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To read my current
journal, please go to: windchime walker's
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 25, 2000
I'm at a women's song gathering. We're meeting in a school gymnasium with the usual light-brown shiny wooden floor and bleacher seats. Everyone is together in the bleachers participating in a singing workshop. I am off to the side, sitting by myself. It is where I want to be. The workshop ends and the women go off to another activity together. I stay behind. Their voices filter in from the hall, but I am so happy to be on my own. I go down to the gym floor and begin to glide and dance in my stocking feet. As I do turns and graceful jumps, I'm thinking, "It's amazing that I can do this--I normally have trouble even walking." The solitary dance goes on and on, my body continuing to surprise me with its grace and agility. I decide it is time for me to pursue my dancing even more than singing. I finally stop and begin to gather up my gear that seems strewn from one end of the bleachers to the other. I know I must rejoin the singing group but don't really want to. I'd rather just go home. I awaken.
Seems I'm grappling even in my dreams with feelings I experienced last weekend at the women's music camp. Something wasn't quite right for me there. It was as though I was a square peg trying to fit into a round hole. Now, group settings like this have been my delight since I first discovered the world of women's music with Carolyn McDade in March 1993. I'm always among the first to send in my registration for such gatherings. I expect to feel at home in every cell of my body--that's how it's been for me these 7 years.
Not this time. I loved the women, the music, setting, silliness, tears and deep connections. So what did not work? The best I can figure, it was the ongoing relational dramas that everyone knew about and in some way, participated in. I just got tired of it all. I wanted more singing and less intrigue. I'm certainly not referring to the one-to-one or small group sharings I was privileged to be part of--those were sacred times.
It's obvious camp hadn't
changed--I had. Am I coming into a different phase of life? Perhaps.
These feelings are so new and unexpected I'll need to sit with
them awhile to see what they mean.
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 26, 2000
This was probably my last night in San Francisco--this visit anyway--to scoot spontaneously wherever the spirit of adventure led me. The next three nights I have dates with friends and Monday morning I'm on my way back home to Detroit and my sweetie. So where did I choose to fly?
First, to Saigon Saigon for dinner--vegetarian spring rolls, spinach noodles with vegetables (my favorite) and a sweet herbal iced tea. The staff is so accustomed to me by now that as soon as I pull up outside the restaurant, someone opens the front door, moves tables and chairs out of the way so I can scoot up to my usual spot, then pulls my table out from the wall so I can sit comfortably with my scooter seat turned sideways. I'm getting mighty spoiled!
After dinner, I turned on my headlight and red rear strobe light and proceeded down Valencia on my way to the Modern Times Bookstore. A woman and man stopped me on the sidewalk to inquire about my scooter. Seems B. is thinking about getting one herself as fatigue is making it hard for her to get around. We had a lively discussion about the Amigo RT Express scooter, the updated version of La Lucha. I really should be paid by the company for the advertising I give them! But everything I say is based on my lived experience of this transformative device. May B. allow herself to join me in this dance of freedom.
At Modern Times, I explored the writing section, finally settling on Elizabeth Berg's Escaping Into the Open: The Art of Writing True. I was taken with her unselfconscious approach to writing. It resonates with how I write this journal every day--just do it! Even though I spend a good deal of time cleaning things up (simplifying and clarifying) after first getting it all down, I share her belief that we need to get rid of the critic on our shoulder. Revising does not employ the critic, rather the fine-tuner. The funny part about my now 8 months of daily journal writing is that I don't see it as writing; it's more like brushing my teeth--just something I do every day. Back when I was concerned with being a "writer", the actual act often got lost in the thinking, learning, talking, reading about writing. I don't even call myself a writer now; I just write.
After hearing an author
read briefly from his novel, I left the bookstore and scooted
home. Well, almost home. It was only 8:45 PM and that song from
"My Fair Lady" started running through my head. I couldn't
go in quite yet! So I scooted around my neighborhood, savoring
such sights as the twinkling lights up on Liberty Hill, palm trees
lining Dolores Street's grassy median, pink and white impatiens
bushes cascading from tiny front yards, low-lit restaurants crowded
with diners and folks walking down city streets carrying laundry
baskets full of clothes. Sweet city.
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 27, 2000
What an elegant night out on the town! My friends, S.W. and P.O., took me to dinner at the Fairmont Hotel's Tonka Room. A Polynesian paradise built around the original swimming pool (circa 1910), its special effects include the sound of thunder and flashes of lightning every half hour culminating in a "rainstorm" beating down into the pool. Very dramatic...especially for a city that rarely has thunderstorms. Our dinner was excellent and the Fairmont Hotel as oppulent as I'd imagined. This is definitely a part of San Francisco that is not on my beaten path!
After dinner we scooted/walked to the nearby Masonic Auditorium for a Lou Rawls/Etta James concert. I'd bought our tickets over the phone from Michigan soon after reading the San Francisco Jazz Festival online schedule. It's a mammoth auditorium with main floor and balcony seating in a semi-circle around the stage. Our seats were very good--8th row on the aisle in the left center. Folks kept pouring in long after Etta James took the stage, so eventually we could see that the concert was sold-out. The latecomers must have gotten caught in horrendous traffic coming into town on the Bay Bridge and Golden Gate Bridge, not to mention the challenge of trying to find parking. Friday nights in San Francisco are not easy to negotiate, especially for those who live or work outside the city.
The concert was wonderful! Both Etta James and Lou Rawls are seasoned performers who know how to play to an audience with warmth and professionalism. And, as is usually the case, their back-up musicians were superb. It was my first non-free indoors concert in awhile and I noticed that the audience, though enthusiastic, was pretty sedate in comparison with Detroit's Labor Day Jazz festival crowd. Probably has to do with being in a big auditorium all dressed up as opposed to being outdoors in shorts and t-shirts...not to mention the different make-up of an audience that pays and one that doesn't. Unfortunately a lot of folks got up in the middle of Lou Rawls' set to leave early. Guess they were worried about long lines getting out of the parking garage. We just bided our time and whizzed out of the garage a half hour after the end of the show.
Such a great way to start
my last weekend here in the city! And such special friends with
whom to spend time--my San Francisco "brothers".
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 28, 2000
E.D. and I got to laughing so hard during our daily phone call today that my glasses steamed up! I remember Mom always said when you laugh that hard during the day, someone will cry before bedtime. Well, E.D. and I agreed that wouldn't happen in this case since we won't see each other until Monday. I'm sure the curse will be gone by then!
Our first outburst came as I described how well La Lucha my scooter handled last night's outing. S.W. had dropped P.O. and me off in front of the Fairmont Hotel, where he quickly assembled "Her Purpleness" and we grandly scooted/walked past the uniformed doorman into the posh lobby. Everything was accessible there, including the Polynesian rainforest restaurant. After dinner we scooted/walked one block to the Masonic Auditorium. I cautiously made my way through the crowded lobby without "ankling" anyone (bumping into their ankles--folks don't like that, especially when trying to stay upright in high heels). After we were ushered to our seats, I left La Lucha to my "valet parker", P.O., who scooted back up the aisle to find an appropriate parking place. This is what tickled E.D.'s funny bone--the image of 6' P.O. with his knees tucked to his chin (La Lucha is adjusted to my 4'10" frame), jangling windchimes and sporting a dreamcatcher, beaded necklace and dancing woman on the front basket with a lavender spiral painted flag fluttering behind as he scooted along. I must admit folks around us had pretty big smiles on their faces at the sight.
