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To read my current
journal, please go to: windchime walker's
FRIDAY, AUGUST 25, 2000
After my hourlong water aerobics class, I accomplished a feat that surprised and delighted me. I swam 2 laps using a swimming stroke that could loosely be called the crawl! My arms actually came out of the water, arm over arm. I breathed to the side. I did a small flutter kick. And, durnnit, I made it across that pool and back again!
Until today the best I could do was to get on my back, move my arms like tadpoles at my sides and kick my tiny flutter kick. Never even completed a whole lap that way, but it was still an improvement over my first time in the pool when water aerobics started in mid-June. At that time I could barely keep myself upright, much less swim. This former fish was actually afraid of the water. But when your limbs are not doing what you always counted on them to do, it can be pretty unsettling.
Bit by bit I've gotten more comfortable in the water. I also found that exercises I couldn't do last June, I was now doing, at least in my own way. Each week I dared to go deeper into the water and try more adventurous things--like the "can-can", "washing machine" and "Irish jig". I'd even gotten so I could talk to my classmates while exercising, instead of needing to use all my concentration just to keep my head above water (literally).
I feel like I've just run a marathon (26.2 miles) like I did in 1979 and '80. Or biked a double century (200 mile) weekend like we did in the '70s and '80s.
I mean...I SWAM 2 LAPS!!!
SATURDAY, AUGUST 26, 2000
Today my friend, P.K., and I went to the Michigan State Fair. It had been at least 10 years since I'd last attended, but so little had changed that I could easily find my way around.
The rabbit/chicken/pigeon exhibit building full of caged cocka-doodle-doos and soft coo-coos. The sheep barn with most animals covered in clean cotton aprons while a few bleated loudly as their fleece was brushed and sheared. The Merchandise Mart where P.K. bought "2-for-the-price-of-1" chopper/shredders after watching the fast-talking demonstrator make salsa. The Miracle of Life tent where a cow was trying to hold off her imminent calving until after the crowds left for the night. The Agriculture building with its life-sized butter cow and calf. The Community Arts building with quilts hanging from the ceiling, dolls in glass cases, floral arrangements beginning to droop, and memories of our blue ribbon for the bicentennial hooked rug 40 neighborhood kids helped us make in 1976. The Coliseum where P.K.--who wasn't lucky enough to use a scooter--could finally sit for awhile. The horse barn where we watched a white Arabian gelding named Isis Star Dancer get his pre-show shower, his mane braided so it would dry wavy, and outfitted with silver-decorated reins and bit. We talked to B. who said her daughter had shown Isis riding Eastern saddle for 5 years but was now going to compete Western-style after only 2 weeks preparation. We thought she and Isis looked wonderful, but apparently when they gave the command to "hang canter" (or some such), Isis went into a full canter instead, so they did not place. They weren't discouraged as she was riding Isis Star Dancer in two more events tonight.
I guess I've changed in the past 10 years because I didn't buy one thing to eat or drink. We brought our own breadsticks, Jordan almonds, oatmeal raisin cookies and water bottles, and that seemed enough...except for P.K.'s cherry ice cream cone. In the old days I couldn't have imagined going to the fair without making my way through a corn dog spread with mustard on both sides, greasy french fries covered in vinegar, corn-on-the-cob, fresh-squeezed lemonade and maybe an elephant ear. Memories of my pre-vegetarian nutrition-be-hanged relationship with food!
Actually the fair didn't enthrall me like it used to. But if I remember, the fair was not just for me or for E.D., who only liked the Merchandise Mart anyway--have you ever owned a wax stick that magically keeps your eyeglasses from fogging up? Have you owned two of them? The State Fair was an annual tradition in our neighborhood. For years, E.D. and I would take any kid who wanted to go (and whose parents didn't!). We'd watch them ride the rides, lose their $$ at carnival booths trying to ring bottles, and always have a group photo calendar made. Those were the days.
As P.K. said when we left,
"Well, that'll do for another 10 years."
SUNDAY, AUGUST 27, 2000
After yesterday's State Fair outing, I went to bed early. The night sky was showy with flashes of lightning amid far-off growls of thunder. I woke and slept, as is my habit, enjoying the sound of rain against my windows throughout the night. The morning dawned grey and heavy-clouded. A perfect Sunday to stay home. I gathered my dirty clothes and sweet E.D. did a load of wash for me. Spent some time sitting out back blowing my digjeridoo to a squirrel--nut clenched in mouth--scampering down our neighbor's black walnut tree. Then a little time on the computer to catch up with email. Lunch with E.D. was in front of one of his usual Sunday "Meet the Press" or "Face the Nation" TV shows. They're so confrontational in tone, we always get caught up in a political argument ourselves. We did again today. After lunch I went back upstairs to fold and put away my clean laundry. I next set myself to something I've put off for the last couple weeks--organizing my festival tenting gear in preparation for storing it away until next August. After accomplishing all my "assigned" tasks, I put on my new Barbara Higbie piano solo CD,"Variations on a Happy Ending", lay down on the futon in the front room and continued reading a novel I'm thoroughly enjoying, Lorna Landvik's The Tall Pine Polka. Dinner was Chinese carry-out--2 vegie spring rolls for me and vegetarian chow mein on rice for E.D. After I finished washing the few dishes, I hopped on La Lucha the scooter to find E.D on his nightly lake-front walk. I was surprised that it was completely dark when we returned home shortly before 9 PM. Less than a month till the Autumn Equinox! Now, after I finish writing this journal entry, I'll make my final email check of the night, then curl up one last time with my book. Will probably turn in around 11 PM or so.
What a lovely quiet Sunday.
MONDAY, AUGUST 28, 2000
I feel bereft! Like a bird with her wings clipped...
La Lucha the scooter is staying overnight at the scooter service center. I had to take her in today after she stopped dead a mile from home on Friday. I'd only gone 5 miles and her range is supposed to be 17 miles. Luckily I had my cell phone with me. E.D. was at his office nearby so he rescued me. She'd run low after about 5 miles two times at festival, but I'd excused it because of the rough terrain, sandy soil and hills. But I can't risk getting caught far away from home here in the city, especially if E.D.'s not available. Makes me very uneasy to think about how vulnerable I'd be if this happens in San Francisco. I've had total trust in her; perhaps unrealistically so.
Anyway the sales/service man, K., couldn't figure out what was wrong. The batteries were throwing out enough "amps". The charger was OK. And even though the scooter was so dirty he said it looked 10 years old instead of 3 months--hey, you go camping with a scooter for a week!--that shouldn't affect her performance. So he called the Amigo service folks. They asked lots of questions about my normal patterns of use--every day, outside rather than inside, 1-5 miles at a time, extended rides rather than stop-and-go, paved surfaces, no hills to speak of. Seems they can't figure it out either, so they told K. to give me 2 new batteries (I'm within the 6 month warranty period). He had 2 higher performance batteries that he installed, but wanted to charge them overnight just to be sure they're functioning OK.
I guess K.'s right when
he says that most scooter owners drive it around the house, to
a nearby store, or maybe around the mall. I've used her like she's
a saddle horse or even a car. La Lucha certainly doesn't have
a cushy job here! But it's hard to imagine a scooter that's better
loved and appreciated.
TUESDAY, AUGUST 29, 2000
How could I have imagined that my most welcome sight of summer 2000 would be seeing road asphalting machinery pull into the lane beside our garage?!? Well, it is...and today (finally!) they did.
That road has been torn up since April, making it a bumpy bumpy ride over loose gravel and up a poorly-graded sidewalk curb every time La Lucha and I left the garage to go for a scoot. And for the past week there's been a 2" drop-off ledge from our paved driveway onto the lane. My scooter can only handle 1", so I've been having to go in and out our garage's very narrow front door whenever I wanted to go for a scoot. Even after calling the construction engineer about my accessiblity problem, I had to wait 5 days for this welcome vision to manifest.
I'd just parked in front of our house when the machinery made its turn into the lane. As I got out of the car, I yelled over, "Boy, are you guys a sight for sore eyes!" I heard back, "So do you have any cold pop for us?" I was only too happy to give them all we had in the way of cold drinks--1 Diet Pepsi and a large bottle of Cranapple juice with 6 paper cups. Whatever makes these road pavers happy!
I then sat in the garage and watched the process. A huge truck pours asphalt in hot ribbons onto the road. Two workers stand off to the side and spread the poured asphalt with wooden rakes. They're followed by a small steamroller that goes back and forth, back and forth ad infinitum until the surface is packed down enough so that ridges no longer appear. The driver occasionally gets down from his truck and taps the asphalt down by foot along the walls of buildings and beside driveway entrances and graded sidewalk curbs. There is much more personal attention in roadwork than I would have imagined.
