Windchime Walker

Windchime Walker <$BlogRSDUrl$>

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Time out for repairs 

Friends, my computer is going in for repairs today so I'll be out of internet commission for awhile. If it takes too long I'll use my husband's office computer and post an update here on my blog. But maybe having a little vacation is just what I need. You mean there's life after computers???

Monday, May 30, 2005

Trying something new 

Now I finally get it! I see the art in electronic techno music. Until today I never could understand how a genre of music whose superstars were DJs could be considered art. But after dancing for a solid 45 minutes to the music of a German DJ named Phon.o, I am here to say the man is a genius! What he put together on a Mac iBook just like mine was amazing.

And a lot of the fun for me was the response of the young people to seeing a woman old enough to be their grandmother standing beside her disability scooter and shakin' her booty!

"You're so cool!"

"Can I dance with you?"

"Can I take your picture? Can my friend take a picture of us together?"

Even one of the fellows doing tech behind the stage came down to take a picture of me dancing. I must admit, Pat and I were the only white and silver-haired women I saw at Hart Plaza today. And, believe me, we wouldn't have lasted very long if we hadn't gone across the street to a hotel shop and bought earplugs. Without them we were dying; with them, we loved it! Loud was just a word until today.

The event was the sixth-annual Techno Music Festival here in Detroit, the home of electronic music. It was Pat's and my first such festival, and it won't be our last. But next year we'll come prepared with earplugs snugly nestled in our ears and our dancin' shoes at the ready. I'll also be sure my hair is pinked!

Here are some photos:

The mainstage on which they actually did have a live act performing. Some of the dancers on the huge dance floor.
Break dancers--photos #1, #2 & #3--out on the plaza.
One of many couples dressed for the occasion.
Some of those dancers who loved Phon.o's music.
Two artist-made model cars--photos #1 & #2--displayed on downtown Detroit's sidewalks.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Shadow & Light 

During our Raging Grannies' protest in front of Wal-Mart yesterday, six of the eight Grannies got into an argument about the war with a woman who has two sons fighting in Iraq. This kind of thing had never happened before, and it upset me greatly. We stopped our protest and went over to the house of one of our Grannies to talk about what had happened.

Our discussion was helpful but, unfortunately, I continued to fret over it even after I'd returned home. I got up in the middle of the night to write my feelings in my personal journal, and later in the morning I thought about it during much of my 20-lap swim down at the park. I also bent Ed's ear on the phone trying to process what was going on in me. As I say, this hit deep.

I even considering leaving the Grannies. That's often my initial response when something unpleasant happens in a group. But instead of acting precipitously, I continued to sit with it and tried to figure out what had been triggered within myself. To be honest, my reaction was more intense than the incident warranted.

Last night and this afternoon I alternated journalling with reading Deepak Chopra's book, "Peace Is the Way." In the middle of reading his discussion about the soul's place in becoming a person of peace, I suddenly saw what I was doing in relation to the Grannies: classic projection.

When I experienced their argmentative encounter with someone who saw things differently from them, it was like a mirror reflecting back to me the rage I try to keep in check under similar circumstances. Then I saw that if I walked away from the Raging Grannies because they showed me what I am capable of myself, I would continue to carry this rage instead of owning up to it and trying to deal with it. So I'm going to do my best to examine this shadow side of my nature and try to change it.

I am determined to become a person of peace.

In connection with that, let me offer some images that will, hopefully, provide you with a measure of peace. I've added them to my Spring 2005 photo album.

Friday, May 27, 2005

I'll see you if I see you 

It's 2 PM and I've just gotten off the phone with Dante at the Apple service shop. From what I told him, he says it sounds like my hard drive is "fried." Not a particularly promising diagnosis. Because of the long weekend (Memorial Day in the U.S.), I won't be taking it in until Tuesday, so he recommended I either not use my computer until then or back everything up and use it till it crashes. Since I've already backed everything up on CDs, I'm going to try to use it over the weekend, but sparingly. Dante said if I bring it in on Tuesday he'll try to have it back to me by the end of the week, even if he has to order a new hard drive. But I'm sure that's not a guarantee.

Can you believe that this is the first time I've ever taken a computer in for service? Of course my first computer--a PC laptop--lost a third of its screen after three years so that was when I bought this iBook. I can't even remember what make PC I had. But I'd never go back--willingly--to a non-Apple computer. Even if my HD is fried after only three years. That has been three years of mighty hard use.

Again, don't worry if you don't hear from me. It just means my HD gave up the ghost a little sooner than I'd hoped...

Thursday, May 26, 2005

computer problems & fabulous kids 

Friends, it looks like I'm probably going to have to take my computer in for service. The freezing/clicking problem I had a month ago returned this afternoon, and the Apple support techie I called feels the problem is most likely with my HD (Hard Drive). Bad news. It's acting OK now but I fear this could come back at any time. I'm going to talk with a local Apple service shop tomorrow and see what they recommend.

The long and short is that if you don't hear from me for awhile, it means my iBook had to go in for service. I'll return as soon as I can.

Today at school was a kick! I asked the fourth and fifth graders to teach me an Arabic/English song they sing in chorus. As each class worked on their weaving project, a good number of the kids chose to gather around my table to teach me the song. Susan (the art teacher) even allowed two drummers in one fourth grade class to get their instruments so they could accompany us.

These youngsters are the most patient teachers you could imagine. They'd repeat the pronounciation of the Arabic words over and over until I finally got it. And they sang this same song so many times I couldn't believe they weren't sick of it. But it paid off. By the end of the day the kids said I had it right. One boy, with wonder in his voice and a grin on his face, said, "I've never seen anyone like you wanting to learn Arabic!"

I plan to bring this song to the Continent In Song retreat in Saskatchewan in mid-June. I think the 140 Canadian and American women who are gathering to celebrate Carolyn McDade's 70th birthday, will love it. I know I do. But even more than the song, I dearly love these kids.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

A perfect spring day 

If I were to pick a spring day to hold in a jar and take out next winter, this would be it. Absolute perfection. Sunny, warm but not hot, everything in bloom, and still light outside when I scooted home after swimming at 9 PM. I stayed out in it all day long.

