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To read my current
journal, please go to: windchime walker's
TUESDAY, JULY 25, 2000
It is now 5 months since I started keeping this online journal. In that time I have only missed two days (except when I was out of town without my laptop). Pretty good for a girl who always heard in grade school that "Patsy never finishes what she begins"! I had no idea if online journaling was going to suit me. I've been a longtime journaler--books and books on my shelves and in drawers attest to this fact--but that was different. I often used my journal as a tool to work out tough stuff. Or a safe place to indulge in some good old self-pity. Sometimes I'd just try to hammer out what I thought or believed or felt about what was going on in my life, in the world, with other folks. Private journals, to be sure. So here I was, planning to keep a journal that anyone in the world--literally!--could read. Yes, quite different indeed.
Since putting up my site in March 1999, I'd had similar responses from a number of visitors. They would remark on my "upbeat and positive" way of living with a chronic progressive condition (MS). Invariably their question was, "How do you do it?" I didn't know how to answer. To me, it comes naturally to see the glass as half full rather than half empty. I didn't have a clue how to teach someone else to look at life in this way. So--as I was taught in writing class--I figured I'd do better to show rather than tell. If I wrote something about my life every day, perhaps folks could see for themselves how I "do it".
The responses I've received to my journal have surprised me. It isn't that I hear from a lot of people, but those I do hear from are most affirming. To tell the truth, my most unexpected regular visitor is my husband. He seems better able to read my stories than listen to them in person! Friends in the two places I live--Detroit and San Francisco--are able to keep up with my daily doings. I've even heard from a few readers who start each day with my journal. It grounds them, they say. And one online friend from Sweden says she prints my journal every morning to read and reflect on. Gosh, the only journal entries I've ever printed were the 4 days that I was part of the OAS (Organization of American States) protest demonstrations in Windsor, ONT.
So, do I feel the journal
is doing what I hoped it would do? Probably. Will I continue?
Yes. I'm actually surprised at the depth of commitment I feel
to these pages. Each day I carve out some time to write, usually
in the evening. There's something wonderful about seeing your
life as worthy of attention. Whether or not anyone else reads
this journal, I now have a record of the past 5 months, a sense
of marking the passage of time, of not letting life slip by unnoticed.
WEDNESDAY, JULY 26, 2000
Yesterday's inbox had a long email from my friend, M., telling of the escalating struggle she and E., her partner, are having as new owners of an old San Francisco building in the Mission District. I wrote at length about their situation in recent journal entries. The latest news is that 200 Wiccans, a mime troupe and who-knows-what-all have joined the planned protest demonstration to be held in mid-August at my friends' building. As M. says, "...it seems like it will be a fabulous display of the city's artistic and spiritual and political capacity-- but it is being put in the wrong direction. This thing seems to have taken on a life of its own--"
Instead of staying stuck in the details of the squabble--as I had been doing--something in her words helped me broaden my outlook. The following is from the email reply I sent her today:
And so it continues..."it" being the swarms of fleas attacking Pomegranate Design and the boulders being placed in your path. As I read your message and reflect on the situation you describe, I'm reminded of a speaker at the OAS (Organization of American States) teach-ins/protest demonstrations I attended over in Canada in June.
This Toronto newspaper columnist, Naomi Klein, was discussing the new wave of activism that is sweeping the world. She likened it to a "swarm of fleas", each with a different agenda, who converge whenever a call to action appears. Seems like it's that kind of energy we're seeing here. A gang--not group--of folks who are rallying around the central issue of evictions/rent increases in SF. It really has nothing to do with you and E. or with your business. It is a swarm of fleas coming together around a common fear. The fear is much bigger and more nebulous than this particular situation with the Dancers' Group and your Mission St. building. Naomi talked about how difficult it is to control this new breed of activism. You stop one action and another pops up just around the corner. Trying to respond to each in turn will drive one crazy. Sometimes the best plan is to lay back and just let them swarm.
I wonder if the time has come to "join the swarm", so to speak. Since they really don't care about Pomegranate or the truth of what happened with the Dancers' Group, maybe it'd be wise to come out with statements in solidarity with their concerns. Of course, you are as affected as they are by this ridiculous real estate situation in SF...that is what forced you to up the rents in your building (even though you still asked below-market prices). Let them know you don't like it any better than they do. It's hard to create an enemy out of someone who agrees with your position!
...As you said, this thing has a momentum of it's own. The thing to remember is that it has nothing to do with you! It is an issue that was merely looking for a place to land. Fear does that sometimes. It attaches itself to a target that is accessible, not necessarily appropriate. Sounds like it's time to let it go. Detach yourself as best you can from the furor. Let them rant and rave, march and sit-down-strike, get arrested, burn incense and chant, dance and sing, whatever. They're on a role now and most of them hardly know why. When you're frustrated and afraid, it feels good to get out there and DO something. But you don't need to do anything in response, at least no more than you have already done.
You and E. have done your best to tell the story as you see it. You've dared to approach organizers on "their side" and have a dialogue. You've sent out statements to the press. You've basically kept your cool. You've done enough.
Don't know if any of this is helpful. Don't even know if what I suggest is a good idea. All I know is that life goes on and this is truly NOT your defining moment. In no time at all, folks won't even remember your name (if they know it now). All they'll recall was being part of a helluva great creative protest, and the feeling that they had not just sat back in the face of this crazy real estate situation in the Bay Area. The comfort in knowing they'd let their voices be heard. They'd basically "stood for their rights". They weren't as impotent as they thought.
I just read this to E.D. and he said I should say, "I know this because I'm part of it!" In a way he's right. I'm not part of this particular protest, but I certainly have been part of similar ones. One of the "fleas", so to speak. There's nothing more satisfying than getting out there on the streets with lots of kindred folks, marching, blowing whistles and chanting! It feels great to share a common "enemy". When we demonstrated against the OAS, it was not really that particular organization we were protesting against, rather all the multinational corporations that we see running things globally these days. The OAS was simply a visible symbol we could converge on. Sound familiar?
It's so strange to be
on the "other side" of this protest, and not my usual
place out on the streets. But it is just that necessity/opportunity
to see things from all sides that is stretching me out of shape.
A shape I hope I've outgrown!
