Windchime Walker's Journal 51 Archive

To read previous journal entries, please go to: Journal 1 archive 2/25-3/24/00, Journal 2 archive 3/25-4/24/00, Journal 3 archive 4/25-5/24/00, Journal 4 archive 5/25-6/24/00, Journal 5 archive 6/25-7/24/00, Journal 6 archive 7/25-8/24/00, Journal7 archive 8/25-9/24/00, Journal 8 archive 9/25-10/24/00, Journal 9 archive 10/25-11/24/00, Journal 10 archive 11/25-12/24/00, Journal 11 archive 12/25/00-1/24/01, Journal 12 archive 1/25-2/24/01, Journal 13 archive 2/25-3/24/01, Journal 14 archive 3/25-4/24/01, Journal 15 archive 4/25-5/24/01, Journal 16 archive 5/25-6/24/01, Journal 17 archive 6/25-7/24/01, Journal 18 archive 7/25-8/24/01, Journal 19 archive 8/25-9/24/01, Journal 20 archive 9/25-10/24/01, Journal 21 archive 10/25-11/24/01, Journal 22 archive 11/25-12/24/01, Journal 23 archive 12/25/01-1/24/02, Journal 24 archive 1/25-2/24/02, Journal 25 archive 2/25-3/24/02, Journal 26 archive 3/25-4/24/02, Journal 27 archive 4/25-5/24/02, Journal 28 archive 5/25-6/24/02, Journal 29 archive 6/25-7/24/02, Journal 30 archive 7/25-8/24/02, Journal 31 archive 8/25-9/24/02,Journal 32 archive 9/25-10/24/02, Journal 33 archive 10/25-11/24/02, Journal 34 archive 11/25-12/24/02, Journal 35 archive 12/25/02-1/24/03, Journal 36 archive 1/25-2/24/03, Journal 37 archive 2/25-3/25/03, Journal 38 archive 3/26-4/24/03, Journal 39 archive 4/25-5/24/03, Journal 40 archive 5/25-6-24/03, Journal 41 archive 6/25-7/24/03, Journal 42 archive 7/25-8/24/03, Journal 43 archive 8/25-9/24/03, Journal 44 archive 9/25-10/24/03, Journal 45 archive 10/25-11/24/03, Journal 46 archive 11/25-12/24/03, Journal 47 archive 12/25/03-1/24/04, Journal 48 archive 1/25-2/24/04, Journal 49 archive 2/25-3/24/04, Journal 50 archive 3/25-4/24/04, Journal 51 archive 4/25-5/24/04, Journal 52 archive 5/25-6/24/04, Journal 53 archive 6/25-7/24/04, Journal 54 archive 7/25-8/24/04, Journal 55 archive 8/25-9/24/04, Journal 56 archive 9/25-10/24/04, Journal 57 archive 10/25-11/24/04, Journal 58 archive 11/25-12/24/04, Journal 59 archive 12/25/04-1/24/05, Journal 60 archive 1/25-2/24/05, Journal 61 archive 2/25-3/24/05, Journal 62 archive 3/25-4/24/05, Journal 63 archive 4/25-5/24/05, Journal 64 archive 5/25-6/24/05, Journal 65 archive 6/25-7/24/05, Journal 66 archive 7/25-8/24/05, Journal 67 archive 8/25-9/24/05, Journal 68 archive 9/25-10/24/05, Journal 69 archive 10/25-11/24/05, Journal 70 archive 11/25-12/24/05, Journal 71 archive 12/25/05-1/24/06, Journal 72 archive 1/25-2/24/06, Journal 73 archive 2/25-3/24/06, Journal 74 archive 3/25-4/24/06, Journal 75 archive 4/25-5/24/06

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 photos is to click on your "back" button at the left of your toolbar.


SUNDAY, APRIL 25, 2004

I sit here at my computer as tens of thousands of women march through the streets of Washington, DC demanding their rights to retain control over their individual reproductive choices. George W. Bush and his Christian fundmentalist appointees have already made strides in their assault on women's rights, but if he is reelected we believe our rights will be totally demolished. Today's rally and march, the first such in 12 years, is an important opportunity for women who feel the government has no right to dictate their private reproductive choices, to stand with their sisters and say, "No government interference! We will fight for the rights we worked so hard to gain."

When I first heard a year ago about this march and rally, I assumed I'd be there singing with the Raging Grannies. Well, the Raging Grannies are there--five from our gaggle alone--so why am I not with them? That is hard to put into words.

As the time approached, I kept trying to see myself there, but I couldn't. And I've learned over the years, that if I can't see myself someplace ahead of time, that tells me I'm not meant to be there. And vice versa. Even if I come up with every reason in the world not to go to a gathering, march or event, but I keep seeing myself there in my mind's eye, then I must respect that "seeing" and go. I have never been led astray when I've used this tool of discernment. Of course, it took me at least five decades to discover and hone these "seeing" powers so they could be trusted.

But even if I'm not there in body, I am definitely with my sisters (and brothers) on the streets of Washington, DC in my heart and mind.

So when I received yesterday's unexpected gift, I knew why I had stayed home. A Carolyn McDade song comes to mind. "There Is a Time" has verses that show how each time has its own special needs. One verse says, "There is a time that we must come together," while another says, "There is a time that we must leave." This weekend was obviously my time to be by myself in the woods. And even though my sister Grannies and other activists might not see that as a good enough reason to miss today's march, I do.

Because only I know what happened out there as I sat in my scooter on a hidden path beside a moss-covered fallen tree, amid sounds and sights of countless species of birds, smelling the unique blend of musky decay and spring's newness, under tall unleafed trees, with my feet planted on lush green earth: I found my Self, the self I'd been missing for longer than I knew, the self that is One with nature. I reclaimed my rights by going to the woods by myself. It was where I was meant to be.

So today I sit and savor the gift of yesterday. I go through and put up the photographs I took, knowing that these images--no matter how beautiful--are mere reminders of what actually happened. And I know that whatever amount of time, energy and money it takes for me to get my own handicap-accessible minivan is well worth it, because it was having the use of such a van that gave me back my SELF. And I'd say that is priceless.

Click here to see my "Alone In The Woods" photo album.

MONDAY, APRIL 26, 2004

Every day now I'm doing things I never thought I'd do again. Today it was going to Belle Isle by myself and scooting over to Lighthouse Point. The last time I did this was in 1990.

Belle Isle is Detroit's Central Park. It's an island in the middle of the Detroit River with Ontario on one side and Michigan on the other. The only way to get to the island is by bridge or boat. Ed and I lived in an apartment building across from Belle Isle when we were first married. We kept his 13' Boston Whaler in a marina next to our building and often took it over to the island. Ed had grown up belonging to the Detroit Boat Club on Belle Isle, so we had a membership there for a good number of years. We'd moor our boat at the club, run around the island (6 miles), take a swim in the olympic-sized pool, eat lunch on the porch and go back home by boat. Other times we'd drive over and play tennis on the public courts, ride our bicycles, and I even ran two marathons that finished on Belle Isle. Most readers recognize the name because it's where I often go to see the wild deer.

Well, today I parked over by the fishing dock next to the Coast Guard station, scooted out onto the dock to take pictures of a passing ocean-going freighter and a zoom shot of the Detroit skyline. Then I scooted down to Lighthouse Point, but on the way I had to stop and admire a young family of geese (photo #1 & #2), and farther along, two napping geese beside one of Belle Isle's many lagoons.

But, for me, there was nothing quite like scooting along the walkway toward the lighthouse (photo #1 & #2). In 1989-90 our dog Timmy and I used to come to this Point regularly. Winter, spring, summer, fall...we'd be here every season. In the winter I'd bring my cross-country skis. So today I felt Timmy's joyful spirit at my side as I took in the views we used to share. There was even the extra drama of seeing a laker head into the Detroit River from Lake St. Clair and then pass right by.

But going to Lighthouse Point on Belle Isle wasn't the only rediscovered pleasure of the day. I did something else that most people take for granted, but that had been impossible for me for years and years. I stopped at four different places, got out of my car--actually, the accessible minivan--went inside with no effort and no help from anyone, and then got back in my car and drove to the next place. Amazing!!!

By the end of the day I had decided for sure that this is the accessible minivan I want. So I talked with Ed who said, "Go for it." I then called Hugh, the owner of Wheelchair Getaways from whom I'd rented it, and Ed and I will drive out there tomorrow and I'll give him a check. It feels SO right. I really love this minivan and already feel comfortable driving it. Ed's happy with my decision because I explored every option and found answers to all the questions he had. For me, the final "Yes" came when I visited our friend Bob who has recently been put in a nursing home. Bob has good instincts about things like used cars, so I presented him with all the facts and asked his advice. He was real clear: buy the used minivan that your mechanic approved, saves you money, has an excellent extended warranty, and that you love. It's always nice when someone's objective opinion agrees with what you want to do anyway!



In our garage is a beautiful silver-blue 2003 Dodge Grand Caravan that's been converted into a Braun Entervan with fold-up ramp, power transfer driver's seat and hand controls. After renting it for six days, I now own it. Well, the transfer of title hasn't happened yet, but I have a bill of sale and its former owner has my cashier's check.

Whew! I sure am glad the decision-making process is over. To be honest, I loved this minivan from the moment I first scooted up its ramp and parked in its spacious interior. However, as with any decision involving such a large amount of money, I had to explore all my options, consult with experts, have the vehicle carefully checked, and weigh what seemed like a ton of pros and cons. But I finally followed my heart. Happily, my head agreed!

And now all I want to do is rest and think of nothing that uses any gray matter. For two weeks now I've been totally absorbed in this process. I've neglected friends and family, but everyone has been exceptionally understanding. Not only that, my journal and blog readers have had to walk with me every step of the way. I expect you didn't mind going to Pt. Pelee and Belle Isle, although you might have gotten a bit tired of hearing more than you ever wanted to know about minivans! But as my faithful reader Genevieve says, for me it's been a real adVANture!



Paradox. That's what it is. Here I sat for a week worrying and fretting over my "major" decision whether to buy a used handicap-accessible minivan or a new one, while people in Iraq were worrying and fretting about whether or not they would survive another day of fighting. Now that the U.S. forces are employing fierce air strikes to try to put down the insurgents, no one is safe. In Fallujah, no one has been safe for a long time. Just ask the gravediggers who have buried bodies on top of bodies--many of them women and children--in the city's soccer stadium-turned-mass graveyard.

