Monday, August 31, 2015

like all others

Often we can't forgive someone until we can see the situation from their point of view. A good practice to encourage this kind of perspective shift is "Just Like Me." Whenever you find yourself making an assessment of another person, whether you are saying something critical or something complimentary, right after you think or say it, add the statement "just like me." For example,  "My friend blames me unfairly , just like me." While you are claiming negative qualities, also claim positive ones. For example, "My friend is a radiant being, just like me."
This activity can help you see that we are all imperfect and make mistakes.
 Yup. We are all imperfect and we all make mistakes. And love is loving another, indeed, loving all others, around the impediment of their human imperfection. I have had long stretches, in the golden tunnel during which I did love all overs, irregardless of their behavior. I do this mental zig zag in my mind in which I visualize myself sending a neon love ray from my heart to the other person's heart, dodging around the current impediment of the other's anger, judgment, etc.
 My great challenge is not fretting negatively about another. My great challenge is sending myself negative messages about myself. "I don't deserve to be loved, so he became angry, misinterpreted me and was unfair, just like me."  Is this helpful or convoluted thinking.
working through.  I rarely blame others. I blame myself for most conflicts, big or small, with others but I am an imperfect human, just like others, all others.

and then this happened

I have been chewing my cud about something for two years.

And suddenly, I stopped. I felt a kind of click in my being.Click. Done with that.

something missing in my heart

Don't surrender your loneliness
so quickly
Let it cut more deep

Let it ferment and season you
As few human
or even divine ingredients can

Something missing in my heart tonight
Has made my eyes so soft
My voice
so tender

My need of God

- Hafiz

katie chicago feb 2015

This past February, I went to Rosie's office building. I had not intended to go in but a man that I thought was a janitor, because he was dressed in work clothes and carried cleaning supplies, waved my brother and I into the building saying "Come on in, it is too cold out there to wait. Where you going?"  I thought the guy was going to an upper floor. I asked to use a lobby restroom, thinking the guy would go on with his work, I would duck into the restroom and then Dave and I would leave. The guy was solicitous. Maybe he was worried about building security although I don't think middle class and middle aged Dave and I appeared like a threat to the building. Anyway, he insisted on accompanying me to the front door of Rosie's business, which I had named as our destination.

I had not wanted to tell the guy any truth, whatever such truth might be. I was embarassed. I had had no intention to go into the building. I thought he said there was a restroom off the lobby on the second floor. Then he got off the elevator to point us to the door. I thought he was pointing to the door of a restroom off the lobby, which was what I had asked for. When I got up close, the receptionist at Rosie's place of work called out to me.  I asked about the restroom. I did not ask for Rosie, nor give my name. I backed away and Dave and I headed back to the elevator, that man I thought was the janitor was gone.

Rosie waited in her suite a bit but as we waited for the elevator, she came out screaming.  Point of fact:  if she had stayed in her office, she would not have seen me. Point of fact:  Dave and I were leaving without having asked to see her. Point of fact:  I remained calm, never raised my voice and did nothing to disrupt her business or her day. She must have overheard, and recognized my voice and came out screaming.

She did not say hello to me. She never even spoke to her uncle Dave. She screamed and shrieked. I did not recognize her, truly I didn't. If Dave had not been there, recognizing her voice because his vision is badly damaged. Dave is going blind. He said he was sure it was her voice. I saw her. Heard her. But all I saw was the aura of red hot anger. I swear I saw sparks. Fury. She had not laid eyes on me for 14 years and she was angrier than I have ever seen her. And thinner than I had ever seen her and I hospitalized her for months, once, for anorexia. She had to leave campus in college because her weight got so low. And she looked thinner than that. She also had her natural brown hair. She had always highlighted her hair blonde and I had never before seen her as a brunette. She was blonde when little. But that is not why I didn't recognize her. I did not recognize the anger, even hate, in her voice. I really did see sparks and red flying off her.  I did not recognize my daughter, the baby I once suckled at my breast, sacrificed for.  Hey, I am not into martyrdom. I don't want her gratitude or even some credit for all I gave her. I go over what I gave her trying to convince myself that I did not imagine everything, like love. 

I did not recognize her. She acted like I was behaving badly but she was the one screaming. If she had stayed in her office, Dave and I would have left. End of scene. When she kept screaming "you have to leave" I said, speaking as calmly as I ever have said "We are leaving, see? here comes the elevator?" and I stepped on it. Then she ran down to the first floor, a stairwell stapped the elevator. With my stiff knees, I avoid stairs. She screamed as she ran down the stairs, "you have to leave you have to leave" and I kept saying calmly "We are leaving". I resisted a few urges. I wanted to say "Hello Katie. Can't you at least greet your uncle Dave?"  She may have imagined that I wronged her but she can't have any memories of Dave being anything but the devoted, generous uncle he had been to her. she never even seemed to look at him, never acknowledged either of us except to scream angrily at me.

I did not rush out the door when we got to the front door because she was speaking to me so horribly. I felt such shame and humiliation, to see that intense anger after fourteen years. Whatever she thinks I did to her, I did nothing that day that deserved her temper tantrum. Think what she will, I did not make a scene.