First I scooted around to three local banks gathering info on their CD interest rates. Yes, it pays to comparison shop because when I brought this information back to my bank, they managed to offer me the best interest rate they'd ever quoted.

Then I had my first-ever appointment with a financial advisor and learned a lot. Happily he knew what I was talking about when I told him I would only be interested in socially responsible investing. He also respected my wishes not to have any dealings with the federal government which, in my opinion, uses most of its money in destructive ways. I also put the kabosh on pharmaceutical companies, tobacco companies, arms manufacturers and insurance companies.

After hearing my concerns and wishes, Rick advised me to invest in tax-free bonds. He's going to look into the availability of municipal and state bonds that would support things like schools, low-income housing, assistance for elders and the disabled, women's and environmental concerns. We'll see what he comes up with. I certainly like the idea of knowing who would be using my money and how they would be using it.

I also spent some time at a nearby camping store. Last August at the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival I was oh-so-sorry I'd cheaped out and bought a $35 sleeping bag from our local hardware store. Of course it was the coldest, wettest festival ever. I remember going to bed fully clothed, with piles of sweaters and jackets covering that pathetic sleeping bag, and still freezing. I'm not taking that chance again. Today I ordered a down bag that is guaranteed down to 20 degrees F. That should do the trick. I also bought two pair of warm wool socks. Last year all I had were cotton and they were worthless. My feet never did warm up.

Of course you know if I do all this we're sure to have 100 degree weather this year. In my view, better hot and dry than cold and wet. I may live to regret those words!

I've got some more spring scenes for you to enjoy:

Bleeding Hearts,
Ed's office patio with a close-up of his hanging basket of flowers,
our neighbors Helen and Don's garden with its Anglica tulips and orange poppy in bloom,
and finally an idyllic street I scooted down at 7 PM this evening on my way to swimming.

Monday, May 23, 2005

One world 

I not only painted A World of Friends today but experienced their presence by phone.

Around noon I visited my friend Margaretha in Sweden. It had been months since we'd talked but that didn't stop us from picking up the threads of our friendship and continuing to weave a close connection. Margaretha and I see the world, both inner and outer, in similar ways and never run out of subjects to discuss. We can even imagine where each of us is sitting and what we're seeing because we've shared so many digital photos of our environs in the years that we've known one another.

Like my brother Rabih, Margaretha and I have never met in person but that hasn't mattered; we know one another by heart.

Then a little after 3 PM I travelled to Lebanon where I had a grand phone visit with Sana, Rabih and Sulaima's 15 year-old daughter. Her parents were out so Sana and I were free to have our own heart-to-heart. We talked about so many things, including the day we first met in December 2001.

That was the day of her father's first immigration court hearing after he'd been arrested and put in jail with no charges and no bail. Sana remembered that she and her brothers were so thirsty and here came this woman they didn't even know who gave them her bottle of juice. Sana said that meant so much because, after what they'd just been through, they thought all Americans hated them. But obviously I didn't.

We also talked at length about my upcoming trip to Lebanon in November. Sana said she hoped I wouldn't be disappointed. I said that would be impossible because I have absolutely no expectations. It's all going to be new to me.

How I love and respect this young woman.

I've been reading with great interest "Pity The Nation," Robert Fisk's book about Lebanon's recent history. Rabih recommended it to me when I asked for a list of books to read in preparation for my trip. I am deeply moved by the number of wars and armed conflicts that have been fought on Lebanon's soil over the past century.

It makes me realize how protected we Americans have been from such immediate and tangible reminders of the costs of war. Maybe that's why our people seem so oblivious to the suffering we inflict on countries like Iraq and Afghanistan.

The other painting I made today--Footprints In Time--was probably inspired by my reading about Lebanon. It is such an ancient civilization. America is a baby in comparison.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

war & peace 

I'm trying not to gobble up Deepak Chopra's book, "Peace Is the Way," but to take my time and read it reflectively. I have so much inner work to do here.

Already I see that the dualities, the "us" and "them" attitudes that lead to war, are present within me. Yes, my "them" is different from their "them," but it's the same thing. I've lumped certain individuals and groups into a category that, if I used such words, would be called "evil." Again my Axis of Evil is different from the one put forward by leaders in my government, but it has the same power to demonize the "other."

For every time I cry out, "When will they EVER wake up?", don't you think they're crying out the same thing about me?

And when I go out on the streets to protest war, am I doing it with the same inner hatred that fuels that war and keeps it burning bright? If I am anti-war or anti-anything, how can that negativity bring about anything approaching peace? What is peace anyway? Simply the absence of war, or is it something I have yet to understand?

Ah, there is so much to consider...and even more to change. Not out there, but within myself.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Hope promised and fulfilled 

We've had two beautiful warm sunny days in a row and I have a sunburn to show for it. I just can't stay inside. I know, I know, I should be wearing sunscreen.

Yesterday I started out by scooting to the gym for my Friday morning workout. Matt pronounced it my best workout ever; I did feel very strong. Afterwards I scooted down to our community's shopping street where I stocked up on Middle Eastern food from the grocery store and then went to Borders where I encountered Frank the wise bookseller. After that I went to Ed's office but didn't find him home, so I scooted across the street and ate a picnic lunch at one of the tables next to the high school track. After about a half hour, Ed joined me there. As we were leaving, we learned that the Southeastern Michigan Regional High School Track Meet was going to be held there the next day (Saturday). I promised myself that I'd be there.

Of course I had to take some pictures of what I saw as I scooted along. That included this example of the colors of spring, a close-up of a rhododendrum in bloom, a pink dogwood tree, a street and a sidewalk I scooted down. I also ran into my neighbor friends, Peter and Elyse. Elyse's 11th birthday party had just ended and she showed me her newly-painted fingernails and toenails. It had been a "spa" party for 13 of her best friends. It's hard to believe Elyse is now 11 and Peter's 15. When I first took their pictures for my journal, they were 7 and 11.