How could two realities be more different?

Here in Michigan I sit listening to waves slap the shore and watch a bird hover over the water, suddenly dive in, rising with a fish in its beak. Tulips are in full bloom and trees--now white, pink and lime green--line streets in neighborhoods where the loudest sound is trees being trimmed. Yes, sometimes I wake in the wee hours and hear bomber jets from Selfridge Field screech through the night sky on their way to god-knows-where. But except for these occasional pinpricks of reality, all seems idyllic.

But that is an illusion, and a dangerous one. Until war comes to America we will never know what life is like for so many of the world's people. I'm not saying that I want that to happen; I'm simply acknowledging our inability to know from the inside what the decisions our government makes mean to men, women and children in Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan, Haiti, among many other places. We live in denial and get angry when anyone tries to wake us up.

Think of people's reactions to the disclosure of those photos of rows of flag-draped caskets. How many decried showing such images publicly. As if not seeing them would make the numbers of American soldiers lost in Iraq--115 so far in April; 724 since the war began--more acceptable. Tell that to their families and friends.



Today while the kids at school were painting pictures of spring and working with clay, I made a sign for my new minivan.

One of the problems that handicap-accessible van owners commonly experience is people parking too close to the side door so their ramps can't unfold. Say you've parked in a van-accessible parking place--you know, the ones with diagonal blue lines that are supposed to keep enough space free for your ramp or lift to operate--and you've gone off to shop, have a meal, go to a movie or whatever. But when you come back someone has "parked you in," meaning you can't lower your ramp or lift, meaning you can't get in your vehicle, meaning you can't drive. In cases like that, if you're alone, you might have to ask a stranger to pull your van back far enough so you can get in. Not fun.

So, many individuals who own or use a handicap-accessible van or minivan, post a sign on the side or back window of their vehicle to let other drivers know that they must allow at least 8' of space so the ramp or lift can work. The signs I've seen have been pretty generic. But, of course, being an artist I can't use any old generic sign! So I painted my own.

After painting it--the kids were most appreciative of my efforts--Susan laminated my new sign, and even gave me the perfect thing to attach it to the side window of my minvan: large black velcro circles. I used six, knowing that when I'm going 70 MPH down the highway, that sign had better be well attached. I also appreciate using velcro because I can remove the sign before I go through a car wash. Here is a picture of the finished product, attached and ready to go. Now, if you saw a minivan with that sign on its window, wouldn't you be delighted to allow plenty of room for its ramp to operate? Let's hold the thought ;-)

And more options continue to open up to me because of having this wonderful companion. Not only was I able to use my scooter again at school--which was great because we went down to the gym for an afternoon assembly--but I did something I've NEVER done before! I went to the Lebanese bakery by myself to get my own hummous, baba ganouj, mujadra, tabbouli, veggie grape leaves, garlic spread and spinach pies. Until now, Ed always had to be my designated shopper.

I also stopped at our local car wash and asked the manager--a nice young man named Anthony--if their equipment could handle a handicap-converted van like mine that only sits 7" off the ground (they lower the floor to make it easier to use the ramp). He assured me it would work, and when I mentioned that I'd have to get out of my minivan in a place where I could use the ramp, he smiled and said, "You don't even have to get out of your van if you don't want to." So I went through the wash, scrub, rinse and dry cycles like a kid on an amusement park ride, and when it came time to pay, Anthony took my money inside and brought me back the change. It was a piece of cake! And fun too.

I do LOVE my new friend!


FRIDAY, APRIL 30, 2004

After weeks of what many consider a massacre in Fallujah, the U.S. says it will hand over "restoring security" in the city to Iraqi security forces under the leadership of an Iraqi general. This may be the first time the U.S. occupation forces have publicly admitted defeat. But it will not be the last.

And now that the world has seen photos showing in graphic detail what life is like for Iraqis who are imprisoned by the U.S. military in Abu Ghraib, how can anyone disagree with our call to "Bring the troops home now!" Not only are Iraqis being treated as if they were subhuman, but the men and women who are committing these atrocious acts have done irreparable damage to their own humanity. The Iraqi prisoners who survive this torturous treatment are not the only victims. How many wives and girlfriends of these American soldiers will be raped, abused, beaten and killed because of the monstrous instincts that were unleashed in Iraq? And how will these men and women live with themselves and their memories? How many will be at risk of committing suicide?

So today fifty peace activists, parents of soldiers and children stood with banners and signs on a sidewalk in downtown Detroit at the entrance to the tunnel to Windsor, Ontario and chanted, "Bring them home now!" We received many honks signifying support and only one man yelled angrily at us out the window of his SUV.

Earlier in the day I'd made a sign that said, "Stop the Slaughter." We attached it to the front of my scooter basket so my hands were free to hold our Raging Grannies' songbook. And sing we did! Grannies Charlotte, Emily, Gabriela, Judy and I. We sang every song we could find about George W. Bush's war on Iraq...and that is a HUGE number. It helps to sing, especially when you have strong women at your side. We didn't care if anyone heard us or not. We sang because we HAD to sing. That's how we make our way through these trying times. Try it helps!

Here's one of our favorite songs that we sang over and over:

(To the tune of "Frere Jacques")

Are you sleeping, are you sleeping
Uncle Sam? Uncle Sam?
Anti-war bells ringing
Hear the people singing
No more war! No more war!



Now I know what has been off kilter in my life: I've been too human-centered. After another long day in the woods at Pt. Pelee, I can feel the difference. Some people find their spiritual home in a church, mosque or synagogue, but for me it is in nature. And not with human companions at my side, but in communion with the earth and all that dwells there.

Unfortunately, I can't sing you the song that created itself in me last Saturday and again today, but I can write the words. Sing it to yourself and see what tune comes forth:

Alone in the woods I sit.
By myself in the woods, it's gift.
To know I am one with all that surrounds me,
I come home to this.

I am one with the oak.
I am one with the stone.
I am one with the birds that fly.

I am one with the moss.
I am one with the snail.
I am one with the clouds passing by.

Repeat first verse.

And now I am off to take a nice hot shower and go to bed...and it isn't even 10 PM! I took 80 pictures so tomorrow I'll add to my "Alone In the Woods" photo album, and tell you more about this glorious day.


SUNDAY, MAY 2, 2004

Yesterday's hike in the woods was quite different from last Saturday's. For one thing, there were LOTS more people on the trails--90% of them, "birders."

Now, bird-watchers are a unique brand of hiker. You can recognize them because of the ubiquitous binoculars hanging around their necks, and the fact that they're always looking up into the trees, never down at the earth. Generally speaking, bird-watchers are quiet because they don't want to scare the birds, but when in a group of three or more, they can set up quite a chatter. Because yesterday--May 1st--was the "official" start of the bird-watching season, there were a good number of such groups on the trails. Of course, as Park Ranger John said later, the birds who migrate south for the winter didn't know yesterday was the start of their spring season so they've been in the park for weeks!

I gather birders can be quite competitive. I saw clumps of them gathered around the "bird sighting" sheets of paper tacked up on the walls of the Pt. Pelee Nature Center, either reading what others had posted or writing about their own sightings. I got a personal eye into bird-watchers not wanting to miss out on anything when a man (who was with a group) came up to me on the trail and asked if I was sitting in this particular spot because there was something special to see. I smiled and said, "No. I'm simply listening to the sound of the waves (Pt. Pelee is on a peninsula of land that thrusts southward into Lake Erie). Another time a woman who was walking a dog along the trail asked if I had a lot of good pictures of the birds (my camera was around my neck). Among birders, there seems to be an assumption that everyone else is a birder too.

Well, I'm not. Actually, I found myself getting more and more interested in wildflowers, so after three hours on the trails and a half hour or so sitting by Lake Erie, I stopped at the Nature Center store and to look for a book that would help me identify what wildflowers I'd just taken pictures of. The young woman behind the counter said there was a wildflower slide presentation going on right then in the auditorium, so I scooted over. I was delighted to see the presenter was our old friend, Park Ranger John, whom our O Beautiful Gaia CD group had gotten to know during two singing visits to the park, once in November 2002 and again in July 2003. After the presentation he offered to lead a brief wildfower tour for anyone who was interested. Three of us showed up.

John is a natural storyteller so his tales about the wildflowers were fascinating. He told us--and then showed us--how the Jack In A Pulpit undergoes sex changes depending on how full of energy he/she is! Making seeds as a female takes more energy than creating pollen as a male, so one flower may change its gender several times during its lifespan. We saw the gooseberry plant that would have been edible had its fruit not been covered in burrs. John showed us seeds hiding under the green leafy umbellas of the May Apple plant, and even pointed out a hairy-looking vine that he said is poison ivy. Could have fooled me! Two creatures came his way as he knelt down to show us wildflowers--a handsomely-painted insect, and a snail whom we watched devour a piece of a green leaf.

Any wildflowers you see identified by name in my current photo album are there thanks to Park Ranger John...and my journal readers, Margaretha from Sweden, and Casey from Michigan.

I added dozens of new pictures to my "Alone In the Woods" photo album, so you might want to check it out. It takes awhile to download but I hope you find it was worth it. Happy trails!


MONDAY, MAY 3, 2004

The following reflections came out of the disgust, rage, horror and shame I have been feeling since I first read of and saw 3 of the 14 photos that document the physical, sexual and psychological torture endured by Iraqi prisoners at the hands of U.S. soldiers at Abu Ghuraib. You will note I did not include the word "surprise" in my litany of feelings. How could I be surprised when the U.S. occupation has been run in such a way that naturally creates monsters out of young, untrained reservist men and women who are supervised by mercenary interrogators who are accountable to no one? But I must admit, their unmitigated sadistic savagery took my breath away.


Reflections on the torture of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. military personnel, CIA, MIA and "private contractors:"

Most Americans would just as soon not hear about, read about or see photos of the torture of Iraqi prisoners by members of our own armed forces, intelligence community and "private contractors" (mercenary interrogators). We would like to think it did not happen, has been exaggerated or is an isolated instance involving only six disturbed individuals.

That would be a mistake.

