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SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 25, 2004
Now I know what it's like to be profiled.
Yesterday I went to Windsor, Ontario to have my hair cut and re-pinked. Leesa did a much better job of "pinking" than I'd done. She pinked the top quarter inch of hair that stands up on the top of my head. It's pretty radical and I LOVE it!!!
When it was time to return home, I had to go across the border. In Detroit, that means driving up to a border guard who is sitting in his/her wooden booth, and answering whatever questions they choose to ask. They usually ask what country you're a citizen of, why you were in Canada, how long you stayed, and are you bringing anything back. Since September 11, they are also likely to ask for ID, which, for me, consists of my old passport and current driver's license.
So yesterday afternoon I got the usual questions...with a new one added. This young whipper-snapper border guard asked, "Do you have drugs in the back?"
[DRUGS??? Yeah, sure. If I had drugs in the back, how likely is it that I'd say, "Sure! Want to see them?"]
I said, "No! I don't have any drugs in back."
Then he asked, "Do you USE drugs?"
"No! I don't use drugs!" And then I said, "So because I have pink hair, you're asking me about drugs? I'm 62 years old!"
He then said, "You're wearing tie-dye."
[Right, so if you wear tie-dye, you use drugs?]
He went on, "I bet you used A LOT of drugs when you were younger."
I answered, "No, as a matter of fact, I never even tried anything because I was always afraid I'd get addicted."
"Good girl!", he replied, and waved me on.
[GIRL??? My gawd, I could be that kid's grandmother!]
When I told Ed, he laughed and said, "So your pink hair is a success!" And I guess he's right. It's interesting to experience firsthand what my young "punk" sisters and brothers are apt to encounter when they try to go across the border. And I bet I got off easy, at that. Pinking my hair has more sociological ramifications than I'd realized.
By the way, I didn't put
up my journal last night because I didn't get home until 1:30
AM, wild punk that I am! Pat Kolon and I went to a great little
jazz club and heard Spencer
Barefield's Quartet (guitar, sax, bass and drums). The first
set was fairly well attended, but everyone except one man, Pat
and I left before the second set. So there we were, four of us
in the audience (including the owner), listening to four musicians
play their hearts out. The music was so awesome that we're returning
tonight. Detroit is such a terrific jazz city...I just wish the
musicians would receive the audiences (and financial recompense)
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 26, 2004
I want to bottle this day and bring it out again in four or five months. A perfect autumn day! Colors as bright as a box of crayons. Sun, short-sleeve warm but not hot. Enough winds on the lake to fill mainsails, jibs, jennys, and spinakers, but not so much that anyone needed to concentrate too hard. Even the gulls seemed to be enjoying a lazy afternoon. And now at 6:30 PM, it's still an open window kind of day where you hear the cicadas and birds trying to outsing one another, your neighbors' voices as they work in their garden, an occasional dog barking a few blocks away, and children's screams and laughter in the distance. The kind of day that seems like an impossible dream in February. At least here in Michigan.
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 27, 2004
Have you ever counted to 1000 out loud? Late this afternoon, I heard and helped read out loud the name and age of every one of the 1000 American service men and women who have lost their lives in Bush's war on and occupation of Iraq. It took about an hour. Multiply that number by 14 or 15 to see how many Iraqi civilians have lost their lives, keeping in mind that that number does not include ANY of the Iraqi service men and women who have also died.
How could anyone think getting rid of Saddam Hussein was worth that high price? And it isn't over. Not by a long shot.
Yesterday the Veterans for Peace, Chapter 74 of SouthEast Michigan, planted 1000 white wooden crosses and Stars of David in the Woodward Avenue median at 9 Mile Rd. in Ferndale as a memorial to the 1000 American service men and women who have lost their lives in Iraq since March 2003. At 6 PM today they planned to hold a Memorial Service at the site before removing the crosses and Stars of David.
Unfortunately, the Department of Transportation ordered them to remove the symbolic grave markers early this afternoon, so the Memorial Service was held instead in front of the Ferndale City Hall...with the blessings of the city, I might add.
I'd arrived at 4:45 PM in order to join the weekly Peace Vigil at the same location, so was able to get a picture of the grave markers before they'd all been pulled up. By the way, a faithful few have been holding a Peace Vigil for an hour every Monday afternoon since before the war began. They are out there with their signs in all kinds of weather, encouraging commuters to honk in support of peace as they drive by. Today, one of the signs read, "Sound horn to honor 1000 U.S. soldiers dead in Iraq."
I can't begin to tell you how sad it was to hear each name of these young men and women read out loud (photos #1, #2, & #3). As I listened, I thought of the mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, grandmothers, grandfathers, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends who mourn each and every one of these young women and men. The woman holding her baby who stood beside me helped me remember that each of these individuals had once been a baby in his or her mother's arms. What a loss. What an UNNECCESSARY loss.
Will we never learn?
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 28, 2004
My day validated anthropologist Mary Catherine Bateson's theory of women's lives as improvisation (see Composing A Life by M. C. Bateson). Very little that happened was planned, and yet everything fit together in surprisingly wonderful ways.
It started with a not-so-wonderful phone call from the gym with the news that Matt had gone home sick so had to cancel my personal training session for today. We rescheduled for tomorrow. So here I was with an unexpectedly free day. I continued the never-ending project of cleaning up my email files, and managed to get the inbox for one of my screen names down to 24 messages. I also finally researched the Kelley's Blue Book value of my red Neon and called in a classified ad to our local newspaper. That poor car has been sitting in the police parking lot next door except when dear Eddie has taken it out occasionally for a ride and/or has gotten it washed. It's time to find her a good home.
At noon, Pat Kolon called. Today was her birthday and because of my not being at the gym as I'd expected, Pat and I were able to plan a spontaneous lunch at my favorite Lebanese restaurant and a matinee at the movie theater next door. "Delovely" was still playing and Pat hadn't yet seen it. I was happy to see it again, so we did.
At one point in the movie, Cole Porter's musical play,"Kiss Me Kate," is shown onscreen. I remember being attracted to the set from that play when I first saw "Delovely." Today it just about knocked me out. The juxtaposition of purple, prussian blue, green and cobalt blue literally made my mouth water. Right then and there I decided it was time for me to start painting again. And I knew what medium I wanted to use: watercolor, using acylic inks. There's nothing like these inks for giving you brilliant colors, and color was what I was after.
On the way home, I stopped at our local art store and got a dozen luscious colors of acrylic inks. It wasn't easy either because the store has a step up to get into the store. I scooted around back and find that there was a step down to enter the store from that door. So I asked Carolyn, one of the framers, if she'd do my shopping for me. With a minimum of effort, she managed just fine. I already had good watercolor paper and brushes at home but I did need a new plastic palette. No problem--one was on sale.
I never know how much you, my readers, know of my life-up-till-now. Art has been an important thread in my life since Ed bought me my first set of watercolors in 1974. I went back to college in fine arts from 1976-79, and sold and exhibited my watercolors, mixed media and raku clay sculptures professionally until the mid-80s. Also in the '80s, I was privileged to perform with a gifted artist--Laurie Margot Ross--who used masks and corporeal mime as part of her performance art. Then in 1991, I converted my original pen-and-ink drawings about the first Gulf War into postcards, posters and T-shirts, and started a business I called Word Art. Around 1993, I added original women's drawings in the form of altar sets to my Word Art inventory. From 1994-96, I painted and sold what I called, "Sacred Stones." During these years, I vended my art at national peace conferences, regional psychic fairs and Detroit-area women's events. Since the mid-90s, the only art I've made has been signs for anti-war rallies and the art projects I've been doing with the kids at school since October 2001.
