Windchime Walker

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Monday, January 31, 2005

San Francisco here I come... 

Much of my day was spent making arrangements for my trip to San Francisco in mid-March. By the way, you hadn't heard about it because I didn't decide on it until yesterday.

I am VERY excited about returning to a such a beautiful place where I have dear friends, a sister and brother-in-law, and cousin I love. I'll be staying at the American Youth Hostel at Ft. Mason for a week and will then be going up to the wine country to attend the 3-day WoMaMu (Women Making Music) camp I've enjoyed many times in years past. I will be renting a handicap-accessible minivan just like Sojourner. Having that is going to make all the difference in the world. I can go wherever I want whenever I want. Pretty cool.

There's a Short List of folks I plan to see. I've already got dates set up with some of them: Friday, March 11 (the day I arrive) with Dorothy; Saturday with my sister and brother-in-law, Emily and Gorsha; and Sunday with Jeff and his little boy Noah (whom I've not yet met). I also want to see Luis who is recovering from a broken hip, and Stacey my cousin. I'm sure other folks will be added to my list, but that's it for now. I don't want to run myself ragged, but rather to spend lots of time with those I love. Dorothy and I are planning several day trips...and of course we'll go to Stowe Lake in Golden Gate Park.

I think you can see why I'm getting excited. But if you can't, let me send you back in time a few years to see some of what I'll certainly be seeing:

--A view of the Golden Gate Bridge from high on the cliffs beside the Palace of the Legion of Honor art museum. The AYH where I'll be staying is in a park on the other side of the GG Bridge that also has a view of the bay and the bridge. It's also one block away from my favorite SF resturant, Green's.

--Stowe Lake from the island path.

--View from Bishop's Ranch where WoMaMu is held.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Reel Pride, Michigan's GLBT Film Festival 

We can tell ourselves we're finished with a chapter of our lives, and then something brings it so strongly to mind that we're suddenly back there whether we want to be or not. That was what happened to me today.

I'd gone to the 11:15 AM showing of the documentary, "Gay Pioneers," at the Main Art Theater in Royal Oak. Reel Pride, Michigan's GLBT Film Festival, was screening this film along with a brunch and conversation with one of its "stars," Frank Kameny. Frank was one of ten gay and lesbian activists who were the very first to take to the streets to picket the unjust treatment of gays and lesbians in America. The time was 1965 and the place was in front of the White House. If you know GLBT history, this was four years before the Stonewall rebellion in NYC, the event that most of us see as the defining moment when "gay liberation" was born. Yet here were these courageous women and men who had publicly picketed for gay rights during the height of J. Edgar Hoover's undercover attacks on gays, lesbians, and persons of color (like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr). Frank and his colleagues were photographed, taped, and identified by the FBI and Secret Service during their four years of picketing, yet they did not stop until they decided for themselves that it was time to move to a new form of activism. True heroes and sheroes, I'd say.

We also saw an excellent short documentary called "One Wedding and a Revolution." This film documented San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom's decision to change the city's statutes so that same sex couples could be married legally in the same way as heterosexual couples. The first wedding took place in San Francisco's City Hall on February 12, 2004. "Applicant #1" was Del Martin and "Applicant #2" was her beloved partner of over 50 years, Phyllis Lyon. As the "grandmothers" of GLBT activism in the Bay Area, Del and Phyllis were felt to be the perfect couple to inaugurate this significant step towards equality for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered persons. It was impossible to watch them take their vows without shedding a tear or two.

So that was why I was there--to see these two films and have an opportunity to meet one of the unsung heroes of the GLBT liberation movement. Not to mention enjoying a lovely brunch in the company of friends, or "family" as we call ourselves.

The next film on today's schedule was "In Good Conscience: Sister Jeannine Gramick's Journey of Faith." Sr. Jeannine was also going to be in attendance, and the film was being co-sponsored by the Triangle Foundation (the main sponsor of this film festival) and Michigan's Call To Action (a progressive group of lay, religious and clergy members of the Roman Catholic church). Apparently, Sr. Jeannine has been ministering to and speaking out on behalf of gay and lesbian Catholics for over three decades. And because of it, she was officially "silenced" by the Vatican and the Superior General of her religious order in 1999. But she has not obeyed their orders and continues to do her work as she sees fit. That's where "conscience" comes in.

I knew this movie was likely to stir up an old hornet's nest within me, but I decided to stay and watch it anyway. I figured maybe those hornets would get tired and leave me alone if I gave them one last poke.

A short herstory of the hornets to which I refer: I was born Catholic and after decades of simply being a "Sunday Catholic," I unexpectedly moved into the depths of a faith commitment that took me into a Black inner city Detroit church, mystical experiences of prayer, social activism on behalf of marginalized persons of our world, and in the late 80s into a position of leadership within the Archdiocese of Detroit. After my inevitable disillusionment, I found myself struggling at the side of groups like Call To Action for revolutionary changes within the institutional church. For four long years, I beat my head bloody against the unmovable brick wall of the patriarchal system called the Roman Catholic Church and almost losing my spirituality in the process. As a result of a grace-filled confluence of persons, events and inner promptings, I gratefully walked away from the "church" in April 1993. I have been happily religion-free for the past eleven and a half years and hope to remain so for the rest of my life.

Except for the occasional funeral, today was my first foray back into that world. And, as it would happen, my former pastor, a good man who does work around the world for causes of peace and justice--Bishop Tom Gumbleton--and a nun I used to know when I was struggling for justice within the church--Sr. Beth Rindler--were sitting six rows in front of me and in the seat beside me, respectively. Yes, I was right. This would definitely hit home.

Well, I am left with many impressions, feelings and thoughts. Primary among them is respect for Sr. Jeannine Gramick and her courageous, often single-handed, work to transform that monolithic religious institution into some semblance of what its founder had envisioned and lived himself. I was particularly struck by her willingness to try to dialogue with persons who see things VERY differently from her. At one point in the film, they showed her going out on the streets to talk with protesters at the Bishop's Conference when they were addressing the priest sexual abuse scandals that were (and are) rocking the church. Some of the protesters--persons who identified as Roman Catholcs--were unbelievably hateful and homophobic in their signs and words. How she kept her cool I will never know.

Another overiding response was gratitude. How grateful I am that I'm no longer in the middle of that struggle myself. I have enough seemingly no-win situations in my anti-war work, especially during these George W. Bush years. Believe me, I don't need another intractible institution to fight!

And, of course, there were the memories that flooded over me as I watched how church officials reprimanded, demeaned, ignored and tried to control Sr. Jeannine. I had similar, though not as public, encounters with an archbishop, priests and archdiocesan leaders during my brief foray into their world. It was after a particularly damaging meeting with some of these men that I took the first fall that led to my being diagnosed with MS nine months later. Yes, I remember well what it feels like to be under the thumb of the Men of the Church.

On the other hand, I experienced flashes of memorable times I spent with women and men who have given their lives to working for justice and equality within the church. There are some amazing individuals hidden behind those front lines. I honor their courage, commitment and dogged determination.

And yes, there was some personal healing for me today. Until now I think I'd focused too much attention on one bad egg I'd encountered during those years of serious faith journeying. I'm not talking about bad eggs in the hierarchy, but one who got under my skin in a deeply personal way. He didn't come to mind once during the afternoon. And that, dear readers, is evidence of real growth within my formerly wounded heart. I think he no longer has any power over me, and that is true liberation.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Leafletting Wal-Mart  

It takes a special blend of determination, commitment and derring-do to be an activist during Michigan's winter months. And you need to know when your cold, numb feet and hands are pushing the limits of their endurance. That was why, after an hour and 15 minutes of protesting/singing/leafletting in front of Wal-Mart today, I said, "I'm done. Time to go home and thaw out."

I remember with nostalgia the demos and marches in which I participated in San Francisco from 1996-2002. Sure, it was chilly and often wet during the winter months, but never was it unbearable. Standing--or sitting in a scooter--out in the cold here in the Detroit area can be a true test of the depth of your commitment to a cause. Especially during this, our coldest, snowiest winter in recent years.

So today it was 28 degrees F., which most of us considered warm after the +6-16 degree temps we've been having for a week or more. And I felt fine for the first half hour. I didn't even wear my mittens because I needed my fingers freed up to hand out leaflets. But the second half hour began to get to me. And, as I say, after a little more than an hour, I was done.

