever life is, I need a break. A break from the news especially. And this glorious Land where I will be spending eight days starting Monday has no cell phones, no TVs, no radios, no newspapers, no computers and the only phones are a bank of 8 pay phones a mile away from "downtown" where I stay. This is my ninth year attending the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival and I have never been more grateful than I am this year for its remoteness. Just woods and sky and meadows and rain and sun and mosquitoes and music and drumming and singing and dancing and women. Lots and lots of women. Sure sounds like heaven to me.
SATURDAY, AUGUST 9, 2003
I was so excited this morning that I woke up at 6 AM and couldn't get back to sleep. Going to the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival is always a highlight of my year, but never more than this year. Part of it is the fact that I've been homebound (actually upstairs-bound) for eleven days. The thought of being outside in the sun and rain, under a full moon (Monday) with stars so bright they make you squint, in the midst of sheltering oak trees and green ferns sparkling with dew, and surrounded by the sounds of women greeting one another with joyful cries and ringing laughter...well, I can hardly wait!
As in years past, I will take loads of pictures and return with a week's worth of stories. I always carry you with me, but this year especially. As I experience this week of wonder I will be missing my special friends, Amy, Jack and Jennifer, who will not be at festival because Jack turned 5 this year and is no longer allowed on what is called The Land. Other little boys can go to Brother Sun camp, but because of Jack's unique way of being in the world, that option is not feasible. At least not until he is older. So I will be taking pictures and writing journal entries in my mind so Amy, Jack and Jennifer will feel like they're back on The Land...even virtually.
To get a good idea of what festival is like day-by-day, you can check out my MWMF 2002 and MWMF 2001 web pages. Since this icon of womyn's culture has its own traditions and herstory, each year is a variation on a theme. After awhile you even know what the menu will be each day, for instance nutloaf on Tuesday and burritos on Thursday. If you haven't already done so, you might also enjoy reading my Mosh Pit Mama story. I wonder what new adventures I'll be writing about after this year's festival! Stay tuned...
See you Monday night, August 18. Until then, enjoy these last precious weeks of summer.
SUNDAY, AUGUST 10 through MONDAY, AUGUST 18, 2003
A question that is often asked as the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival winds down is "What was your Michigan Moment?"
For me, there were many...
--After at least a hundred of us campers, workers and performers had shared ritual, stories and song at our beloved Kay Gardner's Memorial Gathering on Saturday morning, after CoCo, Ruth and Falcon had buried her ashes under the Grandmother Oak where she'd facilitated Sacred Song Circles for many years, something happened that will stay inscribed on my heart as long as it continues to beat.
Carol, my online friend from Massachusetts, and I were sitting and talking quietly at the edge of the circle known as Workshop Area 15. Only about fifteen sisters remained. CoCo was still there, as were Linda (her Women With Wings singing sister), Ruth and Falcon. Suddenly we heard a voice say, "Look. Over there. It's a snake. A Blue Racer snake."
Slithering through the ferns and underbrush, perhaps eight feet outside the cleared circle was a big, beautiful blue snake. My friend Carol, who is a good judge of such things, estimated that it was at least three and a half feet long. One of the Sacred Song Circle womyn started a chant that we all began to sing.
Instead of disappearing into the woods, as I had expected it to do, the snake stayed in the underbrush about eight feet away away from the cleared area, and slowly moved around the perimeter of the circle. We continued to sing to it, with most of the womyn turned toward it, respectfully following its graceful dance. This went on for twenty timeless minutes.
To those who knew Kay Gardner, it was not surprising that she appeared in the form of a Blue Racer snake. Not only is it an Endangered Species in our bioregion, but what could better evoke the image of a flute--Kay's favored instrument--than a snake? After all, if her imminent passing was marked by a blazing comet over the stage at last year's Candlelight Concert, what would stop her from visiting us as a serpent this year? It was pure grace.
--Another Michigan Moment came at the Acoustic Stage on Sunday. Young Leslie had just moved us to tears with her solo during the One World Inspirational Choir's performance. My scooter was parked sideways to the stage so that I could comfortably rest my badly sprained foot on a pillow-covered camp stool. There was no getting up and dancing for me this year, but I was finding ways to sit-down dance. Leilani, the beautiful Hawaiian dancer who had opened both sets for the Drumsong Orchestra and the Choir, was seated about twenty feet away from me. She and I had connected deeply at the conclusion of Kay's Memorial Gathering on Saturday. At that time she'd said that she'd be thinking of me later that afternoon when she was dancing onstage as part of the Evolution concert on the Acoustic Stage. As it turned out, I'd been unable to attend that concert so was feeling disappointed that I'd missed feeling her special energy directed my way.
