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39 archive 4/25-5/24/03, Journal
40 archive 5/25-6-24/03, Journal
41 archive 6/25-7/24/03, Journal
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43 archive 8/25-9/24/03, Journal
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45 archive 10/25-11/24/03, Journal
46 archive 11/25-12/24/03, Journal
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To read my current journal, please go to: windchime walker's journal
*Now that I have a digital camera, journal entries may be linked to related photos. To access the photos, simply click on the text printed in color.The easiest way to navigate going back and forth between photo
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 25, 2003
I am SO done with working at the computer! I've just spent over two hours creating Journal 45 archive. I don't know why, but the past three months I've had to redo every single solitary photo link when I make a new journal archive. Tedious, to say the least. And this on top of spending five hours reconciling the O Beautiful Gaia CD sales records from last weekend's CD Launches. Thank goddess, everything worked out right, but dealing with both Canadian and US funds didn't make it any easier. As you can probably tell, I am one tired puppy. Time to take this weary body to bed.
And now when I put up the new archive and checked it before replacing this journal, I discovered none of the links are working! So I'm going to delete what I created and work on it tomorrow. Is it ever time for bed!!!!
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 26, 2003
Perhaps the most priceless gift one person can give another is to open their eyes and heart to what is around them. The commonplace, everyday ordinary things we no longer see. Things like sunlight piercing gray clouds, the patterned bark of a tree, the late afternoon sun's rosy fingers touching pine cones and bare branches of trees, fat ochre berries against a blue sky, the mulch at our feet, plants growing next to a city sidewalk, a tree that looks sculpted by giant hands, a crescent moon cradling the night sky. And not to stop looking until we have looked into them, not at them.
That is the gift my friend Carolyn gave me when she walked in my neighborhood with me last Thursday. Because she saw things, I saw them. And because I saw them then, I see them now. My eyes are open to wonders I'd been missing because they seemed so ordinary. Ordinary wonders.
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 27, 2003
I probably write the same thing every year around this time. No, Ed and I don't celebrate Thanksgiving in the traditional American fashion. We don't get together with family, cook a turkey, eat too much, watch football on TV.
I say that being conscious that occasionally we do get together with family and eat a special meal at holiday time. Like last year when we were in Washington, DC to bury my mother and were invited to have Thanksgiving dinner at our nephew John and his wife Kirsten's house. Our niece Carolyn was also with us that day. And there have been a few other times in recent years when Carolyn and John have traveled to join us here for a holiday. But, normally, Ed and I are content to let this third Thursday in November be itself and nothing more. We're the same with Christmas and Easter.
Occasionally I ask myself why I'm so comfortable not celebrating special holidays. I'd like to think it's because every day is special to me, but maybe that's not the whole answer. Maybe part of it is that "family" in the old days meant something quite different from what it means to me now. Ed is my family, my core family. At the same time I count the Great Lakes Basin women of the O Beautiful Gaia CD project as sisters. The same with the Raging Grannies. And certainly the dear friends with whom I shared so much life during my six winters in San Francisco are and always will be family. Besides, it isn't as if I'm not giving thanks every day of the year. I genuinely believe I exist in a perpetual state of gratitude.
But I did do something a little special today. I put together a sauerkraut, stewed tomato and creamed potato soup with garlic casserole that is in the oven right now, waiting for Ed to come home for dinner. Now don't get too excited. All I did was open three cans, mix them together in a casserole dish, put it in the oven and turn the heat to 350 degrees. But I know Ed will be surprised and pleased to walk into a house that smells, even of sauerkraut!
If I were to look on this as a special day of Thanksgiving, for what would I give thanks?
--I would give thanks
for having been part of this glorious O Beautiful Gaia CD and
the community of women who gave birth to it.
--I would give thanks for my new ramp and chair lift.
--I would give thanks for my sweet Eddie who is the best life companion I could imagine.
--I would give thanks for being awake and aware to what's going on in today's world, and for having the Raging Grannies at my side to RAGE with when necessary.
--I would give thanks for the life and witness of my mother.
--I would give thanks for special friends who receive me as I am and call me forth to become more than I can imagine.
--I would give thanks for my body that serves me so faithfully.
--I would give thanks for having sacred space in my home in which to incubate all that I am to bring into the world.
--I would give thanks for the lake at the end of my street where the sky touches water for as far as the eye can see.
--I would give thanks for the internet that generates connections across the globe.
When Ed walked into the house tonight, his first words were, "What's going on in the kitchen?" Then after he'd put the first bite of sauerkraut casserole into his mouth, he smiled and said, "If it were shaped like a turkey, I couldn't have told the difference." But, hey, he went back for three helpings!
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 28, 2003
What a lovely, lazy day! I feel positively indolent. Just what I needed. Only problem is, I have nothing to write about. OK, I did spend hours reading "Nickel and Dimed" by Barbara Ehrenreich. My women's book group is reading this book about what it is like to try to live in America on $6-7 an hour. Ms. Ehrenreich, a freelance journalist, took on jobs as a waitress, nursing home dietary aide, housecleaner, and a saleswoman at WalMart, for a month at a time in three cities--Key West, Florida, Portland, Maine, and Minneapolis, Minnesota. She found out it cannot be done, at least not unless you work two jobs. This is why unemployment rates do not tell the whole story; what needs to be examined is how many jobs it takes for a person to survive. And what percentage of workers receive any benefits at all. Puts me in mind of the Ann Arbor Borders' strike, which is still going on, by the way. So how would you like to try to survive on $6.50 an hour, starting salary? Please support these strikers--45 courageous women and men--by staying away from Borders, Waldenbooks, and Amazon.com.
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 29, 2003
Today I discovered another benefit of listening to our O Beautiful Gaia CD--it soothes the wounded beast.
A bunch of hurts crashed into my consciousness this afternoon, surprising me and my friend with whom I was speaking. I don't want to catalogue them here, but, once acknowledged, they had to be dealt with. First I had to allow myself to "feel my feelings", so to speak, and then I needed to share them with the individuals involved. After making my way as gracefully as possible through a couple of uncomfortable discussions, I then needed to surround myself with what gives me life. In my case that was a very chilly scooter/walk with Ed after dinner, followed by repairing to my room upstairs where I sat in my rocking chair, listening to and singing along with our CD.
This business of trying to deal maturely with hurts is a lifelong learning. Once I recognize that I do feel hurt, I'm getting better at expressing my feelings to the persons involved, and discussing whatever it is we need to discuss. Where I'm apt to fall down is in recognizing the hurt in the first place. Then some--often small--thing will come up that triggers my unacknowledged feelings. Often I'm more surprised than anyone when they appear.
But lately I've found myself better able to catch it when it happens. I think of the challenging situation at a recent gig when a Raging Granny said she was speaking for the Grannies...and she wasn't. The other Grannies and I handled it with her right then and there. And earlier this week I immediately called a friend to share how her email had made me feel (rotten). It certainly feels a lot healthier to handle things directly and in a timely fashion, rather than letting them fester and go weird.
That reminds me of why I try not to keep grudges anymore. I think I shared this in an earlier journal entry, but it bears repeating.
I see a grudge as a creature who lives in a wire cage in my basement. The grudge isn't so bad in and of itself; it's the care it requires that causes problems. Each grudge must be fed a couple of times a day, and its water dish kept full. Not only that, at least once a day you have to take the grudge out of its cage, leash it and take it for a walk. Now, if you only had one grudge, this wouldn't take too much time, but where there's one grudge, there's always a group. These creatures multiply like rabbits.
A number of years ago, I took stock of my grudges. When I looked around the basement, I saw their cages stacked on top of one another from floor to ceiling. Now, it wasn't that I wasn't fond of them; I was. It's just that I no longer had the time required to take proper care of them...not and do anything else with my life. So one day I opened the doors to their cages, stood back and let my grudges escape. Some were so old they could barely walk. A few were scared and hid behind the furnace. But once they realized I wasn't going to feed, water or exercise them any longer, they slunk away. Of course, new grudges occasionally try to set up housekeeping, but they never stay for long. As soon as I see who they are and stop giving them what they need, they leave.
So today I released a couple of new grudges. Now it's time to sweep out the basement and throw out their cages.
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 30, 2003
Today Ed and I walk/scooted to our community's shopping street to buy me some new clothes. Yesterday he'd checked out cold weather gear for me at the local camping store. After last night's chilly walk/scoot, I agreed with him that I needed to upgrade my winter scooter attire. I'm not just thinking of neighborhood forays either, but of a long winter of being out on the streets with the Raging Grannies.
For instance, this Wednesday we Grannies will join other concerned citizens at the US District Court here in Detroit to support the ACLU and the Ann Arbor Muslim Community Association's lawsuit against John Ashcroft and his Patriot Act, the first such lawsuit in the country. We plan to sing in front of the courthouse for an hour before the hearing starts at 2 PM. I know from past experience that my hands, feet and head are particularly vulnerable to the cold. So today we bought me a pair of cozy moon boots, a headband to put under my Granny hat, and I found my warmest mittens hiding in our hall closet. With the chemical heating packets I have left over from last winter, I should be ready for anything short of a blizzard.