One worker, M., told me he's been feeling stressed out because our city is too cheap to pay them to do the job properly. For instance, this is supposed to be a two-part process, but the city insisted they do it in one. Secondly, M.'s responsibility is to see that their roads drain rainwater adequately, but the city would not allow them to use the extra tonage of asphalt to grade it as they usually do. The city insisted the asphalt be no deeper than 1?" instead of the 3" needed to build up the center of the road adequately to insure proper drainage. M. said, "Don't blame me if this road holds the water when it rains."
Well, my feeling at this
time is that even if it puddles, at least it's smooth. I don't
ask for a lot these days. Just a road one can call a road.
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 30, 2000
What a wonderful day! E.D. picked up La Lucha the scooter this morning at the service center and brought her back home. She has 2 new batteries, and is shining from a much-needed washing. She wasn't home 20 minutes before we set off for a nice long ride up the lake. The morning sky was heavy with fog and there was a distinct nip to the air. I stopped, removed my purple cotton jacket from my backpack and gratefully put it on. When I turned back--going south--I had to stop again and return the jacket to my backpack. My eyes travelled up the stately syamore, oak, elm and maple trees checking for signs of fall. I'm happy to report most of the trees are still sporting their summer green, but as E.D. remarked lately, the quality and colors of green are becoming more differentiated. Our next stop was the lakefront park. It was almost time for water aerobics.
This is our last week so each session is becoming more and more precious. I've made friends with J., a most interesting woman. Journalist all her adult life, she is newly retired and enjoying, as she says, being a "lady of leisure." Our conversations seem to move as energetically as our exercising bodies during these hour-long classes. Music. Food. California. Movies. Books. Restaurants. Writing. Family. Work. Cities in which we've lived. Politics. A grand range of topics. She is intelligent, engaging, enthusiastic and honest. I'll miss our watery meetings!
After class I swam laps for the third time. On Friday, it was 2 laps. Monday, 3. And today 4 whole laps of the crawl. I feel like an athlete again! My kick is getting stronger, my arms more defined in their movement, and my breathing more efficient. What an accomplishment! And these are l-o-n-g laps. Official pool laps. I am so pleased.
To finish off this perfect day, La Lucha gave me between 6-7 miles of riding today, without a problem. That is such good news. And one of my stops was a new juice bar just 1? miles from home (right down the street from E.D.'s office), called Atom's Juice Cafe. It is the first certified green restaurant in Michigan, so recognized because of their eco-friendly commitment to using only recyclable and biodegradable paper and plastic products, and serving organic, vegan food and drinks. It's run by two brothers and their families: the manifestation of a long-held dream. I ordered a "Spiral Architect" made of carrot, beet, celery, parsley, cukes, garlic with a shot of wheat grass. That drink fairly catapaulted me home!
Riding along the lake
I found myself full of gratitude for all things. The white-capped
lake, a sunny late afternoon, feeling strong and healthy, good
friends, my beloved E.D., and, of course, La Lucha the scooter.
All is well.
THURSDAY, AUGUST 31, 2000
Such a lovely h-o-t summer day! The kind of day that makes me think about grape-flavored snow cones, Good Humor trucks tinkling down our street, and slipping my arm deep into the red metal Coke machine filled with ice water, searching for a Nehi Orange. I find myself remembering the feel of hot sticky tar on my bare feet as I popped tar bubbles on the way to Carr's General Store at the beach. Waking up in the morning, putting on my bathing suit and never taking it off until bedtime. Whistling through a blade of grass pressed between my thumbs. Reading library books while stretched out on the green patterned chaise lounge on the front porch. The clothes line at the back of the cottage covered with wet bathing suits and towels. Mom and Mrs. M. sitting on the grass out front shucking ears of fresh-picked Carr's corn.
I'm so glad this day before
Labor Day Weekend--the traditional end of summer--is giving me
such a vivid taste of summers gone by. And now it's time for La
Lucha and me to take a refreshing ride by the lake. 8 PM and it's
already getting dark outside. Remember Mom's rule? Home before
dark! I'm going to have to hurry to make that deadline ;~)
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 1, 2000
Gosh, maybe I should have tried to get home before dark last night! Maybe I wouldn't be sporting a shiner and carrying 20 stitches above my left eye this morning if E.D. and I hadn't extended our walk/scoot that extra block. Ah well, things happen...and they certainly did last night!
Scooting around a corner I'd had trouble with earlier this summer--it's just too tight an angle with not enough sidewalk width to accommodate it--I ended up in a heap on the street with La Lucha turned over on top of me. The only injury was a very deep gash above my left eyebrow. One more in a seemingly never-ending series of facial wounds. Anyway, a very helpful man and his daughter stopped their car to offer help. Even after we said we could manage, they just stayed there parked in the middle of the street (luckily a side street) and waited until we were finally on our way again.
E.D. was terribly upset and kept saying, "I should have protected you. I saw it coming and could've run around and blocked your fall." Hardly. Things like this happen so fast but seem like slow motion. You never have as much time as you think you do.
We had a good experience at our local hospital. The emergency room doctor did a fine job stitching up the wound. It was one of those cuts that is so deep it needs layers of stitches and he took his time. Both of us were glad we decided on this smaller hospital rather than the big city one nearby. That hospital, with its accidents and gunshot wounds, can be a bit off-putting. This was quiet and serene in comparison.
I slept OK and am happy to still be seeing out of both eyes this morning. With similar injuries in the past, the affected eye was often swollen shut the next day. It is certainly going to be a rousing shiner, but I'll get some Arnica Montana to speed up the healing.
There's something helpful about having pretty extensive experience of injuries like this. I am spared the sense of fear that encountering the unknown can elicit. This situation is only too known to me, although I've not had this many stitches in my face since going through a windshield in 1966. Another piece of it is that I am so aware and deeply grateful that all I needed at the time was there for me. Having E.D. with me was such a gift. Even as upset as he was, he was--and continues to be--so helpful and compassionate. I do love that man.
So I'm still going to
spend the weekend as planned downtown with my friend, P.K., at
the Ford Detroit International
Jazz Festival. For a jazz lover like me there is nothing quite
so glorious as these 4 days and nights every Labor Day weekend.
From noon to midnight, the riverfront plaza will be an oasis of
music. Five continuously-operating sound stages will host local
and national jazz performers. Two of the headliners--Abby Lincoln
and Nancy Wilson--are special favorites of mine. And with La Lucha--who
survived the accident with no injuries--I'll be mobile and comfortable
all at the same time.
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 2, 2000
When I wrote that the Ford Detroit International Jazz Festival was going to be an oasis of music, I was wrong. It is an ocean of music, at least. Sometimes a volcano! What pure joy for jazz lovers, and there were 1000s of us out there yesterday enjoying a wonderfully hot sunny day and perfect mild evening. The setting is beautiful: Hart Plaza with children playing around the donut-on-legs Noguchi fountain at its center, numerous concrete-seated amphitheaters dug deep into the earth, grassy areas with views of Windsor, Ontario's city lights twinkling across the river, surrounded by Detroit's towering skyscapers lit up against the night sky.
I've been trying to figure out what makes this event so unique. There's such a feeling of shared celebration...of our city, of our sense of community, of our superb musical tradition. But it's more than that. I think it must be the common bond of being jazz lovers. Like sexual orientation, I believe the love of jazz is part of one's DNA! It cuts across racial/economic/social/educational backgrounds. People of all ages can share it. The ability to hear jazz is no respecter of gender (except among successful musicians who are predominantly male). That is the key: being able to hear jazz. My husband, E.D., who plays the piano beautifully by ear is totally deaf to jazz as music. Whereas I discovered this love on my own 44 years ago.
In 1956, my Dad converted our den into a bedroom for me. It was my first opportunity to have my own room: the greatest gift anyone has ever given me. For the first time, I could play my radio on stations of my own choosing. And in exploring my options, I discovered jazz. No one that I know of in my family was a fan before me, but that music sang to my soul. In high school I discovered a few other jazz lovers. They were not part of my regular gang, but we started going into an old jazz club on P Street in nearby Washington DC, called The Stables. We saw some of the greats there: Amahl Jamal, George Shearing, Dave Brubeck (whom I saw at last year's jazz festival), Odetta, Thelonius Monk, Mose Allison to name a few. In college, my favorite record (a longplaying 33) was by Nancy Wilson, whom I will see at the jazz festival this weekend. For years I "forgot" about my love of jazz. But in my 40s, as with so many things, I rediscovered it as the music-of-my-heart and have been faithful to it ever since.
The surprise for me yesterday was to "discover" Latin jazz. That stuff really gets you dancing...and I'm becoming an excellent scooter dancer! I mean who could sit still through a set by Poncho Sanchez, the Afro-cuban percussionist, and his band! Everybody was on their feet for that group. Then we went down to the mainstage for the hourlong live televised show featuring a variety of acts, my favorite of which was Straight Ahead, the Detroit women's jazz group I've seen and supported for years here in the city and many women's festivals. It was great to see them finally get the kind of mainstream recognition they so richly deserve. Straight Ahead's bassist, Marion Hayden, and their pianist, Eileen Orr, each also led bands on two different sound stages earlier yesterday. Great to see these superb women musicians breaking into the "old boy's club" of jazz instrumentalists.