The Choir had already raised a good number of womyn in the audience to their feet. I was doing my own in-seat dancing, when Leilani came up to me with her arm outstretched and joined me in my dance. Together we soared like birds. A kind womon took our picture with my digital camera.
When I got back home Monday night and downloaded my photos onto the computer, I discovered that I was dancing not only with Leilani, but also with Mauve, the "World's Tallest Leprechan." No wonder it felt so magical!
--It was Thursday afternoon and Alix Olson was performing on the Acoustic Stage. How can I describe the dynamic power, truthtelling integrity and sparkling wonder of this performance poet? Words fail me. All I can say is that since first experiencing Alix Olson at the National Womyn's Music Festival in June 2002, she has gone to the top of my list of performers-not-to-be-missed. I'd already seen her at the Acoustic Stage on Tuesday, and here it was two days later and I was back for more. The womon was on fire!
She had started her set with "Independence Meal" which resonated with all my heartfelt views about the current situation in America. Now she was performing "Womyn Before", a poem in which she celebrates the womyn who have gone before to mark the path. Bell Hooks. June Jordan. Kay Gardner. Ruth Ellis. She went through her litany of names. And then she pointed into the audience. "You" and "You" and "You." "And my Grandmother" (who was sitting in her usual spot halfway up the hill near the trees). "And Patricia, the Raging Granny."
My heart expanded and I felt like all those bitter cold winter days out on the streets, all those long hours of organizing, all my struggles to write lyrics about Bush's criminal attack on Iraq, the water cut-offs for Detroit's poor, Muslim immigrant "special registrations", Ashcroft's grab of our civil liberties... all of it had been seen, heard and valued. In an instant this womon, who could be my daughter, had restored my empty reserves and set me back on the path, strong and ready to RAGE some more. To her I am deeply grateful.
--During Tuesday Night's amazing Full Moon Ritual in Diana's Grove by the Night Stage, a lovely white-haired woman came to the center of the circle to help plan what we were going to do. I was scheduled to call in the North Direction, so was part of that inner circle. She introduced herself as Gretchen Lawlor. Well, anyone who has been using We'Moon calendars for years, as have I and thousands of other festi-womyn, would recognize her name. Gretchen writes the astrological segments that are among the most valuable parts of the calendar. During the ritual--which involved at least 150 womyn--Gretchen spontaneously led us in a playful acting out/dancing/vocalizing of whatever creatures wanted to join our circle. She then led a serpent line of dancers, and ended up in front of my scooter. We faced one another and let slithering snakes, bears, butterflies, wolves, kitty cats and all sorts of fanciful creatures pass through our hearts, voices, bodies and spirits. It was LOTS of fun!
Later in the week she came up and asked me to invite womyn to join her at the big tree in the middle of the Night Stage field for two workshops called "An Astrological Overview" from 12-1 PM on Friday and Saturday. I came on Friday. Gretchen shared with us the very special constellation of planets that was gracing and challenging us right now. Mars being the closest to the earth that it has been in 60,000 years and Uranus--the Trickster--at its apogee as well. With the moon in Pisces for the next few days, we were in for some interesting times.
After the workshop I stayed on, happy to sit in the shade of that Grandmother Oak during this very hot day. I asked Gretchen if she would give me an astrological consultation. She graciously agreed. Well. Again, words fail me. For at least an hour Gretchen made out my Birth Chart and explained it to me. She asked a few questions and shared deeply of herself. It was kind of amazing to see her face, hear her intakes of breath and listen to her voice saying, "Wow!" several times as she looked up the details of my Birth Chart in her books. Apparently what she found surprised her. It did not surprise me. Everything she said made perfect sense when seen through the lens of my 61 years of life. And what she projects will happen within the next 2-3 years fits my story like a hand in a glove. By the way, she gave no specific "predictions", merely an overview that gives me a container to fill myself. And even though there were no real surprises, this consultation helped me see my life within in a broader context and served to validate my past choices and current way of being in the world. It was truly empowering.