I forgot to take my camera on today's walk/scoot, but I do have some pictures that I took yesterday. I hope you will bear with me as I went a bit crazy over these cabbage plants--photo #1, #2, #3, #4--but I found each one beautiful in its own way. And it wasn't just the plants that caught my eye: it was a weeping cherry tree at the end of my block, and the sky over the lake.
MONDAY, DECEMBER 1, 2003
World AIDS Day 2003. Nine years ago yesterday at 9:30 PM Pacific Time, Joel Payne, my heart friend and train buddy (how he signed his letters to me), died. He was 35 years old. It was Joel who introduced me to San Francisco, to Scott (who, with his partner Phil, became like family to me during my six winters in SF), to Jeff (my dear friend who has recently adopted three-year old Noah), to the Castro (a part of the world Joel loved more than any other), to The Patio (his favorite Castro restaurant), to the murals on the Women's Building (that he insisted on showing me when he was so ill he could barely walk), and finally to the Maitri Hospice, where he spent his last six months before succumbing to the deadly ravages of AIDS.
The losses due to AIDS are incalculable.
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 2, 2003
I scooted a mile down to the post office, then over to Kinko's, and finally to the Atlantic Bread Cafe for soup and a sandwich. This wouldn't normally be considered anything unusual except that the temperature was below freezing and it's still too early for my Midwesterner's blood to have thickened up. But no problem! With my down-filled moon boots to keep my toes warm, my ski mittens keeping my hands toasty, my headband plus a knit hat warming my ears and head, and a fleece vest serving as a lap blanket, I was perfectly comfortable. Of course, it didn't hurt that the day was mostly sunny. It actually felt GREAT to be out in the fresh air! Too much furnace-heat can turn you into a slug-a-bug.
After I returned home about 5 PM, I came upstairs to continue working on a long-overdue project--repairing the hundreds of broken photo links in my journal archives. If you recall my nephew John's heroic efforts last spring to turn my 50,000 (!) photo files from one big mess into a reasonable number of folders, you know that in the process any photos I had named using & or @ would no longer link up properly. I've worked on these repairs only occasionally during the last six months, but now I'm determined to take care of business. I spent a couple hours on it yesterday, and actually had fun. It was like looking into a big box of photos from the last three years of my life--San Francisco in the winter and spring, the US spread out before me on train trips between Michigan and California, and my life in Michigan. Many--but not all--of the photos that had an "&" in the title were of people. My favorite people picture thus far is one of me as Anastasia Louise with Sr. Chastity Boner of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence at their monthly bingo party in the Castro. San Francisco WAS a kick!
By the way, several folks have asked me of late if I'll be migrating to San Francisco this winter. I think not. It seems like that particular cycle of my life is over. Not that I don't hope to visit sometime, but I just don't see myself leaving Michigan for any extended period of time; there's too much going on here. I mean, what would I do without the Raging Grannies? Or the Great Lakes Basin community of the O Beautiful Gaia CD project either. And what about Susan and the kids at school? I think you can see why I plan to stay home and keep doing what I do. Now maybe Detroit isn't quite as exciting a venue for my journal readers as San Francisco, but you can always relive those halcyon days by visiting my journal archives (generally those from January-April). In time, all the photo links might even work!
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 3, 2003
Sometimes the Raging Grannies make their own demo...and so it was today. Seven of us hardy Grannies--Magi, Judy D., Motoko, Charlotte, Jeanne, Sandy and I--stood in the cold in front of the US District Courthouse of the Eastern District of Michigan for 45 minutes and sang about freedom, specifically about the LACK of freedom that Attorney General John Ashcroft and his Patriot Act have brought to our fair land. Although the supporters I'd hoped would sing with us never materialized, the people for whom we were singing--the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) attorneys and members of the MCA (Muslim Community Association)--DID see and hear us. Their smiles, thumbs up and cheers made it all worthwhile.
Today was the first hearing in regard to the first lawsuit brought by the people against Ashcroft and the Patriot Act. Not the entire Act, but Section 215, which is the part that allows the FBI to have access to things like your Internet Service Provider's records of your emails and visits to web sites, your local library records, bank records, credit card records, medical records, employment records, membership records of any organization to which you belong, and, basically, whatever records they want. They don't even have to show "just cause." All they have to do is go before a FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) judge--where all proceedings are conducted in secret--and say they need this information for an ongoing "terrorism investigation." As we all know, the big T word has a lot of latitude in post-September 11th United States, and can refer to just about anything and anyone the government chooses. This lawsuit was filed last July by the ACLU on behalf of six Muslim or Arab nonprofit organizations. Rabih and Sulaima's community--the Muslim Community Association of Ann Arbor--is the lead plaintiff.
Today's hearing was in response to the Justice Department's motion to have the lawsuit dismissed. According to an email I received before the hearing, "John Ashcroft asserts that: 1) the plaintiffs do not have "standing" to challenge Section 215 because they have not been injured; and (2) the act is constitutional. The ACLU has responded by: (1) showing in great detail how the Patriot Act has already injured its clients by chilling speech and activism among its members to the detriment of the organizations; and (2) explaining why the law violates the constitutional prohibition against unreasonable searches as well as the Due Process Clause and the First Amendment." Ann Beeson, the Associate Legal Director of the National ACLU, came in from New York to argue the case herself.
It was the first time I'd ever observed a court hearing like this. What struck me first of all was how long the attorneys were allowed to talk uninterrupted. Maybe that's not always the case, but it was today in US District Court Judge Denise Page Hood's courtroom. The second thing I noticed--and you'll see my prejudice here--was the government lawyer's tendency to do exactly what the Bush administration does: repeat lies over and over in the hope (assumption?) that repetition would make them true...or if not true, at least believable. Well, it didn't work, not for me nor for the majority of the people who filled the courtroom. The important question is, did his ploy work with the judge? I had good feelings about her. She was very attentive to everything that was said--if words were money, we'd all be rich--and I've heard positive things about her from my feminist friends. But, of course, I don't know the law nor do I know the pressures on her to support the government's position. Since she is the first judge in the country to hear a lawsuit against John Ashcroft and the Patriot Act, she is sitting in the proverbial hot seat.
When I say the government lawyer lied, I am talking specifically about several assertions he made: 1) that the plaintiffs have not been injured by Section 215 of the Patriot Act because it has not yet been implemented. Ask Rabih Haddad about that; 2) that if it were implemented, the person being investigated would have an opportunity to have a hearing by the FISA judge before the FBI obtained the personal information they wanted. That is totally untrue. In such a case, the person under investigation would have no idea the FBI was going to their library, ISP, doctor, employer or whomever and insisting--by law--that they give them personal records of the "suspect." Not only would the "suspect" be ignorant of this before the fact, but--because of the "gag rule" nature of Section 215--they would never know their records had been given to the FBI. For, with Section 215, the person or organization required to provide such records to the FBI must never tell the person under investigation that the FBI even asked them for such records, much less received them. If the "gag rule" were violated that individual or group would be held in contempt of court, a jailable offense; and 3) that the investigations where Section 215 would be implemented would only be in connection with serious threats to national security mounted by foreign intelligence suspects. Section 215 has already been enacted in ways that threaten free speech, not to mention the freedom of assembly. In a November 22 New York Times article--"FBI Scrutinizes Antiwar Rallies"--it was reported that "The Federal Bureau of Investigation has collected extensive information on the tactics, training and organization of antiwar demonstrators and has advised local law enforcement officials to report any suspicious activity at protests to its counterterrorism squads, according to interviews and a confidential bureau memorandum."
Does this sound like a democracy?
But what DID sound like a democracy was the impromptu songfest that happened after the our team of attorneys gave a press conference on the steps of the courthouse at 4 PM. Most of the Grannies had already gone home by then, but that didn't stop Ann Beeson and two of her associates from joining Granny Judy D and me in singing a couple of our favorite Raging Grannies songs that target the Patriot Act. Even Fox News got a picture of that!
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 4, 2003
This was a day to tie up loose ends. First I finally backed up all my computer files on a couple of CDs. Next, I finished writing yesterday's journal entry and added some photos. Then I contacted the national ACLU office to give Ann Beeson, the attorney I sang with yesterday, the link to my Raging Grannies Journal. Within a half hour, I received the following message from one of her legal assistants:
Dear Granny Patricia-
Thank you so much for passing this along! I will definitely make sure Ann sees your email and the link. I had actually heard about the Grannies being at the Courthouse, because when Ann called into the office yesterday after the argument, she spoke of you all as being one of the highlights! Thanks so much for the support, it definitely helps!
As I always tell our Grannies, we DO make a difference!