With that kind of herstory, you can see that my wanting to make art is not totally unexpected.
This afternoon, I got home in time to bring my art supplies upstairs to the front room. Again, the Universe (or something) had arranged ahead of time for me to have moved my laptop from the long table in that room to the desk in my bedroom, so the table was free for painting. Perfect!
In no time at all it was time for me to get back in Sojourner, my handicap-accessible minivan, and drive down to the Traffic Jam restaurant near the Wayne State University campus. Granny Birdy, our beloved Raging Granny who had moved to Sacramento, California last year, was in town and we Grannies had a date with her for dinner. Grannies Motoko, Kathy, Dolores, Magi, Charlotte and I joined Birdy for a delicious dinner, good talk and even a little Granny-singing (photos #1 & #2).
I was back home by 8:30 PM with a mounting desire to start painting! Eddie kindly opened all the bottles--even when my hands worked well, I found those things hard to open--and I sat down to paint. What delight!!! Now I know one more thing that will help me make it through the tough times that are bound to come if the worst happens on November 2. Another "black walnut" to add to my stash (see my journal entry for Monday, September 20, 2004). I stopped before I got too far with the painting but already I am in painter's heaven.
Now you see why I love jazz so much...improvisation is my favorite way to live.
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 2004
I'm resisting my natural impulse to "show and tell" by taking a photo of the watercolor painting I finished today, and posting it here. No, this time I want to hold the fruits of my creativity close to my chest. I don't want this venture to degenerate into an ego trip. This is about process not product. OK, some day I may show you a painting, but I hope not too soon. Nothing is more damaging to authentic creativity than worrying about how others are going to respond to your work. I probably shouldn't even show my paintings to Eddie, but I'm afraid I'm not there yet. I so enjoy his enthusiastic response to my use of color.
What I will share is how the painting evolved under its own power. I'd started by just playing with colors and shapes, but when I looked at what had emerged last night, I saw the head and beak of a fanciful bird. So today I went with it and gave the bird a neck and then added two more birds in flight. It spoke of freedom to me, freedom from living and dying with every decision made by people over whom I have no control, ie., politicians, government officials, military leaders, corporate CEOs, media magnates and the American voters. By the way, the birds I painted were no sweet little critters, they looked more like vultures than anything else. So the freedom it refers to is no easy gift, but must obviously be grasped with strength and tenacity. And something must die in order to feed that which must live.
Isn't art amazing? It takes you where you don't expect to go.
I remember when I used to teach--more like facilitate--a watercolor class for adults at a community center in the mid-to-late '80s. I worked up a slide presentation of my students' work that I called, "Art Is a Secret We Keep from Ourselves." So often my art knew where I was going before I did. I'd look back, maybe six months, maybe years later, and recognize the path I'd taken had been there, painted or sculpted in symbolic language.
Anyway, I was so excited about painting that I couldn't sleep last night. And then I couldn't wait to finish my session at the gym with Matt today so I could get home and get going again. Now the first painting is dry and I've got fresh water and my art materials laid out, ready to start another. As the song from "West Side Story" goes: "Tonight, tonight..."
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 30, 2004
No, I did not watch the presidential debates. Instead I was at an event that dispelled lies rather than providing a platform for them.
On nights like this I thank my lucky stars that I ended up in Detroit, for it is here that truth and courage flourish. Perhaps it takes a wounded city like ours to recognize greatness where others just see sadness and despair.
Do you remember Viola Liuzzo? She was the only white woman killed by the Ku Klux Klan during the Civil Rights struggles of the 1950s and 1960s. In Selma, Alabama, on March 25, 1965, to be exact. At that time, Viola and a black civil rights worker, Leroy Moton, had just driven five marchers back to Selma after the Selma-to-Montgomery march for voting rights. Viola was shot and killed on a lonely stretch of road. Within two days, four members of the Klan--one of them, a man named Tommy Rowe, who was an FBI informant--were arrested for her murder. Rowe received immunity for testifying against the other three. They were acquitted by an all-white, all-male jury.
Soon after the immediate outcry against Viola Liuzzo's murder, the FBI--following personal orders by J. Edgar Hoover--mounted an insidious campaign to smear Viola Liuzza's name and reputation. This 39 year-old Detroit mother of five and wife of a Teamster official was portrayed as a drug-using, sexually loose woman who had gone down to Selma to satisfy her appetite for sexual adventures with black men. It was a similar "smear campaign" to the one that Hoover was using to try to discredit the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Through the Freedom of Information Act, her children finally got hold of the 1000-page FBI file on Viola Liuzzo, a file that was three times larger than the entire FBI file on the KKK!
The reality was that Viola Liuzzo was a longtime committed champion for social justice who was active in the Detroit Chapter of the NAACP (the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) and had been so moved by the violence done on "Bloody Sunday" in Selma that she felt compelled to go down and join in the struggle for voting rights. By the way, her best friend, a black woman named Sarah Evans, had been instrumental in getting Viola involved in the civil rights movement in the first place.
Well, tonight in Detroit, the truth of Viola Liuzza's life and death was finally told. We were privileged to be present with the director Paola di Florio, the producer Nancy Dickenson, four of Viola's five children, Viola's grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and even her old friend Sarah Evans, now 94, at the World Premiere of the documentary film, "Home of the Brave." From Detroit it will be going to Montgomery, Alabama, New York City and Washington, DC. After that, they hope to get as wide a distribution as possible and even bring it into the schools. It has already won awards at film festivals all over the country where it also received excellent reviews from critics.
Please see it if you get a chance, or, even better, make it happen by contacting the distributor, Emerging Pictures, and encouraging your local theaters to bring it to your town. Even though it has taken almost forty years to be told, Viola Liuzza's story is as timely today as it was back in 1965. When we look at what happened in Florida in the 2000 presidential election, we see that the voting rights of persons of color are still at risk. We can't forget the sacrifices made by Viola Liuzza and all the courageous persons who suffered and died during the Civil Rights struggles of the 1950s and 1960s. For the struggle continues...
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 1, 2004
What a fun evening! About 5:30 PM, I'd scooted down to visit Ed and to work out at the gym. After my workout, he and I walk/scooted two blocks to Jumps restaurant for dinner. Ed ordered his usual rare hamburger with mushrooms and a side of sauteed red-skin potatoes and onions, and I got my usual cracked wheat/taboulee salad with a bowl of seafood chowder to start.
On the way over, we'd seen crowds of people lined up to get into the high school football field across from Ed's office. We could tell by the high level of excitement, gold-and-blue painted faces and "Beat South" t-shirts that this was the annual match-up between the two high schools in our community, known as "North" and "South."
Coming out of the restaurant after dinner, we could see the field and bleachers lit up like a stage set and could hear the crowds screaming and cheering. On an impulse, we decided to go to the game. Ed buys a senior's pass every year so he can go to high school athletic events, so we didn't have to pay to get in. And even though the bleachers are wheelchair-accessible, there was no use trying to get up there--they were packed with young families with strollers, babies and toddlers running around, middle school kids trying to look like high schoolers, parents, grandparents, interested residents like us, not to mention hordes of high school students. Instead, we parked in front of the wire fence onto the field and had an excellent view of the action.
