Windchime Walker

Windchime Walker <$BlogRSDUrl$>

Friday, April 29, 2005

It's a BIG world out there 

"It would be so not fair if you came and only stayed a week!" That was Sana's response to my saying I was planning to stay a week when I come to visit them in Beirut next October. "A week goes by so fast we'd hardly know you were here. You have to stay at least two weeks!"

This afternoon I talked on the phone with Sulaima, Rabih and 16 year-old Sana in Lebanon and told them I'd definitely be coming to visit them next October. It was gratifying to hear their enthusiastic response to my news. How I love this family and long to see them again. Well, to be precise, I'll be seeing Sulaima, Sana, Sami, Rami and Oussama again, but, hard as it is to believe, Rabih and I will be meeting for the first time. And, of course, I'll also be seeing baby Ibrahim for the first time. I am beyond excited!!!!

Today I went to the US Post Office and submitted my application for a new passport and paid my $97 application fee. That makes it all seem real. Somehow going to the Middle East fills me with an almost spiritual fervor. Since the first Gulf War began in 1991, that part of the world has held my heart. It isn't just Iraq, either, but Israel and the suffering Palestinians, and America's ongoing threats of military action against Iran and Syria, and now the historic political events in Lebanon during these past months. So much is happening in that part of the world, the cradle of civilization. To be there and breathe the air, experience the bustling city of Beirut, see the beauty of the mountains and sea, deserts, lush farmland and orchards, to taste the food I already love, to hear Arabic--that beautiful language--spoken all around me, to get to know firsthand the depths of wisdom and grace of the people who live there. I can't think of a more spiritually nourishing place to go. But just to be with my sister and brother and their children is the greatest gift of all.

This has been a week of wonderful happenings.

In the mail on Saturday I received a copy of the March-April 2005 issue of off our backs, the feminist newsjournal. In it is an article I wrote--based on my online description of the event--called "J20 Counter Inaugural Journal: A Raging Granny's View." They used three of my digital photos--two to illustrate the article and one on the front cover. Since early February when they first found my J20 Counter-Inaugural journal and photo albums online, I've had wonderful email dealings with the collective of women who put this, the oldest feminist publication in the United States, out six times a year. And the editing job they did on my original journal entry was superb. Not a word was changed; they simply moved things around in such a way that almost 1000 words could be deleted!

Then last night I returned home to find a package had arrived in the mail containing four copies of the May issue of New Mobility Magazine. In it was my article that they'd renamed, "Pumping Iron: Oh Yeah!". I was surprised and delighted to find it was a featured article listed in the table of contents. And the photo Ed and I had worked so hard to email to the magazine's graphic department while I was in San Francisco had turned out crisp and clear.

Ed was cute last night. After reading the article and giving me kudos, he said, "Now you have 30 minutes to openly gloat!" I used up 22 of the 30 and had a blast doing it. It's funny how different it feels to have things published in hard copy.

I hope both articles will encourage readers to push the envelope politically and physically. Change only comes when we dare to risk being seen as fools. Life is not for the faint-hearted.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Such a rich, full day! 

School was fabulous and I even have some photos that I can show you of a group of fourth graders with their tempera-painted clay masks, first graders working on their spring-inspired clay nests with birds and/or eggs in them (photos #1, #2 & #3), the best art teacher in the world, Ms. Susan Briggs, and two of my most recent classroom art projects (photos #1 & #2). During lunch I was saying to Susan how much I love these kids and she replied with a smile, "Oh, Patricia, you always get mushy at this time of year!"

After school I had two hours until my next activity, so I went to a local Lebanese restaurant and had a yummy falafel/hummous/taboulleh sandwich and a pistachio cream pastry for dessert. I read Adrienne Rich's most recent book, "The School Among the Ruins: Poems 200-2004"--that is AMAZING!!!--while I ate. Then I drove to Day House about 5:30 PM, picked up my friend Pat Kolon and went over to Wayne State University for the second in a three-part series of panel discussions/public meetings called "Changing Detroit: Past, Present, Future." Tonight's topic was "Thinking outside the Box: Identities In Change."

Detroit's 90 year-old matriarch of community activism and current Urban Woman Writer in Residence at WSU, Grace Lee Boggs, is facilitating this series with Shea Howell of Detroit Summer and the Michigan Citizen newspaper, and Charles Simmons, co-chair of the Committee for the Political Resurrection of Detroit and a professor of journalism at Eastern Michigan University. Tonight there were about 65 people in attendance, a wonderful mix of Detroit city residents and suburbanites, young and old, persons of color and white folks, women and men--every one committed to Detroit and wanting to be part of the city's revitalization.

Instead of presenting socio-cultural analyses, Grace, Charles and Shea shared their own personal stories about life changing experiences that have helped to form their identities. They then asked each of us to write a paragraph that completed the following sentence: "When I think about changing Detroit, I recall this experience that changed my thinking..." After writing for about six minutes, we went around the room and counted off from 1-8. Then each group met with a facilitator and shared what they'd written and/or their thoughts about this topic. The evening ended with a spokesperson from each group reporting on what had been said in their group. On May 26, we will meet again for the final program in the series. This one is called "Creating a New We."

Don't you see why I love living so close to Detroit? There's no place like it, and, more importantly, no people like the people who live here. Detroiters are the best!

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The body's wisdom 

Holistic health practitioners encourage one to "listen to" one's body. Not only listen but respond respectfully to its nonverbal communications. Why is that so hard? Because it means giving up control. My mind, the faculty that makes plans, sets priorities and forms personal agendas, doesn't like to be second-guessed by what it considers to be a more primitive mechanism. But if I let my mind have its way, it would run my body ragged. I know that for a fact.

So every time I listen and say yes to my body's insistence that I slow down--its most common request--I strengthen our connection and save myself from potential injury or dis-ease. For the body always has the last say. If I ignore its whispered requests, it must "raise its voice" which, in my case, usually means taking a fall.

The down side of this holistic self-discipline is needing to be willing to change one's plans at the last minute. Listening to one's body is not easy for a people-pleaser. It's counter-cultural. Doesn't our culture value those who "keep to their word" no matter what? Perhaps it's that internalized attitude that makes it so hard for us to see our body as a higher authority than our "word."

This subject is alive in me tonight because I've listened to my body twice in the past four days. In both cases it meant not doing something I'd planned to do.

On Saturday morning I woke up knowing I was done, running on empty, needing to take a day off. I'm sure part of the problem was my having participated in a cold rainy Raging Grannies demo from 4-5:30 PM on Friday afternoon, but even more significant was the simple fact that I'd been on the go for more days than I could count. In this case, listening to my body meant cancelling out of the long-planned Earth Day song celebration that we Great Lakes Basin women of O Beautiful Gaia were to facilitate at the IHM Motherhouse in Monroe, Michigan on Saturday evening.

Then at 6:30 PM this afternoon I said yes to my body's strong insistence that I take a nap. That meant I would not be swimming tonight. When I awoke two hours later feeling wonderfully rested, I knew I'd made the right decision.

As long as I continue to befriend my body in this way, I trust it will serve me well. It certainly has thus far.

I'd like to put up two pictures--photo #1 & #2--taken today at lunch with my friends Brigitte and Joan. We three first met in a water aerobics class at our community park in the summer of 2001. The first lunch we shared was at Atom's Juice Cafe. The date was Monday, September 10, 2001. I recall Brigitte telling us about the year she had spent scavenging for food and shelter all over Germany with her teacher and five other girls. It was shortly after World War II had ended and she was eleven years old. I remember having written about her story in my journal entry that night. The next morning, everything had changed.

Anyway, today was our last lunch--at least for now--because in a week Joan will be moving to Sante Fe. We will miss her.

I have one more picture for you. It is of our neighborhood cardinal taking a bath in yesterday's gentle spring rain.