And late this afternoon I spent several hours completing my final accounting of the CD Sales for our O Beautiful Gaia CD Launch weekend. And, thank goddess, everything reconciled perfectly! When you're dealing with thousands of dollars of someone else's money, you definitely want your accounting to be right to the dollar...or loonie, as the case might be.
Interwoven throughout were the multicolored threads of Raging Grannies' business, including composing and sending a lengthy group email, phone calls and emails regarding yet another relational challenge, and even a visit by Grannie Charlotte. She brought me ten O Beautiful Gaia CDs with which Granny Jeanne had entrusted her at yesterday's gig, and I gave her a selection of old clippings, photos, programs for our Raging Grannies scrapbook. I'm our online archivist and Granny Charlotte is our hardcopy archivist. Nowadays, you need both.
Although I hardly got up from my computer chair all day, it felt like a full day...maybe because it started before 7 AM.
And now I'm going downstairs for a piece of the Mrs. Smith's pumpkin pie that Eddie just finished baking. They say you're supposed to let it sit for two hours before cutting a piece. Let's see if Mrs. Smith--I mean, Eddie--will let me ignore those instructions. If not, I'm off to bed. Tomorrow's a school day and, even though it's only 9:45 PM, I'm already sleepy.
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 5, 2003
Did I ever describe how I get into the school since breaking my ankle last summer? When I park on the street--there's no parking lot--I call Susan, the art teacher, on my cell phone and she sends down three fifth grade students to help me with my wheelchair. Last year I could get upstairs--there's an elevator--under my own power using my walker, but walking that distance now seems a bit heroic, so I use my Mom's old wheelchair. Unfortunately, I can't really self-propel it, so I need pushers. Not only pushers, but a pair of strong arms to get it out of the backseat of my car and unfolded, ready to use. The kids are really getting good at this! They even know to turn me backwards when we come to the bump when street meets curb. I guess this is an education in itself: how to help a person in a wheelchair. Susan says the minute the kids hear her cell phone ring on Thursday--or sometimes Friday--mornings, hands shoot up in the air and voices plead, "Choose me! I haven't done it yet! It's my turn!" What I see from the car is three kids flying out of the school door, grinning from ear-to-ear and looking around for my little red car. I appreciate that Susan is totally inclusive in her choices: it's always either two girls and one boy, or two boys and one girl. And sometimes the girl is the strong one who lifts the chair out of the car; sometimes it's the boy. Only once did a helper give me a bit of a scare, and that was when a girl pushed me at full speed down the ramp from the school onto the playground. But, hey, we all need a thrill every so often.
Today I brought an O Beautiful Gaia CD for Susan and the kids. We always listen to music--usually jazz--while making art, so I figured our CD would be a good addition to our classroom collection. Susan announced to each class that this was the CD Ms. Patricia had recorded with a lot of other women last June. Most of the fifth graders remembered my having talked about it last spring, in fact many of them remembered the Gaia songs I'd taught them to sing during our art classes. I was looking forward to having them hear these songs--The River Is Flowing and O Beautiful Gaia--on the CD, and maybe sing along. But Susan had a surprise up her sleeve.
As today's five-minute warm-up, the fifth grade classes were to draw Ms. Patricia singing! Their drawings were terrific, but even more terrific was the silence that accompanied their making them. This was the first time since Susan instituted warm-up drawing time last September that the students actually used it as it was intended. They drew with tremendous concentration, often examining me as I sang along with the CD. It was a real warm-up. What especially tickled me was watching Ali A. not only drawing but unselfconsciously singing along with the CD as he drew. I doubt if he even knew he was doing it.
There were two other moments that made me smile. One was when Susan was telling a third grade class about my having been part of making this CD. A boy beside her said, "Oh, Ms. Patricia. She can do anything!" Then, later in the day, a table of fifth graders and I were chatting as we worked. One of the boys looked over at me and asked,
"What are you going to be when you grow up?"
I thought I'd misheard him and said, "What'd you say?"
"What are you going to be when you grow up?", he repeated in great seriousness.
The girl beside him rolled her eyes and said, "She already IS grown up!"
"I know", he continued, "but what are you going to be when you get more grown up?"
I'm going to have to think about that.
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 6, 2003
"Frozen sorrow paralyzes.
To unlock our energies, to empower ourselves again, we must mourn
Starhawk from Truth Or Dare, p. 33.
December 6, 1989
The Montreal Massacre
- Montreal, Quebec, Canada-
Armed with a Sturm Ruger Mini-14 semi-automatic rifle, knives and bandoliers of ammunitions, Marc Lepine (25), while making anti-woman statements, walks through l'Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal, shooting and killing 14 women (wounding 13 others, mostly women). Lepine ends the rampage by shooting and killing himself.The attack sparks cries for greater gun control in Canada. Lepine had been rejected when he applied for admission to the school and blamed feminists for ruining his life.
Helene Colgan, 23
Nathalie Croteau, 23
Barbara Daigneault, 22
Anne-Marie Edward, 21
Maud Haviernick, 29
Barbara Maria Klucznick Widajewicz, 31
Maryse Laganiere, 25
Maryse Leclair, 23
Anne-Marie Lemay, 22
Sonia Pelletier, 28
Michele Richard, 21
Annie St-Arneault, 23
Annie Turcotte, 21
December 6: National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women in Canada
Established in 1991 by the Parliament of Canada, the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women in Canada coincides with the sad anniversary of the death of 14 young women who were tragically killed on December 6, 1989 at l'Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal because of their gender. Beyond commemorating the loss of these fourteen young lives, this day represents a time to pause and reflect on the phenomenon of violence against women in our society. It is also a time to have a special thought for all the women and girls who live daily with the threat of violence or who have died as a result of deliberate acts of gender-based violence. Last but not least, it is a day for communities to reflect on concrete actions that each Canadian can take to prevent and eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls.
Support the Purple
In 1990, the Women's Action Coalition of Nova Scotia launched a Purple Ribbon Campaign to pay tribute to the fourteen women murdered December 6, 1989 in Montreal to raise public awareness on violence against women, as well as to collect donations to benefit women who have been victims of violence.
We women of the Great Lakes Basin of the O Beautiful Gaia CD Project met today and commemorated the lives and deaths of these fourteen young women whose brutal murders on December 6, 1989 provided a tragic wake-up call to Canadians to do something to stop the epidemic levels of violence against women, and to put an end to the easy access to guns. Three of our Canadian sisters--Judy G, Alicia and Doris--facilitated our remembrance ritual. It was powerful to know that we were joining our hearts, voices and commitment to action with those of women, men and children all across Canada. Would that the US would emulate our sisters and brothers to the north and institute such a Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. Canada is often ahead of us in consciousness and concern for its people, and today was another reminder of that fact.
On the wall of our gathering space were the names of the fourteen women, a drawing done by Judy G, a poem by Alicia, several quotes and factual information. The ritual itself was built around a poem that brought each woman to life not only by naming her but by sharing a bit of the story of her life and death. On our altar, fourteen purple votive candles were lit by fourteen women in our circle who were each asked to be the rememberer of one of the women who was killed. Beside her candle, each woman placed two pieces of paper framed in purple--one that showed the slain woman's name, her photograph, age and brief identifying information, and the other that was the portion of the poem devoted to her life and death. Finally a single long-stemed red rose was laid at her place. During the ritual we sang two of Carolyn McDade's songs from her "Sister, Carry On" tape/CD--"Woman To Woman" and "I Am Enraged."
This was among the most powerful rituals I have ever participated in. It was an honour to be part of it.
I ate lunch with old and new friends. Deanne, Penny and I were joined by Barbara, a new member of our Great Lakes Basin community. I'd first seen Barbara dancing at our Canadian CD Launch on Sunday, Novmber 23. At that time I'd been drawn to her fire and energy. Today I found out why. Barbara and I are such kindred spirits that it's remarkable. A rather amazing moment came when she asked the URL of my web site and I said "www.windchimewalker.com." She gasped and said, "I know your web site! Someone once sent me not only the link to your site, but a copy of your entire home page. They said I needed to get to know this creative woman!" That gave me chill bumps.
Our program continued after reports and announcements had been made. This planning committee really outdid themselves! Now the altar was surrounded by circles of colored construction paper. Alicia introduced our next activity, one that they had found in the "Sister, Carry On" booklet. It was intriguingly named "Finding Our Insolence." Each of us was invited to choose the colour of circle that spoke to us today. We were then asked to find a quiet corner in which to sit and cut the paper circle into a spiral. On it we were to write whatever words welled up within us when we asked ourselves these two questions:
1. What helps you to spiral
inward through helplessness and pain to your own inner knowing
2. What helps you to spiral outward through fear and distrust to community, connectedness and solidarity?
For what seemed like timeless time we each delved deep into our Selves and tried to articulate what we found there. When everyone was finished, we were asked to gather into small groups to discuss our journeys. I was in a circle with Doris and three of our four new Gaia sisters--Monica, Barbara and Mary Kay. Our discussion was reverent, honest, deeply touching and transformative. Other groups seemed to experience this time of sharing in similar ways, with a few also bringing humor to the mix. Of course, if you had Pat N in your circle, you'd be bound to laugh! As each group broke up, we were invited to weave our spirals in rainbow patterns around the altar. And thus, what had started as a commemoration of the dead, became a colourful celebration of the living.
