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TUESDAY, JANUARY 25, 2005
Even though I had plenty of photos to work with (from the J20 Counter Inaugural events in DC), I thought I'd take a few more to show my readers, especially those who live in the Bay Area, what things look like here in the snowy Midwest.
In the first photo you can see what I call Mount Ed. It's where Ed throws the snow when he shovels my ramp. And then you can see the view of our walk between the garage and the front door. That gives you some idea of the depth of the snow on the ground. I also took a picture of the piled up snow in front of the handicap parking place I use at the gym. That's Sojourner you see on the other side of the snow. And finally, a view of the lake--which is now iced up at least a mile out into the channel--from the grounds of a local private school.
Oh yes, I almost forgot. There is one more picture. I took this today of an SUV parked beside that school. Isn't it interesting that someone would paste their "Support the Troops" yellow ribbon right where they fill their vehicle with gas. Quite appropriate, don't you think?
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 26, 2005
My job as a protest archivist is done...at least, for now.
Today I finished putting up the 99 photos I took at the J20 Counter Inaugual events I attended in Washington, DC, on January 20, 2005. Knowing me, I'll probably keep tweeking things, but you can always find the most recent revisions by going to my J20 Counter Inaugural Journal and clicking on the links to the J20 Counter Inaugural photo album #1 at the bottom of the page. There is also a J20 Counter Inaugural photo album #2. And since some of my readers prefer to see the photos linked to the text of the journal, I've done that as well.
Now maybe I can sit back and relax a bit. Maybe even paint...
THURSDAY, JANUARY 27, 2005
I'm wondering how to write about today without totally grossing you out. But I'm going to give it a try.
Things started out fine. I went to school and worked for the first time with Renee who is substituting for Susan while she's off for six weeks recuperating--quite well, I'm happy to report--from her recent surgery. I thought she did a great job with the kids. They were no more out of control than usual and their self portraits are coming along nicely. Renee had them do something new (for our classes, anyway) and that is to critique one another's work.
She pasted their self portraits up on the blackboard and asked the kids to gather around. This was a fourth grade class. She then asked each student to choose one drawing they liked the best, and to tell us what they liked about it. After a drawing was discussed, Renee took it down so that the next student had to choose another one. That way every drawing was chosen and discussed. The kids' comments were respectful and occasionally sophisticated. I was particularly pleased to hear one student use the word "texture" in relation to a fellow student's art. Pretty cool concept for a 9 year old.
After a good day, I got in my minivan about 4 PM for the 15 mile ride home. It was later than usual because of the altered class schedule due to the MEAP tests, so I knew I'd be hitting rush hour and I did.
The problem started about five minutes after I'd gotten on the expressway. Stomach cramps suddenly hit, and I knew what that meant. I had to get to a bathroom and soon.
So what do you do when you're in the fast lane in the middle of rush hour traffic and there's no exit for another mile? You do your best to get over to the right lane and hope for the best. And then another set of cramps came on strong. I feared I wasn't going to make it.
Long and short is that, yes, I did get off the expressway, and no I didn't make it to a bathroom in time.
Experiences like this certainly keep me humble, that word meaning literally "of the earth." I don't recall having to deal with accidents like this before I was diagnosed with MS over 16 years ago, but maybe they simply come with getting older. Whatever the cause, the reality helps one keep things in perspective. You find you can handle things you didn't think you could, and that you can ask for help when you need it. My sweet Eddie always seems to be the one I ask to help me, and he does so with such humor and grace. Moments like this show the true goodness of which humans are capable. And, believe me, I am grateful, deeply grateful.
Now I'm trying to figure out how to protect myself against such a situation in the future. Do you think it's too weird to keep my camping porta-potty in the back of my minivan, covered with a black plastic bag so it's not too obvious? I'm thinking I should do whatever I can to give myself a sense of control over the uncontrollable.
FRIDAY, JANUARY 28, 2005
Special gratitude to those readers who took the time to respond to yesterday's entry. Your kindness helped me regain my equilibrium. And your positive feedback on my camp porta-potty idea sent me to our storage room to find my Michigan festival gear and--with Eddie's help--to outfit my minivan with my "insurance." I must say, I feel LOTS more confident now.
And I painted. FINALLY. What came were two paintings: "The Color of Healing" and "One World."
SATURDAY, JANUARY 29, 2005
It takes a special blend of determination, commitment and derring-do to be an activist during Michigan's winter months. And you need to know when your cold, numb feet and hands are pushing the limits of their endurance. That was why, after an hour and 15 minutes of protesting/singing/leafletting in front of Wal-Mart today, I said, "I'm done. Time to go home and thaw out."
I remember with nostalgia the demos and marches in which I participated in San Francisco from 1996-2002. Sure, it was chilly and often wet during the winter months, but never was it unbearable. Standing--or sitting in a scooter--out in the cold here in the Detroit area can be a true test of the depth of your commitment to a cause. Especially during this, our coldest, snowiest winter in recent years.
So today it was 28 degrees F., which most of us considered warm after the +6-18 degree temps we've been having for a week or more. And I felt fine for the first half hour. I didn't even wear my mittens because I needed my fingers freed up to hand out leaflets. But the second half hour began to get to me. And, as I say, after a little more than an hour, I was done.
Four of us Raging Grannies--Judy Drylie, Kathy Russell, Charlotte Kish and I--joined the monthly Wa-Mart protest mounted by our local chapter of BoycottWalMart.meetup.com. We'd met these wonderful young women and men in December when we'd mounted our own Wal-Mart protest in conjunction with sixteen gaggles of Raging Grannies across Canada and the US. Members of Detroit area Boycott Wal-Mart group just happened to be targeting the same store as us that day, and we exchanged contact info. A few weeks ago, Peggy from their group emailed and invited us Grannies to join them for today's protest.
At our protest in December, I'd been distracted by a Detroit Free Press photographer who must have taken at least 100 pictures during the hour he stayed with us. We'd also had another photographer clicking away, this one from a magazine called STRUT that was featuring our gaggle in an article and wanted pictures of us in action. But today I was free to use the time as I wished. I found myself having fascinating discussions with shoppers as they took a leaflet to read. It was surprising how many people were willing to do so after I'd smiled and said, "Are you curious about why we're out here on this cold day? Here's some information we've researched about why Wal-Mart can afford to have such low prices."
Marie, who was wheeling a shopping cart full of packages out of the store, stopped to talk with us. "I don't like Wal-Mart", she said. "I used to work there but after I quit, they wouldn't give me my paycheck for a year. I finally had to get a lawer, and even then, when they finally DID send me my check, it was void because the time had run out."
"No, I don't like Wal-Mart at all. I'm only here because my son insists on shopping here. I can't wait for him to come out and see you people. I've told him Wal-Mart's no good."
A woman employee came outside, took a leaflet, and said, "I work here you know." I started sharing with her some of the reasons why we were protesting, among them being Wal-Mart's over-priced health benefits for their workers. She said, "I used to work at Value City. I paid $8 a week for health insurance. Here I have to pay $30 a week!" Then she quickly turned around to see if anyone had seen her talking to us.
She was right to be concerned since the store manager had already come out to tell us we couldn't be in front of the store because of their "no solicitations" policy. I'd shown him that we were not on their property (you could tell because of the different texture to the wall behind us) and he couldn't disagree. "But you can't talk to anybody who's across that line." I assured him we wouldn't. I mean, he was just doing his job, right?
I found big differences in how receptive folks were, and it seemed to be racially-determined. The African-American customers, for the most part, were curious about why we were there and willing to take our leaflets to read at home. Many of them stopped to talk to us. Most white folks, on the other hand, eyed us with curiosity from far away, but when they got close, they turned their heads, tightened their lips, and walked by without acknowledging our presence. Of course there were always the exceptions that proved the rule (photos #1 & #2).
All in all, I feel it was a successful protest. We met a good number of folks who were willing to look more closely at this multi-trillion dollar company that busts any attempts by its workers to unionize, pays minimum wage, charges exhorbitant rates for health insurance meaning lots of its employees have to go on Medicaid, destroys local businesses that can't compete with its artifically low prices, and buys its merchandise from sweatshops in poor countries.
If we informed even one person, my cold, numb feet and hands were well worth it.