Support requested for UPOWER 

Two comments have been posted recently by a reader of this blog. I feel what she has to say is important. Please do whatever you can to support these workers who need and deserve to be unionized. Here is what she has to say:

I am a staff member at the University of Michigan. We office staff here are trying to start a Union called UPOWER. It stands for Union of Professional Office Workers. So far we are almost 1000 strong! If we get up to 1800 we are going to call for a vote and hopefully get a union. We are being assisted by GEO and LEO, the lecturer's and Grad students unions.

I wanted to mention it so you can help us with support!

a loyal reader of your blog (or at least some of it)


Christine, is there a web site for UPOWER or an email addy I could give my readers? Let me know, please, because I'd like to do anything I can to support your most necessary work.

Patricia | 04.26.05 - 2:48 pm |

Yes here it is:

We are the only public university in the state that has no union for the staff members. Without the union we are all begging each year for our raises and they are routinely lower than the faculty raises. I've been in my department for 7 years and seen it happen every year.

I appreciate your support.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

revisiting a poem 

Tonight I am reminded of a poem I wrote in September 2003.

A Line of Poetry for Every Headline

The weight of a world the size of a
laptop screen
Cries contained within commas
Anger blazing out of words backlit in a
darkened room
A world so small my footprint
shades it all

The world is larger than this
It spins and dips on an axis defined by
forces we think we understand but
do not

It contains the uncontainable
the silken path of an ant
the song of a hummingbird's wings
the kick of a baby dancing to her mother's heartbeat
the crash of buildings hit by bombs
the tender moans of elderly lovers
the rush of hurricane-swelled rivers
the whisper of a butterfly breaking free of its cocoon

The world is so large that we can never know it
But we must try

We must keep our eyes
--the eyes of our heart and our bodies--
We must allow silence to teach us as much as
We must entertain the mysteries as honored
We must read a line of poetry for every

Patricia Lay-Dorsey
Detroit, Michigan, USA
September 22, 2003

Monday, April 25, 2005

Spring's Return 

What a relief! I awoke to sunny skies and very little snow remaining on the ground. After taking care of computer business, I got out on the roads to celebrate the return of spring. My eyes were so delighted with all I was seeing that I just couldn't put down my camera. I photographed tulips (photo #1 & #2), narcissus, and tulips and daffodils, forsythia, green leafed and flowering trees, a green shrub with grape hyacinths at its base, a side street lit up by lime-green trees, and a close-up of leaves unfolding that turned out exceptionally well (if I do say so myself).

After enjoying an egg salad sandwich outside with Ed at his office, I scooted home and painted intuitively all that I had seen. I call it "Spring's Return."

Everyone I talked with today at the library, the market, on the street, and tonight at the pool admitted to feeling depressed over the weekend. After such a long harsh winter, I think we all feared that spring had been an illusion. But today proved us wrong. We now know that no unseasonable snow can take away what we have gained.

The return of spring wasn't today's only good news. I learned that tonight would be Mr. John Bruce's last meeting as president of the Library Board. If you recall, he was at the heart of our struggles to get a fair contract for our librarians and library staff last summer. Whatever the reason--Perhaps pressure put on by the library supporters?--after twelve years, Mr. Bruce is retiring from the Library Board. We respect and applaud his decision.

There's another bit of good news that I think I forgot to tell you. After hours and days and weeks of phone calls, online research, composing a group letter and informational handout sheets, and gathering a group of us to speak up at a School Board Meeting, we adult lap swimmers were given back our second hour of swim time, the hour that we'd lost in the winter session to a youth swim club. Happily for us, they didn't get enough kids to sign up to swim during the spring session, so we're back to our Monday and Wednesday lap swims from 7:30-9:30 PM. At least now the powers-that-be know how deeply we adult swimmers care about our swim times...and that we will fight to keep them, if need be.

My last piece of news is that my computer has been acting fine and dandy since I had a phone visit with a helpful Apple tech support person on Saturday. But having this problem encouraged me to back up all my stuff onto CDs, so it was well worth the scare.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Library Solidarity web page 

I received an email today from a librarian friend in California. In it she mentioned union negotiating woes they're having and how she'd spent yesterday afternoon handing out leaflets in front of their library. It occurred to me that it might be helpful for her to read about last summer's solidarity actions on behalf of our librarians and library staff here in my community, so I've just put up a new web page called "Think Globally; Act Locally--Library Solidarity."

an April blizzard 

I'm sorry but this is ridiculous. Spring snow, yes, but a spring blizzard on the third weekend in April? Within one week we've had two days of summer-like weather with temperatures in the 80s (photos #1, #2, #3 & #4), followed by gradually cooling temperatures, a day of rain, and now two days of winter-like weather with blizzarding snow. And it doesn't want to stop. As of 2 PM we only have 2-3 inches accumulation, but my friends Casey and Jeanne who live an hour north of here awoke this morning to a foot (12") of heavy wet snow covering their land!

What a shock to the plants and creatures. My purple hyacinths are loaded down with the weight of the snow while their pink companion is doing its best to put on a bright face. The forsythia don't look particularly happy, nor do the buds on the maple tree outside my window.

Casey and Jeanne say they've been out several times in the past couple of hours shovelling a spot of earth clear of snow so the ground-feeding birds that congregate under their many birdfeeders will have a chance to get some nourishment. They say it is such a strange sight to see the finches, who have already clothed themselves in their yellow spring colors, standing out against the white of the snow. And they tell me the weather channel on TV is reporting strange weather conditions all across the country. Casey's mother in southern Florida is experiencing temperatures in the 50s, while the Pacific Northwest is being flooded with torrents of rain.

Are there still people out there who don't believe that we're in the middle of serious global climate changes? And do they not see that much of it is our own doing.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Heads up, friends, we're getting close to the point of no return... 

From the article "Bush's Most Radical Plan Yet" by Osha Gray Davidson in today's issue of Rolling Stone, comes the most chilling bit of news I've heard in a long time. I encourage you to read the entire article, but this is the core of it:

If you've got something to hide in Washington, the best place to bury it is in the federal budget. The spending plan that President Bush submitted to Congress this year contains 2,000 pages that outline funding to safeguard the environment, protect workers from injury and death, crack down on securities fraud and ensure the safety of prescription drugs. But almost unnoticed in the budget, tucked away in a single paragraph, is a provision that could make every one of those protections a thing of the past.

The proposal, spelled out in three short sentences, would give the president the power to appoint an eight-member panel called the "Sunset Commission," which would systematically review federal programs every ten years and decide whether they should be eliminated. Any programs that are not "producing results," in the eyes of the commission, would "automatically terminate unless the Congress took action to continue them."

The administration portrays the commission as a well-intentioned effort to make sure that federal agencies are actually doing their job. "We just think it makes sense," says Clay Johnson, deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget, which crafted the provision. "The goal isn't to get rid of a program--it's to make it work better."

In practice, however, the commission would enable the Bush administration to achieve what Ronald Reagan only dreamed of: the end of government regulation as we know it. With a simple vote of five commissioners--many of them likely to be lobbyists and executives from major corporations currently subject to federal oversight--the president could terminate any program or agency he dislikes. No more Environmental Protection Agency. No more Food and Drug Administration. No more Securities and Exchange Commission.

We've been seeing this kind of behind-the-scenes dismantling of governmental protections in the EPA and FDA since George W. Bush came to office in 2000. Significant relaxation of regulations set forward in the Clean Air and Water Acts of the 1970s, for instance, have been accomplished beneath the radar screen of public scrutiny by instituting "policy changes" that did not need Congressional approval. But now they're upping the ante. Not only would regulations be lifted but entire programs or agencies terminated.

This, my friends, is VERY SCARY. We must raise a ruckus--write Letters To the Editors, contact our elected officials, get the word out through emails, calls and at meetings--so that George and his Neocon buddies don't throw us back into the Dark Ages. This is a SERIOUS challenge to our country and our world. We can't sit around fiddling while all we hold dear for ourselves, our children and our planet goes up in smoke.