I did, however, remain planted in that lobby each time she waived her phone and said she would have me arrestesd for trespassing if I didn't leave. I said "I am leaving. Go ahead and call the police."

I acknowledge I was responding in my own version of anger. I did not want to slink out that door with my daughter screaming at me like I was a smelly, violent vagrant.  I did not want to leave, to allow her to think that she could talk to me like I was dogshit on her shoe. I was leaving, for crissake. I also knew, from having done some criminal defense work when she was young and we still lived in the city of her birth, that Chicago cops were not going to rush a squad car or two over because she called them.  I wanted to see if she would actually call the police on me. And she did.

The cops asked her some questions, because I had her side. She said someone was in her building who would not leave. They must have asked her what the person was doing, like asked if the person was behaving in a threatening way. She must have figured out she had to say something to persuade the Chicago police to deploy their resources because she said "It's my severely mentally ill mother and she won't leave." "She isn't doing anything, she just won't leave and she is trespassing." 

My brother has a bit of a criminal record, for disorderly conduct. He had ducked out in a panick, afraid that she would call the cops, the cops would come. I understood Dave's anxiety but I also knew that even if she talked the cops into coming, we could be long gone before they got there.

I did not finally exit because I feared the police. I left, in part, because I knew Dave was freaking out. And it still pinches to know my daughter took actions that hurt her harmless, doting uncle, not to mention hurting me.  I pushed her to see if she would actually call the police.

She did. And she lied about me. When she said "It is my severely mentally ill mother", actionable slander, for she could not prove in a court of law that I have a mental illness. I don't.  I have some PTSD and some of that was likely triggered in that unhappy encounter but I remained calm. I can even see some humor in the situation. While she was shrieking to some police dispatcher that her 'severely mentally ill mother' would not leave, as if loving my child and wishing to see her was proof I was mentally ill (?), I remained perfectly calm.  I had only waited for her to make the call to see if she would. Then I said "You shouldn't speak to me as you are." A pause. Then I said "I am not mentally ill, I have no mental illness."  And then I left.

I wonder if she ever acknowledge to herself that I had not created an emotional scene, that I had not even asked to see her, that I was politely leaving once the janitor had left. She kept shrieking "there was no janitor, that is a lie".

She never even said "Hi Mom". That might be what had her so sparking with hot anger.  She hated me in those moments. She was furious, projecting her own emotional wildness onto me as I behaved calmly.

Truth told, if Dave was not panicking outside, coming to the door a couple times to plead with me to get out of there, to signal his fear because of his police record (He kicked in a boyfriend's car lights while drunk, in a fight -- wrong, of course, but with no outstanding warrants or any charges, I don't think the Chicago Police would have done anything to him. 

I was always going to leave. I probably would have prolonged the scene if Dave was not worried about the cops. I left for him, not her.

the anti-love poem

​the anti-love poem*​

Sometimes you don't want to love the person you love
you turn your face away from that face
whose eyes lips might make you give up anger
forget insult steal sadness of not wanting
to love turn away then turn away at breakfast
in the evening don't lift your eyes from the paper
to see that face in all its seriousness a
sweetness of concentration he holds his book
in his hand the hard-knuckled winter wood-
scarred fingers turn away that's all you can
do old as you are to save yourself from love

-- Grace Paley

by the shores of gitchee goomee

In South Minneapolis, Minnehaha Falls is the end of a long, meandering creek that runs through most of the southern edge of the city. It ends as Minnehaha falls, cascading into the Mississippi River. The Mississsippi River is a natural boundary between Minneapolis and St. Paul.

When I owned a house in Minneapolis, it was a few blocks from the Mississippi. We took walks along the river, on both sides, a habit I started in the seventies when in law school.

Along both sides of the river, the river front if preserved, almost entirely, as public park, with beautifully inviting walking. I loved to go for walks along the river with my little girl in the fall. She loved to find beautiful leaves, one after another. With each beautiful leaf, she would exalt joyfully. "Look at this one, Mommy, it is so beautiful." A moment later, "Oh, this one is really pretty." And "Oh this one is the best." And "Here is another beautiful beat, Mom!"  I enjoyed the crisp fall air, hearing the river roll by, feel the wind, hear the trees waving in the wind but most of all, I loved the joy my child found in every single beautiful leaf.  I miss her.

We did not walk down the walkway that ended at the falls many times.  I don't remember why. We walked there, just not as much as other spots.

"The Song of Hiawatha", written by Longfellow, is an epic poem written in the 19th century for a site along Lake Superior, the Great Lake that abuts much of Northern Minnesota.  Minnehaha Falls cascading into the Mississippi is not Hiawatha but, as wikipedia informs, Hiawatha became a common name for towns, rivers and lakes. There is a Lake Hiawatha in Minneapolis.

When I lived near Minnehaha Falls, I wrongly thought Minnehaha Falls was the inspiration for the poem, along with the small creek, or small river, that wends its way through S. Minneaoplis. It is a beautiful park, with walkways on both sides of the river through most of where it makes its way through Minneapolis.  No buried culverts in the Land of Ten Thousand Lakes.