THURSDAY, JULY 27, 2000
A poem that attests to
my need for this quiet stay-at-home day. Much as I love to be
out whizzing the streets on La Lucha the scooter, poems require
a slower pace. At least mine do.
FRIDAY, JULY 28, 2000
Last night we went out to the northern suburbs for a birthday dinner with E.D.'s older brother and his wife. This was our first opportunity to see them settled in their new home. Until a month ago, J.D. and L.D. lived in a house so full of things one could barely turn around. Beautiful, artistic, interesting things...but as in an antique shop, individual items were lost in a collective sea of images. And now they've moved into a bright, airy 1950s condominium where each piece of furniture, glass and pottery stands in solitary splendor, while relating perfectly to the whole. A minimalist's dream.
What a change! And these folks are no longer young...at least not in years. J.D. is turning 73 tomorrow and L.D. is 68. They both still work hard at their respective professions, pediatrics and counseling. There is no way they fit any image of senior citizens. In fact, J.D. just opened an additional office and continues to take his turn handling night calls every 6th week!
As we talked over dinner--a 3 block scooter ride to an Italian restaurant where we enjoyed a beautiful balmy evening at a sidewalk table--I asked them about the impetus for such a dramatic letting go of possessions. L.D. said, "The change is within myself and I don't yet know what it means or where it's leading me." Yet she is not forcing the process, merely watching it unfold.
I remember when I was young, the idea of older folks changing was outside the realm of possibility. Only youthful persons changed. People in my parents' generation would do what they did until they retired, and then eventually they'd get ill and die. OK, maybe they'd buy a retirement home, as my parents did in the Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia (sounds like a song!), but that was the most one could expect. At the time of E.D.'s and my marriage in 1966, my parents--those "old folks"--were 55 and 53. Younger than I am today!
How my ideas have changed. But I think it's more than just my ideas. As the dominant culture's life span increases--this is tragically not true for such groups as African American males and Native Americans--when one is considered old and what old means is undergoing a real shift. Even in a youth-obsessed country like the US, the over-50s are the fastest growing segment of the population. And we are no longer allowing ourselves to be "put out to pasture".
I think of the changes I've undergone since passing 50 eight years ago. Leaving organized religion at age 51, and jumping both feet first into feminism--socially, politically and spiritually. Starting to write stories at age 51 that I performed by myself and with a sister storyteller in Detroit, San Francisco, Oakland, California and Windsor, Ontario. Originating "Sacred Stones" at age 52 after a solitary train trip to the land of the Hopi and Navaho in Arizona...then gathering thousands of stones on the shores of the Great Lakes, hand-painting each one, creating a book to go with them, and vending the Sacred Stones at psychic fairs and holistic conferences for the next 2 years. Going to the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival by myself at age 52, a long-married woman who was just beginning to explore women's worlds. Choosing at age 53 to start spending the winter months on my own in San Francisco, while my dear husband of 3 decades stayed home in Michigan. Re-discovering my voice at age 51 singing in community with women, and at 54, joining the Lesbian/Gay Chorus of San Francisco (a legacy from my friend, J.P. who passed with AIDS in 1994). Taking my first computer class at age 56, and putting up a web site by myself 6 months later. Creatively adapting to my progressing disability from age 52 on, by decorating first a cane, then a walker, and now a scooter.
I'm coming to see that
life is change.
SATURDAY, JULY 29, 2000
Today E.D. and I got to be surrogate grandparents to an adorable 3 year old girl. Our friend J.M. had to go to a wedding and needed a sitter for H.M., her grandaughter who is visiting from Chicago. What a delightful, energetic child! At 5 PM the 3 of us walked/scooted down to the park. I'd imagined she'd get tired walking the 3 long blocks, and E.D. was prepared to carry her on his shoulders. What a laugh! That child not only walked down with no complaints, but then ran home (up a hill) after playing on the playground equipment for a solid hour. And who do you think got tired? Just guess!!!
There are images I won't forget. H.M. holding tight to two of E.D.'s big fingers as we walked down to the park. His pushing her and N. (a 5 year old girl we met) on a big old tire swing; the little ones leaning back with their hair dusting the earth. The two girls scampering in front of my scooter, easily beating me in an impromptu game of tag. H.M. with eyes twinkling and her mouth full of hot dog during supper in our kitchen. As we proceeded to paint her papier mache bunny with glitter paint, H.M. solemnly instructing me, "Now, you must mix your paints, Mrs. D.!" She and E.D. settled together on the couch looking at our silly book of pop-up paper robots. But my sweetest moment by far came about 10 PM when I invited her to cuddle with me as I lay on the couch. Like having a fawn nestled in your arms.
After today, E.D. and
I sure have greater understanding about why our friends go ga-ga
over their grandkids! And in a way, maybe she is our "grandchild"
since her mother was one of the neighborhood youngsters who basically
grew up in our house. The gift continues...
SUNDAY, JULY 30, 2000
It's that time again! Preparing-for-festival-time! The Michigan Womyn's Music Festival to be exact. My--along with 5-10,000 other women all over the world--annual trek to what's called "The Land". Where women from Australia, New Zealand, Japan, China and India will save most of their lives to be able to afford the airfare to attend this grandmother of all women's music festivals...I hop in the car and after about 4? hours of easy driving am there. Now when I say "there", that takes some defining. I am in the line waiting to be there. But the line, which generally starts forming on Friday in preparation for the gate opening at 1 PM Monday, is part of festival itself. A 3-mile dirt county road lined with cars, trucks, RVs, vans, motorcyles, bikes...women walking, jogging, visiting, drumming, eating, singing, sleeping, peeing in the woods. Five years ago at the 20th anniversary celebration that line extended for a couple more miles onto the blacktop road. This year's 25th celebration is expected to be a HUGE festival! And the fact that Michigan has enjoyed a perfectly lovely summer weatherwise should add to that number.