SUNDAY, JANUARY 30, 2005
We can tell ourselves we're finished with a chapter of our lives, and then something brings it so strongly to mind that we're suddenly back there whether we want to be or not. That was what happened to me today.
I'd gone to the 11:15 AM showing of the documentary, "Gay Pioneers," at the Main Art Theater in Royal Oak. Reel Pride, Michigan's GLBT Film Festival, was screening this film along with a brunch and conversation with one of its "stars," Frank Kameny. Frank was one of ten gay and lesbian activists who were the very first to take to the streets to picket the unjust treatment of gays and lesbians in America. The time was 1965 and the place was in front of the White House. If you know GLBT history, this was four years before the Stonewall rebellion in NYC, the event that most of us see as the defining moment when "gay liberation" was born. Yet here were these courageous women and men who had publicly picketed for gay rights during the height of J. Edgar Hoover's undercover attacks on gays, lesbians, and persons of color (like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr). Frank and his colleagues were photographed, taped, and identified by the FBI and Secret Service during their four years of picketing, yet they did not stop until they decided for themselves that it was time to move to a new form of activism. True heroes and sheroes, I'd say.
We also saw an excellent short documentary called "One Wedding and a Revolution." This film documented San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom's decision to change the city's statutes so that same sex couples could be married legally in the same way as heterosexual couples. The first wedding took place in San Francisco's City Hall on February 12, 2004. "Applicant #1" was Del Martin and "Applicant #2" was her beloved partner of over 50 years, Phyllis Lyon. As the "grandmothers" of GLBT activism in the Bay Area, Del and Phyllis were felt to be the perfect couple to inaugurate this significant step towards equality for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered persons. It was impossible to watch them take their vows without shedding a tear or two.
So that was why I was there--to see these two films and have an opportunity to meet one of the unsung heroes of the GLBT liberation movement. Not to mention enjoying a lovely brunch in the company of friends, or "family" as we call ourselves.
The next film on today's schedule was "In Good Conscience: Sister Jeannine Gramick's Journey of Faith." Sr. Jeannine was also going to be in attendance, and the film was being co-sponsored by the Triangle Foundation (the main sponsor of this film festival) and Michigan's Call To Action (a progressive group of lay, religious and clergy members of the Roman Catholic church). Apparently, Sr. Jeannine has been ministering to and speaking out on behalf of gay and lesbian Catholics for over three decades. And because of it, she was officially "silenced" by the Vatican and the Superior General of her religious order in 1999. But she has not obeyed their orders and continues to do her work as she sees fit. That's where "conscience" comes in.
I knew this movie was likely to stir up an old hornet's nest within me, but I decided to stay and watch it anyway. I figured maybe those hornets would get tired and leave me alone if I gave them one last poke.
A short herstory of the hornets to which I refer: I was born Catholic and after decades of simply being a "Sunday Catholic," I unexpectedly moved into the depths of a faith commitment that took me into a Black inner city Detroit church, mystical experiences of prayer, social activism on behalf of marginalized persons of our world, and in the late 80s into a position of leadership within the Archdiocese of Detroit. After my inevitable disillusionment, I found myself struggling at the side of groups like Call To Action for revolutionary changes within the institutional church. For four long years, I beat my head bloody against the unmovable brick wall of the patriarchal system called the Roman Catholic Church and almost losing my spirituality in the process. As a result of a grace-filled confluence of persons, events and inner promptings, I gratefully walked away from the "church" in April 1993. I have been happily religion-free for the past eleven and a half years and hope to remain so for the rest of my life.
Except for the occasional funeral, today was my first foray back into that world. And, as it would happen, my former pastor, a good man who does work around the world for causes of peace and justice--Bishop Tom Gumbleton--and a nun I used to know when I was struggling for justice within the church--Sr. Beth Rindler--were sitting six rows in front of me and in the seat beside me, respectively. Yes, I was right. This would definitely hit home.
Well, I am left with many impressions, feelings and thoughts. Primary among them is respect for Sr. Jeannine Gramick and her courageous, often single-handed, work to transform that monolithic religious institution into some semblance of what its founder had envisioned and lived himself. I was particularly struck by her willingness to try to dialogue with persons who see things VERY differently from her. At one point in the film, they showed her going out on the streets to talk with protesters at the Bishop's Conference when they were addressing the priest sexual abuse scandals that were (and are) rocking the church. Some of the protesters--persons who identified as Roman Catholcs--were unbelievably hateful and homophobic in their signs and words. How she kept her cool I will never know.
Another overiding response was gratitude. How grateful I am that I'm no longer in the middle of that struggle myself. I have enough seemingly no-win situations in my anti-war work, especially during these George W. Bush years. Believe me, I don't need another intractible institution to fight!
And, of course, there were the memories that flooded over me as I watched how church officials reprimanded, demeaned, ignored and tried to control Sr. Jeannine. I had similar, though not as public, encounters with an archbishop, priests and archdiocesan leaders during my brief foray into their world. It was after a particularly damaging meeting with some of these men that I took the first fall that led to my being diagnosed with MS nine months later. Yes, I remember well what it feels like to be under the thumb of the Men of the Church.
On the other hand, I experienced flashes of memorable times I spent with women and men who have given their lives to working for justice and equality within the church. There are some amazing individuals hidden behind those front lines. I honor their courage, commitment and dogged determination.
And yes, there was some personal healing for me today. Until now I think I'd focused too much attention on one bad egg I'd encountered during those years of serious faith journeying. I'm not talking about bad eggs in the hierarchy, but one who got under my skin in a deeply personal way. He didn't come to mind once during the afternoon. And that, dear readers, is evidence of real growth within my formerly wounded heart. I think he no longer has any power over me, and that is true liberation.
MONDAY, JANUARY 31, 2005
Much of my day was spent making arrangements for my trip to San Francisco in mid-March. By the way, you hadn't heard about it because I didn't decide on it until yesterday.
I am VERY excited about returning to a such a beautiful place where I have dear friends, a sister and brother-in-law, and cousin I love. I'll be staying at the American Youth Hostel at Ft. Mason for a week and will then be going up to the wine country to attend the 3-day WoMaMu (Women Making Music) camp I've enjoyed many times in years past. I will be renting a handicap-accessible minivan just like Sojourner. Having that is going to make all the difference in the world. I can go wherever I want whenever I want. Pretty cool.
There's a Short List of folks I plan to see. I've already got dates set up with some of them: Friday, March 11 (the day I arrive) with Dorothy; Saturday with my sister and brother-in-law, Emily and Gorsha; and Sunday with Jeff and his little boy Noah (whom I've not yet met). I also want to see Luis who is recovering from a broken hip, and Stacey my cousin. I'm sure other folks will be added to my list, but that's it for now. I don't want to run myself ragged, but rather to spend lots of time with those I love. Dorothy and I are planning several day trips...and of course we'll go to Stowe Lake in Golden Gate Park.
I think you can see why I'm getting excited. But if you can't, let me send you back in time a few years to see some of what I'll certainly be seeing:
--A view of the Golden Gate Bridge from high on the cliffs beside the Palace of the Legion of Honor art museum. The AYH where I'll be staying is in a park on the other side of the GG Bridge that also has a view of the bay and the bridge. It's also one block away from my favorite SF resturant, Green's.
--Stowe Lake from the island path.
--View from the retreat center where WoMaMu is held.
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 1, 2005
Over the five years I've kept this daily online journal, my purpose for keeping it has evolved. I originally saw it as a way to share with the public how I live day-to-day with a disabling condition. In the year that my web site, Windchime Walker, had been up and running--it first went up in February 1999--I'd received countless emails with the question, "How do you stay so upbeat in the face of such challenging health issues?" The only answer I could think of was to let them see for themselves. My reasoning was that if I journaled every day, readers could figure out for themselves how I stayed upbeat...or not.
As time went on and my path turned more strongly towards political action, I began to see this journal as an archive of the struggles in which I'd been involved. I'd say my OAS (Organization of American States) Protest Journal in June 2000 was the first of what have become many experiences on the front lines of struggles for peace and justice. And, more recently, my chronicling in words and photos the three month-long community actions supporting our local librarians' and library staff's fight for a fair and equitable contract after two years with no contract at all, felt like a trust I'd been given to archive our struggle as best I could.