It was so evocative of my own high school years. My girlfriends and I especially loved the Friday night games because we felt so cool sitting together, cheering for the jocks who somehow became larger-than-life under the lights with their padded shoulders, tiny waists and muscular legs. Boys who seemed rather gorky in the halls became instant heroes that even our parents admired. I always cheered so loudly that I'd lose my voice for a day or two after every game. When I think of those days in the '50s, I think of purposely-scuffed saddle shoes, bobby socks rolled down with an extra layer of sock to make the roll as fat as possible, stiff denim blue jeans rolled up above the socks, circle pins carefully pinned to the right collar of the cotton blouse you wore under your crew neck sweater (if you pinned it to the left collar that meant you went "all the way!").
Except for different clothes requirements, things didn't seem to have changed all that much.
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 2, 2004
Today was the monthly gathering of our O Beautiful Gaia Great Lakes Basin community. Even though our CD came out last November, we've decided to continue getting together every month to sing and deepen our commitment to protecting Gaia, the earth. I took photos of our afternoon together in Windsor, Ontario at the Ojibway Nature Centre and will post them tomorrow. Even though it isn't quite 10 PM, my body says it's time for bed.
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 3, 2004
I write this account of yesterday with gratitude for all that I have been given. Having such a loving, creative, politically and socially aware community of women in my life is a gift to be prized. Add to that our being women of different countries and cultures, and you can imagine the depth and wisdom we share. Our different ways of being in the world--much of it informed by where we were born and live today--offer opportunities for growth and compassion that we wouldn't have otherwise. As a woman born in the United States, I am deeply grateful to my Canadian sisters for their occasional reminders of my inborn tendency toward American imperialistic attitudes and actions. We American women CAN come on awfully strong sometimes!
On Saturday, I awoke to the welcome sound of rain. Although our O Beautiful Gaia Great Lakes community had hoped to spend the afternoon together at Windsor, Ontario's Ojibway Nature Centre, our desperate need for rain overrode any disappointment I might have felt. But, as it turned out, the sun came out after lunch and we moved happily from the library basement where we'd spent our morning over to the Ojibway Nature Centre where we encountered a sparkling fresh world of greens and blues.
We started by meeting--one picnic table of Canadians and another of Americans--to discuss and decide upon which groups/organizations we each wanted to donate the thousands of dollars profit we'd already collected from sales of our O Beautiful Gaia CD. Women on both sides of the river had done extensive research as to who in our bioregion--both Canadian and American--was doing the work of education, protection and sustainance of the earth, air and waters that reflected what our two year project has been and continues to be about. In both countries we were interested not just in preserving wilderness areas but in encouraging environmental work, especially involving children, in our own urban areas of Windsor and Detroit. Thanks to the groundwork done by a good number of our women, the decision-making process was both informative and relatively easy.
And then we walked/scooted to the nearby boardwalk over a lush spring-fed pond dotted with lily pads, pussywillows and reeds. On the way we met a toad, a snake and a frog, perfect companions to remind us of why we do what we do.
Once there, we sang and sang and sang. We even sang "Beginners," a song that we'd loved but had not been able to record because of our struggles getting it right. Then Ellen, who had attended a songfest the night before at the Ark in Ann Arbor, taught us a wonderfully easy way to sing in harmony. You can see by looking--photos #1, #2, #3 & #4--at our faces how much we enjoyed that! . We closed by reading aloud together excerpts from poems gathered by Pauline (photos #1 & #2).
Even though most of our sisters live within an hour of either Windsor or Detroit, a few travel long distances to join with us the first Saturday of every month. Mary Tiner drives in from Toronto, Arlene Buckley--to whom we send get well messages--comes from Georgetown, Ontario (near Toronto), and Mary White--whom Peg, Jeanne and I visited in early September--comes in from northern Michigan near Traverse City. Each is precious to our circle.
MONDAY, OCTOBER 4, 2004
Most of the people I know are deeply concerned about Election 2004, not just the outcome but how fair the election process will be. Not only have we heard horror stories about how easy the new electronic voting machines are to manipulate, but we remember Election 2000 where segments of our population, particularly persons of color, were disenfranchished and denied their right to vote. We can't let that happen again!
There are many organizations working to ensure that voters' rights are protected on November 2. The one I've hooked up with is called Election Protection and is sponsored by Working Assets and a coalition of civil rights organizations across the country. Their web site is
Election Protection offers individuals the opportunity to act as Poll Monitors and/or Voters' Bills of Rights canvassers in at-risk parts of our country. As it happens, the state where I live--Michigan--is considered an at-risk state and Detroit, Inkster and Flint, at-risk cities. One does not need a background in law or the ability to speak a second language to volunteer, although that would certainly be an asset.
Each volunteer will be trained either by going to a training session in person, or via a 1-2 hour conference call prior to the election. And if you choose to do Voters' Bill of Rights canvassing, you'll have the opportunity to sign up to work before November 2, especially the weekend before the election. In addition to the conference call training, each Poll Monitor will be expected to participate in an onsite training the night before the election at the poll to which they've been assigned. You are invited to sign up with a friend or family member if you want.
My friend Pauline Loewenhardt of Ann Arbor introduced me to Election Protection, and she and I have signed up to volunteer together as Poll Monitors in Detroit on November 2. Whatever the outcome of the election, I don't want to look back and wish I'd done more to help create the world I want for us, our children and grandchildren.
I'm encouraging everyone I know to consider volunteering to help protect voter's rights where you live or in at-risk states near you. Yes, some volunteers will be traveling to other states and cities to do this necessary work. Whether you choose to work with Election Protection or another group, please do what you can to help us try to make Election 2004 more fair than Election 2000.
In my 44 years as a registered voter there has never been a more important election. What happens on November 2, 2004 will determine the course of events for persons, plants and animals across the planet. Much as I would like it to be otherwise, the president of United States has unbelievable power worldwide. In the past four years, we've seen how George W. Bush handles that power. May we get the chance to see if John Kerry will do better.
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 5, 2004
I'm going to show you one of my watercolor paintings because that's what I was doing tonight instead of writing this journal entry. It's called "Studio Sparks #2" because I started it this afternoon while listening to Eric Friesen's new show out of Ottawa, "Studio Sparks", on CBC Radio Two (Canadian Broadcasting Company). Yesterday was his first show and I painted "Studio Sparks #1" while listening to it. If you live in Canada or in any border city where you can get CBC, I so recommend your tuning in to his show. It airs from 12 noon to 3 PM, Monday through Friday, and is an imaginative mix of classical, jazz and world music, as well as fascinating interviews with persons in the musical world. For years, Eric was host of CBC's popular "In Performance" live concert radio show and honed his skills at interviewing musicians, composers and conductors there. He's a real treasure. It just occurred to me that you can also listen to "Studio Sparks" online!
Besides painting, today I worked out at the gym with Matt. We continue to push the envelope of my abilities and I LOVE the challenge! My other activity of the day was working with Granny Josie as we organized the Raging Grannies to go sing at the Sierra Club protest demo tomorrow. Candidate George W. Bush is coming to town and will be speaking at a large rally on the soccer field at Oakland Community College northwest of Detroit. He's scheduled to speak at 3 PM but the Sierra Club's demo is starting at 12:30 PM. Canny planning, I'd say, since the main access road--Orchard Lake Rd.--is going to be closed to traffic sometime between 1-2 PM. Of course, George will never see us but maybe the media will. In times like these it's important to let the world community and the American public know that LOTS of Americans see that the emperor has no clothes and are doing everything they can to get him out of office.
