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TUESDAY, JUNE 27, 2000
I've been away from my computer and my journal for a week now. Off at the 26th annual National Women's Music Festival at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. Over 3,000 women. Music/drama/comedy performances, workshops, videos, craftswomen's marketplace, ritual celebrations, networking groups, keynote speeches, singing and drumming, and perhaps most significant, strengthening our sense of women's community. This was my 4th festival; my first being at age 53 in 1995. This year my 40th high school reunion (outside Washington, DC.) was scheduled for the same weekend as National. I'd never before missed a reunion--we are a very close class, with only 140 graduates--but something in me knew that I had to be at the festival. My intuition was correct.
The music was wonderful...especially singing with the NWMF chorus for two hours every day and performing on Sunday. Friday night's drum jam with over 30 women, some of whom perform in an African drum/dance troupe, ended at 1 AM but got me so whizzed that it was two and a half hours later before I finally fell asleep. And though smiling is more my thing, the comedians (Lisa Koch, Suzanne Westenhoefer, Ann Lincoln and Susan Jeremy) consistently got me laughing-out-loud-tears-streaming. A talk/discussion with women's music icon, Holly Near, offered an opportunity for me to share with 200 women about the hope-filled days I spent with young activists at the OAS (Organization of American States) protest demonstrations earlier this month in Windsor, Ontario. The Day and Night Stage performances satisfied my hunger to hear truth-telling women singer/songwriters like Linda Tillery and the Cultural Heritage Choir, Suede, Cheryl Wheeler, Lori B, and Justina Golden (our NWMF chorus director).
My sweetie's birthday $$ allowed me to buy an instrument I've been in awe of for years--a digjeridoo. This Australian aboriginal horn sounds like a continuous fog horn in its low range, and requires circle breathing to sustain the sound. I have heard it played by Gwen Jones in San Francisco and at women's music festivals, as well as by Karma Moffot in ritual gatherings at his studio in SF's Castro district. Last year and this year at the National festival, I experienced the digjeridoo's healing capacity as a gifted woman played one over my body, setting up vibrations that continued for hours after she stopped. That same dear woman, M.F., showed me how to play the New Mexico-made cactus digjeridoo that I ended up buying. It takes a lot of practice to blow the low note with closed-mouthed loosely vibrating lips--not to mention the more advanced technique of circle breathing--but I'm beginning to get a consistently strong sound now.
From Thursday on, I carried my digjeridoo with me everywhere I went, often going outside to practice. The women assured me that they liked it--especially the deaf woman I played it on, who then played it herself and signed to a friend, "I heard that!" I'm finding that playing it sets up vibrational energy in my head, face, throat, chest, hands, arms--and now my feet and legs, since I prop it between my feet as I play out back here at home. It must be excellent for increased chi circulation! When E.D. came home from work yesterday, he thought he was hearing fog horns on the lake. And three creatures--a cardinal, squirrel and fly--have seemed inordinately interested in hanging around when I play.
Much as I value all my festival experiences, one stands out in particular--connecting with two women from Toronto. I'd met both of them at last year's festival, but this year we moved from being acquaintances to becoming friends. And what drew us together was our being--as C., our beloved Access Central Coordinator, called us--the "grrrls on wheels"! We were a holy terror the night we went whipping through the halls, F.O.'s speedy motorized wheelchair in the lead, me in my scooter trying to keep up, and P.I. in her manual wheelchair hanging onto my scooter seat from behind. We ate meals together, laughed and teased like sisters, shared stories from our lives, and honestly expressed our feelings about being a feminist lesbian/bisexual/woman-identified (each of us defines ourselves differently) person with a disability. These two women--both longtime disability activists and consultants--made me feel part of that community for the first time. A community I now feel happy to join if P.I. and F.O. are any indication of what kind of person I might find there. We're looking into setting up an online forum called "Grrls on Wheels". Watch out world!
At the opening ritual
gathering on the lawn Thursday morning, we'd been invited to bring
forth our dreams/wishes/intentions for the festival, speaking
them into the middle of the circle. Mine was "healing of
friendships". Well, the friendship I'd been thinking of was
not the friendship I was given. But the friendship I was
given is exactly the one I needed! Blessed be.
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 28, 2000
What a difference 10 days can make! At noon today I went back to the water aerobics class at our lakeside park. To forestall any further comments from the woman who had insisted I "watch out" so class members wouldn't bump into me, I asked the instructor to announce that persons with special needs would be using the area closest to the pool's edge. Worked out perfectly. I could do the exercises in my own modified way without feeling under pressure to move faster or better. Actually, I felt much more able this time. I no longer needed to use a kickboard for support staying upright in the shoulder-height water. My legs were a bit more movable, and I also did arm lifts and such. Some exercises were more comfortable if I leaned back against the side of the pool to do them; others worked better if I didn't try to do legs and arms together, rather moved them separately. A lot of it is being willing to adapt things as I go along. And to expect improvement!
So this time, instead of an unpleasant encounter with a classmate, I experienced just the opposite--a delightful connection! As we were "running", a woman came over and said, "I've been seeing you all over town on your scooter, and I always want to say, 'You go girl!" We got to know one another better as class proceeded. Turns out she's taught in Detroit schools for over 30 years, is liberal politically, very involved in music, and lives a few blocks from me. She's already offered to go with me to any musical event in the city and help assemble/disassemble my scooter for transport in the car. Zowie! What a neat woman!
La Lucha the scooter not only gets me around in style on her purple back, but she introduces me to such fine folk. When I looked up the date she was delivered in both my numerology book and my Motherpeace Tarot, I was surprised to see "The Tower". The tower means a death leading to rebirth of some sort. A very dramatic card. Well, it's proven true. I am beginning to date events BLL (before La Lucha) or ALL (after La Lucha). She is making that much difference in my life. E.D. often says, "Why did we wait so long?" But I know the timing was perfect. If I'd gotten a scooter before now, I suspect I would have felt a lot of grief and loss regarding my ability/inability to get around on my own two feet. It was only when I began to experience significant limits on where I could go and what I could do that I was more than ready to move to this new level of disability. All I've felt is pure and utter delight! As though the world has been restored to me.
I saw it so clearly at
the National Women's Music Festival. Not only could I go where
I wanted when I wanted, but I had reserves of energy when
I arrived. Last year, I remember how exhausted I was much of the
time. Just getting from Point A to Point B took most everything
I had. Often I'd choose not to go to a workshop or performance
because getting there and back was too demanding. Or I had to
plan ahead and arrange for a wheelchair-pusher or a shuttle ride.
Certainly the women who provided these services were dear and
wonderful, but it took away my capacity to be spontaneous. As
a serious P(erceiving) on the Myers-Briggs Personality Scale,
losing my options is tantamount to losing my true sense of self.
So La Lucha is much more than mere transport. She allows me to
be fully my Self. Gratias, mi amiga!
THURSDAY, JUNE 29, 2000
Rain splatters loudly on the roof outside a partially open window. I feel fine spray on my hands as I type. Thunder rumbles in from the west. Between jazz songs, the radio announcer says there is a severe thunderstorm watch for our area. Cars splash as they drive by. Crashes of thunder get louder moment by moment. Lightning flashes blue-white overhead. Rain picks up in intensity. Curtains flutter in the wind. Suddenly patches of blue separate the clouds.
I hear E.D.'s car pull in the garage. A young woman's voice greets him from in front of the police station next door. The conversation is inaudible but I hear delightful enthusiasm in both voices. E.D. comes in the front door and calls to me, "Guess who's here!" I invite whomever it is to come upstairs where I'm working at the computer.