Whenever is that pendulum going to swing back to the left?

Friday, April 22, 2005

Just in case... 

My computer has been acting very strangely the past couple of days and I don't know what's going on. So if there comes a time when I unexpectedly stop updating my journal and blog and don't answer your emails, please know it's likely that my computer has crashed. And if it does, it could take awhile to get things up and running again. But maybe I'll get lucky and the tech-gremlins that are running around in there will settle down. In the meantime I'm going to try to back things up on CDs (like I should have been doing all along!).

Happy Earth Day! 

We Raging Grannies celebrated the day by mounting another rage in front of a Ford dealership here in the Detroit area. As on Fossil Fools Day, our purpose was to encourage Ford to think about what its high fuel emissions and low fuel gas mileage are doing to the earth and its inhabitants. On this cold rainy afternoon, the manager of the dealership who had tried to sell us a bill of goods on April 1 didn't even bother to acknowledge our presence. But that didn't bother us; we seven Grannies were happy to sing and hold our signs and banner for traffic on well-travelled Woodward Avenue. We got LOTS of honks for Mother Earth and an old friend, Detroit Free Press photographer Eric Seals, was there to document our demonstration. He had spent an hour or more with us in front of a Wal-Mart on a cold snowy day last December. Today it was raining, but that was a gift. Our earth was very thirsty after weeks of hot dry weather. I could almost hear her licking her lips.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

A Year of Poems--2004 

This time of year every day I spend at school with Susan and the kids is precious. It's only eight weeks until summer vacation. Susan laughs at me because I'm just about the only one among the students, teachers and staff who doesn't want school to end. I just miss Susan and the kids so much during the summer. That's what happens when you're fortunate enough to do what you love.

Tonight I added new web page...A Year of Poems 2004. I'd collected them months ago but had forgotten to put them up. Thanks to a reader who emailed me today about the poems. I'd gathered from 2003, I finally took care of business.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

And the new pope? 

I send my heartfelt condolences to all the world's people who identify as Roman Catholics...especially the women, those who live in countries where HIV/AIDS is raging out of control, theologians who embrace change as a sign of life, lay persons who want to offer their gifts of leadership to their church communities, gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgendered persons of faith who long to be accepted as valued members of the Body of Christ, the oppressed poor in Latin America who turn to their church as a voice for justice, critical thinkers who believe in their right to question authority and be heard, victims of clergy sexual abuse who work for open dialogue and acknowledgement of guilt by the institutional church, creative liturgical innovators, and the youth who deserve a church of the 21st century not one that harkens back to the 20th century and earlier.

Cardinal Ratzinger has been known for decades as the Enforcer of Church Doctrine. The chances of his changing his stripes is infinitesimal. If anything, without the moderating influence of Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI will probably swing even further to the right. He is a man accustomed to being obeyed and historically brooks no dissent. His favored punishment for not toeing his ecclesiastical line is to impose a Silencing order on the offending theologian, priest or nun. He lobbied long and hard to become pope and will consolidate his power as quickly as possible.

You may think my assessment is too harsh, but I am not alone. Rabbi Michael Lerner, a highly respected voice for world peace and interfaith dialogue, titled his article about the subject, The New Pope is a Disaster for the World and for the Jews.

I wonder if it is helpful to say that my opinions about Cardinal Ratzinger and his predecessor Pope John Paul II come out of lived experience.

From my birth in 1942 until 1993, I was a Roman Catholic myself. In 1987 I was Moderator of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council, a group of 65 bishops, priests, nuns and lay persons charged with advising Archbishop Szoka (now Cardinal Szoka) on matters pertaining to the Archdiocese of Detroit. From 1988-89 I wrote a weekly column in The Michigan Catholic. Before I left the church in 1993, I was active in Pax Christi, a national Catholic peace organization, and had allied myself with liberation theologians and the progressive arm of the church. I was even a spiritual retreat facilitator for a number of years.

So when I comment on issues having to do with the Catholic Church, I know whereof I speak. And when I go on to say I have been happily free of all religious ties for twelve years, I speak as a woman filled with gratitude for that hard-won freedom.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Touched by Marla 

Marla Ruzicka's life and death have touched more people around the world than we will ever know. I am one of those touched. I do not want her story to be lost or forgotten. For that reason I am posting 1) links to a piece she'd filed with USA Today a week before she died, and the editorial--An Advocate for Iraqis Falls. Will U.S. Take Up Her Cause?--published today in that same newspaper ; 2) a photo of Marla that I downloaded off the website of her humanitarian organization, CIVIC Worldwide; 3) an article written about her by her friend and colleague Matthew McAllester, a correspondent with Long Island, NY Newsday.

I also ask you to read David Corn's remembrance of Marla that was published today in The Nation. In it he does more than celebrate her life and tell of her tragic death; he encourages everyone to donate to Marla's organization. Colleagues of Ms Ruzicka at CIVIC (Campaign for Innocent Victims In Conflict) have vowed to continue her work. As David says, your donation "won't be just for Marla. It will be for the people she lived and died for--and for a principle that all Americans ought to consider seriously: when we fight a war, we are responsible for the triumphs and for the costs."

  • The following article was published on Monday, April 18, 2005 by Long Island, NY Newsday

    Passionate advocate for victims of war, 28-year-old is slain in suicide blast on road to Baghdad airport

    by Matthew McAllester

    My friend Marla Ruzicka was killed by a suicide bomber in Baghdad on Saturday. She was 28, and she risked her life helping people for a living.

    Many people have died in Iraq since the invasion, few more worthy of your tears and mine than she was.

    Marla spent the last few years doing her best to make sure that innocent victims of American wars received due compensation. She didn't take sides or a political stance; she preferred to help. A man pedaling a bicycle to work shot dead in Iraq or Afghanistan, a bomb falling too close to someone's house -- Marla would help get the families and communities some money. Working with Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), she persuaded Congress to appropriate a total of $17.5 million to help victims in those countries.

    She grew up in Lakeport, Calif., and obtained a bachelor's in political science and social work at Long Island University.

    After going to Afghanistan at the end of that war, she founded and ran an aid agency called Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict, or CIVIC. She was never shrill, never to be denied.

    "She was the only one of us who ever did anything good," a reporter friend said to me on the phone from Baghdad on Saturday night, talking as though Marla, an aid worker, was one of us, a correspondent. "Our stupid stories."

    She e-mailed me recently from Baghdad about the latest stage of her mission: "I am trying to set up a way that the Americans will give me info on casualties they cause so I can then apply for compensation. I am going to stay here another two weeks -- hard to leave. Making little bits of progress here with the new round of troops -- they really want to help but have their hands tied -- so I am learning to break those ties -- all this takes time and I am setting up things for my return in the summer."

    With her death, her family loses, and thousands of people in the margins of the wars we wage nowadays lose.

    She and CIVIC's Iraqi country director, a man named Faiz, were killed when a suicide bomber in a car attacked an armed convoy on the most dangerous road in the world on Saturday afternoon. It was the road to the airport in Baghdad, and she was, apparently, on her way back from an interview with an Iraqi family.

    As the word spread to friends -- so many of them reporters -- in Washington, Istanbul, New York, some people sobbed over the phone. We put together words for a living, but those few words we could come up with were banal and useless.

    Marla was lovely, frail, strong, would swim every morning in our hotel pool in Baghdad and encourage us all to do the same "for your mental health." She yearned for nothing more than for the absurdly large number of people she adored to adore each other. She was the ultimate hostess and had organized another of her parties at the Hamra hotel for Saturday night. When she failed to turn up for her own party, everyone knew something was wrong.

    It was typical that she should be working and partying on the same day. It was through her party-throwing skills that she developed such a broad base of support for CIVIC in the first place.

    Take a look at her and her work on You'll see for yourself.

    "Check out the August issue of Elle where I am featured on page 93!" Marla wrote on the site. "Tell your friend to check it out, too, as it builds profile for CIVIC. (I sure wish they would give me a makeover -- I need one!)"