Today I did as I'd promised myself and scooted down to the Regional Track Meet at the high school. Such excitement, energy and talent on display! And it was great to see the rich diversity of races and ages in the stands and on the field. Just as I wish our community were all the time. Folks were friendly and supportive of all the athletes, cheering for their own but also for students from other schools. And it seemed there were superb runners from every school. But talented or not, every single kid gave it their best. There was lots of heart out there today.

I took these pictures of the runners: photos #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7 & #8.

Tonight after dinner I came upstairs and painted Hope #1 and Hope #2.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Peace is the way. 

If you're a regular reader of my journal or blog you know how I struggle with the state of the world as it is today. The wars, the religious fanaticism, the suffering of the innocent, the arrogance of the powerful, the institutionalized inequalities, the human-induced damage to our planet and its inhabitants can fill me with alternating impotence, rage and despair.

Yes I do what I can to offer other options, whether that means taking to the streets with the Raging Grannies, aligning myself with the marginalized and victims of injustice, creating art and song to heal and inspire, or trying to present the truth as I see it on my web site and blog, but keeping myself grounded and at peace can be a real challenge. Yesterday's entry was a good example of that fact. So to say I am at a time of unrest may be an understatement.

It has been my lived experience that such times open me up to new possibilities. Like shifting tectonic plates, my consciousness can undergo a seismic shift only when I am the least settled and self-satisfied. I also know that what or who appears as changemaker is usually a simple thread woven into the fabric of my ordinary existence. No bells ring, no choir sings, no announcement is made, and the "teacher" is often unaware of the impact she or he is having on my life.

So when I stopped in at Borders bookstore today to look for a book/CD to help prepare for my upcoming Arabic language classes, I was unaware that Frank, the bookseller who assisted me in finding the correct section, was going to assist me in ways I could not have anticipated.

We started by talking about why I wanted to study Arabic. He told me about his friend who has been in this country for years but is planning to return to Lebanon, his birthplace, when he retires in two years. We talked about how 9/11 and all that has come out of it has made Frank's friend feel less at home here in the US. I told him about my friend Rabih's nineteen months in jail and his secret deportation. That led us to a general discussion about activism.

Frank said that he used to be an activist and a union organizer but had decided several years ago that he could better follow his path by giving up activism and becoming a healer, specifically a practitioner of reiki, energy work and healing touch. He shared his dreams of bringing his healing work to our military veterans of war. He then asked if I'd by any chance read Deepak Chopra's new book called "Peace Is the Way." I mentioned my long-held reluctance to read Chopra's books mainly because of his superstar status. Frank just said, "Would it be all right if I just bring over a copy of his book on peace for you to see?" I said of course he could.

Two pages into that book I knew it was just what I needed...and that it had come at just the right time. What I need and want to do is become less anti-war and more pro-peace. But more than that, I want to become peace. And that is exactly what Deepak Chopra is saying we need. As long as we (I) stay focused on all that is wrong with our world, we/I will be feeding into that cycle of violence. It is only when I take the path of peace that I can help transform our world...and myself.

In our conversation Frank spoke several times about Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese Buddhist monk who is known and respected worldwide as a peacemaker. I told him about the pen-and-ink drawing I'd made twelve years ago in which I'd used a quote by Thich Nhat Hanh that set forth what I believe is the way to peace. I couldn't recall the exact words then but now I see they were:

"What we need are people who are capable of loving, of not taking sides so that they can embrace the whole of reality as a mother hen embraces all her chicks with two fully spread wings."

I have a long way to go to live into Thich Nhat Hanh's words and the attitude they reflect, but now's the time to start. Thank you, Frank, for opening a door I feel ready to walk through.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Think of the children 

"Do you think she's a boy? She has a boy's hair."

"Yeah, and she has a red backpack like boys use."

This was a snippet of a conversation I heard going on behind my back (literally) today in art class at school. The two boys discussing this intriguing possibility were referring to me although nothing was said to me directly. Gosh, I wonder if it's true!


It had been several days since I'd checked the news...which I usually do every day on Sometimes I need a break. But coming back after even a few days off can be disturbing in the extreme.

So Real ID is now a soon-to-be-enacted fact, and the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, with the support of the White House, is working on a bill to expand the powers of the U.S. Patriot Act and to make its temporary provisions permanent. Anyone else reminded of Orwell in all of this?

And now 1000 U.S. troops have done to Al Qa'im what they did to Falluja six months ago. This on top of the retracted-but-all-too-believable reports of the Quran being flushed down the toilet by Quantanamo interrogators will surely fan the ever-growing flames of anti-American sentiment around the world.

How far must this madness go before the American people wake up and say, "NO MORE!"? Will they ever wake up, or will we, like countless empires before us, have to follow this path to its inevitable end...our own self-destruction and the destruction of much of our world?

Instead of fiddling while Rome burns, our people are shopping at Wal-Mart, listening to their ipods, watching Fox News, cheering their sports teams, driving SUVs and waving the American flag while this nation, that was founded on the ideals of liberty and justice for all, is stolen out from under them by a fanatical few. What a sad story it will be if we let them get away with it.

Don't give in or give up, my friends. We must keep on keepin' on. Think of the children.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Ann Arbor's delights 

I didn't post an entry yesterday because I got home late from another wonderful jazz event in Ann Arbor. Reedman Andrew Bishop, bassist Tim Flood and drummer Gerald Cleaver gave a concert at the Kerrytown Concert House to celebrate the release of their brand new CD, Time and Imaginary Time. I'd seen this superbly original group at the Edgefest last October and didn't want to miss an opportunity to see them again. Since Gerald now lives in New York, such opportunities are all too rare. Andrew Bishop, who seems able to play just about any reed instrument he chooses, formed this trio a number of years ago. He also composes all their music.