So after 10? hours of
sound sleep and some time talking with E.D. and now writing this
journal entry, P.K. and I'll be back on our way downtown for another
afternoon and night of wonderful music and friendly crowds. My
eye is more swollen and discolored today, but the stitches are
healing beautifully--if Frankenstein is your idea of beauty! The
injury didn't dampen my style at all yesterday. As E.D. says,
this festival is probably most conducive to my healing. I'm certain
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 3, 2000
There's something thrilling about seeing the next generation of jazz musicians coming up. We saw two young men yesterday, one of whom is already recognized nationally, and another who is just coming on the scene.
Stefon Harris is a 27 year old New York-based vibes artist. Apparently his first CD on Blue Note won the jazz musicians' award for Best Debut CD. Last year he received a Grammy nomination for Best Male Instrumentalist for the title track of his second CD. What a gifted musician! Watching his moves on the vibraphone was like watching a combination of modern dance and Kung Fu. It was obvious that there was no extraneous movement: everything served the sound. And his sound was as good as I've ever heard on that unusual instrument. To add to the wonder, most of his music is original. When he played "Epilogue", the piece he wrote in honor of his teacher, the vibes master Milt Jackson who died last November, I felt I was in the presence of greatness. And as greats always do, Stefon has surrounded himself with an exceptional band of musicians. A real highlight of the weekend thus far.
Our second young artist was a trumpet player whom Donald Harrison, Jr., the New Orleans-born alto saxophonist, introduced during his set on mainstage last night. Christian Scott is all of 17 years old, and plays like a young Wynton Marsalis. Riffs between the two of them--backed up by a 22 year old bassist, and excellent musicians on piano and percussion--brought down the house. Well, I guess that term doesn't really fit as we were in an outside amphitheater! Anyway, they brought folks to their feet, whistling and clapping. It's heartwarming to see an established musician who's willing to mentor and then showcase the next generation during his own "time", so to speak. That's one of the things that makes this festival so wonderful, the mix of ages on the stage...and in the audience. Sitting beside us during this set were 4 young fellows about Christian Scott's age. Since many high school and college jazz groups are performing on the smaller stages, my guess is these guys are musicians themselves. You should have seen their excitement! Must give them that push to continue with their own music when they see someone like them "make it" at 17.
We also saw acts that featured the other end of the age/experience spectrum. The Bill Dowdy Trio with vocalist Dee Dee McNeil, for one. Their pianist played the heck out of his instrument, and he had to be in his late 70s. Then a sax quintet played mellow jazz on the mainstage in the late afternoon. Their average age was pushing 65. And, of course, there was the famous Dr. John, last night's featured act. He had everyone up and dancing in the aisles! Yes, we old folk don't necessarily have to hang up our dancin' shoes...even if disabled. We were sitting beside a barracade immediately below the stage on the left, so I could get up, hold on tight and boogie down with the best of 'em. Such fun!
Today's forecast of scattered
showers doesn't deter us at all. We've got an umbrella, ponchos
and rain gear packed in my scooter backpack. I remember a rain
delay last year during Dave Brubeck's set. Didn't hurt a thing!
We jazz lovers are a hardy breed. Besides, two days of absolutely
perfect summer weather--like we've just had--is nothing to sneeze
at during a Michigan September.
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 4, 2000
Ah, Nancy Wilson. They call her The Lady of Song...and with good reason. I'm discovering it takes much more than a good voice to be a singer; it takes a certain presence as well. Especially to sing on stage in front of an audience. And what an audience Nancy Wilson gathered last night at the Ford Detroit International Jazz Festival! I wish I could estimate crowds. All I know is there was not one inch available at the Hart Plaza mainstage amphitheater for another chair or another seated or standing body. Even the circular railings on ground level (the amphitheater sinks into the earth) had folks standing 8 deep, with a few up in the trees. And once she started singing, there was utter silence...except for oohs and aahs, clapping, screams and whistles between songs. This woman must be in her 60s now, but looks 20 years younger and sounds ageless. Her rich contralto voice is so expressive--a unique instrument full of heart and power. What a moment! And because of La Lucha my scooter I had one of the best seats in the house.
For half a century I've craned my neck in crowded theaters, trying first one angle and then another to find a possible line of sight. Being 4'10"--OK, 4'11?" in my younger years--is fine in the normal course of things. But in crowds? Not the best. Last night I found myself sitting up higher than anyone, with an unobstructed view of the stage--literally head and shoulders above the rest! Seems like a cosmic payback to me. Not only that, I always have a seat, and probably the most comfortable one of all. Add to that my capacity as a packhorse (I was carrying all our raingear, jackets, umbrellas, purses, snack food, cooler, P.K.'s folding chair and pillow), and the fact that people so kindly let me through to the front...and you might begin to wish you were disabled too! At least at crowded events. Actually I've had a few passersby say with longing looks, "Do you pick up hitchikers?"
The weather yesterday fooled us all. No rain and late afternoon sun. When the sun dipped below those clouds and shined full force on us, accompanied by high humidity, it was plenty hot! For the first time I brought out my womyn's festival stand-by: a plastic battery-operated fan that fits around your neck on a string, points toward your face and offers a cooling breeze. I was happy I'd thought to stuff it in my purse. Today has turned cool and cloudy. Lovely weather!
You know, they call this
the largest free jazz festival in North America. And P.K. and
I have stayed true to its billing. Except for parking--$3.50 yesterday
for 8 hours (Can my San Francisco friends believe that??)--I've
not spent a penny in 3 days! P.K. has purchased 1 beer. P.K. is
a fabulous gardener and cook, so we bring our own food: delicious
barley/cheese/dill stuffed peppers, fresh-picked cherry tomatoes,
homemade falafel with yoghurt/cucumber/dill sauce in pita bread,
hummous, white cheddar Cheez-it crackers, Jordan almonds, dried
cherry/mixed nut trail mix, Odwalla juices and bottles of iced
water. Perfection! Today I'm planning to buy 2 CDs, so that should
run me a grand total of $30. Not bad for 4 days on the town.
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 5, 2000
It's so odd to wake to glorious blue skies and bright sun--though definitely cool temps--and not be getting ready to go downtown and listen to more jazz. After spending 30 hours in the past 4 days at the Ford Detroit International Jazz Festival, I'm spoiled. Isn't the sound of jazz in the air and smiling crowds the norm rather than the exception? This quiet, more solitary way of living will take some getting used to.
Yesterday we saw two stars, one rising and one falling. The rising star is a Detroit-born vocalist who has lived and worked for a number of years in New York City. Carla Cook is her name and it is definitely a name to remember. As I write this I'm listening to her CD, "It's All About Love", for which she received a Grammy nomination for "Best Jazz Vocal Performance". This woman is a wondrous singer who makes old songs sound new and new songs sound like you've always known and loved them. Her presence on stage was electric! And her back-up musicians were exceptional. More than that, there was a chemistry between them that you just knew was creating something new every time they made music together. Isn't that what jazz is all about?
The falling star was Abbey Lincoln. Now I'm sure there are folks who would disagree with my perceptions, but I found myself saddened and discomfited by her performance. A lot of it was in the way she treated her back-up musicians, a trio of fine instrumentalists. She neglected to set the tempo to start each song, then kept turning to them with a scowl, saying such things as, "Faster!" or "Slower!" and sometimes just cutting them off completely. It was most disrespectful behavior for a vocalist. Not only that, when the musicians were having a solo, she was just not there with them at all. Instead she was looking out at the audience seeming to be counting her following, sometimes waving to folks. Often she seemed perturbed by the ovation these excellent young men received. She only introduced them by name once during the whole set. All of this behavior was in marked contrast to such vocalists as Nancy Wilson and Carla Cook, who were always there in the music, celebrating their musicians with smiles, introductions and total engagement. Vocally, Abbey Lincoln's performance was quite uneven, at least to my ear. Maybe she's not feeling well.
But in 30 hours of music, that was the only sour note. What a grand celebration of music, people, our city of Detroit, Labor Day weekend, and life in general. For me personally it was certainly just what the doctor ordered. I feel great, my wound is healing nicely, even the black eye is moving through quickly. As R.K., my singing friend from California, wrote in her email this morning: Isn't it lucky that you have accidents/illnesses (the shingles) right around the time you'll have wonderful music to heal you? I mean, if one has to have this kind of aggravation (and we all do, sooner or later), we might as well time it this way!