Here in downtown Berkeley, we have Strawberry Creek, which begins high above the UC Berkeley campus, and does ripple down through the campus. When it gets to the city's downtown, the creek was culverted to allow building downtown.  I think Northern California has made a lot of poor choices as it has tried to control and provide water.  As N. California deals with intransigent, historic droughts, I am learning about all the ways men have tried to harness water and move it great distances to allow human life and human agriculture in places it does not really belong.

The whole country lives on the food grown in California desert. San Francisco has gotten its drinking water from Yosemite for at least a century. What hubrus for humans to think they could control nature.

I drove or walked past the statue pictured above thousands of times. Not every time but many times, I recited a few lines of the poem. By the shores of Gitcheegoomee, by the shining big sea waters. Big sea. Lake Superior, not the sweet Minnehaha Creek that laces through Minneapolis. The mighty Mississippi counts as a big water but not big sea. I should have known it was Lake Superior.

I gave my daughter the wrong information. There is a Longfellow House near this statue, with the claim that Longfellow once lived along the Mississipppi. Maybe he did. But he lived near the shing big sea water of Lake Superior when he wrote his epic poem, Hiawatha.

Sorry, Rosie, for the pedagogical misdirection. I think you still got the gist: guidance to enjoy the beauty of bodies of water, the falls, the trees, our many walks along the mighty Mississippi.

She and I took a few walks along the shining big sea water of Lake Superior . . . but not enough. 

I wish I could go camping near Gooseberry Falls once more, with my shining magic penny. My little girl.

which future will we give ourselves?


I have to run an errand in San Jose. That will involve an hour on BART, then about an hour on Caltrain.  Each way, so four hours on trains, not counting the Muni light rail to get near the DeYoung. On the return trip, I'm going to stop in San Francisco to see the Turner show at the DeYoung. I also need to stop at Dugoni Dental School to pay a small bill. I am also going to do a Rainbow Foods run, thinking out my path through the day tomorrow.  I guess I could stop at 16th & Mission, walk to Rainbow, walk back to BART at 16th so I can catch a Muni train to near the DeYoung.

Boring details but it won't be a boring day.

The Turner show is a stunner. Tomorrow, I'll get there mid to late afternoon but I prefer to get to art museums as they open, when the galleries are not packed. For a blockbuster show like the Turner, going in the afternoon means crowds.

My favorite part of being an art docent, as I have been at several museums, is viewing art in museums when they are empty. The Walker would let docents in when the museum was closed, for time to plan our tours.

If I get to an art museum as soon as it opens for the day, I can usually get some time in relatively quiet galleries.

I think I'll stop at Dugoni on my way to San Jose, stop at Rainbow on my way back to the city as I head to the Deyoung. Or maybe split the errands into two days.

Boring details but we'll have a great day. 

note to self

my sixtieth birthday indignity

I am seeing that for years -- way too many -- I have been telling myself if this one person, he who shall not be named (HSNBN), didn't like me, that meant I was no good. Slowly this wore me down. Whose fault was this? Not HSNBN's. Mine.  I didn't like how he treated me but I kept wanting more anyway. Then he did me a favor, although it hurt like the dickens at the time.

He invited me out to dinner for my sixtieth birthday.  I suggested lunch instead because lunch is cheaper and he is not rich. He fretted about spending money a lot. I like to go out to dinner more than lunch; I was being, or trying to be, thoughtful. And I suggested Saturday, even though my birthday was that Friday, because I thought on a non-work day, a Saturday we could hang out a bit. I called him twice the day before he took me out for that sixtieth birthday lunch. Once I asked him if he was bringing his bicycle. He already knew he wasn't, that he was coming on his motorcycle because he was going to rush his time with me and have a business meeting later. On a Saturday. Instead of saying "No, I am not bringing my bicycle, I am bringing my motorcycle so I can go to tom's" he evaded. he said 'why do you ask?" I hung up, feeling uneasy. I called him again and offered to show him how I make coconut milk.

How many people would think that a sixtieth birthday visit that included lunch and a cooking lesson would be a rushed, quickie visit? Raise your hand if you think my clearly disclosed assumption that we would hang out after lunch to make coconut milk, which is boiling hot when first made and needs time to cool off before HSNBN could put it in his backback. He still didn't tell me he was going to rush my sixtieth birthday visit with him. I even called a third time, worried that he bring glass jars for the hot milk. He had said he'd bring a half gallon plastic bottle but I was worried that the plastic would not hold up to the hot coconut milk.

Those three calls made it very clear that I expected to hang out with my supposed friend as we 'celebratead' my sixtieth birthday. We made explicit plans for a cooking lesson after lunch. When he got here and said he only had two hours, I was hurt and said so. He said "Maybe I should leave" and I said "maybe you should". then he offered to run errands but, as he knew, I had just run all my errands, getting my raw milk, going to the farmers market, doing my trader joe's weekly run which I do in conjunction with the farmers market.  I said "I just ran all my errands."