So today when the senior librarian, Diana Howbert, came up to me in the library and asked if she could print out my journal entries to use as a hand-out at a workshop they'd be giving on Thursday at the MEA ( Michigan Education Association) annual three-day conference on "Bargaining, Political Action and Public Relations," I was delighted! The title of their workshop is: "Getting the Community Involved in Your Crisis and Behind Your Cause: Grosse Pointe Library Crisis 2001-2004," and it will be presented by Diana Howbert and Lynne Severini of the GPL staff, and Dan Hoekenga, MEA bargaining representative. Diana said the hand-out is about 20 pages long and a copy will be given to every one of the 50 persons who have signed up to attend the workshop. She said they've also made a table-top presentation using copies of the photos I'd taken at every protest, leafleting and picketing we participated in during those three, very active, months.
You know, this one example of my journal benefiting the larger community makes me feel like every single solitary late night and long day I've spent doing this work over the past five years has been more than worth it. May my journal and blog continue to be helpful in ways I cannot even imagine.
And now, a half hour after I'd written this entry, I find an email in my inbox from Karla of off our backs feminist newsjournal (the oldest feminist publication in the United States) asking if they can use excerpts and photos from my J20 Counter Inaugural photo journal for their upcoming issue. The Universe is being pretty damn abundant today!
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 2, 2005
Well, they say Willie the groundhog didn't see his shadow in Windsor, Ontario so it might be an early spring. Hold the thought!
But let me tell you, there was no hint of spring today as the Windsor Women In Black stood silently at their weekly peace vigil across from the Ambassador Bridge to the US from 12:15-12:45 PM. That was among the coldest half hours of the year in my humble opinion. The sign I held read "Iraq: Not Free Yet," which says exactly what I feel after all the hoopla about the so-called "free" elections on Sunday.
How can it be a free election if voters aren't even told the names of the candidates either during the campaign or when they cast their ballots at the polls? That's rather like getting married without knowing the name of the person you're marrying. As the Middle East historian Juan Cole so aptly put it in, "The Iraq Election: First Impressions", this was more of a referendum than an election. The question being referred to the voters was: "Do you support the choices being made by Iraqi leaders who are under the thumb of George W. Bush and his people?" To me, the most telling photo of the day showed a line of men standing with their sons as they waited to vote in Baghdad. At their feet was a gutter running red with blood.
I know we here in America want so desperately to believe that our war has "liberated" the Iraqi people from the worst dictator on the planet. We look at pictures of villagers walking long distances to vote in the first multi-party election in 50 years, and we congratulate ourselves on making that possible. We hear interviews of expatriate Iraqis living here in the US who are practically weeping with joy as they travel hundreds of miles to cast a vote for anyone but their nemesis, Saddam Hussein.
What we must keep in mind when we see and hear such emotional photos and interviews is that: 1) the villagers are simply doing their best to survive in an impossibly difficult and dangerous situation. That situation was brought on by 12 years of punitive sanctions, a war and occupation by a superpower that holds all the cards. They have been led to believe that failure to vote will be seen as an act of resistance by the occupiers, and after Falluja, they know what THAT can mean to their safety; 2) the expatriates are folks who fled Iraq because they were religious and/or political enemies of Saddam Hussein. Most of them have been allies of George W. Bush in his push to attack and occupy Iraq because it would mean the end of Hussein and an open door for them to return home.
I've heard many Americans say, "But at least this is a beginning." I say that democracy can never be imposed by an occupying army. It can only come when the people--who ARE democracy--choose it freely. And that is definitely not what is happening in Iraq today.
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 3, 2005
For those of us who have personally witnessed the power of Doris "Granny D" Haddock when she stands before dozens or tens of thousands and speaks her truth in that deep, forceful New England voice of hers, the following news is heartbreaking. From an email I received at 11 AM this morning:
Doris "Granny D" Haddock, 95, is in a Lebanon, New Hampshire hospital today. She is in surgery at this moment to remove a tumor in her throat. The surgery is expected to cost her her normal voice, though she said before surgery that she will find ways to continue to communicate her political message of reform and democracy. "Sometimes you speak loudest just by standing there," she said, remembering her several arrests in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda for standing up for the Bill of Rights and democratic reforms.
For friends wishing to send cards, her address for the next five days will be: Doris Haddock, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, 1 Medical Center Drive, Lebanon NH 03756.
PS: For those of you who heard her speak in Washington DC during the recent counter-inaugural protests, cherish that memory of the great sound of her voice -- one of the few in our times with the courage to speak the truth.
I was one of those blessed to hear Granny D speak on that chilly day in our nation's capitol. She gave two speeches that day: the first at Malcolm X Park, and the second at McPherson Square. I'd heard the last part of her speech, "Our Velvet Revolution", at McPherson Square and had assumed she'd given the same speech at the DAWN rally earlier in the day. I have just learned differently. Granny D gave two different speeches in Washington, DC on January 20.
In response to my sending
out word to our Detroit area Raging Grannies about Granny D's
surgery, one of our own--Granny Nancy Goedert--just emailed us
a copy of the other speech Granny D gave that day. It is this
speech that I believe will live in our memories as among the most
stirring and timely in our country's history. Even if Granny D
utters not one more word publicly, this will suffice. See if you
Granny D's Counter Inaugural Speech at Malcolm X Park, January 20, 2005
We have honored Dr. King this week. When we honor him we honor many others, all the way back in time to the Sermon on the Mount and beyond, who have given us, if we will but use them, the political tools of love and their great power over all other human forces.
Gandhi taught us that, when used right, non-violent non-cooperation always wins. He gave us five principles to remember in its use: First, know that you are dealing with the truth. Do your research. Bring in the experts. Know the truth before you dare speak for it.
Second, ask those in authority to remedy the problem at hand, and give them a reasonable time to act. Don't ask them to do more than they can.
Third, involve the wider community's conscience in the problem. Share the problem widely.
Fourth, if those in power will not remedy the problem, show the extent of your moral concern through your personal sacrifice. Stand in the way of the injustice with your own body, doing no harm to others, for it is your moral courage that will move the conscience of society toward awareness and action. If you have not won yet, your sacrifice has been insufficient. The fifth principle, because the previous four will give you control of the issue, is to graciously allow the opposing side to save face in the final settlement, as you must love them, too, and will meet them again.
We have the power to win, to serve justice, to protect our neighbors and our planet, but victory comes at the price of our courage and our pain.
So we have our issues. A warming planet, an unjust war, a long list of policies that do great harm to the people and places of the world. We have done our homework and know the truth. We have petitioned for the redress of our grievances and we have waited. We have informed the world so that many are involved. We know what is next for us and it is the fourth principle: our sacrifice.
So that our great grandchildren will look back and say of us, yes, in the first years of the 21st Century, they faced the most difficult of times with extraordinary courage. They knew they would not live forever and they cared that their lives and deaths should mean something. They saved American democracy and the life of the planet with their creative resistance and their courage. While others around them slept through grey lives, they were awake, they saw, they acted, they overcame all the great forces against them. They saved the forests and mountains, the oceans, streams, the air, the Constitution and its Bill of Rights, they saved our ancient hope for a just world, for a peaceful world, where the highest potential of every human might be understood as the greatest resource of every society and nation.
Well, we know where we are and who we struggle against. I have been in their jails and it's not so bad. I know many of you have been in their prisons and felt the sting of their batons and bullets and gasses, and it is not so bad, compared to losing our freedom or the life of our planet.
The limousines of monstrous presumption whisk by us today, but we need not feel powerless, for the real power of history is always in the people's hearts and hands. All the power of change is given by fate and history to the courageous, who fear the loss of liberty and justice more than that brief glimmer of life that sparkles through the eternity of who we are. And so we take our parts in the great struggle between dark and light, fear and love, between the withering decomposition of separation, and the living joy of combination, cooperation and growth.
Let our neighbors, who have voted another way or not at all, see what we are made of and what we are willing to do for love, for life, for justice. Only a few more of them need step forward to our side for love and life and justice to win. They will not step forward if we are not full of courage and grace and beauty and most of all love. We will inspire them with awe. For, from this time forward, our courage must rise to end the war and the coming wars, to end the destruction of our land and its people, and of our planet and its life. With love in our hearts, with a vision before us of a better America made visible in our own lives, we will do what history demands of us now. And so say us all.