    She'll never need a makeover in the eyes of those very many she cared for. She was great as she was.

    2005 Newsday, Inc.

  • Monday, April 18, 2005

    Another innocent killed in Iraq 

    When I read this evening of the death of Marla Ruzicka in Iraq, I recalled with profound regret the opportunity I had missed to help her in her attempts to document cases of innocent individuals killed and wounded in the war on Iraq.

    It was November 2003 when I read an article in about Marla and CIVIC (Campaign for Innocent Victims In Conflict), the humanitarian organization she had founded soon after the start of George W. Bush's war on Iraq. In the article, Marla requested donations so that she could continue going door-to-door in Baghdad and gathering details about the deaths and woundings of Iraqi civilians. Her email address was printed at the end of the article.

    I immediately emailed Marla thanking her for the essential work she was doing, and asked for an address where I could send a donation. She emailed me back within a week or two and expressed gratitude for my interest. She included an address in California where I could send a tax-deductible donation.

    I never followed through.

    And now I read that this compassionate, courageous woman, her driver/translator Faiz Ali Salim, and one U.S. contractor were killed on Saturday by a suicide car bomb intended for a convoy of U.S. contractors on the airport road to Baghdad. Marla Ruzicka was only 28 years old but had already given more to our world during that short time than most people give in a long lifetime.

    In an article by her colleagues, Kevin Danaher and Medea Benjamin, I learned that Marla's organization, CIVIC, had continued to operate on a shoe-string due to inadequate funds. She had only returned to Iraq a couple of weeks ago after months of work advocating in Washington, DC and elsewhere for compensation to be paid to the innocent victims in Iraq and Afghanistan. She was currently working on getting funds, a passport and visa for an orphaned Iraqi teenager so that he could travel to California to get the surgery he needed.

    When told of Marla's death, the boy's brother-in-law, Haj Natheer Bashir, said, "God bless her pure soul; she was trying to help us."

    The older I get, the more I realize it is not the things I do that will come back to haunt me; it is the things I fail to do.

    Sunday, April 17, 2005

    home from retreat 

    Don't you love how things never turn out as you expect? I came away from Carolyn McDade's singing retreat at the Leaven Center changed, but in ways that surprised me. What I had thought would touch me most deeply, didn't; but other things I couldn't have imagined, did. Like the river and the land.

    Before breakfast on the first morning, I sat overlooking the Grand River and saw a doe grazing on the far shore, an eagle soaring above the river heading east, a blue heron flying into the woods with its long neck tucked into its chest, woodpeckers drumming, chickadees, robins and countless birds I couldn't identify. I also saw what I first thought were mounds of snow being carried along by the current, "snow" that we later discovered was most likely soap suds from an industrial plant upriver.

    Over those two days and nights, I spent hours sitting by myself in the middle of a meadow that stretched from a grassy path west to the horizon. When the words of Adrienne Rich pierced my heart on Friday morning, I let the earth ground me. These words--that Carolyn had recently set to music--were:

    My heart is moved by all I cannot save.
    So much has been destroyed.
    I cast my lot among those who, age after age,
    perversely, with no extraordinary power,
    reconstitute the world.

    This was everything I needed to know about my life, my work and why I do what I do.

    There is much I want to share with you but now is not the time. Now I must sleep.

    Wednesday, April 13, 2005

    A weekend of song 

    "Trouble and Beauty: A Women's Singing Circle" is how Carolyn McDade's retreat is listed in the Leaven Center's schedule of events. It involves two days--Friday, April 15, from 9:30 AM-4:30 PM, and Saturday, April 16, from 9:30 AM-4:30 PM. Those of us--at least 26 at last count--who live too far away to commute will be spending Thursday and Friday nights at the retreat center. Since most of those sleeping over are members of our Great Lakes Basin community of the O Beautiful Gaia project, we're anticipating having a high old time together. We've got a potluck supper planned for Friday night and I'm sure there will be lots of music-making and laughter as well.

    Judy Drylie and I are picking Carolyn up at Detroit's Metro airport around noon tomorrow. From there we'll go to Ann Arbor for lunch, and then on to the Leaven Center which is halfway between Lansing and Grand Rapids. It's a beautiful natural wooden lodge situated on the banks of the Grand River, and I'm looking forward to trying out their new handicap-accessible trails. After the retreat ends at 4:30 PM on Saturday, Carolyn will come spend the night with Ed and me. I'll then take her to the airport for her early afternoon flight on Sunday.

    I don't know if you recall that Carolyn McDade was the singer/songwriter who spun the web of the O Beautiful Gaia CD project. Even though she lives on Cape Cod in Massachusetts, I've been attending her song circles and retreats in Ontario, Michigan, Pennsylvania and even once in New Mexico since 1993. Actually it was Carolyn who first introduced me to the women who are now at the heart of my Detroit/Windsor women's community.

    Have a wonderful spring weekend, and I'll catch up with you on Sunday nght.

    Detroit's delights and Detroit's woes 

    While my eyes and heart have been focused on Wandy and Winky, our recently-retired Detroit Zoo elephants (see the latest Detroit Free Press article and an updated Photo Gallery), the city of Detroit has been trying to avert going into receivership due to a projected $300 million deficit in their 2005-06 budget.

    On Tuesday, as Wanda revelled in her new freedom and Winky was slowly getting used to it, Mayor Kilpatrick announced his proposed deep cuts in the city budget for 2005-06. Not even the police and firefighters are safe.

    The plan calls for dismissal of the current Police Academy class and layoffs of 61 firefighters and 38 paramedics. In all, 754 city employees would be laid off and the remaining city workers asked to take a 10-percent pay cut, and voters would be asked to approve a 2-percent tax on fast foods. The general fund operating payments that help run the Detroit Zoo, Detroit Historical Museum, the Dossin Great Lakes Museum and Historic Ft. Wayne would also be eliminated. Kilpatrick hopes that the non-profit groups that already support these museums would be willing to run them. The Detroit Institute of Arts is already run in a similar manner.

    Of course, the Detroit City Council is likely to mount a pitched battle over the mayor's plan, but whether they agree with his proposed cuts or not, the reality is that millions of dollars must be found from someplace.

    We're obviously in for a long hot summer.

    Tuesday, April 12, 2005

    sleep, spring & camels 

    I don't know if it's spring fever, but I seem to be needing A LOT of sleep these days. Between school and swimming yesterday, I took a two-hour nap. Then today after working out at the gym, I took another nap, this one for an hour and a half. And it wasn't as if I hadn't gotten a good night's sleep either. I must have slept 9-10 hours last night. Maybe it's all that fresh air I'm getting on my scooter rides.

    You know, that's what I miss most during the winter--being able to go for nice long scooter rides and feel fresh air in my lungs. Since returning from California it seems like I've been out on the roads almost every day. I take that mile and a half ride along the Singing Street so often that I've gotten to know every tree, bush and flower along the way. Day by day I see the buds on the trees grow fatter and fuzzier, the bushes begin to sprout tiny green leaves, and new flowers burst into bloom.

    Today's "firsts" were seeing my first green leafed tree of the season, the first magnolia tree with its fragrant white blossoms (photos #1 & #2), and the yellow forsythia starting to bloom. And now daffodils are in the ascendancy while the croci are losing their luster.

    I can't recall ever having enjoyed the slow unfolding of spring more I am this year. Of course, I can't recall ever having lived through such a long hard winter before either.

    Ed and I saw the most amazing film on DVD tonight. It's called "The Weeping Camel" and is set among the people of the Gobi Desert in Upper Mongolia. In this film you see a camel giving birth, and get an eye into the day-to-day lives of four generations of a sheep- and camel-owning family who live in an exquisitely-decorated yurt out in the middle of the desert. The visuals and story are unique and tender. I so recommend it.