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 6, 2004
After almost four hours protesting outside Oakland Community College where Bush was giving a speech at a big rally today, I'm one pooped Raging Granny. But it was all worth it. The media pretty much ignored us--and there were HUNDREDS of us from a wide range of activist organizations--but the busloads and busloads of Bush supporters being ferried onto the campus DID see us. And the Emperor himself--if he was looking out the window of his heavily guarded limo--saw us too. Actually I care less about Bush seeing us than about his supporters. I know Bush doesn't give much of a damn what we think, but if we made even ONE person who was attending his rally think twice about supporting him, that would be enough.
Tomorrow I'll share pictures. And now to bed.
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 7, 2004
I've just finished my 40-minute Election Protection volunteer training by conference call. I will also attend an election eve training onsite here in Detroit. What a well-organized effort to protect voters' rights!
Election Protection is a coalition of perhaps 100 civil rights and humanitarian organizations across the country that is dedicated to ensuring that each registered voter can vote on November 2 with no hassle and that each vote counts. They're totally non-partisan and insist that all volunteers conduct themselves that way in any dealings they have with voters or election officials.
They've chosen 17 states and dozens of cities in each state that are considered "at-risk" either because of having a history of voters having been disenfranchished in past elections, or being involved in close races, or having a large number of African-American or Spanish-speaking voters (historically the voters most at risk of having their rights denied), or being an area where a lot of new voters are expected at the polls. My state of Michigan and the city of Detroit are on the list.
We volunteers will be there as poll monitors to give each voter a copy of their Voter's Bill of Rights before they enter the polling station, and then to check with them as they leave to be sure that they did not have any problems voting. Possible difficulties could include the polls opening late or closing early, machines not working properly, insufficient ballots, lines where voters would have to wait more than a half an hour, intimidation of voters, asking for more ID than is legally required, etc. We will have access to attorneys by cell phone (that Election Protection provides each volunteer) and there will be roaming attorneys who will be checking in with us periodically during the day. Every volunteer will be partnered with another volunteer, often someone of your own choice. As I'd said before, my friend Pauline and I are volunteering together in Detroit on Election Day.
It feels good to know I'll be doing something to help this election be conducted more fairly than 2000.
Speaking of Election 2004, yesterday the Raging Grannies joined with the Sierra Club and dozens of other peace and justice organizations to let George W. Bush and his supporters know what we think of his environmental policies, war on and occupation of Iraq, four years of lies and half-lies, and more as chartered buses, limos and finally Bush's motorcade drove through the heavily-guarded Orchard Lake Road entrance to Oakland Community College for his big GOP rally.
We were lucky it was a beautiful autumn day with temperatures in the high 60s F. I'd guess, at the height, there were 3-4 long blocks lined by protesters with signs. In addition to some of our favorite anti-war and anti-Patriot Act songs, we Grannies sang two new songs I'd adapted for the occasion. It was our first time protesting with an environmental group like the Sierra Club, so I thought we needed songs that related to their--and our--concerns about what the Bush administration has done to gut environmental protections of land, water and air. The song we--and lots of our sister and brother protesters--sang over and over was one I whipped off an hour before I left for the demo yesterday morning. I based it on GranMotoko's wonderful "Are You Sleeping?" lyrics. It goes:
ARE YOU SLEEPING?
(for the earth)
(Tune: Frere Jacques)
Are you sleeping?
Are you sleeping?
Rivers are polluted
Old growth trees uprooted
VOTE BUSH OUT!
VOTE BUSH OUT!
It worked well because it was easy to memorize so we could sing it without looking at our song sheets. We also like to sing this song in rounds which adds interest. Anyway, it was our stand-by whenever TV cameras panned on us, which unfortunately didn't happen very often yesterday. Only one Detroit TV station bothered to come out to where the protests were going on, and one station from Lansing. The Oakland Press, a county newspaper, was the only print media I saw interviewing protesters. I gave two interviews which I hope were helpful.
It was a long day for us Raging Grannies--photos #1, #2 & #3--and longer for some of the other protesters. We got there a little before noon and left at 3:30 PM, soon after Bush's motorcade had passed by on its way into the rally. But it looked like a good number of the Sierra Club folks were going to stick it out until he left. I was mightily impressed with these folks, especially Melissa who had organized the Sierra Club protest and kept us engergized with her chants and ready smile. And who couldn't love the "Smokestacks"! (photos #1 & #2). It was a privilege to stand side by side with them for the earth.
The signs around us spoke of political preferences, anti-war sentiments, anti-corporate globalization issues and environmental concerns. These were just a few:
Bush Adminstration Protects Polluters Not People
Pollution Is Not a Family Value
320,000 babies born in U.S. each year at risk of developmental harm due to mercury exposure in utero
Privatize Everything...by BillionairesForBush.com
I am not a Republican and neither is my only son...God
Hey, ya gotta have a sense of humor!
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 8, 2004
Today is our 38th wedding anniversary. We celebrated it by having lunch together at an upscale local restaurant, then walking home together on this gorgeous autumn day. The maple trees are beginning to show their colors but I'm happy to see that most other trees are still green.
We have such a good marriage. I feel very grateful to have Ed in my life. We are quite different in personality, interests and perspectives but that's what keeps life interesting. How boring it would be if we were too much alike! The most important thing is that we care deeply for and respect one another. All the rest pales in comparison with that.
Ed gave me a sweet anniversary card, the envelope of which had a gold seal with a crown on it. Interestingly, it was just like the crown that a lion in this morning's dream had been wearing. He also gave me a check "for purely irresponsible spending" and I gave him a sinfully rich chocolate mousse cake from a french bakery. This afternoon I spent some of my check on a new 1" flat sable brush and two Arches watercolor paper blocks. Ed just enjoyed his first piece of cake and I'm now on my way back to the front room to finish a painting I started after dinner. How I love to paint!
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 9, 2004
Another wonderful jazz night! Tonight Pat and I went to a new jazz club--not really new, just new to us. We'd been hearing about Bert's Marketplace in the Eastern Market for months but tonight was the first time we'd gotten over there. What a funky place! It's where local jazz musicians go for late night jams after they've finished their gigs around town. But to hear that you have to be ready to stay up REALLY late. Like until 4 AM! Pat and I had to leave early--12:45 AM--because she has to take house duty tomorrow (today) at 8 AM. But we heard two terrific sets by the George Davidson Trio (drums, Hammond organ & tenor sax) before we had to leave.
Detroit is such a great jazz city!
My day had many parts. It started at the Detroit Zoo. I was there not to see the animals--which actually make me heart-sick to see--but to see a particular ginko tree. I'd taken a photo of this tree in July 2001 and had posted it in my online journal. A week ago I received an email from a professor at Ohio State University who asked if she could use this photo for the cover of a book she's written. The editor also likes it and has sent it to the cover designer to see if it will work. To be honest, I doubt if the resolution is high enough for it to be used. So I thought I'd go back to the zoo and take a photo with higher resolution. But I couldn't find the tree. Where I thought it was, there's a newly-built education building. So much for taking another photo.
After that I went to Ferndale, a city just a couple of miles from the zoo. I had a delicious lunch buffet at the Star of India restaurant on Nine Mile Road, and then went to A Women's Perogative bookstore across the street. While there I bought a We' Moon 2005 calendar and a bumper sticker which I immediately put on Sojourner, my handicap-accessible minivan. I put it next to my only other bumper sticker. Together they read, "There is a peaceful alternative. Redefeat Bush." By the way, this is the first time I have EVER put a political bumper sticker on my car, but these times call for unusual measures.