--One of a long list of gifts Kay Gardner's gave our community is Sunday afternoon's Healing Circle in the Acoustic Stage glen. In 1994, she and Vicki Noble facilitated the first Healing Circle at Festival. It was my first year on the Land and I well remember the extraordinary feeling of lying there literally vibrating under the hands of five healers who worked on my head, heart, belly, hands, arms, legs and feet at the same time. I have been there every year since, sometimes at the center of the circle and other times on the periphery, but wherever I have sat/stood/laid, I have always experienced the power of healing and being healed.
This year I arrived late because I was getting lunch for myself and Jenny, a new friend from DART. I scooted to the outside of the circle and parked under the shade of the trees. Inside the circle were dozens of womyn lying down and sitting up. Other womyn were walking quietly from womon to womon, touching, not touching, rattling, sprinkling water, each offering healing in her unique way. I sat in silence and let the chants and drumbeats sink into my core. As I sat, I watched. Almost immediately my eyes were drawn to a girl who was going from womon to womon. She couldn't have been more than nine years old, yet her presence and way of being was that of an ancient healer. She seemed to be listening to an inner voice that would lead her to a particular womon, and then instruct her about which part of this womon needed special healing. Sometimes she would place her hand on a heart, other times it might be the belly or throat or top of the head or hands or feet or third eye. Once I saw her squat directly in front of an older woman who was weeping as she sat and rocked, arms wrapped around herself. The womon obviously felt the presence of this ancient child and raised her head. Their eyes met and what passed between them was like a radiant beam of light. The grandmother opened her arms and the young healer slipped into her embrace as naturally as if she were going home. The healing was obviously mutual.
I watched this child for an hour and never saw anything forced or contrived in what she did or didn't do. After the Healing Circle had officially ended, I asked a womon to call the young healer over to me. When she arrived, I asked for a healing. She complied with grace and dignity. We spoke for a few minutes afterwards and she said that both her father and her mother are healers. It was from them that she had learned how to heal. After she had helped to pass out cups of water to all the participants, I was happy to see this healer become a little girl again and go climb a tree.
--Not all my Michigan Moments were so public. Some were fleeting as the wind, but no less meaningful. Among them were...
The grasshopper who sat for an hour on my injured foot during Tuesday's Acoustic Stage performances by Alix Olson and Reno.
This classical mother-and-child image of Gillian and Serenity as they walked by my tent while I was resting one afternoon.
Finding myself going to bed earlier than usual because my new cot was so inviting. For the first time in nine festivals, I slept as soundly as though I were in my bed at home.
Waking every morning in my new scooter-accessible tent to the welcome sight of green trees and blue skies through the wonderful plastic windows built into my tent's rainfly.
Hearing the Michigan sounds of drums late into the night coming from the firepit at Triangle.
Being able to spend time with V one afternoon as she was selling raffle tickets on the path between Saints and the Crafts area. Everyone on the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival online Bulletin Board knows this courageous womon. A longtime festi-worker with her partner, Whitewolf, V had made the decision to come to festival this year from their home in the Bay Area even though her doctors had strongly recommended she not do so. As she said to me that afternoon, "I may only have one more year, and this is where I need to be."
A late night heart-to-heart talk in my tent with my friend Juli.
Finally meeting my online friend Lisa--a member of my Faithful Journal Reader's Club--soon after a loving community of womyn had helped me disembark from Judy's motor home, get on my scooter and begin to explore the Line on Monday morning.
A couple of meals spent with Julia Willebrand, a NYC Green Party activist and festi-friend, at which time we discussed many of the problems and some possible solutions to what is happening in the world today.
The unplanned gift of time with my longtime online and festi-friend, Ramonajane. Even though she was on her way to Risa's origami star-making workshop in the DART workshop tent, when she saw me resting in front of my tent across the path, she came right over, sat on the ground, and spent a lovely half hour or so visiting with me. It is because of opportunities like this that I stay committed to my custom-designed Intensive Workshop that I call "Being With the Womyn of Michigan."
I had three or four opportunities to share meals and song with eight of my Great Lakes Basin sisters from the O Beautiful Gaia CD project. Sitting with them at Night Stage on Friday and Saturday nights, and having the best view I've ever had of the stage and the dancing area off to side were among their special gifts to me.
As the Femme Parade was beginning, having a friend yell out, "Hey, Patricia! Why aren't YOU in that parade?" And so I was.