Later in the conversation, I told E.D. that two friends were bringing homemade Jamaican pumpkin soup over to my place for dinner tonight. Now I don't usually use names in my journal, but I'll have to this time or you won't get the joke. E.D. said, "So, who's coming over?" I replied, "Pam and Janet", and immediatedly started to sing, "Pam 'n Janet evening". We cracked up.
See, this is the kind
of journal entry I write on rainy afternoons when the most adventuresome
thing I've done is heat up water for my Bengal Spice tea. So often
readers will comment on my active life, saying theirs pales in
comparison. Believe me, I do more than my fair share of sitting
around. The trick is learning to make something out of nothing,
rather like going through your refrigerator and finding leftover
scraps of food to make a bubbling pot of soup. Bon appetit!
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 29, 2000
During these past two weeks in San Francisco I've seen almost all my friends but one. Unfortunately this is a friend I can't reach by phone or email to set up a date; I just have to wait and see if she'll show up on her own. And yesterday she did! Of course it was the rainiest day of my visit, but that didn't stop her from venturing out.
I was inside my cottage walking from the living room area to the bathroom when my eye caught unusual movement in the garden. It helps to know that the garden side of my studio apartment is all windows and french doors, so there is little differentiation visually between the outside and inside. I stopped and focused my attention on that spot of motion. As I did so, a dun-colored hummingbird darted directly toward me, hovered for an instant at eye level, gave me a good look and whizzed away.
Now I feel I can go home
tomorrow knowing my West Coast friends are fine.
I thought I'd finished my journal entry for today--in fact I was getting ready to pack up my laptop for tomorrow's trip--when two things happened that I want to hold in my memory.
I was taking a break in the sunny garden between sweeping out the apartment and cleaning the bathroom when I heard enthusiastic conversation overhead. I looked three floors up next door and there--partially covered by the juniper trees--were a young man and woman on the balcony of S.K.'s old apartment where I'd lived for two winters. He was obviously showing her his new apartment--S.K. and his girlfriend moved up near Chico in August--and she was exclaiming over the beautiful view of Twin Peaks and Liberty Hill ("You could put a table--even a bar--out here!"). Their voices echoed throughout the empty apartment so I could hear their progress from room to room--seeing every inch of the space in my mind. I felt like I was in the last scene of "Tales of the City" as I-forget-her-name saw the new young tenant moving into her old apartment at Mrs. M.'s place on Russian Hill.
I then showered, washed my hair, cleaned the bathroom and dressed. My next project was packing. On the radio--that I keep tuned to KCSM-91.1 FM, a 24-hour public jazz station out of San Mateo--was the start of a live broadcast from a jazz festival. Assuming it was originating at an outdoor plaza here in the city as part of the San Francisco Jazz Festival, I felt a twinge of disappointment that I wasn't there. As I listened, the announcer said, "And we're happy to have you here live at Hart Plaza where the hemisphere's largest jazz festival happens every Labor Day--five stages of great jazz and a beautiful venue here at the Ford Detroit International Jazz Festival" It was a tape of the festival I had lived at in Detroit for four days and nights over Labor Day weekend!
Such simple things help
me see how perfectly at home I am in the world.
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 31, 2000
Yesterday was a long day...a v-e-r-y long day.
I like to get to the airport 2 hours prior to departure to allow plenty of time to get through security (I need assistance) and to talk to the ramp chief at the gate regarding the proper handling and storage of La Lucha my scooter in the plane's cargo hold. In addition, A.L., the Northwest Airlines Conflict Resolution Officer I'd talked to after the delayed arrival of my scooter at SFO two weeks ago, had asked to be called when I checked in at the gate yesterday. In our phone conversation on Friday, she'd expressed interest in finding a copy of the Air Carrier's Act I'd used when making my original complaint. I'd offered to give her my copy. I think she also wanted to be sure everything went smoothly for me this time.
We had a most interesting talk about how Northwest handles disabled travelers, with her encouraging me to write Northwest's central office as a follow-up to her own report of the mishandling of my scooter two weeks ago. She believes that Northwest needs to be more consistent at all its airports in the handling of disability issues. "You're a woman with a mission", she said, "an important one."
My experience yesterday was 100% satisfactory: La Lucha was handled very sensitively, as was I. The only snafu had nothing to do with my being disabled--it was the plane that was disabled. After we were seated in the wide-bodied 747 (love that plane!), the captain announced that the anti-skid mechanism needed a replacement part before we could take off. He expected it would take 1? to 2 hours.
I didn't want to put La Lucha at risk of unnecessary handling, so used my walker to explore lunch options in the airport. It was now after 1 PM. The closest was the bar. I ordered orange juice and a tuna fish salad sandwich, half of which I shared with a sister passenger as it was huge (first time I've seen tuna made between 2 pieces of foccacia bread). After eating I went back to sit in the waiting area so I could better hear the announcements on the Public Address system. That was where E. and I hooked up. I'd seen her with her mother on the plane, an adorable smiling 2-year old. Well, windchime walker spun her usual magic and before long my walker seat had become a cradle for E.'s doll. For the next half hour, E. and I played and had a high old time. Her mother even trusted me to watch her daughter while she went off to make a phone call and get some juice.
Eventually our plane was fixed and we took off for Detroit--3 hours late. A couple of times I ran into my little friend and her mother on the plane while waiting to use the lavatory. The last time, C. the mother, said, "E. saw you get out of your seat and said, 'Let's go see my grandma!" Didn't hurt my feelings one bit, I can assure you.
We picked up a half hour in the air so we landed at 10:30 PM EST instead of the original arrival time of 8 PM. By the time my sweet E.D. parked his newly repainted 11-year-old car in our garage, unloaded my bags, assembled La Lucha and plugged her in for the night, it was 1 AM. Even though it was only 10 PM Pacific Time, I felt ready to hit the sack. So I did. Sorry to miss yesterday's journal entry, but I thought you'd understand.
I awoke today at 12:30 PM, and looked out my bedroom window to see a greater expanse of sun and blue skies through the now-bare tree branches. In the distance golden trees shimmered and leaves fell like snow. After partially unpacking, showering and dressing, I ventured out into this bright autumn day.
La Lucha and I took our favorite route along the lake, happily discovering some curbs that had been torn up in the ongoing sewer replacement project were now smoothly graded. I picked up an avocado lawash wrap sandwich and fresh-squeezed tangerine juice at my favorite juice joint, and scooted over to a nearby elementary school where I sat and ate, watching a witch with long stringy black hair, a clown with a shiny blue and gold hat, a fairy princess in pink tulle and assorted characters climb jungle gyms and swing on tires. The ride home along a tree-lined residential street was breathtaking, with the play of late sunlight on scarlet, gold and green leaves against the blue blue sky.
What different images from just two days ago when I was scooting by San Francisco storefronts, Victorian houses and palm trees with the sun poised to drop behind Twin Peaks. I have certainly chosen two lovely--and very different--places to spend my time. Gemini all the way!
But Gemini or no, I am
deeply content to be back home with my sweet E.D.
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 1, 2000
Subj: To vote conscience
Date: 11/01/2000 11:49:35 AM Eastern Standard Time
I've been receiving emails with attachments from friends who are concerned about my expressed decision to vote for Ralph Nader and the Green Party on Tuesday. Rather than respond individually, I am writing this statement of belief.
Of course I too dread the prospect of George W. as president. His opinions and actions on such key (for me) issues as the death penalty, women's reproductive rights, gay/lesbian/bi/trans rights, hate crime bills, pro-rich tax benefits, the cutting off of social safety nets and pumping up of the military (We're #1 mentality) are totally against my own opinions and actions.