...Speech given by
Doris "Granny D" Haddock at Malcolm X Park in Washington,
DC, at the DAWN (D.C. Anti-War Network) and RISE Against Bush/SHINE
for a Peaceful Tomorrow Counter Inaugural Rally on January 20,
If you want to know more about this amazing woman who walked across this country from Oregon's Pacific Ocean to Washington, DC at the age of 89-90 on a personal mission for Campaign Finance Reform, and was the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate in her home state of New Hampshire at age 94 in 2004, go to Granny D's web site at http://www.grannyd.com
And please hold her in strong healing energy. We need Granny D to continue to inspire and prod us to take the courageous steps we must to help save our nation, our world and our planet.
In my concern over Granny D, I almost forgot to post the photos--#1, #2, #3 & #4--I took on the way to school this morning. For three days we'd lived in a world that resembled a children's picture book more than real life. And it was a good thing I took these photos when I did because by this afternoon our temperature had risen to 36 degrees F. and the world was back to normal.
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 5, 2005
Today was our monthly O Beautiful Gaia gathering of the women of the Great Lakes Basin. We met again at Matrix Theatre in Southwest Detroit and were pleased to have Shaun Nethercott, the theatre director, join us. Our entire day was spent rehearsing for our Earth Day concert to be held on April 23 at the IMH (Immaculate Heart of Mary) Motherhouse in Monroe, Michigan. A most appropriate location for such a concert because of this religious community's groundbreaking commitment to making their buildings and properties environmentally responsible. What they have accomplished is serving as a worldwide model of sustainability.
So our musical director, Nancy Nordie, led us in a mix of older songs from our O Beautiful Gaia CD and new songs written by Carolyn McDade and by Nancy, based on the Earth Charter. As you can see from these photos of our musical sections--uppers, lowers (photos #1 & #2), and middles (photos #1 & #2)--we really got into it.
We concluded the afternoon with Nancy singing a song she had recently written to celebrate Mary Tiner's 70th birthday. Much of it focused on Mary's and Joan Tinkess's 20 years spent in the Dominican Republic empowering rural women to organize and take control of their lives. Nancy's song was just the affirmation these wonderful women deserved...and everyone LOVED it (photo #1, #2 & #3)!
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 6, 2005
There are some days you just know are going to be wonderful as soon as you wake up. I guess having heard that our high was going to be in the 40s had already prepared me for the best.
I started off on my scooter about noon. The sun was shining and although I still needed my muffler, hat and mittens, hints of spring were all around me. First of all, I could be out on the road scooting! That in itself was pure gift. Friday had been my first time out on the streets in weeks and weeks. Ed and I had walk/scooted, I to my workout with Matt at the gym and Ed to his office.
Today my destination was the same--the gym--but first I wanted to scoot over to the lake and take some pictures. Once there, I found more evidence of spring. Not all that far from the shore, I could actually see water instead of the endless ice that we've been seeing since early January. And that water was teeming with life...what I could see of it was feathered.
Back on the road, I saw runners, walkers and bikers everywhere. Folks were smiling, and one biker said as he passed, "Ready for spring?" I answered, "It IS spring!" At least it felt like it to me. The birds were singing up a storm, and squirrels chasing each other like children.
I had a great workout at the gym, pushing myself to perform as well as I do when Matt's there to direct me. After close to an hour of leg, abs and upper body exercises, I got dressed and went over to see if I could find Eddie. His car wasn't at his office, so I knew he was off someplace. I turned Ona my scooter toward home and had a lovely mile-and-a-half ride. It definitely felt warmer but I was still grateful for my winter gear.
After a healthy lunch, I went upstairs to paint. For me dealing with such luscious colors is a form of ecstacy. I called the painting that emerged, "Enter My World."
By then it was time to do some online organizing. George W. Bush is coming to Detroit to speak to the Detroit Economic Club on Tuesday and I'm trying to organize an appropriate community response. As it's turning out, we Raging Grannies are going to mount our own protest at 10 AM, an hour and a half before the other activists had planned their protest. I want to be there in front of Cobo Hall with signs in time for the luncheon guests and media to see us. Anyone attending the luncheon must arrive between 10-11:15 AM, so if we waited until 11:30 AM--as the other activists are planning to do--there would be no one there to see us. So it may just be a handful of Grannies out on the streets, but, hey, we can live with that.
Soon Eddie was home and we watched part of an Inspector Dalgleish video together. And now I'm upstairs, writing my journal, calling the Grannies, and listening to Katie Malloch's "Jazz Beat" on CBC radio. I hope to go to bed early. All that exercise and fresh air will make for a sound sleep, I'm sure.
See what I mean about this having been a wonderful day?
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 7, 2005
I awoke to the sound of rain. RAIN! In the midst of such a hard winter, that sound is like a song. It sings of spring and the color green, of birds building nests and the fat buds on trees uncurling their filmy fingers, of yellow forsythia and warm sun on your face. Rain is the promise of what is to come.
I spent much of today preparing for tomorrow's protest against Mr. Bush. Phone calls and emails, but mainly the project of creating a sign. That was harder than usual. With a president like this, one has almost too many subjects to consider. I didn't want the same old, same old. After all, my audience is the people who are attending his luncheon, not Mr. Bush himself. I doubt if we'll see him at all, even tucked inside his bulletproof limo with its darkened windows and armed bodyguards. No, I wanted something that would hopefully make the members and guests of the Detroit Economic Club consider the man they described in their web site as:
"2004 Time Magazine Person of the Year, leader and voice of the global war on terror, steward of the American Republic at home and promoter of freedom and democracy around the globe."
Obvously these folks needed to hear a different perspective. At least they needed to ask themselves some questions. The question I decided on was:
"Ask the Prez about his VALUES re: torture."
In the top right-hand corner of my sign I drew a hooded man standing on a box with electrodes attached to his hands.
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 8, 2005
They didn't like my sign at all. You could see it in the narrowing of their eyes and tightening of their jaw muscles. But it was obvious that they had seen and read it. Two well dressed men--weren't they all?--surprised me by responding.
"What torture?", one asked in a defiant tone.
"Haven't you seen the pictures", I answered, increduous at his question.
"Oh, so you're saying that Bush tortured those people himself?"
"He sure did!" I replied.
"Yeah, sure, he held
the cattle prods himself", one of the two shot back sarcastically.
"That's right", said I.
Whoever approves torture at the highest levels is as responsible as if he did it with his own two hands, is what I wished I'd said but didn't.
But whatever was said or not said, it was clear that my message had gotten under their skin. And that's all I asked. Let those men--mostly white, dressed in black suits, with affluence and economic power written all over them--think twice about this man they were going to hear speak about his plan to put Social Security in their hands, or hands like theirs, to be administered for profit (theirs).
We arrived downtown at 10 AM, just as the doors had opened to DEC members and their guests. We four Raging Grannies--Nancy (our Social Security expert and songwriter), Charlotte, Marilyn (who'd driven an hour in rush hour traffic to join us), and I--stood with one other protester right in front of the door to Cobo Hall where the luncheon was being held. Everyone had to walk by us, and we greeted them with our signs and a cheery "Good morning!" Raised to be polite, most of them smiled and greeted us in return. Even those with narrowed eyes and tightened jaw muscles were polite.
We stood there for about twenty minutes. And then two police officers came outside and told us we'd have to move across the street. "No one's allowed on this side of the street today." When we reminded them that this was a public sidewalk, the man said, "I'm just doing my job." Granny Nancy replied, "That's just what the Nazis said."
But we found the location to which we'd been moved wasn't so bad after all. Many of the attendees still had to walk by us before going into the conference center. Besides, they could now see us and our signs out the front window...and it looked like many of them were doing just that.
After we'd been there about 45 minutes, we were joined by other protesters. Old and young, black and white, loud and silent, we were all there because of our concern over what this president is doing to our country and the world. Social Security (photos #1, #2, #3 & #4) was the main focus today, but there were several signs protesting Bush's cruel war on and occupation of Iraq, and the resultant deaths and suffering not just of American troops but of Iraqi women, children and men. Sierra Club members were there to protest Bush's even more deadly but less noticed attacks on the environment. And of course, there was my reminder of the torture being done in our names in prisons in Iraq, Quantanomo Bay and who knows where else.