We closed our day by singing another of Carolyn's songs, "Seeds of Change." I don't know what seeds are normally planted in December, but today was certainly a day for planting hope.
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 7, 2003
This afternoon we Raging Grannies went to the Blue Triangle Network's Open House to celebrate the opening of their new national office here in Detroit. Not only did we sing, but we listened to very disturbing reports of what has been happening of late to persons of Muslim and Arab extraction, many of whom live in Southeastern Michigan. Would you believe 13,000 deportations as a result of last winter's "special registrations" of Arab, Muslim, South Asian and North Korean immigrants? As attorney Nabih Ayad said today, "We are one serious terrorist attack away from concentration camps."
But before the program even began, we Raging Grannies celebrated the birthday of one of our most faithful Grannies, Charlotte. And it was a special treat to see GranMotoko cradling the new Raging Grannies doll that she had envisioned and Granny Kathy had made.
We had a good gaggle in attendance with Granny Judy D, GranMotoko, Grannies Kathy, Magi, Patricia, Charlotte, Rose and Helen. We'd brought song sheets so everyone could join in as we sang our repertoire of songs about Ashcroft and the Patriot Act. Because we've raged so often on behalf of our Muslim and Arab sisters and brothers, we have LOTS of appropriate songs. And today we had an added treat when Mike Kelly, one of the BTN presenters, danced the Bush Barrel Polka with Granny Charlotte!
I often wonder how the American people would react if they really knew what was going on in relation to Bush and Ashcroft's domestic "War on Terror." Families torn apart as husbands, fathers, brothers and sons are deported for minor visa violations, violations that the INS caught last winter when they cast their net of "special registrations" of immigrant men 16 years and over from 24 Muslim, Arab and South Asian countries and North Korea. Not only are wives, children, mothers and sisters left here in this country--often with no way to make a living or support their families--but many of the men are thrown into dangerous situations back in their countries of origin. And don't think this is just happening to recent immigrants: it's not. A large percentage of the 13,000 men who have been or will be deported have lived in this country five years or more, some of them have been here for a decade or more. And it isn't as if they haven't tried to become citizens. The INS has a bad history of bureaucratic snafus and slow-downs. No, these are men who have raised a family, worked, maybe even owned their own business, paid taxes, and been law-abiding residents. And often the "visa violations" for which they are being deported are not their fault at all: often it is due to administrative errors on the part of that unwieldy INS bureaucracy. This could be your father, husband, son or brother. After all, aren't we nearly all descendants of immigrants?
Last winter's "special registrations" had another purpose besides discovering visa violations: now the government has a data base of 69,000 names, addresses, places of work and schools of Muslim, Arab, South Asian and North Korean men (not counting the 13,000 who have been or are scheduled to be deported). Gathering this data is all too reminiscent of the special registrations of Japanese Americans in the years before Pearl Harbor. When Pearl Harbor occurred, it took the US government three days to pick up and imprison thousands of Japanese American men, and two months to intern 110,000 men, women and children who lived on the West Coast. They already had all the names and addresses on file.
It is this historic precedent that chills us when we see the same thing happening now to persons of Muslim, Arab, South Asian and North Korean descent. Are there concentration/detention/internment camps already prepared, sitting ready for use at a moment's notice? Do a Google search of "concentration camps" and see what you find. It's easy to say this is paranoid thinking, but perhaps if the Japanese Americans had been a little more paranoid before Pearl Harbor in 1941, they might have been able to resist the rounding up when it happened. Or at least there might have been a support system of non-Japanese Americans ready to help.
That's what the Blue Triangle Network is trying to do today: sound the alarm ahead of time through education, organizing and advocacy. This opening of their national office and the redesign of their web site are important steps in that direction. And today's presentations by core members of the BTN--folks like Bob Parsons, Mike Kelly, Nabih Ayah and Theresa--helped us understand what we're up against in terms of the repressive treatment of persons of Muslim, Arab and South Asian descent in post-September 11th America.
For instance, Theresa is an American-born woman who is married to an Iraqi man. She told of a harrowing experience she and her husband recently had when they travelled to Iraq to visit his family who still live there and Theresa's daughter who is a member of the US military stationed there. Not only were they targeted to undergo special searches by Detroit Metro Airport's security personnel, but when they arrived back home, their luggage went "missing" for two days. When returned to them, Theresa's new suitcase was torn apart as if it had been ripped open by a knife, photos had been cut out of her photo albums and other personal items were missing. All this because her husband was born in Iraq.
After the BTN presentations and Raging Grannies' sing-a-long, a video was shown about the Japanese Americans' experience of internment during World War II, and their concerns that the same thing might happen to the Muslims, Arabs and South Asians in post-September 11th United States. Then Mark, another core BTN organizer, facilitated an excellent brainstorming session on how the Blue Triangle Network can become a national movement. We believe our work deserves the same level of commitment and support as the Civil Rights movement of the '60s and the '70s. My suggestions had to do with the effective use of the internet (surprise, surprise!).
If you want to donate
time and/or money to this worthy cause, go to the Blue
Triangle Network web site and check it out. We need people,
ideas, volunteers and money to do our work. And worthy work it
is. When I think of the Blue Triangle Network I always remember
these words of Pastor Martin Niemoeller, who was a concentration
camp survivor in Nazi Germany:
"First they came for the Communists and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Catholics and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me, but by that time, no one was left to speak up."
MONDAY, DECEMBER 8, 2003
I pampered the heck out of myself today. After sleeping thirteen hours, I awoke still feeling tired. So I spent much of the day sitting and reading. The only relevant thing I did was write and send a letter to the editor of the New York Times, and I only did that because I couldn't NOT do it. Especially after receiving an email from my friend Margaretha in Sweden. This is the letter I wrote:
We Americans often look across the ocean, shake our sanctimonious heads and ask how ordinary people living in Poland and Germany during World War II could have ignored what Hitler was doing to the Jews. Did they not question why the Warsaw Ghetto emptied out overnight? Did they not see the trains filled with people heading into godforsaken areas? Did they not wonder what was happening in places like Auschwitz, Buchenwald and Dachau? Where was the public outcry?
And now I know. When horrors become commonplace everyday ordinary news--see "Tough New Tactics by U.S. Tighten Grip on Iraq Towns" by Dexter Wilkins 12/7/03--one becomes inured. But people outside of America are not inured. When I recently quoted in my blog what to me was a terrifying statement made by a local Muslim attorney, I received the following email response from a reader in Sweden:
"We are one serious terrorist attack away from concentration camps." you said in your journal. What about Guantanamo - you already have one!"
What a chilling realization. But what is even more chilling is the fact that I did not recognize that fact myself. How quickly we become accustomed to the unimaginable. If someone were to have told me in the summer of 2001 that my government--my country--would be treating people worse than animals in a hellhole that everyone knew about but still allowed to exist, I would not have believed it. At least I would have thought they'd have to keep it hidden. And even though the US government does not let observers into Guantanamo Bay, everyone knows what's going on there. As I wrote about the German and Polish people during the Holocaust, why is there no public outcry? How are we going to explain our silent acceptance of government-sanctioned torture to our children and grandchildren?
The only other relevant thing I accomplished today was to finish writing my journal account (with photos) of our Great Lakes Basin gathering of the O Beautiful Gaia singers on Saturday, December 6. You can scroll down to read it, or if you prefer, click on the Great Lakes Basin Journal page.
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 9, 2003
Another quiet day, but at least I finished Sunday's journal entry for the Raging Grannies at the Blue Triangle Network's Open House in Detroit. You can read it by scrolling down to Sunday, December 7 or by clicking on my Raging Grannies Without Border's journal and scrolling down to the last entry on the page.
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 10, 2003
Yellow petals sprout from
branches. Funkia shoots push up through
soggy leaves. Grass is spring green.
But it is December. Too soon. Too soon.
Rain-slicked roads, misty mornings...
Why not snow? Why so warm?
Our president says more
study is needed,
scientists don't know for sure that
global warming even exists. He says go ahead
buy more SUVs, don't penalize polluters,
relieve industry of its responsibility
to clean up its act.
Our economy's the thing--
got to increase production,
get folks buying.
But scientists say the
polar ice cap
is melting, cracking in two,
floods are coming,
tidal waves crashing over villages,
weather patterns screwed up.
Forsythia is blooming
December 10, 2003
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 11, 2003
Today I realized I am in a unique position with the children at school--not a teacher, not a parent, not an authority figure of any kind. We're more like peers. We sit beside one another at the art table, doing the same assignments, using the same materials, needing to freeze when the teacher says "freeze", be quiet when she asks us to be quiet, make art when it's time to make art, clean up when it's time to clean up. And through it all, I am privileged to be privy to the free flowing conversation that goes on among the kids as they work, not just to hear it but to participate in it. Yes, they are aware that I am not a student, that I am an adult, not simply an adult but someone who is older than a lot of their grandmothers. But somehow that doesn't keep us from meeting in a place of equality. As I say, it is a real privilege.