So I take myself into our storage room today and start bringing out festi-stuff that I keep all together in the closet. My faithful blue Eureka tent, dry thus far (well, OK, almost dry. 1998 hardly counts. It never stopped raining that year!). Folded blue/red air mattress that has increased my lung capacity for the past 6 years. Cotton rug that helps me keep from sliding around inside my tent. Battery-operated lantern and flashlight. Porta-potty with plastic bags that I thankfully bought the first year (late night forays to the porta-jane would be a real joke!). My duffel bag packed with such essentials as an enamel bowl for washing up, toilet paper, paper plates/fork/spoon/plastic-covered dish, Avon Skin-So-Soft (best bug repellent), ear plugs (my tenting spot under a wonderful old tree is just across from the August Moon Cafe that has a very effective sound system and goes until 1:30 AM every night and starts up again at 8 AM!), plastic ground cover for under my tent, bubble wand and liquid (have to make bubbles!). Next to pack up will be a new sleeping bag (I finally got tired of being cold on those upper Michigan nights in my old one), my folding chairs (one for me, one for a friend), a 50' heavy duty electric cord for charging up La Lucha at the DART tent every night.
Michigan--as it is also called--is very sensitive to women with disabilities. We have our own tenting area called DART (Disabled Access Resource Team), located right "downtown" (near the kitchen, sound stages, craft area and community gathering tents). Staff and volunteers offer whatever help we need--such as my need for someone to cart my stuff from the shuttle bus to my tenting spot and then set up/take down my tent. As DART tenters we have the use of handicap accessible shuttle buses, our own kitchen tent (very helpful during well attended festivals with tremendous lines everywhere), our own seating areas at the stages, plus the best daily fire-pit on the Land! I've never stayed anyplace else since my first festival in 1994. It's home to me, with sisters I only see once a year but love dearly.
I've had amazing experiences at Michigan, one of which I immortalized in a story called "Mosh Pit Mama", that a friend and I performed in Detroit, Oakland and San Francisco, California. My way of getting around the Land has evolved over the years...first a decorated woodburned driftwood cane in 1994, then a 3-wheel bike from 1995-9, and now it's La Lucha the scooter's turn! I'm expecting her to be a fabulous conveyance. No more need for my "I love pushy wimmin!" sign to help handle the hills on the Land! Not that I won't always love pushy wimmin!
Next week at this time
I hope to be settled in a motel room in Muskegon on the shores
of Lake Michigan. Early-to-bed and early-to-rise on Monday will
get me to the line 35-40 miles away before 9 AM. At least that's
the plan. Let's think dry from August 6-14!
MONDAY, JULY 31, 2000
It often isn't until after the fact that I realize how limited I've been by a situation or an attitude. My general way of getting through life is to adapt, which is helpful in relation to stress-level, but doesn't always produce necessary change.
For instance, I was going through my festival things today and found a pile of paper plates. I've used this type of plate for 2-3 years, not because I like it but because it took too much effort to go to the grocery store and replace it. What I really wanted were those heavy paper plates that are divided into 3 sections. These lightweight no-sectioned ones I had were hard to carry without spilling things. Besides my cole slaw, pasta and fruit slices all mixed together in a puddle on the plate. Not very appetizing. But the prospect of driving to the grocery store, getting out my walker, and struggling through aisle after aisle really put me off. So I made do year after year with what I already had. After all, those cheap plates come in packages of 500 or something. Since I use maybe 20 a year for festival, I should be OK until I'm about 80!
HA!!! This year is different! With La Lucha my scooter, going to the store is a breeze. In fact, I like any excuse to go out for an extended ride. At 4 PM, we start out. The morning drizzle has given way to a muggy sun-dappled afternoon. I stop on the way to remove my socks. Whew, that's better! The moist earth and dripping pine trees smell fresh and rich, reminding me of the Land and of Camp Mawavi so many years ago.
With my new mobility, it's nothing for me to stop first at the hardware store to buy: 1) 4 bungee cords long enough to hang my tarp from the trees for rain protection/a porch, if needed; 2) new chair leg protectors for my porta-potty (one is missing and the metal would tear my tent floor if left uncovered); 3) a 50' heavy duty electric cord required to charge La Lucha every night in the DART "Living Room" tent. Then to the grocery store where I run into 5 people I know! And finally to the camping store to check out the sleeping bag I ordered last week. Again, rather than bother to replace it, I used an inadequate sleeping bag for 6 years. The only year it served me well was the year our nightime temperatures never got below 60° F. But with my new freedom--and E.D.'s preliminary groundwork--I was finally going to get what I need. I'm happy with the sleeping bag I'd ordered, so I pay and they manage to tuck it securely under my backpack's straps (on the back of La Lucha's seat) so I can carry it home. A stop at the bank's ATM to get cash for the trip and I'm all set!
This scooter is truly
changing my life! As kids often say, I sure am "lucky"
to be able to use it. The latest comment I overheard as I whizzed
by a little boy at the park was, "Mom! What kinda car is
TUESDAY, AUGUST 1, 2000
Herpes Zoster (shingles). Something about which one would just as soon not become knowledgeable unless studying dermatology or related sciences. Unfortunately my acquaintance with this condition is currently firsthand.
After 3 uncomfortable days (and 3 totally miserable nights) with burning pain centered around my left armpit, 3 lovely red rashes appeared this morning in a semi-circle on my trunk. My psychiatrist husband said, "Looks like shingles to me!" He recommended I see a dermatologist. A cool woman I'd seen for moles and such a year ago agreed to see me as an emergency patient (she doesn't normally see office patients on Tuesdays). After riding La Lucha in a fine drizzle, I arrived at her office about 1? miles away. While pulling the knob on what I thought was her front door--it wasn't--I backed down over the curb. Luckily no harm was done, but 3 folks rushed up to offer help! Again, I am amazed at the consideration people show me.
Well, yes, this is "a classic case of shingles." So she gave me a prescription for an anti-viral medication to be taken 3 times a day for 7 days. I scooted over to the drugstore. Would you believe $121? Zowie!!! Let's hope this stuff does the job.
Of course, my main concern was the festival. If it were something contagious I wouldn't be able to attend. But shingles? Hey, I can live with shingles as well at festival as here. I don't get that much sleep there anyway. As my friend R.--who has been through shingles herself--wrote in an email today, "...and one thing the doctor recommended was doing whatever relaxed me, de-stressed me, and made me happy -- I watched funny videos and went and sat by the Bay, inhaling the fresh air. So going to Michigan could be just what the doctor ordered."
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 2, 2000
Something of the child kicks in when you're sick. You just want to be taken care of, have people ask how you're feeling, focus pretty much on yourself. That's how it's been for me today.