A lovely slender blond woman pokes her head in the door and says, "Do you know who I am?" "T.T.", I say immediately. Her mouth drops open. "How could you tell?" Her brown eyes and open smile. 5 years old when she moved away from the neighborhood. Perhaps 10 when she last attended one of our legendary Christmas parties. T.T. is still T.T., even at 32. She's in real estate now, married with 3 kids, and goes by her first name, not the nickname we knew.
Conversation goes back in time. I mention how we taught her to say "spaghetti" instead of "ghaspetti". We catch up on where her 3 sisters and mother live; what they're doing now. 29 years in the same house gives one a history shared with lots of kids-turned-adults. At least it does for E.D. and me.
We never had children of our own, but loved kids and they loved us. So a year after we moved here, D.F. and C.S. "discovered" us by offering to wash our car. We soon became the unofficial neighborhood center. Oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and Hawaiian punch after school. Sex education in our walk-in-closet as Puck gave birth to litters of kittens. A surprise birthday party for E.D. with pinãta and a stair-step picture of the kids with me somewhere in the middle (4'11" at my tallest). Flashlight tag with "Max" (my playing-with-the-kids name). Going trick-or-treating in costume when only D.F. and C.S. knew I was an adult (what a different scene out there among 'em!). Our 1776/1976 Bicentennial rug. E.D. created the design, I painted the backing, and 45 kids (ages 4-14) hand-hooked it all that winter. We won 2nd place in a gallery art exhibit and a blue ribbon at the State Fair. But most memorable were Dr. and Mrs. D.'s annual Christmas parties.
From 1972-1984 (with one year off for E.D.'s pneumonia) we invited up to 95 youngsters each year--the original kids began bringing their kids--to a party from 2-5 PM the Sunday before Christmas. What T.T. remembered, with awe in her voice, was, "You had a wrapped present for each kid, with our name on it!" A gingerbread or candy house as centerpiece. Peanuts and M & Ms. Decorated sugar cookies and my oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. Fritos and dip brought out at 4 PM. Punch made from juices, ginger ale, Hawaiian punch, with a frozen strawberries-in-ice ring floating in the punch bowl. Twister in the living room, bingo with prizes upstairs, rubber-tipped darts in the pantry, ping-pong on the plastic-enclosed porch, looking at photos of previous parties on the sofa...and laughing, screaming kids everywhere. The party actually ran itself, with older children showing the younger ones what was what. Nothing ever got broken. No one got hurt. E.D. and I had a blast!
For our 30th anniversary in 1996, we invited all the grown-up neighborhood kids we could find to join us for a celebration at our house. Many had moved far away, so our numbers were small, but we heard from dozens by letter and phone (before our internet days). Those who came (some with spouses and children) spoke of what our presence had meant to them while growing up. Not only the parties, but during tough times as well. One young man said that life at home was most unpleasant--his parents finally divorced--but he knew he could always come to the D.s and feel welcomed and at home. Story after story showed us that instead of not having had children, we'd had more than we could ever have given birth to.
So tonight I thank T.T.--now
M.M.--for reappearing and bringing back such fond memories.
SATURDAY, JULY 1, 2000
Guess I was too busy living life yesterday to write about it!
My water aerobics at noon was quite a challenge--probably because this was the first time I'd taken two classes in one week. But I stuck with it for the whole hour, modifying exercises as I went along. Today my shoulders are a bit sore and my legs pretty "noodley", so something's obviously happening.
After class, I ate a late lunch--grilled cheese sandwich, french fries and apple juice--while watching little ones climb monkey bars, ropes and ladders, and giggle their way down the sliding boards. R., maybe 4 years old, was intrigued by my scooter. He spent 10 minutes ringing windchimes, tooting the pink horn, turning La Lucha's key on and off, and asking me to go forwards and back. Earlier, two young ones about the same age had also attached themselves to La Lucha. She seems to draw youngsters like butterflies to milkweed. To them it's just a cool wheeled vehicle. Kids often say I'm lucky to be able to ride it. I agree!
On this beautiful summer day, the blue-green lake was dotted with sailboats, motorboats, fishing boats and kayaks. Kids were swimming and playing in the sand around the lifeguarded beach area. Dogs were splashing after sticks thrown by their owners off a spit of land outside the park that we call "Turtle Island". Extended families had pulled picnic tables together for what looked like all-day gatherings. The tennis courts were full; basketball and shuffle board areas given over to teenagers trying to impress one another. At the far end of the beach, a mother duck led her tiny (one-and-a-half inch long) ducklings to the edge of a grassy area by the breakwater, jumped into the lake, followed after a l-o-n-g hesitation by 4 plops. It must have felt to those newly-hatched ducklings as I would have felt if my Mom had told me to follow her jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge!
Home for a shower and change of clothes, then off to my next activity...a free jazz concert on the lawn of Detroit's Museum of African-American History. I picked up my friend, P.K., who lives and works at the women's shelter where I volunteer, and drove three miles to Detroit's Cultural Center. The concert was scheduled to run from 6-9 PM. When we arrived about 6 PM, there were perhaps 100 folks sitting in lawn chairs and on blankets spread over a low grassy hill beside the museum. A sophisticated sound stage with keyboard, piano, drums and bass was crowded with stagetech folks and performers preparing for the show. My favorite women's jazz group--Straight Ahead--was opening for the Detroit-born jazz great, Diane Reeves. It was still pleasantly warm and sunny, with a light breeze to keep bugs away.
Within an hour or two--things got started late--the hill and surrounding lawns were crowded with 6-700 people. Young families with strollers, elders dressed in colorful flowing African garb with headwraps, some folks still in work clothes, teenage boys in T-shirts/baggy pants, teenage girls in midriff-baring tank tops/shorts. Food tents were set up nearby. The pasta salad, greens, cornbread and bread pudding put P.K. and me in a pretty mellow mood.
Detroit at its finest!
Superb jazz, friendly crowds, delicous food, and ideal summer
weather. I love San Francisco, but in the City I truly miss the
proud and visible African-American presence that is so integral
to Detroit. But next winter, La Lucha should make BART accessible
enough to give me new options--like going over to events and concerts
in Oakland. Yoshi's Jazz club will be first on my list!
SUNDAY, JULY 2, 2000
As a teenager and young adult, the words "love" and "romance" were synonymous. When I was "in love", it meant I felt romantically toward another. Expressions of love were physical. Holding hands, embracing, kissing, "making out".
40 years later, love is still expressed physically...like the ways my dear E.D. showed his love yesterday and today. 1) He went inside Starbucks to get my iced tea and sweet roll because my legs were feeling "noodley" after riding our tandem bike there. 2) He did our weekly grocery shopping, as I enjoyed said tea and sweet roll while sitting at a sidewalk table outside Starbucks. 3) Once home, he offered to drive to a special store and pick up the cheesecake I'd promised to bring to a women's singing gathering last night. 4) He syringed my ear out with water, removing wax and clearing up the problem I'd been having hearing since Friday's water aerobics class. 5) This morning he put our towels in the washer and drier, and brought them upstairs for me to fold. Pretty physical expressions of love! What a good man.
Last night was another experience of love...the love shared in a community of women. Nine of us who attended the Carolyn McDade singing retreat the beginning of June, gathered to reminisce and sing her songs. Most of us have been singing together for a few years in a Detroit chorus called Notable Women. While munching on chips and dip, string cheese and crackers, cottage cheese and cucumber sandwiches, we shared our feelings and memories about that magical weekend on the Canadian shores of Lake Erie.