I wish I had words to describe the imaginative, cutting-edge excitement of his compositions. They are obviously musically demanding but there's such a flow that when they're being played, you ride the waves with trust that you'll end up exactly where you want to go. And it's always someplace surprising. I must admit I listened to most of the concert with my eyes closed. I wanted to look at these wonderful musicians as they played but just couldn't keep my eyes open. The music pulled me into its depths with such force that I had to go wherever it wanted to take me. A Zen-like experience.

But yesterday was filled with more than music; I also spent a couple of hours scooting and then sitting quietly in Ann Arbor's lovely Geddes Park. The Huron River is its centerpiece and whenever I'm there I remember all the times Ed and I biked--first on our racing bikes and then on our tandem--through the park. We've even canoed the river a couple of times. All fond memories. I took so many pictures that today I turned them into a Geddes Park/Huron River photo album.

I also gave myself some downtown AA and University of Michigan time. Some things never change around there, frisbee-throwing on the Diag being one. Another is hearing and/or seeing young people drumming over by the People's Food Co-op. College towns certainly keep you feeling young.

Monday, May 16, 2005

a powerful movie & a gentle spring 

Once in a long while a movie pulls me into its depths so strongly that I have trouble disengaging myself when it ends. That happened tonight with "A House of Sand and Fog." I'd never heard of it before but when I saw it on the library shelf, it looked interesting. Besides it starred Ben Kingsley and I'll see anything he chooses to play in. All I can say is that Mr. Kingsley should have received an Oscar for his portrayal of an Iranian-American colonel in this 2003 film. Let me warn you, though, this movie is not for the faint of heart. It packs a powerful punch. But my real life today was so gentle-spirited that I could handle it.

Spring continues to enthrall me. Now most of the deciduous trees are fully-leafed, lilacs, iris and dogwood in bloom, flowering trees extravagant in sight and scent, and baseball season in full swing. I even saw a big juicy fungus on a tree beside a busy street.

But we're not putting away our snow shovel just yet. Last time I sent Ed down to the basement with it, we got hit with that crazy weekend blizzard. Nope, we're not going to tempt the gods again. That shovel and our jug of salt are staying on the porch until June. This is Michigan after all.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

mentioning the unmentionable 

Does anyone else spend time fretting about whether or not they'll make it to the bathroom in time? I'm sure they do, I just don't find them talking or writing about it. Well, here goes...

My only concern about my upcoming trip to Lebanon revolves around this uncomfortable subject. Here at home I'm grateful that my bedroom floor is hardwood because (whoops) sometimes I don't quite make it. Especially in the middle of the night. Now that's OK in my own home but not something I want to happen when visiting friends. I brought my concerns to Ed tonight and his response was wonderfully sensible. He said, "Why don't you go to a urologist and ask her about it? Check out your options." I think I'll do just that.

Sometimes it pays to mention the unmentionable.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Another wonderful night of jazz 

On the way home from a fabulous concert by the Spencer Barefield Quartet, I realized that what happens to me when I experience live jazz is on a cellular level. I literally vibrate for hours afterwards. But it has to be live. Much as I love listening to jazz on the radio and on CDs, it isn't the same. That's like comparing a photograph with seeing something with your own eyes.

Speaking of photographs, Barbara Barefield, Spencer's wife took this photo of Akira and me immediately following tonight's concert. When I saw it I recognized the spirit of life that had enveloped me throughout the performance.

After the concert, I drove the hour home from Ann Arbor--they'd performed at the Kerrytown Concert House--and never turned on my CD player. I didn't have to; the music was still playing in my body. It reminded me of the sound healing I'd experienced at the National Women's Music Festival several years ago. That day, my body was played by, among others, Kay Gardner on the flute, Mary Watson on piano and Edwina Lee Tyler on drums. Tonight it was Spencer Barefield on guitar, Diego Rivera on sax, Dave Young on bass and Djallo Djakate Keita on drums.

I feel so fortunate to have discovered over 48 years ago, the type of music that resonates deeply in my body. I know jazz isn't for everyone, but it sure is for me.

Friday, May 13, 2005

The wonders of the web 

This web world is amazing. After writing yesterday about wanting to take a class or find a tutor to teach me some Arabic, tonight I received an email from a reader who gave me a link to the Continuing Education summer schedule for a metro Detroit community college. And what should they be offering but a class in Arabic on Wednesdays from 6-8:15 PM starting on June 8 and continuing until July 20! The class description is:


Develop the ability to converse in Arabic. Shed light on some regional dialects. Learn the vocabulary and principles of Arabic pronunciation and key phrases needed for everyday situations, travel and emergencies. No text required.

Does that sound perfect or what! I'll have to miss the second class because I'll be in Saskachewan, but except for that I should be able to make all the others. Within minutes of having read her email, I'd clicked on the link, read the info, downloaded and completed the class registration form to fax in tomorrow, and printed out MapQuest directions from my home to the campus. I am SO ready for this.

Thank you, dear Fran, for being such a faithful reader and for taking the time to send me this information.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

teaching an old dog new tricks 

The kids at school are proving to be great language teachers. Ever since I asked them to help me learn some Arabic before I go visit my friends in Lebanon, they've been hard at work. Today we added a good number of words and phrases to my limited vocabulary that had only included how to greet people and to say thank you. Now I can (sort of) say:

You're welcome.
What are you doing?
How are you?
Come in.
Do you want anything?
Today is beautiful.
Do you want to play?
I'm full.
This is good food.
Where is the bathroom?

All aged kids are involved in this project, from first graders to fifth graders. I'm finding each one to be infinitely patient and excellent at pronouncing things slowly and repeatedly until I begin to get it. Of course, for the vast majority of our students, Arabic was their first language. They didn't learn English until they started kindergarten or had an older sibling come home from school speaking English. Yet, most of them have no accents.