We might have been coming from different places, each with our own issues and ways of expressing them, but on this damp,chilly February day in downtown Detroit, we stood and marched (photos #1 & #2) united in our feeling that things were definitely not right under our current president.
By the time the peace community's protest was to begin--at 11:30 AM--all the Detroit Economic Club members and guests were inside Cobo Hall, seated at dining tables waiting for their chicken lunches and their guest of honor, George W. Bush. By then, 84 year-old Granny Magi had arrived with Cindy, a long time Detroit activist, from St. Pat's Senior Center where they both volunteer. We stood together for awhile before deciding to go get lunch. We wanted to be back in time to greet the folks with our signs as they left Cobo Hall after the luncheon was over. Magi and Cindy went back to St. Pat's, and Nancy, Charlotte, Marilyn and I walk/scooted three blocks up E. Jefferson Avenue to Sweet Lorraine's.
What a treat it was to have a lovely meal together in the middle of a protest! That was a first. And, again, our timing couldn't have been more perfect. Five minutes after we'd returned to our protest spot on Washington Blvd., the crowds started pouring out of Cobo Hall. It was just us four and a 25 year-old man named Jarod, who, at his young age, was informed and concerned about Social Security.
A reporter from the Macomb Daily came across the street and approached us with an expression of relief on his face. I said, "Pretty tough to sit though, eh?" He grinned and said, "And they didn't even feed me lunch." He opened his interview with Jarod by saying, "So the president says he's giving you more power over your own investments if he transfers Social Security to private investment firms. What do you think?" Later I heard the reporter say, "What you should be saying is, if I win in the stock market, that means someone else loses. That's what people should be concerned about."
The only other journalist to interview us today was from the Bloomfield Business News Wire. I wonder what he'll have to say.
All in all, I feel it was a successful protest. We made people think, and showed them by our very presence that not everyone sees George W. Bush as a "...steward of the American Republic at home and promoter of freedom and democracy around the globe." (from the Detroit Economic Club's web site).
Whenever I take to the streets for what I believe, just being there is enough. I don't need to see the results of my actions; I simply need to put my body where my mouth is. And by doing so, maybe I've helped even one person to see things in a different light. That's my definition of success.
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 9, 2005
There are times that I am especially grateful I've kept this online photo-journal for all these years. And this is one of them.
Late last night I read on the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival online bulletin board that a womon I've admired and loved for many years has died. Precious Hoffman was less than a year older than I, but seemed like an elder in the honored tradition of the ancestors. And now, at 63, she is gone from this life, and has taken her place as a true ancestor.
How I will miss her. We only saw each another once a year--every August at the Michigan Women's Music Festival--but we shared a bond that beat as strongly as the drums you hear across the Land night and day.
And now all I have left are my memories...and, thank goddess, the words and photos posted here on my web site. The story and photo that brings Precious most vividly to mind is from my 2002 MWMF photo journal. This is what I wrote:
The Acoustic Stage glen is jam-packed with womyn. I just catch the final moments of JUCA's performance, but am in time to see LAVA. Last year was their first Michigan festival and they positively blew us away. These womyn do things with their bodies that seem impossible even as you're seeing it with your own eyes. This year's performance is equally powerful. But who raises the roof--if there were one to raise--is Edwina Lee Tyler, the grandmother of womyn's drumming. I say "grandmother" knowing that Edwina is a few years younger than I, but it's true nonetheless. And what Edwina can do with an audience is something to behold! It's always different but you hold your breath knowing something is going to rock you to the core.
She starts out playing with members of her original performing group. They get us up and dancing, even sparking a spontaneous line dance through the audience. But what happens when Edwina goes it alone is what will stay with me as long as I live.
In usual Edwina-style, she descends from the stage and starts making her way through the audience, drumming and grunting rhythmically as she walks. A voice calls out from behind me, "Edwina! Come over here! Edwina, over here, womon!" It is Precious, a glorious DART sister whom I've known and admired for years. She almost didn't make it to festival because of the grief she is feeling over the loss this summer of both her brother and her sister. This wise womon knows what she needs: a healing from Edwina. At first it seems as though Edwina doesn't hear her. But then, even though she is all the way across the field, she suddenly turns and says, "I hear you. I'm coming." And she does.
What happens next is almost too sacred for words. Let me just say that when Edwina stands directly in front of Precious--the womon she calls "Mom"--and beats her drum while looking deep into Precious' eyes, time stands still and the earth shakes. Actually I, and I suspect many of us, literally vibrate for hours after. Can't you see it in Precious's eyes after Edwina has returned to the stage? These are moments that make any suffering life sends your way fly from mind and fill you with gratitude for all that is. This is my "Michigan moment" for 2002.
May we never forget Precious, her languid smile, eyes welling up with tears, deep chuckle, flirting ways and grandmother wisdom. Rest in peace, dear sister.
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 10, 2005
The kids at school today were loud, raucous and needed a group scolding or two, but they were REALLY into their art projects, and isn't that what it's all about? I think the substitute teacher, Renee, is doing a fine job. As a printmaker, she's offering us opportunities to explore unusual media and even some notions of conceptual art.
The fourth graders are cutting into squares of drywall--Can you believe her boyfriend cut 100 pieces of drywall for us to use?--to make relief sculptures. The subject is to draw a time when you accomplished or achieved something you felt especially good about.
The fifth graders are creating collagraphs and then making prints from them. Their theme is "What about school bothers you or causes you frustration?" We'd discussed this subject as a class last week and the kids' answers--and Renee's and mine--were most revealing. Renee has asked them to approach this subject abstractly which is not their norm. But are they ever taking to it! Lots of kids came up to me today to show me what each abstract shape in their collagraph symbolized. Talk about conceptual thinking! And an earlier fifth grade class that printed their collagraphs today, got so excited they could hardly contain themselves. Even the ones who are usually so cool.
But countless children said at one time or another during the day, "I miss Ms. B. When is she coming back?" We have missed Susan, and I know we'll all be happy when she returns on February 28. Each person brings their own special gifts and energy. These kids are so fortunate to have such excellent art teachers. I don't know about you, but I sure wish I'd had teachers like Susan and Renee when I was young.
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 11, 2005
I had such a good workout at the gym today. Now my muscles feel nice and tired, just the way they used to back when I was a long distance runner. I LOVE that feeling! But I'm not too tired to drive to Ann Arbor for what promises to be a terrific evening of boogle-woogie, jazz and blues piano at the Kerrytown Concert House tonight. Mr. B's Birthday Bash with Junior Vance. OK, gotta go. I pick Pat up in 45 minutes.
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 12, 2005
My sweetie and I went out on a real live date tonight! Dinner at a wonderful family-run Thai restaurant and a movie at one of those huge multi-screen cinema complexes. We had such a good time that we're already talking about doing it again soon. If you're a regular reader you know that this is BIG NEWS!!! By the way, we saw the second half of the film based on the life of Howard Hughes. Ed had gone to see the first half last night while Pat and I were at the Kerrytown Concert House in Ann Arbor hearing Mr. B. (Mark Braun) and the jazz piano legend Junior Mance perform. After an hour and a half, Ed couldn't sit still any longer, so he left. But he was interested enough to return tonight to see the final hour and a half. I don't know if I would have wanted to sit through the full three hours, but what I saw of the film was quite well done. It's called "The Aviator."
This afternoon nine members of our gaggle of Raging Grannies gathered at my house for our February meeting/rehearsal. We all agreed that Nancy looked like a real Granny as she sat on the couch crocheting her new Granny hat. We rehearsed two new songs on Social Security--one written by our own Granny Charlotte and the other by Granny Nancy--in preparation for a community meeting about this issue to be held at a local union hall next Friday evening. We also discussed several housekeeping issues, among them how we want to handle sending group emails to our Granny list. After each Granny had had a chance to express her feelings, we managed to come to a consensus...which when you'e dealing with a group of feisty old women, is not always easy! And we ate. Peanut brittle, cheese and fruit were our delectable choices.