We spoke of Carolyn's depth of presence as she sees and hears each woman in her uniqueness. The image we share of her singing, eyes closed, with such full-voiced authenticity of women, justice and the land. The core places touched in each of us as we sing these songs in circle with our sisters. The unexpected--and totally accepted--tears that flow so readily as we sing. The deepening of our bonds as a women's community. How we experience the thread of these songs that form the roots of our community as more spiritual than musical.
And then we sang. And sang. And sang.
Love in decades past was
never so tangible, so active, so all-encompassing. Beyond being
"in" love is learning how to "do" love. How
graced I am to know so many people for whom "doing"
love is their primary way of being in the world.
MONDAY, JULY 3, 2000
As D.L., a Webcrones listserv friend wrote lately, "Life is not for sissies." I would add that being disabled is not for sissies either.
Of all the effects of MS (multiple sclerosis), bladder and bowel problems are the least discussed and the most unpleasant. In the 12 years since my diagnosis, I've had my share of accidents and urgencies. For the past year, I've taken to wearing adult diapers whenever I leave home. Doesn't do much for a svelte silhouette, but it sure helps with my comfort level. Happily, the oversized tops, long skirts and loose dresses I've worn for years manage to accommodate these rather bulky undergarments pretty well.
I was reminded of this
particular problem today in a most tangible way...unfortunately.
Ah well, being open about such issues may help diminish the embarrassment
so many of us feel. Strange how the sense of shame we learned
in our toilet training days can hang on long beyond its usefulness!
TUESDAY, JULY 4, 2000
This morning, lying in bed, I read Mary Oliver's poem, "Buck Moon--From the Field Guide to Insects". It takes me back to a forest-time of my own.
It is a Sunday afternoon. Midsummer's heat is rising from the pond in misty waves. Leaves droop quietly on their branches. Even our dog Timmy, asleep under the cottonwood tree, lets me venture off on my own. I follow a path into the woods. It is quiet. No birdsong. No scrambling of unseen creatures through the brush. No bubbling of the almost-dry creek. A tapestry of sun and shade--greens and browns with threads of white and pink wildflowers. I stop beside a large felled tree, drop to the cool earth, sit with my back to the tree's mossy bark, and stretch my bare legs out on a carpet of decaying leaves. As I sit I begin to hear the forest breathe. The whrrr of insect's wings. Subtle shifting leaves overhead. Creaks and groans of old trees. Slithering sounds through the leaves by my feet. And then I see it. A brown and black snake slowly making its way within inches of this unfamiliar human. Unperturbed, intent on its travels. For a moment it pauses. We look at one another. We meet. And then it continues on its way.
As Mary so vividly writes:
Where you feel
a power that is not you but flows
into you like a river. Where you lie down and breathe
the sweet honey of the grass and count
the stars; where you fall asleep listening
to the simple chords repeated, repeated.
Where resting, you feel
the perfection, the rising, the happiness
of their dark wings.
(Mary Oliver, New
and Selected Poems, Beacon Press, Boston: 1992, p. 191)
WEDNESDAY, JULY 5, 2000
Yesterday my dear friend, S.W., arrived from San Francisco for a 6 day stay. On Friday his partner, P.O., also my dear friend, will join him here for the weekend. P.O. has been visiting his extended family at a cottage not far from Detroit. This is S.W.'s first time in Michigan. His greatest wish was to go to Canada, so that is what we did today.
I took him to my favorite park on the Canadian shores of the Detroit River. This park, though not large, has creative flower gardens with unusual combinations of plants, bushes, small trees and flowers. Such a medley of texture, fragance, color, and imaginative topiary throughout. A turtle with yellow marigold eyes. A duck with red impatiens eyes. Swan, dog, basket, crown, bird, bell. S.W., a gardener himself, went into a tizzy of photographing! Then we sat by the river on this sunny warm day, enjoying cool breezes off the water. An ocean-going freighter passed by. A tugboat pushing a barge. A red cargo ship carrying two railroad cars. A tour boat, and lots of pleasure boats. Not to mention the people.
Before we left the park, we'd met and had significant conversations with: 1) J., a disabled teacher from New Brunswick; 2) T. and R. with their 9-month old baby girl, T.; and 3) M., one of 6 students who work the summer months with 2 full-time gardeners to keep these gardens so lovely.
To finish off a perfect
day, we devoured 15 slices of pizza between us at one of
Windsor's excellent Italian restaurants!
THURSDAY, JULY 6, 2000
A quiet day. Both S.W. and I sleep in, me till 10:30 AM, S.W. till noon. E.D. goes off to work at his regular time. I volunteer at the women's shelter. S.W. stays home and reads. E.D. has to deal with a car that won't start when he tries to leave work in the early afternoon. A call to AAA and three hours later, he has a new starter in his 11 year old car that boasts 150,000 miles.
When we meet back home, E.D. sends S.W. and me off to eat dinner at our local diner. He's tired (no wonder!) and is happy heating up the pizza we brought him from Canada yesterday. After dinner, I show S.W. around some more neighborhoods. It's interesting to see how taken he is with the houses here, how different they seem from Northern California. Brick houses, for one thing. And the size of the houses for another. Also the spacious lots. And very few privacy fences separating neighbors.
In California most houses are made of wood or stucco. Because of extremely high real estate prices--especially in San Francisco where S.W. and P.O. own a 2-bedroom condominium--folks are used to relatively small living spaces. And whatever they own or rent is either physically adjoining or very close to neighboring buildings. In the East Bay, where houses stand separate, lots are still small enough that folks often put up high fences to insure privacy.
Then we watch my new video, "The Red Violin". And now to bed a little after midnight. Tomorrow we're looking forward to S.W.'s partner, P.O., joining us. Then we have a nice long weekend to play together before the fellows leave on Monday.
What a treat to have my
San Francisco "brothers" here with me and my dear E.D.
in Michigan! Makes my two lives--winter in SF on my own and the
rest of the year with husband E.D. in Detroit--feel more like
one life. A wonderfully integrated whole.
FRIDAY, JULY 7, 2000
P.O. joined us today after a week with his extended family. 18 members of 3 generations in a 3 bedroom/1 bathroom cottage on Lake Huron!!! No wonder he's now so happily taking a long shower upstairs!
Today we walk/scoot through neighborhoods, with P.O. and S.W. deciding which houses they'd buy if they lived here. I love their comfort walking along holding hands. Although our community has a good number of gay couples, none of them are particularly "out". But how could S.W. and P.O. be anything other than out? They are so obviously at home with themselves.
We go down to our lakefront park where S.W. and I give P.O. the "official" tour. Swimming pool, sandy beach, kayak ramp, picnic areas, playgrounds for tots, tennis courts, shuffle board, volley ball, basketball courts, boat docks, fishing areas, gazebo, refreshment stand. We plop down under a tree beside the lake, and gobble our quickly-melting ice cream sandwiches. It's a perfectly gorgeous summer day. Bright sun, blue skies, refreshing breezes off the water.
Once home, P.O. and S.W. practice riding our tandem bike in the parking lot next door with me as designated photographer. We venture off to dinner...the fellows on the tandem bike, me on my scooter and E.D. in the car. There is a good restaurant we've recently discovered that is just a mile from our house. Though the menu has great variety, we find ourselves all ordering seafood--maybe in response to so much time spent on the lake. After dinner we stop by E.D.'s office (5 minutes away) where P.O., the computer whiz, helps him with some niggling problems. By then, S.W. admits he would rather ride back home with E.D. in the car than continue on the tandem, so P.O. and I ride along the lake together, he by himself on the tandem and I on La Lucha.