I stopped at the gym before going home, and worked out. Not surprisingly, when I got home at 5 PM I fell into bed for a good long nap. At 7:30 PM I sat with Ed while he ate dinner and then took off at 8:30 PM to go meet Pat for jazz.
Yes, it was a rather full day!
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 10, 2004
There's an element of wonder in dreaming something into being. Yes, maybe you made it happen, but then the Universe, the Goddess or whatever you choose to call it, takes over and puts her own spin on it. So the manifesting of your dream surprises even you. That's what happened today.
I don't know if you recall but after attending the National Women's Music Festival at Ohio State University this July I wrote in my journal:
I attended a Music Reading Made Easy workshop, a superb poetry-writing workshop, two Sacred Circle singing workshops, and one rehearsal of Wahru's Drum Orchestra. The Sacred Circle singing workshops planted the seed of an idea that I could start such a group here in the Detroit area. When I mentioned the idea to my friends in the car coming home, they were most enthusiastic. It's a pretty simple proposition, actually: I just get the word out to my women's singing groups, open my home once a month (we're thinking of having it from 3-5 PM on the second Sunday of every month starting in October), and have some chants and short songs ready to start us off. I plan to bring a tape recorder to the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival so I can tape Coco's and Linda's Sacred Song Circle that is held Tuesday-Saturday mornings in the sacred grove. And, of course, each woman who joins us here in Detroit will bring (or compose) her own favorite chants and simple songs. Singing in circle like this, with no sheets of music to get in the way, or need to learn set harmonies (women are invited to create their own harmonies in song circles) helped me see what I've been missing. This is the way I like to sing.
And today the seed bore fruit! Seven of us--Jan T., Jackie, Barb, Jan S., Sooz, Pat K. and I sat in a circle from 3-5 PM on this sunny October day and sang for two solid hours. I'd done as I'd said I would do, and had taped the Singing in Sacred Song workshops that I'd attended at the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival in August, so had a good group of chants to start us off. I'd also written a new one for this occasion, and others in the circle brought their favorite chants for us to sing. But it was what grew up from that soil that was touched with magic.
Somewhere into the second hour of singing, the energy shifted and deepened. Instead of singing words and tunes, we started to sing our Selves. As Wiccan folks describe it, the "cone of power" rose. My fingers started tingling--always a sign of chi (energy) flowing freely--and everyone in the circle agreed that something special was happening. As we sang and some of our sisters danced, the power rose higher and higher until finally Barb suggested that we "tone" (sound wordlessly). It was then that I felt our healing, peace-filled energy flowing into places that needed it. Iraq came to mind, Jan's son who's recently been diagnosed with cancer came to mind, women and children all over the world came to mind. We were touching places and people we might never see, but what we were doing in this suburban Detroit living room was benefiting not just ourselves but the world. That's the power of singing in sacred circle.
How grateful I am to Kay Gardner who introduced so many of us to this way of singing. Kay who died suddenly ten days after she'd been with us singing and playing her flute at the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival in 2002. Kay, the Dianic priestess and founder of Women With Wings sacred song circle in Bangor, Maine. Kay, without whom "Women's Music" would not have flourished as it did. Yes, Kay was with us here today. As were her partner CoCo and Linda from Women With Wings who have kept Kay's gift alive in the world since her death.
And today was just the beginning for our circle. Blessed be.
MONDAY, OCTOBER 11, 2004
I've been thinking about a statement I hear repeated over and over these days: "Our country has never been more divided." Is that true, and if so, why?
As I reflect on it, I realize that I must take some personal responsibility for that divisiveness. The truth is that I do feel separated from a large segment of our population, a segment that sees things so differently from me that I can't see how we can reconcile our differences. I'm not particularly proud of my inability to understand where they are coming from, but there it is. I often feel like we're different species trying to exist in peace on the same planet, but without the tools to do so. The primary tool being understanding.
It boils down to this: How can people I know and like look at the same realities I see and perceive them so differently? To be even more specific, how can educated, intelligent women and men want George W. Bush to have another four years in office?
Do they not see his lies? Or if they see them, why don't they seem to care? Are they not disturbed that he took this country into a war that is costing thousands of lives and billions of dollars and untold suffering by innocent people, a war that he has now justified by giving a half dozen reasons, none of which is based on facts?
And what about the economy? Fewer people have jobs now than when Bush took office in 2001, and the jobs they have are part-time, low-paid, with no health benefits or pensions. Then you have to look at the federal deficit. Although Clinton left a budget with a surplus of funds, in four short years Bush has managed to run up the highest national debt in the history of this country. Are people not bothered by that? I thought Republicans liked less government, not more.
Next let's look at the Bill of Rights and due process of law. Under Bush and his Attorney General, John Ashcroft, our country has lost the right to habeus corpus, not to mention any legal protection of our privacy. What about Guantanamo and the network of prisons run by the CIA around the world? These are places where individuals are beyond any protection by law, places where torture and killings and sexual abuse are systematically exercised. Does no one care about this?
But what he has done to the environment has the most far-reaching impact on, not just our country, but the entire planet. We all know that as soon as he got into office, Mr. Bush refused to honor Clinton's having signed the Kyoto Global Warming Agreement. And that was just the beginning. By appointing his political campaign donors to positions of leadership in the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), Bush has turned the agency that was created to monitor industrial giants like oil, mining, logging, auto and electric companies, into their ally and promoter. That means there is little oversight of their ongoing pollution and destruction of our land, air and waters. The Clean Air and Clean Water Acts that have been protecting the environment since the 1970s, are being gutted through policy decisions that are decided behind closed doors and never make it to the Senate or House for a vote. Our government has never been more secretive and there seem to be no checks and balances on the Executive or Judicial branches, checks and balances that I thought were built into our Constitution.
What about our international reputation and relationship with our allies, or I should say, former allies? The United States has never been so hated, criticized, ridiculed and feared. And I'm not even going to go into the embarrassment of having a president who can barely string five words together unless he's been coached extensively by his speechwriters, political and public relations advisors.
Then there's Bush's Christian fundamentalist values and how they have impacted women, not just in this country but worldwide. There is no question that if he gets re-elected, all the rights we thought we'd won in the last 3-4 decades will be at risk of becoming history.
These are just a few of the things that George W. Bush and his people have given our country in the past four years. How could anyone want more of that?
Yes, people are afraid. September 11th showed the American people that we are no longer immune from the kind of violence most countries have lived with for generations. But wouldn't you think this might have been a wake-up call rather than a call to arms? Why don't the majority of Americans see that we are hated not because of what we have but because of what we do? I can't see that it would stretch anyone's intelligence to realize that the best defense against terrorist acts would be to stop being the world's #1 bully. Instead, George W. Bush and his Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, do just the opposite. They respond to one act of terrorism by terrorizing the rest of the world with threats of violence, actual violence, blackmail and tactics better suited to a Mafia Don than a President of a supposedly democratic republic.
Why don't my neighbors with their Bush/Cheney lawn signs and bumper stickers see this like I do? That's what I mean about my being part of the problem. I feel like we speak different languages and live on different planets. What seems so clear to me obviously hasn't reached into their consciousness. But how could it not? That is the question I ask myself every day that I have to scoot down streets lined with Bush/Cheney signs. What are they thinking?