Four of us Raging Grannies--Judy Drylie, Kathy Russell, Charlotte Kish and I--joined the monthly Wa-Mart protest mounted by our local chapter of We'd met these wonderful young women and men in December when we'd mounted our own Wal-Mart protest in conjunction with sixteen gaggles of Raging Grannies across Canada and the US. Members of Detroit area Boycott Wal-Mart group just happened to be targeting the same store as us that day, and we exchanged contact info. A few weeks ago, Peggy from their group emailed and invited us Grannies to join them for today's protest.

At our protest in December, I'd been distracted by a Detroit Free Press photographer who must have taken at least 100 pictures during the hour he stayed with us. We'd also had another photographer clicking away, this one from a magazine called STRUT that was featuring our gaggle in an article and wanted pictures of us in action. But today I was free to use the time as I wished. I found myself having fascinating discussions with shoppers as they took a leaflet to read. It was surprising how many people were willing to do so after I'd smiled and said, "Are you curious about why we're out here on this cold day? Here's some information we've researched about why Wal-Mart can afford to have such low prices."

Marie, who was wheeling a shopping cart full of packages out of the store, stopped to talk with us. "I don't like Wal-Mart", she said. "I used to work there but after I quit, they wouldn't give me my paycheck for a year. I finally had to get a lawer, and even then, when they finally DID send me my check, it was void because the time had run out."

"No, I don't like Wal-Mart at all. I'm only here because my son insists on shopping here. I can't wait for him to come out and see you people. I've told him Wal-Mart's no good."

A woman employee came outside, took a leaflet, and said, "I work here you know." I started sharing with her some of the reasons why we were protesting, among them being Wal-Mart's over-priced health benefits for their workers. She said, "I used to work at Value City. I paid $8 a week for health insurance. Here I have to pay $30 a week!" Then she quickly turned around to see if anyone had seen her talking to us.

She was right to be concerned since the store manager had already come out to tell us we couldn't be in front of the store because of their "no solicitations" policy. I'd shown him that we were not on their property (you could tell because of the different texture to the wall behind us) and he couldn't disagree. "But you can't talk to anybody who's across that line." I assured him we wouldn't. I mean, he was just doing his job, right?

I found big differences in how receptive folks were, and it seemed to be racially-determined. The African-American customers, for the most part, were curious about why we were there and willing to take our leaflets to read at home. Many of them stopped to talk to us. Most white folks, on the other hand, eyed us with curiosity from far away, but when they got close, they turned their heads, tightened their lips, and walked by without acknowledging our presence. Of course there were always the exceptions that proved the rule (photos #1 & #2).

All in all, I feel it was a successful protest. We met a good number of folks who were willing to look more closely at this multi-trillion dollar company that busts any attempts by its workers to unionize, pays minimum wage, charges exhorbitant rates for health insurance meaning lots of its employees have to go on Medicaid, destroys local businesses that can't compete with its artifically low prices, and buys its merchandise from sweatshops in poor countries.

If we informed even one person, my cold, numb feet and hands were well worth it.

Friday, January 28, 2005

The Color of Healing 

Special gratitude to those readers who took the time to respond to yesterday's entry. Your kindness helped me regain my equilibrium. And your positive feedback on my camp porta-potty idea sent me to our storage room to find my Michigan festival gear and--with Eddie's help--to outfit my minivan with my "insurance." I must say, I feel LOTS more confident now.

And I painted. FINALLY. What came were two paintings: "The Color of Healing" and "One World."

Thursday, January 27, 2005


I'm wondering how to write about today without totally grossing you out. But I'm going to give it a try.

Things started out fine. I went to school and worked for the first time with Renee who is substituting for Susan while she's off for six weeks recuperating--quite well, I'm happy to report--from her recent surgery. I thought she did a great job with the kids. They were no more out of control than usual and their self portraits are coming along nicely. Renee had them do something new (for our classes, anyway) and that is to critique one another's work.

She pasted their self portraits up on the blackboard and asked the kids to gather around. This was a fourth grade class. She then asked each student to choose one drawing they liked the best, and to tell us what they liked about it. After a drawing was discussed, Renee took it down so that the next student had to choose another one. That way every drawing was chosen and discussed. The kids' comments were respectful and occasionally sophisticated. I was particularly pleased to hear one student use the word "texture" in relation to a fellow student's art. Pretty cool concept for a 9 year old.

After a good day, I got in my minivan about 4 PM for the 15 mile ride home. It was later than usual because of the altered class schedule due to the MEAP tests, so I knew I'd be hitting rush hour and I did.

The problem started about five minutes after I'd gotten on the expressway. Stomach cramps suddenly hit, and I knew what that meant. I had to get to a bathroom and soon.

So what do you do when you're in the fast lane in the middle of rush hour traffic and there's no exit for another mile? You do your best to get over to the right lane and hope for the best. And then another set of cramps came on strong. I feared I wasn't going to make it.

Long and short is that, yes, I did get off the expressway, and no I didn't make it to a bathroom in time.

Experiences like this certainly keep me humble, that word meaning literally "of the earth." I don't recall having to deal with accidents like this before I was diagnosed with MS over 16 years ago, but maybe they simply come with getting older. Whatever the cause, the reality helps one keep things in perspective. You find you can handle things you didn't think you could, and that you can ask for help when you need it. My sweet Eddie always seems to be the one I ask to help me, and he does so with such humor and grace. Moments like this show the true goodness of which humans are capable. And, believe me, I am grateful, deeply grateful.

Now I'm trying to figure out how to protect myself against such a situation in the future. Do you think it's too weird to keep my camping porta-potty in the back of my minivan, covered with a black plastic bag so it's not too obvious? I'm thinking I should do whatever I can to give myself a sense of control over the uncontrollable.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

This protest archivist is done...for now 

Today I finished putting up the 99 photos I took at the J20 Counter Inaugual events I attended in Washington, DC, on January 20, 2005. Knowing me, I'll probably keep tweeking things, but you can always find the most recent revisions by going to my J20 Counter Inaugural Journal and clicking on the links to the J20 Counter Inaugural photo album #1 at the bottom of the page. There is also a J20 Counter Inaugural photo album #2. And since some of my readers prefer to see the photos linked to the text of the journal, I've done that as well.

Now maybe I can sit back and relax a bit. Maybe even paint...

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Winter 2005 

Even though I had plenty of photos to work with (from the J20 Counter Inaugural events in DC), I thought I'd take a few more to show my readers, especially those who live in the Bay Area, what things look like here in the snowy Midwest.

In the first photo you can see what I call Mount Ed. It's where Ed throws the snow when he shovels my ramp. And then you can see the view of our walk between the garage and the front door. That gives you some idea of the depth of the snow on the ground. I also took a picture of the piled up snow in front of the handicap parking place I use at the gym. That's Sojourner you see on the other side of the snow. And finally, a view of the lake--which is now iced up at least a mile out into the channel--from the grounds of a local private school.

Oh yes, I almost forgot. There is one more picture. I took this today of an SUV parked beside that school. Isn't it interesting that someone would paste their "Support the Troops" yellow ribbon right where they fill their vehicle with gas. Quite appropriate, don't you think?

Monday, January 24, 2005

This was a day of extremes... 

Extreme anxiety over having to drive 50 miles during rush hour over possibly snow-covered roads for an 8 AM appointment.

Extreme discomfort over having an argument with a man at the mobility driving center where I took my minivan to be serviced.

Extreme relief over the problem with my ramp being nothing more than a blown fuse.

Extreme gratitude over being able to share my discomfort with Eddie and having him understand.

Extreme exhaustion that sent me into a deep sleep from 1:30-4:30 PM.

Extreme joy at flying through the water as I swam laps for the first time in two weeks.

Extreme comfort while sitting with Eddie and watching a video that took me to another place but didn't make any intellectual or emotional demands on me.

I think I'm still recovering from the intensity of my three days away. It's time to lay back a little and stop being so damn relevant!

Sunday, January 23, 2005

J20 Counter Inaugural photo album 

I spent another full day working on my J20 Counter Inaugural journal and photos. Today I found myself adding paragraphs to the journal I'd written and put up yesterday. I kept thinking of subjects I should be covering, things like the police state-look to things, the numbers of protesters, more about how Bush supporters and protesters got along (or did not, as Jamila Larson shares in her article, "Report from the Front Lines of the Red State Invasion"). I also put up the first installment of a J20 Counter Inaugural photo album.

It took me most of the day just to work with the photos from the Women's Rally at Dupont Circle. I still have lots of photos from the Women's Funeral March, the rally at McPherson Square, the line waiting to get through the security checkpoint near the Parade Route, our chanting as George W passed by (well out of our sight), and final shots of some of the young protesters I met before we left the area. As with my Michigan Womyn's Music Festival photo albums, completing this project is going to take some time, so be sure to check back. I hope to have it done within the next few days.