It reminds me of the children I knew at the refugee shelter and how they always picked up English within a matter of weeks. They spoke without accents too. As I understand it, this facility is due in part to the fact that children's soft palates have not yet hardened into the shapes it takes to speak their first language. They learn everything by mimicking what they hear, whereas adults must work at learning a new language and often have trouble making sounds that differ from those they use when speaking their own language. I'm certainly finding that to be true with Arabic.

Now I'm considering the possibility of taking a summer class in conversational Arabic or maybe even finding a tutor to work with me privately. I would love to have a little bit of the language before I visit Rabih, Sulaima and the kids in Beirut next autumn. By the way, Rabih emailed a few days ago with the news that Ramadan comes in October this year, so we've postponed my trip until after November 4. And my passport came yesterday. After only a week! I am really getting excited about this trip.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

from one who knows... 

"Supporting our troops means a lot more than buying a $2 yellow magnet for your car and waving the flag. It means demanding answers and holding people accountable."

"I will continue to speak out until the last soldier leaves Iraq and the last veteran gets the care they are owed."

These are the words of Patrick Resta, Specialist/E4, who served as an Army medic in Iraq with the 30th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division. He was stationed in in northeastern Iraq from March 12, 2004 to November 15, 2004. Since returning home Patrick has been speaking out against the war and occupation, and is involved with Iraq Veterans Against the War.

Tonight I will be attending a Pointes For Peace talk featuring Patrick Resta. In preparation, I read an interview with him that I found online. I wish every single solitary American would read what Patrick has to say. He tells it like it is for American troops in Iraq.

This returning soldier believes that the American people are being duped by a government with its own agenda and a media that has its own reasons for passing on propaganda in the guise of news. Who would know better what is really going on in Iraq than someone who has been stationed there himself?

In another intervew--this one with Kevin Zeese, director of DemocracyRising.US--there was an exchange I found to be particularly interesting:

Zeese: The major argument for staying in Iraq is if the U.S. leaves there will be greater chaos. How do you see this--is the U.S. minimizing the chaos in Iraq?

Resta: I always ask people to describe the situation now. Is it not chaos? To me the definition of a civil war is when people from a country kill other people from that country. That's what happening now in Iraq. US troops are the problem, not the solution. We are reliving the Vietnam War now and it's sad. We're reliving it because the people in power didn't learn anything from that event. They were too busy dreaming up ways to dodge the draft.

Tank battalions will never rebuild power and water purification plants no matter how long they stay in Iraq. Halliburton and Bechtel didn't build Iraq, so why are they rebuilding it? If you really want Iraqis to have democracy let them run their own affairs. When you break something in a store you don't sit there with crazy glue trying to piece it back together. And you most certainly don't run around with a bat breaking more things. What you do is apologize, write them a check, and get out before you do any more damage.

Makes sense to me.


Patrick Resta began his presentation with this quote by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:

"Our lives begin to end when we stay silent about the things that matter."

"That is why I do what I do," which is to travel around the country giving talks and interviews about his experiences as an Army medic in Iraq and urging people to wake up and see that we must end this war and occupation.

Although I took notes, I would be hard put to even begin to tell you what we learned tonight from this courageous National Guardsman. All you've read about our troops being ill prepared and ill equipped is not only true but much, much worse than has been publicized. For instance, Patrick was given 48 hours notice to report to Fort Bragg Army base for deployment to Iraq. Once on base he and his unit received two days of training. The rifle he trained with ended up belonging to someone else, so he was sent to Iraq with a Vietnam-era weapon that did not even have its sights set for him. Not only that, he received the last gas mask and it was too small.

When he and his unit arrived in Iraq, they had a 500 mile convoy ride to the Diyala province where they were to be stationed. For that dangerous journey, they were transported in troop trucks and humvees covered with plywood "protections" that were painted to resemble steel. On the first day a 20 year-old member of their unit was wounded and later died of injuries sustained when his vehicle ran over a roadside bomb. From then on Patrick sat on the $1500 armor he had borrowed money at his credit unit to buy before setting off for Iraq.

What I experienced as I listened to Patrick share his stories and give his incisive analyses of the situation in Iraq was a deep awareness of the never-ending fear that dogged them day and night. I also heard his pain at remembering the deaths of both American soldiers and Iraqi civilians. His voice shook as he described one of many times that civilians were "in the wrong place at the wrong time" and ended up being shot by fearful American soldiers.

Patrick helped me see that not all of our troops become hardened and/or cruel under such stresses. He reported how he would go into town and talk with the Iraqi people to see how they felt about the war and occupation. He said they would tell him that even though things had been bad under Saddam Hussein, at least they'd had work and some sense of ownership of their country. But now they have nothing. All they want is the Americans out! And Patrick agrees. "We must get out of Iraq as soon as possible. All we're doing is reliving everything that happened in Vietnam. And it is only getting worse."

I needed to meet and hear Patrick Resta. I've not been recognizing that most of the troops over in Iraq do not want to be there, see through Bush's lies about why they're there, and want nothing more than to leave. As the sign that was propped up beside Patrick said, "Support the Troops; Bring Them Home."

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Beauty heals... 

I can't get enough of this spring. The green leaves bursting open on the trees, the radiant flowers, their fragrances triggering sweet yet elusive memories, the golden sun making everything sparkle especially people's smiles, the warm air even at night. I've been outside every minute that I could these past three days, whether scooting down the singing street, sitting beside the lake, reading out on our screened porch or sharing our wild back yard with birds, squirrels, spiders and ants. Every place I go, I carry my camera. It no longer matters to me whether or not these photos will go up on my web site or blog; I just have to take them. It's almost as if I can't see into something deeply enough if I don't take a photo of it. Tonight I decided that I'd like to share my latest batch of photos with you. I call this photo album Spring Close-Up.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Yet more Bush-initiated environmental destruction 

As the Bush administration escalates its slash-and-burn environmental policies, I find myself on outrage-overload. I mean, how much outrage can one person feel in a lifetime? Since taking office in January 2001, George W. Bush and his gang have consistently enraged, outraged, disgusted, saddened, discouraged and repulsed me. So how much of this can I continue to feel without drying up and blowing away?