Today we were making bookmarks for a district-wide contest sponsored by the Dearborn Public Library. Every student in K-5 is asked to create a line-drawn, black-and-white bookmark (or two or three or more) to be submitted for consideration to be used as one of the special bookmarks for National Reading Week in March. If a student's bookmark is chosen, it will be printed on colorful paper, laminated and distributed district-wide. The winning students will be recognized publicly and will receive a packet of their bookmarks in assorted colors.
The kids REALLY get into this. And so did I.
Susan asked them not only to create a black-and-white bookmark for the contest, but to make a colored one as well. That one she will laminate and give back to the student for their personal use. Since I couldn't enter the contest, I made two colored bookmarks--the first, using the National Reading Week motif, and the second for my friend Joan whose 70th birthday we'll be celebrating in Windsor on Sunday.
There are two things that Joan loves best in the world: to play her violin, and dogs. So I came up with the idea to draw her playing the violin to a dog sitting at her feet. But I didn't know how to draw someone playing the violin. I couldn't even remember exactly what a violin looked like. I mentioned my problem to Miriam, the fifth grade girl who was sitting beside me in the fourth hour class. She said, "I've got my violin upstairs in my classroom. Want me to get it?" Susan the teacher agreed, and that's how I ended up with a drawing that actually looked like what it was supposed to look like! Nothing like having a live model. I think Joan's going to love it. Shhhh, don't tell her. It's a surprise.
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 12, 2003
Today the Raging Grannies sang at the monthly luncheon/meeting of a women's group here in Detroit. It was held at one of Detroit's most elegant and expensive restaurants. There were thirteen Grannies in attendance, and fifty women in the room. Shaun Nethercott, the founder of the Matrix Theatre, was a presenter as well. Hearing this incredible woman speak about Detroit as a "power center"--not in the usual sense of the word, but in ecological terms--was worth all my foot-dragging and reluctance to be there. For, to be honest, I did not want to go. I'd had this same reaction last spring when Kathy and I were to be honored as co-founders of the Raging Grannies at another women's group function, that one being a breakfast.
Now, both of these groups are made up of committed, intelligent women, many of whom are doing wonderful work for our community, state and nation. The organizations themselves are dedicated to education, peace and all the good things I believe in so strongly. So why do I resist attending such meetings as a Raging Granny? I'm not sure I've got it all sorted out, but it definitely has something to do with my definition of who and what the Raging Grannies are. In my mind, we Grannies are not performers or entertainers. We're supposed to be on the fringes, singing lyrics that poke holes in institutionalized lies, greed and arrogance...not center stage at ladies' luncheons and breakfasts. I see us out on the streets raging against war and injustice, standing in solidarity with the oppressed, being a voice for the voiceless. This felt too much like being a performing bear--originally a wild creature but now tamed so people could enjoy our funny songs. It just didn't sit right with me.
And so what did I do? In my best passive-aggressive manner, I "forgot" to bring my Grannies' apron, my shawl and my digital camera. Was THAT clear enough???
Tomorrow we Raging Grannies are having our monthly meeting/rehearsal and will be discussing who the Grannies are, how we see ourselves and how we act when out together raging/singing. I think I'd better share my feelings with the gaggle before my passive-aggressiveness gets in the way.
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 13, 2003
I remember back in my early years as a social worker my insistence that it was healthy and necessary for people to express their anger. How differently I see it now. Today I saw what the unrestrained expression of anger can turn into, how anger, once let out of its cage, escalates and takes over the personality of its owner. How one loses the capacity to hear oneself and others when under its control. And how this kind of anger draws forth the same monster in others, how toxic it is to all who are within its presence.
It wasn't my intent to bring up the recent painful incident that necessitated today's discussion of how we Raging Grannies identify ourselves in public, when we speak, how we speak, and for whom we speak when/if we do. And the original discussion stayed true to my intent. No mention was made of specific incidents, and each Granny had the opportunity to speak her truth and be heard by all. Consensus was easy to reach after each individual had shared. But after five of the Grannies had left to go on to other commitments, the tone changed. It was then that the Granny whose hostile comments at a public forum three weeks ago had triggered today's discussion, got wound up and brought her anger into our circle. As it took her over, she rose to her feet and pontificated without restraint. Unfortunately, her depiction of what had happened at that public forum three weeks ago resonated with anger residing within two of the Grannies still in the circle, and truth got lost in the shuffle. I tried to explain that her reality was not my reality, but I was the only one still present who had been at the original event. But dear wise Granny Kathy helped ground the discussion by saying, "The problem, as I see it, is that you were speaking in anger, and that will never do." The anger-obsessed Granny then gave an impassioned speech--still on her feet--about the difference between "clean" and "muddy" anger, and our culture's mistaken disapproval of anger as a healthy emotion.
Have you ever noticed that it is only the angry who resent our culture's disapproval of its expression? Through a concentrated effort at self-restraint and constant attempts to offer my perceptions of reality, I was able to make my way through the minefield of her anger. As so often happens, the anger-bringer seemed fine after it was all over. She gave hugs all around and told me how she loved me. For my part, I had to go right to bed after they left.
To recognize my anger is essential. To know what to do with it is what determines whether I bring non-violence or violence to the world, violence not simply being manifested physically, but socially, emotionally and spiritually as well. An example can be seen in the man who leads our US government. Perhaps George Bush recognizes his anger, but what he does with it destroys uncounted individuals, relationships between countries, species of all kinds and the planet itself.
So merely expressing my anger is not the answer; I must find a way to channel that anger into something constructive, something that brings life not death to me and to all with whom I share this amazing planet. That is what I see the Raging Grannies doing. The rage I feel when I see what my own government is doing to Iraq, to Muslims in this country, to the endangered species, to whales, the air, water and earth, to the poor, to Afghanistan, to prisoners in Quantanomo and here in the US, to the never-ending list of individuals and groups that suffer from this administration's wars, policies and priorities...all this is brought to my work as a Raging Granny, to the songs I write, the raging/singing I do with my sister Grannies, even the organizing I do behind-the-scenes. That, to me, is a healthy expression of anger.
May I remember the toxicity I saw expressed today whenever I am tempted to express my anger in less than beneficial ways. Yes, it may feel good in the short run--I could see that relief of pent-up feelings in my sister Granny after she was done--but it is not worth it. Whenever I speak or act in the violence of anger, I am doing damage to the whole. May I remember...
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 14, 2003
Friday and Saturday's journal entries have elicited several responses from readers. There is one, in particular, that I'd like to share with you (with the writer's permission). Geneviéve lives in a small town in British Columbia that I have renamed Brigadoon because of its community of love and creativity. I mean how many towns do you know that have a yearly talent show showcasing performers from age 4 to age 84? And is it the norm to have Storytelling Festivals and community dances that include children and adults? What about the fact that very few houses or cars are ever locked? And everyone knows everyone else, at least by face. As I say, it's Brigadoon. I can't recall how Geneviéve found my web site, but she's been a daily reader for a year or two. We've exchanged emails with such regularity that we've become true friends. So when I received Geneviéve's perspective on what has been happening with me and the Raging Grannies during the last couple of days, I listened hard. And what she had to say made sense. See what you think...
The reason that the last two days of being a Raging Granny have been hard for you is that the very base rock of the idea of a Raging Granny has been somewhat perverted. I mean that I think that the original and continuing ideal of a Raging Granny has always been:
--acting out in unexpected and outrageous ways that are deliberately kept ludicrous (hence the costumes) so that one might say whatever one wants and people who might otherwise have to take offence will not be able to react in a serious, violent manner. It is almost like being a clown who can taunt and tease and the recipient does not have society's approval to get angered by it. That is why the Raging Granny who got up and talked seriously about things that angered her was out of line. A Raging Granny must always keep the personae of the outrageous so that everything that must be said can be said (ie., serious actions will result in serious reactions which can terminate the ability to say anything anywhere). Do you understand what I mean?
--as well, Raging Grannies are like the coyote in native lore---poking and prodding the foibles of mankind so that they are exposed. Coyote, by his humourous trickster nature exposed the faults and weaknesses of mankind. Raging Grannies do the same. People hearing and seeing them laugh, but also understand. And those being exposed cannot react violently without making themselves appear more foolish.
--Raging Grannies are not there for entertainment, I agree. I think you acted in a most Raging Granny way by "forgetting" your apron, hat, etc., etc. I think that being a Raging Granny should be reserved for those times when things need to be stirred up, when things need to be prodded, and when there are serious things that need to be addressed by exposing the ludicrous by being ludicrous. By not having your Granny outfit and thus reacting in an unexpected manner, you were a Raging Granny at your best.