Early tomorrow morning I'm taking Sojourner, my handicap-accessible minivan, to the shop to have the automatic ramp fixed. It stopped working on the trip after I'd driven hours through a blizzard with piled up snow and ice on the roads. Fortunately, the ramp can also be operated manually, but that meant my travel companion, Judy Drylie, had the job of pulling my ramp down and pushing it back up every time I needed to get in and out of the van. She was a good sport, but it was a real bother. As soon as I saw that the ramp was not operating automatically, I used my cell phone to call the place that had done the original Braun conversion. The service mechanic said it was likely that ice had damaged the wiring and I'd need to bring it in for service. The weakness in these conversions is that the vehicle then rides so low to the ground that you're apt to have problems you wouldn't have with an ordinary minivan. Let's hope this ramp problem can be easily fixed.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

J20 Counter Inaugural journal: A Raging Granny's View 

Today I worked with words; tomorrow it will be pictures. Together I hope to give you, my readers, some idea of what it was like to be in Washington, DC for what has become known simply as J20. I'm calling my web page the J20 Counter Inaugural Journal: A Raging Granny's View.

As I looked back on what I'd seen and heard during my short, intense trip to Washington, DC, I was filled with gratitude for the gift of being there. And another thing filled me with gratitude today. That was the fact that I had arrived home a mere four hours before our largest snowstorm of the winter began. By nightfall today, a foot of new snow was coating our streets, houses, trees, bushes and lawns. And because of the high winds, snowdrifts made our world practically unrecognizable.

Yes, gratitude is my reality today.

Counter-Inaugural Report #1 

It's late Friday night and I'm home. Safe and sound, I'm happy to report. No one pepper-sprayed or tear-gassed me, although I did meet a young man in the Metro station after the parade yesterday whose eyes were red and tearing. When I asked him about it, he told me he'd been pepper-sprayed in the face even though he'd done nothing but give a policeman the peace sign. He was five persons back on the crowded sidewalk at 14th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue where he said some folks were rattling the security fence to make more noise. Although he was the only person I met who had been mistreated by any of the huge numbers of security forces, it makes me wonder what else we'll hear about later.

As an older woman protester in a disabled scooter, I found the men and women at the security checkpoint at 12th Street and Pennsylvania to be courteous bordering on solicitous. With the exception of one surprisingly rude woman who ran into my scooter and then blamed me for getting in her way, every person I encountered all day long was friendly, peaceful and non-violent. And, after a snowy Wednesday in DC, the sun even came out as we Raging Grannies participated in the Women's Rally organized by Code Pink at Dupont Circle on Thursday morning.

No, I did not see George W with my own eyes, but I did add my voice to the loud BOOs and chants--"You're not MY prez!"--that greeted him as he passed where dozens of us protesters stood behind the bleachers on Pennsylvania Avenue at 12th Street.

What will stay in my memory for as long as I live are the faces of thousands of young women and men who came from as far away as Iowa, Michigan, Denver, Chicago, Indiana, Florida and California--to mention just a few whom I talked to myself--to stand up and say "NO!" to this president whom they know does not have their best interests at heart.

And as always happens at national rallies and marches, a special bond was formed between us Raging Grannies and the student activists who could indeed be our grandchildren. I think, for many of them, seeing old women who obviously see things as they do and are willing to be outrageous in their protests, gives these young people the affirmation they deserve (but so rarely receive) that they indeed are on the right path and that their perceptions of what is going on are right on target.

As you can imagine, their favorite Raging Grannies song was the one that ends,

This is inaugural day
When red states shout "hooray!"
It's quite a blast!
They think they're pretty slick
With all their dirty tricks.
But we know that the vote was fixed!
Mandate? My ass!

So I came home tonight to a group email sent out by one of our Detroit Raging Grannies. In it, she quotes from an article printed in today's Detroit Free Press in which Granny Patricia Lay-Dorsey was quoted.

Yes, I remember that one of the dozens of interviews I gave yesterday was to a fellow from Knight-Ridder. Granny Vicki Ryder and I were interviewed by him as we waited in the block-long, 10 person-deep line to get through the 12th Street security checkpoint onto Pennyslvania Avenue late in the afternoon. And when I went online to check out the article, "Notes On Inauguration Day," for myself, I found we were both quoted. Here's what was written about the protesters:

Protesters: Scores of them. Police used pepper spray to break up one demonstration near the White House. At least 11 people had been arrested by evening, police said.

At some security checkpoints along the parade route, protesters easily outnumbered Bush supporters standing in line at metal detectors. They ranged from older peace activists to young anarchists dressed for confrontation in helmets and face-covering bandanas.

Many of the protesters refused to accept the idea that Bush had won another four years in the Oval Office.

"The guy's got to go. He has no right to be here. He stole the election," said Vicki Ryder of Rochester, N.Y., a member of the Raging Grannies, a liberal activist group for older women.

Patricia Lay-Dorsey, a Raging Grannies member from Detroit, wheeled to the parade route in a motorized cart plastered with bumper stickers saying, "Love is stronger than fear" and "Vote."

"Yes, he got in another four years," the 62-year-old Lay-Dorsey said, "but I'm going to fight him tooth and nail every minute of every day."

What he neglected to say was that I added, "But more importantly, I'm going to continue working with grassroots movements to build the kind of world we all want and need."

I'm dying to put up photos to go along with this entry, but my friends, it is now 1:30 AM on Saturday morning. After having driven 10 hours today, 8 of them myself, I know I must go to bed. But hold the thought--there are LOTS of pictures and stories to come.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Off to Washington, DC... 

On Thursday, when I'm marching the streets of Washington, DC with the Raging Grannies and hundreds (thousands?) of women from Code Pink, NOW and other groups, I want to hold in mind these six swans that I saw skimming over the ice-covered lake today. Their grace and beauty was matched only by their courage.

I personally can't imagine staying in the frigid north when I could fly south for the winter. But maybe there are people out there who can't imagine a woman in her 60s, and disabled at that, choosing to go to a city where she will surely not be welcome. But, like the swans, I will not be alone. And, like them, I will be exactly where I feel I need to be.

We Raging Grannies will be singing at a women's Counter-Inaugural rally in Dupont Circle at 9AM on Thursday, Bush's inauguration day. The rally will lead into a Women's March and New Orleans-Style Funeral Procession with members of Code Pink, NOW, the Raging Grannies, Ladies of Liberty, National Mourning Project, Theaters Against War, to name a few. We will carry coffins symbolizing the dead in Iraq, prisoners in Quantanamo and Iraq, our Bill of Rights, women's reproductive rights, Social Security, environmental protections and more. We'll be heading toward the White House, but my guess is that the 6000 extra "security forces" will see to it that we don't get anywhere near it. From then on, I expect we Raging Grannies will do what we usually do at protests like this, and that is set ourselves up on a street corner and sing our songs.

Just to give you some idea of what DC will be like on this day of "national pride", here is a list of items that are banned from all Inaugural event sites and locations:

firearms, ammunition, explosives, weapons of any kind, aerosols, supports (sticks or poles) for banners and placards, packages, coolers, thermal or glass containers, backpacks, bags exceeding size restrictions (8"x6"x4"), laser pointers, animals other than helper/guide dogs, structures, bicycles and any other items determined to be a potential safety hazard. With respect to signs and placards, items should be made of cardboard, poster board or cloth and have dimensions no greater than three (3) feet in width, 20 feet in length and one-quarter (1/4) inch in thickness.

Should be VERY interesting.

Judy Drylie and I depart Detroit tomorrow (Wednesday) at 8 AM, and will be driving the 560 miles to Rockville, MD in one day. After participating with the Raging Grannies in the Counter-Inaugural events on Thursday, we'll get back in Sojourner, my handicap-accessible minivan, early Friday morning with the intention of being home again that night. I don't expect you'll hear from me until Saturday. Jeanne Peters was going to join us, but unfortunately a bad cold is keeping her home.

I want to say to my readers that we are doing this for all people who fear what another four years of Bush & Co. will bring to our country, the world and the planet. Please know we are there IN YOUR NAME. And I ask you to keep everyone in that strange city in good energy during these days of dissent/celebraton, truth/lies, love/fear. Help us hold the paradox in our hearts and consciousness. May all persons be treated with respect.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Art Day 

I was sorry to miss Detroit's annual Martin Luther King, Jr. march and rally--although +12 degrees would have made marching a bit on the chilly side--but I know I was where I was supposed to be. And that was at home painting with my friends Penny and Sooz.