A major part of my healing
was due to the companionship and help of my friend, P.K., throughout
the weekend. She took vacation days from the women's shelter where
she and her daughter live and work, and came to stay here with
us. We always love having her company, but this time she gave
back so much more than we could ever give her. Not only did she
drive to and from the festival for 4 days, but she assembled/disassembled
La Lucha the scooter so I could get around in comfort and style.
In addition, she cooked delicious daily lunches for the 3 of us
before she and I started off each afternoon. Talk about making
my sweet husband, E.D., feel better about being left alone all
weekend! And our gourmet packed dinners were her doing as well.
What a wonderful friend. I'm happy we could offer her a comfortable
bedroom and our neighbor's pool to add to her enjoyment.
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 6, 2000
I scoot along the lake, enjoying the feel of brisk fall air on my face. The water has deepened to its autumn hue of vibrant olive green. Glittering silver sequins seem to bounce off the tops of waves. The sky looks as artificially blue as backyard pools from the air over Phoenix or Los Angeles. Early afternoon sun casts shadows deep enough to fall into. Music drifts over a hedge: it is the unmistakable sound of a bagpipe. I stop to listen. Now scales are being played. I have never before heard scales played on a bagpipe!
I follow the sound up
a winding driveway to a century-old former convent school (now
a private academy). A lush green lawn, towering trees, gravel
walking paths and stunning views of the lake add to my sense of
having stumbled into a magic realm. I hear the bagpipe playing
a song now, but have no idea where it is coming from. It doesn't
matter. I park my scooter in the sun overlooking billowing white
sails in the distance. The music continues, beautifully rich melodic
airs, one after another. My eyes suddenly spot movement perhaps
80 yards away. It is a man in shorts walking along the edge of
the property where a hedge-covered hill drops down to the sidewalk,
street and lake beyond. A bagpipe is being pumped rhythmically
under his arm. After 20 minutes or so, the music stops. His practice
session--my concert--is over. He never sees his audience, but
my Scottish blood dances in gratitude.
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 7, 2000
Tomorrow will be the 12th anniversary of my being diagnosed with MS. How different my feelings are today than they were back then. In September 1988 I was in a state of confusion tinged with a goodly amount of denial and fear. I heard the words my neurologist said--"I'm going to call it chronic progressive MS even though my diagnosis is only 75% certain."--but I didn't really take them in.
After 4 serious unexplanable falls, I'd gone to my internist who then sent me to a neurologist. My first fall was in January and I'd finally decided to check things out by July. Because our medical insurance wouldn't cover the tests (we had a very high deductible at the time), I refused to take the $900 MRI my neurologist wanted. He was OK with that and went ahead with a series of tests to rule out other conditions. What I appreciate, even now, is that he listened to my story and pretty much based his diagnosis on that. I've since heard tales of folks waiting years for a diagnosis of MS, so I feel fortunate to have had it settled in a couple of months. I remember his offering me the option of steroid treatments; an option I refused. Never have taken meds for the MS. I'm a pretty medication-unfriendly sort. Aspirin, multivitamins, antibiotics and numbing substances (like they used recently when stitching my face) are about the extent of my experience of Western-style meds. I'm more inclined to use Chinese herbs and occasional homeopathic remedies, if anything. Have only been hospitalized 3 times: 1) T & A in 1948; 2) pilonidal cyst 1962; 3) facial injuries from an auto accident in 1966. Even now, I feel I'm quite healthy.
So I went home from the doctor's office 12 years ago awash in conflicting feelings. On the one hand I was terrified by what this meant; on the other, I was pleased that I had such a dramatic diagnosis. Not a particularly attractive thing to admit, but that was definitely part of the picture. My husband, E.D., disagreed totally with the diagnosis. Still does to some degree, but my feeling is "So what?" As long as he is there for me in ways I need--as he most definitely has learned to be--I don't care what he calls it. Talk is talk, action is the thing.
Of course at the beginning it was mostly talk because my body was pretty much as I'd always known it. I was strong, could run if I wanted, still biked...just had to watch out for falls. For me the chronic progressive nature of my experience of MS has been a gift. I've always known where I am with my body, not like those diagnosed with remitting/relasping MS who don't know what the next moment might bring. My body doesn't betray me with nasty surprises. When it comes time to deal with new symptoms or the usual ones becoming more pronounced, I've generally had plenty of time to get used to it.
So 12 years have passed and I'm still on my feet. Using a walker in the house, yes, and a scooter for distances outside, but I'm also still driving a non-adapted car. I can tandem bike with my sweetie and recently regained the ability to swim. My fine motor control is not so fine but I've learned to 2-finger type on my computer keyboard fast enough for my needs. I've been fortunate not to have any pain except from injuries after taking falls. Bladder and bowel accidents have inspired me to use diapers when I leave the house, but that's no big deal. My life is full and rich. I live 4 months of the year on my own in San Francisco and the rest of the year in Detroit with my dear husband of 34 years. How could I ever have imagined that scenario in 1988!
So how do I feel about
my life as a woman-diagnosed-with-MS? All in all I feel grateful.
Grateful for the learnings and growth that have issued from this
so-called "tragic" bodily condition. Grateful for the
daring choices I've made because I value the "now" of
life more than ever before. Grateful for the people in my life,
their loving friendship and assistance when I need it. Grateful
that I chose to design/put up this web site about being what I
call "creatively disabled": it is a continuing source
of wonder and surprise. And the future? As the kids say, I just
don't go there. Life of the here-and-now is enough. I trust the
future will take care of itself.
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 8, 2000
We've had no phone service since yesterday afternoon, so I'm going to write this entry here at home then scoot with my laptop over to E.D.'s office 1? miles away to go on the internet and transfer it to my site. Thank goddess when I bought my first (and only) computer almost 2 years ago, I got a laptop. Of course, living in two different cities as I do certainly makes that the most practical choice.
Yesterday at the women's shelter I spent a couple hours playing with the Magnetic Poetry on the side of the refrigerator in the dining room. That really is fun! I find I use words I'd never consider normally, as well as not using some that come to mind but are not available. There were already several wonderful poems posted that I didn't want to disturb, so my choice of words was somewhat limited. Good exercise in flexibility and adaptation. I found that where I went with the poem surprised me...didn't have a clue what it was about until I finished.
F. (one of the guests) saw what I was doing and said, "I wrote a poem last weekend sitting on the porch with my friends. I even ran inside to get my notebook and write it down." When I expressed interest, she went upstairs and brought her notebook down for me to read it. How marvelous to share poetry in this way. I think that's the genius of Magnetic Poetry: it takes poetry out of the esoteric realm and places it smack in the middle of everyday life where it belongs.
My poem is:
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 9, 2000
Last night I had dinner with a good friend across the river in Windsor, Ontario. We shared pizzas and conversation about women's issues, world events, our recent activites, plans and dreams. P.N. is one of my favorite people--funny, bright, honest, committed and always surprising me in one way or another. She was my best OAS protest demonstration buddy last June, so it's natural that our time together last night included a peace art exhibit at the University of Windsor.
"The Nobel Peace Project" is a mail art show. Mail art is based on a call for entries--in this case with the theme "peace not war"--that must be received by mail before a specified date. The response might be in the form of words, photos, drawings, paintings, collage or any mixture of techniques. Often the organizers have no idea how individuals, groups and schools hear about the show, so what comes in always contains an element of surprise. In this case, the surprise was a large number of postcards received from a class in Japan. Their teacher submitted a moving series of black-and-white xeroxed photos of concentration camps with each person who was killed being represented by a number written in red. The entire gallery space was filled with 400 postcards and letters from 28 countries.
The power of this exhibit was enhanced by the presence of so many young and older activists from the Windsor peace community, folks I came to like and respect during the OAS demonstrations last June. The main topic of conversation was plans for the next large demonstration to be held at the 2001 Summit of the Americas next April in Quebec City. The agenda there will be to pass the FTAA (Free Trade Area of the Americas), in essence imposing NAFTA on the entire hemisphere. A chilling prospect!
We awoke this morning to a hot muggy summer day. E.D. and I decided to drive to Ann Arbor, our favorite place to play. We scooted/walked to lunch at an Asian restaurant that specializes in pastries filled with vegetables, spiced beef and pork, and sweets. Then off to the farmers market nearby. My scooter quickly became a packhorse carrying a large bunch of purple statis flowers, 2 bottles of fresh herbed virgin olive oil (1 for a gift), a jug of apple cider and a half dozen ears of sweet corn. We finished our day at Falling Waters, an interesting store that carries books and crafts from around the world. After successfully finding a birthday gift and card for our friend, P.K., we turned toward home.
My only wish right now
is that they restore our phone service pretty soon. Bringing my
laptop down to E.D.'s office to take care of my daily journal
entry is getting to be a bit much. In fact my schedule tomorrow
will make this impossible. So if I miss a day or two, please understand.