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 13, 2005
This is a valentine I painted for Ed, but I invite you to print and enjoy it yourself. There can never be too much love circulating around our world.
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 14, 2005
Looks like she's done it again! YEA, GRANNY D!!!! From an article by Beverley Wang of the Associated Press,
Post Surgery, Granny D Speaks
CONCORD, New Hampshire - Leave it to Granny D to have the last word.
After undergoing throat surgery last week, there was concern the 95-year-old former U.S. Senate candidate might not speak again.
But Doris 'Granny D' Haddock has no intention of losing her famous voice.
"I'm feeling very, very optimistic," she said from Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. "I think I can lick this thing and I'm certainly going to try."
Haddock's voice is raspy and she has difficulty speaking because of a breathing tube in her throat, but her genteel New England tones were still apparent in a brief interview Friday with The Associated Press.
To read the complete article, go to:
Not all of the news today was good.
While Granny D was recovering her much-valued voice in a New Hampshire hospital, Sr. Dorothy Stand's equally essential voice for truth and justice was silenced by four bullets fired by two gunmen while she was visiting a rural encampment in Brazil.
I have a simple question to ask: Why we have heard absolutely NOTHING from the White House decrying this assassination of an American citizen, an unarmed nun at that? Could it have anything to do with her decades of advocacy work on behalf of the landless peasants in their struggle to keep wealthy ranchers and loggers from taking over traditionally undeveloped areas of the Brazilian Amazon Rainforest?
On whose side do you think President George W. Bush would stand? With Sister Dorothy and the peasants, or with the ranchers and loggers? Need we even ask?
To see her photo and read the Reuters account of this heroic woman's life and death, click on
What follows is an article
published in today's New York Times.
The New York Times
February 14, 2005
Brazil Promises Crackdown
After Nun's Shooting Death
By LARRY ROHTER
IO DE JANEIRO, Feb. 13 - An American nun and environmental activist was shot to death in the Amazon jungle on Saturday, heightening tensions between land speculators and peasant settlers in the region and bringing a government pledge to crack down on lawlessness.
The nun, Sister Dorothy Stang, 74, was shot four times in the chest and head by a pair of gunmen while visiting a remote rural encampment near the Trans-Amazon Highway in Para State. She was renowned throughout the Amazon region for her work with the poor and landless and for her efforts to preserve the rain forest.
Officials view the attack as a challenge to the authority of the government, which has faced resistance from loggers and land speculators in the region over new land-use and ownership regulations.
Immediately after the killing, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva ordered two members of his cabinet and a special police investigative unit to the area.
"Solving this crime and apprehending those who ordered and committed it is a question of honor for us," Nilmario Miranda, the government's secretary for human rights, told reporters late on Saturday before heading for the region. "This is intolerable. We cannot permit impunity in a case like this."
A spokesman for the American Embassy in Brasilia said officials there were following the case and were awaiting additional information once the new workweek begins and weather improves in the region. "We trust there will be a full investigation by the police," he said.
Sister Dorothy was a native of Dayton, Ohio, and belonged to the order of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. She had lived and worked in the Amazon region since the early 1970's, focusing on organizing and educating peasant groups about issues that included land tenure and the economic and environmental benefits of avoiding deforestation.
"This is a terrible, tremendous loss," Paulo Moutinho, coordinator of the Institute for Environmental Research in the Amazon and a longtime associate of Sister Dorothy, said in a telephone interview on Sunday. "She was an extremely important person, a spokesman for the sustainable development movement with a capacity for leadership as big as that of Chico Mendes," the internationally known rubber tapper leader killed in 1988.
In an interview late in 2001, Sister Dorothy complained that she was constantly receiving death threats, which she attributed to loggers and land speculators. But she had tense relations with the local police, who viewed her as a social agitator and once detained her on suspicion of inciting violence and supplying guns to peasant groups, and so could not look to them for protection.
Just last week, Sister Dorothy met with Mr. Miranda to discuss a new round of death threats against religious, peasant and environmental groups in the region along the Trans-Amazon Highway, which Mr. Moutinho called "perhaps the most violent in the Amazon." Her Brazilian associates said Sunday that they feared new attacks aimed at intimidating them and crippling their efforts.
"We're all incensed, but at the same time we're also very afraid," Ana Paula Santos Souza, a leader of the Movement for the Development of the Trans-Amazon and the Xingu, a peasant group with which Sister Dorothy worked closely, said Sunday in an interview. "Sister Dorothy was an American citizen and a nun, and even with all that prominence, she was still killed publicly. What does that mean for the rest of us?"
Two male associates traveling with Sister Dorothy were spared by the gunmen and are reported to have identified one of the killers. The suspect's name and background have not been disclosed, but the Pastoral Land Commission of the Roman Catholic Church issued a statement saying the killing could have been ordered only by the powerful economic and political interests Sister Dorothy had always fought.
"The hatred of ranchers and loggers respects nothing," the statement said. "The reprehensible murder of our sister brings back to us memories of a past that we had thought was closed."
Sister Dorothy's killing comes at a time of mounting tension in Para State. Last month, responding to new government regulation of land use and ownership, loggers blocked highways and rivers, burned buses, threatened to pollute rivers with chemicals and warned that "blood will flow" if Mr. da Silva's government did not suspend decrees they found objectionable.
Early this month, the government acceded to those pressures and rescheduled the timetable for enforcing the regulations. Environmental groups strongly criticized the action, saying it would only encourage more acts of lawlessness in a part of the country where the government's control has always been incomplete and tenuous.
At the moment Sister Dorothy was attacked and killed, the environment minister, Marina Silva, was scheduled to be attending a ceremony to mark the creation of new "extractive reserves" in Para in which the government put large areas of jungle off limits to ranchers, loggers and land speculators. To some of Sister Dorothy's associates, that suggests that her murder had an even broader political motive.
"The timing wasn't a coincidence, because they could have killed Sister Dorothy anytime they chose," Ms. Souza said. "But they saw they were losing areas, and they wanted to provoke the state and send a warning. Now it is up to the government to defend the principles Sister Dorothy represented."
Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 15, 2005
If you're a regular reader, you know that I don't spend too much time and energy fretting about my diagnosis of MS. That's why it rubs me the wrong way when someone brings it up in what I consider an inappropriate way or at an inappropriate time. That happened last Saturday at the end of our Raging Grannies meeting and instead of letting myself get in a stew-fit over it, I emailed the woman involved and shared my feelings with her. She responded by saying her question had come out of her concern for me. This is what I wrote back:
Thanks so much for responding. Regarding your concerns, I suspect I'm one of the healthiest women in our gaggle. I swim laps for a solid 50 minutes on Mondays & Wednesdays, and have a HARD hour-long work out with a personal trainer at the gym on Tuesdays and Fridays. Add to that the fact that my weight stays between 100-103, I drink no alcohol, use no caffeine, eat no meat, and I think you'll see what I mean about being healthy. I do not take any meds and never have. Don't even have a doctor anymore because I never seem to need one.
Dealing with a diagnosis of MS is a matter of adapting to what you need to adapt to, and pushing the envelope whenever and wherever you can. By the way, MS is simply a neurological condition not an indication of poor health.
There's so much to learn about ourselves and others, isn't there?
When I work out HARD at the gym like I did this morning (photos #1, #2 & #3), or swim laps for a longer period of time than any of the able-bodied swimmers, I get peeved when treated like an invalid, (def: "person suffering from ill health").
Aside from that, I had the pleasure today of scooting down to the park and seeing our icy lake up close (Photos #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6 & #7). Our recent rains had melted enough snow so the sidewalks were finally clear. Of course, they're predicting snow again tonight, but at least I used this day well. My greatest surprise was seeing a fellow (George) fishing! Hardy folks, these Michiganders.
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 16, 2005
I guess I'm not done yet with the inappropriate comment made by one of the Raging Grannies at our meeting last Saturday. More specifically, I'm not done dealing with my response to it. I now see the nerve she touched has a very deep taproot.
Her question was: "Patricia, do you have problems with pressure sores from sitting in your scooter all the time?"
This question came completely out of the blue and was asked in front of another Granny. In our two-and-a-half hour meeting/rehearsal, there had been no mention of health problems, my own or anyone else's. So I was not prepared. In my almost five years of using a scooter, I have never been asked this question, not even by a health care professional.