I wanted him to go but he said "is there anything we could do right now to change the energy of how you feel?" and I said "Let me make the coconut milk." He was surprised but agreed, oblivious to why I wanted to do that.

I was sick, needing to eat lunch. I have Type I diabetes and when I go too long past regular meal times, I feel sick. And I had told him when he arrived, I was sick and needed to eat. but I made his damned coconut milk before we went to lunch so it would have a little time to cool. We rushed through lunch. What if I had wanted to go somewhere that wasn't on my block? like down by the marina or in an adjaent suburb? What if I had wanted to go somewhere special for my sixtieth birthday?

I made that boiling hot milk and put it in fridge to chill while we had a rushed lunch at a restaurant next door. What if I had wanted to go somewhere not on my block? With only one hour allotted for my sixtieth birthday, there was no time to go anywhere else. But he had time for the cooking lesson. Plenty of time for that, plus a lesson in how to make chocolate bliss in a blender. He had time for that, eh?

Foolish me. I had believed my sixtieth birthday was a day about me.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

I love this quote!

There is not a particle of life
which does not bear
poetry within it.
~ Gustave Flaubert

how others treat me is their path

Just read that Wayne Dyer died today. Blessings on his being. 

what Goddess does all the time

"let's stop for food."

My daughter and I criss-crossed several Midwestern states each year, trekking to Chicago to visit some of my clan and to Ohio to visit my mom and, before they moved to Chicago for high school, my baby brother and sister. Her aunt and uncle. Her grandma. Her grandpa.

I did these trips largely for her, to give her a sense of family. Apparently I failed. When she ditched me from her life, she ditched my whole clan, hurting others, not just me. It has been especially painful for my brother Dave to be shunned by her, for he was very very good to her when she was a kid.  So was his longtime life partner, now deceased. It also hurt my mother a lot to be shunned by Rosie. My mom was also very good to Rosie until Rosie shunned her whole family, at least my side. And my mom's been dead a couple years. I don't count her father's family, for none of them made any attempt to see her as she grew up, in spite of my offers of free flights to visit them, my pleas for them to even just write to her. They didn't see my little girl's brokenness as she keened for them, for people she loved.  My mom and brother Dave, and his partner Tom, along with my dad who died when she was only six, were all as devoted to her as family gets on a baby they have loved.

Rosie has lived in Chicago about ten years, now,  minutes from her Uncle Dave, her other uncles, cousins; this included her cousin Ruby until Ruby started at Smith last year and Ruby's mom finished her PhD and moved back abroad.

Rosie threw away her whole family. 

Back when she and I regularly visited my mom, I often dropped Rosie off with my mom for a few weeks. As a single parent with no co-parenting father to spell me from time to time, I was on call 24/7/365 as a parent. It takes a toll. My mom, bless her, understood I needed a couple weeks now and then just to be me and not be the only on-call parent. Plus my mom loved Rosie. A lot.  Note:  Rosie's father chose to have nothing toi do with her. I didn't tell her but I used to steadily write to him and his relatives, offering to fly her to see them at my expense and begging him to come see her. I did not discuss my efforts with her because it hurt her that her paternal relatives abandoned her and it would have hurt more to know I had made some efforts to arrange visits.

I did succeed once. I talked her father into coming to see her play Tatiana in "A MidSummer Night's Dream" in the 7th grade.  He came to the play but he did not spend any time with her. Weird. He was always weird. 

Once, when she was hospitalized repeatedly for a health problem that took awhile to resolve, he actually visited Minneapolis, shopping at Mall of America with his then-girlfriend. She was very, very sick. She needed a blood transfusion, actually, and that did not resolve her health problem. For her privacy, I will not write more, although, of course, I don't use her name here.  He knew his only child was hospitalized but he didn't let us know he was in town. I found out because this was in the early days of caller-ID and he called my home, leaving a message to ask about her. I was at the hospital when he called, duh. When I dialed the caller ID number, I got a hotel at the Mall of America. I left him a message. I asked him to come see her. I shared my anxiety about her health, for at that point, the doctors had not figured out what was wrong and I was very worried. I asked him to send her flowers, which he did not do. Then I sent her flowers, crediting him, I think. What kind of father, knowing his daughter was very ill, so ill that she was hospitalized for about a week at Xmas time, could blow off his kid because he had too much shopping to do for the girlie friend?


Sometimes mom and Rosie flew to Minneapolis to return Rosie to me. Sometimes mom and I rendezvous'd in Chicago. And once in a blue moon, Mom drove all the way from Ohio to Minneapolis.  Mom liked to visit her sons in Chicago, occasionally visited me, her aunt in St. Paul and her granddaughter (Rosie).  Sometimes I drove back to Ohio to get Rosie after Mom had come to Minneapolis to take her away.

My aunt the former nun was living in Minneapolis for several years of Rosie's childhood. Once mom and her sister connected in Chicago to drive Rosie and my aunt back to Minneapolis.

First they spent most of a day running errands. Mom was picking out furniture and construction supplies for the remodeling of one brother's home in Chicago. They had spent most of the day at the Merchandise Mart.