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 10, 2000
This afternoon the rains began when I was about 8 miles from home. I was on my way to a going away party at a friend's house that was at least another 15 miles away. By the time I reached the large expressway near her home, I could barely see through the torrents of water hitting my windshield. Two of the expressway's three lanes were flooded, and crazy drivers were speeding along as if everything was just fine. It was a nightmare. To cap it off, I never did find her house after 20 minutes of turning this way and that. I finally called her on my cell phone and left a message that I was sorry to miss the party, but I was going to turn around and go back home. Even if I'd found her house, I was very uncomfortable with the idea of driving home on unfamiliar flooded streets after dark.
I wonder if I would have just kept on going in earlier years, ignoring my anxiety and extreme discomfort? After all, I'd really been looking forward to this glorious gathering of women and the opportunity to celebrate M.W., one of Detroit's foremothers of feminism and community commitment. Her decision to move north to her beloved home in the woods of Michigan has been hard for many of us to contemplate, even as we appreciate how happy she'll be up there. Yes, I suspect in my younger years I wouldn't have "given up" so easily.
But I keep hearing this voice cackling in my head: "Congratulations! You're finally coming into the wisdom of a crone."
By the way, our phones
were working again when we returned home from E.D.'s office last
evening. What delight to be able to work on my journal here in
my upstairs room. How we don't appreciate things until they're
lost...even for only 3 days!
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 11, 2000
It just feels different. Even though the temperature is warm, this September day with leaden grey clouds and occasional rumblings of thunder no longer feels like summer. Outside my window I see the maple tree in front of the police station is already cloaked in scarlet. And the outdoor community pool closed for the season yesterday. If I have the nerve I guess I can swim in our neighbor's pool, but it just isn't the same. No lift. No lifeguards. No water aerobics class. We'll certainly have more hot sunny days, but when the kids return to school they take lazy summer days with them.
Today I've been working on a new project: converting my journal archives into a WordPerfect document. It means changing line breaks, cleaning up the spelling and grammar. My intention is to create a print-friendly document. I've never seen what this journal looks like on paper. What a surprisingly time-consuming task! Of course it means re-reading every word.
Journal Archive 1 takes
me back to San Francisco and my "other" life. After
almost 5 months here in Michigan, those February and March days
seem so long ago. But now that I'm planning a 2-week visit back
to the City in October, reading the journals helps me begin to
"see" myself there again. I've become such a present-liver
that it's hard for me to project myself someplace other than
where I am right now. In fact, I'm finding it difficult to imagine
being away from my sweetie for any length of time. We'll see how
it feels. I've already reserved the SF cottage for 4 months this
winter--January through April. Somehow I suspect when snow and
ice comes to Michigan, I'll be much more ready to imagine myself
in San Franciso!
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 12, 2000
Immediately before going to bed last night I checked out the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival Bulletin Board online. I'd not visited since a few days after festival in mid-August. The reason I'd stayed away had to do with sexually explicit postings being made by womyn who had attended a very different festival from the one I'd attended...although we were on the same Land. I'd posted my feelings and concerns about what was being shared and had decided to let it go at that. So last night when I read a long message from Lisa Vogel, the festival producer, I was not totally surprised at its content.
The message informed the womyn online that the bulletin board would be down for awhile in response to some unsettling news recently received by festival organizers. Apparently a right wing web site had published an article by a San Diego journalist in which she quoted from postings on the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival online bulletin board about certain sexual activities that went on at this year's festival. According to Lisa, state and county authorities have been sent this information with the recommendation that they investigate to see if children are sexually endangered there. She wrote that the festival organizers were at present seeking legal counsel to see how best to respond to this situation.
I am deeply disturbed by this turn of events. In my 7 years at the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival I've not personally seen anything that I feel would be damaging to the children who attend. Quite the contrary. I've always thought this one week a year offered a model of how the world should be...respectful of diversity, cooperatively organized, safe for all, and environmentally aware. My own goddess daughter, E.K., attended festival with us from age 10-14. As far as I know, it was a grand part of her growing-up years. But this new online bulletin board gave me eyes and ears into other womyn's experiences of festival. Some of what they described disgusted and distressed me.
Have I been part of a
festival family that refuses to see its own dysfunction? Do the
charges have validity? If so, what is our responsibility to the
children? What is my responsibility? I don't want
to close my eyes to the truth. At the same time I need to stay
grounded in my own lived experience of this worldwide womyn's
icon. As with life itself, the truth probably lies somewhere in
the gray area between the two extremes.
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 13, 2000
A day of contradictions. Highs and lows. Grief and bliss. All having to do with the natural world around us. And people, always people.
The low was first. As I was going out for a scoot about 5 PM, I saw a man chopping with an axe at the roots around an old maple in my across-the-street neighbor's yard. When I asked what he was doing, the answer was, "I'm taking out these roots so they can plan grass here." Destroying the roots from a live tree? I got as far as the corner and turned back. These are new neighbors; perhaps they don't know the history of our street's old maples.
These trees were planted bordering a racetrack that went through our neighborhood early in the 20th century. They are now hollowed out by ants that eat the marrow, and are home to generations of squirrels who enjoy the roomy interiors. Their roots are shallow. I remember watching a rather innocuous thunderstorm totally uproot the maple beside this one about 10 years ago. These trees are quite vulnerable, at best.
I felt I should share this information with my neighbor. Their 10 year old boy answered the front door. When I asked to talk to his Mom, he said she'd be a few more minutes because she was on a conference call. As I waited I heard the continuingthud of the axe. I felt like I was being kicked in the stomach with every whack. After 20 minutes, the boy came to the door again and said his mother was going to be tied up a lot longer than she'd anticipated. I told him the story of the maple trees and asked that he pass it on to his parents. But it was too late now anyway. The roots had been chopped up and the workmen were preparing to go home.
How could I feel the tree's pain so deeply, and my neighbor not seem to be bothered? How could I respect the tree's integrity, and someone else be more concerned with the look of their lawn? Actually this tree isn't even on their lawn: it is on the curb side of the sidewalk. My task for the rest of my scooter ride was to try to love the person even as I dislike the act.
So that was the low...
The high came a few hours later as I was scooting home along the lake. I'd had supper at the vegetarian juice joint (E.D. was at a professional dinner), then had gone to the hardware store to get a screw for my scooter's arm rest, and finally to the bookstore to pick up a Nancy Wilson CD. It was now about 8 PM. As always I was looking out over the lake. Dusk was falling rapidly when a red-hot pool of liquid gold caught my eye on the horizon. I stopped my scooter and, breathless, watched the full moon rise over the water.
"Isn't it beautiful?", came a voice from behind me.
Well, this wonderful woman, M.C., and I spent the next half hour talking together as we walked/scooted along the lake. We discovered she'd started teaching at a Detroit mental health facility 3 years after I'd completed my second year social work field placement there in 1966. We know some of the same people, including my former supervisor whom we both like and respect. For the last 10 years, M.C. has taught 14 year old "delinquents" (her term) in a nearby county's special education program. Before we parted, she asked if I'd come to her school in early October and teach her kids how to write pantoum poems! What an interesting woman, and what a delightful encounter. Even with all our talk, we never stopped oohing and aahing over the wondrous moon as it peeked from behind trees and then illuminated the clouds above.
I find life never tires
of creating such tapestries of light and dark. Guess that's what
gives it depth.
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 14, 2000
A low-key day minding house at the women's shelter. Only a few phone calls and one person came to the door. It was R. who is not really welcome at the house, especially when she's been drinking. This time she just wanted to use the bathroom, so I let her in. She asked for a banana and took an orange on her way out, which was OK. Of course, I discovered later that she'd taken the toilet paper as well. But you know, if I were a homeless woman living on the streets, I guess I'd want to have my own roll of toilet paper more than anything else.
My 16 year old goddess daughter, E.K., came home from school with her boyfriend, J. We sat around the table with her mother (my friend, P.K.) and talked about school, classes, E.K.'s dance troupe, J.'s applications to college, and finally about what is going on with the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival. E.K. knows the festival well because she attended with her mother and cousins from the time she was 10 until she was 14. I described the current situation (see my journal entry for 9/12/00), and asked their advice on how festival organizers could best handle this problem from the inside.
E.K. recommended they handle it as they have handled other diversity issues (like acceptance/non-acceptance of transgendered persons into festival). That is: 1) make the determination of what is acceptable behavior in the common areas, and what is not; 2) be very clear in pre-festival materials about this situation, the new guidelines for behavior, and the consequences if they are ignored; 3) Let womyn know ahead of time that those who do not respect these guidelines will be escorted off the property. J. suggested there be greater security around the Twilight Zone if the common area guidelines were not to be in force there. That way children and young people would not have easy access to the area.
Pretty good suggestions, I'd say. I could only come up with more radical measures such as making it an "adult's only" camp (oh, we would miss the children!), or outlawing the Twilight Zone altogether (meaning we'd probably lose the younger generation of festie-goers and put festival at financial risk).