If you're a regular reader, you know that Penny Hackett-Evans, Peg/Sooz Collins, Pat Noonan and I have been getting together regularly to make art for a number of years now. Penny's work schedule makes it hard for us to do this as often as we'd like, but we just wait for a day when she's free and hop on it. Unfortunately, this time Pat had a conflict and couldn't join us, but hopefully we'll all be together next time.

Each art day has a different focus--today it was painting with acrylic inks on watercolor paper. I facilitated and supplied the materials since this is my current "thing." Penny had been seeing my paintings posted here on my web site and was anxious to learn how I do it.

Didn't we have fun! Both Penny and Sooz really got into it, and caught on to the process as quickly as I could articulate and/or demonstrate it. In fact, they quickly went beyond my ideas and explored their own. Here each of us is at the end of the day with our one person exhibit of paintings--Penny, Sooz and Patricia. Even our lunch--Sooz's salad and Penny's soup--was a work of art.

And to keep up with my ongoing Gallery of Paintings, here are the latest additions: Spiral Dreams #1 and Spiral Dreams #2.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

What is really happening in Iraq 

I want to quote Riverbend's entire entry that she published yesterday, January 15, on her blog, Baghdad Burning. If you recall she is an Iraqi woman in her mid-20s who lives with her family in Baghdad. It is through her eyes that I and millions of others around the world see clearly what Bush's war on and occupation of Iraq means to the everyday lives of ordinary people in that beleagured country. In Riverbend's words:

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Imad Khadduri's Blog...

Remember Imad Khadduri? He's the Iraqi nuclear scientist who wrote the book "Iraq's Nuclear Mirage" which is a must-read. He's finally blogging. Check out his site, "Free Iraq"--'Free Iraq' being more of a command and not a description of the current state of the country...

He links a lot of interesting articles and always has commentary in English (plus some of the stuff he writes in Arabic).

- posted by river @ 11:06 PM

The Phantom Weapons...

The phone hasn't been working for almost a week now. We just got the line back today. For the last six days, I'd pick up the phone and hear... silence. Nothing. This vast nothingness would be followed by a few futile 'hellos' and a forceful punching of some random numbers with my index finger. It isn't always like this, of course. On some days, you can pick up the telephone and hear a bunch of other people screaming "allooo? Allooo?" E. once struck up a conversation with a complete stranger over the phone because they were both waiting for a line. E. wanted to call our uncle and the woman was trying to call her grandson.

The dial-tone came about an hour ago (I've been checking since morning) and I'm taking advantage of it.
The electricity situation isn't very much better. We're getting two hours of electricity (almost continuous) and then eight hours of no electricity (continuous). We still can't get the generators going for very long because of the fuel shortage. Kerosene is really becoming a problem now. I guess we weren't taking it very seriously at first because, it really is probably the first time Iraq has seen a kerosene shortage and it is still difficult to believe. They say in 1991 when there was a gasoline shortage which lasted for the duration of the war and some time after, kerosene was always plentiful. This isn't the situation now. We're buying it for obscene prices and it's really only useful for the lamps and the heaters.

It feels like just about everyone who can is going to leave the country before the elections. They say the borders between Syria and Jordan might be closed a week before elections so people are rushing to get packed and get out. Many families are simply waiting for their school-age children to finish mid-year finals or college exams so they can leave.

This was an interesting piece of news a couple of days ago:

The United States has ended its physical search for weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq, which was cited by the first administration of President George W Bush as the main reason for invading the country, the White House has said.

Why does this not surprise me? Does it surprise anyone? I always had the feeling that the only people who actually believed this war was about weapons of mass destruction were either paranoid Americans or deluded expatriate Iraqis- or a combination of both. I wonder now, after hundreds and hundreds of Americans actually died on Iraqi soil and over a hundred-thousand Iraqis are dead, how Americans view the current situation. I have another question- the article mentions a "Duelfer Report" stating the weapons never existed and all the intelligence was wrong. This report was supposedly published in October 2004. The question is this: was this report made public before the elections? Did Americans actually vote for Bush with this knowledge?

Over here, it's not really "news" in the sense that it's not new. We've been expecting a statement like this for the last two years. While we were aware the whole WMD farce was just a badly produced black comedy, it's still upsetting to hear Bush's declaration that he was wrong. It's upsetting because it just confirms the worst: right-wing Americans don't care about justifying this war. They don't care about right or wrong or innocents dead and more to die. They were somewhat ahead of the game. When they saw their idiotic president wasn't going to find weapons anywhere in Iraq, they decided it would be about mass graves. It wasn't long before the very people who came to 'liberate' a sovereign country soon began burying more Iraqis in mass graves. The smart weapons began to stupidly kill 'possibly innocent' civilians (they are only 'definitely innocent' if they are working with the current Iraqi security forces or American troops). It went once more from protecting poor Iraqis from themselves to protecting Americans from 'terrorists'. Zarqawi very conveniently entered the picture.

Zarqawi is so much better than WMD. He's small, compact and mobile. He can travel from Falloojeh to Baghdad to Najaf to Mosul...whichever province or city really needs to be oppressed. Also, conveniently, he looks like the typical Iraqi male- dark hair, dark eyes, olive skin, medium build. I wonder how long it will take the average American to figure out that he's about as substantial as our previously alleged WMD.

Now we're being 'officially' told that the weapons never existed. After Iraq has been devastated, we're told it's a mistake. You look around Baghdad and it is heart-breaking. The streets are ravaged, the sky is a bizarre grayish-bluish color--a combination of smoke from fires and weapons and smog from cars and generators. There is an endless wall that seems to suddenly emerge in certain areas to protect the Green Zoners...There is common look to the people on the streets- under the masks of fear, anger and suspicion, there's also a haunting look of uncertainty and indecision. Where is the country going? How long will it take for things to even have some vague semblance of normality? When will we ever feel safe?

A question poses it self at this point--why don't they let the scientists go if the weapons don't exist? Why do they have Iraqi scientists like Huda Ammash, Rihab Taha and Amir Al Saadi still in prison? Perhaps they are waiting for those scientists to conveniently die in prison? That way they won't be able to talk about the various torture techniques and interrogation tactics...

I hope Americans feel good about taking their war on terror to foreign soil. For bringing the terrorists to Iraq- Chalabi, Allawi, Zarqawi, the Hakeems...How is our current situation going to secure America? How is a complete generation that is growing up in fear and chaos going to view Americans ten years from now? Does anyone ask that? After September 11, because of what a few fanatics did, Americans decided to become infected with a collective case of xenophobia...Yet after all Iraqis have been through under the occupation, we're expected to be tolerant and grateful. Why? Because we get more wheat in our diets?

Terror isn't just worrying about a plane hitting a skyscraper...terrorism is being caught in traffic and hearing the crack of an AK-47 a few meters away because the National Guard want to let an American humvee or Iraqi official through. Terror is watching your house being raided and knowing that the silliest thing might get you dragged away to Abu Ghraib where soldiers can torture, beat and kill. Terror is that first moment after a series of machine-gun shots, when you lift your head frantically to make sure your loved ones are still in one piece. Terror is trying to pick the shards of glass resulting from a nearby explosion out of the living-room couch and trying not to imagine what would have happened if a person had been sitting there.

The weapons never existed. It's like having a loved one sentenced to death for a crime they didn't commit, having your country burned and bombed beyond recognition, almost. Then, after two years of grieving for the lost people, and mourning the lost sovereignty, we're told we were innocent of harboring those weapons. We were never a threat to America...

Congratulations Bush--we are a threat now.

- posted by river @ 10:53 PM

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Doing what I love to do 

Two paintings today--Centering Exercise and Winter Joy.

Friday, January 14, 2005

My Counter-Inaugural plans 

All my attention is now focused on preparing for my trip to Washington, DC next week for the Counter-Inaugural events on January 20.

Today that meant having my minivan's oil changed, brakes checked, transmission fluid flushed, motor parts vacuumed to get rid of the carbon build-up, ramp fittings tightened and gas tank filled. Tomorrow morning I'll be taking Sojourner back to the windshield repair shop to have the middle window replaced on the driver's side.

When I had my run-in with the mailbox a few weeks back, not only was one window smashed but another was scratched pretty badly. Apparently such a scratch can cause a window to implode given certain stresses like extremes of temperature. I don't want to take any chances, especially on a long trip, so I'm going to have that fixed tomorrow.

You may wonder when I made the decision to go to DC.