Then they hit the road. Rosie was about six. As soon as they got on the interstate, which around Chicago has fairly grim food choices. It is a toll road and most driveres settle for the bad food sold at the toll road restaurants, which were mostly McDonald's when Rosie was six.

Rosie said "Grandma, I'm hungry."

Mom said "Jody, we should stop at the next toll service station, get Rosie some food.

Jody, never having raised any child or tended any child, said "Honestly, Mary Ann, are you going to give into Rosie's manipulation? She's not hungry. She just wants you to buy her a treat on the road.

Mom, bless her, said "Jody, I have known Rosie six years. She has spent quite a lot of time with me. Ron and I have hosted her, sometimes, for weeks at a time. This is the first time I have ever heard her say she was hungry. If she says she is hungry, she must be. Stop now."

Jody stopped, signing and complaining about my mother's overindulgence of her first grandchild.

Geez. And she was still a nun then!  Compassion must not have been in vogue in her order. Both my mom's sisters were pills. Heck, my mom was a pill. None of them were fit to raise kids. My youngest siblings used to credit me with being their primary parent, giggling about it when they were teens as if it were funny that our parents both neglected them, leaving most of their nurturing care up to me.

My mom's second husband took mom's still at home kids (my baby brother and sister, plus, sometimes, my brother Tom) and his still at home daughters, then teens,  on long, cross-country road trips for several years after they married.  Ron had to make lots of sales calls on customers. Traveling with both their kids gave both of them quality time with their kids. My mom had always done lots of road trips with her kids. I knew every possible educational rest stop in the Midwest, I think. My mom sure did. When she and I had crisscrossed the Midwest with the younger kids, the eldest boys usually opting to stay in Chicago, mom would have me navigate. I researched the trips for weeks, plotting out art museums and history museums for rest stops, making reservations at modest motels near educational places.  With Ron, they traveled outside the Midwest, up and down the West coast, up and down the rest of the West and up and down the East Coast.  My mom married Ron the week I started college, without telling me or her other left behind children. She kept her location a secret a long time. Losing access to my babies made my parents' divorce much more painful than it needed to be.  My mom was such a dopey mother, so utterly lacking in empathy for her own kids.  I don't know what Rosie tells herself about me but I was never mean to her.  I hardly even disciplined her. And I made all kinds of choices to ensure she got the education she got, choices she still has no knowledge of because I never told her.

I think she disowned me because I am fat and not rich.  I think she was always ashamed of her fat mom. And I don't think she understood why I was poor. Apparently she came up with that 'severely mentally ill" story which I bet she tells people to garner empathy and support. But I do not have a mental illness. I do have PTSD.

In the several years they made such trips, Ron would only stop for bathroom breaks or food breaks when he needed one. Mom would sit in the passenger seat in the front and beg Ron to stop, repeatedly telling him that his bladder and hunger did not operate the same as the children's.  Ron was pretty stubborn. I don't think he ever relented, ever stopped before he felt a need to pee or to eat.  Eventually they got a camper so the kids could pee in the camper, and grab food from the fridge.

Mom came through for her first grandchild. Jody was such a pain in the ass. She lived in convents most of her life. Never tended children, never got to know a kid. She flat out refused to believe my mom when mom said "I've never heard this child say she is hungry, she must be hungry."

Truth told, my Rosie turned out anorexic. She never ate a lot. And she never asked for stops on road trips. Mom was right. It was unusual that Rosie said she was hungry.

Under the circumstances, it was not that unusual that Rosie was hungry. Jody, Mom and Rosie had not eaten since an early breakfast and Rosie asked for food in the late afternoon. She had patiently kept waiting until Grandma stopped for lunch, which she never did. They had left my brother's home at 8 a.m., shopped all day and hit the tollroad towards Wisconsin around 4 p.m. Most humans would have been hungry if they hadn't eaten all day.

I loved my mom for supporting Rosie that day, for insisting Jody stop so the kid could eat.

I love you, my honey pie. More today than ever.

Remembering this story reminds me of the time my sister's first husband babysat my niece for one whole day when both my sister and I were unable to take care of her. My sister was at a retreat. I fed my niece breakfast and dropped her off around 8 a.m. at her stepfather's. He returned her around 7 p.m. and, with a casual air, mentioned she might be hungry because he had not fed her all day. So I turned to my niece, then around age four, and asked if she were hungry. She burst out with "I'm starving. I haven't eaten all day."

May 1977: first year law finals

In May 1977, I faced my first-year final exams in law school. In the first year, most courses are two semesters-long and the entire grade rests on one exam at the end of those two semesters. In two semesters, I had read many hundreds of pages for each course. I could be tested on any material in those hundreds of pages, in addition to be expected to recall class discussions.

The year of the paper chase, as memorialized in a pretty good movie that captures the intensity of first year law.