--Raging Grannies are treated with affection because of the very clownlike, unexpected and poking-at-foibles quality of their actions. Never, never, never should it be anger-then-forgiveness. That action exposes grannies to harm. It would be like a clown taking off his costume and then doing all the outrageous things he does as a clown. It would not be funny and he would treated with anger. Grannies must keep that personae of humour or those opposing them will have the opportunity to take them seriously and harm them. That is why anything but the outrageous is inappropriate. It is the old "many a truth is said in jest" principle.
I don't know if any of the above makes sense, but, for what it is worth, that is why it seems to me that your Raging Granny was out of line by being seriously angry and why you felt so uncomfortable in both that situation and the one where you were merely "entertaining."
It certainly helps when a friend not only acknowledges your right to feel disturbed, but places things in a context that helps you understand why you're upset. So often I'll feel unsettled about something but not really know why. Today Geneviéve helped me see why.
Another dear friend whom I met through my journal is Carol in Massachusetts. Do you remember Carol whom I finally met in person at the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival last August? Today Carol wrote to tell me, among other things, that she had saved yesterday's journal entry on anger to her hard drive because "it bears rereading." She also asked if there was anything more I could tell my journal readers about Shaun Nethercott's description of Detroit as a "power center" in ecological terms. I'd be happy to.
Shaun spoke of the Detroit River, in particular, as a place of concentrated power. It funnels--on a very swift current--all the waters of the Great Lakes. At the city of Detroit itself, the river is only one mile from shore to shore (between Michigan and Ontario). To imagine one fifth of the world's fresh water flowing through that narrow seven mile-long strait gives some idea of why she calls this a place of "concentrated power."
And the land itself is unique in that four eco-systems exist here: 1) river; 2) forest; 3) marsh; and 4) prairie. From Zug Island, maybe five miles to the southwest of Detroit, all the way down to what is now Cleveland, Ohio, it was originally marshland. Marshes still exist, but have been filled in to build cities and such. Then prairie. Who would have thought that the prairie reached as far east as Southeastern Michigan? But it does. Shaun says wherever you see corn growing, you know that is prairie land. So the prairie starts just west of Lansing, which is only an hour and a half from Detroit.
She also talked about the fact that wherever you go in the Detroit metropolitan area, you find water in the form of lakes, rivers, streams and ponds. They're everyplace. Then she asked, "So why don't you see water in the city of Detroit?" Because the water was build over when the city was constructed. But that doesn't mean the water isn't still flowing underground. Shaun told us that Detroit is built on seven springs, and she took us through the city (through words) showing us where each one runs.
She also talked about the three tribes of Native Americans who lived here before the Europeans arrived. Our Spirit of Detroit statue at the heart of the city is on top of a sacred mound of the Ojibway. And Mound Road out in the northeastern suburbs was also on a sacred mound.
But the most fascinating story of all--the one that encouraged my Great Lakes Basin community of the O Beautiful Gaia CD project to write new verses to our songs after Shaun had spoken to them a year ago--was about the sturgeon. These ancient fish--twenty foot long, cartilageous fish from the era of the dinosaurs--used to run the Detroit River on their way to their spawning grounds. It is said that when the sturgeon ran there were so many that you could walk across the river on their backs. This was before the 1840s when the Europeans discovered that sturgeon eggs made excellent caviar. Within thirty years, their numbers went from millions to a remnant. Well, that remnant is coming back! Shaun has personally seen a school of twenty sturgeon, maybe five feet long, swimming in the Detroit River. And this year the state started preparing a breeding ground for them off the north end of Belle Isle, our city park. Another amazing fact about these fish is that they lived to the age of 130, and the females--who vastly outnumbered the males--only bred three times during a lifetime, the first time when they were twenty years old. The women loved hearing Shaun's dry comment that, "If you're only breeding three times in your life, you don't need many males."
Shaun Nethercott, who is originally from an old mining town in Wyoming and has only lived here in Detroit since 1989, has become a major holder of our region's stories. She and her husband Wes use their knowledge well as co-founders of the Matrix Theatre, a community-based theatre company made up of youth and adults in Southwest Detroit where they live. This amazing theatre company researches and writes its own plays. I have personally seen only two of their plays: "This Once Was Paradise" (a story of our bio-region from the time when creatures had it to themselves, and on into the 20th century when Detroit was the terminus of the Underground Railroad), and "Meadow Morphosis" (the ecological story of a o local meadow through the four seasons). In the first play I was allowed to be a sturgeon, and in the second I was asked to add song to the production (as part of a duet one day, and an ensemble the next). I think they are currently presenting "Harper's Ferry."
That's all that I can remember of Shaun's talk, but there was even more.
Today we had our first snow. I awoke to a white world that just kept getting whiter as the hours passed. I had been looking forward to attending my friend Joan's 70th birthday party at Windsor, Ontario's Ojibway Nature Center from 2-4 PM today. But at 1:30 PM the snow was still coming down, so I called and gave my regrets. Even though I was so sorry to miss this special gathering of my friends, I am aware that it was a wise decision to stay home. Hard, but wise. Happily, Joan will be coming to my house this Wednesday for our women's book group meeting, so I can give her the bookmark I made her then.
Ed and I received a happy bit of news yesterday--our nephew John and his wife Kirsten are expecting a baby on June 19, 2004. They sound absolutely delighted...and so are we.
MONDAY, DECEMBER 15, 2003
I wrote the following poem before reading of the Greenpeace activist, Emily Craddock, going missing last Friday on the Amazon River in Brazil. But when I read the words quoted from her ship's log entry, I knew my poem was for Emily and those like her who are willing to risk their lives to try to save our planet. She and her Greenpeace compatriots certainly use their anger in ways that benefit the whole. Here is Emily's entry in the Arctic Sunrise ship's log:
"Now we are in the Amazon wow! There are so many trees to hug I don't know how I am going to do any radio work. We have to stop the illegal logging in this amazing place. We are in the lungs of the world and they are disappearing, stolen from our future children by greed and in an astonishingly violent, cut it all down attitude..."
"It is up to all
of us to make the changes in our lives as the trees cannot talk
for themselves; they sometimes talk to me, but that is another
ANGER FOR JUSTICE
Dedicated to Emily
Craddock, Greenpeace activist,
who went missing on Brazil's Amazon River
on Friday, December 12, 2003
My anger must be elastic,
capable of being
pulled in two directions at once, from its source to
its solution, from its passion to its capacity for thought,
from myself to others. If my anger is so tightly-bound
that it coils in on itself, how can it lead to action?
So I hold my anger in
hands open to others,
to their truth, to our connection as community,
to the power we have together, not as individuals.
When I stand as one, spewing my own personal anger,
I create not change but a climate of fear. But when I
stand with sisters and brothers, our shared anger
can transform the world.
We need anger to fuel
our work for justice.
Let us join our angers, one with another, and
step out together into the shining light of love.
For anger without love is toxic to all living things.
Anger and love, working together, will change the world.
Let us begin now, today.
Detroit, Michigan, USA
December 15, 2003
*I've just created and put up a new web page called "A Year of Poems--2003."
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 16, 2003
I create altars as naturally as other people create casseroles or gardens. It just happens, with no forethought or planning. Today I felt compelled to add my rose quartz bear to the altar that's been beside my computer for some time. That original altar (or gatheringing of items, if you prefer) was comprised of a pewter woman that I bought at my first Michigan Womyn's Music Festival in 1994, with a small silver nugget engraved with the word "Peace"--a birthday gift from Susan, my teacher friend--resting between her uplifted arms. The woman and nugget sat on an beaded coaster Pat K had given me last Christmas. Beside them was a stone from Lake Huron that I'd placed on our Great Lakes Basin community altar as we began our work on the O Beautiful Gaia CD project on September 8, 2002. But today the bear had to join the woman/nugget, and the stone was moved to my window sill altar beside my chair here at the computer.
The bear only comes out when I need to find my power in solitude, so when she raised her head and called to me today, I understood her message. It is time to crawl into my inner cave and see what I find there.
By the way, this particular bear came into my life on a life-changing journey to New Mexico in the spring of 1993. I may have a poor memory for some things, but not for my remembrance objects. I seem to recall in vivid detail where and when each of them came into my life. These items are rarely valuable in monetary terms, but priceless to me in their power to evoke past experiences, mark where I am today, and give inklings as to what lies ahead.
When I consider the bear's message, I see clearly that my recent difficulties with the Raging Grannies has been less about changes they need to make, and more about changes I need to make within myself. And, for starters, that means pulling back from the all-consuming role of organizing this wonderful gaggle, and just being one of the Grannies. At least for now. That is what I shared with my co-founder Kathy in a phone conversation yesterday. She respected my wishes, and will, for awhile anyway, take over the role of coordinating the group.