Like the My Lai massacre in Vietnam, this example of the depths of inhumanity of which we are capable must be recognized in its entirety, investigated in public and the perpetrators must come to justice, not simply in a military court martial trial but in an international war crimes tribunal as well. Anything less would be seen as condoning their actions.

And do not think the world community is not watching very closely to see how our country responds to these heinous crimes.

I see a number of issues that need to be addressed:

1. How did the military manage to keep this under wraps for so long? Their investigation was conducted last January and the final report was submitted in February. How high up the chain of command did knowledge of these heinous acts go? Judging from the seriousness of the situation, I would guess it went straight to the top. I am sure that Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice and George W. Bush have known about this since last January, or at the very latest, by February. What does it mean when a government keeps such information secret? What else don't we know?

2. Who chose to institute these particular modes of torture on Iraqi male prisoners? Whoever it was had knowledge of the Muslim religion, for there is NOTHING more abhorrent to a believer of Islam than showing his private parts to other men. The idea of showing them to women aside from his wife is unimaginable. And forcing these prisoners to engage in or simulate sexual acts in front of their jailers--who took photographs!--is the worst torture that could be devised. There is no question that these men were obviously terrified of receiving more physical punishment that could lead to death or they would never have acceded to their tormenter's demands.

To give you an idea of how much it means to a Muslim to avoid showing his unclothed body to others, my brother Rabih Haddad chose to remain in solitary confinement for 17 of his 19 months in U.S. jails rather than be placed in that position. It was not a question of modesty but a question of following the dictates of the Prophet Mohammad.

So the torture done to these Iraqi men violated them religiously not just psychologically, socially and physically.

3. Why did they take pictures of the torture? This gets into the field of group psychology. Individuals do things in groups that they would never do alone. And if they treat it like a lark, it helps them--temporarily at least--to live with themselves and say it wasn't so bad. If you look at the photos, you see young men and women clowning around, with big smiles on their faces, flashing thumbs up and looking pleased with themselves. This was their defense mechanism to keep themselves from realizing what they were doing. In interviews since, at least one of the men has tried to absolve himself of blame by saying it was the fault of the military intelligence officers who told them to do it and approved of their "tactics" for getting prisoners to "talk." The time will come when these defense mechanisms will fall away and these men and women will be at risk of suicide. That is, unless they can keep such reality at bay through the use of drugs and/or alcohol.

4. Is this an isolated instance? I doubt it. Months ago a Muslim brother who now lives in Egypt sent a group email to friends and supporters of Rabih Haddad in which he posted a link to photos showing the torture of Iraqi prisoners. These were not the same photos that are in the news today.

I suspect that torture of all kinds is common in U.S. military prisons and detention centers in Iraq, just as it has been in Afghanistan. What would stop it from happening? There seems to be little accountability, especially of the "private contractors" many of whom are now in charge of prison interrogations, while there is a shared assumption by U.S. occupying forces that Iraqis are less than human. In the military report that was recently leaked to journalists, an eyewitness--a U.S. soldier--is quoted as referring to the injuries sustained by a prisoner as being to "its" ribcage and sexual abuse involving "its" open mouth.

When you do not even give another human being the respect of using a personal pronoun like "his" when referring to him, you have lost your sense of humanity. And the soldier quoted above was not even one of the torturers.

5. How can the United States ever regain the respect of the world community, especially of Arab Muslims, after this horrific occurrence? I'm afraid I am quite pessimistic in this regard. In the context of this country's current disregard of the opinions and concerns of other countries, I do not believe there is any way for us to mitigate the horror of this example of American-inflicted torture. If the Muslim world, in particular, needed a "last straw" in relation to the United States, this is it.

6. Where do we go from here? If we were smart--and I'm afraid we're not--we would root out any other examples of torture, abuse, excessive force and cruelty being perpetrated by Americans in Iraq. Whether it be mistreatment of prisoners, throwing civilians in prison for no reason, attacking civilians at checkpoints, raids on people's homes, shooting at ambulances as happened in Falluja, or mounting massive attacks on holy cities and shrines, the commanding officers in Iraq should insist that such war crimes cease and desist. And all who partook in such crimes should be brought to justice.

Actually, the only thing we can do now is to get the heck out of Iraq and let the immanently capable people of that country determine their own destiny.

Unfortunately, these suggestions have as much chance of happening as a cow flying over the moon. When will we ever learn? You start a war, especially a war like this one that was based on lies, power and greed, and what do you get? As they say, you reap what you sow.


TUESDAY, MAY 4, 2004

The best part of working with a personal trainer instead of exercising on your own is that he/she just might ask you to do something you don't think you can do. Gulp! That's what happened today during my workout with Matt at the gym. I was standing, holding onto the bar like I always do. I'd just finished front and side leg swings and deep leg squats, when Matt said, "OK. Now take your hands off the bar and do some more squats.

Take my hands off the bar? You mean, as in "freestanding?" I haven't done any freestanding in years. Well, except when I stand to pull up my skirt while I'm getting dressed. But that hardly counts. Anyway, he wants me to squat without holding on to anything???

But, you know something...I DID IT!!! Of course, Matt placed himself right behind me "just in case" and he let me hold my hands above the bar so I could reach down if I needed to (I needed to occasionally). But the fact is that I exercised in a freestanding position.


Today was my sixteenth workout--seven of those with Matt--since I joined the gym on March 23rd. Until recently, I'd only worked out for a half hour, but my last two sessions with Matt have been 45 solid minutes. I have never felt better. Well, not since the chronic progressive MS (Multiple Sclerosis) I was diagnosed with in 1988 started limiting me in 1994.

And to think I wondered whether working out at a gym was a crazy idea for someone like me! I mean, I'd been in a scooter--inside and outside the house--full time since last July when I'd broken my ankle. I feared I'd never get back up on my feet again, but after only two weeks of working out with Matt--an exceptional trainer, I might add--I was back to walking with my walker inside the house. And who knows where we'll going go from here?! I feel like the future I thought I knew is no longer set in stone. No longer do I assume I will become progressively more limited. With my swimming (a half mile twice a week) and my gym workouts, who knows? Maybe I'll run another marathon like I did in 1979-80! Anything's possible.

And if you're a regular reader, you know that I was also working on losing my belly through more intentional eating habits. Well, I still have a belly but I've lost 14 lbs. since March 1st. I'm down to 101 lbs., just 7 lbs. over my marathon-running weight. As I say, anything's possible...



Sometimes you just gotta listen to your body. OK, so I had a sore, scratchy throat on Monday and laid low. But then I felt better on Tuesday--yesterday--and scooted down to work out with Matt at the gym. I told him I had less energy than usual because of a cold and he said to listen to my body and stop whenever I needed to, but I managed 45 minutes of hard exercise anyway. By last night I was as weak as a kitten, and this morning when the alarm went off at 7:30 AM, I just kept punching the "snooze" button. After four punches, I realized I needed to stay home and nurse this cold, not bring it into a classroom full of kids.

Sigh. We only have about four more weeks of school so each day is precious, but I know my decision was right...for me and for Susan and the kids. It also takes into account that this weekend I'll be at Five Oaks retreat center in Paris, Ontario singing with Carolyn McDade and my beloved circle of Gaia sisters. It would be nice to have a voice that could sing instead of croak, which is what I'm doing today.

By the way, this is my first cold since last June! Eleven months free of virii is pretty unusual I'd say. Especially for someone who works with kids. That's why I always get a bit burned when people say in that pitying tone of voice, "And how are you, Patricia?" When I answer, "Doing great, thanks!", they respond with a disbelieving shake of their heads. As if not being able to walk worth a damn means you're not healthy. Well, guess again!



This may be a first. I am actually cancelling out of the weekend singing retreat with Carolyn McDade that starts tomorrow (Friday) night. Normally I would go ahead even though I feel like crap. But you know what? I'd rather feel crummy here at home than in some retreat center. Besides it was getting more and more obvious that I wasn't going to be able to sing a note. I mean, how could I? With one hand applying wads of toilet paper to my drippy nose and my voice sounding like Groucho Marx, there was no way.

But before I smartened up, I tried to keep to today's schedule. That meant going to Windsor, Ontario to get my hair cut by Leesa, my favorite haircutter, but one I hadn't been able to go to for a year because of my mobility limitations. But thanks to my new (used) handicap-accessible minivan, Leesa's hair salon in Windsor, Ontario was no longer on my inaccessible list. And looking back, I'm glad I went ahead because something special happened there.

Leesa was just finishing up with me when I saw a minivan pull up out front and a man help a woman get out of the passenger side. He got back in the van as she made her way into the hair salon. A tiny white-haired lovely woman, she moved very slowly using two crutches. You could feel her exhaustion with each step, but she didn't say a word except to smile.

Leesa said, "Nancy, this is just what you need!," pointing to my scooter that was parked beside the swivel chair in which I was sitting while Leesa brushed the hair off my neck. And that started it.

Nancy and I talked for at least ten minutes. We talked about wheelchairs, scooters, feeling dependent, helpful husbands, pain, the exhaustion of getting from Point A to Point B, houses with stairs, making/not making meals, feeling worthless after a lifetime of helping others, having your self esteem in tatters. At one point, Nancy, who was by now sitting in my scooter beside me, looked up with her eyes brimming over, and said, "I've never talked with anyone who understood."

No, I can't change her condition, make her pain go away, or lift her self esteem, but I can let her know she's not alone. And that counts for something.

So now I'm off to bed before 9:30 PM. That's two nights in a row. Wonder if I'll sleep another twelve hours like I did last night? Sleep, that's what I need.


FRIDAY, MAY 7, 20004

Good thing I stayed home. This is a bit more than a cold. My temp was 100 degrees before dinner. It's now 8:30 PM and I'm off to bed.



Has anyone else noticed that the first cells to give up when a virus comes calling are those belonging to the brain? Even though I now have all the time in the world, I can't think straight enough to use it. The best I could do was watch "Sleepless In Seattle" on DVD this morning, and maybe I'll watch "Out Of Africa" this evening. I can't read anything that uses words longer than three syllables, so catching up with my book group's assignment for May is out of the question. But at least my nose has slowed its drip considerably since yesterday, and I don't think I have a fever but I haven't bothered to check. Another thing I notice is how incredibly weak I get by the evening.