In the beginning, with my very fat Black's Law Dictionary, which my ex-husband stole from me when we separated. Come on, it was pre marital inventory -- altho I don't care now, I cared then. Even when he took it, I didn't care about the dictionary. I cared about the boundary violation.  He locked me and our baby out of the house ensconced his parents in the house should I decide to hire a  lacksmith to let me into my own house, my name on the deed and all. My lawyer told me to let him keep me locked out, that it would make him look like a jerk to the judge. He and his family wouldn't let me in my own house to get the baby's diapers or clothes. They also stole family mementos from my family, little trinkets my grandmother or mother had gifted me over a lifetime.  I still wonder about such witless greed.  I had a music box that my grandmother had given me. It was my treasure solely because my long gone grandma had gifted it to me.

A few years later, when Rosie visited her father, she saw that music box, remembered the song and picture on the box and reported to me about it. I asked to have it returned to me and her paternal grandmother (It was at her grandma's house, a girlie thing her dad didn't care about) but my ex mother-in-law denied she had it. She said Rosie, age four or five, could not be a reliable witness.

It was not particularly valuable. It had great sentimental value to me. Not only had my then-gone grandmother gifted it to me, but I had played it for my youngest siblings as I helped raised them, played it often for Rosie. All kinds of love was wrapped up in my memories of that fox.

There was another music box stolen from me while I was locked out of my own house.

I have digressed.This is about the time, in May 1977, when my aunt the nun called and invited me out to lunch during my study period for first year finals.  I had worked long hours all that year but every student ratchets up their study prep for first year finals. I spent all my waking hours studying, ate mostly take out and studied. So I declined my aunt's invitation,  then a nun, now the ex-nun and married to an Episcopal priest. To my surprise, my aunt refused to take no for an answer. She said it was nonsense that I didn't have time for lunch and she insisted we have lunch. It might be the only time my aunt the nun, who was my godmother at my baptism, ever invited me to do anything with her. It kinda seemed like she had deliberately chosen a stressful time.

I went. And it is not like she took me out for good food. She took me to a Denny's. Not even a Perkins. Crappy Denny's. I ordered a tuna salad sandwich, reasoning "how bad could they fuck that up?" and, of course, Denny's fucked it up. Too much mayo, old tuna that should not have been served, bread soaked by the old tuna and too much mayo, the bread stale.  I ate as fast as I could and fled back to my place to study.

During that lunch, trying to make conversation with my not-really-known-to-me aunt, I mentioned that I had just read that a large percentage of Americans objected to the idea of ever-growing economies, that people didn't like the idea that economies had to always get bigger and bigger. It was not a new concept to me, to object to the way this country uses capitalism as its national religion, national system of beliefs.

The unusual elementn, in a forced lunch appearance, was my aunt's boorish reply. She said "My goodness, I had no idea you had such political views. I thought you were very conservative."

Where did she get that? She never knew me, never showed any interest in knowing me. Where did she fail to register that I have always been as liberal as a person can be?

And who was she to judge me, mired as she was then in the male dominator organization of the Catholic Church, that denies women the priesthood or any meaningful leadership in the church.

Just because I did not, as she purported to do, dedicate my life to serving the poor, she had no reason to think I was an ugly capitalist.

I hated my aunt the nun. When she left the convent to marry an episcopal priest, who had been married when he met Jody, I was 47 so she had been a nun 47 years. She took her final vows the day after my baptism.

She met Bill when both of them studied with Jean Houston. Houston, who for years lied about having a PhD. Houston had failed her orals but she went  on claiming she had the credential for a long time. While she was still lying, she offered programs in some kind of spirituality, attracting lots of nuns and priest. Jody and Bill fell in love at first sight but decided they could not get together because Bill was married with children, that he had made that commitment. Then his wife gave him a free pass to marry someone else when she decided she is a lesbian and left Bill for a woman. Jody married Bill and, as far as I know, they are still married.

In my mind's eye, I am sitting at that cheap Denny's, eating only a few bites of the really awful sandwich at that awful, command performance lunch. All I could think about was getting back to hitting the books and Jody mocked me about that throughout the meal. She even tried to drag me out for a walk with my great aunt Effie, her aunt Effie but I stood firm.

The next day, I did poorly on my Civil Procedure exam. I didn't exactly blame that lunch. I blamed the quarter pound of smoked cheddar I ate later that day to make up for the horrible lunch with Jody. I still blame that rich smoked cheese. I knew CP cold. I had gotten the highest grade in the class on the final practice exam at the end of the first semester but that grade didn't count for the final grade. It was offered as a practice.

I never belonged in law school. It is too late to fix that massive mistake.

And fuck you Jody Beers for bullying me to go out to lunch with you during those high pressure finals.   I don't blame you for my civil procedure grade, just for the harassment and lack of compassion. You imposed your judgments onto me, Jody and you were wrong to do so.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

even stars collide, new worlds are born

We no longer need to fear arguments, confrontations or any kind of problems
with ourselves or others. Even stars collide, and out of their crashing new worlds are born. Today I know THAT IS “LIFE”!