So, yes, objectively speaking, she had overstepped the bounds of polite conversation.
But my intense response, after I'd gotten over the initial shock, was inappropriate too. No, I didn't react badly at first. I just answered, "No, I don't get pressure sores. But I'm up and about more than you realize." Then I told her a bit about my exercise regime. The other Granny chimed in with, "We should all be as active as Patricia!"
So why did I have to send her an email--and post that email here--detailing my excellent exercise, weight and eating habits? Now I know why. The subject of pressure sores belongs to nursing homes and/or the care of persons who cannot care for themselves. And that is my greatest fear.
I remember how upset I'd get when staff and visitors at Mom's nursing facility would occasionally assume I was a patient there. It didn't help that one night I'd waited outside at the door with a woman in a wheelchair and her husband. She'd told me she had MS and that she and her husband had recently moved into the Assisted Living wing so he would no longer have to spend so much time taking care of her. That scared the s**t out of me.
Exploring my feelings on this subject helps me see why it is SO important that I excell physically at whatever I try. If I can swim farther and work out harder than anyone else, that means I am capable of taking care of myself. It also helps me see why I do not seek out the company of other disabled folks. Holding my own among able-bodied women and men is more important to me than receiving support from persons who know from the inside what I'm dealing with.
I guess I still have a ways to go before I accept myself as a disabled individual. But maybe that's what keeps me on my feet and fighting to be all I can be. Who knows? We each handle life's challenges in our own way. Mine seems to be as a warrior. Maybe I should change my web site to "Windchime Warrior!"
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 17, 2005
Do you remember how you and your classmates used to treat substitute teachers? Not nice, eh? Well, Renee has been subbing for Susan for six weeks as art teacher to about 500 youngsters. I don't know how she's stood it. Today I had to leave one class because I couldn't take it anymore. They were loud, out-of-control and a couple of them were running around the room with printers ink all over their hands, looking for someone to smear. When I returned about ten minutes later, everyone was in their seats, cleaned up and quiet. I don't know how she did it. Renee asked them to apologize to me for being so bad that I'd had to leave. I was surprised anyone had noticed.
Please don't get me wrong; I think Renee has done a fabulous job of teaching art. Her projects have been imaginative and engaging. And the kids have made some terrific art. Even when they're loud and out-of-control, like today, they're really into it. One fifth grade boy--the most challenging student in the entire school--actually completed his first art project of the year! So my comments have nothing to do with Renee's abilities as a teacher.
Hey, Susan has her challenges with these kids, and she's been teaching here for eight years. In my opinion, art classes are much harder to control than regular classrooms, especially in K-5. The kids get excited making art, they must move around the classroom to get materials and clean up, and they're sitting six to a table which automatically encourages conversation (or fighting, depending on the personalities involved). It's a given that they're going to be louder than when they're working on math or reading or social studies or english. But things always ratchet up a notch or two when there's a sub, even a long-term sub like Renee.
After our sixth class of the day had finally left--the class I'd walked out on because it was so crazy--we sat for a few minutes to catch our breath. I told Renee how much I admired her for keeping her cool during these last six weeks. She smiled and said, "Hey, it wasn't so bad. They never even made me cry!"
We have mid-winter break next week and then Susan returns on Monday, February 28. I hope she feels totally recovered from her surgery 'cause she's gonna need all the strength she can get!
After my gym workout tomorrow noon, I'm off to Ann Arbor for an overnight stay. I've got reservations for an 8 PM concert at the Kerrytown Concert House and an 11 PM performance at the Firefly Jazz Club. At the KCH, I'm going to see and hear Ricky Ian Gordon on piano while his original songs are sung by soprano Melanie Helton, and mezzo sopranos Wendy Bloom and Deanna Relyea. The show is described as, "An elegant evening featuring the arty, effervescent songs of award-winning songwriter Ricky Ian Gordon, the acclaimed young lion of the current New York musical theater scene whose music a New York Times critic called 'caviar for a world gorging on pizza.' His songs feature lyrics by Langston Hughes, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Dorothy Parker, and James Agee." The headliner at the Firefly is David "Fathead" Newman, the legendary tenor saxophonist. From the blurb, "Newman was a member of Ray Charles's band, and the jazz recording Charles made with that band - aptly titled Ray Charles Presents David Newman - is most distinguished for what one fan calls Newman's 'fast, driving, harmonically surprising, melodic, precisely articulated solos'."
I'll be staying Friday night at the Michigan League, my Ann Arbor home-away-from-home. Right now they don't have any rooms available for Saturday night, February 19, but if there's a cancellation, I might stay over until Sunday. The University Musical Society is sponsoring the Jack DeJohnette Latin Music Summit at the Hill Auditorium on Saturday night, and Khaled al-Saa'i, a young internationally-acclaimed Syrian calligraphic artist is demonstrating his craft from 2-4 PM on Sunday at the University of Michigan Art Museum. His demonstration is being held in conjunction with the "Art of the Written Word in the Middle East" exhibit currently at the museum. Renee, our substitute art teacher, participated in a teacher's workshop with al-Saa'i last week and was mightily impressed.
So you might not hear from me again until Sunday. Have a wonderful weekend.
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 19, 2005
The music was superb, last night's sushi dinner and today's feta cheese omelet were delicious, Ann Arbor was imminently scootable--though cold--and this afternoon's visit to the University of Michigan Art Museum was quite interesting. I also took a nasty fall in a resturant bathroom before last night's concert, hit the right side of my head and my ear on the sink on the way down, and had a heck of a time manuvering myself over to the door to unlock it so someone could come and help me get off the floor. My ear was scraped raw and is now swollen, bruised and quite sore. I also had a hard time sleeping last night, not just because of the ear but because the room was frigid. The thermostat was controlled centrally by the building manager--a fact I didn't learn until this morning--and there were no extra blankets. I finally got up at 3:30 AM, put on my socks and turtleneck jersey under my nightgown, and covered the bed with my sweater and coat to add some warmth. Then I finally got some sleep.
So, as in real life, it was a mix of good and bad. But the good was SO good that it definitely outweighed the bad.
Ricky Ian Gordon's original songs, sung wonderfully by Wendy Bloom, Melanie Helton and Deanna Relyea, were sophisticated, musically imaginative, and unexpectedly moving. "Three Sisters", a song based on his personal experience of having grown up with three sisters, rang true for me, the middle of three sisters. And the eight-song series based on poems by Marie Howe about her brother's illness and death, catapaulted me back to 1994 when my heart friend and train buddy Joels was dying of AIDS. Ricky introduced the series by telling us that his partner of many years had died in 1996. He said that only Marie Howe's poems had brought him comfort during the profound darkness that followed Jeff's death. His songs reflected that depth of feeling without any sentimentality. That made it all the more powerful.
I was fortunate to be sitting off to the side of Ricky at the piano. That meant I could see his face, his body language as he played, his hands on the keys, and the music in front of him. What a master! First of all, his music is incredibly intricate but sounds natural the way he plays it. And he plays his instrument with flair, feeling and virtuosity, yet manages to accompany the singers with sensitivity, sometimes humor, and never a hint of grandstanding. I don't know how he does it, except to say that it all comes together, almost on a cellular level.
It was a marvelous evening of song and music at Ann Arbor's Kerrytown Concert House.
And then I was off to the Firefly Club to hear and see David "Fathead" Newman, the legendary sax player who was part of Ray Charles' band. I arrived at 9:50 PM and was first in line for the 11 PM show. Even sitting outside the front door in a chilly hallway, I was mesmerized by what I heard of the first set. Especially when he played "Georgia On My Mind." It was so sweet I even began to feel warm.
But being at a front row table with my new friends--Mary Anne and Clarence, and a fellow I've seen at many Ann Arbor jazz concerts whom I now know is named Dan--meant Mr. Newman was playing right to my heart. And he wasn't the only one. Some of Michigan's finest jazz musicians--Tad Weed on piano, Kurt Krahnke on bass and Pete Siers on drums--made up his quartet for this gig. It was one of those magic nights of jazz where time ceases to exist, the world situation is parked outside the front door, and all you can do is remain present to and grateful for what you are hearing, seeing and feeling. When the set came to an end a little before 1 AM, it was as though I'd awakened from a glorious dream. And the glow stayed with me for hours...even while I lay shivering in my cold bed!