Last night I asked Ed to bring my scooter upstairs because I didn't feel safe trying to walk with my walker. Good thing I did. While sitting on the edge of the bed putting on my nightgown, I slid onto the floor and couldn't for the life of me get up. I had to wait for Ed to return home from his walk and lift me like a sack of potatoes--but very gently--so I was sitting up on the bed again. I say this not to make you feel sorry for me but to say to sister and brother cold/virus-sufferers, I understand what you're going through! Sure helps me appreciate the incredible gift of feeling well and strong. May it not be too long before I know those feelings again.

Speaking of gifts, yesterday a package came in the mail from Tallahassee, Florida. It was a framed photo of me--aka Granny Patricia--at the Bring The Troops Home Now! march and rally in Washington, DC on October 25, 2004. I'd gotten an email from the photographer--Penny Young--a few weeks ago, asking my snail mail address so she could send me this photo that she had successfully submitted to a peace art exhibit in Florida. Thanks, dear Penny, I needed to be reminded of my more healthy, activist self right about now!

Another gift was a wonderful phone visit yesterday afternoon with my brother Rabih Haddad in Lebanon. Since those horrible photographs of Iraqi prison torture by US troops were first broadcast, I've been concerned about how they might be affecting Rabih. If you recall, he spent 19 months in US jails before being deported, so he knows from the inside--literally--what's it's like to feel at the mercy of prison guards. He is as disturbed by the photos as the rest of us, but I didn't get the feeling he's been thrown off kilter by them. But he did say that he now experiences an uncontrollable, gut reaction whenever he sees any form of injustice, whether in real life or even on TV. It will be interesting to see where this passion for justice leads Rabih in the future. Knowing him, I suspect it will lead to acts that will benefit the world community when the time and cause is right. It was out of such humanitarian feelings of solidarity with refugees and victims of war that he co-founded the Global Relief Foundation in 1992. That's the way my brother does things. But for now, he and Sulaima are focusing on the healthy delivery of their fifth child whom we hope will stay put until June, but, judging from past experience, might come any day now. Please hold them in good "birthing" energy.


SUNDAY, MAY 9, 2004

Do other people look into the why of things, or am I an oddity?

For instance, I'm still working with the "why" of my having gotten a virus at the same time as a long-planned singing retreat with Carolyn McDade this weekend. Then I look back and ask another, related question: Why did my ONLY other virus this entire year come 11 months ago on the weekend I was also scheduled to sing with Carolyn and my friends--last June 14-15 at our O Beautiful Gaia CD recording weekend? This weekend I stayed home; last June I went ahead. But how I chose to respond to the virus is less important than the fact of its existence and the oddness of its timing.

Is this coincidence, or is my body trying to tell me something?

You know, I don't really believe in coincidence. Something deep in me insists that everything has a meaning or message or learning to be gained. And questions are the keys that can open my mind and heart to more than a fatalistic acceptance of what seems to happen "to" me.

So the last three days, between sneezes, coughs, fever headaches and the ever-present need to wipe my dripping nose, I've tried to stay open to the question, "Why now?" And more to the point, "What is to be learned here?" Some tentative answers are beginning to emerge. As always when I explore such mysterious paths, I'm both surprised and not surprised by what I'm finding.

I believe something deep in me was hungering for freedom. I believe I was stuck in an outgrown way of relating, a way that kept me from realizing my own inner power and spirit. That's what happens whenever I allow myself to develop a crush on someone whom I see as "more evolved" than I. And for 11 years, that was how I'd been relating to Carolyn McDade.

In the beginning, it might have been true. When I first sang with Carolyn in March 1993, I had a l-o-n-g way to go before I could say I was anywhere near being empowered or self-referring. But in recent years, I'd say my actions have been those of a woman who follows her own wisdom and speaks her own truth. So why was I still putting Carolyn or anyone up on a pedestal? Comfort and habit, I expect. I obviously needed help breaking this cycle of shero-worship. And strangely enough, a common cold did the job!

I still care for Carolyn and admire her work. I still want to sing with her and my Gaia sisters when I can. But now it will be a conscious choice, not one determined by hidden motives. Living consciously, that's the thing. For only then am I free to pursue my own dreams, sing my own songs and be my own authority. Now THAT is cause for celebration!


MONDAY, MAY 10, 2004

Your mind plays such quirky tricks when you get sick. You can begin to believe that nothing has changed in the outside world since you weren't there to see it! So you can imagine my surprise when I scooted outside to get a little fresh air this afternoon and discovered that spring had been supplanted by least for today. I was still dressed in a cotton turtleneck, fleece vest and fleece socks. I thought I was going to melt! It had to be at least 80 degrees, and the sun was serious summer sun. So I took off my vest and headed out for a ride. To be honest, just the thought of a nice cold cup of lemon and coconut gelato made my throat feel better already.

And it wasn't just the temperature that had changed since my last scoot six days ago--every single solitary tree but one was now covered with fresh green leaves. I don't know if that one bare-branched anomaly was sick or simply biding its time, but everything else was full out! Our community is a flowering tree paradise, so the colors in May can seem too outrageous to be believed. I smiled the whole way down to the gelato shop. Actually, I stopped at Ed's office first and invited him to join me. But I made it real clear. This was NOTgoing to be a two-spooned treat, so if he wanted some gelato, he'd best order his own!

We sat outside the shop while I devoured my "medicine" and, even though we both know I'm apt to start coughing when I talk, we forgot and started chatting about the latest news. When a woman I know from swimming came by and tried to ask me a few questions, the coughing began. And once started, it's as hard to stop as it used to be to get those cloth-covered springs they called snakes back into their cans. Remember those silly toys? Anyway, it was time for me to stop visiting and scoot home. So I did.

But whatever else happens with this virus, it is certainly making me feel loved. My Eddie, as always, has been a real prince. Not only does he pamper me with soups and juices and such, but he brought me the most beautiful orange tulips on Saturday. Then yesterday, my dear friend and sister Raging Granny, Judy Drylie, brought over a lovely pot of pansies! They make our front window look like a garden. And once the retreat was over yesterday and my friends had returned home, I started getting emails and phone calls to let me know how much I'd been missed. And now tonight, Tim from swimming called to see if I was OK! I'm generally so faithful that he began to get worried since tonight was my third missed swimming night in a row. His saying that reminded me that it was a week ago today that I awoke with the sore throat that ushered in this whole thing.

But there's one thing I do differently from most folks when I get a bug: I take my own sweet time re-entering the world. I'm convinced that most people--probably because their jobs make it hard to take time off--don't give themselves that cushion they need between the time their symptoms abate and their full energy returns. I have things I definitely wanted to do this week, but I've already started cancelling out of some of them. Good health, that's what I'm after. And if it takes another week to regain it, I can wait.


TUESDAY, MAY 11, 2004

Was the news ever before so awful? During the Vietnam War, were we this sickened and disgusted, day after day after day? Were we so discouraged that we couldn't imagine things getting better, only worse? And have we ever had a president and high-level government advisors and decision-makers whom we considered as dangerous, not just to our nation, and not simply to the world's people, but to the planet itself?

It feels like things are falling apart.

But that is exactly what is happening and what has to happen. The old must disappear before the new can emerge. It has happened like this as long as history has been recorded. Whenever a system--whether governmental, military, industrial, religious, social or economic--becomes a mockery of its sworn ideals, then it perishes. The dismantling may take generations, but it is inevitable. And the closer it gets to its final destruction, the more desperate become its leaders in their attempts to hold things together.

Of course, their efforts will fail, for a structure that has all its weight (benefits) centered at the top, cannot stand for long. There comes the moment--the last straw or the 100th monkey--when a seemingly small, often unexpected, occurrence will tip the balance and everything comes tumbling to the ground.

It can be something as "insignificant" as digital photos of a 21 year-old.

And while all eyes are focused on the disintegration of these power structures, the "new" hides like a rabbit waiting in the hat for its turn in the spotlight. For it is like a sleight of hand. While our attention is drawn where the magician wants, she is busy creating something so surprising that we cannot even imagine it.

While our corrupted form of " U.S. democracy" captures every headline and sound bite around the world, other ways of living together as members of one global community already exist. The powers-that-be haven't noticed, nor have most of the media or even the people, but that doesn't matter. It's been happening anyway. Sometimes this new way of being has been as hidden as an urban garden producing close neighborhood connections with every ear of corn. Other times it has involved hundreds of thousands of persons as at the World Social Forums held at Puerto Allegro, Brazil. And occasionally it has been as dazzling and fleeting as a shooting star. Remember February 15, 2003 and the tens of millions of women, men and children who joined together across the globe to say "NO!" to Bush's proposed war on Iraq? Globalizaton in its truest form.

So I say to myself and to all who share my pained responses to what we are seeing at the top, don't forget to look at the magician's other hand. For the new reality is there, nestled under her thumb. Don't spend all your time bemoaning what is falling apart; use your energy and passion to help create the new. We need all the hands, minds and hearts we can find, for this new way of being is one that includes all and excludes no one. Come join us! Now is the time.



Oh friends, I am weary tonight. It was my first day out in the world again and was it--and is it ever still--a HOT one! This will be a bare-bones account of the day, and I'm sure you'll understand.

My BIG NEWS is that the title to my new (used) handicap-accessible minivan is finally in my name. We had to wait to go to the Secretary of State's office until the previous owner had had his lien released by Chrysler. That took two weeks, but it came through yesterday. Hugh and I met at my local Secretary of State's office and transferred the title. I also bought a new handicapped license tag. The check was full of so many "1's"--as was the license tag number, and the vehicle number--that the clerk asked if I knew anything about the study of numbers. Actually I have dipped into numerology over the years and could tell her, when she asked, that "1" signifies being complete unto oneself. That certainly reflects the new freedom I'm experiencing with my minivan. As you know, being able to go places by myself has been its major gift.

After that bit of business, I visited a friend at a nursing facility nearby, took some clothes to be altered, got a cup of rainbow sherbet, and stopped at the Dodge dealer to transfer the extended warranty into my name. Four times in and out of the van! As I've said before, the ability to do errands like these simply blows my mind.

I came home, drank an Odwalla juice, worked at my computer, and then took a scooter ride to cool off and go see Ed. I rode by the lake coming home and was delighted to see sailboats shining in the late afternoon sun.

But now, after completing a time-consuming email job for our local peace group, I am more than ready to take a nice shower to wash off the heat-stickiness, and go to bed. My window fan is running so I'll be perfectly comfortable.