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 12, 2004
From my wise friend Genevieve in British Columbia came the following reflections on the questions I posed in yesterday's journal entry:
The reality is that many people are coming from other mindsets because of their life experiences and their life expectations. I have thought about this a lot and I think that a person who supports Bush and his actions may be:
--Someone who has to have a "tough" (on terrorism) person to control them, protect them and their lives, usually because of the way they have been parented. This will sometimes include people who are what I call "right-wing Christians," where their beliefs are set in stone. They cannot imagine being responsible for their own behavior. If there is something wrong, it must be others' faults and someone in authority (the Pres, God, administration, Generals) should deal with it.
-- They are people who do not bother to learn about events or peoples beyond their own comfortable lives. If a person is poor and unfortunate, it is perceived that they deserve it because they didn't work hard enough, believe the right way, live the right way. If they are "foreign", heaven forbid that they should be allowed to have anything that is "rightfully ours."
--If they are comfortable, they do not want to give up anything they have. They might give to charity or good causes in a righteous way, but they also want to keep what they have. If the implication is that they might have less, then they will vote for someone offering them more. The federal deficit is seen as something remote and, if it is in the red, it's the fault of the undeserving not the administration (all powerful, all good).
--People who feel weak will often align themselves with the bully so they can be under his protection and will go along with the bullying because then they themselves will not be bullied. They do not see themselves as the bully.
- -Bush may be incurring the wrath of the rest of the world, but he is giving many Americans an identity of being powerful, big, bold, strong, which is attractive to those who feel weak. There is the perception of Bush (and his "henchmen") as being almost mafia-like in his image. Kerry is more "intellectual" looking, not as aggressive in his appearance. Bush also scores points with conservatives by having a submissive wife whom he definitely controls.
--Many people live shallow lives, with work, TV and immediate family being their only focus. They don't want to have to deal with more complicated matters such as the environment, deficit, human rights, etc. They want to have their heads in the sand because it is easier. Even if they are avid church-goers, they may not care to live spiritual lives or to even think about what is good for the whole. If it is good for them, then they are happy.
Years ago I read several books by Anne Wilson Schaef which gave good explanations of the North American society we live in. Many of the things that are happening now relate to the ideas in her books (When Society Becomes an Addict, Women's Reality, etc.).
We may not be able to get inside another person's head, but you can tell a lot by his actions or inactions.
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 13, 2004
Friends, I'm off again. This time to Ann Arbor for the eighth annual Edgefest sponsored by the Kerrytown Concert House. The Edgefest is described as "Ann Arbor's most acclaimed jazz and creative music event," and brings in cutting-edge musicians from the United States, Canada and Europe. The concerts start tonight, Wednesday, and continue every night through Saturday. Tonight is the only single concert of the series. On Thursday and Friday, there are shows scheduled at 8 PM and 10 PM. On Saturday, at 2 PM, 7 PM, 10 PM and midnight. I hope to attend them all! They have it arranged so one can buy an Edgefest pass that gives you priority seating at each event. All concerts are held within walking distance of one another--at the Kerrytown Concert House, Hollander's (also in Kerrytown), and the Firefly jazz club near Main Street.
As you can imagine, I am VERY excited! It will be my first time attending the Edgefest and, for a jazz and new music freak like me, it feels like dying and going to heaven. Tonight I'll drive back home after the concert, but after school on Thursday I'll be driving directly to the Michigan League where I have a room booked through Saturday night. Of course I'll be getting together with my jazz friends Miki and Akira for a dinner or two, and hopefully, with my goddess daughter Emily too.
So this is my last journal entry until Sunday. But I want to leave you with some photos I took yesterday (Tuesday) while scooting around town. As you can see, autumn has come to Michigan!
A red tree
A colorful street
A circle of ghosts and a witch who took a wrong turn
A street that, even though I didn't grow up here, somehow brings back childhood memories
Orange tree against a blue sky
Climbing roses still in bloom
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 17, 2004
Although I brought my digital camera with me to Ann Arbor, I took not one picture in the four days I was there. This was a time for my ears not my eyes. My ears, heart and soul. Not even my mind. As the highly respected reedsman Joe McPhee said to a group of University of Michigan improvisational jazz students at a master class on Saturday, "When you're making this kind of music, your mind just gets in the way."
He's right. And his words apply to the listener of this kind of music as well as the one who makes it. This kind of music being what is sometimes called new, creative, progressive or experimental music. And that is what Ann Arbor's eighth annual Edgefest was all about: playing outside the box. For the audience as well as the musicians, openness to non-traditional ways and a flexibility of mind was required. As I said to my new jazz friend Mike after a particularly edgy performance, "If Bush's government knew how subversive the Edgefest is, they would close it down in a minute." Subversive, in this case, meaning an environment that promotes a freedom of expression that cannot be controlled by those in authority. Very threatening to a mindset that sees things in black-and-white, and has no tolerance for or understanding of nuance and intuition. Mike responded by reminding me that, in Nazi Germany, Hitler forbade Jewish arts and music for that very reason. Obviously he knew the power of creative expression to inflame the hearts and souls of the people.
Come to think of it, maybe Bush's administration knows more than I think they do. Yesterday afternoon, one of the Edgefest performers--Lotte Anker, a saxophonist from Denmark--was detained for three hours at the border between Windsor, Ontario and Detroit. During that time, she and her fellow musicians--New York City-based pianist Craig Taborn and drummer Gerald Cleaver--were not even allowed to call Dave Lynch, the Edgefest director, to tell him what was happening. Finally, Craig and Gerald were allowed into the U.S. (of which they are native-born citizens), but Lotte was forced to stay behind in Windsor with the task of changing her North American tour schedule because U.S. Customs would not let her into the country. I can't imagine that her papers weren't in order, so what exactly was going on?
It puts me in mind of what has happened to my Japanese friend Miki every time she's traveled outside the U.S. in the last year, and has then tried to return to this country. Miki, who is an M.D. and has been a highly acclaimed micro-biologist researcher at the University of Michigan for the past four years, has been questioned, photographed and fingerprinted as if she were a criminal. And yes, her papers were in perfect order. Now Miki has decided to go back home to Japan for good. So the United States, in its John Ashcroft-directed inhospitable treatment of immigrants, has lost yet another brilliant mind and gentle spirit. September 11, as used by the Bush regime, continues to victimize innocent individuals.
To get back to my experience of Edgefest 2004, all I did for four days and nights was listen to live music, eat, sleep and read. I'm reading Evelyn White's magnificent biography of Alice Walker (Alice Walker: A Life) that, in its description of a woman who has always thought outside the box, was a perfect companion during my afternoons spent at a coffee house and the meals I took by myself.
By the way, not all my meals were by myself. On Saturday night, Miki, Akira and I shared a delicious East Indian dinner. Miki was foregoing the Edgefest because experimental jazz is not her thing, but Akira and I sat beside each other for eight out of the nine concerts, in addition to Saturday afternoon's master class with Joe McPhee, Dominic Duval and Jay Rosen (Trio X out of New York City). And on Friday night, Susan Briggs, the art teacher I work with on Thursdays, brought her friend Whisper and we sat together for the 10 PM Edgefest performance at the Firefly Club. But, really, everyone who bought an Edgefest pass and attended all the concerts became part of a community that shared stories, critiqued performances and walked together to the different venues (Kerrytown Concert House, the Firefly jazz club, and the Kerrytown shops).