    Monday, April 11, 2005

    News from all fronts 

    It's that time of year again, the time when we start losing our students to Lebanon, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Yemen. For some, it's just for the summer, but for others it's more permanent.

    Today one of my favorite fourth grade girls gave me a hug goodbye on this, her last day at our school. She and her family are moving to Saudi Arabia. I can't help but wonder how this fashionably-dressed, unscarved little girl will adjust to the changes she is bound to encounter in her new home.

    From everything I read and hear about Saudi Arabia, girls and women live very restricted lives there. Women are not allowed to drive. Education for girls is a low priority because marriage and motherhood are considered their only appropriate roles. And, as far as I can tell, one must be scarved at the very least. I have trouble imagining my high-spirited young friend there.

    Today another of my young friends was telling me about her mother's family in Iraq. "A bomb hit right by their house, " she said, "but no one was hurt." But she went on to say that her aunt and cousin, her mother's sister and her young son, were killed when they were run over. I didn't ask by whom. My friend's mother is trying to get her sister's five children to the States so she can raise them. That would make ten children in their family.

    These children and their families are living through things I can't even imagine. Can you?


    The first year of entries by Riverbend on her blog, Baghdad Burning, has been published in book form. That is SUCH GOOD NEWS!!! Maybe there is still a market for truth.


    And I just can't get enough news about Wanda and Winky in their new paradise. Every word makes me smile. And wait till you see the photos of our girls exploring their new terrain! Follow this link to the Detroit Free Press photo gallery. Now here's today's report:



    April 11, 2005...SAN ANDREAS, Calif. -- Across a rolling green meadow, past a glittering pond and to the top of a small hillock, Wanda the elephant lumbered Sunday morning, moments after the gate to her new universe -- a 45-acre enclosure at a the Ark 2000 elephant sanctuary -- opened to her new life.

    She waved her trunk through thick patches of green clover and purple lupine still wet with morning dew. She grabbed low-hanging oak tree branches. She squeaked in apparent approval.

    Her former zookeepers clung to the steel cables of the enclosure, watching her grow more distant and fighting their emotions.

    "It's hard to believe it's her," said Detroit elephant keeper Patti Miles as she watched Wanda, the arthritic 48-year-old who some believed would be hobbled by the long truck trip from Detroit.

    "God, it's just so incredible to see her that far away from us," said Scott Carter, the zoo's director of conservation and animal welfare, as he watched Wanda.

    Her companion, Winky, played it more cautiously, leaving the safety of the barn several times to experience the novelty of tall grass and open space, making it a few yards farther from the barn each time.

    The sanctuary's three other Asian elephants watched Wanda's progress curiously, rumbling and squeaking greetings to her from a gated outdoor enclosure. Elephant keepers were waiting Sunday afternoon to see whether Wanda would introduce herself over the fence to the trio. If she does, they might release them into the same yard quickly. Or, it could be several days before they're together.

    It all depends on the elephants: "We're on elephant time now," said Carter, noting that human timetables are irrelevant in the elephants' world.

    Wanda's aggressive exploration of the acreage and Winky's limited forays outside the barn were more than many of their handlers had expected during the delicate adjustment period after their arrival Friday morning.

    Some elephants have taken months to venture into the full 45-acre grounds, said Pat Derby, founder of the Performing Animal Welfare Society, of which Ark 2000 is a part.

    "Our elephant Annie stood by the gate for four months," Derby said. "So this is fantastic. These girls are doing great. We're going to have to put track shoes on Wanda."

    Copyright © 2005 Detroit Free Press Inc.

    Sunday, April 10, 2005

    Reflections on our treatment of Gaia & Gaia's treatment of us 

    Such a lovely spring weekend! I saw so many "firsts" of the season: the first lemonade stand, the first speedboat, the first kayak, the first people playing tennis at the park, the first picnic, and the first green leafy bush. I also saw a fellow fishing at the park and a laker out in the channel, but neither was the first I'd seen.

    I sat out by the water for a couple of hours this afternoon and it was so warm I had to remove my sweater. The moment I won't forget was when I heard a strange whrrring sound overhead that had a repetitive squeak to it. When I looked up I saw a long-necked swan flying by.

    Everything seems special this year.


    I'd like to share an email I recently received from my friend Jeff. As an individual who has spent many years working as a volunteer for environmental causes, his reflections about issues having to do with that subject are always valuable.

    Hi Patricia,

    I remember we discussed daylight savings time...which I generally think is a good device for the relationship between our current society and our planet.

    I saw this article this morning [Friday, April 8] in the San Francisco Chronicle:

    "If Congress passes an energy bill, Americans may see more daylight-saving time.

    "Lawmakers crafting energy legislation approved an amendment Wednesday to extend daylight-saving time by two months, having it start on the last Sunday in March and end on the last Sunday in November.

    "Extending daylight-saving time makes sense, especially with skyrocketing energy costs," said Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., who along with Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., co-sponsored the measure.

    "The amendment was approved by the House Energy and Commerce Committee that is putting together major parts of energy legislation likely to come up for a vote in the full House in the coming weeks.

    "The more daylight we have, the less electricity we use," said Markey, who cited Transportation Department estimates that showed the two-month extension would save the equivalent of 10,000 barrels of oil a day.

    "The country uses about 20 million barrels of oil a day."

    Warning: the rest of this email could be depressing...

    It's so interesting--and of course frightening--that so few people seem to have noticed the root cause of why oil and gas prices have risen and will continue to rise. After a century of pumping madly, the Earth simply is running out of oil. The economics are so fascinating...They include the likelihood that the oil companies don't want oil to run out too fast or prices to spike too suddenly because then somebody else with other technologies (tides? wind? solar? hydrogen fuel cell?) may take over the energy market...

    There's a price point at which gasoline becomes so expensive that people will return to public transit and switch to alternative-fuel cars. Which of course would be wonderful in many ways (although not in all ways). The oil companies want to stay below that trigger point, yet they want prices high enough to make lots of $$. And of course they want to pump every drop on the planet first so they can continue making money as long as possible, no matter what that does to the environment.

    Meanwhile OPEC doesn't have anywhere near the control over prices that the Republicans have been claiming...It's all complex and largely corrupt, yet the underlying reality is simple and has long been predicted for the early and mid 21st century: we ARE running out of oil. Actually because India and China are "developing" quicker and using more oil than had been predicted, we will run out sooner than we thought, even as of a few years ago.

    This is going to be a very different looking planet when Noah [Jeff's 5 year-old son] is my current age--assuming he survives. We're facing so many bizarre risks, the biggest probably being the avian flu currently coming out of Viet Nam and its likely mutations, which could kill hundreds of millions of people within the next 10 years.

    Humans forget that periodically nature sends us a pandemic beyond the scope of our level of medical science at the time, and that it "thins out" out large percentages of our population. We haven't had a major pandemic since 1918, although AIDS is fast becoming one.

    Perhaps it's a good thing people don't know about all these risks; it would be too frightening. We seem to expect that we should be so much safer than humans were in previous eras when wars, bad use of resources, natural disasters and pestilence wiped out so many of our species. Yet as our technology has protected us in some ways, it's simultaneously speeded up the destructive forces our activities unleash. Global warming is the best example of this, with its promise of accompanying storms, rising sea levels, famine, forced migrations, and even earthquakes.

    Of course even if we solved all our problems and became perfectly harmonious creatures of our living Gaia, we still could get hit by a random asteroid and be completely destroyed that way, from no fault of our own.

    Maybe this is a good time to buy stock in companies that produce anti-depressants, because if/when people do learn more and more about how we've compromised our future, they'll need medications to stay upbeat enough to keep going.

    My philosophy is that life has always been fragile and full of risk, and that this era is like all others in that respect...

    love, Jeff

    Saturday, April 09, 2005

    Wanda & Winky settle in 

    DETROIT'S TRAVELING ELEPHANTS: Winky, Wanda warily test their new territory


    April 9, 2005

    SAN ANDREAS, Calif. -- Down a muddy two-track road, it materializes out of the mist like a movie set from "Jurassic Park," this lush green mountain pasture crisscrossed with fortress-like metal gates and ribbons of thick, braided steel wire.