Summertime, summertime...


THURSDAY, MAY 13, 2004

I made the mistake of reading the New York Times this morning. All that does is get my negative wheels spinning. Nothing positive comes out of reading the newspaper, at least not for me. I know they're trying to tell "both sides" of the story, but it just doesn't help me to read some retired electric company manager in a "mostly Republican town in the Midwest" express his outrage about Nick Berg's having been decapitated by terrorists in Iraq by saying, "Let's kill them all. Let's wipe them off the face of the earth." Charming thought. I doubt if Mr. Bob Mansen of Oswego, Illinois will ever know, or even care to know, that there has been a chorus of Muslim voices condemning that barbaric action of a few. Juan Cole, internationally respected professor of history at the University of Michigan, had the following quotes on his blog, "Informed Consent:"

Muslim Authorities Condemn Berg Killing

Muslim authorities at al-Azhar Seminary, the preeminent center of learning for Sunni Islam, vehemently condemned the brutal murder of Nick Berg by terrorists in Iraq, according to Sobhy Mujahid.

' "Islam respects the human being, dead or alive, and cutting off the American's head was an act of mutilation forbidden by Islam," [said] Ibrahim Al-Fayoumi, a member of Al-Azhar's Islamic Research Academy . . . '

Sobhi adds, ' Mahmoud Emara, another member of the Academy [said] "The mutilation even of enemies is rejected by Islam. A mistake could not justify another . . . " The scholar cited the respect Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) had paid to bodies in the battle of Badr when he ordered the burial of the dead irrespective of their religion. The Prophet urged his Companions on the day of Badr to be kind to their captives and treat them with clemency. '

These scholars are major voices of the Muslim mainstream. They should be listened to on such matters.

Even the much more radical Lebanese Shiite Hizbullah (Hezbollah), according to the Sydney Morning Herald, ' harshly criticised the beheading and questioned the timing of a "horrible" act which drove the torture of Iraqi prisoners by US-led forces from the headlines. "Hezbollah denounces this horrible act which does an immense wrong to Islam and Muslims by a group which falsely pretends to follow the precepts of the religion of pardon and essential human values," the party said in a statement. ' (Hizbullah, as Shiites, has nothing but contempt for the Sunni radical Zarqawi).

It adds, 'Ezzedine Salim, this month's chief of the Iraq Governing Council, insisted that "decapitations and mutilations are unacceptable and have nothing to do with Islam". '

Even the conservative and fundamentalist religious leaders in Iraq expressed the same sentiments.

Samir Haddad quotes Muthanna al-Dhari, secretary general of the Board of Muslim Clergy (a hardline Sunni organization that in the past has had members who stockpiled arms in mosques; it was a major mediating force at Fallujah). Al-Dhari ' strongly denounced the killing, saying it runs counter to the teachings of Islam and "does disservice to our religion and our cause." The Sunni scholar stressed this is a condemned operation whether carried out by Iraqis or non-Iraqis and whether the slain was a civilian or a military personnel. "Even if he was a military personnel he should be treated as a prisoner who, according to Shari'ah, must not be killed," he told Deputy Head of the Islamic Party Iyaad Samarrai said the abhorrent treatment of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. soldiers should never give an excuse for treating U.S. prisoners the same way.
"This is absolutely wrong," he told IOL, asserting that "Islam does prohibit the killing or the maltreatment of prisoners." Samarrai said such acts harm the interest of the Iraqi people and their cause to end the U.S.-led occupation.

But, as Cole goes on to say:

We'll be hearing for years from the talking heads on US cable news about how the Muslim world failed to condemn what was done to Berg. It would be as though a set of high-ranking cardinals in the Vatican condemned something unreservedly and then people kept saying the Church remained silent.

Some other folks quoted in that New York Times article had similar views to those expressed by Mr. Mansen. Not all of them, but enough to turn my stomach. Among the most sickening was Rush Limbaugh who said on his radio program, "I maintained throughout the release of those prison photos, perspective was what was needed. They are the ones who are sick. They are the ones who are dangerous. They are the ones who are subhuman. They are the ones who are human debris, not the United States of America and not our soldiers and not our prison guards."

Kinda makes you wonder where those American women and men who tortured and sexually abused the Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison got the idea. Does Limbaugh's show air over there?

Is it really that easy to communicate hatred over the radio and find an audience? If so, that is our national shame.

Please remind me to steer clear of newspapers, radio and TV for the duration. I'll stick with my online news and count my lucky stars that I can avoid the rest.


FRIDAY, MAY 14, 2004

At school I look around at the faces--photos #1, #2, #3, #4--of these predominantly Muslim children from the Middle East, and I see the faces of war. Our children are so like those who are being killed and maimed every day in Iraq and Palestine. They have the same liquid brown eyes, thick black hair, rich olive skin and irrepressible smiles that are being snuffed out because of decisions by men in Washington, DC and Israel who don't care about anyone but themselves, power and money.

And in a few weeks it actually WILL be some of our kids in Iraq and Palestine, at danger of losing their lives and the lives of those they love.

I'm having trouble understanding why, but a number of our children will soon go "home" to Iraq. My guess is that these are families who had fled Iraq under Saddam Hussein and now feel safe to return. "Safe" being a relative term. I know some of their fathers have been in Iraq for months now, so it is likely they are connected to expatriates like Chalabi who are intent on grabbing power during the transition governing phase. Dozens of these men were out on the streets before the war, protesting our protests. They WANTED the war because they wanted Saddam out of there no matter what.

Well, "no matter what" has happened and I sure wish they would not throw the kids I love into that maelstrom. Go themselves, if they want, but leave their famlies at home. "Home" being here, in my view.

But it isn't my choice, is it? And I can't know what I would do if I were in their position. None of us Americans-born-American can know what it is like to have to flee your homeland, your parents and aunts and uncles and cousins, come to a new country where you can't speak your language except within enclaves of other refugees, and start from scratch. We just can't know.

But that doesn't stop me from wishing. I wish my children to be safe. I wish them not to be put at risk. I wish them to be at the heart of their parent's decisions. I wish them to stay here until there is some semblance of peace in Iraq and Palestine.

And I wish this for ALL the children. If only the men and women in power would think FIRST of the children, there would be no more war.


SATURDAY, MAY 15, 2004

I know I run the risk of sounding like a dithering idiot when I rave AGAIN about how this handicap-accessible minivan is changing my life, but there it is. I suspect I have only begun to dither!

Now, I imagine it might be hard for you able-bodied folks to appreciate, but just waking up on this cold gray Saturday morning and realizing I could go anyplace I wanted was tantamount to a miracle. I went to the local newspaper's web site to explore my options, and decided on a play at the Hilberry Theatre. This is Wayne State University's excellent drama company, and a company I have not seen in more years than I can remember. Today's performance was a matinee that started at 1 PM. I arrived at the parking lot across the street around noon, parked, and scooted a block away to one of my favorite restaurants, the Cass Cafe. After a yummy lentil walnut burger and a cranberry juice, I scooted over to the theatre with plenty of time to spare.

I was delighted to find that everything was totally accessible, including power door openers and a handicap accessible restroom right off the lobby. The two wheelchair-accessible seats were already occupied, but the house manager arranged for me to park in the next row over. It worked out fine.

What an incredible production! It was one of those magical events that pulls you into another world and keeps you there, thinking of nothing else, for hours. In this case, three and a half hours. The play was Part II of Robert Schenkkan's Pulitzer Prize-winning drama, "The Kentucky Cycle." I won't try to describe this complex series of plays-within-plays, but will let Martin F. Kohn, the Detroit Free Press theater critic, do so instead. All I can say is that it was an afternoon of theater that I will never forget. And oddly enough, this was the final performance of the year for the Hilberry, so now I'll have to wait until next October to enjoy more of their wonder.

But, thank goodness, the Hilberry isn't the only act in town. And now that I have wheels-and-can-travel, I plan on seeing everything this city has to offer. Yep, the world's my oyster!


SUNDAY, MAY 16, 2004

Before I tell you about my day, I want to tell you about my friends, Casey and Jeanne. These two women REALLY know what it means to be a friend. Do you know what they are planning to do? Build a ramp onto their deck and another one into their house so that I can visit! Can you imagine that?

Casey and Jeanne are the dear women who host our women's community solstice and equinox rituals out at their beautiful home in the country. If you're a regular reader you've gone to several such gatherings with me over the years. But, as time has passed, my ability to climb the steps up to their deck has diminshed. The last ritual gathering I attended we had to stay on the grass so I could be part of it.

Yesterday, Casey and Jeanne wrote me saying, "Of course we have worked to make it [our land] a safe haven for our plant and animal friends. We want our human friends to be able to enjoy it more also. So we are having a summer solstice gathering June 19 (actually it can be on the 20th if the 19th doesn't work). We are also planning to have a ramp built by then which will make our house accessible."

I am deeply touched and profoundly grateful.

And at this moment, I am also sleepy. After a full day out in the woods, I am feeling the effects of all that healthy fresh air. I know you won't be surprised to hear that I went to Pt. Pelee National Park in Ontario again. It was rather overcast when I started off this morning, but by the time I pulled into the crowded Visitor Centre parking lot around 11:30 AM, the sun was brightly shining and the sky was blue. But I was still happy for my neckscarf, lap blanket and jacket. In the woods the air had a bit of a chill that didn't burn off until later in the day.

I hiked two different trails today and found them breaktakingly beautiful. In the two weeks since I'd been there, the forest had undergone a transformation. Everything was GREEN! Well, everything except the wildflowers which were white, pink and purple. But, except for the Garlic Mustard, these were different flowers from the ones I'd seen two weeks ago. Herb Robert, Appendaged Waterleaf, Wild Geranium, Columbine and Sweet Ciceley had replaced the Jack-In-the-Pulpit, Trillium, Large Flowering Bellwort and Dutchman's Breeches. A brand new world!

I took photos that I'll share tomorrow. But now, my yawns are coming so close together my mouth never has time to close. That means it's time for bed.