A few days ago I received an email from my friend Jeff. The subject was "Bush continues to ravage unchecked" and it told of his outright nausea upon hearing the news that Bush had rescinded one of Bill Clinton's most important final presidential orders and was opening up 58.5 million acres of pristine wilderness in America's western states and Alaska to road-builders, miners, drillers, loggers and all the industrial/commercial powers that lay waste to our lands, waters and air. These fellows are also among the bigtime donors who got GWB re-elected in November, so of course they must be rewarded. And he has.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Serpent As Teacher 

My skin stretches taut
What fit before no longer does
Irritation is the sign
It is time to move on

What fit before no longer does
Too tight, too tight I cry
It is time to move on
Beyond all I know and am

Too tight, too tight I cry
My body has grown or my skin has shrunk
Beyond all I know and am
The serpent says, shed this skin

My body has grown or my skin has shrunk
Irritation is the sign
The serpent says, shed this skin
My skin stretches taut

This pantoum poem I wrote today while sitting out back in my tiny patch of wilderness (photos #1, #2, #3, #4, #5 & #6), says it all. I am coming into a new place and the old, some of which sustained and delighted me for years, no longer does. Not ALL of the old, mind, just certain parts of it. I have been through this before--many times, in fact--so I recognize the signs. As the poem says, irritation is my primary sign. When the same things start getting under my skin time after time after time, that is a sign that something is out of kilter. It's up to me to figure out exactly what that is, and then to do something about it.

Ed and I were talking about this at dinner tonight and he reminded me that a snake has to shed its skin in its entirety because the snake has grown and the skin hasn't. It can't, actually, because a snake's skin has no elasticity; it stays the same size no matter what. As humans who continue to grow and change throughout our lives, our skin must either grow with us or we too must shed it. A "skin" may be a career, a relationship, hobby, community, activity, way of thinking, or way of being in the world. Sometimes these skins are resilient and can accommodate change, other times they can't. And sometimes these skins fit the majority of folks, but not you.

I've been fortunate that the most important parts of my life--at the top of that list is my marriage to Ed--have had skin supple enough to take on many different forms over the years. But other things--the religion of my birth, for instance--did not manage to grow as I grew, so had to be shed more than a decade ago. The same was true for my original sense of patriotism. That too-small skin was sluffed off during Bush's daddy's first war on Iraq. But for millions of other Christians and Americans, these two skins still fit fine. That's the wonder of our uniqueness.

Carolyn McDade has a song that always comes to mind during times like this:

In the places that reek of impossibility
the serpent of life coils.
She crawls upon the swollen stone,
crawls upon the swollen stone,
crawls upon the swollen stone,
and loosens her only garment.

Friday, May 06, 2005

playing catch-up... 

I keep going places and doing things and taking photos of what I see, then I'm either too sleepy to put them up on my journal or something else grabs my attention and kicks the photos off the page. So here are a few days worth...

Spring continues to move forward from beauty to beauty. Because our temps have been mild but not what I'd call warm, the tulips have stayed fresh and perky. Not just the tulips, but daffodils and grape hyacinths too. And now the azalea are also showing their colors. Many trees are lacy green or flowery pink, purple and white. The pool at the park is full of water even though it isn't scheduled to open until Memorial Day weekend, and boats have started appearing in the harbor. Yesterday it was warm enough for me to sit comfortably by the water and contemplate the mysterious play of letters I kept seeing in the foamy waves.

On Wednesday my friends Sooz and Judy drove with me to Windsor for haircuts at Leesa's. While there we met a charming little girl named Madelyn. Her mom, Denise, was charming too. And getting haircuts with my girlfriends was such a kick! It reminded me of high school days. After we'd enjoyed a carry-out lunch beside the Detroit River, we joined our Windsor sisters in front of the entrance to the Ambassador Bridge for their weekly Women In Black vigil (photos #1, #2 & #3).

Late yesterday afternoon (Thursday) I drove to Dearborn for the historic opening of the Arab American National Museum, the first such museum in the United States. Significantly, it is built right beside the existing structures along Michigan Avenue at Schaefer, yet has an air of dignity and grace. There were many politicians and dignitaries on hand for the ribbon-cutting, in addition to hundreds of bored children and interested adults. Actually, the children were only bored with the speeches. Once the musuem tours began, the street and park were filled with musicians and dancers from diverse cultures--photos #1 & #2)--face painters, stiltwalkers, clowns, arts & crafts facilitators, and the featured musicians--the Arab Drumming Ensemble and Chorus from the school where I volunteer. Finally, I can show you photos of my kids! Photos #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7, & #8. They did us proud.

About 8 PM I scooted over to a nearby restaurant for dinner. As I devoured a bowl of crushed lentil soup and a falafel sandwich, I kept looking over at two women sitting in a booth. They looked so familiar. I finally figured that I probably knew them from the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival. Apparently they were doing the same thing, but they'd gotten further with it than I. After awhile they came over to my table and said, "Hey, Patricia!"

Well, that began a wonderful conversation about Fest, one that proved healing to me. I don't know if you remember my telling you about the unpleasant experience I'd had on the MWMF online bulletin board a few months back. I still carried hurt feelings from that encounter and had been back and forth for months about whether or not I wanted to go to Fest at all this August. Well, within a short twenty minutes, Pam and Elaine had soothed my hurt and pumped me up about attending festival again this year. And as a crowning touch, they showed me the car Elaine recently bought for $1 from one of the posters on the MWMF bulletin board. Such tangible evidence of what this global community of women truly is! Yes, I'll be there in August.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Nightmare in Nicaragua 

Here in the US we seem to have tunnel vision. If our government and media tell us to look at only one part of the world, we follow their lead. Since 2002, our focus has been exclusively on the Middle East. But I'm beginning to wake up to the fact that there is a big wide world out there and people and issues that deserve my/our attention. Nicargua is a case in point.