By the way, a reader emailed to say that David "Fathead" Newman was portayed in the movie, Ray, as a "junkie who supplied Ray Charles with heroin." If that's true, it bears no resemblance to the gentle-spirited elder who played his sax and flute with such love and tenderness that you felt you were in the presence of a truly enlightened being. I guess we've all made mistakes in our younger years. Maybe making our way to the other side of those bad choices is how we develop true grace. And I could see that Mr. David "Fathead" Newman is a man of grace. His wife, Karen, who was selling his CDs and has lived with him for 25 years, concurred. "David is a genuinely good man," she said. You can hear it in his music.
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 20, 2005
Thunder and a blizzard at the same time??!! Yikes, this climate thing is really getting weird. It snowed all day long and at 5 PM I heard not one but two claps of thunder. If it had been one I would have thought I'd imagined it, but two? And then the snow turned to freezing rain. When Ed went for his after-dinner walk he said it was raining, snowing and sleeting all at the same time!
Tell me how happy I am that I had two scootable days in Ann Arbor. Every time the snow melts enough for me to get back out on the streets, we get hit with another storm. This is some winter!
The funny thing about this storm is that I got my first hint it was coming from a friend who's in prison out in California. Yesterday I got a letter from my friend Steven King Ainsworth in which he predicted southern Michigan would be hit with the huge storm system that was over California as he was writing. He gave it three days for the Gulf Stream to carry it to Detroit, and he was only off by one day. Thanks for the warning, Steven.
Even though I'm getting rather tired of snow and more snow, today I was content to stay home and enjoy my view out the window. I worked at the computer, then sat in my favorite chair in the living room and read a book I'd bought in Ann Arbor--Marge Piercy's latest novel, "The Third Child"--and finally went upstairs to paint. With no forethought, I ended up with a painting that reminds me of the California hills. I call it "A Different Reality."
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 21, 2005
Oh my goddess but did we have FUN today!!! My art friends Penny and Sooz came over and we spent the day--except when we stopped to eat Sooz's delicious Bengali lentil soup and Penny's Chinese salad and bread with cheese--making Artist Trading Cards (Photo #1, #2, #3 & #4). Penny had found this project on a web site and was already into it. But Sooz and I were soon hooked too.
The idea is to make trading cards based on the idea of the old baseball cards, but instead of pictures of baseball players, Artist Trading Cards (ATCs) are small works of art. You can use any media you like--paint, ink, drawing, collage, rubber stamps, etc. It's a great way to use up paintings that didn't work, or you can create something just for your ATC. Penny had a treasure trove of supplies for us to use: rubber stamps, a gold and black embossing tool, yarns, scraps of painted papers, stars & spirals cutting tools, pearlized paints, you name it. We painted in the morning so we'd have cards to decorate in the afternoon. I got so into my painting that I couldn't bear to cut it up, so instead I cut up a couple of old paintings that hadn't worked. (Don't worry, I didn't tear up any of the paintings in my online Art Gallery).
When it was time to stop, we each laid our Artist Trading Cards out on the floor (Photos #1, #2, #3,#4, #5 & #6)) and had a little exhibit. Then we traded cards like the web site recommended.
I SO encourage you to try this project whether or not you think you are an "artist." It is too fun for words. And if you make one you don't like, just collage something on top of it. Trust me. You cannot make a mistake!
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 22, 2005
It's official: Amnesty International has just released a report entitled "Iraq -- Decades of Suffering." In it is said that "while the systematic repression under Saddam had ended, it had been replaced by increased murders, and sexual abuse -- including by U.S. forces." A Reuters article by Jeremy Lovell--"Amnesty: Iraqi Women No Better Off Post-Saddam"--discusses what this means to women.
But I believe no one can tell us better than Riverbend, our sister blogger from Baghdad, what life is <em>really</em> like today for women in Iraq, and how it has changed since March 20, 2003. If you go to her blog, "Baghdad Burning," and read the Friday, February 18th entry entitled "Groceries and Election Results...", you'll see what I mean.
Let us never lose sight of the truth.
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 23, 2005
On this full moon night let me share with you a poem I wrote last February:
The moon blazes white
upon my quilt
turning night into day.
I cannot sleep with
its unblinking eye
in the February sky.
What does she see,
this farsighted moon,
this unprotected orb
My legs stirring like
under the blanket?
A child's voice adding
the chorus of moans and cries
in an overcrowded Iraqi
A couple married so many
years they hardly wake
to make middle-of-the night
love under soft, wash-worn sheets?
An elephant trumpeting
final cry as the poacher's bullet
pierces its heart?
A woman placing her nipple
into the already-sucking mouth
of her hungry baby?
A star dying a lonely
within a galaxy on fire,
swirling in space?
The moon sees all, tells
and knows its place.
The silent observer
February 8, 2004
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 24, 2005
If I had seen such a sign or bumper sticker in my younger years, I wouldn't have known what it meant. It might as well have been written in a language I didn't understand. In my family we were taught never to question authority; if you did, you would be punished for being "sassy." Especially by my Dad.
So, for me, the journey to becoming a person who questions authority was long and arduous. But, as you know if you're a regular reader of my journal or blog, questioning authority is at the heart of who I am and how I conduct my life. In order to be a critical thinker, which I consider essential in these times, I must ask questions, both of myself and of others. If I were to grow complacent and content to allow individuals and groups outside of myself determine what I thought and believed or what actions I took, I would be as guilty as they of any abuses being done in my name. Dissent is not a negative quality in my estimation, but the positive responsibility of a thinking person.
Over the past few days I've been in the middle of a rather heated discussion on the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival online bulletin board. In it I have dared to question the authority of the festival producer, who is the sole proprietor/owner of the for-profit business known as the WWTMC. It's been interesting and occasionally discomforting to experience her friends' and supporters' disapproval of my questions and opinions. More than once I've been instructed to "back off." Because of her incredible commitment to the festival and the world that has been created there since 1976, they say we should not question her ways of doing things, but merely offer her our gratitude and appreciation.
I am grateful and appreciative; at the same time I am uneasy with the decision-making powers for such a huge undertaking being held by one person.
After receiving more than 40 responses to my original posting, and offering a few responses of my own, I'm done. For now anyway. Through it Ive learned more about the herstory of festival: for instance that it was originally run by a collective of womyn, then became a two-womon partnership, and only since 1995 has it been under sole ownership. I also discovered there are at least two determinants when deciding who to book as performers and workshop presenters. One is the "womyn's culture" model in which you bring in little-known performers and presenters from the U.S. and other countries in order to share a diverse view of womyn's culture. The second is a more commercial model in which you bring in well-known performers, mostly from the U.S., who will draw as many womyn of different ages, ethnicities and backgrounds to your event as possible. Over my ten years of attending the MWMF, I've seen a definite shift from the first to the second model, and no wonder. Just keeping the festival economically viable is a real challenge in times like these.
But perhaps my greatest and most important learning was to see that the vast majority of womyn are reluctant to question authority, especially an "authority" who gives them a place and time to come together as a community of womyn to live on a Land they treasure dearly. I can understand their feelings. But as for myself, I will continue to ask my questions and try to offer alternative ideas of how we can re-create our Womyn's World in a more healthy and collaborative way. If we see the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival as a model of how we would like the greater world to be, we must be willing to examine all aspects of our life together, including how we are governed or, preferably, how we might learn to govern ourselves.
It is now a few hours later and I've just had the most unexpected question pop into my head: Do I even want to go to the Festival at all this summer?
I haven't missed a festival since I starting attending in 1994; nor did I imagine I would ever miss one unless there were a health emergency with Eddie or me. But something about having lifted this stone of silent acquiescence, and seeing what is crawling around under it, makes me wonder if this is the kind of women's world I want to support.
This is the danger of being a critical thinker and asking hard questions--you often find out things you didn't want to know. As Ed says, disillusionment is the growth of truth.
Well, we'll see where
I am as August approaches.
© 2005 Patricia Lay-Dorsey. Please use with attribution.