    On Friday, the Ark 2000 sanctuary became home to Detroit's two aging Asian elephants. They arrived shortly after daybreak in a steady downpour from a slate-gray sky.

    Winky, 52, and Wanda, 48, started their new lives in a cavernous barn where they tossed dirt, fondled the bars of the steel enclosure with their trunks, and took oranges and loaves of sourdough bread from their handlers.

    But first, there had been the matter of coaxing them out of the trailer where they'd just ended 71 grueling hours of travel.

    "Back Wanda! Steady big girl, I'm right back here, sweetness. We're going to get you out of there," assured Mary Wulff, one of the elephant keepers.

    Wanda, the more adventurous of the pair, took 15 minutes to backpedal haltingly out of the trailer onto the soft dirt floor. There, she explored a collection of familiar toys from home that included her "purse" -- a log with a chain-link carrying handle -- and a huge brush from a municipal street sweeper suspended 7 feet high on a wire.
    She explored playfully for 30 minutes, stirring up a pine-chip bed that had been prepared for her, and then showed little signs of wear from the cramped trip.

    But she was still "curious and perky," suggested elephant keeper Rick Wendt.

    "Active, curious, doesn't look sore or tired," Scott Carter, director of conservation at the Detroit Zoo, reported over his cell phone to Zoo Director Ron Kagan.

    But Winky stayed put, cowering in the front of the trailer.

    Soon Wanda began rhythmic rocking and swaying, classic signs of stress that zookeepers expected during her introduction.

    Finally, after more than three hours of begging, pleading and cajoling from zookeepers, Winky backed her wide-body frame into the barn and joined Wanda.

    The two elephants touched trunks affectionately.

    But the exhausted staff from the Detroit Zoo -- a half-dozen of whom had spent the 3-day trip living, eating and sleeping in a rented minivan -- managed only wan smiles of relief.

    By early evening, Michigan time, the keepers were letting the elephants get acclimated to the barn.

    Today, the Detroit elephants may be released fully into the 45-acre Asian elephant grounds where they can walk gentle hills -- as opposed to their flat, 1-acre zoo grounds -- swim in a natural pond, and munch on dozens of varieties of vegetation.

    It is expected to be the final stop on a life journey for the pair that began with their capture as small calves in Asia.

    Winky lived at the Sacramento Zoo -- only 70 miles from her new home -- all her life until her transfer to Detroit in 1991.

    Wanda had a rougher life, working for the Disney company as a youngster on the Mickey Mouse Show, and moving to private animal collections after that. She was given to the San Antonio Zoo, where she was once pushed into a moat and injured during a fight with another elephant. Then she went to the Ft. Worth Zoo and, in 1994, to Detroit. During much of her life she was chained and unable to move freely, said Carter.

    To donate or to get more information about PAWS, go to or write to Performing Animal Welfare Society, P.O. Box 849, Galt, CA 95632.

    Contact HUGH McDIARMID JR. at 248-351-3295 or

    Copyright © 2005 Detroit Free Press Inc.

    Friday, April 08, 2005

    The delicious colors of spring 

    So often the artist is the last to know where her/his images come from, but today I got lucky. As I downloaded and looked at the digital photos I'd taken outside during this--another--beautiful spring day, I saw the similarity between the painting I made late this afternoon and the bark of a tree I'd photographed earlier. When I saw the photo I'd taken of the purple and white striped croci blooming extravagantly in our front yard, I began to see where the colors in the painting had originated.

    Spring is such a colorful time. Even in its subtle beginnings, bursts of color sing out so radiantly that one doesn't even notice the trees are still leafless. Every day new colors appear. First it was the white and purple faces of croci with their orange tongues sticking out, and the grass getting greener by the hour. Soon the golden yellow of daffodils joined the mix, and it won't be long before we'll be seeing scarlet red tulips.

    All this color makes me lick my lips in delight. How I LOVE spring!

    Tinkerbelle's sad story 

    Jeff in California, a faithful reader of my blog, sent me an article today that refutes my assertion that our Detroit Zoo was the first to "voluntarily relinquish its elephants for ethical reasons." I should have known that San Francisco--the leader in most things cultural/social/political--would have already taken that commendable step. On March 26, 2005, the San Francisco Chronicle published the sad story of their elephant Tinkerbelle's life and death.

    update on Wanda and Winky 

    This morning we read the following article about our beloved elephant friends, Wanda and Winky. I'm sure by now Winky is out of his traveling trailer and has joined Wanda in their new home. You might want to check out the PAWS (Performing Animals Welfare Society) web site to see where Wanda and Winky will spend their remaining years. Hope the elephant jacuzzi soothes Wanda's arthritis!



    Friday, April 8, 2005

    SAN ANDREAS, Calif. - The Detroit Zoo elephants, Wanda and Winky, arrived safely at the Ark 2000 elephant sanctuary today at about 8 a.m. Eastern time.

    It took about 15 minutes for workers to unload Wanda starting at about 8:30 a.m., and she has been making herself comfortable at the sanctuary in San Andreas, about 70 miles from of Sacramento.

    Scott Carter, director of conservation and animal welfare for the Detroit Zoo, said he called zoo director Ron Kagan this morning and told him that “Wanda is curious, active and doesn’t look tired.”

    Wanda, 48, is exploring her surroundings, throwing dirt on herself and checking out the barn at the sanctuary and her toys.

    Winky, however, is another story. The 52-year-old pachyderm is balking at coming out of the trailer and it could take as long as three hours to coax him out, said zookeepers at the sanctuary.

    The trip to California took about 70 hours; it was expected to last 52.

    On Thursday, both Winky and Wanda were doing well on the road trip and were eating (bagels and sweet potatoes microwaved at truck stops) and drinking (Gatorade and water) and were in relatively good spirits, said Pat Derby, the founder of the Performing Animal Welfare Society, of which Ark 2000 is a part.

    In Detroit, the pair's outdoor space was one acre. At Ark 2000, another 75 acres is enclosed for the sanctuary's African elephants, which are kept separate from the Asians.

    In a cavernous barn filled with soft, loose dirt and remote-controlled steel gates, Winky and Wanda are expected be evaluated for the toll the trip has taken on them physically and emotionally.

    Contact HUGH McDIARMID JR. at 248-351-3295 or

    Copyright ©2005 Detroit Free Press Inc.

    Thursday, April 07, 2005

    A story with a happy ending 

    I know there's a lot going on in the world today, much of it significantly important to untold numbers of people, but here in the Detroit area, we have our own small--well, not so small--drama going on. It has to do with two aging arthritic elephants named Wanda and Winky.

    These two sociable creatures have captured our hearts even as we are letting them go. After having spent decades on a 1-acre plot of land in the Detroit Zoo, Wanda, 46, and Winky, 52, are making the road trip of their lives. And it's not over yet. Well, maybe by the time you read this, it will be. All going well.

    The Detroit Free Press is keeping us up-to-date:


    Thursday, April 7, 2005


    The road to California is taking a little longer than expected for the aging and arthritic Detroit Zoo elephants, Winky and Wanda.

    The elephants were expected to arrive this morning at the Ark 2000 sanctuary in San Andreas, Calif., about 70 miles outside of Sacramento. However, they were still on the road and as of 10:30 a.m. Eastern time today and were departing Rawlins, Wyoming, which is in the south-central part of the state. They are expected to arrive at the sanctuary sometime after midnight tonight or in the early morning hours Friday.

    But the trip has been smooth-going so far, and the elephants are "doing well. They're both eating well,'' said Scott Carter, director of Conservation and Animal Welfare for the Detroit Zoo. Carter has been part of the caravan taking Winky and Wanda to the sanctuary.