Charlie Chaplin

This is a snippet from a long poem Chaplin wrote at age 70.  I like the line "even stars collide, and out of their crashing new worlds are born."

art from TreeSisters, women seeding change

anazasi beans and $8 for heirloom tomatoes

I visited Santa Fe for five days in May 2013. It was not a tourist-minded trip. A friend was housesitting. I love Santa Fe. I saw a chance for free housing in Santa Fe. She agreed. She did warn me that she didn't tend to do much. If I had had a car, I would have gone somewhere every day, exploring pueblos. I wanted to go to the National Petroglyph Park and had mentioned it in advance. My friend's response was to offer to treat me to an expensive desert jeep safari that showed us some petroglyphs. The jeep safari was awesome. Totally. I still wish I had seen Petroglyph National Park.

The jeep safari takes people onto a gigantic private ranch that contains several old settlements, one of two of the settlements being quite ancients. And you see lots of petroglyphs. We asked to see them and Roch, the guide, knows every inch of the land so he knows all the petroglyphs. I suspect the ones on this ranch are very old. They are mostly small ones, yet I have seen quite large ones, outlines of beings that resemble dressed-up Indian dancers. Kokopelli is a famous New Mexican petroglyph and Kokopelli is almost the size of a modern human. I have this idea Petroglyph National Park had bigger petroglyphs but I don't really know, it would have been a drive and my friend really had told the truth. She did not get out and about much.

We did go out to breakfast every single day and always to the same place. She would have branched out, I think, but she loves this place and so do I. I love pupusas and I swear the ones at this funky blend of New Mexican and American breakfast foods make the best ones I ever tasted. They tasted nothing like the ones sold in pupuserias in San Francisco's Mission, the only ones I can campare them to. The ones I ate daily in Santa Fe were lighter, crispier, fried more and filled more lightly. Someone with a light, perfect touch made them. Man, they were good.

That, the jeep tour and the Georgia O'Keefe museum were all we did in five days. I did ask my friend to drop me off downtown so Ic ould just stroll around the SF square and feel like I was there. There are several museums and many galleries off that main square and I wanted to see them all. But I had forgotten my cell, did not know the last name of the person my friend was housesitting for and so my visit to downtown Santa Fe became all about getting a hold of her. I stopped and asked two pairs of cops for help and both pairs shrugged. Is that any way to treat tourists in a town dependent on tourist income? And all the tourist info spots were closed on Sunday, like that makes sense. What about weekend tourists? Don't they ever need help?

I finally walked to the library, getting there just a few minutes before they closed. Lots of places had wifi but I had no way to get online! I got online at the library, got the  home phone of my friend's ex-husband and the phone number where her son works. Then I went around asking people if I could use their cell phones, explaining my situation. The one public pay phone I found in downtown Santa Fe had been vandalized -- and left that way. A nice kid taking parking fees at a parking lot booth lent me his cell. I managec to control my friend's co-workers into giving me his cell phone. He was a little upset with them but I had been convincing. I really have known him since he was 8, I had explained and shared a few facts about him that I knew to convince his assistant manager (he managers the joint) and I scored his cell phone. Later, though, his mom told me he was upset that the restaurant had given out his number. She explained what a jam I was in. I had no idea how to find that suburban tarct house. None. I had done none of the driving. When I don't drive, I don't pay attention.

Another thing we did:  we went to the farmers market where an enterprising capitalist was selling what was probably about 1/4 pound of anazasi beans, a tiny packet of spices and cooking instructions for five bucks. I bought two as souvenirs.  I eat lots of legumes, since I don't do grains and legumes are high in protein and fiber while low in calories. Legumes are good for us.

The anazasi bean was cultivated, it is believed, as far back as 1,100 A.D. Some archaeologists discovered some jars of the beans a few hundred years ago and began recultivating them. I think they are tastier than pinto beans. They are prettier. They have a splash of reddish blotch on them. It is said you pass less gas with anazasi beans than pintos and I think this must be right. And I think the anazasi gas I do 'pass' smells much less than the pinto bean smell. That might be my imagination.

In May, heirloom tomatoes cost eight bucks a pound in Santa Fe. I had been grumbling in Berkeley about paying three bucks a pound. No more. Not to mention at some points in the summer heirloom tomtatoes were so abundant this year that many vendors sold them for $2.50 a pound. Once I scored some at two bucks a pound. We're talking organic here. I only buy and eat organic food.  Update:  in summer 2015, organic heirloom tomatoes are selling at Berkeley farmers' markets for $3 to $3.50. Why the steep price in Santa Fe?

I am surprised by how much I like these anazasi beans. I think I could give up protein. I put in quite a lot of chili powder, some garlic and onions to begin to season them. I just ate about a cup's worth for my dinner, doused in pumpkin seed salsa. With each bite, I could not help but think "a month from now, I will only be able to eat a liquid diet. Two months from now when I start on solids, all food will have to be pureed. These beans will make good pureed food. The fiber will help me 'go', a challenge post major surgery. And they are high in protein, another challenge. I have to push protein in the early weeks so my body does not eat its muscle.

I had a good visit. We went to a flea market on a pueblo near Santa Fe on Sunday. My friend scored a lot of great little souvenirs for her much-doted-upon pair of grandgirls. Then she dropped me off downtown. It was a little  miserable spending the whole afternoon trying to figure out how to get hold of my friend but my goal had been to hang out in downtown SF and just feel like I was there. by the time I got my friend's cell number from her son back in MN, I had walked all over downtown SF. And my friend insisted on picking me up since once she had taken a cab and it cost forty bucks.