Well, as soon as I'd heard Bush had won the election, I started seeing myself there to protest his inauguration. I just couldn't imagine sitting home and letting people in other parts of the world think we Americans went along with this farce. But every time I went online to try to make hotel or motel reservations, I kept hitting a brick wall. The only available rooms posted on several discount hotel web sites were either 50 miles out of DC or cost anywhere from $300-$1300.

It just wasn't working out, so I shelved my idea and tried to content myself with finding local events to attend instead. Actually, a Detroit area peace and justice coalition is planning what will certainly be a wonderful $1 "Inaugural Soup Celebration and Coronation" that will include supper, a movement sing-along, the Coronation of King George and a Town Hall meeting to let him know what we think of his war, foreign policies, environmental actions and domestic disasters.

But last Tuesday morning I couldn't sleep. I got up at 5 AM with the conviction that, dammit, I was meant to be in DC on January 20!

This time I tried the phone instead of the internet. I called a motel in Bethesda, MD where I'd stayed a few years back and asked if they had any rooms. They didn't, but when I asked if they had any suggestions of other motels I might try, the desk clerk gave me five names and numbers. The second one I called had exactly what I was looking for: a room with two double beds at a price I could afford. And, best of all, it is only five blocks from a Metro station, and right off the expressway we'll be taking in from the west.

I trusted I'd find a friend or two who'd want to go with me, and I did. So Jeanne Peters, Judy Drylie and I will set off bright and early on Wednesday morning for Washington, DC, 560 miles southeast of here. We'll probably get to the motel around 7 PM, have a nice dinner and get to bed early. Thursday promises to be a BIG DAY.

About 7 AM, we'll walk/scoot to the Twin Brooks Metro station and take the train into DC. There we'll meet our Raging Grannies sisters from across the country and prepare to sing at one of the Counter-Inaugural rallies. It's still a bit up in the air as to which rally that might be, but thanks to the organizing skills of Granny Vicki Ryder of the Rochester, NY Raging Grannies, I trust we'll end up exactly where we're meant to be.

After the rally, we're planning to join Code Pink's Funeral March with coffins symbolizing all the deaths in Iraq and the destruction Bush and his people have brought to so many areas of life in our country and on the planet. I think the Raging Grannies, as elders, will be carrying the coffin bearing Social Security. And, because singing is what we do best, I'm sure we'll sing as we march toward the White House.

Who knows what will happen next? But since we'll be together, we Raging Grannies will continue to make our voices heard. I feel so grateful to be able to be there.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

A new year 

Is it just me or are others finding things have gone into high gear since 2005 began? There is an entirely different energy to this year, much more positive and action-oriented than 2004. I've never been busier but seem to have all the energy I need to do what needs to be done. And instead of always planting seeds and trying to nourish tender seedlings, there's a sense of things coming to fruition, of a harvest time of sorts.

Well, I'd say we deserve it. Especially those of us who worked so hard to get Bush out of office, only to have our hopes dashed on November 3. Maybe our period of depression was just what we needed. Maybe in those dark days we reassessed where we were going and how we could get there. Whatever is going on, I like it.

Of course, Bush and his crowd is worse than ever, but somehow that doesn't tie me in knots like it used to. If anything, it gives me the kick in the pants I need to try new things and stop getting caught up in non-productive anger and bitterness. There's too much work to be done to waste our precious time and energy on anything that doesn't serve the greater good.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Crossing The Line: A Citizens' Inquiry on Canada-U.S. Relations 

There are those rare days in each life that, even while walking through them, you know will shine with special brilliance in your memory. So yesterday was for me. On that slushy, snowy day in January, I was privileged to feel like a member of a family that is not my own by birth, that "family" being our neighbours to the North, the country of Canada.

From 9 AM-4 PM, I listened to four expert testimonies and participated in four citizen's presentations that shared information and perspectives with a three-member panel of Commissioners made up of Maude Barlow, the National Chairperson of The Council of Canadians, Canada's largest citizen's advocacy organization, Howard McCurdy, the second African-Canadian elected to the Parliament of Canada and a longtime professor at the University of Windsor, and Howard Pawley, a former Provincial Premier (1981-88) of Manitoba. The topic was Border Issues and Canada-U.S. Relations. At the heart of the testimonies, presentations and discussions were the "deep integration" trade initiatives proposed by the Bush administration, and what these would mean to Canada's automony and independence vis a vis the U.S.

Dozens of concerned women and men met in a room at the Windsor Public Library, and although I was the only American present, I knew many people in the room. If you're a regular reader of my journal or blog, you already know that it only takes me a half hour to get to Canada, a country I love and respect greatly. My women's community is made up of both Canadians and Americans, and my commitment to peace and justice has often taken me across the border, most notably during four days of teach-ins and protest demonstrations mounted in response to the general assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) that was hosted by Windsor, Ontario in June 2000. It was there that I first heard and met Maude Barlow, who quickly became one of my greatest sheroes.

To give you a better idea of why yesterday's hearing and the evening panel discussion (7-9:30 PM at the Capitol Theatre) were being held, let me quote directly from the web site of the Council of Canadians:

The Council of Canadians is conducting a ten-city tour called Crossing The Line: A Citizens' Inquiry on Canada-U.S. Relations. We are seeking to raise awareness of the dangers of the push from Canadian corporate lobby groups for more economic and social integration with the United States. Each tour stop will focus on an area of concern.

The daytime event will be a hearing, where experts and citizens will present testimonials on Canada-U.S. relations in the context of the focus topic for that city.

It will be presided over by a panel of Commissioners with roots in the community, outstanding professional reputations and a deep concern about the future of Canada – U.S. relations. Maude Barlow, National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians, will be a Commissioner in each city.

The Council of Canadians will be collecting the information that we gather on the road and incorporating it into a final report.

The evening event, a free public forum, will examine the broader issue of Canada-U.S. relations and the threat to Canadian sovereignty. It will feature Maude Barlow and a panel of local speakers.

After hearing Mary Ann Cuderman of the Windsor West Community Truck Watch coalition tell about her community's ongoing struggles regarding the traffic congestion and air pollution caused by 6000 trucks crossing the Ambassador Bridge every day (!), Bruce Campbell from Ottawa, Executive Director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, give us background on the "deep integration" economic policy changes with their proposed Custom Union and Common Trade Policy initiatives and even a possible Monetary Union, Hugh Benevides, an attorney with the Canadian Environmental Law Association, tell us some of the realities of what deeper integration and the Smart Regulations will mean to Canada's environmental regulations, and finally Michael Gibertson, a retired scientist with the International Joint Commission, give us facts and figures about the "Great Lakes: Transboundary Injury to Health", my former ignorance about the U.S. determination to gain free access to Canada's wealth of natural resources--Did you know that Canada is America's #1 supplier of oil?--by eliminating Canadian control over its own trade, border security and immigration and putting all control in the hands of American officials and agencies. This would be done in the name of "integration" and "harmonization", but if allowed to proceed as the White House proposes, it would allow the U.S. to gain control over all aspects of Canadian trade not only with their neighbour to the south but with all other countries in the world.

As Orwellian as all this sounds, why am I not surprised? It is a natural progression of the Bush administration's arrogant and aggressive decisions in relation to nations all over the world, but especially Iraq. Is Canada under threat of aggressive actions by the United States if it says "No" to their demands? It's hard to say. At present, the U.S. is using a combination of carrot (the promise of increased trade and fewer restrictions) and stick (cutting back on trade and closing the border if there is another terrorist attack like 9/11) to try to get Canada to comply, not just with the economic integration initiatives but with its push for Canada to join the U.S. in building a Missile Defense Shield (Star Wars) over the entire North American continent. The Canadan people are strongly against the Star Wars proposal but have yet to hear enough about the economic integration initiatives to form an opinion. Educating the public is one of the Council of Canadians' primary purposes in mounting this ten-city tour. However, things at the top look quite different.

Canada's Prime Minister, Paul Martin, seems happy to say one thing publically but to play footsy under the table with Bush, as evidenced by his recent appointment of former New Brunswick premier Frank McKenna to be Ambassador to the United States. McKenna is firmly identifed with big business interests in Canada and the U.S. He currently serves on nine corporate boards, including those of General Motors of Canada Ltd., the Bank of Montreal and CanWest Global Communications Corp., where he is chairman. He has also served on the board of the controversial Washington, DC firm, the Carlyle Group.