All that fresh air is
sending us off to bed early! I with an especially grateful
heart for whatever "glitch" delayed the horrendous anti-missile
test the USA had planned to detonate off a Pacific island today.
May glitches and bad weather continue to protect our planet from
SATURDAY, JULY 8, 2000
I awake this morning to reports that the Pentagon did in fact set off their anti-missile test...and failed to hit the intended target. To me, the failure is their doing it in the first place.
It is often hard to imagine that these men (and token women) in the Pentagon and I are of the same species. How could it be that we see things so differently? We have access to similar empirical knowledge. For instance, it has been proven that the planet and its ozone layer are at increased risk from pollutants, not to mention the disastrous effects of nuclear-like explosives. The earth's waters are being irreparably poisoned by industrial/chemical/toxic wastes. Species of all kinds are becoming extinct at alarming rates. Major eco-systems are being thrown out-of-whack by irresponsible decisions by humans worldwide.
How can educated people--especially leaders--ignore these facts? What makes them think that sending such sophisticated weaponry as missiles and anti-missiles into the atmosphere, or into space for that matter, will not do damage to our planet? What about the debris that then falls into the ocean or lands on unprotected islands? What about deadly gases emitted into the air and carried by winds to all parts of the earth? What would happen if they actually USED these devices against another country?
SUNDAY, JULY 9, 2000
I must say, Detroit is certainly showing off for my friends from San Francisco!
Yesterday we attended the Concert of Colors, a celebration of Metro Detroit's Cultural Diversity. There was music and dance from Africa, the Carribean, the Middle East, Asia, Europe and North America. Four stages ran continuously from 2-10:30 PM, including a Children's Stage and a World Rhythm Stage, both of which encouraged audience participation. We saw two favorites of mine from the 50s and 60s--Bo Diddley, a rock-and-roll icon of my high school years, and Buffy Sainte Marie, the longtime Native American peace activist singer/songwriter from Canada. And the entire festival was free of charge!
It would be hard to imagine a more striking setting. Winding paths, grassy knolls with pink impatiens-surrounded trees, ponds and fountains, attractive vending booths, 4 tent-covered stages...all sitting on the shores of the Detroit River. The Main Stage--under a mammoth white tent--has tiers of 1500-2000 seats looking down on an open-backed, multi-colored lighted stage. The backdrop is the river itself. Excursion boats, lakers and pleasure boats passed by or anchored, listening to the music. Windsor, Ontario's lights sparkled brightly across the river as night came on. And a hazy half moon lit La Lucha's way down the concrete ramp after the show.
But what impressed me most were the people. Talk about diverse! Men and women in flowing African robes with colorful hats. Arabic and Muslim women with black head-coverings. Asian and Latin American families. City and suburban. Young and old. Affluent and homeless. Friendly strangers and long-lost friends. We were all there together. Clapping to the beat. Dancing in the aisles. Drumming on plastic pails. Greeting one another with smiles.
What an example of our
being world family, with richly unique cultural traditions to
share. The celebration continues today, and this time I'm bringing
MONDAY, JULY 10, 2000
Yesterday afternoon at the Concert of Colors festival, the vocalist Amina and her band from Tunisia made their first appearance in the United States. She was obviously nervous, although I understand she's a huge success in North Africa, the Middle East and Europe. One young woman stood in the corner on the audience side of the stage, dancing to the music. The TV cameras broadcasting this event live scurried around, shooting Amina and the band, and this lone dancer. That was how it looked during the first two songs.
By a half hour into her set, the floor around the stage was literally packed with people. Grinning toddlers bounced on their mother's or father's shoulders. Teens swayed sensuously. Little girls held hands with a woman I know, and skipped in a circle. White-bearded long-haired men danced like we did in the 60s. Women were wearing everything from long flowing Kente-cloth skirts, to shorts and midrift-baring tank tops, to khaki slacks and Izod t-shirts, to black Arabic head-coverings and long-sleeved dresses. An older man, hunched over with a debilitating bone condition, danced with a shy smile on his face. Men with dreadlocks, shining bald heads, Arabic hats, gel-spiked hair and ponytails moved to the music. Very few folks seemed to have known one another before this moment. Persons of all colors and national origins dancing, laughing, singing together. Amina became electric, and her band members couldn't stop smiling as they played. Her music and movements were hauntingly evocative of distant places and traditions, yet strangely familiar.
It suddenly occurred to me as I watched this scene in awe...this is the way we want to be. It is our most natural way of being in the world. Free. Defenseless. Open. Inviting and invited. At ease. Sharing our cultural heritage in music and dance. Respecting one another's uniqueness. No bigotry or barriers separating us. No one feeling strange or set apart. Each being true to her or himself. Being willing to reach out to strangers and discover there is no such thing as a stranger.
When I put this image next to the image of the Pentagon's anti-missile test on Friday--the voices that insist we must protect ourselves from those rogue countries that seek to destroy us--I saw a truth. Given half a chance, we are who we were at the first. Innocent ones with arms reaching out, smiles creasing our cheeks, feet kicking in a jig, voices raised in delight. All we must do as a global community is create shared opportunities like this cultural diversity festival in Detroit. Opportunities to practice our natural ways of being together.
I am changed from this
experience. I now see who we really want to be. How we
want to be together. What community actually feels like. This
is no longer an ideal or hope I cling to. It is a reality. A lived,
breathed, danced and sung reality.
TUESDAY, JULY 11, 2000
Such a La Lucha day! I start off about 1:30 PM and don't return home until 6 hours later. It's a perfect summer day. Sunny blue skies, temps in the low 80s, gentle breeze off the water. Purple echinacea, golden gloriosa daisies and multi-colored impatiens everywhere. I even see my first sunflowers in bloom.
My excuse--as if I need one!--for going off on my scooter is to do errands. To the market to pick up my beloved Northern California Odwalla juices. The bank to order new checks. My alterations shop to ask N. to sew up La Lucha's beaded necklace (on the front basket) that had begun to unravel. The office supply store to get clear sticky-backed sheets to make a replacement bumper sticker for my scooter ("Come visit me at www.windchimewalker.com"). The library to check out a video to rent. My dentist's office to make an appointment for a long-overdue teeth cleaning. Husband E.D.'s office for a visit. Back to the market, this time with E.D., to pick out food for dinner.
In the midst of my merrily scooting around, I encounter a sister scooter-rider. I stop and introduce myself. She introduces herself as S.M., and we start talking there on the sidewalk outside the market. 30 minutes later, we scoot off after having made a wonderful connection. Not only do we share a longterm diagnosis of MS--she 1980, me 1988--but we both grew up in the Washington, DC area, and both attended college (grad school in my case) in western Massachusetts--though I was there 15 years before she. What a marvelous meeting! I invite her and her 5-year-old daughter to join me at our community pool for the water aerobics class. We live only one and a half miles from one another, but in different cities. Her community pool does not have a chair lift like mine, so swimming has been harder for her to manage. She, her husband and daughter moved here from the east coast only 6 months ago, so I also shared names of Detroit and Windsor, ONT area resources like restaurants, museums, music, classes, films, festivals and such.
If I were still getting
around with windchime walker, I doubt S.M. and I would have met.
So La Lucha not only gives me independence, but an excuse to meet
kindred persons. S.M. today, P.I. and F.O. at the National Women's
Music Festival in June. I'm beginning to think that being so obviously
disabled has definite advantages!