Well, I actually did accomplish something--I wrote and put up a new page for my web site called "La Lucha the scooter". It includes a photo I'd first seen at the Windsor Peace Committee Youth Group's barbeque gathering a couple weeks back. They were passing around a collage of pictures that a retired librarian, Conrad Reitz, had taken at the OAS protest demonstrations in June. One showed me and La Lucha in action at Sunday's rally--whistle in mouth, upraised fist clenched. Kindly, Conrad agreed to find the negative, make some prints, and send them to me by email and snail mail. The online photo came through last night.
Actually a number of friends have been asking when I'm going to change my home page picture to one of me on La Lucha. I don't think this particular picture is appropriate for that spot, but my San Francisco friend, S.W., took some photos over at the Windsor Peace Park gardens that might do.
Anyway, I'm still planning
to attend the Michigan Womyn's
Music Festival next week. I can't say I feel particularly
great now, but hopefully things will look up in a few days. Sure
hope this front of thunderstorms moves through before Sunday.
THURSDAY, AUGUST 3, 2000
I've been a 2-fingered typist since my first "Computers Made Simple" class in September 1998. And this after my parents insisted I take a full year of Typing I (for budding secretaries) in high school rather than the one semester "Personal Typing" I wanted to take. "You never know when you're going to need good typing skills!", they assured me. Actually they were right. In grad school all papers had to be typed whether you typed them yourself or not. I was most grateful for my typing facility during those years. Remember "white-out"? And before that, the tape with white chalk on one side? Mistakes were pretty time consuming. You'd type the same page over and over...and use carbon paper to make copies. Blue-stained fingers were common.
In 1988 I was diagnosed
with MS. After a good number of years, my fine-motor coordination
began to deteriorate. That's when I developed into a 2-fingered
typist. And now, with the shingles pain along my left arm, side
and back, I'm learning the fine art of 1-fingered typing! All
this to say, my journal entries may be shorter than usual for
FRIDAY, AUGUST 4, 2000
I listen to the tape,"The Best of Struggles". The songs evoke memories of the summer of 1992. I have recently returned from an immersion program in a poor neighborhood of Oaxaca, Mexico. I feel raw and unsettled. Life in the US now seems obscene with its "comfort" and opulence. I sit on the swing outside my friend's home in the country. I am alone except for our dog, Timmy, who lies quietly under the big cottonwood tree. It is dusk and frogs begin their nightly serenade. A heron hides in the rushes at the far end of the pond. Leaves chatter on trees bordering the meadow and woods. Music wafts from the house: it is this tape, "The Best of Struggles".
I think of women around the world. Their pain washes over me. Their courage and willingness to do whatever they must to survive and care for their children. I remember P., who became my friend in Mexico. Her tin shack. Its dirt floor. Her daughters' dehydration. Their torn dresses and shy smiles. The absent man who fathered them. P.'s unfailing hospitality. The cherry-flavored koolade I wasn't supposed to drink. The one wooden chair that was always mine to sit in. Our laughter, sign language and Engish/Spanish Spanish/English dictionary. Our deep connection.
I re-found this tape today. It was at the bottom of a bag I want to use for the womyn's music festival. I had originally come upon it by happenstance at a religious bookstore back when I still looked for answers in such places. As an awakening feminist/activist, the subtitle, "Multicultural Women's Project in Music" struck a chord. As did the music when I heard it. Women singing songs from their countries of origin and heritage--South African, Haitian, African-American, Japanese, Cambodian, Korean, Latina (US), Nicaraguan, Salvadoran, Mexican, Irish, Central West African, and North American (US). I had no idea that one of the women responsible for this tape was to become an important part of my own life by spring of the following year, 1993. Carolyn McDade.
I've come to believe that
our intuitive choices and creative leanings are way ahead of our
minds in knowing when our path is about to take an essential turn.
In hindsight we realize the signs were already posted.
SATURDAY, AUGUST 5, 2000
My last journal entry until Tuesday, August 15. I'm on my way to the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival tomorrow, leaving around 11 AM. Acupuncture plus time have lessened the pain from my nasty case of shingles. Maybe the anti-viral meds at $5 per pill have also helped. Whatever...I'm feeling ready to go.
I'm bypassing my planned motel stay in Muskegon tomorrow night and will get right in line for festival. Tried reclining the driver's seat in my Neon, and found it quite comfortable. So with a pillow, afghan and 1000(?) other womyn, I'll try a night of "doing the line". There's a whole line culture out there. Womyn who have been doing this for years. They fire up their Coleman stoves and cook vegetarian chili for dinners, and fresh blueberry pancakes for breakfast. Any leftovers are shared down the line. Some will have gotten there as early as last Thursday. All this in preparation for the gates to open at 1 PM Monday! With the vast numbers expected this 25th year--perhaps 10,000 before the week is out--the line may well stretch 7-8 miles. I'd just as soon be in the middle than at the end. The goal is to get on the Land with your tent set up before dark on Monday. I always have before, and am sure I will again. Maybe this time I'll get on the Land before 4 PM (last year's entry time). T'would be nice.
So long! I promise to
return with stories galore...
TUESDAY, AUGUST 15, 2000
Ah, womyn! Eight days with no one but womyn and children in the Michigan woods and fields, singing, laughing, weeping, drumming, dancing, talking, listening, loving, healing one another, and learning, always learning. I'm finding words a difficult medium today. How can I put words to what happened, what we lived together, what changes swept over each of us in uniquely shared ways? Even there, words were so small in the context of all that swirled around and between us. Over 6,500 womyn living together on 650 acres of land--lovingly called the Land--at the 25th anniversary Michigan Womyn's Music Festival. My 7th festival since I first attended at age 52 in 1994, a festie virgin who had no idea that I was finding my way home. For that's what festival is...home. And the womyn and children are family. Even though most have beloved families off the Land, there is a bond that connects us womyn year after year, transition after transition. When you enter the Land after the gates open on Monday at 1 PM, the first words you hear are "Welcome home!" And indeed it is.
What follows are some "snapshots" from my Michigan memory album...
I hear a little one crying outside the crafts area. Cuddled in his mother's arms, he refuses to be comforted. Though trying to catch the last minutes at the dinner tent, I stop. I raise my digjeridoo (I'd just been to a workshop to try to learn how to circle breathe) and start playing a low drone (the fog horn sound). Cries cease and eyes widen. We continue like this for timeless time. Every time I change sounds, his body jumps but his eyes stay glued on the digjeridoo and the white-haired womon (me) on a dusty purple scooter playing it. J., 2 years old. Born with cerebral palsy, among many other things. In the arms of his foster mother, A. I am mindful that today at 3 PM, they have a court hearing where A. will again present her case to adopt this child she loves so dearly. May it be so.