MONDAY, MAY 17, 2004

I definitely needed this quiet, stay-at-home day after my active weekend. Working with the photos I took at Pt. Pelee on Saturday and turning them into "Alone In the Woods" photo album #2 was all I needed to keep me happily occupied. But I didn't actually stay at home ALL day. I scooted with Ed while he walked down to his office after his morning of work at the VA Hospital. We had lunch together at Subway, bought a beautiful hanging basket of impatiens and assorted flowers to hang in his tiny courtyard, and shared a gelato (sour cherry and pistachio). It started sprinkling on my way home, but I just slipped on my plastic rain poncho and continued on my way. Then tonight was a swimming night. After having missed two weeks with the virus, it felt great to be in the water again. But I took it easy and only swam 30 lengths instead of my usual 36. Two blocks from home--I scoot the 6-7 blocks to and from the middle school where I swim--I heard a familar whistle. It was Eddie on his way home from his evening walk. Sweet.


TUESDAY, MAY 18, 2004

The personal is political.

I thought of this aphorism today while shopping at the mall. Now, anyone who knows me realizes I'd rather do most ANYTHING than go to the mall. But every five years or so even I have to go there. Of course, with my new handicap-accessible minivan, the prospect was a little better than before, but not a lot.

I needed three items: a new black half slip (my two others have holes and the elastic around the waist is stretched so far out of shape that they keep slipping around my hips), a pair of dress socks to wear to my niece's wedding in Central Park on Memorial Day weekend, and a new swimsuit (my old one is so stretched out of shape that it's at risk of falling off every time I swim).

Finding the dress socks was easy, and even the swimsuit wasn't too much of a problem. Those two departments were across the hall from one another, so I could purchase them at the same cash register. But the underwear was downstairs.

I took the elevator and ended up in a strange world where all you could see for miles were bra upon bra. Large bras, small bras, underwires, padded, tank tops, what we used to call "merry widows" (strapless bra ad girdle combined), sports bras and glitsy contraptions that looked like they were straight out of Frederick's of Hollywood. Over in a corner were three short racks of black half slips, maybe 30 in all. With the salesperson's help, I found the one and only black half slip in my size and length. Then I started scooting around checking out the black tank tops and the nightgowns.

As I looked at style, size, color and price, I also noted where they were made. Mexico, Thailand, Turkey, Hong Kong and China, to name a few. Every time I read the names of these countries, I could see warehouses full of row after row of women, sitting close together at old manual sewing machines, surrounded by god-awful noise, no air, unbearable heat, and living in fear of doing something to draw attention to themselves and lose their jobs, jobs that probably pay $2 a day, at best.

I just couldn't buy into it. So, after examining the merchandise for 15-20 minutes, I told my salesperson that I would just be buying the half slip for $13. She was obviously miffed. As she wrote up my sale, I said, "You know, the reason I'm not buying more is that I looked at where these things are made and I doubt the workers in Turkey, Mexico and Thailand are getting a living wage. Besides, that's taking jobs out of our country, jobs that we need."

She looked at me as if I were an alien from Mars, and said, "Well, no one else cares about that! People just buy what they like. I guess you're the only person I've ever seen who cares where the stuff is made." Huff, huff.

It's times like these that I feel like a stranger in a strange land. But the fact that manufacturers must print on the labels the name of the country where each piece of clothing was made makes me realize I'm not the only one asking this question. For you can be sure they wouldn't do it if they didn't have to by law.

So I'll continue wearing my old T-shirts to bed and will make do with the two tank tops I already have. But some day that 100th monkey will fall and the U.S. manufacturing industry will realize what they're losing by outsourcing production and paying slave labor wages to desperate people.



I've gotten into a hate-habit of late and I've got to break it before it breaks me.

I notice that more people than ever before make my "hate list," even if only for brief moments. Most are persons I will never meet, but a few are individuals I encounter in my day-to-day life. This is not a healthy state of affairs.

I ask myself how has it happened? I used to be a people-loving person, and there are still way more people that I love than those I hate, but that's not the point. Even hating ONE person is toxic to yourself and to the world around you.

Hating hurts the hater more than the hatee.

So how did I get here? I think it was when I first allowed myself to nurse feelings of hatred toward the current leaders of my country's government. It has been SO EASY to hate George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, John Ashcroft, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Douglas Feith and General William Boykin, to name the top eight on my Hate List. And I've had so much company among friends, progressive writers and thinkers, environmentalists, immigrants, antiwar folks, etc.

Hatred loves company.

But that is a slippery slope. Once I let hatred into my heart it got comfortable and set up housekeeping, making it all the easier for it to sour my other relationships as well. After awhile I didn't even notice it was there.

But, fortunately, my joy at the freedom my new handicap-accessible van has brought, and especially the time I've been able to spend alone in the woods, has opened my eyes and heart. These past weeks I've been aware of ribbons of hatred that weave through my days and nights, and I don't like it.

So today when I "happened" upon a commentary on titled, "Personal Voices: Is Bush the Anti-Buddha?", I read it with intense interest.

So I'm not alone in my struggle between love and hatred. Others want to break their inner cycle of hatred too, and the author, Allan Hunt Badiner, has some excellent suggestions on how to do it. I am especially fond of the two mantras with which he ends his healing meditations:

May all beings be happy and free from suffering -- even Bush. May all beings be happy -- and freed from Bush.


THURSDAY, MAY 20, 2004

Ah, the children. Today was my next-to-last Thursday before school is over for the year and the fifth graders graduate. I tried to be conscious of and grateful for every single minute.

--M. asking me to sing "Circle Round For Freedom" with her since they're now learning it in chorus. Then her teaching me the English translation of an Arabic song that I love. Singing these two songs over and over with the fifth grade chorus members as we sat and worked on our weaving project. M. testing me at the end of class by making me sing it alone. Her smiling like a pleased teacher and saying, "Yes, you've got it now" when I'd finished.

--A line of kindergarten students coming up to my chair to show me their wonderful magic crayon "star" pictures on black paper. Their shy smiles turning into proud grins as I praised their work.

--A fourth grade girl stopping in to the art classroom especially to give me a specially-wrapped gift of candies. Even though I've only joined her art class once this year, we are dear friends from last year.

--Getting help tying the knots in my weaving project from the fifth grade boys and girls at my table. Their patience with my repeated requests for help.

--Receiving my usual hugs from second grade boys and girls as they came into the class. And again when they left. I wonder why some classes are so naturally affectionate?

--All the kids' excitement over my upcoming trip to my niece's wedding in New York over the Memorial Day weekend, even though it means I'll miss school next week. One of my favorite fifth grade girls begging me to take her with me. "I'll hide in your suitcase!"

--Having a class full of second graders draw Ms. Patricia as part of their "Special Memories 2003-2004" booklet. How hard they worked and the honesty of their results.

--A., one of our most challenging fifth graders, finishing the weaving project before anyone else, and doing a superb job. The teacher Susan's praise and A.'s obvious pride.

--The pictures I took today of every class, pictures I must artistically distort in order to post online, but that hopefully still show the life and energy of these amazing youngsters.

--Today's two-page (photo #1 & #2) Detroit Free Press "Yak Corner" pictures and article on our school's Clean Up Parade in the neighborhood last Tuesday. Even though I was sick and had to miss it, this well-deserved public celebration of our kids made me feel like I'd been there.


FRIDAY, MAY 21, 2004

It's two sides of one coin. S/hero worship on one side, and hatred on the other. I become what I worship just as I become what I hate.

Lying in bed this morning, I could see the coin--MY personal coin--with Carolyn McDade's face on the front, and George W. Bush and his cronies on the back. I flipped it in the air and it fell, sometimes heads, sometimes tails. Of course, I preferred it to fall "heads," but even then it wasn't good, for I became someone other than my Self.

I don't want to become anyone but myself.

So breaking the hate-habit and the s/hero worship-habit is one and the same thing. Now, THAT'S a new idea, at least to me. But it has the ring of truth.


This week I received a copy of the following email from a friend:

Remember that anti-war protest that we both attended outside the Ritz Carleton Hotel in Dearborn? And I went across the street to ask those Arabic pro-war protesters "why???"

The man I spoke with who seemed to be "running the show" gave me his business card - Adnan Alzurufi, "Iraqi Uprising Committee" and told me that he was supporting Bush because they needed to get rid of Hussein and that he (man I was talking to) had been imprisoned and tortured by Hussein.

Later, During the invasion of Iraq I saw this very man on television dressed in US Army clothing - I absolutely know it was him. NOW, in this past Monday's paper I see the Pentagon has appointed him "Governor" of the Iraq province of Najaf. - there is a pic of him along with the article. (I copied and pasted the article below)

This all seems rather weird to me and I am wondering if and how the Pentagon/Bushites could have convinced all of those protesting, pro-war Arabic people to support him.....

Seems to me I remember [another friend] saying at the time that [she] thought those pro-war, Arabic, people were "Bush plants" and I thought that was a preposterous idea.....

and - does the Free Press article explain the situation and I'm just not understanding?????????"


"Detroiter named governor of Najaf in Iraq"
Detroit Free Press, May 10, 2004

A Detroit man who once was jailed and tortured under Saddam Hussein's regime has become the governor of the Iraq province of Najaf.

Adnan Alzurufi, a native of Najaf, was appointed last week by the Pentagon at a time when the United States is struggling to take control of the strategically important region and city of the same name. The southern city of Najaf is considered holy by Shi'ite Muslims.

In Detroit, Alzurufi's wife and children said Friday they were glad to hear of his appointment.

"I feel very proud," said his son Montadar, 16, one of Alzurufi's seven children. "But I do worry about" his safety.

Alzurufi said that during the 1980s as a student in his homeland, he organized anti-Hussein groups in opposition to the Iran-Iraq war. The ruling Baath Party jailed him for five years in Najaf and Baghdad, where he said his captors whipped him and used electrical shocks on his leg and groin.

In 1991, he escaped and took part in an uprising against Hussein after the U.S. invasion of Iraq during the first Persian Gulf War.

Alzurufi fled Iraq for Detroit in 1994, part of a large number of Iraqi Shi'ite Muslims who came to Michigan after Hussein crushed the uprising. In 1997, Alzurufi formed the Iraqi Uprising Committee to mobilize local Iraqis. In April
2003, he was one of a dozen exiles flown by the Pentagon to Iraq as part of rebuilding efforts.