Unfortunately I do not see Gore's opinions and actions as very different. In the debates he came out strongly in favor of the death penalty and bragged that he was one of the few Democrats who voted for the Gulf War in Congress. He supports increased spending for the military and is a significant proponent of all aspects of globalization, in particular NAFTA and the FTAA (the extension of NAFTA to cover the hemisphere). For those who are particularly concerned that this president may appoint a number of new Supreme Court justices, it's important to note that Gore voted for the appointments of two of the most reactionary current justices, Clarence Thomas and Scalia. His pro-choice position and friendliness toward the gay/lesbian/bi/trans community are the only positions we hold in common. Even his expressed environmental concern has been undermined by his history of siding with big business when it comes down to the bottom line.
Ralph Nader and the Green Party share my views on every significant issue. I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to support them with my vote. I'm sure you know that if Nader gets 5% of the popular vote--even without winning a single electoral vote--he and the Green Party will qualify for about $7 million in federal funds. And each percentage point over 5% equals $1.4 million more. But even more important than the funding is the statement a vote for Nader will make to the political powers-that-be. It is important (to me) that the Democratic party, especially, realize that there are significant numbers of persons who do NOT agree with or support the direction in which the party has gone (toward multi-national corporate interests and conservative public policy). As I heard a representative of the Green Party say during a panel discussion--"Why vote? Social Change and the Election 2000"--at San Francisco's New College 2 weeks ago, "The Democratic party left me; I did not leave the Democratic party."
Procedurally speaking, it is the electoral college that elects the president (a majority: 270 out of 538 votes) not the popular vote, so it doesn't matter if a candidate wins a state by one vote or a million votes--it's "winner take all." As I understand it, 40 of the 50 states are pretty well decided, so, for instance, if you live in California, you can vote Nader without feeling it is a vote for Bush. But even if one lives in a state where the electoral vote is close, a vote for Nader will always be a vote for Nader.
Though the 2-party system in this country now reflects less choice than corporate control, I am grateful that such options as Ralph Nader and the Green Party exist. And I plan to exercise my right to vote my conscience rather than my fear. As Harmony Grisman (a wonderful Northern California singer/songwriter) says in her song about this election, "The lesser of two evils is still evil."
May we vote as our minds and hearts dictate, respecting one another's right to see things differently.
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 2, 2000
You live with someone a long time--say 34 years--and begin to think you know him or her. And then one day that person does something so uncharacteristic you feel like you're seeing a rabbit pulled out of a hat. So it was for me last night.
E.D., a man I imagined I knew as well as anyone outside of myself--maybe even better than I know myself--did something so unexpected that I didn't believe it at first. As it had to do with the election, I suspect my letter of yesterday may have triggered it, but the nature of his action is less significant than the fact that he turned such an unexpected corner. What an incredible display of creative conscience!
I've received a good number of responses from friends to whom I sent my "Nader letter". They range from "You go, girl!" type comments, to detailed reasons why a Nader-friendly voter will pull the lever for Gore, to emotional pleas to do anything to save us from a possible Bush victory (with links about trading Nader for Gore votes in undecided states), to willingness to rethink their decision in the light of what I said in the letter, to implying I should feel guilty if Bush wins, to expressions of gratitude for my articulating their views of the candidates and issues, to an actual offer to trade a Gore vote in their decided state for a Nader vote in my undecided one. I've actually been delightfully surprised to hear how many friends are voting for Nader--many more than I expected.
For all the fears, disappointments
and idealism swirling around this election, I can't remember one
that had people so engaged in weighing their options. I credit
Ralph Nader and the Green Party for this excitement. Feelings
are running high because we finally do have options. Can
you imagine what a "Ho hum" election it would be if
our only choices were Bush or Gore? Republican or Democrat. One
dark suited red-tied man against another. It is definitely time
for a three-party system in the US--at least 3 parties.
We're growing up as a nation and no longer have to be given "either-or"
choices; we're ready to take our pick from a full menu. Finally.
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 3, 2000
What joy to celebrate an amazing woman as she deserves to be celebrated! So it was tonight at P.N.'s 70th birthday party. Close to 70 friends, peace activists, feminists, artists, bridge players, writers, golfers, tennis players, theater folks, teachers, labor organizers, politicians and who-knows-who-all gathered at P.N.'s friend E.'s elegant home outside Windsor, Ontario to say "We love you" to this woman who came out as an abortion rights spokesperson while still a nun in the 1960s, became a leader in Ontario's radical left labor movement with her former husband in the 70s, was co-founder of the Windsor women's movement and started the Windsor Feminist Theater in the early 70s, has helped develop group homes and support programs for women struggling with poverty, domestic violence and substance abuse, and is a common sight riding her bike to all manner of political and community meetings, peace rallies and women's gatherings around town. This is not to mention her passion for golf, tennis, bridge and reading. At 6 AM every morning, she can be found drinking coffee with 3 newspapers spread out before her at a favorite Tim Horton's coffee shop.
P.N. and I have shared a panoply of events and experiences--as sister activists at the 5-day OAS (Organization of American States) protest demonstrations and teach-ins in Windsor last June, as drummers in a year-long weekly women's circle in Detroit, as DART (Disabled Access Resource Team) campers at the 1999 Michigan Womyn's Music Festival, as sister singers at Carolyn McDade's weekend retreats since 1993, as feminists at our monthly Windsor women's book group, as poets in WOMANSPIRIT's two anthologies...not to mention sharing laughter, political discussions and heartfelt conversations during dinners, lunches, parties and ritual gatherings over the years. I admire her more than any woman I know.
May her ready grin and
outrageous honesty grace our world for years to come. May we continue
to learn her most significant teaching--live life full out, nothing
held back, present in every fiber of your being to the wonder
around and within you. May we join her in laughing at the absurdities
of our times and ourselves. And may we believe her bumper sticker:
"Back off--you're driving behind a goddess!"
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 4, 2000
The lake lies calm as a shimmering blue satin bedspread. I see a tug boat pushing a heavily-laden barge, a dark-hulled laker heading north towards Lake Huron, an ocean-going freighter with its single stern cabin shining in the sun, three boats under sail and one fishing boat anchored offshore. A lone gull soars overhead, two hardy robins perch in a half-leafed tree and a large flock of small birds twist and turn in flight toward the arms of a huge elm.
I scoot along the lake by myself. Where are all the walkers, runners and bikers? During the dog days of summer there was an endless parade of folks taking advantage of our proximity to this large body of water. Today just a couple of formerly shorts-clad runners pass me wearing long pants and sweat-darkened U of M or MSU sweatshirts.
A handful of masts remain in the sailing club harbor. A row of weeping willows hang over the water in golden-green surrender. Bare birch trees glisten white against blue skies, while the sycamores stand tall with grey-green bark patterned in subtle shapes and textures. Pink roses burst forth in full bloom beside withered impatiens. Black and grey squirrels scurry back and forth on green lawns, occasionally stopping to bury their winter's supply of seeds and nuts.
The sky appears to expand in size and brightness as trees lose their heavy summer foliage. Bare trees show off their elegant form and structure, while those still carrying leaves display hues running toward scarlet, orange, gold, green, purple and brown. Crisp dead leaves scrape across the sidewalk and streets. I catch whiffs of decay mixed with the faint smell of woodburning fireplaces. It makes me nostalgic for the utter abandon of jumping in huge piles of leaves as a child, and the sight and smell of bonfires up and down our street back home.
I long to imprint my senses
with the sights, sounds and smells of this early November day.
Winter stands at the door patiently waiting to be offered entrance.