I am on La Lucha, my scooter, under the Goddess tree at the center of the Night Stage field. It is 7:30 PM Thursday. A large circle of drummers are drumming, womyn are dancing, everyone is smiling. I am on my Night Stage Security work shift, fluorescent orange vest shining in the late sun, directing womyn and children to chem-free, chem-ok, no smoking, and smoking-ok seating areas. The concert begins at 8 PM. Womyn continue to drift onto the field, Ben & Jerry's ice cream containers in one hand, low-legged lawn chairs in the other, eyes scouring the multitudes for friends who are saving them a spot on the ground. Straight Ahead, my favorite Detroit jazz group, is playing. Womyn stop to chat with me. I see womyn I know from former festivals, womyn from home, womyn I've been singing with here in the chorus, have eaten meals with, encountered in line on the dirt road Sunday and Monday, sat with around the campfire at night, or have just met this moment. Up comes J.W., a dear friend I connected with last year when she worked the DART (Disabled Access Resource Team) area where I always tent. Then another friend, A.B., appears, selling raffle tickets in her curly red Raggedy Ann wig and red-and-white polka-dot dress. Straight Ahead is really jivin' by now. The 3 of us start dancing together. Me in my scooter, a tall slender Raggedy Ann, and a lovely womon with dread-locks bouncing on her shoulders. Oh, do we boogy down! Cameras flash around us and A.B. sells a ton of raffle tickets. We can't stop smiling.
It is Sunday and I'm preparing for the One World Inspirational Choir's performance at the Acoustic Stage. I've just returned to DART from our 9 AM sound check. My GI tract has finally settled down after an attack of nerves. I'm singing in a small ensemble to start the concert. This is not in my comfort zone. I am a choral singer who appreciates being a small part of the larger whole, but festival is a place to stretch yourself. So I am. I run into T., a woman of outrageous beauty and style. I ask her to dress me for the concert. We are to dress in any way that we consider sacred, full-skinned or clothed. I have with me a large patterned blue/purple/black square scarf my E. bought me a few birthdays back, and a brand-new craftswomon-made black silk tapered scarf with mesh "windows" holding beach glass, gold charms, ribbons and other treasures. T. ends up knotting the large square scarf sarong-like around my waist below my navel--bare belly hanging out--and draping the black scarf around my neck so the "windows" rest over my bare breasts. Around my neck is my new craftswomon-made necklace of cobalt blue, frosted white and shocking pink/transparent beads from the Czech Republic. Zowie! Now you must understand, this is not my first unclothed moment at a Michigan festival, but it is definitely not my norm...especially on stage in front of 1000s of womyn! I have never felt more beautiful in my body.
I've foregone attending a singing workshop with Rhiannon on Saturday morning to conserve my very ragged voice. I adore singing with her and rarely have the opportunity, so it feels like a loss. I go to lunch. Carrot and raisin salad, cous cous salad, lettuce and tomato salad with yoghurt dill dressing, raisin bread, peaches, bananas and the ubiquitous peanut-butter-and-honey. I pull up my scooter to sit at a table with friends under our DART kitchen tent. The day is bright blue-skied and sunny. Women and children are spread out around the watermelon tree (piled high at the beginning of the week and barren by the end) as far as one can see. 100s of womyn have lovingly chopped vegies for hours preparing this meal. It tastes healthy and good. I see S. come sit at the table behind me. She is a festie virgin I'd met earlier, newly blind and struggling with what that means here in a strange place among womyn she does not know. I turn my scooter seat so we can eat and talk together. When I express readiness to listen, S. shares her story with me. A complex story, filled with one challenge after another these past 2 years. She is a strong, intelligent, mature womon whose life has seemed to unravel--as a wife, as a mother, professionally, and within her own body. A womon across the table understands at least a part of it because her path has taken her to a similar place. Nothing is fixed during our sharings, but hopefully S. discovers she is not alone and that we care about her and value her life, whatever path it takes.
It is Friday morning. Time I have set apart to go call my sweetie. Sounds simple but at festival one allows 2 hours for such a project, at least we womyn in DART tenting area downtown do. The only phones on the Land are a bank of 6 pay phones out by the main gate and parking lot. Happily, Oceana County has yet to be cell-phone friendly, at least outside the towns and cities. So windchime walker and I pick up a DART shuttle bus to ride the mile to the phones. Even at 10 AM there is a line of womyn waiting. After a short wait and a sweet talk with E., I get lucky and quickly catch a DART shuttle going back downtown. A number of womyn get on at the DART RV bus stop. A young womon stands beside my seat, looks at me with recognition and says, "You don't know me but I saw you last year with your decorated walker. This year my Dad was diagnosed with cancer and needed to use a walker. He wouldn't do it. So I told him about you and your walker. Though he ended up not needing it, it really changed things for him to hear about how you'd turned it into something beautiful. I just wanted to thank you." When I asked how her Dad is doing, G. told me he died 3 weeks before festival.
I'm on the dirt road scooting someplace or other. I pass Kay Gardner, one of the foremothers of womyn's music, and her partner. We stop to greet one another. She says, "I have a new CD to give you!" She and Mary Watkins, the gifted pianist from California, have just put out a CD called, "Dancing Souls". It celebrates their exquisite flute and piano improvisations. Two years ago I first heard them perform together at the National Women's Music Festival and was left breathless. I later ran into them in the halls and encouraged them to make a CD. Their response was, "We'd love to, but making a CD is an expensive proposition. It takes a lot of money." I reached in my wallet and gave them a portion of that year's birthday money, saying, "I'd like to be part of it happening." Over the past 2 years, I've had occasional second thoughts about my rather impulsive generosity. But as I write this journal entry today, I am listening to the dream manifested. It sounds like birds soaring on the winds, trees dancing under passing clouds, waves crashing craggy cliffs...like womyn creating life together.