Thanks to my Canadian sister Joan Tinkess who recently travelled to that country, I have just learned about a horrendous situation that's been developing there for decades. And now it is at a crisis point, the time when people are ready to give their lives to the struggle.

Please take the time to read the following article and send it on to those you know so that our sisters and brothers in Nicaragua will no longer be alone in their struggle for life and justice:

Resource Center of the Americas
3019 Minnehaha Ave
Minneapolis, MN 55406-1931
(612) 276-0788

By Kristin McKay and Ryan Miller

Nicaragua: Moon Handbooks
Published by Znet, 3/30/05

Members of the Miami University Students for Peace and Justice group traveled to Nicaragua March 11th-20th on a Witness for Peace delegation to learn about United States foreign policy. While in Managua, the delegation visited a protest camp of several thousand banana and sugar cane farmers who have been lethally infected by the chemical Nemagon. Nemagon is a virulent pesticide used in banana and sugar cane plantations in Central America, the Caribbean, and the Philippines. Approximately 5000 protesters, who are living in makeshift tents of black plastic and sticks across the street from the National Assembly, say that they will not leave until their government has acted justly by recognizing the horrible conditions in which they've been left to die, covering their burgeoning medical costs, and discontinuing the use of all pesticides that contain Nemagon.

The workers asked the students to take their stories back to the United States because the United States corporations Dow Chemical, Shell Oil Co. and Standard Fruit Co. exported and encouraged the use of Nemagon. The protesters claim that over 2000 people have died due to exposure to Nemagon. One worker, Juan Alejandro Varela Sanchez, said to the Miami students who'd gathered on the night of Friday the 18th, "And here we stand talking to you and it looks like we're normal human beings, but we are already dead. Nemagon has already killed our way of life, our energy, and has left us practically lifeless. That's why some of us will be burying ourselves."

The students were shown holes, which line a busy intersection, already dug for this purpose. In addition, the protesters are threatening to light themselves on fire or crucify themselves if the Nicaraguan government will not recognize their demands. Negotiations with the government continued through the weekend, but the protesters reiterated to the students that if nothing was decided by Monday, they would act on their threats.

Quotes from the protesters

"Our struggle has actually been going on for over ten years. You haven't heard about it until now because it's been kept from your ears. Now we're reaching a point in our struggle where some may be willing to bury themselves in these holes. Some people have talked about burying themselves with their heads underground and just their feet sticking out as a final act of protest. Right now we're not sure exactly what will happen."--Merlo Antonio Irrutia Silva

"We are not asking you to give us material aid, but to simply demand what we demand: justice. Tell people how we have been here protesting four times, each time for several weeks, each time walking the 150 kilometers from Chinandega while some of us die along the way from the venom creeping inside us. Tell them that many of us left our children behind in a deformed state thanks to Nemagon. When you go back, tell them that we will not tolerate that our government erase the law that is on the books to protect us allowing us to sue the companies that poisoned us. Spread this message not just to the United States but the whole world because this is a world- wide epidemic that affects much more than just Nicaragua." --Juan Alejandro Varela Sanchez

The History

Nemagon was employed extensively in the banana-growing department of Chinandega, Nicaragua.

Nemagon, derived from dibromochloropropane (DBCP), kills a microscopic worm which inhibits the production and damages the appearance of the bananas.

Though banned in the U.S. since 1979, Nemagon was exported throughout the 60s, 70s, and 80s to other countries.

Dow Chemical and Shell Chemical, two of the major producers of Nemagon, exported up to 24 million pounds a year during this period.

Standard Fruit (owned by Dole), Del Monte, and United Fruit (now Chiquita) are some of the companies that sprayed Nemagon on their crops As a result it is estimated that 22,000 Nicaraguans are afflicted with Nemagon-caused diseases and disability.

The Effects:

The wide variety of Nemagon-caused symptoms have been attributed to the fact that DBCP targets the endocrine system.

Male victims of Nemagon suffer from reduced, impaired, or completely decimated sperm counts, with 67% of the male banana workers in Nicaragua rendered permanently sterile.

Female victims are plagued with menstrual disruptions, discoloration of the skin, repeated miscarriages, uterine and breast cancer.

Both women and men live with migraines and permanent headaches, bone pains, vision loss, fevers, hot flashes, loss of fingernails and hair, hematoma-covered skin, weight loss, anxiety and other nervous disorders, depression, liver damage, kidney and stomach cancer.

The Case:

The Association of Workers, and Former Workers with Claims against Nemagon (ASOTRAEXDAN) has been organized, headed by one of the victims, Victorino Espinales.

ASOTRAEXDAN has led the banana worker's struggle by convening assemblies, conducting medical exams on past & present workers, operating a radio program, organizing public protests, and filing legal suits on behalf of the plaintiffs.

On January 17th, 2001, due to these efforts, the Nicaraguan National Assembly passed Law 364, which lays the legal groundwork upon which farmworkers can sue the corporations.

Three U.S. corporations have been found liable under Law 364 in a Nicaraguan court; Dole, Dow, and Shell have been ordered to pay US$490 million to Nemagon victims.

Each of these companies has denied the legality of the case on fallacious grounds, calling for a new trial in the U.S.

Statistics taken from

Ryan J. Miller, is a student at Miami University of Ohio. He is a member of MU students for Peace and Justice, and MU Fair labor Coalition (a local branch of United Students Against Sweatshops). He can be reached at

This article was originally published by the sources above and is copyrighted by the sources above. We offer it here as an educational tool to increase understanding of global economics and social justice issues. We believe this is 'fair use' of copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law.

AMERICAS.ORG is a nonprofit Web site with the goal of educating and informing.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

NO to privatization 

This is such an odd spring. After a spell of unseasonably hot weather two weeks ago, we were hit on April 23-24 with two days of wet heavy snow that was followed by five days of normal late April temperatures in the 60s F. After a few days of much-needed rain, this morning it was 42 degrees when I drove (in my minivan not on my scooter) to the gym. Under cloudy skies, it felt quite chilly. Those sunny warm days I spent reading Adrienne Rich's poems beside the lake now seem like a dream. But I know it won't be long before cold weather will be a distant memory.