Always ask the young what
they think...they are not bound by old ways of looking at things.
In this case, a 16 year old was much more moderate in her suggestions
than was her 58 year old "elder"! Reminds me of the
OAS protest demonstrations
and how we older activists were led and taught by the young women
and men of the OAS Shutdown Coalition and the Windsor Peace Committee's
Youth Group. May I never stop listening to the young.
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 15, 2000
September must be on one of the year's fault lines. A time when internal geological plates shift and quake. Every change of season I find myself feeling unsettled. Issues I thought I'd taken care of emerge under a different guise, or brand new stuff catches me unawares. So here I am dealing with an old habit again: my tendency to hold onto past hurts.
This time it has to do with the maple tree and the neighbor who chopped up its roots (see journal entry 9/13/00). Every time I look across the street, I seeth. My inner voice rages, "How could she have done that? How could anyone blithely destroy the roots of a living tree! To plant grass, of all things!" My stomach churns and my fists knot up. Believe me, this is not a healthy state of being. For me, for the tree or for my neighbor. I believe our thoughts have power...the power to bring life or to destroy it. I do not want to be a destroyer of life, in any form. So how can I change my thoughts?
P.K. and I talked about the tree yesterday while I was working at the women's shelter. She'd read my journal entry that morning and had this to say: "So your neighbor obviously does not yet know her connection to the earth and all that's in it. She must think she's separate from the tree."
My friend reminds me of Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese Buddhist monk who lived through our war against his people and came to a place of deep compassion rather than vengeance. When I was creating postcards and posters for WordArt, I remember using a quote from Thich Nhat Hanh that read: "What we need are people who are capable of loving, of not taking sides so that they can embrace the whole of reality as a mother hen embraces all her chicks with two fully spread wings." Both/and rather than either/or. So my task in relation to my neighbor and the tree is to love both, to feel the pain of both, to hold the energy of healing for both.
I think of a woman I know--Marietta Jaeger--whose 7 year old daughter was abducted, tortured and killed back in the '70s. Marietta told me of the night she literally wrestled with the spirits of forgiveness and vengeance. Forgiveness won. But she was not yet able to feel forgiveness toward the person who was responsible for Susie's death. She decided the only way she could come to that place was to insist that she herself stop saying or listening to hateful comments about the killer. Not only that, she would only enter into conversations that treated this as-yet-unidentified individual with compassionate respect. After exercising this self-imposed discipline for a long while, Marietta discovered it had become the truth. She really did feel love and compassion toward Susie's killer. For the past two decades, Marietta has travelled the world as a leading spokesperson against the death penalty.
If Marietta could do that
with her daughter's murderer, can't I do the same with a neighbor
who doesn't yet know her heart-connection to an old maple tree
in her yard?
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 16, 2000
Ah, Detroit. A city with problems, yes, but also a city that knows how to throw a party!
Today P.K. and I attend another in the long list of free festivals we've enjoyed together this summer...this one, the annual Detroit Festival of the Arts. 8 blocks are closed to traffic for 3 days in the Cultural Center by Wayne State University, Center for Creative Studies (where I studied fine arts in the '70s), the International Institute, Detroit Institute of Art, the Museum of African-American History, Children's Museum, Detroit Historical Museum and the main branch of the Detroit Public Library. It is combination art fair, music festival, creative workshop for children, ethnic food bazaar and community meeting place. 2 streets are lined with the booths of high caliber artists and craftspersons showing and selling their work (I bought a lavender cotton fleece tunic printed front and back with black spiral hands on a gold-colored rectangle). There are 9 performance spaces with continuous music, dance and theater. 2 mammoth sand castle installations are being created: one by professional artists featuring scenes from Maurice Sendak's famous children's book, Where the Wild Things Are; and a assemblage of carved sand masks by the children. A 10' sculpture is being covered with colorful panels as soon as the kids finish painting them. Clowns wander the streets making everyone laugh. A white-painted man draped in white gauze-like flowing robes stands still as a statue for minutes on end, then slowly changes position and freezes again. Artists twist balloons into fanciful animal shapes and give them to giggling youngsters.
To me it feels like a family reunion. Friends and acquaintances from my past and present keep coming up to say "Hi!". P. and M.V., OAS protest demonstration compatriots from Windsor, ONT. Mr. and Mrs. C., whom I sat beside 2 weeks ago at the Ford Detroit International Jazz Festival concert starring Nancy Wilson. J., who was immigration advisor when I was doing art therapy at the Detroit/Windsor Refugee Coalition (now called Freedom House) in the early '90s. A.L., with whom I took a 2-week road trip to Albuquerque, NM 10 years ago. E.J., a sister attendee of the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival and one of 4 women (P.K., P.N. and I were the others) who met weekly to drum together in 1998-99. A couple who remember me dancing beside my scooter during the Dr. John concert at Detroit's jazz festival. B., with whom I've drummed in L.F.'s workshops and at the Detroit Concert of Colors drum jam last July. M., a regular at most fun Detroit events whom I originally met at the Detroit Women's Coffee House the first time I performed there as a storyteller around 1995. A woman--I always forget her name--whom I knew back in the late '80s when we were both involved in efforts to stop the Archdiocese of Detroit's plans to close 30 inner city churches. Even a young mother with her 3 year old daughter and 1 month old son who remembers seeing me and windchime walker in Ann Arbor a year ago. Times like this make me happy I've lived in the Detroit area long enough--35 years--to have such a rich herstory here.
Our performance experiences are fabulous! Vizitors, a jazz quartet featuring vocalists and modern dancers who add exciting texture to original compositions. Lenahan, a Celtic group out of Chicago, whose high energy, varied musical skills (bagpipe, fiddle, tin whistle, guitars, bass guitar, drums) and Irish dancers are real crowd-pleasers. The Detroit Dance Collective's creative celebration of a new art park in the area. The exceptionally well-attended and sweetly mellow performance by Cuba's Company Sequndo (led by the 93 year old master) from the Buena Vista Social Club. A surprising stunner in Eric Bibb, a blues guitarist/vocalist originally from NYC and currently living in Stockholm. Finally, the exuberant and dancable Puerto Rican band, Plena Libre.
It's one of those crisp, sunny autumn days when folks pull their jackets tight around them in the shade, then tie them around their waists in the sun. The streets are filled with children and adults of all racial, ethnic, economic, social and educational backgrounds: there is a place here for everyone. I see many sisters and brothers with canes, in wheelchairs and riding scooters. A mentally impaired man dances to the Celtic band with a dazzling smile on his face: those in the circle around him smile in response. Young children carve their sand creations with intense concentration and obvious delight as parents and grandparents steady their hands. It is the world as we know it can be.
I really love this city.
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 17, 2000
Today my dream of being part of a women's song circle here in Detroit finally came true. 14 women (including J.W.'s 12 year old granddaughter C.) gathered in a sunlit room with the doors open to a gloriously warm September day. Our chairs circled an altar bright with purple daisy mums, a rainbow starry cloth and percussion instruments of all shapes and sizes. Our hearts were brighter than the flowers and more open than the doors.
We started by going around the circle and each woman was invited to sing her name aloud. The circle then echoed it back to her. What a profound experience to hear your name sung with such unconditional love! Then, in song circle tradition, we again went around the circle and this time each woman was asked to choose a song for us to sing. It could be one she knew and wanted to teach the community, or perhaps a song that was already in our songbooks.
We sang looking one another in the eyes. We sang with our eyes closed. We learned to sign one of the songs. We sang in rounds. We sang "no-fault" harmonies (whatever comes). We sang accapella. We sang accompanied by guitar, drums and rattles. We sat, stood and danced as we sang. We did whatever we felt like doing. It was healing, liberating and empowering...plus lots of fun!
The herstory of this group goes back 5 or 6 years. After singing with Carolyn McDade at one of her first WOMANSPIRIT retreats over in Canada, a number of us decided to form a Detroit women's chorus so we could continue singing Carolyn's songs. P.H. graciously agreed to administer it, and N.N. kindly offered to bring her rich musical background to the group as choral director. We named ourselves Notable Women. One thing led to another and eventually we were having monthly rehearsals where N.N. was expected to choose, often arrange and then teach us songs in 3 part harmony. We hired an accompanist and a child care provider. We offered a fairly extensive snack-break. For awhile we had performing gigs to prepare for. Mailings always fell on P.H. and J.H. Our expenses were up and our numbers were steadily dropping. Some changes had to be made.
After our first Notable Women retreat with Carolyn McDade this May, we began to rethink our structure and purpose as a group. Turned out that most of us just wanted to get together regularly and sing. As simple as that. So today was our first experience of this former-chorus-now-song-circle.
And we couldn't stop smiling
for two solid hours.
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 18, 2000
I sit on our back porch--more like a back stoop--and notice the abundance of life around me.