After a threatening morning, the sun breaks forth from clouds as our chorus sings on Sunday. It seems like the sun always shines on Sunday, especially for the healing circle. After the One World Inspirational Chorus and the Drumsong Orchestra perform, womyn start spreading blankets over the big bowl of a meadow at the Acoustic Stage. Usually Vicki Noble, the ritualist/healer from California, leads this part of festival after facilitating a week-long intensive workshop for healers, but this year she stayed home to be present during her daughter's birthing. Kay Gardner--who has sung in sacred circle with womyn all week--starts a chant, a digjeridoo moans, and drummers offer a pulse beat. Womyn flock to the center of the now-forming circle. They lie and sit on blankets and on the bare ground. In years past I was usually one of the first to be escorted to the center to be healed. Often there would be 4-5 womyn attending to me with hands-on healing for at least 30 minutes. Today I cannot find an empty spot on any blanket. I sit in windchime walker at the edge of the circle, figuring I'll get my turn after these womyn get up. I join the chanting. Womyn continue coming to lie in the center, so eventually the circle spreads and I am no longer at the edge. When Kay asks for healers to come forward, it is apparent that their numbers are sparse in comparison with the numbers who want to be healed. I see womyn lying around me and no one comes to them. I raise my hands and start sending healing energy to each one in turn. The womon at my feet raises her hands to hold mine. I drop to my knees. After receiving her permission, I proceed to do something I have not done before...hands-on healing. When it feels like I have done all that I can, I turn to the womon on my other side. She allows me to work with her as well. I lay my hands first over her heart and then over her throat. It is clear this is where I must stay. I will say no more about the specifics of what transpired, but it was profoundly healing for us both. To be able to give back after all my years of receiving at these gatherings was truly empowering. And, as with most transformative moments, I had neither planned nor expected it.
It's now Monday morning
and I'm packing up. The workers have told me they hope to send
the last DART shuttle bus to the front gate by noon, so festie
goers will be off the Land by the 2 PM deadline. It's 11 AM and
I'm still plugging away. A worker, K., stops me and says, "Patricia,
can you help me? I'm feeling overwhelmed. Can you give me a 'scooter
healing' or something?" I ask her to sit on the stool in
front of my tent, bring out my digjeridoo and start blowing the
low drone close to her heart chakra. I blow for a long time. She
turns and I continue blowing over her back. Her daughter, G.,
comes up and sits on the lawn chair and watches. When we're done,
K. says, with a broad smile, "Thank you. I feel as though
I've been filled up." Her daughter, who had shared with me
on Sunday that she is 4 months pregnant, asks me to do the same
thing on her. She lifts her shirt and I blow directly on her slightly
swollen belly. Time passes. A woman comes by and asks, "May
I take a picture? This is such a Michigan moment!" I nod
my head, continuing to blow. G. makes a small sound and breaks
into a wide grin. "I just felt the baby move. It's the first
time ever!" My eyes well up with tears. She hugs me close.
The healing is complete.
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 16, 2000
As womyn prepare to leave the Land, anxiety rises. Yes, many of us look forward to again being with those we love at home, but the question remains: Are we ready to re-enter the "real world"? The world we have lived in for the past week is one where a sense of total safety is taken for granted, where help is offered before you even know you need it, where our differences are celebrated and respected rather than ignored or used to divide us. No, it is not nirvana. Folks hurt and get hurt there, mistakes are made....but when times get rough there is always someone or someplace to go for comfort, support and healing. No one is alone unless they choose to be.
So I drove out the front gate at 2 PM on Monday with mixed feelings...anticipation that I would soon see my sweetie, and reluctance to leave this world where love and gentle-spirited care for one another is the norm. My first stop was to gas up and get lunch at the Mobil station in Hart, MI. I usually get full serve at gas stations as my disability makes it a challenge for me to unscrew the gas cap, but I knew this place was self-serve. I figured I'd make it. I drove up to the pump, opened my door and got out. Immediately, the womon who was gassing up at the pump opposite mine came around and signed to me, "Can I pump your gas for you?" A deaf sister from festival whose thoughtfulness was extending the boundaries of the Land.
After eating a 6" tuna sub--something more than vegetables, grains, rice, tofu and fruit!--windchime walker and I left the Subway part of the gas station and started walking toward my car that was parked nearby. A grey-haired man in a white truck rolled down his window and asked if I needed any help. So now even men extend the love of the Land!
I returned home about 8 PM to the most generous-spirited man I know, my sweet E.D. There he was, greeting me with such love that it was like hearing "Welcome home!" all over again. Even though he was tired and had had a long day, he graciously unpacked La Lucha my scooter, assembled her, and schlepped my heavy camping gear upstairs. He even listened, really listened, to all my stories as we went for a walk/scoot by the lake that evening.
Yesterday I had an appointment with Kuo Jian, my acupuncturist. His energy, as always, was gentle, respectful and healing...and he was delighted to see how quickly the shingles had cleared up. The rash has dried up and all I feel is some tightness in my left arm and breast. Nothing to speak of. When I left his office at 5 PM, I decided to go to dinner at a nearby family-run Lebanese restaurant that I like. E.D. was playing tennis and would be eating late.
Raw carrot/apple juice, a cup of crushed lentil soup, a hummous/taboulee/falafel sandwich wrapped in pita bread and baklava for dessert. YUMMM! As I ate I read a book by an interesting womon from festival. We had passed on the path near my tent Monday morning and I'd spontaneously said, "You know, I've seen you around here for years--you're just beautiful!" She replied, "Well, I always enjoy seeing you sing with the choir. Hope you keep doing it." She then reached into her knapsack, pulled out this book and gave it to me with a smile. It's her story: The Magical Adventures of the World's Tallest Leprechaun by Mauve. Fascinating!
After eating and reading for a goodly while, I asked for my check. The waitress grinned and said, "It's already been paid!" Apparently a woman had paid my bill (plus tip) and had already left the restaurant! I remembered seeing her sitting alone in a booth, but we'd never even made eye contact. I guess the magic wasn't done yet! I smilingly said to a white-haired man and brown-haired woman at a nearby table, "Did you hear that?" The man, T., invited me to sit down with him and his friend, S. We shared stories for at least another hour. In the middle of it, T. ("Santa Claus") went to his car. He came back with a walkman-type radio (purple, of course!) that he proceeded to give me. Does it never end???
Perhaps the Michigan
Womyn's Music Festival is more an attitude and way of being
in the world than a geographic location or specific time of year.