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 5, 2000
When next I find myself reluctant to attend a gathering of people who do not share my views, I hope I recall last night's party.
E.D. is part of a couples' tennis group and potluck dinner during the cold weather months here in the community where we live. The people are very nice and always make me feel welcome, but the general character of the group is quite conservative. After my intense political focus and online activism of late--particularly my decision to vote for Nader--I was not sure that would be a good environment for me to be in just 4 days before the election. To be honest, I was uneasy about trusting myself to be civil to a whole room of Bush people if the conversation turned to politics. This election's got me pretty worked up.
So when E.D. came home to change after the tennis, I told him I didn't think I could go on to the party with him. As always he was respectful of my decision, but he did say, "This is such a polite crowd, I doubt that politics will even come up." I could tell he was a little disappointed--not in me, but because I wouldn't be there with him. We often hang out together at these parties (when I'm not in California) because conversation often goes into areas we know little about--hockey, college football, second homes in Florida, grandchildren, etc.
At the last minute I changed my mind and went along. And my fears proved groundless. For one thing, J.H., at whose house the dinner was being held, had dared to put up a "Tipper rocks" bumper sticker on the plate glass door in her dining room! She and I started talking sympathetic politics as soon as E.D. and I walked in the door. Other than that I heard only two references to the election the whole evening--and one of them was initiated by me.
Yes, I'm certain I was the only Nader person in the room, and I suspect J.H. was the one Gore supporter...but it didn't really matter. I had several good conversations, one with a couple from Australia about digjeridoos (they'd just purchased one themselves). They described an aboriginal ritual gathering they'd attended in the Outback where the digjeridoo offered a steady drone on top of which the clack of bones and rattles provided rhythm for dancers and singers. My other conversations surprised me in the depths we reached. I didn't even mind that the entree was not vegetarian-friendly. The two salads were superb--one of which included feta cheese, green olives and mandarian oranges. Yum!
The party certainly offered
a good lesson in not letting my emotions run away with me.
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 6, 2000
Changing horses in midstream is not my style; I like to be known as a person who--as my southern mother always said--sticks to her guns. Actually, it embarrasses me to seem to waffle on anything, especially a matter of principle.
All that being said, I decided in the middle of last night to cast my Michigan vote for Gore rather than Nader. After "sticking to my guns" through numerous difficult conversations and email exchanges with Gore-supporting friends, I had to rethink my idealistic position in light of information contained in an email I received yesterday from a friend in California. As someone who has held a significant elected position in a major environmental organization, J. has lived not just talked about his commitment to the planet in ways most of us cannot imagine. The following is a quote from his email message:
I realize that Gore has had to sound conservative to get elected. That's a sad truth of our nation, but it is true that we live in a conservative country. I have read Earth in the Balance, I have reviewed Al Gore's voting record as contrasted to Cheney's (which is probably the scariest in all Congress), and I saw what Bush Sr did, and I know that Bush Jr. will certainly destroy the Alaskan Wildlife Preserve, and we will never get it back. He's promised to do so; Gore has promised to save it, and if he is elected he will be in a position to do so. To me, that alone is reason enough to vote for Gore.
A friend was here yesterday and we had dinner. He's a geologist -- an academic who studies global warming, among other things. He is not at all an alarmist by nature (quite the opposite), but what he said about global warming was very sobering. If we wait even another 4 years to do anything about it, the planet may be doomed. The Republicans refuse to act, but Gore understands and cares deeply about the problem and is our best hope to do something within the next 18 months. My friend said the latest studies show that it is entirely possible that our CO? levels could trigger very massive climate change in as little as 10 years -- melting the ice caps, drowning our coastal cities, and causing extraordinarily violent storms. The exact result is impossible to predict, but it is likely to be devastating, even within our lifetime.
If I lived in a state that was decided--for either candidate--I would definitely vote for Nader and the Green Party. But Michigan with its 18 undecided electoral votes is at the heart of this too-close-to-call race between Gore and Bush. It does not help that yesterday's New York Times put Bush ahead of Gore in electoral votes. As many reservations as I have about Gore--see my Nader letter--I believe having Bush as President of this country would be a danger to the entire planet. Much as I want to support Nader and the Green Party, much as I want the US to embrace a three-party system, much as I hold to strong beliefs...I could not live with myself if I woke up Wednesday morning to Bush as the new President and realized my vote might have helped give him Michigan.
At least I've come up with a way to cast a vote for Gore here in Michigan and see to it that Nader receives a vote in a decided state at the same time. I've worked something out privately with a friend--it was her generous idea--but there's actually a web site where voters can see about trading Nader and Gore votes according to whether you live in a decided or undecided state. It is called the Nader Trader Home Page.
What a challenging time
for progressive persons of conscience. And what an eye-opener
it's been for me to see which issue could sway me from my idealistic
position of yesterday. When the earth hangs in the balance, that
cannot be ignored.
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 7, 2000
I've received many email responses from politically-conscious friends and web site visitors regarding my rather public decision to change my vote from Nader to Gore here in Michigan today (after assuaging my conscience by trading my Gore vote in MI for a friend's Nader vote in MD). I've been touched by their unwavering respect for my process--and in most cases, utter delight at the product (ie., one more vote against Bush in this necessary swing state). Some expressed gratitude for my willingness to live life so publicly here in this daily online journal.
This set me thinking about why I feel so comfortable with strangers and friends peering in the window of my soul, so to speak. The following is an email reply I sent one of my most faithful daily readers:
Subj: Re: Decision
to change vote
Date: 11/07/2000 5:28:28 PM Eastern Standard Time
I am deeply touched by your message. It means a great deal to hear from such a faithful reader of my daily online journal. I was wondering myself last night--in the wake of all my election decision-making turmoil--why I allow my life to be so public.
I couldn't really answer that question. It reminds me of trying to answer questions about why I choose to live so many months in San Francisco each winter, apart from a husband I dearly love. The only answer I can give to either question is that it is just something I must do. It fits who I am and how I believe I'm meant to live my life. An unerring sign is how I would feel if I didn't do it--something in me would wither and die. I guess this is what is meant by having a "life's purpose". Sounds so high-faluting to put it that way. But it rings true. I know I am living life as I am meant to live it. Why? Because I cannot imagine doing it any other way. At least for now.
J., thank you for drawing forth this response. It seems this might be what I'm meant to write about in my journal tonight. Hope you don't mind reading it again tomorrow morning!
May this day of significance for the world--not just the US--end with word of a new President who will be willing and able to grow into the office he will assume. And may our options increase the next time around, with a federally funded third party colored Green.
love and blessing
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 2000
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 9, 2000
I'm sure my journal readers--especially those outside the US--are getting bored with my continued focus on these undetermined presidential elections. I too wish I could go onto something else, but that seems impossible until we hear something definitive one way or the other. And with all the unanswered questions about disputed ballots in Palm Beach county, it seems clear we're going to be wading through the courts before anything is settled. That could take weeks.
In these days of instant access to information, how quirky that such an important decision is taking longer than it did a century ago. Is there something to be learned here?
Perhaps this hurry-scurry culture is being offered an opportunity to s-l-o-w d-o-w-n, at least for a few days or even weeks. It's obvious that the media jumped the gun more than once on election night with projections of victory first for Gore and later for Bush in that pivotal state, Florida. I did read that CNN, at least, is investigating their procedures regarding the use of exit polls to project the outcome of elections. Seems to me, we all need to look at our tendency to grab at information that is more speculation than fact.