Edgefest 2004 got me thinking about what it means to be a good listener of jazz, especially experimental jazz. Maybe we don't have to practice ten hours a day like the bassist Dominic Duval said he did for years, but we do have to put in concentrated hours (years?) of listening to good jazz, especially live jazz. And to prepare for events like Ann Arbor's Edgefest, one would do well to listen to all kinds of music not just jazz, music that expands your boundaries and educates your ear. Joe McPhee said he listens to music all the time--jazz, classical, hip hop, world, country, fushion, rock, blues, etc.--in his efforts to discover new ways of saying what he wants to say musically. As a listener, I want to be every bit as open to hearing what he wants to say. I don't want to be closed off to any particular techniques or forms that he, or any other fine musician, chooses to employ.
As I sat in the light, beautiful, acoustically-excellent Kerrytown Concert House for hours and hours during these four days and nights in October, I could literally feel my world expanding. When the jazz greats, Sonny Fortune and Rashied Ali, played the alto sax (Sonny) and drums (Rashied) for a 60 minute fast tempo improvisation on Friday night, all I could do was close my eyes and breathe in the wisdom, love and energy they so generously offered through their music. It was like prayer. My kind of prayer. My mind--that has trouble shutting up--kept saying, "Take this in. Fill yourself up for the hard times to come." And so I did.
My musical/heart reserves are now full, thanks to dozens of musicians from around the world, and special thanks to Dave Lynch who has created the Edgefest for eight years now, and to Deanna Relyea, director of the Kerrytown Concert House, whose organizational skills and wonderful performance space helps make it what it is. I'm not going to go weird on you and name all the sponsors, donors and volunteers without whose funds and efforts the eighth annual Edgefest couldn't have happened, but they are in my mind and heart.
As a first-time Edgefest audience member, I can say it has instantly shot to the top of my list of must-see music festivals. If you are also a lover of new music/experimental jazz, I invite you to consider coming to Ann Arbor, Michigan in October 2005 for four days of magic.
MONDAY, OCTOBER 18, 2004
This morning I let myself sleep late. After getting in at 2:30 AM for three nights running, it was time to play a little catch-up. Then I put on one of the CDs I'd bought at the Edgefest--"Trio X In Black and White" with Joe McPhee on alto sax, Dominic Duval on bass and Jay Rosen on drums--and started painting. I began with a simple pencil drawing of my ear and listened to a couple of numbers before I put a brush to paper. My intention was to join the musicians' improvisations with some of my own. It was immensely satisfying to bring my creativity to theirs. The painting that emerged is called, "I Paint by Ear." If you read yesterday's journal entry you know what I mean.
How I love to paint!
By the time I'd finished, it was after 3 PM. I went downstairs and had lunch. Evelyn White's biography of Alice Walker continues to engross me. It is exceptionally well written and Alice's story is so worthy of being told. After lunch, I answered emails until it was time to go swimming. I'd missed two weeks so was anxious to get in some good laps, which I did. Then Ed and I watched the last four innings of the 14-inning play-off game between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. I was happy that Boston finally won so they'll have another chance to extend the American League play-offs. I'm not a baseball fan but can enjoy it in small doses. Actually I was a rabid fan of the Detroit Tigers for ten years, but after they won the World Series in 1984 I was done.
It's fun every so often to revisit the sport I loved so much. Like riding a bicycle, I find I can get right back on and even sound like I know what I'm talking about. But I had an awfully good teacher in Clarence Livingood, the Tigers' team doctor! I've never known anyone who loved baseball as much as that dear man.
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 19, 2004
They Sell More Than Gelato
the high school,
stands a rack of
Be all that
you can be, they
say. Yes, and
get sent to
Iraq, I say.
They don't all
go to Iraq, says
Just to see if
still here, I
say. Yes, they
are, says the
owner. I've been
an antiwar activist
for decades, I say.
They don't all go
to war, says
I don't say
it but let just
order to go
to Iraq and see
say it's bad
put up stuff that
I don't say
dangerous to the
who come to
I do say you
and I obviously
October 19, 2004
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 20, 2004
and Urban Visions: Challenging and Exercising Power
Wed: Oct 20, 2004, 6:00 p.m.
CCNDC Community Center, 3611 Cass Ave, Detroit (enter through Detroit Summer Youth Space)
$5 to $50 sliding scale--Benefit for Detroit Summer
For more info: Detroit Summer: 313-832-2904
Boggs Center 313-923-0797
A talk and powerpoint presentation on Greenbloc actions bringing permaculture to global justice summits, and ways to embody ecological vision in protest and the support structures we create. The inspiring work of urban transformation and community nurturing by groups such as City Repair and the RITES project will also be shown.
Starhawk is a veteran of progressive movement and deeply committed to bringing the techniques and creative power of spirituality to political activism. She has traveled internationally teaching magic, the tools of ritual, and the skills of activism.
From New Publication by Starhawk:
"... the Goddess is the name we put on the great processes of birth, growth, death, and regeneration that underlie the living world. The Goddess is the presence of consciousness in all living beings; the Goddess is the great creative force that spun the universe out of coiled strings of probability and set the stars spinning and dancing in spirals that our entwining DNA echoes as it cils, uncoils, and evolves."
-- Starhawk in her
new book, The Earth Path
Such a wonderful gathering of Detroit community organizers, Detroit Summer youth leaders, respected elders, urban gardeners, visionaries, environmentalists, artists, anarchists, communists, peace and political workers showed up at the Detroit Summer Space on Cass Avenue to hear Starhawk's talk and powerpoint presentation of some of the Greenbloc actions she's been part of at anti-globalization protests worldwide. Yes, her presentation was inspiring, chilling and sometimes humorous, and the discussion it prompted was uniquely Detroit in focus, but what filled me full to bursting was the energy in the room! So many folks I've known in different settings over the years, as well as folks I'd never met before but could tell were doing their part to enliven, empower and revive our city. When Ilana Weaver and Will Copeland, both leaders in the Detroit Summer program, performed their spoken word for us, I knew why our city is on the upswing. These young people are so savy, courageous and creative that you can't help but be grateful they are here in a city that may look like it's dying but is actually coming to life again.
And it was a networker's heaven! I even connected with a woman named Cara who asked if I'd be interested in joining her and her friends in doing contact improv dance together on a monthly basis. She has a dream of making this dance opportunity open to persons of different abilities. As you can imagine, I jumped at the chance. We'll meet this Sunday from 11:45 AM-2:30 PM at a martial arts studio in Ferndale, about a half hour from my house. I actually used to perform with a Detroit contact improv group back in the early'80s. I was able-bodied then, but, as you know, I still consider myself a dancer. I also want to hook up with these fabulous Detroit Summer young people, and maybe help them set up a web site. To be honest, I don't care what job they give me, I just want to be with them. I find them amazing!
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 21, 2004
In six hours that flew as if powered by hummingbird wings, Susan, the art teacher who lets me help her every Thursday, gave me back a chapter of my life, and in so doing, allowed me to offer it as a gift to dozens of nine and ten year old youngsters.
Today three fourth grade and two fifth grade classes saw and discussed Ms. Patricia's slides of art that I'd made and exhibited twenty years ago. In the over three years that I've sat in on Susan Briggs' art classes, I can't remember seeing the students so engrossed. Nor have I ever heard such insightful questions about art, from adults or children. Just about every class ended before I could answer all of their questions, so many of the kids--instead of lining up for the hall as they were supposed to do--crowded around me, eager to ask what was in their hearts.
I wonder what will come of it. Will some youngsters begin to see making art professionally as an option? Will others now look at art with a more familiar eye? I've known many of these kids since they were first and second graders. We've sat beside one another and worked on the same art projects for years. Will that help them see that being an artist does not mean being famous or having your work in books or on museum walls, that art can be as simple as drawing shapes and as complex as trying to express your feelings?