Maybe those of us who have been graced enough to attend are sprinkled
with some sort of invisible fairy dust when we leave...so
the "real world" is transformed into the world we thought
we'd left. Maybe it's as some folks say--you get back what you
put out. However it's explained, I just know that, given half
a chance, people are very very good. And I am deeply grateful
to be part of what Mauve so aptly calls this "magical adventure."
THURSDAY, AUGUST 17, 2000
My get up and go has pretty much gotten up and went. After yesterday's water aerobics class and scooting all over town, and today's volunteer work at the women's shelter, I am one tired puppy. Guess I better take time out and make a significant deposit in my energy bank account before I start going into overdrawal mode.
La Lucha my scooter was absolutely fabulous at festival. She handled sandy tractor-rutted roads, gravel, dirt paths, hills, grassy fields...and l-o-n-g days and late nights. I'd generally get going by 9:30 AM and not hang it up until after midnight. One night it was more like 2 AM. Because she made it so easy for me to get around, I never stopped! No naps, no hanging out at my tent, just go-go-go. And I never felt exhausted. Until now.
Time for time-out.
FRIDAY, AUGUST 18, 2000
Isn't it strange how you'll be going along your merry way, minding your own business, when a voice from the past calls over your shoulder and says, "Hey, wait up!" That's what happened to me today.
In the '80s I lived through an experience with a "man of the church" who was inappropriate in his conduct with women, a man who wove an intricate web of deceit and charismatic control--not just with me but with countless spiritually vulnerable women. It was a real task to disentangle myself from his web, and to clear away the sticky strands of self-deception that had kept me bound. But I did. I not only disassociated from him, but from the religious system he represented. In fact, I've often felt grateful that his misuse of that system gave me the kick in the pants I needed to get the heck out of there and find my own deep resources of spirituality.
So today an unexpected
encounter brings it all back. Afterwards, I realize that this
unpleasant episode no longer has the power to unsettle me. The
healing spiral I've been on for over a decade has finally come
to a place of rest. And I say, "Yippee!!!"
SATURDAY, AUGUST 19, 2000
I feel like I've just been dropped into another dimension.
Every day since February I've faithfully checked the data from an "invisible counter" on my site. The numbers have been small--32 visitors was the largest day thus far, with a current daily average of 10. I was not really discouraged as I figured it takes time to build up traffic on the web. I first put my site up on AOL in March 1999, and transferred it to my own domain name last January. I've done my homework, ie., registered my site with search engines, joined a web ring, and attempted to build up links with other sites. Occasionally I've been pleased to see that folks found their way to my site by typing in such keywords as windchimes, walkers, disability poetry, and such. The small numbers of visitors have not deterred me from giving it my all. Most days I spend at least 2 hours working on my site, especially since I've been keeping a daily online journal.
So today I checked thecounter.com, and it reported that only 1 visitor had come to my site in the past 24 hours. This didn't sound right as Saturday is usually my biggest day. I called my webhost--Web 2010--and talked to a techie, Tim H. My concern was that perhaps their server was down. Tim took a long time checking things out. When he returned to the phone, he assured me that things seemed all right from their end. Not only that, his information showed that my site was averaging 81 visitors a day instead of 10! Yesterday alone there had been 124 visitors. When I asked where he was getting these numbers, he sent me to the Urchin.com web counter site. Apparently windchimewalker.com had been registered there since April. I brought up Urchin.com and found a treasure trove of material. For instance, my site has had 1458 visitors since August 1! What a difference from thecounter.com that said I'd had 1434 unique visitors since January 31.
It's interesting that
the reality itself has not changed, merely my perception
of the reality. How often that is true. And this changed perception
fills me with wonder. It's not ego that's gratified here, rather
the deep part of me that has stayed true to the original vision
of sharing how one can live a disability creatively.
SUNDAY, AUGUST 20, 2000
There's a hint of autumn in the air these days. Bright warm sunny days sandwiched between crisp mornings and cool nights. Rather like San Francisco. And the maple tree in front of our house seems to be developing a reddish halo around its heavy green top branches. Occasional golden scarlet leaves greet us from the sidewalk as we open our front door.
But summer, though on the wane, has yet to be replaced. On our tandem bike ride this afternoon cicadas still strummed their song from the bushes. Lush green lawns--even for those of us without sprinkler systems--surprise Michigan eyes accustomed to August's usual browned out patches of grass. The turquoise lake is filled with white sails, wake-producing motor boats, kayaks and small fishing craft. Our community's lakefront pool is still crowded with screaming children, bikini-clad teenagers, and over-tanned white-haired women in skirted bathing suits. Runners sweat as they pound out the miles in shorts and tank tops. Ice cream cones still taste good.
We have another month
of summer according to the calendar. But doesn't it always seem
like summer ends the day after Labor Day when the kids go back
MONDAY, AUGUST 21, 2000
We watched television news tonight as we ate dinner. Probably the first time I've watched such a program in more than a year. Don't do much TV, especially not news. Would prefer not to clutter my mind with corporate-controlled thoughts. But this PBS World News Tonight program had a long segment on Ralph Nader's campaign for the US presidency. It again brings up the question of what I'm going to do this November 2. Am I going to vote my gut or my head? Four years ago I voted my gut. It felt so good...and so very unusual. I don't imagine there are many US citizens who walk away from the polls feeling their vote is a reflection of their deepest convictions. Well, I take that back. Probably members of the so-called "Christian Right" do!
It's a bit more complex this year. Dole didn't exactly scare me, but George W. Bush does. During his years as governor, Texas has executed more people per year than all the other states combined (often 2-3 in a week). He is the son of the man who brought us the massacre they call the Gulf War. And to solidify it as a "glorious legacy", he's asked Dick Cheney, the Secretary of Defense during that tragic era, to be his running mate. This man Bush terrifies me.
Al Gore, on the other hand, seems like a nice enough man. But after seeing him consistently turn away from his former commitment to the environment and become just one more "yes man" to multinational corporate interests, I believe he is too easily controlled.
Then there's Ralph Nader and the Green Party. I believe what he believes. I see him as the only one willing to stand up to the powers of globalization and say, "No!" I hear commitment to universal health care, women's reproductive rights, consumer concerns, peace and non-violence, community support for our most needy citizens, and perhaps most importantly, willingness to fight corporate interests to protect our planet.