    Carter said both pachyderms are eating an assortment of bagels, and Wanda has been eating sweet potatoes, which the zoo staff microwaves at truck stops.

    Two of the six zookeepers traveling with Wanda and Winky slept in the trailer last night and said it's tough to tell if the elephants slept. Winky often sleeps standing up, but Wanda usually lays down to sleep, which she can't do in the trailer. But both animals could have slept standing up.

    The 2,300-mile journey is the culmination of a yearlong struggle over the elephants' fate that captured the attention of people across the nation.

    At the Ark 2000 sanctuary, where they will spend their remaining days, they will have far more room to roam during their final years than they would have had in the zoo's 1-acre complex. The sanctuary is run by the Performing Animal Welfare Society and has seven elephants roaming 100 acres.

    There is a remote video camera that monitors their behavior and a temperature gauge that sends readings from the trailer. There are custom-made metal bars installed just below rump height to allow Wanda, the more arthritic of the two, to sit.

    Once they arrive at sanctuary, they'll be unloaded into the elephant barn. If all goes well, they could be meeting the three other Asian elephants, with a fence separating them, within hours. It will take days and perhaps weeks of acclimation before they are released into the herd.

    Their journey is a victory for Detroit's Zoo Director, Ron Kagan, who went up against the zoo establishment in his assertion that Wanda and Winky deserved better than we, or ANY zoo, could give them. He fought for over a year to allow these two aging pachyderms to spend their final years in a setting more in keeping with their needs.

    This is the first time a zoo has ever voluntarily relinquished elephants solely on ethical grounds. But once the story hit the newspapers last summer, the public was overwhelmingly in favor of Kagan's plan. Unfortunately the American Zoo and Aquarium Association maintains this is not the "beginning of the end of elephants in zoos." But as long as Ron Kagan is the director of our zoo, I doubt if we'll be seeing elephants here. Thank goodness.

    From a Detroit Free Press article by Hugh McDiarmid, Jr. on April 1:

    The trip is the latest chapter in a year-long saga that put Winky and Wanda in the midst of a national tug-of-war between those who favored sanctuary life for the animals and others who thought that an accredited zoo would be a better option.

    Kagan ruffled many in the national zoo community when he questioned whether any zoo, especially zoos in colder northern climates, are appropriate places for elephants, which are among the earth's most intelligent and social creatures.

    His plan to send Winky and Wanda to a sanctuary was blocked by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association, the group that accredits zoos and directs the movements of elephants among its members. The AZA directed the pair to the Columbus, Ohio, zoo instead.

    In the midst of a maelstrom of public criticism, the AZA agreed to the sanctuary plan after announcing that one of Detroit's elephants potentially had a disease that might be transmitted to a baby elephant in Columbus.

    May our two friends soon recover from their stressful and I'm sure, painful, journey, and settle into their new home with grace and dignity. May their new elephant community accept them and help them thrive. And may zoo officials all over the world wake up to the damage they are doing to elephants and other wild animals who, as Ron Kagan says, deserve better than any zoo can give them.

    Wednesday, April 06, 2005

    Windsor Women In Black 

    Whenever I'm with women who stay faithful to the struggle for justice and peace day after day, week after week, month after month and year after year, I know we will never be stopped. No matter who is president or prime minister of our respective countries, no matter what wars they wage, what nefarious alliances they forge, what social programs they demolish, what natural resources they despoil, we will not give in or give up; we will continue to band together to work for what we believe to be in the best interests of our neighbors at home and abroad, the animal and plant species with whom we share this earth, the generations to come, and the planet itself.

    Today, after getting my hair cut at Leesa's Hair Salon and visiting with my dear friends Alma and Leesa, I was privileged to join the Windsor Women In Black (WIB) at their weekly vigil for peace. These women--sometimes accompanied by their children and grandchildren--have not missed a Wednesday since their group was formed in November 2002. No matter how cold and snowy, wet and windy, sunny and hot the weather, they have stood in silence for a half hour from 12:15-12:45 PM, across from the entrance to the bridge to the United States, in front of the University of Windsor, and offered students, truckers, Canadian and American drivers and pedestrians a model of what it means to pledge your heart, mind and spirit to something greater than yourself.

    Recently the Windsor Women In Black have expanded their commitment to include organizing workshops for women about important issues like water, hosting activists and organizers from other countries--two Peruvian women will be coming to Windsor in June--and instituting letter-writing campaigns aimed at changing federal and provincial policies. Where they used to meet at Tim Horton's for coffee and tea after every vigil, they now meet in the backroom of a global folk arts store called 10,000 Villages, and alternate discussing which issues to target, with sitting down and actually writing the letters. They count on each woman to research these issues on her own during the week.

    Don't they inspire you to do more? They do me.


    Special thanks to the readers who responded to my question regarding the name of the star-like blue flowers I photographed on Monday. According to my experts from around the world, they are scilla siberica or more commonly known as Siberian Squill. One reader calls them Blue Scilla. Whatever they're called, they are SO lovely.

    Tuesday, April 05, 2005

    A bit of everything 

    We're only supposed to get one more of these amazingly warm April days but no one's complaining. This past week has been truly glorious. Today's high was close to 80 degrees F. I scooted down to the gym around noon and then sat out on our screened porch later in the afternoon and read. At this rate we should soon be seeing magnolia blossoms and green leaves on bushes and trees. Even the lake looks warmer. And it is a kick to see folks in shorts and T-shirts rollerblading, biking, jogging and walking. A month ago, when we were still in the grip of winter, I wouldn't have believed it was possible.

    At the gym Matt had a new exercise machine for me to try--the bench press. After working with 15 pound weights, he upped it to 250 pounds for a photo op. My but I've come a long way in a year!

    Tonight our public library brought in the Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Jeffrey Eugenides, to speak to a packed house at the GP War Memorial auditorium. Interest was running high because he grew up here and set two of his novels--Middlesex and The Virgin Suicides--here. He was an engaging speaker, full of humor, intelligence and humility. After reading from Middlesex and answering over a dozen excellent questions, he graciously signed books for another hour. We have our library staff--Diana, Carol, James and Peggy--to thank for organizing this wonderful evening.

    I stand corrected (Thank you!) 

    A couple of clear-thinking readers have responded to one of my complaints about the pope, and I am deeply grateful to them for taking the time to do so. I had written in my Saturday, April 2 entry that the pope's refusal to consider allowing priests to marry had contributed to the ongoing crisis of priests sexually abusing children. I was absolutely wrong that marriage would have "cured" these men of their pedophilic mindsets and practices. As one reader put it:

    One thing you mentioned made me ponder. Although I'm certainly not in favor of celibate priests (unless it's their own choice, of course), I don't think allowing priests to marry would have averted much child sexual abuse. From what I know and have read, these guys (the vast majority are male) are sexually oriented to children and only to children. They have no interest in adults of either gender. Many of them marry, for a variety of reasons, some more understandable (confusion about their sexuality early in life, desire to fit in and do what's expected, the hope that this will "cure" them) and some heinous and unforgivable (to achieve "cover" for their activities or to "grow their own" -- father children they can abuse). Last week's SF Chronicle had an article about child sexual abuse that mentioned that nearly all of these guys, when identified as such, are either married or have been married. I think that many of these pedophile priests may have chosen the priesthood because it meant they could avoid marriage without raising eyebrows and also have access to a lot of children.

    She goes on to make an important point:

    I think the real crime [by the pope] was allowing priests to do this and then lying about it and enabling them to continue doing it. "Covering up" is too nice a phrase. And I think that this was another aspect of the "I am God" mentality, the authoritarianism, the setting oneself up as the be-all and end-all, the belief that priests, bishops, etc., are something more (better) than ordinary, fallible humans.

    Thank you, dear readers, for giving me the benfit of your wisdom. Please don't ever let me get away with such inaccurate and potentially damaging statements.