Sunlight filters through the still-green towering trees and lush bushes of our neighbors' and our back yards. The sky is a cloudless blue. Birds whizz past my stoop, following their traditional flight pattern between the trees. In the crook of the old black walnut tree, a black squirrel sits nibbling a nut, its bushy tail curved over its back like a question mark. Wild green self-seeded honeysuckle, forsythia and spirea bushes surround me, adding to my sense of being in the country rather than a city. Two sparrows fly to one of these bushes, the male singing lustily, the female prancing enticingly from branch to branch. She flies away and he follows in hot pursuit. Young, bearded S.F. wanders through his garden two yards away, stopping to pull a weed or two as he goes. Their goldren retreiver, C., bounds at his side. I watch the iridescent sparkle of bubbles leave the wand as I blow. A few glisten on the forsythia branches before rudely popping.
I hear the chip, chip, chip of the squirrel eating away the shell of a nut. Sparrows sing and crows caw. Leaves chatter as they dance in gentle breezes. I notice the blessed absence of the police station's air conditioner droning next door. After 20 minutes or so, it clicks on again, only to turn off in another 20 minutes. Wonderful cycle of silence. A jack hammer starts pounding in the distance. The whiz of cars pass through the neighborhood, occasionally punctuated by the muffled roar of this season's ubiquitous construction trucks.
As I blow the digjeridoo, my hands and chest vibrate in sympathy with its low gravelly notes. A bird perches in the old maple tree in front of me. It sings as I drone. Our duet swiftly dies as it flies away.
I am suddenly overcome with gratitude, not just for this moment but for this time of life. My health is good. La Lucha my scooter has opened up places and activities I'd thought were lost. My work here on the web is transforming how I experience day-to-day life. My dear husband is well and seems more content within himself than ever before. In a couple of weeks, we will celebrate 34 years together: our bond is deep and strong. My mother is happy in the nursing home near my sister in Maryland. C., my older sister, has a rich and full life with family, friends, work and community. My younger sister, E., and her husband, G., love their new home outside Los Angeles. After years in Seattle, they are lapping up Southern California's sun and high energy. This weekend when I visit Mom, I'll see E., one of my nieces whom I've not seen in years. My other nieces and nephews seem happily settled in relationships, jobs and geographic locations they enjoy. My two grand-nephews are wise and wonderful youngsters. I am graced to have good and faithful friends all over the country (and the world, counting cyber-friends!). All is extremely well.
How easy to miss the wonder
of a particular time of life. Only later do we look back and say,
"That was truly grand!" I'm grateful to have been given
this awareness as it is happening. Blessed be.
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 19, 2000
I'm surprised at how many hours I've spent watching the Sydney Olympics this week. I'm not much of a television person ordinarily, but something keeps drawing me back. Is it the beauty of these young people and the amazing ways in which they use their bodies? It's certainly not patriotic fervor; I'm not counting US medals like the American broadcasters insist on doing. What I enjoy watching is the faces of the athletes; their heightened sense of being alive--whether they're pleased with their performances or not. That kind of focused intensity is always magnetic.
In a small way I feel I'm preparing for my own Olympic event this week: it's called Air Travel with a Scooter (Round Trip). I started training when I first bought La Lucha the scooter last May. Four months of searching the internet, asking questions of experts, visualizing to help me anticipate potential problems, getting technical assistance when needed, and now making my final preparations. As with so many persons who reach for the heights, it was essential that I find the perfect coach.
J.B. and I sat together at dinner the last night of the Michigan Womyn's Festival, two women on Amigo scooters. I'd seen her around the DART (Disabled Access Resource Team tenting area) during the week, but we'd not yet met. The subject of air travel came up, probably because a number of women would be flying home in the morning. Airplane stories made the rounds of the table, but no one's held my interest more than those of J.B. She frequently travels--internationally and nationally--in her work, and has made it her business to learn all the tricks of traveling on planes with a scooter. For a half hour she coached me in the particulars, even jotted down notes for me to take home. It is her advice I'm using in my final preparations.
Print instructions for disassembling/assembling scooter on bright orange or yellow paper (covered in a clear plastic sleeve) and velcro it to the floor of the scooter. Identify your scooter's batteries as "dry cell, non-spillable". Attach key to the steering shaft with a strong cord. Include an elastic bungee cord to secure the steering shaft to the base. Affix "Lift here", "Do not lift here" labels to appropriate parts of the scooter. Print a copy of the Air Carrier's Act to carry with you.
At the Airport:
When you get to the door of the plane on your scooter, ask to speak to the Ramp Lead. Give him/her your instructions in person. If there are problems of any kind, ask to talk with the CRO ((Complaint Resolution Officer). If the airline damages your scooter, smile and say, "Now if your mechanics can get a plane off the ground, surely they can get my scooter operating again!". Expect them to do so. If they do serious damage, be aware that the airline must replace your scooter. J.B.'s present scooter is just such a "gift" from NW Airlines. But above all, stay cool and confident. And be very rested before tackling this strenuous "event".
So I'm doing my best to
gear up for Friday's flight to BWI (Baltimore/Washington International)
on NW Airlines. Don't want to hit my peak too early, so I'm doing
one thing at a time. I'll be ready.
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 20, 2000
I know last night's weather forecast on TV greatly affected how I used today. The forecaster had said with certainty, "Well, it looks like this was the last day of summer. By tomorrow morning, temperatures will have dropped over 10° and Chicago's rain will here by the afternoon." I went to bed feeling sorry I'd not spent more of that precious day outside, savoring every minute of its sunny warm temperatures. What a surprise to awaken to more of the same. And this time I determined not to let a minute go by unappreciated.
From 11 AM until after 4 PM, La Lucha and I were on the road. To the bike shop to have her outfitted with a grand halogen headlight that runs on a rechargable battery pack. To the hardware store for a velcro strap to secure the battery pack inside my front basket--also a bungee cord to hold down the scooter's steering shaft when she's stored on the plane during Friday's flight. Then to the alterations shop to have the scooter's backpack fasteners replaced with the snap-off variety for easy removal at the airport security checkpoints. And finally to visit E.D. at his office where I gave him another coaching session on the particulars of designing and putting up his own web site on AOL. My ride home along the lake was poignantly beautiful. All the while I was thinking, "How many more times will it look and feel like this?"
After returning home, I still didn't want to stay inside so I sat out back and ate my leftover crab cake from last night's dinner at a neighborhood restaurant. The skies were still sunny and blue, the air quite warm. Robins with their autumn-muted orange breasts came to nibble at red berries in the honeysuckle bushes. A black-capped chickadee landed on the maple branch near my chair, tipped its head as if in greeting and flew off. I played the digjeridoo with consious intent for my friend's seriously ill mother whom I'd been told would probably be "making her transition" today. As I played, I heard the click of a cardinal nearby. I opened my eyes and saw a female cardinal perched in the forsythia bushes. It was 4:30 PM Chicago time; I wonder what was going on with J.W.'s mother at that moment. May her passing be gentle.
It was now time to get on the road again--this time by car to my women's book group in Windsor, ONT. As I drove along the lake, big fat raindrops began to splash my windshield. Within 15 minutes, the deluge was such that I considered pulling to the side of the road and waiting it out. But I simply slowed down and kept going through Detroit toward the Windsor tunnel. As always the time spent with these women was stimulating, thought-provoking, and full of laughter. We decided on our next book--Natalie Angier's Woman: An Intimate Geography--a sociological exploration of women and their bodies. P.N., who recommended it, assured us that it is not only chuck full of information but written with a great deal of humor. She turned to me and said, "Patricia, you are going to love this book!"
So now it is almost 1
AM and I'm feeling very ready for bed. I received an email from
a friend today who asked, "Where do you find the energy to
do all you do and keep up your website?" The answer is, "I
go to bed way too late!"
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 21, 2000
I am at a large gathering similar to a women's music festival except men are part of the community too. It is near the end of our time together and we are putting on an informal talent show. A woman is performing an act about the environment using creatures from the wild. A snake jumps onto the top of my head. I am terrified and call to the others for help. A number of women try to remove the snake without success. I don't know if it is poisonous, but assume it's not since it was part of this act. My fear does not lessen. After awhile most people seem to lose interest in my problem; they go onto different things. But one woman takes me by the hand and walks me over to a full-length mirror. I can see the snake nestled under the braids on the top of my head. I take a cut-up paper cup and use it to flick the snake off my head onto the floor. I feel so relieved, but now want to save the snake's life by taking it outside. After many attempts to scoop it off the floor with the paper cup, I see I have killed the snake. I feel sad and free all at the same time.
This morning's dream makes me think of the terror of transformation--the shedding of skins. Others can offer support, but in the end it is a task only I can accomplish. To rid myself of fears that accompany this process, I must be willing to look into a mirror of truth and see things for what they are. And even as transformation occurs, something must die.