WEDNESDAY, JULY 12, 2000
After returning home from a lovely day tandem biking with E.D. in Ann Arbor, I start to read a book I bought at the time of my 58th birthday in June. Part of a series of books written by Cathleen Rountree, this one is titled, On Women Turning 60: Embracing the Age of Fulfillment. I'm surprised and delighted to find a chapter on a woman I know and admire, Terry Sendgraff.
I first saw Terry at the 1994 Michigan Womyn's Music Festival leading the Women Walking Tall stiltwalkers in Saturday's parade. Her head, arms and upper body--with one breast and a mastectomy scar proudly bare--were painted green. Her lower body was swaying in a green grass skirt. She radiated joy and vibrancy. Then in the early spring of 1997, a friend invited me to come watch a "Motivity" class she was attending in Oakland, CA. And there was Terry, teaching the women her uniquely crafted low-flying trapeze dance form, stilt-walking, and holistic healing movement. At that time we talked about the possibility of extending my walker's arms high enough for me to try walking on stilts. Terry was most enthusiastic about the prospect!
My first weekend back in San Francisco the following October, I attended a dance concert called something like "Flying Women" or "Women Who Fly". It included 6 different groups who used the trapeze, wire-walking, specially-adapted equipment and other creative forms of movement to give the illusion/reality of flight. Terry and her students performed a piece about the different ages of woman...girl, maiden, mother, crone. Terry was strikingly poignant as the crone-in-the-moon. My friend, who also danced in the piece, said Terry had told her troupe this would be her last performance on the trapeze.
Terry stopped coming to the Michigan festival in 1996, and my friend broke off our friendship in the spring of 1998. I've not seen Terry since.
So now in the summer of 2000 I re-find Terry in this book. She is in a different place, as am I. Where before it was her daring-do that impressed me, today it is her crone-wisdom. "Even though I can still hang upside-down by my ankles and still walk on stilts", she says, "I can feel myself slowing down and my body just telling me, You don't need to do that. I don't need to do it the way I did."
And neither do I.
THURSDAY, JULY 13, 2000
Knowing a special tree is both grace and gift. I'm reminded of this fact today as I take time to visit an old friend.
At the lake end of our street stands a tree. I can't remember what kind of tree it is. It is so large that it would probably take 3 persons holding hands to reach their arms around its trunk. Its purple-green leaves are among the last to unfurl in the spring, and the last to drop in the fall. Its trunk bifurcates about 5' from the ground. The two resultant trunks are strong, solid and resplendent with branches. To keep them from growing too far apart, a metal cable attaches the two perhaps 20' from the ground. I call it the Marriage Tree.
This tree and I first became acquainted in 1988 when I used to take daily walks by the lake with our border collie-like dog, Timmy. My habit was to sit on the ground with my back against its smooth gray bark and look out at the lake and sky. The busy street in the foreground merely added a human element to my musings. Timmy would drop to the grass beside me, roll around scratching his back, then settle down on his stomach with head resting on his paws. Seems to me it was usually a half hour before he'd be on his feet, barking to let me know it was time to move on.
I used to walk down to the tree with ease. In recent years, the block and a half walk began to feel too far, even with windchime walker's help. It has been a long time since my friend and I connected.
This evening on the way home from a scooter ride along the lake, La Lucha and I pass the tree. A sudden urge comes over me to touch its trunk with my hands; to stand under its lush umbrella of leaves. I park La Lucha beside the tree, stand holding its trunk for support, and slowly make my way around to the spot where Timmy and I used to sit. I stand, leaning back against the tree, and look out at the lake.
Such memories! Of a sweet dog who has since passed on. Of my former physical abilities. Of a chapter of growth that is thankfully behind me. Of weekly columns I used to write based on reflections made here. The tree supports and breathes with me. As always.
We'll be back, La Lucha
FRIDAY, JULY 14, 2000
Another experience of the kindness of strangers. Actually I'm going to have to stop using the word "stranger", because no one I meet seems to fit that description. People are people. I may not yet know their names or stories, but on another level we each "know" one another. And so it was today.
At noon I scooted down to the park for my water aerobics class, mindful of clouds massing and darkening to the west. At the same time it was still sunny and quite warm. After class I got my usual grilled cheese sandwich and apple juice and scooted out to the pier. Ran into my fishing friend, M., who showed me a small sunfish a few inches below the surface playing with--but not nibbling--his flashy brown plastic bait. Though the cloudscape over the lake was impressive, sun was still streaming forth. I decided to chance it and scoot the mile and a half over to the market. My women friends and I are gathering for a drumming/pot luck tomorrow afternoon at a Canadian friend's house on Lake Erie. I wanted to pick up some hummus, lentil rice salad and pita bread to share. So I did.
All was well until I was scooting along the lake on my way home from the market. Straight ahead, the sky darkened dramatically, with wispy charcoal-grey fingers dragging the water. Wind began to gust around me. Cars coming from that direction--the direction I was going--had their lights on. Ominous signs, especially since I was still more than a mile from home. I stopped to put on my rain poncho. My head was covered in a tent of opaque plastic when I heard a voice beside me ask, "Would you like a ride home?"
I popped my head out to see a young woman, smiling nervously. "We saw you as we drove by and wondered if you still had far to go. It looks like a pretty nasty storm coming up." Though I'd intended to use this opportunity to test La Lucha's rain capacity, I quickly decided to accept her offer. Three years ago our community suffered death and destruction in the wake of a shear-force wind and rain storm. It had looked similar to the one now brewing. Lightning was already illuminating the sky up ahead. I explained that we'd need to disassemble my scooter to get it in the car. She was fine with that.
Things started happening pretty quickly. One of her friends pulled up behind her car and offered to help. Her daughter supported me by the arm as I instructed the two women, T.R. and M.M., how to take La Lucha apart. When I got in the car, her youngest daughter started screaming. Guess I looked pretty scary in my huge rain poncho. T.R. decided to drop the little one off at home--just up the street--so she could stay with grandma. Her friend said she'd drive behind us to my house so she could help get the scooter out of the car and put it together again. Oddly enough, the driveway T.R. pulled into was very familiar to me. E.D. and I have known the former owners since the 60s.
We got to my house as huge rain drops started splattering the windshield. Fortunately E.D. was home, so he handled the scooter business. As unusual as it was for him to be home at that time, I somehow wasn't surprised. All the pieces of this puzzle seemed to be fitting together so neatly. We waved our new friends off with shouts of gratitude. Then E.D. reassembled La Lucha and set her up to recharge. By the time we were ready to brave the 15 unprotected feet from garage to house, the worst of the storm had passed through.
I'm sure La Lucha will
have many rainy-day opportunities in the future. It's kind of
nice that today was not her premiere performance!
SUNDAY, JULY 16, 2000
30 women circle and drum
together. Grass under our
feet. Smiles on our faces. Towering
trees, a canopy of green
Expanse of lake stretches
end-to-end before us. Gulls massed
on a spit of sand take flight
as one. Lone heron skims
the water. Dark wings flap in
rhythm to the beat of our
Gauzy gold moon rises
over the lake's horizon. Our voices
meet its shimmering reflection in
rippling waves. Songs dip
and soar, wordless ribbons of
We come from small villages,
farms and big city streets. We say, "Eh?",
"Y'all" and "You guys!". Married to
men, partners of women, single by
choice or happenstance. Our people are
from Scotland, Poland, Latin America and
Africa. We are mother and daughter,
friends, lovers, and strangers (until
We are one link in an
chain of women who gird
the earth. Our hands and
hearts beat the common pulse of
Written after a daylong
drumming/pot luck yesterday at a friend's on the Ontario shores
of Lake Erie.