According to excerpts from the Polaris Institute's McKenna Report that I read on CNews, "This investment firm is run by powerful Republicans who were once involved at the highest levels of the White House, the Pentagon, and the CIA and is a concern for Canadians, according to Steven Staples, the author of the report. The Carlyle Group says it has more than $18.9 billion in investments under its management. They have invested in aerospace, telecommunications, defence and homeland security. All of these companies have reaped great benefits from the dramatic rise in US military spending since 9/11. The Carlyle Group has connections to the arms industry and the Saudi bin Laden Group. McKenna has also publicly promoted the arms industry and closer military ties with the US. One has to wonder about the suitability of McKenna for this position."

Since George W. Bush's father, former President George H.W. Bush, has also served on the board of the Carlyle Group, I would imagine the White House would be delighted with Martin's appointment of Frank McKenna to be the new Canadian ambassador to the U.S.

Once you start following these threads of interwoven interests, everything begins to make perfect sense.

Anyway, in my humble opinion, Canada would do well to resist any and all attempts made by their neighbour to the south to integrate them into the fabric of American special interests. There will be nothing to gain and everything to lose. Just look at NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) that was promoted as a certain way to buoy Canada's employment rates and economic vitality. It has done neither. In January 1994, NAFTA was launched by Canada, Mexico and the United States. By the end of the 1990s, unemployment in Canada compared with the 1930s.

Yes, it is always a risk to say no to the neighbourhood bully, but giving in is worse. Better to lose your body than your soul.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Asking for what you want 

I went to school today to make up for last Thursday's snow day. I hadn't seen Susan or the kids since before the holidays, so just couldn't wait another week. I plan to go in on Thursday as well, mainly because I want to be with Susan as much as possible. On Friday she's having surgery that will keep her home recovering for six weeks. The kids and I are going to miss her terribly. Actually, everyone in that school is going to miss her. She is truly the kind of teacher we all wish we'd had when we were young, especially the kind of art teacher we wish we'd had.

I was home by 3:30 PM and got right to work preparing for tonight's School Board meeting. After three phone calls, I finalized my figures about the distribution of pool time in our community, and wrote out a detailed analysis of our problem, what is behind it, a suggested solution, what we're asking, and how the School Board can help. All this was in relation to our having lost an hour of our two-hour adult lap swim time to a newly formed youth swim club. Our issue is not with them but with the decision made by the Community Education Program Supervisor to give away time that was rightfully ours. I printed out my two-page presentation and made copies for each member of the School Board, the School Superintendent and the Assistant Superintendent. When it came time to speak, I simply read this material.

Two lap swimmers--Patty and John--also showed up and spoke on our behalf at the meeting. I felt our perspective was heard and respected by everyone present. I plan to make a follow-up call to the Assistant Superintendent who is directly over the Community Ed Program Supervisor. Then we'll wait and see if we get back our lost hour. If not, we'll take it to the next step--enlisting community support through letters in our local paper and whatever else it takes. More and more I see the need--and responsibility--to ask for what you need, individually and collectively. If you don't, you have no right to complain.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Working for justice & Re-weaving Peace 

My major task for the day has been making my final preparations to speak before the School Board tomorrow night about the unqual distribution of pool hours for adults and youth in our community. It meant phone calls, tabulations, web searches and writing up the pertinent information to give to each board member.

What I've found is that adults have 16.5 hours of lap time scheduled through Community Education per week, and youth--through Community Ed and two independent swim clubs--have 80 hours of pool time per week (not counting the two high schools' swim team practices and meets). The numbers say it all. I'm sure the school board members are not aware of this inequity, but, to me, activism is all about raising awareness. Happily, two other committed adult swimmers have said they will also attend and speak at the school board meeting. It's a good beginning...

But now I want to tell you about, and show you pictures of, yesterday's monthly gathering of our O Beautiful Gaia singing community.

We met for the first time at the Matrix Theatre in Southwest Detroit, in the heart of what is called Mexican Town. This inspired and inspiring community-based theater company has frequently invited our Gaia group to accompany them in song for their "Meadow Morphosis" interactive youth performances, generally held at outdoor locations during the summer months. Shaun Nethercott, founder/director of Matrix, has a fondness for our group, and had seemed delighted when we'd asked if we could hold our January gathering in their newly-renovated theatre. For me, it was a perfect choice because they'd just built a wheelchair/scooter ramp into the building.

Of course, things weren't as simple as we'd hoped. Yesterday we awoke to a snow storm that dumped another 2-3" of the white stuff onto the 6-7" we'd amassed on Wednesday and Thursday. But Cindy of Matrix got there early to shovel the sidewalk and ramp, as did my Gaia sister, Peg Case, who brought her own snow shovel and cleared a parking place on the street for Sojourner. With the help of my friends, I managed to scoot into the building with ease.

Penny Hackett-Evans, Ann Robert, Pat Noonan and I were on the planning committee for this month's gathering. A flurry of emails had passed between Canada and the US as we planned the different segments of our four hours together. Two of those hours were needed to rehearse the new Earth Charter songs composed by Carolyn McDade and Nancy Nordlie--who led our rehearsal yesterday--but that gave us two hours to play with.

Penny suggested we participate in The Thread Project, an internet-based creative expression of our unity as a world community. After we'd placed our individual threads on the altar, had sung our opening song--"Hip Swingin' A Safe Road" (photos #1, #2, #3)--and had participated in Ann Robert's wonderful guided chakra meditation, Penny introduced The Thread Project as it related to our theme for the day--"Re-Weaving Peace--and we sang (and hummed) "Circle Round for Freedom" as each of us tied and rolled our thread one-by-one (photos #1, #2, #3, #4) into a big ball.

Pat Noonan then facilitated a writing exercise that she called, "Hanging By a Thread", and we broke into small groups to share our writings, thoughts and/or feelings. Announcements and a short break were followed by two hours of rehearsal with Nancy (photos #1, #2, #3, #4). Shaun joined us just as we were preparing for our closing, and we sang, "We Are One" together (photos #1, #2, #3).

Our closing was the reading of a poem dedicated to those who had suffered and died in the earthquake and tsunamis in Asia. We ended the afternoon by singing together an African song of solidarity. Twelve of us then went up the street to the Mexican Village restaurant where we shared a delicious dinner. It was a perfect day.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

A quick check-in 

My Gaia women's singing community had a wonderful day together, but my stories and photos will have to wait. My body says it's time for bed.

Friday, January 07, 2005

I ask the swans 

I was thinking that I am particularly tired tonight. Well, no wonder! I've just come to the end of my first week of swimming an hour of laps on Monday and Wednesday, and working out at the gym with Matt for an hour on Tuesday and Friday. That, my friends, is a strenuous exercise regime for anyone, able-bodied or otherwise-abled. I didn't even take a nap this afternoon. All the more reason to go to bed nice and early.

I have one picture for you. It is of two swans on the lake with a flock of birds (gulls? ducks?) in the water behind them. I've been wanting to get a picture of the swans I've been seeing every time I drive along the lake--sometimes as many as 20 at a time--but it's a challenge to do so as there's no place to park. Today I just stopped on the side of the road (making sure no cars were behind me), put down the window and quickly snapped a picture. Only one, but, happily, it turned out fine.

So can anyone tell me why swans are choosing to stay in frigid Lake St. Clair instead of migrating to a more temperate zone?

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Eucalyptus-scented memories 

As snow, freezing rain and more snow coated our lawns, bushes, trees, houses, cars and streets in layers of white, it was hard to remember that a mere three days ago I'd seen a squirrel contentedly napping in the tree outside my upstairs window. We didn't get the 10" they'd predicted, but it was enough for my school to call a snow day. So I stayed home and spent the morning in the living room reading--and napping--with my sweetie.

I'm reading a marvelous novel--"Queen of Dreams"--by Chitra Divakaruni, a young novelist who has been receiving well-deserved praise for her work. This book, set in Berkeley, California, explores a mother-daughter relationship that brings one deep into unexplanable "knowings" and the cultural complexities of an Indian mother and American daughter. As I read of the daughter--an artist--painting a grove of eucalyptus trees, I had a wave of nostalgia for the Bay area, its natural beauty and my friends there. That sent me upstairs to the computer where I found photos I'd taken on March 29, 2002 (Journal 26 archive) during a wonder-filled walk/scoot with my friend Dorothy Walters at Stowe Lake in Golden Gate Park. And then it was time to paint.

I started with Stowe Lake and moved into painting I call Mystic Sun. What would I do with these feelings if I couldn't paint? I can't imagine. By the way, every time I finish a new painting, I add it to my online Gallery of Paintings.