I think of my friends, M.R. and E.S., and how the San Francisco--and later the national--press and media portrayed them totally inaccurately as "millionaire dot-comers" who were intent on kicking out arts groups from their newly-purchased building in the Mission and installing high tech businesses in their place. Nothing could be further from the truth. M.R. and E.S. barely have a web site, much less one that would qualify them as dot-comers. I guess I'm more of a dot-comer than they are--at least I spend a lot of more time online than they do! Besides, they've been totally committed from the beginning to helping arts groups stay in their building. The bad business that happened with the Dancers' Group was because of that group's unwillingness to work with M.R. and E.S., not vice versa.
My bringing up this example of inaccurate press and media reporting is not so much to rehash the disservice that was done my friends, as it is to point up our culture's reliance on unsubstantiated information and glib editorial assessments. For some reason we still seem to believe what we read in print or see/hear in the media. That makes it extraordinarily easy to sway (brainwash?) the public. And now we're getting to the heart of it.
If the American people do not soon wake up to their manipulation by forces outside of themselves, our culture is doomed. Not only our culture, but the planet itself. If politicians can continue to get away with such statements as "Global warming hasn't really been proven to be a problem in our time", how can we expect the people to insist on and cooperate with the essential actions needed to protect our planet?
The danger and reality of global warming is not disputed by any scientist worldwide. And what must be done is clear--decrease our dependence on fossil fuels and stop deforesting the planet. Is it group denial that allows politicians to curry favor of the very corporations that sell products or act in such planet-endangering ways while ignoring the pleas of non-campaign-backing scientists? Or is it our unwillingness to do what each of us knows we must do--that is to change our very way of life. Turn the "American way of life" upside down and inside out. Am I ready to do that myself? Tough question and even tougher answer.
Gosh, when I started writing
my journal entry today, I had no idea where it would take me.
But isn't that the reason I do this? To go places I wouldn't go
otherwise...and to share my path with others.
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 10, 2000
Days and nights of rain and wind have transformed our colorful autumn landscape into a rather bleak winter one. My view of it has been framed by window panes as I've stayed inside since Tuesday with a mild cold.
This is how I always see Michigan Novembers in my mind--steel grey skies penciled over by tree branch scribbles and pine bough smudges. Studies of grey on grey, rather like the charcoal studies of models I made in life drawing class back in the '70s. Much as I love color, there's something refreshing about this stark simplicity.
The more outrageous and confusing the news from Florida, the more I appreciate the trees' naked beauty. No longer outfitted in fancy dress, they show themselves exactly as they are in their essence. Wouldn't it be lovely to have such transparency in our political candidates and electoral process? On second thought, it might be more disturbing than the circus we see now!
I find myself alternating between the real-life drama being acted out on television, radio and in the newspapers, and the pretend drama of mystery novels. I never read mystery novels, but I have been doing so this week. I wonder why? Could it be that their pattern of bringing together disparate elements into some tidy resolution comforts me?
There are so many necessary tasks I could be attending to during these days at home, but my stick-to-ativeness seems to be unstuck. Maybe it's the cold, but I suspect it's more the virus of uncertainly taking its toll.
If this is so unsettling to me--a mere citizen voter--what must it be like for those whose lives depend on the outcome of this election? I think of the candidates and their families certainly, but what about the people of Iraq? They must be uneasily watching the recount in Florida to see if it seems likely the new president of the US will continue the unpublicized bombing raids over their country and recommend keeping the paralyzing sanctions in place. There are many such pockets of fearful waiting all over the globe, not to mention among the marginalized within our own country.
I'm beginning to feel as pared down as the Michigan landscape. Last week's enthusiasm has been replaced by a certain fatalism. Almost a "what will be will be" attitude. There are so many flaws in each man who might be president that if I were to weigh them on a scale, I expect it would balance pretty evenly. On the other hand, each man has the capacity to grow into this challenge, rather like a balloon receiving the life's breath it needs to become its biggest self.
May the waiting end in
such a way that our country, world and planet benefit from the
outcome. And may we conduct ourselves with dignity and respect
in the process.
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 11, 2000
Once E.D. and I were out of the house and down by the lake today, I saw a different world from the bleak one I'd been seeing outside our windows during this strangest of strange weeks.
The radiant sun set trees on fire that still retained their leaves. Yellows glistened, reds flamed, oranges danced. The lake was a gold-flecked deep turquoise under a pastel blue sky set with whipped cream clouds. Riding La Lucha, I was happy for my long wool-lined coat, muffler, knit hat and gloves. E.D., walking beside me, shoved his jacket and baseball cap in my backpack and was comfortable in a long-sleeved denim shirt and long khakis. Our thermostats have always been on different settings--especially when he's exercising and I'm sitting!
We walked/scooted two miles to our town's 2-block shopping area (there are no malls here--thank goddess). Lunch at a place with good soup and bagels was followed by a trip to the grocery store. This was a new twist on our usual weekly grocery shopping--either E.D. goes on his own in the car or on his bike, or we ride our tandem bike, with him doing the shopping while I sit outside the local cafe sipping tea and eating a danish. It was fun to shop together--La Lucha is great in a grocery store--and E.D. was pleasantly surprised to see what a packhorse she can be. Without even using her capacious backpack, we slipped five plastic grocery sacks on the scooter's arms and started off. On the way home, we stopped at the library where I found an interesting Italian video and unexpectedly met a favorite former co-worker from the bookstore. Of course, politics came up and I was delighted to hear that we shared a liking for Nader and the Green Party.
Going home, the puffy
clouds had banded together and become one heavy grey blanket overhead.
Without the sun, even E.D. was happy for his jacket and cap. We
wonder if maybe this is our new cold-weather weekend activity.
Just like my birth family, do something enjoyable once and it
becomes instant tradition!
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 12, 2000
I've spent parts of the past three days answering a questionnaire I received by email from an author who is writing a book on imagination. The questions posed have taken me places I didn't expect to go--in particular, to an awareness of how interconnected my imagination is with so much of my life and how I choose to live it.
When asked for examples of times when I've used my imagination, I wrote:
I donât know how could I tolerate my progressing disability with MS if I had no imagination! All I would see would be loss and diminishment. As it is, I experience my disability as one of the most creative aspects of my life. Without its wisdom, I might still be scurrying along, all but oblivious to the richness surrounding me. Without the creative challenges of living in this differently-abled body, would I have chosen to put up my web site, started keeping an online journal, and met so many amazing people from all over the world? I doubt it. It was my imagination that kicked in when I took my first computer class a little more than two years ago--my imagination that said, ãUse this tool to reach out to others and show them all youâve learned about how to be creatively disabled.ä It was my imagination that saw my site up and running before I had even heard of HTML. And it was that seeing that walked me through all that I needed to teach myself in order to manifest the dream.
In 1995 I dared to imagine a different life for myself, one that would have me living the winter months on my own in San Francisco, and the rest of the year here at home in Detroit with my husband of almost 30 years. Everything realistic pointed to the impossibility of this dream, but I didnât let that stop me. For 11 months, I continued to see myself living as I dreamed, and did everything I could to help create that reality. I worked in a bookstore and saved every paycheck to be used for my SF expenses. I contacted acquaintances in the Bay Area, described my ideal living arrangement and asked their help in finding it. Every day I repeated my intention out loud to my husband who could not believe I was serious. This year, I will spend my fifth winter in San Francisco. It has worked out even better than I could have imagined. Architect friends in the Mission District have transformed their old shed into a tiny garden cottage that I rent whenever Iâm in town. Iâve developed an extraordinary life out there with loving community, creative opportunities like singing (a love of mine) and even a life-giving commitment at a city soup kitchen. My husband and I are closer now than ever before, while each of us is more complete as an individual. My imagination led me down this adventuresome path, while every step has been supported by acts of conscious intent.