On a shopping trip to the Crafts area with my friends Sooz and Penny, we ran into Lori and her partner Carol at Cloud Dance's booth. Lori is the wonderful womon who facilitates the drumming circle before Night Stage at the Grandmother Oak Tree in the center of the field. Many of us drummers in Southeastern Michigan have benefited over the years from her enthusiastic and informative drumming workshops and circles. Today we encouraged her to try on a beautiful red and black silk jacket that suited her to a T. Rather than giving into our disappointment when she left the booth without buying it, Penny suggested we and our drumming sisters buy it for her. So we did.
After connecting by email for at least a year, Carol of the Atlantic New England region of our CD project and I were able to meet face-to-face and spend precious time together. The highlight was when we sang Carolyn McDade's "Serpent Song" together two different times--first, on Saturday at the Sacred Circle where Kay's Blue Racer snake had appeared, and second, on Sunday afternoon to Ubaka Hill when we met her in the Crafts area. Anyone who had experienced Ubaka leading her Snake Dance during the Drumsong Orchestra's performance that morning would know that she had a special heart connection with the spirit of the snake.
Carolyn McDade's Serpent Song goes like this:
In the places that
reek of impossibility
The serpent of Life coils
She crawls upon the swollen stone
Crawls upon the swollen stone
Crawls upon the swollen stone
And loosens her only garment
And this is the way my friend Judy remembers Ubaka's Snake Dance chant:
Move like a serpent
Shed like a snake
I've got your back
I've got your belly
Because of my Eddie, I met a wonderful womon named Christy. I was making my last cell phone call to him out in the motel parking lot about 9 PM Monday night. After I hung up, a young, very tired-looking womon came up to thank me for my online festi-journal. She said it had helped her find the courage to come to Michigan for the first time this year. She had just arrived from her home in Missouri after having driven 15 hours by herself! Although she was beyond exhausted, she seemed content to sit and talk with me beside the pool. During our conversation Christy shared that we had the same diagnosis and told me a bit about her health struggles. I encouraged her to camp in DART where she'd get the support she needed and deserved. For me, one of the festival's greatest joys was seeing this beautiful young woman come more and more alive day-by-shining-day. By Sunday she was so radiant you needed sunglasses to look at her.
Speaking of festi-virgins, I figure at least thirty womyn must have come up to me at one time or another during the week to say that it was because of my Festi-Journal 2002 that they'd felt comfortable coming to festival for the first time. And at least thirty more, who were not festi-virgins, also took the time to thank me for my festi-journal and my postings on the BB. That was deeply gratifying.
Eight of my nine festivals I've signed up for Night Stage Security workshifts. I figure I might as well work where I'd want to be anyway. This year Katherine assigned me to work the Backstage Gate where I was to check for the proper color wristbands before letting womyn through. At first I was disappointed because my first shift was Wednesday, so it meant I wouldn't be able to see the Opening Ceremony. But I soon turned that lemon into lemonade. I told the workers and performers--many of whom I knew--that I didn't care what color their wristbands were, as long as I got a kiss. Hey, it was a tough job, but somebody had to do it!
A powerful opportunity for growth occurred during Thursday's workshift when my co-worker said things that really pushed my buttons and instead of staying silent and losing sleep over it later, I spoke my truth with forthrightness and integrity. Not pleasant, mind, but healthy.
I've always heard, "Ask for what you need." So on the drive to festival, I'd told my friend Judy that what I was most looking forward to this year was simply being outside in the woods. I was hoping to find a nice quiet place to sit and restore my soul. Since badly spraining my ankle--or maybe breaking it--I'd been confined (with my scooter and Eddie's help and support) to the second floor of our house for the last 11 days. I needed a breath of fresh air...literally. After we'd checked in at the motel in the late afternoon, I told Judy I was going for a scooter ride. There was an unpaved drive that went a short distance up to a line of trees. I decided to explore. And there it was. Just what I'd asked for. Actually, more than I'd asked for because this wooded haven even had a PAVED bike path running through it. And no human was there but me. So I was able to scoot to my heart's content, watch and listen to all manner of birds, smell apples ripening in the nearby orchard, hear the song of rustling leaves, and see the lowering sun set the trees on fire. I was being healed and I hadn't even reached the Land!
The weather was an ongoing Michigan Moment. There were only two tiny rain showers all week--one of which produced a stunning rainbow--and sun every day. Now, some folks found it uncomfortably hot, but compared to Fest 2001, this was nothing. The evenings were cool enough to sleep, but mild enough so you never needed more than a sweater or a sweatshirt at the Night Stage. And we didn't even need to feel guilty about wishing for no rain as the ferns were green and sprightly this year. The ferns always tell us if the Land is thirsty.