I'd rather exhibit my work here than in any gallery or museum I know. Non-elitist, non-commercial and hopefully non-egotistical. Available to everyone--who has access to a computer, anyway--with an invitation to print them out and enjoy them. Very different from the old days when some "authority" would determine whether my painting was good enough to be seen by the public, and one person might buy it and take it home, never to be seen again. I appreciate that if I needed to make a living from my art, I would probably still be playing their game. Thank goddess I'm beyond all that now.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Tsunami Relief: Four Suggestions for Empowering Aid 

Most of us have been at a loss to determine how we could respond to what has happened in Asia in ways that would be most helpful to our sisters and brothers who survived the tsunamis but lost everything. From Starhawk ( come the following tangible suggestions:

(Please forward widely)

Our hearts are grieving for the hundreds of thousands of victims of the December 26 tsunami, which may be the worst natural disaster in human memory. The scope of the tragedy is hard to imagine. Most of us have lost someone dear to us in the course of our lives. We know the anguish, the grief, the confusion and disorientation that comes with major loss--the sense of having become in some ways a different person. But with personal loss, we can generally turn to our families, our friends, our communities for support and comfort. What must it be like to suffer the loss of half the community, of every means of livelihood, of whole families and whole, ancient ways of life, all at the same time?

The global community is the only place the survivors can turn for help. But how do we help in a way that empowers communities and does not strengthen the grip of the international institutions of power?

Politically, we can continue to pressure the US and other governments to provide aid, and to call for a moratorium or better yet, outright cancellation, of the World Bank and IMF loan repayments owed by affected countries.

Personally, we can donate to groups that are working close to the ground, that have longstanding ties to communities, and that share the values of sustainability and justice. If you don't have money, consider some sort of fundraising effort or benefit. Immediate needs are great--but the need will continue long after the headlines shift to a new topic. So think about making a long term commitment to one of the organizations below. Here are four suggestions.

Thanks for your generosity,

South India:

Prithvi Prithvi works with the CARE Trust in Tamil Nadu, the state in south India that was hardest hit by the tsunami. He is a personal friend of mine, a graduate of our very first Earth Activist Training who works with rural communities of farmers and fisherfolk to develop sustainability and local resources. A warm and compassionate man with a beautiful smile, he told me at our first meeting that his name literally means "Earth," and that in his culture, people never enter the fields with shoes on, but always barefoot, out of respect for the earth. The CARE Trust is administering aid to five affected fishing villages, with 2500 families. Their immediate goal is to safeguard the lives and health of the survivors. The long term goal is to restore the livelihoods and self-sufficiency of the villagers by rebuilding houses and providing new catamarans, nets and fishing boats. To keep a family alive for a month costs $72. To repair a catamaran: $355. A new catamaran costs $1667 and a new vallam (fishing boat) with engine and net costs $2778.

A donation to Prithvi's organization will go directly to help empower and support these communities. To support the CARE Trust:

Collect the money in the name of
Coimbatore, Tamilnadu, India
Tsunami Relief Fund and transfer the money to their sister organization in Kanyakumari :

Stephen Charitable Trust
Current Account No 830
Swift code soinin55
South Indian Bank
Nagercoil Branch
St. Assisi Building
Kanyakumari District

Sri Lanka:

The Nonviolent Peaceforce has been working in Sri Lanka, attempting to be a neutral, nonviolent presence in the ongoing civil war. They suggest donating to Sarvodaya, one of their partner organizations, which will be providing relief in one of the most devastated countries

To donate to Sarvodaya online by credit card you may donate through the Nonviolent Peaceforce:

Go directly to the Sarvodaya donation page. 100% of the money we collect at this site will go to Sarvodaya.

To donate via post within the USA, please send a tax-deductible check made out to:

Sarvodaya USA
5716 Manchester Avenue #3,
Los Angeles, CA 90045

Please note that the check is for the Tsunami disaster and sent via the Nonviolent Peaceforce.

To donate to Sarvodaya directly in Sri Lanka using a wire transfer here is the information you will need for foreign remittance:

Sarvodaya Inc.
Acct. No 159000 8015
Commercial Bank of Ceylon Limited.- Moratuwa branch
Swift Code CCEYLKLX.

Sarvodaya info in Sri Lanka:


Nonviolence International has been working in Aceh for five years. The Peace Education Program has been working with religious leader, teachers and youth to build the capacity for peacebuilding and nonviolent resolution of conflicts in Aceh, where a civil war has been raging for years. At last report, three of their staff members were missing. Their library of books and manuals on peacebuilding, computers, financial records, curricula, and works in progress are all gone. One of their surviving staff members has lost his parents and a sister.

Nonviolence International USA has established a relief fund for the victims and survivors of the earthquakes and tsunami in Aceh, Indonesia. According to Chairman, Dr. Mubarak Awad, donations to the Aceh Earthquake/Tsunami Relief Fund will be distributed directly to Acehnese humanitarian aid agencies.

Funds can be sent via the website at:

or checks can be made out to:

Nonviolence International, PO Box 39127,
Friendship Station, Washington, DC 20016, USA

All Over:

Via Campesina, the global organization of farm workers, has set up a relief fund with the specific intention of empowering local civic society and communities. Here is their message:

Via Campesina ( global alliance of peasant, family farmer, farm worker, indigenous and landless peoples organizations, and other rural movements--calls for solidarity with the millions of people affected by the tsunami disaster and is launching a global fundraising campaign to channel assistance to affected communities of fisherfolk and peasants, for their own relief and reconstruction efforts, through grassroots organizations.

We ask for your donation for direct  emergency support to provide basic needs of food, clean drinking water, shelter and health care to affected fisherfolk and peasant families, as well as to help us initiate the long term work of reconstructing our own communities and rebuilding our livelihoods.

Make a secure on-line credit card donation now by clicking on:


The relief philosophy of Via Campesina is that our communities should participate actively and be the key actors in the re-construction process, and that our fisherfolk and peasant organizations should play a key mobilizing and supporting role. Via Campesina wants to give our communities and organizations the political support they need in this process, and to help get the funds we need for reconstruction. The funds raised in this campaign will be used to strengthen local communities as the key actors in this process.

The success of local, self-organized, civil society disaster relief efforts in previous disasters in Latin America, Asia, and Africa, contrasted with government inefficiency and top-down, demobilizing programs, has often marked a key stage in the empowerment and growth of large, popular, grassroots, civil society social movements by which previously marginalized people take control of their own lives. Let us work together at this time, and let us do so in ways that help build self-sufficiency, grassroots organization, and peoples power for the future.

In addition to the millions who have been displaced or affected, many tens of thousands have lost their homes and fishing equipment or farming tools. Fisherfolk have lost their boats, and the land of peasant families has been contaminated, their crops destroyed and their farm animals lost. Your donation will help us get back on our feet.

Examples of actions already underway:

--In Indonesia, the National Federation of Indonesian Peasant Organizations (FSPI), a member of Via Campesina, together with a number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), has created a civil society relief team that is now working in Aceh (with an estimated 25,000 dead and many times more missing and/or homeless) and in North Sumatra (5,000 dead) provinces to distribute supplies, and to carry out search and rescue missions for missing people. The situation is dramatic, and at the moment (30 Dec) there is no direct communication with many areas.

--In Sri Lanka, perhaps the country worst hit by the tsunamis, the National Organization of Fisherfolk (NAFSO) has sent 5 teams to affected areas for relief work and help communities start the task of reconstruction. They have organized fact finding missions and are now defining how to cope with the urgent relief needs while communities plan and begin to carry the medium term work of rehabilitation.