When asked to recall times that I might have had experiences "beyond imagination", the following emerged:
During the Gulf War, I was thrown into a profound awareness of what life was like for the people of Iraq...the bombings, the deaths, the terror, the despair. I stayed secluded in an upstairs room of my house for almost 3 weeks, with my respectful husband protecting my need to be alone and undisturbed. I lived on Iraqi time, and was surprised to find myself creating a series of 17 pen and ink drawings that became the basis for my new line of work (after the war) called Word Art. In March 1991, I visited a friend in the country. I remember going up to my room at midnight and, for the first time since bombs started dropping on Baghdad, I changed my wristwatch from Iraqi time to Eastern Standard Time. I slept soundly for an uncharacteristic 12 hours. When I came downstairs at noon, my friend told me the Gulf War cease fire had been announced at midnight the night before.
My father had Alzheimers
disease for 9 years. By 1987, he was in a VA Hospital, unable
to communicate, curled in a fetal position, but not close to death,
as far as we knew. One morning I had a vivid dream in which the
phone rang, waking us up. My husband answered it and said, ãItâs
for you.ä I took the phone and asked, ãWho is this?ä
A womanâs voice said, through tears, ãThis is Frances.ä
ãWhatâs wrong?ä "Fatherâs died.ä
In my dream I thought she was talking about a priest I knew. Soon
after awakening, I received a call from my mother that my father
had unexpectedly died that morning.
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 13, 2000
Is it the heavy grey November skies and on-again-off-again rain? Is it the dry cough that kicks in every time I speak more than three sentences or put my head down to try to sleep at night? Is it the good book--Frank McCourt's most recent memoir, 'Tis--that encourages my cosying up with an afghan on the futon upstairs? Or is it simply a small voice within me saying, "Time out!"
Whatever the answer, I find myself cancelling out of things right and left these past few days. My scheduled disability awareness classes with the 1st and 2nd graders at a parochial school today. My women's song circle in a northern Detroit suburb yesterday. Lunch with a friend and my haircut appointment in Windsor, ONT tomorrow. I just can't force myself to get-up-and-go. So I'm not.
When I remember the summer and early autumn, I see myself ever on the go. Part of it was La Lucha's fault--she gave me so many options that I had to try them all. But it was more than that. Just one of those active times. So now the pendulum swings and inactivity seems to suit. I've done this dance before. It is a good, grounding, balancing dance. I recall the steps--times of quiet, good books to read, sitting with my sweetie, opportunities to reflect.
Could it be I am in tune
with the change of season? Isn't it time for bears to find their
winter cave and snuggle down? This is a lovely cave and I'm content
to be here. Let the snows begin...
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 14, 2000
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 15, 2000
Is anyone else getting sick of the Florida circus? Day by day I care less about who wins, and more about what else is happening in the world that we're not hearing about.
For instance, Israeli missiles blew up an apartment building in Jerusalem today where Palestinian military reportedly lived. Eight Palestinians were killed. Tomorrow Clinton will be the first US president to visit Vietnam since the war between our two countries ended in the early '70s. Will he visit the babies and children still being born with birth defects due to Agent Orange? Will he call for the US to fund the clean-up of lakes and rivers that remain polluted with that destructive chemical, or will it simply be more of the same--handshakes, speeches and photo ops? I did not see this news reported on any US television station, rather on PBS's World News Tonight out of England.
This obsession with hordes of dark-suited lawyers massed in southern courtrooms is beginning to remind me of the OJ Simpson trial. Are we going down that road again? The road that leads to our looking so intently at our own reflection that we can see nothing else. Rather like Narcissis kneeling by the pond.
So what can deflect us
from falling into that trap? I suspect one of the two candidates
had best concede and let us get on with things. Even if it is
not "my choice", I'm ready to accept it. After all,
I believe the American people have clearly spoken. Their message?
We don't particularly care for either one of these guys!
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 16, 2000
Thursday November 16,
4:00 - 6:00 p.m.
National Day of Action
On the 11th anniversary of the notorious murder of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her teenaged daughter by Salvadoran soldiers, School of the Americas Watch West and CISPES hold a rally as part of a national day of action to stop U.S. militarization around the world. Federal Building, Golden Gate Avenue between Polk and Larkin, San Francisco, Free, 415/648-8222, http://www.cispes.org.
I read this email notice a few minutes ago and was flooded with memories of the day 11 years ago when I first heard of these assassinations at the Central American University in San Salvador. It was the moment I became an activist. Why it was that atrocity--among so many others--that got under my skin and sent me onto the streets, I don't know. It must have been my time.
I'd been to my first and only public demonstration against the US military in Nicaragua in the spring of 1989. I knew no one and had little understanding of the issues, but something had pulled me to downtown Detroit at noon that day to join the march for justice.
But this was different. The killings of these six priests--but even more, the murders of the housekeeper and her teenage daughter--hit me on a visceral level. I felt I was there, looking with horror at their mutilated bodies thrown around the campus where they had taught, worked and lived. The morning--November 17--I saw the NY Times front page photo and read of this rampage by uniformed members of the Salvadoran military, I went upstairs and meditated. I experienced a vivid descent into the earth where I "met" the housekeeper's daughter who tried to comfort me. I knew I could not sit back and do nothing--I had to find some way to publicly express my outrage.
That day I drove downtown to the MICAH headquarters. MICAH was one of Detroit's most active Central American advocacy groups. I burst into the offices of these folks who hardly knew me and demanded to know what they were going to do about the murders of the six priests and housekeeper and her daughter in San Salvador. Was there an action being planned? I remember the surprised looks on their faces. Who was this anyway? And what did she want?
We talked and they agreed to call a planning meeting late that afternoon to see how the community wanted to respond. They gave me a list of names to call--none of whom I knew--and we managed to gather a core group together in a few hours' time. It was the week before Thanksgiving and I had an idea for stopping the annual Detroit Hudson's Thanksgiving Day parade with sign-waving protests. These experienced activists asked how many of us would be willing to do such an action, knowing it would lead to arrest. One man and I raised our hands. Luckily this was not enough, so my plan was tabled.
What we did instead was to paint two large banners--"US OUT OF EL SALVADOR"--that two groups of us agreed to hold on the overpasses above Detroit's downtown freeways on Thanksgiving Day. We figured 1000s of people would drive by and be reminded of what was happening in Central America as they were giving thanks for a big parade with Santa Claus and festive floats.
Thanksgiving Day dawned
cold and windy. I bundled up in every layer I could find and added
my small body to the muscle-wrenching work of holding this long
banner for hours as it flapped like a sail in the wind. What a
frigid experience! But one that marked the start of lasting friendships
and the need to put my body where my mouth is on issues of justice.
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2000
I awaken to streamers of sunlight spread across my comforter. The first sun in almost a week. I fairly catapault out of bed--well, all right, I slowly pull myself up and out--and yell down to E.D., who is reading in the living room, "What about a walk?" He's up for it, so I dress warmly and meet him downstairs. Though sunny, the thermometer stands at 37º F. On go the wool hat, muffler and gloves. I pull a long coat over my sweater and am ready to go.
By the time we walk/scoot the block and a half down to the lake, clouds have obscured the sun...and it is cold! But after days stuffed inside the house with a cough, I'm delighted to be breathing fresh air, whatever its temperature. A few ducks are fishing out on the lake, white tails stuck out of the water like buoys. A silver ribbon of sun marks the channel. Grey clouds heavy as theater curtains lift to show puffy white clouds ranging one upon another far into the distance. A man in purple jacket, tight black pants and bare head runs past. Otherwise E.D. and I have the sidewalk to ourselves. I soon know why. The chill is getting to me, especially my lap and hands.