Folks say to me, "If you vote Nader, you're voting George W. Bush into office." But if I vote Gore, I'm giving the false impression that I'm comfortable with where the Democratic party is now. Actually the only difference I see between Democrats and Republicans nowadays? Abortion. And much as women's reproductive rights are important to me, that is not my only agenda.
So what is my "agenda"? Concern for our planet and all its species (human included), its air, waters, forests, earth, cities and rural areas. I'm against killing--state-sanctioned wars and death penalty executions, as well as the hand guns that are becoming more common than cars in my country. I want the most at-risk portions of the population--children, women, racial minorities, the poor, chronically ill, elderly, disabled, homeless, uneducated--to be offered what they need, not just to survive but to thrive. I want Mom & Pop businesses to have all the support they need to fight the giants that are consuming them right and left. I want every single person to have not just adequate but good health care. I want education to be consistently excellent, no matter where you live or how much $ your family makes or what color your skin. I want the numbers of women in executive positions of leadership in public office and businesses to reflect their % of the population. I want the US to give up its need to be #1 worldwide, and begin to be a peer whose attitudes and actions benefit the global community. These are just a few concerns that come immediately to mind.
So why can't my presidential
vote reflect who and what I am? It can and I suspect it will.
TUESDAY, AUGUST 22, 2000
Is it the crone's path I'm travelling now that promotes my need to be honest and direct in my communication with others? Of course, that way of relating assumes one is willing to examine what one is feeling and thinking, and what one's boundaries need to be. That has been my personal challenge in this lifetime, to look within deeply enough to see all that's there, especially the mucky stuff.
So tonight when I returned home at 7 PM and listened to a phone message on the machine, I needed to let myself feel what I really felt, not what I thought I should feel. What I really felt was reluctance to return this call. What I really felt was drained when I imagined returning the call. What I needed was to set some clear boundaries, boundaries I'd not allowed myself to contemplate much less articulate. But, once the cat was out of the bag so to speak, I knew I must act on it.
E.D. and I spent a good amount of time at dinner discussing my dilemma. How does one claim what one needs if those needs might hurt and disappoint others. Now this is a second child talking here, the one who had to be accommodating and easy to get along with to capture her share of attention from parents already besotted with their precious first child. Anyway, after doing the dishes, I made this tough phone call. And it went amazingly well.
My lived experience is that when I share my feelings honestly with others, the air clears and our relationship is strengthened (if that is what I want). If I am being clear about disassociating from another, at least honesty makes the parting amicable.
Another of those lifelong
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 23, 2000
While the rest of the country is obsessed with who will be the last "Survivor" on the TV show tonight (Gawd!), I've been looking at the issue of how best to protect the confidentiality of my co-travelers in life while keeping an online journal. Had a phone message on the machine today from a person whose life had touched mine awhile back. I'd mentioned him/her by initial, as is my habit, and told the story of our encounter from my perspective. This person apparently felt violated.
Perhaps I'm taking a chance of increasing the sense of betrayal by writing this journal entry too, although I'm being very careful not to identify this person in any way. But there comes a time when a journal writer has to jump off the cliff of safety and say it like it is. If I'm going to keep an authentic journal--online or in my own private notebook--I must write what is on my mind and in my life that day. If I fake it to "protect" another, then I might as well be writing fiction.
From the day I started keeping this online journal almost 6 months ago, I've been very conscious of the issue of confidentiality. As I've said before, just because I choose to be "out there" to the whole world, doesn't mean my friends and family do. So I use initials instead of names, and try my best not to betray confidences or go into detail that might make others too easily identified. This is the first time someone's disagreed with my choice of what to include and what not to include. At least the first time I've heard about it. And I'm deeply sorry this person feels hurt. That is never my intent.
My intent as a journal
writer is to open the door of my day-to-day life in hopes that
my journey might be of some benefit to others...that a reader
might see her or himself in these words and images, and thereby
find a missing piece of their own puzzle, or at the very least,
no longer feel alone. I believe the secrets we keep, embarrassments
we hide, grudges we collect are truly sick-making. They certainly
have been for me. Whenever I've seen or heard or read another's
truth, it enlivens my own. May it be so for visitors to this site.
THURSDAY, AUGUST 24, 2000
A warm sunny summer day. The grass has never looked so lush and green in August, nor the tomatoes, green peppers and corn tasted sweeter.
This afternoon I took my weekly house duty at the women's shelter in the city. The phone only rang 3 times, and not one person came to the front door. Pretty easy volunteer assignment. I sat with F. as she ate breakfast. Her work hours are 5 PM to 5 AM 5 days a week, which pretty well demolishes some folks' stereotype of what kind of woman lives in a shelter.
I read my library book on the morning glory-vined front porch. Then sat in the dining room visiting with my friend P. as she chopped and grated ingredients for tonight's dinner. Barley-stuffed green peppers using golden and cherry tomatoes and green peppers from her garden out front...also fresh dill, parsley, onions, grated Monterey Jack cheese with hot peppers and parmesian cheese. Add garlic bread, slices of fresh cantalope, frozen fruit cream bars for dessert, and you have perfection!
R. came in and told us about being at the baseball park last night when it was attacked by swarms of flying insects. Her first clue that something was amiss came when she saw people in seats across the park suddenly jumping around and slapping themselves. She said she was soon covered by about 30 insects (mosquitoes?), and has a number of bites as souvenirs.
Our dinner conversation was lively after A., who has recently moved in as a temporary staff member, asked Fr. T. some questions about the Catholic church. That led us to remembrances of the late '80s when the Archdiocese of Detroit closed 30 inner city parishes and a strong protest coalition gathered to fight the powers-that-be. Fr. T. and I had both been in the middle of the fray, so it was fun to reminisce. As I left for the night, J. was returning from a walk, smile on her face, headphone covering her ears and purple radio in hand. The gift I'd received from "Santa Claus" a week or so back. It had J.'s name on it from the beginning.
After depositing P.'s
video in the main library drop box, going out of my way because
of a freeway ramp closure (construction), I finally headed home.
Definitely an evening to value air conditioned cars. My window
fan will again hum me to sleep tonight. It isn't autumn yet!
©2000 Patricia Lay-Dorsey.
Please use with attribution.