I'm not surprised this
dream appeared today. The weather changed in the night just as
they'd predicted it would do (and did not) yesterday morning.
I went to bed in the summer and woke up in the fall. Tomorrow
is the Equinox and the start of my Air Travel with Scooter (Round
Trip) Olympic event. I've done everything I can to prepare, but
am still feeling uneasy. It'll be good to have this first journey
under my belt so I'll have a better sense of what to expect next
time. Please hold La Lucha and me in good traveling energy!
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 22, 2000
And all this time I thought I was training for an individual "Olympic event"! Well, believe me, Air Travel with Scooter (Round Trip) is very much a team event. So many people help make it happen.
First out of the chute--or off the blocks--was my dear husband, E.D. He repaired and repositioned La Lucha's new red tail light, disassembled and stowed her in the car, drove me to the airport, reassembled and packed her up with all my gear, and sent me off with expressions of loving confidence. Coach, equipment manager and cheerleader rolled into one.
Next were the folks at the security checkpoint. They kindly lifted my backpack, laptop, front basket with purse and folded windchime walker off the scooter to send through them x-ray, respectfully patted me down, and packed me up again.
When I checked in at the gate, I asked to talk to the Ramp Lead (as I'd been instructed to do by my air-travel-with-scooter expert, J.B). Five minutes later, a smiling, courteous young man in grease-stained overalls appeared at my side. He listened respectfully to my instructions on how to disassemble my scooter for safe storage on the plane. His parting words were, "We'll do our very best, ma'am." When it was time for me to pre-board, he was there to personally handle La Lucha, and to help me onto the plane as well.
Another member of this team--though behind the scenes--was my seatmate, Anthony Brewer. Instead of stewing on the hourlong flight from Detroit to Baltimore, I was treated to an interesting conversation about what life is like for a bestselling author. I've not read his most famous novel--Catfish Don't Jump, and Other Stories of the South--but will at my earliest opportunity. As I'd suspected, a successful writer's life is not easy; seems to me this man juggles more balls in midair than most anyone I know. Oddly enough, he actually writesfrom 10 PM to 1 AM every night--pretty much my schedule as well.
When we arrived in Baltimore, there was La Lucha on the jetway, assembled and ready to ride! Unseen members of the team treated her very well in the city of my paternal grandmother's birth. Our flight attendants helped me reposition my backpack, laptop, front basket and folded windchime walker onto my strong, sturdy packhorse...and off we scooted.
The next lap of the event was taking a shuttle 40 miles to the motel near my mother's nursing home. I'd made reservations by phone from Detroit and was assured that--although they have no handicap-accessible shuttles--the driver would be willing to disassemble my scooter and store it in the back of the van. As happened all day, the driver who picked me up was a most gracious and helpful individual. F, from Equador, not only made my ride comfortable but added a touch of his country in taped flute (rodondo?) and guitar music at my request. My shuttle companion was P., a gentle-spirited man whose sharings about his family in New Mexico touched me deeply. Imagine saying in midlife, "My mother and father are the most admirable people I've ever met in my life."
As I checked into the motel, the shuttle driver, F., came up and gave me his cell phone and home number to call so he can drive me back to the airport on Tuesday!
Everything that had caused me sleepless nights went without a hitch. But this Olympic event was not yet complete. As often happens, the toughest part of the day was the part I'd thought would be a breeze: scooting the mile and a quarter from my motel to Mom's nursing facility.
Have you ever been in a really busy suburb? Cars whiz along 8-lane highways and not one pedestrian can be seen for miles. What used to be farmland is now home to the automobile. Well, whoever designed the roadways around here obviously knew that because the sidewalks that do exist--on only one side of the highway--have a tendency to suddenly disappear or to go off in some strange direction before making it to an intersection. It took me an hour and a quarter to go 1 mile (normally a 15 minute ride). I finally discovered the only way to get to Mom's place was to scoot through a mammoth two-story shopping mall and the parking lots on either side of it. Weird and not a little scary!
But that was my only challenge
of the day. Oh, how relieved I am that La Lucha and I made it
here none the worse for wear. Feels like a gold medal finish to
me...gold medals for every member of this team.
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 23, 2000
When I come to Washington DC, I don't really expect to have fun. Now that is not to say I don't like coming; I do. But visiting one's mother in a nursing facility--even a mother who seems content--is not an activity generally described as fun. Well, tonight changed all that.
My niece, E., her Significant Other, M., and I had a date to go out for dinner after they'd visited Mom (her grandmother) this afternoon. I'd never met M. and hadn't seen E. in the 6 years since my nephew, J., married K. on an island off the coast of North Carolina. E. and M. just moved from San Diego to Washington, DC a week and a half ago for E. to take a great job at a well-known corporation (her field is industrial psychology with a specialty in organizational development and team-building). She'd asked me where I'd like to go eat and I said, "To DC!" Mom's facility is out in a Maryland suburb where a big night out on the town might be going to a movie at the mall. I wanted to taste, touch, smell, see, hear the city of my growing-up years. Except for last April's Millennium March street fair on Pennsylvania Avenue, I hadn't been into DC for years.
E.'s corporation is giving her a month's transitional housing in an elegant apartment building near Dupont Circle, so we parked there. She and M. assembled La Lucha and we started off walk/scooting toward a Japanese restaurant E. had heard was good. Ah, what a beautiful night! Shirtsleeve weather had brought everybody out onto the streets. As we approached Dupont Circle we heard them before we saw them--a brass quintet with tuba, trombones and french horn. It was an ensemble of young African-American men really rockin' that street corner with New Orleans-style jazz. And that was just the start...
We sat at a sidewalk table outside the Japanese restaurant and had a glorious meal of assorted tapas (cold shrimp rolls, steamed wasai fish wrapped in rice paper, vegetable tempera and egg rolls) with a noodle dish for M. After dinner we just walked and walked (I scooted and scooted). Crowds of people were out just to be out as were we: it was that kind of a night. I showed E. and M. the Phillips Gallery, my favorite DC art museum. We sat in the middle of Dupont Circle park under the fountain of dancing marble nymphs and watched young break dancers with boom box blaring practice moves on a plastic mat. Old and young, homeless and affluent, gay and straight, able-bodied and differently-abled, white and black and Latino and Asian...we were all at home tonight on these streets of our nation's capitol. After asking a couple where they'd gotten their ice cream cones, we went down Connecticut Avenue to Larry's Homemade Ice Cream. My date and coconut vanilla cream on a sugar cone was nice and messy like ice cream used to be as a kid.
Isn't it grand when you
find that you really enjoy being with family--that they're simply
lots of fun? That is healing medicine.
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 24, 2000
This is the 4th or 5th time I've visited Mom since she first moved into this Maryland retirement village in October 1998; the 1st time with my scooter. Things are quite different with La Lucha here to get me around: 1) I'm no longer tired from long walks through the motel and Mom's building; 2) Instead of waiting for the motel shuttle to drive me to and from her residence, I just scoot over and back anytime I please; 3) When there, I no longer feel tied to Mom's bedside. Every afternoon thus far, I've gone out for a nice long ride around the grounds...and some necessary time alone.
This 75 year old senior housing complex has grown into a small city with independent apartments, assisted living units (where Mom started out), and nursing facilities (where she's been the past year). In addition, there are acres and acres of grassy areas with shade trees and inviting benches on which to sit, garden plots for residents to plant and tend, and two small lakes with gazebos and a pier.
I'd only seen the gardens from the road until yesterday. How different to see them at close range! First of all, the area is three times larger than I thought--covering perhaps 2-3 acres. Secondly, there is an astounding variety of flowers blooming and vegetables ready to be picked...dahlias with heads as large as mine, roses of all types and colors, zinnias of every imaginable hue, sunflowers over 10' tall, even ripe pumpkins and gourds lying on the ground. I wish I could name all the flowers, but if I did, this journal entry would be pages long. As an artist, it was the outrageous juxtaposition of colors that left my senses reeling. Such evidence of the extraordinary life force of these folks our culture says are "finished"!
The lakes offered me a special gift both yesterday and today: a blue heron hidden among the rushes at the water's edge. Just watching this creature's elegant postures touched deep chords in me. Everything is done in a spirit of stillness: everything that is except catching fish--an activity I watched in its entirety today. Within seconds the heron had dipped its head into the water and come up with a 4" gold fish hanging from its beak. The heron flicked the fish into the proper position and swallowed it so swiftly it looked like a conjuring act.
And I have my scooter
to thank for allowing me to see such wonders of nature. What a
good friend she is: a truly transformative agent. Every time I
see a woman or man in a wheelchair being pushed by someone else,
it's all I can do to keep from accosting them with tales of how
a scooter can expand one's horizons. Gosh, I'm getting as bad
as a reformed smoker! Watch out, next thing you know I'll be passing
©2000 Patricia Lay-Dorsey.
Please use with attribution.