After we spoke I felt as though I could breathe deeply for the first time in months. Yes, that's the sign that I've listened to my inner voice and acted on her advice. This will not only be good for me, but for the gaggle as well. My irritations of late were not healthy for anyone, least of all the group. And Kathy is a marvelous organizer, although she couldn't know that as long as I had to direct the show. Isn't it amazing how when you follow your own true path, it always benefits those around you...even though sometimes they don't see it until later?
So, dear bear-of-solitude, may I sit with you in this Solstice-time of sacred darkness. But, don't worry, dear readers, my hibernation is going to be partial, not complete. For instance, I'll be off to Ann Arbor for a two-night stay this weekend, and you know what that means. Music, food, friends and scooting the picket line with the striking Borders' workers. My cave is not a physically confining place, but rather a state of mind.
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 17, 2003
Today Ed invited me to join the VA Hospital's Compensation & Pension staff as they enjoyed a yummy holiday lunch. We even brought appropriate music to share. Two years ago I'd attended their holiday lunch and was touched by their friendly welcome of me and the obvious respect they have for one another. Besides, we had some of the best Indian food I'd ever put in my mouth! Today was the same, especially the special dessert made by Dr. Padiyar's wife.
I can't recall exactly how many years Ed has done weekly evaluations in this department, but he's been going down there for a long time. It might even be 20 years. Isn't time a strange entity? The older I get, the more elusive it becomes.
Ed and I tried to take pictures of everyone and came close to our goal, but I'm afraid we missed Dr. Yellai (except in the group picture), Dr. Raju, and only caught Mrs. Shimatz in the corner of this picture. However, here are the rest of the staff: Dr. Padiyar, Dr. Shaw and Terry, Janice and Susan, Dr. Frank (and me), Cindy, Dr. Maitre, and an associate from another department whose name we don't know.
Whenever I'm with these wonderful people, I feel as though I have stepped into the kind of world we all dream could exist on this wounded planet. And it does exist...right here in the middle of Detroit.
My women's book group met here tonight to discuss "Nickel and Dimed" by Barbara Ehrenreich. But before we got down to business, three of our members--Claire, Pat N. and Joan--gave me two of the best laughter photos I've ever taken. See if you can look at these with a straight face--photo #1 and #2.
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 18, 2003
There's nothing like being with Susan and the kids at school to make me feel loved. Today especially. As soon as I sat down this morning, Susan came over and handed me a rather heavy envelope. When I asked, "Do you want me to open it now?", she grinned and nodded her head. As you can imagine, the kids were all eyes. Inside the envelope was a Happy New Year's card--she knows I don't celebrate Christmas--with a handwritten message of love and appreciation, and inside the card were a beautiful beaded necklace and bracelet that she had made for me...purple, of course! But what made me a little misty-eyed were the words inscribed on the pendant that hung from the necklace: on one side it said "Spread the word", and on the other side, "Believe in Peace." Then Susan gave me the greatest gift of all by saying, "And that's exactly what you do!"
Then at lunchtime, a fourth grade girl whom I had known and loved last year came into the art room carrying a posterboard card with colorful words and drawings on it. It was for me!!! She said that she has missed me so much this year--her art class is on Wednesday--that she made this card for Miss Patricia and had all the kids in her class sign it. Now, you have to know that I hadn't even seen this girl since last May. But she hadn't forgotten me. In fact, on the card she wrote two things: "You all ways incuraged me to hold on to my drems" and "I will always remmember you no matter what. It was great being with you." In big letters all across the card were the words, "We'll miss you!."
Do you see what I mean about feeling loved?
I'd brought my digital camera today and asked Susan to take a picture of me with every class. I knew I couldn't put them up on my web site, but I could use them to make a photo collage for my computer desktop. I'm intentionally keeping the image small so the children can't be identified. It's now on my desktop and makes me smile everytime I look at it. By the way, I've placed my alias icons on the line of clouds across the screen. That way the children's faces aren't covered.
The truth is that I was in great need of love and appreciation today. This business with the Raging Grannies has taken its toll. I guess I'd expected some kind of response to my group email saying that I was taking time off from organizing our gaggle. But of the twenty-three Grannies on our roster, I've only heard from four. Of course, Granny Kathy, who is taking over as organizer, has responded--kindly, I might add. And an occasional Granny (who is also my friend) called about something else, but asked about what was going on with the Raging Grannies. She was sympathetic to my feelings, especially since she'd been at one of the gigs where there had been some unpleasantness. The other two responses were: 1) from a very occasional Granny I received an email that started with the words, "Sounds like you've made a wise decision"; and 2) from our newest Granny who joined us for the first time at last Saturday's meeting, I received a thoughtful email. Not a word from anyone else. I feel hurt and underappreciated. I'm not going to belabor this, but their silence sits within me like a wound.
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 19, 2003
Friends, especially wise friends, are at my side, whether in person, online or via telephone. Three such friends--Jeff in Mill Valley, CA, Dorothy in San Francisco, and Geneviéve in Procter, British Columbia--gathered 'round today and offered me the wisdom and support I needed. Two of the three said exactly the same thing, which I've been told is a sign of the presence of truth. They both said that perhaps the reason I hadn't heard from more Raging Grannies about my decision to step back from organizing was that they didn't know what to say. Pretty simple, that. And it rings true. I think I've been making a mountain out of a molehill, as my mother used to say.
When I reread the group email that I'd sent out to the Grannies three days ago, I see that it didn't call for a response at all. This is what I said:
The subject of change brings me to the purpose of this email. As we approach the longest night, I am feeling a deep pull to allow my inner self a time of rest. Yesterday I told Granny Kathy that I'd like to take some time off from organizing, and she graciously agreed to take over as main Raging Granny coordinator, at least temporarily. I'm sure you wonderful women will stand at her side and offer help in any way that she needs. I will still be out on the streets with you when I can. Raging/singing gives me SUCH life!
Pretty straight forward. Now I see that my hurt feelings were not based on facts, but on unrealistic expectations of people somehow knowing what I wanted them to say, ie., "You've been a wonderful organizer", "You've given so much to the Grannies, we can't imagine what we'd do without you", "Thank you so much for all that you've done." Well, hopefully, my child-within knows she's loved and appreciated, and can now go back to sleep. I'm ready to get on with my life...
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 20, 2003
In a few minutes I am off to Ann Arbor for two nights of R&R (Rest & Recovery) after what many of you know has been a hard week. But before I leave, I want to share with you the words of a Wise Woman, Grace Lee Boggs. Grace is 88 years old and has been an activist at the forefront of social transformation movements for over sixty years. We here in Detroit are privileged to have her live in the heart of our city where she continues to work for change through the Boggs Center, founded by her and her late husband, Jimmy Boggs.
Every week, Grace Lee Boggs writes a column for our most truth-filled community newspaper, The Michigan Citizen. This week's column is titled, "These Are the Times that Try Our Souls." I put it on a par with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s speech, "I Have A Dream." May we all listen with our minds, hearts, bodies and spirits to Grace's call for change, for if we don't I fear that our future will be more of a nightmare than a dream.
See you Monday night...if the roads stay clear.
MONDAY, DECEMBER 22, 2003
As good as it was to get away, it was even better to come home. Aren't I fortunate to feel this way?
I didn't arrive at the Michigan League in Ann Arbor until 4 PM on Saturday. By the time we'd gotten my scooter set up, me and my bag upstairs, checked into my room, and my car parked in the parking structure, it was time for me to go downstairs and meet Miki and Akira for dinner. We went to a new Indian restaurant and had a superb dinner. As we ate our appetizers and main courses, I asked a question of my jazz friends. It was, "What were the top three jazz concerts you saw in 2003?" Our choices--which took a long time to settle on--overlapped. For Akira and me--Miki had been on a visit to Japan and had missed this concert--the June 16th Wynton Marsalis concert at Ann Arbor's Kerrytown Concert House was first on our list. I also had to put Hiromi, the young Japanese pianist whom we'd heard at the Labor Day Detroit Jazz Festival, right up there. Miki decided on Lynne Arriale, whom we three had heard on April 20th at Ann Arbor's Bird of Paradise jazz club, as one of her Top Three. Akira and I shared another choice and that was hearing Sylvie Courvoisier on piano and Mark Feldman on violin at the Kerrytown Concert House on November 16th. Miki added a wonderful concert we three had heard at the Music At the Max celebration in Detroit on October 19th--the Jeff Haas quintet. Believe me, this was not an easy question to answer! We had each heard so many excellent jazz concerts this year that narrowing it down to three was a real challenge.
But we didn't just talk jazz. Miki and Akira are biochemistry researchers who are in the middle of a very exciting project. I can't go into details because they are literally working day and night to be the first to publish their findings--researchers at another university are hot on their trail--so things are hush-hush for now. But it was thrilling to hear them discuss the details in confidence.