MONDAY, JULY 17, 2000
There are days--simple days--that have a perfection to them. Today is such a day.
I awaken early to blue skies out my window, sun peeking over the treetops. Kiss E.D. goodbye as he leaves for work. Add water to the small Japanese dish fountain in my room. Dress, and turn on the computer. Clean up my journal archives and upload them onto my site. Read email messages that had come in overnight. Put clear decal paper in the printer in preparation for making a new bumper sticker for La Lucha my scooter. But when I try to open Microsoft Works that holds the file I need, I get the window that says "This program has performed an illegal operation and will be closed down". Over and over and over it keeps closing down. As does Corel Wordperfect when I try that program.
Call tech support for the first time in over a year. How happy that I did! Turns out my start-up is overloaded with programs, meaning I only have 59% function instead of the 80% I need. She talks me through the process of lightening the start-up by unclicking programs I don't really need. Then helps me understand what we are doing and why. Now I can do this on my own. I call that true tech support!
It is now time to scoot down to the park for water aerobics. A warm sunny day, and the water feels glorious. Work hard for an hour. I notice each time I can do something I couldn't do before. Quite satisfying. Then my traditional reward--grilled cheese sandwich and apple juice--out by the lake in the gazebo. A lovely breeze to keep bugs away. Beautiful billowy clouds over the water. A good book to read. After a chapter or two, I go back to the refreshment stand for a Nutty Buddy ice cream cone. Watch little ones play on the playground equipment as I eat it. Then I scoot back home about 3 PM.
E.D. is there so we sit and visit awhile until he goes off to his office. Back to the computer for some more clean-up work. This time I delete tons of old emails, again working to lighten the load for this old (1998) laptop. I compact files and schedule all kinds of defragmenting and maintenance to be run this afternoon. My computer now boots up amazingly fast. I answer a few emails--one is a request for personal stories of participants in the OAS protest demonstrations from a Windsor, ONT peace group. I send them an attachment with my 11-page online journal entries for June 1-5.
I go downstairs, out the kitchen door, and sit on our back stoop. We've let our backyard go completely natural with honeysuckles, forsythia and spirea reseeding to their hearts' content. I like to imagine I'm in the middle of the country. Birds sing in counterpoint. A bit of blue sky with feathery white clouds scurrying by. Old trees provide shade. Generous breezes refresh. First I drink a Mango Tango Odwalla juice, then I blow my digjeridoo. My neighbor stops by our fence, saying she likes the sound. "Like being on the ocean, only better!"
E.D. comes home around 7 PM. We have dinner together at the kitchen table overlooking our neighbors' beautifully tended yards. He cooks his usual steak on his hand-dandy George Foreman's Grilling Machine, and we both finish our other neighbor's delicious pasta salad. With the addition of spinach/potato/carrot soup, hummus and bread, I'm a very happy camper. I do the dishes, while E.D. goes for his nightly walk. I soon catch him almost a mile up the lake and we walk/scoot home together. The view over the lake is stunning. Clear and bright, no humidity or haze, boats shining white in the lowering sun out on blue blue waters. Walkers, bikers, runners everywhere...and one scooter!
Home to an excellent video, "My Life Thus Far", the story of a 10 year old boy's growing up years in 1920s Scotland. And now I'm listening to my favorite radio program, Ross Porter's "After Hours" jazz program on CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Company), as I write today's journal entry. Soon I'm off to bed and a well-deserved sleep.
As I said, perfection.
TUESDAY, JULY 18, 2000
Friends. Is there anything
more precious in life? My friend, J.T., with whom I spent the
day in Amherstburg, Ontario, sitting at the river's edge, sharing
sandwiches, stories and ice cream. My husband, E.D., my best friend
in the world, always there for me, often teasing and helping me
not take myself too seriously. B.F., a friend I feared I'd lost,
now accepting my outstretched virtual hand, ready to try it again.
My friend, M.R., gathering friends around as she and her partner/husband
make their courageous way through a nightmare of adverse publicity
based on lies. P.M., my friend who is currently singing her way
through some tough family stuff. P.O. and his always welcome Instant
Messages that make me feel part of his and S.W.'s family of friends
even when 1000s of miles apart. R.K. who daily reads my journal
and takes the time to email her rich responses and reflections.
P.K., for so many years a friend who supports, challenges, encourages,
sees and hears me. P.N., the one who always makes me laugh. D.W.,
wisewoman, poet and ever-faithful friend. M., my virtual friend
in Sweden who, though dealing with ongoing health problems, stays
upbeat and truly interested in others. So many many people who
are dear to me. Good health as the "most important thing"?
Hardly. Friends are at the top of my list.
WEDNESDAY, JULY 19, 2000
The Ann Arbor Art Fair started today, and E.D. and I were there. This is one of the reasons I wanted a scooter, to be able to "do" this city-wide fair without utterly exhausting myself. What a difference La Lucha makes! E.D.and I were able to go off on our own for an hour and a half, meet up and go to lunch together, then separate again for another hour or so before we headed home. With my scooter, I felt as independent as the winds. Well, as independent as the huge crowds let me be. I only "ankled"--ran into someone's ankles--one person the whole day! There must have been 8,000 people there today...and all of them looking someplace other than where they were walking. But, believe me, there was lots to look at!
I understand this is the largest street fair in the country. It is a hard vending, with long days (Wednesday-Friday 10 AM-9 PM, Saturday 10 AM-6 PM) out on the streets totally vulnerable to whatever summer weather Michigan in July can dish up. Thunderstorms, extreme heat and humidity are not unusual. But today was perfect! Temperatures in the 70s, alternating sun and clouds. Even the sellers of wool textiles did a brisk business! In years past I can remember getting almost physically ill at the sight of wool anything, but not today. One could actually imagine needing a sweater or shawl or wool hat.
In early years, my attention was taken up with the art itself. Of course in those years I was a working artist myself, specializing in watercolor and mixed-media. But lately, it has been encounters with people that gives me the most life.
Like today's conversation with N., a woman of the Andes, who was vending with her husband. I went up to their booth for a closer look at the altar-like wallhangings with multitudes of small clay figures of people, animals, vegetables and plants. Richly traditional techniques used to portray life in the Andes, as well as in cities of the United States. Her husband is the artist. He sat in front of the booth behind a table, creating figures from clay. People crowded around him, watching the process. N., his wife, stood off to the side by herself. Though her English is limited and my Spanish even more limited, we managed to connect and talk with a sense of comfort and familiarity.
Though living now in Naples, Florida, she still misses her home. Its beauty, the mountains, her family, the quiet. They travel every two or three weeks in the summer, vending at art fairs across the US. She told me of a large piece her husband made and displayed at last year's Ann Arbor Art Fair, one that had images of New York City. He had visited the city for four days and came home filled with sights that he translated into clay. This year's centerpiece was of Chicago. Her husband comes from 3 generations of artists working in this medium.
Another meeting was with R., a glass artist from northern Minnesota. It is his first Ann Arbor Art Fair and he expressed a bit of anxiety about vending it alone. His wife, who would normally be helping, stayed at home because she is within 3 weeks of giving birth to their first child. He spoke of how beautiful it is where they live. How summer tourists leave it to the locals to enjoy the winters in peace and quiet. I was drawn to his booth by the fiery colors of his irridescent glass earrings and pins. When asked how he came upon this process, he said, "I started in stained glass, but I am such a detail-person that it was hard to make a living at it." My guess is that R. will do very well at this fair. His work is unique and reasonably priced. Actually, my only purchase all day was a pair of his earrings--flashing purple glass discs with a gold-colored diamond shape within.