I was also at the demonstration in front of the Ritz Carleton Hotel where the writer of this email met Adnan Alzurufi. It was held at the Fairlane Mall in Dearborn on October 14, 2002. George W. Bush was speaking at a $1000 Republican fundraising dinner at the Ritz Carleton Hotel. Local peace groups and individuals had gathered with signs and banners to let Bush know what we thought of his proposed war on Iraq. Of course, the Dearborn police made sure we didn't get anywhere near George W. Bush and his financial supporters, but we did what we always do--we sang and chanted anyway. We were a diverse group of young and old, Muslim and non-Muslim.

After a short while, a group of men started walking through the crowd, yelling that Saddam Hussein was evil and must be "taken out," even if it means war. They handed out flyers that identified themselves as Iraqis who had been tortured and forced to flee their country because of Saddam Hussein. They were so loud and confrontational that the police moved their group across the street after several arguments broke out between the pro-war and anti-war contingents. From then on, the two camps tried to out-yell and out-chant one another, with the Iraqi group definitely "winning" the war of the words.

What I remember noticing was that: 1) the Iraqi pro-war group had an unusually large number of professionally-made signs and banners; and 2) I'd never before seen so many members of the press and media--national as well as local--at any Detroit area anti-war or anti-Bush demonstration. This made me suspect that the Bush team had helped the pro-war Iraqi community mount their demonstration, and had contacted the press and media to let em know there would be a good story here. Clips from this demo appeared on national and international TV news that night, with interviews of the Iraqi pro-war demonstrators. It was obviously a PR paradise for the Bush administration to be able to show they had the support of American Iraqis for their proposed war.

So now--one and a half years later--we hear that Adnan Alzurufi, the leader of that Detroit area pro-war demonstration, has been named governor of Najaf, a real hotspot in the war-that-never-ends. Not only that, but this same individual was seen in a photo taken during the war in Iraq, wearing a U.S. military uniform. He's pretty tight with Bush and Rumsfeld, I'd say.

But why should I be surprised?


Will the slaughter and lies never end? We have become monsters from hell.

Published on Friday, May 21, 2004 by the Guardian/UK
"US Soldiers Started to Shoot Us, One by One"
Survivors describe wedding massacre as generals refuse to apologize
by Rory McCarthy in Ramadi


SATURDAY, MAY 22, 2004

It's now after midnight and I've just returned home from dinner and the 9:30 PM movie at the Detroit Institute of Arts with my friend Pat Kolon and her sister BJ.

My day began with numerous phone calls to Pat to work out our plans for next week's trip to New York City. I may have mentioned that my niece Gretchen and her Significant Other, Matt, are getting married in Central Park on Saturday, May 29. Pat and I are driving my new minivan--now named Sojourner--to NYC, leaving Detroit on Wednesday morning, May 26, and returning home Monday afternoon, May 31. Saturday will be my family day, but the other days and nights, Pat and I are planning to "do the town." For us, that means jazz and more jazz. So this morning I made reservations and/or bought tickets online for us to see Taj Mahal at the Blue Note on Thursday night, Marian McPartland at Birdland on Friday night, and Kiyoshi Kitagawa at the Blue Note for brunch on Sunday. I find it amazing that these legends of jazz and blues are performing at two of the three most respected jazz clubs (the Village Vanguard being the third) on the very weekend we'll be in New York. I am VERY excited!

After completing that business, I drove to pick up my alterations at Nini's, came home, and then scooted down to the gym. I worked out, visited briefly with Ed at his office, and scooted home. For some reason I was exhausted, so lay down for what ended up being a two-hour nap. After I'd showered and dressed, I received a phone call from my friend Jeff in California. He asked me to be part of a conference--I on the speaker phone and the others sitting in his living room--to discuss whether kindergarten would be a good idea for his son Noah next year, and if not, what would be a good alternative. As they say, it takes a village to raise a child. All too soon it was time for me to go pick up Pat and BJ for our night out.

And now it is time for me to hit the sack after this lovely full day.


SUNDAY, MAY 23, 2004

As horror upon horror spills out of the Bush-led occupation of Iraq, it's easy to miss the horrors being done to the Palestinian people (and animals) of Rafah by his pal, Ariel Sharon. They talk about "compassion fatigue", well we're looking at the danger of giving in to "horror fatigue." Just how much can we take without falling into a pit of despair or going numb?

I advise taking "news-free" days where we go outside, place our feet and hands in the earth, let our faces be kissed by sun or washed by rain, and recognize that there is wonder to be found even as humans around us are making unbelievably poor choices. And then come back and read analyses like this one from Starhawk that help us see what is happening in the world around us. As Americans, we should be especially cognizant of what Ariel Sharon is doing to the Palestinian people because we personally support his choices with our hard-earned tax dollars...$15 million per day.

Yes, this post is long, but I hope you will take the time to read it from beginning to end. Starhawk's perspective is one you will not find reflected in the mainstream media nor in the speeches or voting records of most US politicians. That makes it all the more important. She has made four trips to the Occupied Territories in the last two years, has studied the historical, social, political and religious backgound of the conflict there, and offers a well-thought out analysis of what Sharon's most recent escalation of military violence in Rafah means today and for the future.

"Sharon's Shell-Game in Rafah"
by Starhawk
May 23, 2004

Just over a year ago, I sat in a home near the Egyptian border in Rafah, in the Gaza strip. A five-year-old, curly-haired charmer of a girl was on my lap. Her older sister and brothers did homework to the background music of the thudding of bullets into the walls. The children were so inured to gunfire from the Israeli sniper towers and tanks that they didn't even react until the gunfire grew so loud that the older ones dived for the floor, the babies for the fragile shelter of their mother's arms.

I was there with the International Solidarity Movement, which supports nonviolent resistance against the Occupation. I'd come to help the teams that were with our member Rachel Corrie, who was crushed by a soldier in a bulldozer as she attempted to stop a home demolition, and with Tom Hurndall when he was shot trying to rescue a group of children who were under fire from an Israeli sniper tower.

I think of them, of the families I met and the traumatized children who followed us in packs whenever we ventured out on the streets, as I read the horrifying reports of the last weeks in Rafah. The homes I stayed in have been razed to the ground, along with the crowded neighborhoods where the old men would visit each other at twilight to brew tea over a small fire and talk, where the women still baked bread in clay ovens. The olive groves, the orange trees have fallen to bulldozers. Children like the ones I held and sang to, and their parents, have been killed in the demonstrations protesting the destruction of their communities.

To make the lives of those more hopeful, and to safeguard the lives of Israeli children, it is vital that we understand the true thrust of Sharon's current policies. Sharon is the sleight-of-hand magician, saying "Look here!" while the real action is somewhere else. Sharon says, "Look over here! We're pulling out of Gaza!" and Bush says, "OK, and in return, we'll stop looking at what you're doing in the West Bank." But Gaza and the West Bank are related, and unless we keep our eyes on both, we'll be victimized by the shell game.

Firing on a crowd of peaceful demonstrators with tank shells and helicopter gunships was such an outrage that it finally caught the attention of a jaded and cynical world. But the Israeli military has been responding to nonviolent demonstrations with extreme violence consistently throughout the past months, when an upsurge of civil resistance has arisen in the West Bank. This growing nonviolent movement is focused against the so-called 'security' wall that the military is building, which winds its way deep into Palestinian territory, confiscating farmland without compensation, scarring the green hills, uprooting ancient olive trees, and destroying the very communities who have historically had the most peaceful relationships with their Israeli neighbors.

Those demonstrations have been supported by internationals from the International Solidarity Movement, the International Women's Peace Service, and other human rights groups. The villagers have also called for help from the Israeli peace community, and groups as diverse as Rabbis for Human Rights, Bat Shalom, and Anarchists Against the Wall have responded, along with many others. Standing together, Palestinians, Israelis and internationals have faced clubs, horses, and arrests, and been fired on with sound bombs, tear gas, rubber coated steel bullets, and real bullets. In the village of Biddu alone, five Palestinians have been shot to death and one has died of tear gas inhalation in peaceful, unarmed protests. Israelis, too, have been seriously injured, and many have privately confessed to me that they believe it is only a matter of time before an Israeli is killed.

The first intifada, in the late eighties, was primarily a movement of civil resistance, involving every sector of society in acts of noncompliance with the occupation, such as boycotts, work stoppages and tax revolts. Among Palestinians, the first intifada is seen as bringing Israel to the bargaining table, establishing the PLO as the negotiating voice of the Palestinian movement, and laying the groundwork for the Oslo peace accords.

But the Oslo process is widely seen as one of betrayal. During the decade of Oslo, Israel continued to fund and support illegal settlements--really armed suburbs planted on hilltops--in the West Bank and Gaza, doubling the number of settlers. They confiscated Palestinian land without compensation, built a network of roads which are off-limits to Palestinians and which divide and segment their communities, and established a huge military infrastructure to guard the settlers and staff the checkpoints that restrict Palestinian freedom of movement. Disillusionment with Oslo led to disbelief in the Israeli government's good faith, and formed the ground for the armed struggle that characterizes the second intifada.

Only a tiny fraction of the Palestinian population actively participates in armed resistance. The vast majority of people want to defend their rights, but don't want to kill. A mass movement of civil resistance could provide an avenue for that struggle and kindle international sympathy and support. A movement in which Palestinians and Israelis struggle together, side by side, facing the same clubs and bullets as they have been in these past months, is tremendously threatening to the power base of the Israeli right wing. So this movement must be repressed, its leaders arrested, international peace activists denied entry, and demonstrations brutally repressed. The shooting of demonstrators in the West Bank sets the stage for the shelling of a demonstration in Gaza and the deaths of dozens of Palestinians.

The West Bank is the goal of Sharon's aborted Gaza pullout. Gaza has few resources, was not part of biblical Israel, and contains a large and unruly Palestinian population who cannot easily be integrated into Israel proper without threatening the demographics that maintain the thin fiction that Israel can be both Jewish and democratic, while denying full rights to the twenty percent of its own citizens who are Palestinian, and keeping those who live in the territories under martial law for decades.

In the contest for this region, the West Bank is the prize. It contains some of the most fertile land, two major aquifers, and regions of still-unspoiled natural beauty. Most importantly, it is the historic land of the Bible, where Abraham walked and is buried, where Joshua fought his battle of Jericho, where the prophets thundered and the festivals were celebrated. The West Bank was Judea and Samaria, the heart of the promised land.