While Miki and Akira went back to the lab to work another 2-3 hours, I scooted off to the Ark for a Solstice concert by the Celtic band, Finvarra's Wren. What a delight! When you come from Scotch/Irish/English stock, there's nothing quite like hearing a fiddle, tin whistle, bohdran drums, Uillean pipes, button accordian and celtic harp. As the evening wore on, I literally felt my heart opening up. A special treat was hearing the children of three of the four band members join their parents onstage. And, although young in years, they were exceptional musicians. I guess they've been performing since they were tots. We heard Jim Perkins' and Cheryl Burns' 16 year-old daughter, Allison, on fiddle, tin whistle and vocals, and their 13 year-old son, Asher, on button accordian. For two numbers, Terrence McKinney's 11 year-old daughter, Siobhan McKinney--2003 winner in her age group of the All-Ireland Harp competition--added her Celtic harp music to the mix and mesmerized us all. Marty Somberg is the fourth member of Finvarra's Wren, and a fabuous fiddler who more than once brought tears to my eyes.
After the concert, the magic continued as I exited onto Ann Arbor's Main Street ablaze in twinkling white lights. Once back at the League, I went to bed and slept soundly until after 11 AM on Sunday morning.
I awoke to a sunny day, not as cold as Saturday but still chilly enough that I was grateful for my moon boots and lap blanket. After a trip to the Shaman Drum bookstore on State Street where I bought three new books, I scooted over to Liberty Street to support the Borders' workers in their six-week old strike. During my three hours on the picket line, our numbers grew, worker by worker. I know that most weekends members of the Ann Arbor Area Committee for Peace (AAACP) and the Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice (ICPJ) have been joining the picket line, but on this, the biggest shopping day of the year, it was just the striking workers and me.
Walking (or scooting) the picket line is not for the faint-of-heart. For every person who gives you the thumbs up, honks their horn, stops to ask questions and/or refuses to darken Borders' front door, there are at least 3-4 who cross the picket line as if we don't exist. It's hard to stay upbeat and positive...at least it was for me. But I tried to take my cue from a worker named Gail who continuously called out with a smile, "Happy Holidays! Don't shop at Borders!" I must admit I had much more Grinch-like feelings towards those who came out of Borders lugging heavy bags of books. My refrain--also said with a smile--was, "You don't have to cross a picket line to buy a book...not in Ann Arbor, anyway! There are lots of bookstores to choose from!" When my smile became more a grimace than a smile, I knew it was time to stop. I still had an hour and a half before my evening activity, but a cup of Italian gelato (lime and coconut) and a visit to a used bookstore kept me occupied.
Tonight the Ark was hosting a Benefit Peace Concert with a long list of local musicians. It was totally sold-out but I'd gotten my ticket online earlier this week. The proceeds will go to the Ann Arbor Area Committee for Peace, a group of committed, hardworking, effective peace activists with whom I've been associated for over a year and a half. Their director, Phillis Engelbert, is one of the unsung sheros of our time.
What a comfort it was to sit in a room with 300 like-minded women, men and children. The belly laughs that met jokes about Dubya, Rummy, Ashcroft and Cheney were music to my ears. And the songs! Well, all I can say is that I hope the live recording they were making turns out because I'd LOVE to relive that evening when times get tough.
I want to close by introducing you to some of the dear folks I have met during my many stays at the Michigan League. Here's Allison, the hotel manager, Jimi, Andrea and Daisy, who clean the rooms and woman the desk, and Ken who keeps things working properly. It's because of their gracious help and welcoming ways that I keep coming back, month after month. I can't imagine staying anyplace else in Ann Arbor. But shhhhh, don't tell anyone. The hotel only has 21 rooms, and I don't want it to become too popular.
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 23, 2003
I've been trying to figure out why I don't like this season. Believe me, it's no fun being a grinch. But I guess I'm not exactly a grinch. It isn't as though I want to steal anyone else's Christmas, it's just that I don't want to go there myself.
Maybe it's because I'm a present-liver, one who prefers to live in the here-and-now rather than in the past or the future. To me, Christmas is all about Christmases past. Every carol, decoration and Christmas tree brings back memories. Memories of when my sisters and I were young, when my parents were young, when Ed and I were young marrieds. Perhaps if we had children and grandchildren, I'd feel differently. With grandchildren, Christmas moves into the present tense. You watch their bright eyes and happy anticipation and it's contagious. Santa coming down the chimney and all that.
Thinking about Christmases past makes me sad. So much that was a given has been taken away. My adult mind knows this is simply a fact of life: if you live long enough, everything will change. And it isn't as though I want to go back there; I don't.
When I recall Christmases past, particularly those celebrated in the family of my birth, what strikes me most is the "traditions" that HAD to be obeyed. You could only come downstairs when dawn was breaking. Carolyn's, Miss Em's and my Santa toys would be piled in exactly the same places in front of the fireplace year after year. You couldn't open the wrapped presents under the tree until after going to Christmas Mass and eating breakfast afterwards (creamed chip beef on toast in my teen and young adult years), and even then you had to wait for Daddy to call out each name, hand you the present, and wait for each person to open their present while everyone watched. Of course you had to make the appropriate oohs and ahhs whether you liked the gift or not. And then there was our Christmas Eve tradition of Dad reading the Christmas story from the bible and Mom reading "The Littlest Angel" and our all singing Christmas carols...even when we were adults. I don't even want to start on the traditional dinner we ate together every Christmas with exactly the same menu year after year.
Maybe it sounds like a Norman Rockwell painting, but it wasn't. Underneath all the Christmas joy there were always currents of dissatisfaction, resentments and/or criticisms. It was hard to get it right when the agenda was so circumscribed. Perhaps my current refusal to celebrate Christmas is simply a long-delayed need to assert my independence. After all, my favorite song as a child was "Don't Fence Me In."
They say holidays like Christmas bring out the best in people. I know there are always stories told of the nice things that people do during the holidays, things like helping strangers, giving gifts to a shelter, serving dinner at a soup kitchen, giving donations to charities. But I have this niggling feeling that if one only does such things at Christmas, they are done more to make you feel good about yourself than to do good unto others.
My friend who lives and works at a woman's shelter says she sure wishes folks would offer help at different times during the year...and some do. I think of the young man who came and mowed their lawn and helped in the garden once a week during the summer. And the schoolteacher who has a husband, three kids and is very active in peace organizations, yet volunteers several hours at the shelter every Saturday morning all year long. These are folks who have the real Christmas spirit.
I had the most glorious three mile scooter ride in the drizzling rain. I sang the whole way! When I returned home and logged onto the internet, I found an interesting email from a "fellow troublemaker" named Mark Dilley. He had discovered my web journal, liked what he read and wants to help me join the Bloggers. In case you don't know, blogs are web logs that operate out of blog sites. They receive LOTS of readers and have the capacity to set up interactive responses. Mark uses blogspot.com which I guess is one of the largest such sites in the world. Oddly enough, he lives in Ann Arbor and is a union organizer who has helped the Borders' striking workers! Even the internet is a small world. He's offered to help me set up a blog--it would be in addition to this web journal--and I think I'm going to take him up on it. Here are links to Mark's blogs:
Definitely a fellow troublemaker!
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 24, 2003
WELL...and that is a H-U-G-E well--my blog guru, Mark Dilley, has, in less than 24 hours, become my new best friend! What this man has done for me yesterday and today is beyond belief. He singlehandedly turned this individual online journal-keeper into a BLOGGER. I am SO psyched!!! We just had an hour-long tutoring session by phone and I think I now know what I need to know to keep a daily blog with photo links. But even if I have problems, Mark says he's there to help, by phone or by email. I'm keeping him on as co-administrator so that when I need help--which I'm SURE I will--it will be easy for him to wield his magic wand and fix it. Would that every blogger had such a resource!
We started working on this project late last night and I was so excited I didn't go to bed until after 2:30 AM. Then I dreamed about being a blogger, except in my dream I wasn't sitting at my computer but was at an outdoor gathering of hundreds of people...and I was the main speaker! I was to read from my blog. As long as I stayed with the text as written, folks quietly listened with respect. But when I started editorializing, hands flew up and voices were raised in protest.
There's a lesson there!
May I stay to the text of my life and not go flying off into places
I don't know anything about.
When making art, I always found that the best way to push beyond where you thought you could go was to make a mistake. Some of my best paintings taught me this hard-earned lesson. And now tonight, I learned it again...but this time as a blogger.
While looking at possible templates, I was attracted to one called "Jellyfish", so, like a jellyfish, I unthinkingly clicked on the button, "Use this template." Well, I liked the way it looked, but discovered that I had lost EVERYTHING except the postings. All Mark's hard work gone at the click of a button! SOOO, after an expletive or two, I went to the working area called "template"--where all the HTML commands reside--and applied some of what Mark had patiently taught me this afternoon. Believe me, I never thought I'd get the hang of using HTML, but, because I'd had such a good teacher, it wasn't too hard, simply time-consuming.
Actually, I'm pleased with how the page now looks...and I'm glad to begin to have the tools to maintain it myself.
© 2003 Patricia Lay-Dorsey. Please use with attribution.