My final significant encounter was wordless. The Ann Arbor Art Fair is known not only for its art, but also for its music. Musicians of quality and diversity play and sing at street corners throughout the city. Next to the most crowded section of booths stood an Asian-American man playing two instruments simultaneously--an ancient Chinese harp (zither) and a modern electric guitar. With dexterity and tonal mastery, he transformed this busy street corner into a peace-filled zen garden. I especially noticed the children's response to his music. A young one--no more than two years old--stopped following his mother, and plopped down on the sidewalk, eyes glued to this musician. His mother kept calling and he kept ignoring her, until finally the youngster wriggled his index finger in her direction, in essence saying, "Come here, Mom!" And she did. Another woman, who was watching 5 children under the age of 7, sat on the sidewalk with all of them beside her. They appeared mesmerized by the music. I stayed about a half hour, occasionally being the recipient of a shy smile by this gentle musician from Los Angeles. As his flyer says, Levi Chen is a 21st century troubadour.
And E.D.'s only purchase?
A doll called "The Crone" whose eyes and tongue stick
out when its plastic hair is pulled. He bought it for me because,
"You always call yourself a crone!"
THURSDAY, JULY 20, 2000
As a longtime progressive with activist leanings, it takes a lot to turn me away from leftwing causes. But I am currently feeling like a helium balloon that has been stuck with a great big safety pin. As my husband E.D. calls it, "the disillusionment of a liberal!"
My sister and brother progressives in San Francisco have been mightily duped, and it's hard to live with that reality. The scary thing is that if I didn't have inside information, I'd probably be out there on the streets too, with my handmade sign, leading chants and marching with the rest of 'em. What a wake-up call! From now on I will always always always check out the information I'm given by any group. I will not assume I am hearing the truth, even if I hear it from folks with whom I usually stand in solidarity.
My friends who created the wonderful garden apartment that I rent behind their home/office in San Francisco's Mission District own a small architectural company called Pomegranate Design & Development. They are a politically progressive, ecologically sensitive, socially aware, culturally committed married couple. For years they have shared the vision of buying a building in the Bay Area that could house arts and cultural groups, as well as offer rental space to community-serving retail and small businesses in beautifully designed, environmentally-friendly surroundings. This winter they found just such a building 3 blocks from their house, on the corner of Mission Street and 22nd. They were delighted to find that the long-established Dancers' Group was already a month-to-month tenant.
Even before the deal went through, my friends approached the Dancers' Group to begin working with them on how to help them stay in the space. It was clear their 1970s' rents (48 cents per square foot per month) would have to be raised for Pomegranate Design to be able to pay their own building/mortgage expenses (the building needs substantial repairs and renovations). Even though my friends received unsolicited offers of $4 per square foot per month from people who wanted to rent the space, they offered it to the Dancers' Group for $2.50 per square foot per month. As they say, "We are not out to get the highest rents possible, but rather to foster and support the arts, dance, and small businesses in our neighborhood."
For months my friends scheduled meetings to brainstorm with the Dancers' Group about different ways to make their staying in the building feasible. "Tiered rent increases to allow them time to line up sufficient funding and consolidation of their space into a more efficient and affordable configuration" were some of the ideas offered. When Pomegranate Design asked the Dancers' Group to submit a proposal, their request was ignored. Instead the Dancers' Group went to the Bay Guardian weekly newspaper and accused Pomegranate Design of insisting on a 400% rent increase with threats of eviction, with no mention of my friends' efforts to help them stay in the space. They described my friends as "dot.com millionaires" who just want to gentrify the neighborhood. My friends responded with a public letter in which they tried to set forth the facts in a reasoned, non-reactive manner. Since this article was published and the Dancers' Group has continued to spread misinformation online, my friends have been the victims of "hate" calls and emails. In spite of these attacks, Pomegranate Design has stayed true to their promise to let the Dancers' Group stay in the space until after their August performance.
So now a coalition of San Francisco progressives, calling themselves Mission Antidisplacement Project, is organizing a massive demonstration/protest/sit-in on August 15 (the last day of the Dancers' Group's tenancy) at my friends' building at 22nd and Mission. All of their emails, flyers and press releases carry the same misrepresentations that the Dancers' Group has been feeding the media: simply that their rent was raised 400%, and they've been evicted.
A quote from the coalition's email campaign is: "This studio has been occupied by dancers for over 50 years. Its fate now is to become, what? Another dot.com office? NO MORE! ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! STOP THE GENTIFICATION! STOP THE CLEAR-CUTTING! HAVE SOME RESPECT!...Make like Julia Butterfly--sit in the tree and don't come down til they talk..." Totally ignoring the fact that it has been Pomegranate Design & Development who has tried to talk for months, and the Dancers' Group that abruptly broke off negotiations in May. As my friends say, "Most significantly, this call for action is attempting to make us the poster children for greedy, eviction-happy landlords, the punching bag for all the anti-displacement energy that has been rushing through the neighborhood and the city in recent months."
What can they do now? What they have done is send emails to their community of friends and colleagues, keeping us abreast of the latest happenings and clarifying things so we know what's really going on. How can we help? The forces against them seem to be rolling ahead full steam. Many individuals and groups involved are most likely ignorant of the truth. Why is the Dancers' Group so consistently misrepresenting the facts? Hard to figure, especially since they're unlikely to find comparable rental space in the city at the below-market rates my friends offered them.
What I can do to help is simply spread the truth, as I know it. And call on those who hear to do what they can to keep this truth rippling out like a stone thrown in a pond. Perhaps these waves of truth will reach someone who can help turn the tide. Public awareness, that's what we need. Persons in high places to advocate for my friends and publicize the truth far and wide. Members of the arts and dance community who are willing to listen to another side of the story. A community of supporters to stand at the side of my friends...perhaps even during the planned demonstration on August 15.
Fighting lies is tough. Especially lies that feed into people's fears. And I know San Franciscans are fearful of rising property costs right now. With good reason. But this is not the time or place or issue on which to focus such fears.
Time will certainly vindicate
my friends. The truth will eventually be known. I just want it
to happen sooner rather than later.
FRIDAY, JULY 21, 2000
Thanks for this. If at all possible, I'll be there with M. and E. on the 15th of August. It all depends on the time - it's a regular work day for me. I will forward your email to everyone I know here in the Bay Area though.
I read your journal entry and certainly sympathize...
In this case, the protestors still have a valid concern. It's just that their specific target is wrong, and the anger of the movement's leaders won't allow them to see the truth (or even shades of gray). They are correct that dot-com millionaires ARE changing the city, and of course the vulnerable and disenfranchised are the ones being hurt, as they are in almost any major change or action (as you have so eloquently pointed out regarding Iraq, for example). I'm sorry that your wonderful friends are being cast in the ancient role of scapegoats. I certainly know how they and you feel.
I am in a space now where I don't applaud reckless radicalism, but I "try" to accept it as a part of great movements, the way I try to accept the least pleasant part of a whole person. The tragedy is that people get hurt unfairly. M. and E. are lucky to have a friend like you who sees and champions their goodness and truth. Ultimately I think that is the greatest love -- and the greatest good -- we can show to anyone.
Coincidentally I got your email at the same time as an action alert. Forwarded yr important message to all on the email list.
With prayers for justice
and love to you
Sorry to read about your friends. I read part of the article and after you wrote I have phoned friends who read the paper and they said that it is not the first time the paper tell lies and most sensible people don't pay attention to it. I hope that your friends will be victorious at the end.