When one of our most talented students asked why I liked to make art, I responded that it was the best way I'd found to express what's in my heart. And, happily, the series of drawings and paintings that I shared with them today had come about for that very reason. And the fact that the images were child-like in their simplicity and fanciful in their content helped make them accessible to the kids. Nothing I'd drawn or painted would have been beyond their own abilities to produce. But what seemed to intrigue them the most was my explanation about what this series of art symbolized to me personally. For they had come when I was forty years old and at a turning point in my life. The room format and vocabulary of ropes, arrows, windows, caves, bare trees, etc., referred to my core need to break out of the "room" of my former way of being in the world so I could be authentically myself. Nine and ten year youngsters understand this well.
Next week I'll go to school on Friday instead of Thursday, so I can give the same slide presentation to the rest of the fourth and fifth grade classes. How grateful I am to Susan for this amazing opportunity. And how grateful I am to the kids for their openness, respect and curiosity about art. They feed me full to overflowing.
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 22, 2004
A lovely low key day. I painted, then took Eddie to pick up his car that was getting new tires. After dropping him off, I continued down to the Cultural Center. My first stop was the art store near Wayne State University where I picked up three new brushes and another watercolor block. I then went to check out a new East Indian restaurant I'd heard about. By then it was time for an Afro-Brazilian dance performance that I'd seen online was happening at the Detroit Institute of Arts. It ended up being delightful, with the performers children aged 6-15 from Southwest Detroit. At 7 PM I went downstairs to the DIA theatre to see "Zelary", a marvelous Czech film that came out in 2003. I met Pat Kolon at the film and afterwards we had a late supper together at the restaurant I'd checked out earlier. When I got home I watched a little "Seinfeld" on TV with Eddie, and then came upstairs to finish my painting. It's now 1 AM and I am ready for bed.
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 23, 2004
Jesse and Dave, his dad, came to wash our windows today. In three hours they had our house feeling like the outside had come in. Even on a grey day, everything looked bright. Here, let me show you what I mean:
sitting in front of the side window in the living room that overlooks
The front window in the living room.
Looking from the living room into the dining/piano area.
In the pantry. That's my maternal great-grandmother's butter churn beside the window.
My art room where I also quiet myself in Ed's great-grandmother's rocker.
My bedroom that now doubles as a computer room.
My view when I sit at the computer. There is also an old maple--a favorite resting place of birds and squirrels--and red berry-covered honeysuckle bushes that bring hungry robins right outside my window.
And here are some photos I took on my scoot to and from the gym:
A school soccer
A stand of colorful trees
A rose still in bloom
The "singing street"
A brilliant red maple tree
Fallen leaves at its base
A red bush
A colorful side street
A tall maple turning color
Ed walking beside a different school
A lovely house with lovely trees
A side street with tall trees
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 24, 2004
Learnings come in all shapes and sizes. Because it's freshest in my mind right now, let me share the significant learning that came through another's courage in addressing a hard subject with me today.
I was at a local martial arts studio to join with dancers who meet every Sunday to do contact improvisation (more about that later). In my excitement, I made a bad turn in the hall and banged into a wall. To be honest, this happens a lot. After the collision, I just backed away from the wall and drove Ona, my scooter, a bit more carefully into the dance space.
As we were preparng to leave two and a half hours later, the owner of the studio asked if she could have a word with me privately.
Jay and I have seen one another for years at events like the Detroit Women's Coffeehouse and the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival, so we're not strangers. In fact, we'd had an interesting conversation earlier in the day about her mother who had also been diagnosed with MS but had been more limited physically by it than I. Her mother had died last May and I could tell that Jay truly understood what it was like to live with a disabling condition.
Once we were alone, Jay said to me that she needed an apology. Here I'd banged into the wall in her studio, marring it in a way that would need repair, and had said nothing to her about it. No "I'm sorry" or anything. I realized as soon as she said this that I've been at fault like this more times than I can count. Of course, I apologized and offered to pay for the repair. I also thanked her for speaking to me about it so I could learn to handle situations like this differently in the future. She was most respectful and said she knew it wasn't my fault that it had happened; she just needed some expression of regret from me, otherwise every time we met, this incident would come to mind. I finally went over to examine the damage I'd done and saw a gash in the wall that will need to be spackled and painted. I felt awful.
But that's good. I deserved to feel awful because I needed to learn from this. In the future, I need to gear down and be more careful when I'm in tight spaces. But if I do hit something, I must stop, see if I've done any damage, and if I have, offer an apology and/or recompense to the person whose space I've damaged.
Thank you, Jay, for giving me this opportunity to learn and, hopefully, change.
Now to what happened on the dance floor...
WOW!!!! First of all, the women and men in this community welcomed me--their first differently abled participant--with such open hearts that any anxiety I'd felt ahead of time was instantly allayed. We sat in a circle to start and shared our names and any information that would be helpful for our partners to know about how our bodies were feeling. I gather the mix of participants shifts from week to week, but today there were seven women and two men, probably aged 20-something to 30-something. Half were from Ann Arbor and half from Detroit. They alternate meeting in each city for two and a half hours every Sunday. And what they do is called contact improvisation.
Contact improvisation is a free-form style of dance that invites individuals to make connections with one another through touching , leaning against one another, bearing each other's weight and creating original movements together that evolve organically, one from another. The key to its success is not ever to lose touch physically with your partner. Contact improv takes one from the floor to sitting, to standing, to holding or being held by your partner, in ways that have no "rules" beyond listening to your own body and respecting any needs or limits your partner shares beforehand or as the dance progresses. This group uses no music and shifts from partner to partner in intuitive ways. Sometimes we worked in pairs and occasionally in groups of three. Ona my scooter was an active member of the community, and you should have seen the amazing ways some folks danced with her! I have photos that I took toward the end of our time together, but most of what happened is encoded in my body...and my heart.
I had done contact improv at the Paradigm Dance Studio in Detroit back in the early 1980s. At that time I was a long-distance runner and biker, had been doing modern dance with a local choreographer (Denise Szykula of Nonce) and was strong and agile. Before we began today, I had little conscious memory of what contact improv entailed, but my body remembered. I found that certain moves--like rolling over one another on the floor--came naturally to me again. Naturally but not necessarily comfortably. I must admit my ribs on my right side were not happy during one such roll, so I told my partner and we did something else. But now those ribs are setting up such a yelp that I'll need to let myself heal before I go back for more. Actually it's refreshing to have an injury that occurred while dancing rather than as the result of a fall. Like everyone else, I just need to learn what works for me and what doesn't.
What worked was feeling like a dancer again. That most certainly worked! What also worked was dancing with these particular individuals. They bring such a spirit of fun, inventiveness and cooperation that it's hard not to break out in giggles as you move. Which some of us did! Even though I couldn't begin to do the incredible things they did, it didn't seem to matter. Each of my partners respected my limits and gave me any help I needed. At the same time, they helped me go beyond what I'd imagined I could do. When I found myself lying across Ona's seat with my arms and legs extended as my partner used me as a platform on which to dance, I was near delirious with joy.
Here are some photos so you can begin to see what contact improvisation looks like. I'm going to group them according to partners. That way you can get a better feel for the evolution of the movements.
Photos #1, #2, #3 & #4
Photos #5, #6, #7 & #8
© 2004 Patricia Lay-Dorsey. Please use with attribution.