My gallant husband removes his pullover sweater, finally zips up his down jacket--he was walking with it open and no gloves!--and tucks the sweater on my lap like an afghan, with its longsleeves pulled up over my hands. Even so, I decide it's time for me to turn around. E.D. agrees.
Once home, a nice hot
bowl of tomato soup with saltine crackers crumbled in it does
the trick. I feel fine--not one cough out of my mouth. But I can
see this cold-weather scooting is going to take some special equipment.
Luckily, E.D. just found my ski mittens in our Fibber McGee and
Molly's closet, so that's a good start. And a dear MS Webpal in
Manhattan told me she uses a hand-crocheted afghan as a lap blanket
on her scooter. Think I'll try that. I've got almost two more
months here in Arctic Michigan before migrating to San Francisco.
I refuse to be a chicken-stay-at-home!
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 18, 2000
What a perfect day.
The morning is spent arguing election news with my sweetie, followed by our singing together with him on piano. At 12:30 PM I leave him perched in front of the TV, remote control in hand, happily switching back and forth between the Michigan-Ohio State and Michigan State-Penn State football games. I'm off for a three-hour women's drumming workshop that is being held not far from my home.
Twenty-three women sit in a circle, some with their hands on a drum for the first time, others longtime drummers, and the majority somewhere in between. As always our facilitator, Lori Fithian, manages to create a comfortable environment for the beginners while stimulating the rest of us. We hit the center of our drums for bass, flat hands at the edge mark tones, and open-handed whipped-wrists create a slap. We sing and play bells, sticks, shakers, wooden xylophone, rattles. Those who are able, stand and mark the rhythm with their feet. We clap and sing the drum's song--"If you can say it, you can play it." We do call-and-response with Lori making up beats that we copy. We learn specific patterns. We jam, always trying to hear one another as we play. Sometimes we close our eyes and other times we look at one another, singing to our sisters. We learn everyone's name by going around the circle six times. We hear stories of how women felt as they drummed today. We leave feeling connected to something larger than ourselves. Then eight of us go on to Lori's partner's house for a Lebanese carry-in dinnner.
The circle spirals deeper into our individual and shared lives. Seven of the eight women attended the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival this past August. We go around the table taking turns telling our favorite things about festival so our sister who has never been there will have some idea of what it's like. Lori and C.'s photos give image to our words. We share stories about our beloved Ruth Ellis, Detroit's--and probably the country's--oldest "out" African-American lesbian, who recently died at age 101. A sister says that she is in the process of coming out herself. This opens the door for "coming out" stories and suggestions of groups she might find helpful. Friends mention how I've been married to a man for 34 years yet feel so at home in women's worlds.
Our dinner is delicious and the conversation invigorating. Sisters help me make my way down the stairs-with-no-railing and then scrape off the fine dusting of snow (!) that accumulated on my car while we were inside. I am home to my E.D. by 9 PM. He meets me in the garage and helps me carry my drum into the house and windchime walker up the front steps. I am one fortunate woman.
And now it is off to bed.
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 19, 2000
Do I believe in synchronicity? In things coming together in unplanned ways, things that speak a message we're meant to hear? If I do believe, then I must ask myself what the movie I "happened upon" today is saying to me.
I had not intended to watch TV more than the little bit of time it took for me to eat my late lunch, a tuna noodle casserole and cranapple juice. I sure wasn't interested in watching pro football, which would most certainly be the only choice available on commercial TV stations. Since we don't have cable, I turned on PBS (Public Broadcasting Service). The 1948 black-and-white film, "I Remember Mama", was just beginning.
I remember loving this show when it was a weekly television series back in the 1950s. Such a grand family--loving, funny, never bickering like mine. What I didn't recall was that it was the story of a writer who was remembering her Mama and her family. Today the context couldn't have been clearer. And the climax came when the aspiring writer finally wrote about something she knew--her family--and sold her first story for $500, a fortune in the 1914 San Francisco being described. That was not lost on me either, the fact that the movie's setting was my beloved San Francisco. Not only SF, but at one point the lobby of the Fairmont Hotel--which I had seen for the first time in October when my friends P.O. and S.W. took me out to dinner at the Fairmont's Tonka Room. So many parallels.
Immediately before I'd gotten hungry and gone downstairs to eat, I'd been working on a long-standing project--turning my journal archives into a WordPerfect document that could eventually be printed on actual paper. Except for my OAS journal entries, I've never printed any of my journal. I've been avoiding this work as it is quite time-consuming. I copy/paste my web site files from Netscape Composer (my web design software) to WordPerfect. Then I methodically make my way through every line of text--correcting improper line breaks, spelling and grammatical errors--without changing its meaning. 200 pages not counting my current journal!
If synchronicity is to be believed, I must heed the message I heard. When you write about what you know, it's the kind of writing that deserves to be published. No fluke that the book I just finished reading was Frank McCourt's second memoir, 'Tis. As I read this excellent book, I could hear his Irish brogue speaking in my head. And here's a man who wrote and taught for 40 years before daring to tell his own sad story in his own words--Angela's Ashes--at age 65 and won a Pulitzer Prize and years on the NY Times Best Seller List because of it. This week I'd also heard from a number of regular readers of my online journal just how much my words mean to them. One friend in Manhattan--a writer herself--encouraged me to turn this into hard copy so her computer illiterate friends could benefit from it.
So I will keep at this
slow task of creating a printer-friendly copy of what has become
the book I didn't know I'd written.
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 20, 2000
Today I phone the florist shop near my Mom in Maryland to order her some Thanksgiving flowers. "A small round basket of fresh-cut colorful flowers, please." "And where are they going?" "To my mother, E.L., at..." and I name the nursing care facility where Mom now lives. "I know her!", said the woman on the phone. "I volunteer over there on Wednesdays and always bring your mother her newspaper. She's a nice lady." This exchange makes me feel like I live next door, not 500 miles away.
Seeing the 1948 movie "I Remember Mama" yesterday stirred up memories of childhood. Thanksgiving dinners at the rectangular light mahogony table with matching high-backed cane-seated chairs that Mom and Dad had bought in High Point, NC--the furniture capitol of the country--soon after they were married in Raleigh, February 27, 1936. The bronzed turkey that Dad so proudly carved at the table, tongue sticking out of the corner of his mouth as he concentrated on doing it right (right being a very important concept in our home). Pepperidge Farm stuffing mix from the package (no added celery or onions), Minute Rice and Mom's special milk-based Southern gravy made from turkey drippings and boiled stock, Bird's Eye frozen green beans and almonds (cooked in lots of butter), cheese onions (cheddar cheese sauce mixed with two jars of drained small white onions topped with buttered bread crumbs and baked at 350º for 30 minutes), homemade rolls with sweet unsalted butter, a two-sectioned cut glass bowl with pimento-filled green and pitted ripe olives in one side and cream cheese-stuffed celery in the other, and quivering cranberry jelly in its corrugated-can shape. Ambrosia (fresh cut orange slices, canned pineapple cubes and store-bought shredded coconut) with Mom's homemade fruit cake for dessert. Or was that our Christmas dessert? I'm not sure.