Yesterday I went to school and had a great time with Susan and the kids. She and most of the fourth graders will be at camp on Thursday so that's why I shifted my regular day. Then last night at swimming I heard about yet another local issue that pushed my activist's button.

Our school system apparently has a projected $2 million shortfall in the 2005-06 budget, and the school board is seriously considering privatizing a portion of the janitorial and all of the cafeteria services in order to save money. I believe this would be a big mistake. Whenever services are contracted out to a private company, the community loses control and accountability. Besides I can't imagine what this would mean to our present employees, many of whom have been with our school system for decades.

For instance, last night I learned from John Dixon at the middle school where I swim that he's been a custodian with our school system for 22 years, his co-worker for 27 years, and his boss for 37 years. And, from what I see in the pool area, the girls' locker room and the halls I scoot down twice a week during the school year, they do an excellent job. Not to mention the fact that they know and are committed to our students, teachers, office staff and parents.

So after I got home from swimming last night, I went online and found the article in our local paper online that discussed what's going on. I then wrote a letter to the editor and today wrote another letter to the school board members. Even though it will mean missing swimming--which doesn't make me happy--I'll probably go to next Monday's school board meeting and speak out on this subject.

Here's a copy of the letter I sent to the members of our school board:

I appreciate the dilemma you face in trying to find $2 million to balance the 2005-06 budget. I also hear and value the parents' concerns over the possibility that programs like music and athletics might suffer. But I would like to address the issue of the possible privatization of school services.

Privatization always brings a savings of money in the short run, but its costs in the long run are high. They include the loss of accountability and community control.

Yes, you as the Board of Education can always terminate your contract with the private company involved, but this action would require that they make a serous breach of contract. The day-to-day operation of, in this case, the custodial and cafeteria services for our schools would lie exclusively in the hands of a for-profit company that has no sense of commitment to our children and their best interests.

How different this would be from what we have grown to expect here in our community. I'm referring to the special considerations and treatment that our current custodial and cafeteria routinely offer our students and their parents.

After my lap swim at Brownell last night, I spoke briefly with John Dixon, a custodian who went through our schools as a child and has worked here as a school custodian for 22 years. I asked him about the extras he and his co-workers do for our students. Among other things, he mentioned staying with children whose rides had not shown up on time, opening the office so they could call their parents, and letting them wait inside the building until they're picked up. He also brought up the common occurrence of taking anxious parents and children from room to room looking for lost or forgotten items.

Do we really think a $8-12 per hour employee of a private company would be as sensitive to our students' needs as John and his co-workers?

Privatization is a slippery slope that we should avoid at all costs. Better to raise taxes than to give up community control over any aspect of our schools' operation. I'm afraid it will be our children who pay if we choose privatization.

I'm finding it interesting that, after years of focusing my activist efforts on the global and national scene, I'm finally taking it to the local level. And I have my friendly librarians and library staff to thank for that.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Winard Harper Sextet 

Last night I discovered what has been missing in my life of late--live jazz! It had been a surprising two and a half months since I'd been to a jazz concert--the last had been David "Fathead" Newman at the Firefly in Ann Arbor on Saturday, February 19. How could it have been so long! Well, there was my 12-day trip to San Francisco, singing with Carolyn McDade at the Leaven Center weekend before last, the Great Lakes Gaia monthly gatherings, etc., etc.

Now it isn't as if I hadn't heard jazz since February 19. I listen to jazz on CBC radio--After Hours with Ross Porter from 10-midnight M-F, and Jazz Beat with Katie Malloch from 8-10 PM every Sunday--and on my CDs in the car and at home practically every day. But there's NOTHING like experiencing the energy of musicians playing to a live audience...especially musicians as fabulous as the ones I heard last night at the SereNgety Gallery in downtown Detroit.

Bill Foster in collaboration with the Jazz Legacy Foundation brought in the Winard Harper Sextet from New York City to perform on Friday and Saturday night. On Saturday, Pat Kolon and I got to the gallery fifteen minutes before the first set was scheduled to begin at 9 PM. The audience started out small but grew as the evening wore on. And we didn't leave until 1:40 AM! During those four hours I felt like I'd died and gone to heaven. I wish I could give you an audio-version of what we experienced, but words and pictures will have to do.

First of all, let me introduce you to the band. Winard Harper is an already-legendary drummer at the young age of 42. Of course, we counted up the years he's been performing jazz in public and it comes to 31! Joining him on percussion, specifically the djembe and other African drums, is Alioune Faye from Senegal. Ameen Saleem is on the stand-up bass, Brian Horton on tenor sax, T.W. Sample on piano, and the youngest member of the group at 20 years old, Josh Evans, on trumpet and flugelhorn. Both T.W. and Josh have only been performing with Winard and the others for a few weeks, but you'd never know it. Their musicianship and energy are a perfect fit. I bought two of their CDs and would have bought more if they'd had them. You can find out how and where to buy CDs on Winard Harper's web site.

This group offers an unusual range of moods, rhythms, textures and instruments. Without missing a beat, they take you from the streets of New York--where they're now based--to Africa where Alioune was born and raised. No one dominates; each artist has a chance to solo and to back up his brother musicians. They smile and connect with one another throughout. You get the feeling they genuinely like and respect one another. They go from classical jazz favorites--always done in their own unique style--to original compositions filled with unexpected combinations of sounds.

A special treat was when Marcus Belgrave, our own Detroit-based jazz legend, showed up and added his trumpet to the mix for one number. But I appreciated his sensitivity in saying he just wanted to sit back and listen to Josh play. That young man really is exceptional.

If you live in the Chicago area you can see and hear the Winard Harper Sextet at the Jazz Showcase from June 28-July 2. Who knows, you might even see Pat and me there too.

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