I was deeply touched by Adrienne Torf, who performed solo piano at Acoustic Stage on Saturday. Apparently it had been twelve years since she'd performed solo, although she's accompanied many singers in the womyn's music scene on their CDs over the years. Actually she accompanied Holly Near and Cris Williamson during their set that followed hers. It was partly her music that sunk deep into me, but also her obvious vulnerability and joy at being at the festival again. She spoke to us with her heart wide open, and that is unusual for a performer to do. I bought her most recent solo CD and have played it over and over for a solid week.
One of my concerns before Fest had been how we were going to unload all my stuff from Judy's motor home so that the DART workers could then load it on the shuttle going to DART downtown. Her vehicle was too large--28'--to allow us to park in the usual DART unloading area, so I'd called the Festival office ahead of time to try to work things out. Dear Karen, the DART staff coordinator, had called me back to discuss my options. It appeared the best plan would be to unload my gear at the temporary RV parking area near the Orientation tent, and then get a couple of DART workers to bring over a cart and transfer my stuff to the proper place. But what I would need to find were womyn willing to help Judy unload my gear from the RV in the first place. I'd always prided myself on packing as light as possible for Fest, but this year was different. Not only did I have a 22 lb. cot, but I had not one but two scooters--one for day and one for night. So when Judy had parked the motor home by the Orientation tent, I went looking for strong womyn helpers. And I didn't have far to look. There were five young, obviously strong, womyn standing beside some bicycles. They graciously agreed to help, and one--Steph--even recognized me. Apparently she had found our Raging Grannies web page during the build-up to the Iraqi massacre and had downloaded many of our songs. She and members of the eco-village community in Missouri where she lives had sung our Granny songs throughout the day on February 15--the global day of anti-war protests--because they were snowed in and couldn't get out to the demonstrations. She called me her "shero." Well, very shortly, these five womyn had become MY sheros! It turned out that they had ridden their bicycles from Portland, Oregon to the Festival here in Michigan! They'd left on June 2, and four of them intended to continue on to New York after fest. As a former long-distance biker myself--but never more than 200 mile weekends--I was in total and complete awe. As I told them that day, they'd become festi-legends in their own time. And my prediction was borne out when MC/comic Elvira Kurt spoke of them on Night Stage Saturday night. And two of them were festi-virgins at that!
On Tuesday morning I wanted to go to Rhiannon's "Ceremony of Song" workshop, but my body had other ideas. Getting to the Line, unloaded and set up on Monday had been a lengthy, tiring experience and my body said very clearly, "Patricia, chill out". So I did. I took a much-needed shower, had a leisurely breakfast, wandered through Crafts, and then happened upon Jayne sitting under a tree over near the Dance Floor. Now, Jayne is a Michigan institution. She is our Body Painter Extraordinaire. In years past I've usually waited until Sunday morning to be painted, but here she was, ready and available. It wasn't warm enough yet for a full-body paint job, but face-painting would be sweet. I watched while she painted Beth's face, and then it was my turn. The experience of being painted was as special as it was to wear the final product. Jayne and I have become sisters, not just at festival, but in the anti-war struggle as well. We'd "just happened" to meet up at two of the mammoth demonstrations in Washington, DC last fall and winter, so have much in common. Such a committed, creative, open-hearted womon.
MONDAY, AUGUST 18, 2003
I'm home after an absolutely AWESOME week at the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival!!! If you're like Eddie you're going to want to know: 1) How is my foot/ankle feeling?; and 2) How did my new tent and cot work out? My foot/ankle is still problematic so tomorrow I'm going to call my orthopedic doctor and make an appointment to have it x-rayed. But the tent was totally scooter accessible, roomy and light, and the cot and sleeping mat made me think I was sleeping in my own bed at home. Perfection!
It is now midnight. Judy, my dear friend who gave me a ride to and from festival--it's five hours each way--and I were delayed leaving the Land due to overcrowded shuttle buses, so we didn't get to my house until after 10 PM. And then my sweetie--who friends have dubbed St. Eddie--had a yeoman's job unloading all my stuff and getting me/it/my scooter upstairs. Yes, it's been a long day for everyone. But long day or not, you can be sure I'm going to take a nice hot shower before I hit the sack. The luxuries of home...