    Monday, April 04, 2005

    Spring's promise kept 

    Another in a lengthening necklace of gorgeous spring days. Today was so warm that I was comfortable dressing as I had when I was out in San Francisco. All I needed was a cotton jacket, and in the sun, I could have taken that off. As I set off for a ride on my scooter at noon, I admired the croci blooming in our front yard. When I returned home four hours later, this is what I saw. Yes, some squirrel out there had a delicious luncheon today!

    I know you can't tell by this picture just how warm I felt as I scooted along on the singing street, but, trust me, it was lovely. Another thing that was lovely was seeing how the grass is greening up (photos #1 & #2). Only if you live in a place with true winters--NOT California--can you appreciate what it means to see winter-brown grass undergo its annual transformation into its spring-green splendor. And if someone knows what these star-like blue flowers are called, I'd love to hear from you. Every spring I wonder.

    I talked on the phone last night with my friend Jeff in Northern California--Noah's Dad--and he was saying how surprised he was that everything still looked so brown at Pt. Pelee. Spring in Northern California is so sumptuous that one can easily forget it might be more subtle elsewhere. But when one lives in a place like Michigan, each small sign of spring is precious. Signs like the tree buds getting bigger and fuzzier day-by-day (photos #1 & #2), and even more significant, signs like these two students in shorts playing their guitars out in front of the high school.

    Everything makes us smile this spring. That's what a hard winter can do--instill a sense of wonder at spring's promise kept.

    Speak the truth 

    I don't intend to say much more about this, but I do want to acknowledge my gratitude to Terry Eagleton, professor of Cultural Theory at Manchester University, for having the courage to write the following commentary--"The Pope Has Blood On His Hands"--that was published in today's Guardian/UK.

    It's one thing to say it like you see it in a blog or online journal, and quite another to dare to go against the tide in this most public way. By the way, I was interested to see that his final paragraph reiterated a point I'd made in my Saturday, April 2, entry:

    The greatest crime of his papacy, however, was neither his part in this cover up [of the American priests' sex scandals] nor his neanderthal attitude to women. It was the grotesque irony by which the Vatican condemned - as a "culture of death" - condoms, which might have saved countless Catholics in the developing world from an agonising Aids death. The Pope goes to his eternal reward with those deaths on his hands. He was one of the greatest disasters for the Christian church since Charles Darwin.

    My husband says, "De mortuis nil sini bene", or "Speak only good of the dead." I say "Speak the truth of both the dead and the living." If we do not, we will never learn from others' mistakes, and if we do not learn from our predecessors' mistakes, we are bound to repeat them.

    Sunday, April 03, 2005

    our Fossil Fools Day rage 

    I spent much of this beautiful afternoon sitting at the computer. Shame on me. But I wanted to write and put up my journal entry and pictures from Friday's Fossil Fools Day rage.

    Yesterday we O Beautiful Gaia women of the Great Lakes Basin rehearsed for our April 23rd Earth Day performance at the IHM Motherhouse in Monroe, MI. I didn't take pictures, mainly because they would have looked pretty much the same as other rehearsals we've had at Matrix Theatre in Southwest Detroit. After a yummy shared dinner at Mexican Village restaurant, I came home to watch Michigan State University take on the University of North Carolina in the NCAA Final Four basketball championships. The first half was great, but the second half? Sigh. UNC was awesome! We're still proud of our men's and women's MSU basketball teams for both reaching the Final Four. Go State! (Ed's alma mater).

    Saturday, April 02, 2005

    A mosaic of lights AND darks 

    After today's death of the pope, the media will enter a feeding frenzy of praise for his life and "good works." I don't expect to hear a critical word about this most controversial public figure. Yet lots of people around the world see many of his official pronouncements and documents of faith as contrary to the well being of our sisters and brothers at home and around the world.

    I think of the hundreds of thousands of Catholic women, especially in Africa, who have contracted and died from AIDS because the pope refused to allow them the option of using condoms during sex, even with their husbands. And I think of the children these women gave birth to, many of whom were born with AIDS and have already died or will soon die painful deaths.

    I think of the countless men and women who carry the scars of having been sexually abused by priests when they were children and adolescents. If these ordained men had been allowed to marry, perhaps they wouldn't have needed to express their sexuality in such unacceptable, secret and hurtful ways. But, unfortunately, the pope stymied any efforts to examine this option.

    I think of the women who felt called to the priesthood in a church that was led by a pope who would not even discuss such a possibility. I think of the personal pain they suffered (and suffer) and the loss to the church community of gifted women who longed to minister and were only allowed to do so in roles secondary to men. I think of what this said to girls and women about their place in our world.

    I think of children raised in a patriarchal church under a pope who does not allow his decisions to be questioned, and who sees any form of critical thinking as being a sin. I think of how easy it is for these children to grow into adults who unquestioningly accept everything they read in a newspaper or see on TV or hear coming out of the mouth of their president, and how dangerous that is to us all.

    I also remember a pope who spoke out against the death penalty and war, and how important that was.

    No life is all good or all bad. Not a pope's or a criminal's. We are each a mosaic of lights and darks. I just have trouble when all we hear about is the "light" or the good. Whenever I hear such one-sided views expressed, the Mary-Mary-quite-contrary in me has to fill in the dark pieces of the mosaic.

    That's what I'm doing here, just giving a bit of texture to the life of the pope who died today so we don't forget that he was human, just like us. And as a human, he made mistakes, just like us. Of course, the more powerful the position you hold, the more impact your decisions will have on others. That's why I hope I never end up in a position of power.

    Friday, April 01, 2005

    So what else is going on... 

    You may think I no longer know or care what is happening outside my own little world...while F-16s are being sold by the Bush administration to the disturbingly militaristic dictator of Pakistan...while the President, his brother and their Christian Fundamentalist buddies stick their fat noses into an agonized family's personal decisions....while a new office is created within the State Department to plan for future U.S military interventions in developing nations...while Toronto journalist Naomi Klein discovers during an interview with Giuliana Sgrena, the Italian war correspondent who was shot and injured by U.S. troops after having been released from Iraqi captivity, that she and the Italian official, Nicola Calipari, who was killed, were in a car on a VIP road that could be accessed only through the Green Zone--NOT the road that the U.S. military spokespersons say they were on--that there was NO checkpoint like the U.S. military says, and that they were not threatening the U.S. tank that shot them because they were shot at from the right and from behind, not from the front...while Paul Wolfowitz, head Neo-Con agitator for the war on Iraq, has been nominated and will likely be approved as new president of the World Bank, in essence, according to Nobel Prize-winning ex-Bank economist Joseph Stiglitz, making the Bank "become an explicit instrument of US foreign policy" around the world...while Canadian waters are stained red by a legalalized seal hunt that is expected to kill 320,000 baby harp seals...while Social Security, the single most effective and well-run government program, is under threat of privatization by President Bush and his political donors... while new drumbeats of war sound, this time against Iran, Iraq's neighbor to the east, with an estimated date of attack in June 2005...while Democrats in the Senate and House of Representatives have, except for a courageous few, taken five steps to the Right on every important decision since George W. Bush came to office in January 2001, and no longer seem to care what their constituents think... while the ACLU has announced that newly released Freedom Of Information documents specifically detail examples of the torture of prisoners by U.S. troops in Iraq to be widespead and officially sanctioned--they were instructed to "beat the f**k out of" detainees--and no one seems to you still wonder if I know what's going on?

    I say don't be fooled by my photo albums of women at a music camp in Northern California, of early spring at a national park in Ontario, and the beauty of San Francisco in March. I do this to keep my sanity during times that try my natural tendency to look at the bright side of things. I can immerse myself only so much in their nefarious schemes and destructive decisions. I must continue to believe in the wonder that surrounds me, and trust that their imperial hubris can go on for only so long. As they say, what goes around, comes around. May it come around sooner rather than later.

    This gif is freely copyable. Just right click, save
    Powered by
    RSSify at WCC

    This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?