Do M. and E. need to go to their new building on August 15th? If they do, maybe we could go with them, so they won't be alone. Just walk beside/around them as they go in. No signs or yelling. Just a cushion. Do you think this would be perpetuating antagonism, or creating a flea circus of our own? If we just walk with them. Anyway, maybe they won't need to be there, and can ignore the shenanigans til they blow away. I haven't heard anything about it, and I've been watching the news for some odd reason lately. So that's good.
Responses I received to an email message I sent this morning to my community of friends in the Bay Area. What an amazing gift to be able to offer friends tangible (virtual?) support while 1000s of miles apart. Before the advent of email, I would have been gnashing my teeth in impotent fury after hearing of the situation that I described in yesterday's journal entry. But now I could actually "do" something that reached the community affected...and do it immediately. For all the internet abuses and problems we hear about, moments like this make me so grateful to be living in this time and place.
And to my community of
friends who rally around when they hear the need, I send my deepest
SATURDAY, JULY 22, 2000
My friend, P.K., and I ride/scoot (she on bike, I on La Lucha) down the lake on this sometimes cloudy, sometimes sunny afternoon. A beautiful wooden sailboat under full sail makes me think of my father. It has a mainsail and a smaller sail to the rear of the cockpit. Is it a yawl, a schooner, or what? My Dad carefully coached his 3 girls to know such things. 50 years later this information seems irretrievable. Ah well, it certainly is a lovely boat whatever it's called!
On our way to the shopping street where I have a couple errands to run, we pass the house of our common friends, the C.-Z.s. As chance has it, J.Z., is outside edging the lawn, and in a few minutes, D.C. joins us in the front yard. What a wonderful visit! These are two people who are at the heart of the Detroit peace community, D.C. as lawyer and her husband, J.Z., as longtime demonstrator/organizer. The past several years their major commitment has been to raise 3 children with love and a sense of social consciousness. Seems to me they're doing a grand job of it.
J.Z. works as a maintenance engineer at the Waldorf School where their boy and two girls attend school. D.C. continues to exercise her commitment to justice by representing such folks as the 20 bikers arrested for closing down the Tunnel to Canada during the OAS (Organization of American States) protest demonstrations in June. They have just returned from their first week's vacation without the kids in 14 years. Camping in upper Michigan, which they love. Just being with these two truth-filled, down-to-earth people makes me feel grateful. Grateful for their presence in our world. Grateful to know them. Grateful that they are raising members of the next generation.
Thoughts of the next generation
bring to mind a barbeque I'm attending in Windsor, Ontario tomorrow.
It is a gathering in honor of the young activists, members of
the Windsor Peace Committee Youth Group, who organized many of
the OAS teach-ins and protest demonstrations in early June. These
are college students, some of whom were pepper sprayed and arrested
by the over-zealous 2,500 police. The barbeque is to be held in
the backyard of M.V. and P.V., longtime Marxist/Leninist activists,
whose son, E.V., was among those arrested. They've invited a group
of activists who participated in the OAS demonstrations, as well
as parents of the young activists, many of whom may feel uneasy
about their children's choices to perform direct action and get
arrested. It is an opportunity for those of us who were there
to share stores about those powerful 5 days in June, and to offer
these clear-thinking, courageous young women and men the support
and affirmation they deserve, especially as they deal with ongoing
court cases. As I've said before, it was the youth who led us
through those information-packed, community-building days of solidarity
with our sisters and brothers in Latin America. It will indeed
be an honor to celebrate them.
SUNDAY, JULY 23, 2000
It brought back such powerful memories to gather with members of the Windsor Peace Committee--my sister and brother OAS (Organization of American States) protesters--this afternoon at a backyard barbeque across the river in Ontario. Sitting in a circle just 2 miles from where those riot-police-surrounded teach-ins, rally, march and demonstrations took place in early June. Today offered a dramatic contrast. The usual summer Sunday outdoor party with pop, beer, hot dogs, salads and quiet conversation. College students sitting in lawn chairs beside gray and white-haired women and men, sharing stories, photos and current updates about the legal aftermath. Only young people were arrested, 12 for gathering on a sidewalk across from a Windsor, ONT high school a couple of miles away from the OAS General Assembly downtown. Charged with such high crimes as "Mischief". Mischief???
I knew almost everyone there today by face if not by name. L., the 82 year old jeans-clad faithful activist, in the struggle since the 30s. M.V., who gave such an information-packed presentation and discussion about Puerto Rico at one of the teach-ins. H., the artist/activist whose "Clothes Line Project" greeted us Sunday morning as we waited outside the Capitol Theater to hear Noam Chomsky speak. S., whose pink-spiked hair peeked out from behind a gas mask in a front page Windsor Star photo during those days. E.V., a leader in the Windsor Peace Committee's Youth Group, who has been all over the Province since June speaking out about the OAS demonstrations and the threat of globalization.
I was the only one attending from the US, and felt honored to be included. So many of these folks have obviously been organizing, marching and demonstrating together for years. And now this new generation is at our side...actually leading us. How encouraging to see this happen. How much I admire and applaud them.
Interestly enough, I returned home to an email from my friend, D.W. in San Francisco that contained the following:
Also--I read the fabulous article in the today (Sunday's) Chronicle--the best possible explanation of what the issues are and why the people are protesting the global takeovers.
I went to the Sunday Chronicle's
site and read Laura Hamburg's column, "The Life of the Party:
A Chance to Tell Our Leaders Where to Go". It is an excellent
exposition of the core issues of globalization and the reasons
why such diverse groups of people are taking to the streets to
protest it. To read this article, go to The
San Francisco Chronicle online, scroll down to "Browze
a Previous Page" at the bottom of the home page, put in the
date 07/23/00, and then click on Laura Hamburg's article. It's
worth the effort.
MONDAY, JULY 24, 2000
"Does your mother
know you're out in the deep water?"
"You seem able to do more of the exercises today!"
I tried something different at water aerobics today...doing the exercises in deeper water. What a discovery! It's easier out there. My body floats so my legs are more free to move. And because I was out with the rest of the class, I was included in some interesting conversations. Only took me 7 weeks to figure this out! But there was something else going on. I was afraid.
Since re-entering a swimming pool with this MS-disabled body, my old comfort in water had totally evaporated. My legs no longer strong enough to flutter kick. No scissor or frog kick either. My arms unable to lift out of the water to swim either on my tummy or my back. I even seemed to have lost the knack of staying upright. When my feet lost touch with the pool bottom, I felt in danger of going under and not being able to get myself standing again.
During my first water aerobics class in June, I held onto a kickboard the whole time because I didn't feel confident I could keep my head above water. Until today, I had stayed close to the side of the pool so I could grab hold whenever I felt uncomfortable. But bit by bit I have grown accustomed to the sensation of loss of gravity in the water. I've learned how to regain my footing when it's lost. And how to tuck from my middle to keep from going into an unwanted float. All this for a former life guard and swim instructor who grew up swimming like a tadpole in the Chesapeake Bay since the age of 5!
Are there life learnings here? Things are tougher in shallow water than in deep. Let go and let the water do the work. When you stay on the edge of things, you're going to go it alone. Fear builds barriers to progress.
Now I can even do a semi-lap
on my back by wiggling my feet and pulling with my arms by my
side. No, it's not the Australian crawl or butterfly that I used
to do, but it does propel me through the water. That just
might be enough!
©2000 Patricia Lay-Dorsey.
Please use with attribution.