Trading Gaza for Bush's tacit agreement to the annexation of the West Bank looked like a good deal to Sharon. However, he couldn't sell the deal to the right wing of his own party, who don't want to give up an inch or retreat from so much as an outhouse. So now the military has repaid assaults on soldiers by massive home demolitions and all-out war on civilians.

The 'security' wall is not a response to suicide bombings or some escalated condition of danger. It is part of a long-planned strategy, in place since the 1970s, to expand the state of Israel into the coveted West Bank lands. One piece of that strategy has been the building of the illegal settlements which the wall encloses and, in effect, annexes along with surrounding farmland, destroying the livelihood of the neighboring Palestinian farmers. The linked maze of barriers isolates many Palestinian villages, enclosing them behind barbed wire, cutting them off from each other and the rest of the West Bank, and turning them into open-air prisons. The wall and settlements are also linked to the building of Israel's transnational highway, which will shift population within Israel proper to the east, closer to the settlement blocs, so that they can become fully integrated parts of Israel proper.

The wall confiscates land that sits atop the major aquifers of the region. Already the settlers, who comprise less than 10% of the population of the West Bank, use 80% of the water resources. The wall will take what's left.

The wall is the end of any possible Palestinian state. The two-state solution was a reluctant compromise for many Palestinians, but was adopted and supported by their leadership and the vast majority of those who live in the Occupied Territories. It relinquished almost 80% of the historic land of Palestine to Israel, in return for the promise of an autonomous state on the other 20%.To most Israelis, it seemed a reasonable solution, and most Palestinians were willing to accept it, however reluctantly.

With the construction of the wall, that option is gone. The wall does not leave enough territory, water or resources to constitute a state. It creates isolated, open-air prisons out of the Palestinian population centers.

Whether you personally favor a two-state, one-state or no-state solution, unilaterally removing one of the major options for the region is no way to bring about either peace or security. And if Sharon's policies remove the option of a separate state for Palestinians, we must ask what end-game is he planning? Perpetual occupation, eternal effectual imprisonment for four million people? Transfer? Outright genocide? These options, elsewhere, are called 'ethnic cleansing,' and none of them are likely to bring about increased security or peace for Israel or the rest of the world.

A real policy of security would begin with a moratorium, on Israel's part, on the building of the wall, on policies of 'targeted assassinations', on attacks on civilians and brutal responses to nonviolent demonstrations. Such acts would be a small beginning of a change in course that would demonstrate good faith and a genuine desire for negotiations in which all people of the region could have a voice in determining their future.

It is up to those of us in the US, which funds the Occupation, and the international community to raise our voices now, to put pressure on Sharon to stop murdering civilians and children in the name of security, and begin pursuing a true path toward peace.


For a map of the wall, see:

For information about the International Solidarity Movement, see

Starhawk has made four trips to the Occupied Terriitories in the last two years with the International Solidarity Movement. For an archive of her posts and writings about Palestine, see She is an activist, organizer, and author of nine published books, including her latest, "Webs of Power: Notes from the Global Uprising" and eight other books on feminism, politics and earth-based spirituality. She teaches Earth Activist Trainings that combine permaculture design and activist skills, and works with the RANT trainer's collective, that offers training and support for mobilizations around global justice and peace issues.

To get Starhawk's periodic posts of her writings, email and put 'subscribe' in the subject heading.


MONDAY, MAY 24, 2004

How I would love to write about purple irises and red poppies dotting lawns so green you'd think they'd been painted by exuberant children. Or nights illuminated by flashes of lightning, sometimes right overhead and other times far in the distance. Or one of the many spring showers that left behind a large puddle on a soccer field near my house where I saw a falcon splashing on Saturday afternoon. Or the surprise of seeing two horseback riders out for a Sunday morning ride on my favorite scooting street yesterday.

Life is so good, why do we humans insist on messing it up?

I cannot stop thinking about the wedding out in the desert near the Syrian border of Iraq. Not only is it an absolute horror that the US military planes strafed those houses so mercilessly that 45 innocent people were killed, at least 13 of them children and 11 women, but the US military continues to justify the massacre by insisting it was a "safehouse for foreign fighters."

The AP reports today that

TV Image shows the bride arriving for her wedding party in the remote desert area near Mogr el-Deeb, Iraq, Tuesday, May 18, 2004.

Iraqi children celebrate during a wedding ceremony shortly before U.S. helicopters fired on the party, according to survivors of the attack, in the remote desert area near Mogr el-Deeb, Iraq , 600 km west of Baghdad and 20 km from the Syrian border, in this image made Sunday, May 23, 2004 from a Wednesday May 19 video obtained by the Associated Press. The attack killed more than 40 people, including Yasser Shawkat Abdullah, the cameraman who filmed the video. The U.S. military says it is investigating the attack and that evidence so far indicates the target was a safehouse for foreign fighters. (AP Photo/APTN)

The videotape obtained Sunday by Associated Press Television News captures a wedding party that survivors say was later attacked by U.S. planes early Wednesday, killing up to 45 people. The dead included the cameraman, Yasser Shawkat Abdullah, hired to record the festivities, which ended Tuesday night before the planes struck.

The U.S. military says it is investigating the attack, which took place in the village of Mogr el-Deeb about five miles from the Syrian border, but that all evidence so far indicates the target was a safehouse for foreign fighters.

"There was no evidence of a wedding: no decorations, no musical instruments found, no large quantities of food or leftover servings one would expect from a wedding celebration," Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt said Saturday. "There may have been some kind of celebration. Bad people have celebrations, too."

But video that APTN shot a day after the attack shows fragments of musical instruments, pots and pans and brightly colored beddings used for celebrations, scattered around the bombed out tent.

An AP reporter and photographer, who interviewed more than a dozen survivors a day after the bombing, were able to identify many of them on the wedding party video - which runs for several hours.

APTN also traveled to Mogr el-Deeb, 250 miles west of Ramadi, the day after the attack to film what the survivors said was the wedding site. A devastated building and remnants of the tent, pots and pans could be seen, along with bits of what appeared to be the remnants of ordnance, one of which bore the marking "ATU-35," similar to those on U.S. bombs.

A water tanker truck can be seen in both the video shot by APTN and the wedding tape obtained from a cousin of the groom.

On Monday, a senior coalition military officer said "we still don't believe there was a wedding going on" and that intelligence showed that only legitimate targets were attacked. The survivors agree that the wedding festivities had broken up for the night when the attack began, but they insist that there were no foreign fighters or other combatants in their group.

When is the US top brass going to come clean and admit that they murdered 45 innocent people? Of course they don't want to do this, especially when they're in the middle of dealing with the Abu Ghraib prison torture scandal, but they must. And don't think they didn't know what actually happened. From the AP report, we read that

Haleema Shihab, 32, one of the three wives of Rikad Nayef, said that as the first bombs fell, she grabbed her seven-month old son, Yousef, and clutching the hands of her five-year-old son, Hamza, started running. Her 15-year-old son, Ali, sprinted alongside her. They managed to run for several yards when she fell - her leg fractured.

"Hamza was yelling, 'mommy,'" Shihab, recalled. "Ali said he was hurt and that he was bleeding. That's the last time I heard him." Then another shell fell and injured Shihab's left arm.

"Hamza fell from my hand and was gone. Only Yousef stayed in my arms. Ali had been hit and was killed. I couldn't go back," she said from her hospital bed in Ramadi. Her arm was in a cast.

She and her stepdaughter, Iqbal - who had caught up with her - hid in a bomb crater. "We were bleeding from 3 a.m. until sunrise," Shihab said.

Soon American soldiers came. One of them kicked her to see if she was alive, she said.

"I pretended I was dead so he wouldn't kill me," said Shihab. She said the soldier was laughing.

Those soldiers saw the bodies strewn on the desert that morning. They couldn't have missed the fact that many of them were women and children. They knew what they had done. And now they're lying. Pure and simple. But the videotape doesn't lie. And neither do the survivors.

And let's talk for just a minute about the importance of having even a little knowledge about the customs of the country you've attacked and occupied. Listen to the ignorance displayed by our military leaders in this article from the Independent/UK:

"How many people go to the middle of the desert 10 miles from the Syrian border to hold a wedding?" demanded Maj-Gen Mattis.

The answer is plenty, if you come from a clan of livestock herders and that is where you have lived all your life. The clan straddles the Syrian border; even distant relatives would be expected to turn up from there, as well as the far corners of Iraq.

Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, the US military spokesman in Iraq, said US forces found guns, Syrian passports and a satellite phone at the scene of the fighting. None of that was surprising, either: even in the cities, every house has a weapon. In a village 75 miles from the nearest town they are even more necessary, both to protect against bandits and to shield flocks from wild animals. With no telephone lines and no mobile coverage, it is not unusual for such places to have a satellite phone as well.

Some of my blog and journal readers say to me, "Patricia, you can't let yourself get so upset about these things. You'll get depressed."

Well, I'm not depressed, my friends, I am OUTRAGED! How could the country of my birth have come to this? Even Andy Rooney, who can usually find the silver lining to any dark cloud, says "Our Darkest Days Are Here."

Oh, by the way, do you want to know the kind of weekend our commander-in-chief had? New York Times columnist Bob Herbert writes that

President Bush fell off his bike and hurt himself during a 17-mile excursion at his ranch in Crawford, Tex., on Saturday. Nothing serious. A few cuts and bruises. He was wearing a bike helmet and a mouth guard, and he was able to climb back on his bike and finish his ride.

A little later he left the ranch and went to Austin for a graduation party for his daughter Jenna. And then it was on to New Haven, where daughter Barbara will graduate today from Yale. Except for the bicycle mishap, it sounded like a very pleasant weekend.

Herbert ends his column by saying

There's a terrible sense of dread filtering across America at the moment and it's not simply because of the continuing fear of terrorism and the fact that the nation is at war. It's more frightening than that. It grows out of the suspicion that we all may be passengers in a vehicle that has made a radically wrong turn and is barreling along a dark road, with its headlights off and with someone behind the wheel who may not know how to drive.

Would somebody please grab the wheel and hit the brakes NOW?!!

© 2004 Patricia Lay-Dorsey. Please use with attribution.

Windchime Walker's current journal
Journal 52 archive (5/25-6/24/04)
Windchime Walker's home page