Make a secure on-line credit card donation now by clicking on:



1. If you are in Europe, you can deposit funds in the following account:

Account number: 3035 0022 4202 2005 5606
Beneficiary: Via Campesina-Honduras
IBAN code: ES23 3035 0022 4202 2005 5606
Bank: Caja Laboral
Bank address: Calle 8 de enero, Guernika, Pais Basco (Basque Country)
Tel: 34 94 625 0098
Fax: 34 94 625 6662

Please send an email alerting us of your donation to:

2. If you are in the United States (and/or have US dollar denominated checks or money orders), and want to donate by mail:

Please make your check out to "Via Campesina/CENSA" and mail it to:

CENSA/Via Campesina
2288 Fulton Street, suite 103
Berkeley, CA
94704 USA

3. If you want to make a bank wire transfer for the relief campaign, you can wire funds to:

NOTE: the funds must be transferred to the First Union Bank in the USA, where the Banco Grupo El Ahorro Hondureno (BGA) has an account. In the communication with the transfer you have to put in the data of the final beneficiary.

a. Data of the final Beneficiary Bank
--Bank: Banco Grupo, El Ahorro Hondureno (BGA)
--Name of Beneficiary: Pedro Rafael Alegria, Maria Concepcion Betanco, Via Campesina
--Account Number at BGA: 107 108 6292
--Telephone: (504)235-9915 and 239-4679
--Country and City: Honduras, Tegucigalpa M.D.C.

b. Data of the Bank in the USA
--Bank: First Union Bank (now called Wachovia)
--ABA Code 026005092
--Swift Code B/C: PNBP US 3N NYC
--Account Number: 2000192001436
--Name: Banco Grupo El Ahorro Hondureno (BGA)

Please send an email alerting us of your donation to:

4. If you want to make a bank wire transfer for relief specifically in Indonesia, you can wire funds to:

Bank: Standard Chartered Bank
Swift Bank Code: SCB LIDJ XAXXX
Address of Bank: Jl. Imam Bonjol No. 17 North Sumatera, Indonesia
Account number : 047-1-005467-2
Name of Payee : Sintesa (Yayasan Sinar Tani Indonesia)

Please send an email to alert us of your donation to:

Via Campesina (

This message will also be posted at Starhawk's website:

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Snow anyone? 

After a good hard workout with Matt at the gym, I joined Eddie for lunch at the Subway. I then stopped at the market to stock up before tomorrow's expected snowstorm. I was SO happy I'd scooted down to the gym, especially when I realized it will probably be awhile before I can do that again. Snow is pretty but it's a real bitch to try to get around in with a scooter or wheelchair. Even a handicap-accessible minivan doesn't always help. If snow is piled up--as it often is--at the curbs, your ramp can't plow through it.

Ah well, I now have plenty of food, a couple of new (previously-viewed) DVDs to look at, two excellent library books, a replenished supply of art materials and a full tank of gas. As I ran around doing my pre-storm errands, it looked like everyone else was too. They're forecasting 24 hours of snow, possibly accumulating to 10". Sounds like it's going to be hard for me to get to school on Thursday...if it's even open. And then I'm not sure the Matrix Theatre in Detroit where we're holding our January O Beautiful Gaia gathering on Saturday will be plowed out enough for me to be able to go.

Welcome to winter in Michigan! Everyday life as mystery...

Monday, January 03, 2005

My swim story 

I was fretting all day about tonight's swimming. This was to be the first one-hour session of the Winter term.

If you recall, until this term we'd always had two hours of adult lap swims on Mondays and Wednesdays. Then, without warning, our second hour was given away to a newly-formed community youth swim club. What that meant was that our usual 20 participants would be crowded into five lanes for one hour instead of two. The math looked like there were going to be 4 people to each lane. Not fun!

As you know if you're a regular reader, I organized resistance among our lap swimmers through writing a group letter we all signed and sent to the School Board, with copies to the Community Education Program Supervisor (who had made the decision) and the School District Superintendent. We also planned to attend a School Board meeting to speak up for the rights of adult swimmers in our community.

What all this has meant to me personally is hours and hours of phone calls to try to see what was behind this decision, the history of adult lap swims in our Community Ed program, the politics of why this new youth swim club had been formed, and if there were any other ways to save our second hour. These calls have been with both the Community Ed Program Supervisor and with a sensitive and concerned board member of the youth swim club that was displacing us. Research and person-to-person dialogue is everything when you're trying to bring about change.

Well, so far my fretting was all for naught. Tonight only 12 adult swimmers showed up and Tim, the wonderful life guard who's been working with swim teams and aquatics programs in this community for 30 years, put only one other swimmer in my lane with me, and she was a love. You have to understand that until tonight, Tim had spoiled me rotten for four years by allowing me to have a lane to myself. An advantage of being the only one who needed to use the disabled lift. Besides, Tim and I are buddies.

But I have no complaints about tonight's swim. I got in a full hour of laps--I was the first to enter and the last to leave the pool--and enjoyed it even when sharing a lane for the first half hour.

But I still plan to go before the School Board at their January meeting next Monday. And I'm hoping some of the other adult swimmers will join me. We need to let them see and hear from adults in this community who deserve to be given the same rights and privileges as the kids. It's great to be a child-oriented community but not when it comes at the expense of the adults.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

A year of changes 

As I reflect on the past year, I see that a number of important changes occurred:

1) In March 2004, I started working out at the gym with Matt, a personal trainer. Within two weeks I was again walking with my walker in my upstairs "flat" instead of using my scooter. Every week we noticed an increase of strength and endurance. I also took off fifteen pounds of excess weight, and continued swimming laps twice a week. I built up to 36 lengths or a half mile of the freestyle without stopping. I also got so I could stand and dance for hours at a time.

2) In April 2004 I bought Sojourner, my handicap accessible minivan with a fold-out ramp. That meant I could go places by myself for the first time in years. Hiking at Pt. Pelee National Park in Leamington, Ontario became my favorite activity. I also was able to attend more and more live jazz concerts, both with friends and by myself.

3) In the last days of September 2004, I returned to painting in watercolors (actually acrylic inks on watercolor paper) after not having done so for at least ten years. The very act of painting became much more important than what I ended up with. Tonight, for instance, I finished a painting that I call, "Tsunami." Each layer I painted helped me get more and more in touch with my feelings about the horrible earthquake and tsunami that has left 200,000 persons dead in Asia.

4) This may not seem new to others but it feels new to me. I have fallen more in love than ever with Eddie, the dear man I married over 38 years ago. There are no words to describe what he means to me.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

The first day of a new year 

I've heard it said--and probably say it myself every January 1st--that whatever you do on the first day of the year is what you will be doing all year long. Well, that suits me just fine.

I started 2005 listening to live jazz--Spencer Barefield on guitar, Donald Walden on sax, Dave Young from Toronto on bass and Djallo Djakate Keita on drums--with my best friend Pat Kolon, my jazz friends Terrance and Charles, and my greater Detroit jazz "family" at the sweetest space in the city, Bill Foster's SereNgeti Gallery on Grand River near the Lodge Freeway. Not only did we hear wonderful music, but we enjoyed a spectacular vegetarian-friendly fresh salmon and soul food buffet at around 11 PM, and celebrated the passage of the old year into the new with party hats, noisemakers, a glass of champagne (for those who wanted it) but absolutely NO boistrous stupidity. The musicians moved immediately into playing "Round Midnight," one of my all-time favorites. Pat and I were home--she spent last night and tonight with Ed and me--by 2:20 AM.

I was up by 10:30 AM and had a very sweet talk while sitting next to my Eddie in the living room. After he'd gone off to spend a couple hours at his office--it's more like his den--I finished reading the title story in Alice Munro's latest book, "The Runaway." What an excellent writer and storyteller. I hope some of it rubs on on me.

I was happy that Pat, who works so hard as the director of the Catholic Worker House in Detroit that she and her daughter Emily moved into eleven years ago, let herself sleep late and didn't even come downstairs until after noon. By 1:30 PM, Pat, Eddie and I were seated at the dining room table with an amazing assortment of salads, snacks, dips, spreads, crackers and breads on which to feast. A nosher's delight.

After lunch, Eddie went back to his office and Pat and I walk/scooted down to the lakefront park. It wasn't as warm as yesterday's unseasonable 55 degrees but was still pleasant. The only ice left was inside the boat harbor. Until this week the lake had looked like the Arctic tundra. How quickly things can change!

We came back home and watched a video of Brian Swimm teaching what he calls the "Canticle of Cosmology." Pat and I had different responses to the effectiveness (for us personally) of his presentation, and that led to an interesting discussion of our different styles of learning. What I discovered is that my former comfort with a teacher-student relationship has disappeared. In its place is the necessity for my learnings to be experiential.

Pat went upstairs for a nap and I spent some time at the computer until Eddie came home about 5:30 PM. A pizza dinner was followed by dear Eddie doing the dishes and going for a walk while Pat and I watched her new DVD about the Funk Brothers, the back-up musicians for the Motown hits of the 60s and 70s. I stood and danced for much of it. A happy surprise was finding that my balance has improved so much I could dance without even holding onto the tiller of my scooter. Matt's exercises are really paying off.

Before coming upstairs to work at the computer prior to going to bed, I asked Eddie to play the piano so singing with him would be one of the things I'd be doing in the new year. Didn't want to miss that.

Even as I savor each gift of this wonderful day, I am aware that there are millions and millions of my sisters and brothers across the earth for whom this first day of the new year brought unimaginable suffering, and, for many, death. How can life be so unfair.

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