What I am sure about is how we always set the table with the monogrammed silver and bone china (blue leaf design with silver trim) that Mom and Dad had bought at the Fifth Avenue Tiffany's when they lived in New York in the late '30s. Crystal goblets and Mom's collection of cut glass bowls and dishes completed the picture. I also remember Dad's grace that went on forever so that our already-dished-up plates of food always got cold. Never could figure out why we couldn't say grace before filling everyone's plates. But who was I? Just a kid, and not even the eldest at that.
I paint this Norman Rockwell picture of a loving family gathered around the holiday table. What I also remember is that sooner or later at these sumptuous feasts, someone would get their feelings hurt--often Mom, who was exhausted by then from hours of preparations--and there might be tears or harsh words or even someone stomping away from the table. Not always, but often enough that my stomach churns thinking about it. As I heard someone say today, Norman Rockwell was an artist and his pictures were not real life--no matter how they looked in The Saturday Evening Post.
So how have E.D. and I
continued the Thanksgiving tradition? We go out to a local restaurant
and let them worry about doing it right.
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 21, 2000
I awake to a sparkling crystal-clear day. Rainbow prisms float across the ceiling above my bed. I hear E.D.'s voice calling up the stairs, "Tipper's going to sing on The Today Show!" I wonder why he thinks I care. I didn't even know she could sing.A few minutes later he comes upstairs and leans down to kiss me. His toast-crumbed mouth tickles my face. "Tipper's going to sing, probably in about ten minutes." I say, "Tipper Gore?" He laughs and says, "Not Tipper...Taylor--James Taylor!" Oh well, that's different.
I get out of bed--early for me at 8:45 AM--pull on my heavy purple terrycloth bathrobe, slip my bare feet in lambswool-lined slippers and make my way downstairs. It's worth it. JT sings two songs in the plaza outside the Today studio in New York, bundled-up crowds of folks keeping time with their heads, just as I'm doing sitting at my kitchen table in Detroit. It's 26º F out there and JT shoves his bare hands deep in his pockets except when playing the guitar. I miss his longtime piano player and drummer, both of whom died in the past few years. JT and I go back a long way.
After E.D. leaves for work, I sit in the living room reading the NY Times. One thing this election marathon has done is get me interested in newspapers and television news broadcasts again. The latest from Florida is yesterday's hearing before the State Supreme Court to decide whether or not the rather partisan Florida Secretary of State can effectively block certifying the results of the ongoing hand recounts in several counties. No decision has yet been made but the drama certainly has everyone's attention.
As I sit in E.D.'s favorite maroon leather chair, my eyes keep going to our front window. Two weeks ago I bought three plants--a paper white narcissis, a Christmas cactus covered with scarlet buds, and a delicate variegated fern--to join the leafy green peace plant E.D. had given me for my birthday last June. Since we'd used the porch wicker table for our Halloween pumpkin, it was easy to keep it there as a plant stand. It's amazing what colorful plants can do to revitalize a room! I smile every time I see and smell our new garden.
In a couple hours I'm off to help out at the women's respite center downtown. A cold and cough kept me away for a couple weeks, so it will be particularly sweet to see my friends again.
And now the snow flurries
they predicted for today have begun to fall.
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 22, 2000
Computers are SO great...until one day, they aren't. Today was one of those days.
Unexpectedly I could not get online. Instead of America Online's sign-on window, up popped an error message that advised me to "try again later" and "if the problem persists" to install new software. Well, I tried again and again with no success. Several phone calls to AOL tech support helped me see that this problem was not going to miraculously go away, as I'd hoped. Some necessary file had either been deleted or corrupted. I needed to find a CD to reinstall the AOL software.
In the midst of it all, a gift of synchronicity appeared. When I called E.D. to tell him I was on my way down to the bookstore to pick up a free AOL software promo pack, he said "I just received one in the mail. Do you want me to bring it home to you?" So, thanks to E.D. and the goddess of synchronicity, I was able to begin the installation process within a half hour.
I don't need to go into details--and the resultant tech calls made--but the reinstallation brought in its wake a few problems. In particular, I lost my current address book, email files and list of bookmarks. By a fluke of technology, I now have my address book, email files and list of bookmarks from 1999. When I tried to copy/paste my more recent information into the appropriate AOL folders, I found myself looking at the original error message and again being blocked from going online. So I gave it up. I'm now thinking a virus might have done me in.
But I'm clear now. Everything is fresh and clean (I hope). And I can live without the lost information. The main thing is being able to go online, access and send emails, and keep up with my web site.
Much as I tried to remain
calm during the 3-4 hours this whole business required, I found
myself sporting a rather monumental headache when it was all over.
Why do computer snafus get me so riled up? When my computer stops
acting like it's "supposed to", I have trouble believing
it will ever work properly again. It's probably because the whole
thing is such a complete mystery to me.
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 23, 2000
Thanksgiving Day dawned sunny and cold with blue-and-white brindled skies. For us, it brought the special delight of being with our niece, C.D. She flew in today from NYC for the holiday weekend. A talented textile designer, C.D. is funny and bright with a wonderful quirkiness all her own.
I could write about our delicious dinner at the lakefront restaurant, but what I'll remember about this day was our singing around the piano much as we'd done when C.D. was a child. We even used the same song book--one I'd made for E.D. in the early '70s with words to his favorite songs illustrated in watercolor (he plays piano by ear so doesn't need the music). We also sang from a collection of tunes that E.D. has typed out over the years--Cole Porter, Gershwin, Jerome Kern, Rogers and Hammerstein and Jelly Roll Morton. The number of times this pile of loose papers slipped from our hands and scattered on the floor makes me think it's time to make a new songbook! C.D. requested that we sing "America the Beautiful" because "I'm feeling quite patriotic after my trip to Pakistan." And I asked that we end with Mel Torme's "The Christmas Song" to celebrate the sparkling white lights we put around my front window "garden" tonight (likely to be the extent of our holiday decorations!).
For what am I thankful?
The people in my life--E.D, my family, friends and "strangers"
(is there such an entity?)--song, good health and energy, the
freedom to follow my dreams, La Lucha and her "can do"
spirit, my online life and work, imagination, the earth.
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 24, 2000
I remember writing in one of my early journal entries that "it's always the people." And so it was today.
E.D. who bundled me up like a kid so I'd be warm enough to go for a scoot/walk with him around noon. First he pulled on my ski mittens--the lining makes it hard for me to get them on by myself. He then tied a long scarf around my legs to hold my coat closed--this when we were already down by the lake and ready to give up because my coat kept flapping open. We then spent a delightful 2-3 hours together, scoot/walking, eating lunch at the bagel store, and going to the library.
P.K. who brought over all the ingredients for a day-after-Thanksgiving feast of vegetable strudel with wild mushroom sauce and a 3 grain/wild rice dish with butternut squash, cranberries, apricots, honey and other delectable tastes and textures. She worked over 3 hours on this culinary creation and had a smile on her face the whole time. The finished product reminded me of the Millenium, San Francisco's premier vegetarian restaurant--exceptional!
B.H. who drove over to
our house at 8:30 PM tonight to return the two electric heaters
we'd loaned him when his furnace went out recently--heaters P.K.
and the folks at the women's shelter desperately need because
their house has only had heat in three downstairs rooms for the
past three days. According to the gas company, this low gas situation
could last a good while longer--something to do with gas-line
work in the area. In the meantime, the women have no heat in the
upstairs bedrooms, the living room, kitchen and dining room. They
cannot use the clothes drier or oven, and are low on hot water.
B.H.'s suggestion to contact the press and media about their situation
is a good one. I suspect if the public learned about this shelter's
dangerous lack of heat, the gas company might find a way to fix
it pretty quickly.
©2000 Patricia Lay-Dorsey.
Please use with attribution