TUESDAY, AUGUST 19, 2003
I've been at the computer all day downloading and beginning to prepare the 120 photographs I took at the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival during the last eight days. I still have 18 left to resize/crop before I can start creating a web page for each photo. It's a good thing I love doing what I do! But, knowing this is going to be a long process, I have completed two photos for you to see today. The first is of me on La Lucha my scooter inside my tent. The second is of my single most glorious moment during the entire week. It was when Leilani came to dance with me during Sunday's performance of the One World Inspirational Choir at the Acoustic Stage. Only today did I realize that another of my favorite womyn--Mauve--was dancing with us too. Quite magical.
I have good news about my ankle. It is MUCH better today. So much better that I decided not to go to the doctor and to keep doing what I've been doing. But I added something, and that is that I started to walk again. Yippee!! Just a little--from one room to another--but it felt fine. Of course I use windchime walker, my ever-faithful companion. While I was away, our neighbor Jan gave Ed an air cast that she'd used ten years ago when she'd badly sprained her ankle. I tried it tonight and found it very helpful. It offers stability and support so you don't twist your ankle and reinjure it. I'm definitely on the mend.
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 20, 2003
Today was a pretty heroic day. Not only did I walk down the stairs for the first time in three weeks--to go to Festival, I had bounced down on my bum--but I swam fifteen lengths and then practiced my walking in the pool. After three weeks without walking, my achilles tendon feels very tight on my injured ankle. It felt good to stretch it gently in the water. I stayed down at the park for several hours, reading and making a couple of new friends. When I came home and tried to ride my scooter up the ramp that our housepainter had made for us, my scooter's front wheel lifted in the air because the grade was too high. Then the wheel got caught in our railing at the top of the stairs, so there I was like a turtle on its back. Luckily I had a cell phone in my scooter basket and was able to call the police station next door. Two police officers--Keith and Jack--were over within a minute and got me safely into our front vestibule. An adventure I plan never to repeat! Within the hour I had called two construction companies recommended by our local Epilepsy Foundation to see about getting estimates for ramping our front steps.
Eddie had prepared everything for me to be able to stay downstairs after swimming, so I was able to sit at the desk in the living room and continue my festi-photo project on my laptop. It was wonderful to be able to eat dinner together at our dining room table for the first time in three weeks, but I must admit it was a challenge to walk up the stairs to come to bed. I needed Ed's help lifting my strong leg step by step. It is no wonder my friends call him St. Edward. You know, his name means "good guardian" and I'd have to say he lives up to his name and then some.
This afternoon I began to read some of the many emails that had piled up while I was gone, but I have to admit I find myself avoiding the political ones. Since arriving home late Monday night I have not gone to any of my usual alternative news web sites. I'm not ready to pick all that up again. At least not yet. It wasn't as though I didn't have a good number of political discussions on the Land. I did. But being there, away from the day-to-day drama of current events gave me a chance to stand back and see things a bit more objectively than before. I'd like to keep that perspective for awhile longer. I need it. My emotions have been rubbed raw this past year, and I need to take care of myself. If I am to do the work that is mine to do, I must protect myself from potential burnout. So my group email list may not be hearing from me in awhile. As they say, there is a time to struggle and there is a time to stand back from the struggle. This doesn't mean I'm giving up being an activist or a Raging Granny, it just means I'm taking a little breather.
Festival was such a graced time. I feel nourished, gentled, loved, valued, playful, myself. Being in an environment where you are seen and valued merely for being, not for doing, is profoundly healing. Especially for an activist. Especially for me. Especially now. I am deeply grateful.
THURSDAY, AUGUST 21, 2003
Good thing I have my festi-photos to work with these days, because I need positive reminders of being out in the world in a supportive environment. Not that Eddie isn't supportive; he is. But both of us are feeling pretty blue right now about my increased (hopefully temporary) physical limitations. My right knee keeps buckling when I try to climb the stairs. I actually took a fall today, but thank goddess I fell back and hit my hard head rather than falling forward and twisting my ankle again.
Anyway, I'm doing what I can to adapt and protect myself. Tomorrow a construction company representative is coming over to give us an estimate about building a ramp up into our house. I've also contacted a Stair-Glide company and expect to hear from them within the next few days. And after eating dinner at a lovely local restaurant--I did finally make it downstairs and took my scooter out for a ride--we went to the pharmacy to buy a velcro knee brace. Earlier in the day I'd made an appointment with the orthopedic surgeon to see about getting a custom-made knee brace.
At least my ankle is feeling better. That helps.
Well, here's the link to the first of my two Michigan Womyn's Music Festival Photo Albums. After I've finished putting up the two photo albums--I'm still working on MWMF 2003 photo album #2--I intend to start writing journal entries with photo links for each day. I just thought readers might enjoy seeing the photos all in one place. I know I do!
By the way, let's hear it for the Raging Grannies! Attorney General John Ashcroft came to Detroit this morning on his PR tour to talk up the benefits of his Patriot Act. Even though the activist community didn't get the details until yesterday of where and when he was to speak, about 65 protestors showed up. And eight of them were Raging Grannies! They sang our songs about the Patriot Act and losing our civil liberties, and according to Granny Kathy, the media were all over them wanting interviews. Whoopie for the Grannies!!!
FRIDAY, AUGUST 22, 2003
Today was definitely a better day than yesterday. I chose to spend much of the day upstairs working on my Michigan Womyn's Music Festival 2003 Photo Album #2, which I finished and put up on my web site. In the morning we had a visit from the sales representative of a construction company who gave us an estimate on building a ramp into our house. He also gave us an estimate on installing a Stair Glide to our second floor. It's all very expensive, but, as Eddie says, this is why we've saved our money. After dinner I came downstairs (on my bum) and went for a walk/scoot with my sweetie. After we got back home, we watched the Simon and Garfunkel 1981 reunion concert in New York's Central Park. Because it was part of a pledge drive for our local PBS station, we also watched my favorite James Taylor video, "Squibnocket" during the pledge times. I never get tired of that video.
I'm finding this transition toward creating a more disability-friendly environment somewhat challenging. The idea of building a ramp and installing a Stair glide feels fine, but what is hard is feeling so disabled. I can get down the stairs safely on my own, and even get my scooter down our temporary ramp and out onto the street without help, but in order to get back into the house Ed has to push me up the ramp in my mother's wheelchair and then physically lift my left foot from behind going up each step. My right knee still buckles and my foot is swollen again today. I did get an earlier appointment with my orthopedic surgeon to see about getting a proper brace for my knee. I also asked a friend to drive me to that doctor's appointment so Ed wouldn't end up having to do everything. I don't like being so dependent on others, but I'm sure this too shall pass.
SATURDAY, AUGUST 23, 2003
It isn't even 10 PM and I'm so sleepy I can barely keep my eyes open. When you see today's pictures I think you'll understand.
It was one of those magically beautiful late summer days--sparkling sun, low humidity, warm but not hot, clear blue skies with winds made to order for sailing. And was there ever sailing on the lake today! I didn't know it but this was the day of the annual sailboat race between our two local yachting clubs. The first I saw of it was a view of spinnakers spread across the horizon. And as I watched, they came closer and closer until they made their turn toward the finish line right in front of my eyes.
The only reason I knew what was going on was because I happened to meet Jac who had come down specifically to watch and photograph this spectacular event. As we talked I discovered that it is Jac's wife whose garden I so love to photograph! On my way down to the park today, I'd actually stopped to take pictures--#1, #2, #3--of her flowers. When our conversation turned to current events--as so often happens these days--Jac and I found that we see things very similarly. There are so many more of us out there than we are led to believe!
After most of the sailboats--there had been hundreds of them--had finished the race, I scooted over to the pool for a swim. Even though it was pretty crowded, I happily had a lap lane all to myself. Nothing heroic today; I just swam until my body said it had had enough. After doing some leg-lifts and kicks, I got out of the water and sat for awhile watching all the families playing together in the shallow end of the pool. I then read under the shade of a tree until it was time to go home for dinner.
We are so fortunate to live where we do.
SUNDAY, AUGUST 24, 2003
I spent much of today
writing my Michigan Womyn's
Music Festival 2003 journal. It isn't finished yet, but I
put it up on my web site anyway. I experience such joy reliving
that wonderful week! About 6:15 PM I scooted off to the weekly
peace vigil and, as often happens, ended up staying late talking
with Hamid, Aly and John. Such interesting, informed, mature men.
I feel fortunate to know them. I returned home to the news that
sisters from the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival had called.
They will be spending tomorrow night with us. These are four of
the five awesome womyn who pedaled from Portland, Oregon to the
festival, and are now on their way to New York. My sheros! I know
Eddie will like them as much as I. As former long-distance bikers,
we can appreciate what they are doing.
© 2003 Patricia Lay-Dorsey. Please use with attribution.