She and I had never spent anything like that much time together. We got along just fine. I don't think there was any tension. I even ate a pizza for dinner, even though I don't really do pizza anymore. We were starving, the place we had tried to eat at was closed. She said "we're going to eat at the next place we see" and there it was, right in the parking lot: a cheap pizza joint. When the large cost $14, it was  cheap carbs, cheap ingredients, skimpy on the stuff you most want but I politely ate it. She ate my swordfish and salmon, which I had frozen and brought from San Francisco. I ate her pizza.

I only told her later , months later, that I had just eaten that pizza to be polite.  Now I would not eat it at all, since I am done with gluten forever.

Isn't this fascinating? Even midwinter here in Berkeley, when the tomatoes are not looking quite so awesome, I have not seen them more than three to $3.50 a pound.  Those eight buck heirlooms in SF shocked me.  In 2013. I wonder what they cost in 2015?!

And this happened. I had dinner with some friends in El Sobrante, CA, just before I went to Santa Fe. I asked if we could grill a burger because I don't have any access to somewhere to grill. the house we stayed at in Santa Fe had no grill either. A guy was selling meat and grilling samples. When I smelled the cooking meat, I wanted some grilled meat so badly. I asked the guy if I could buy a whole patty. He was grilling some kind of sausage in patty form. He said "Come back in five minutes". When I returned, he gave me a whole patty, cooked just for me, and would not let me pay. What kindness.

Life is full of such sweet things when I am able to notice them.

wake up

An Inconvenient Truth
It is, of course, more of an effort to deal with reality than to waffle in general terms about world harmony, about the individual soul being in harmony with the world, about harmony in the general love of humanity.
Anthroposophy does not exist to send people off to sleep, but to make them really wide awake. We are living at a time when it is necessary for people to wake up.
Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 177 – Fall of the Spirits of Darkness: Lecture 8: Abstraction and Reality – Dornach, October 13, 1917

A time to wake up in 1917 and 2015.

Wake up.

then tender

I was dead, then alive.
Weeping, then laughing.
The power of love came into me
and I became fierce like a lion,
then tender like the evening star...
~ Rumi

Friday, August 28, 2015

as I am

I would reincarnate as this beauty

This photo has flown through my FB wall a few times. I love both the bird, the light, the darkness of the trees. Beauty. Beautiful world.

always a work in progress

“Happiness is the choice I make today. It does not rest on my circumstances, but on my frame of mind. I surrender to God any emotional habits that lead me down the path of unhappiness, and pray for guidance in shifting my thoughts. In cultivating the habits of happiness, I attract the people and situations that match its frequency. I smile more often, give praise more often, give thanks more often, and am glad more often. For such is my choice today.” ~ Marianne Williamson

Gosh, I inhaled Marianne Williamson's work back in the eighties. When I see someone post a great quote from Williamson, it takes me back.  I am grateful to be reminded of her work, reminded of all the work I have done and, with mostly good humour, reminded that I have to relearn and relearn.

Always a work in progress, that's me.

mark of maturity

The true mark of maturity is when somebody hurts you and you try to understand their situation instead of trying to hurt them back.

Is the above statement true, is this really the 'true mark' of maturity?  Reflecting.  I'm going to take an internet fast.  My mind fills up with right-resonating good lines that often, upon reflection, seem like gobbledegook. And yet.  And yet.

Is there a mark of maturity?  I certainly agree that trying to hurt someone after they have hurt you, offloading your own pain to avoid feeling it, is wrong. But is a failure to exercise self restraint and to act only from compassion the 'true mark of maturity'?  I doubt there is one true mark of maturity.

Several years ago, I bought someone a great and, for me, very expensive gift.  A painting that captured an event related to the person's work. I had to scrimp for six months to be able to buy it. I wanted to buy it for this person because I thought, and still do, that it was a lovely, joyful representation of this man's dreams for a better world.  I wanted him to have the painting as a small reminder of his dreams, and a reminder that he could make his dreams come alive.

I still drank coffee in coffeeshops back then. I gave up doing that for six months so I could come up with enough money to make an offer on the painting.

The painter, unknown to me, is a social acquaintance of the man I gifted the painting to.  Through some miscommunication, the man received the painting before I had ever seen it in person. I had only seen tiny photos of it online. 

When I learned the painter had delivered my painting, for it belonged to me until I chose to gift it and it was not up to the painter to gift what I had paid for, I asked to see it. To my continuing amazement, the man refused to let me see it. For months, like three months, we would talk once in awhile and I always brought up my wish to see what I still considered my painting.

For months, the man, who repeatedly said the painting was the best gift he ever got, refused to let me see it.  I offered to meet him at a coffeeshop a few blocks from his home, a safe, public space where he had nothing to fear from me. He refused.  I tried patience. I tried acceptance. But what had started out as a happy, even joyful experience of giving someone 'the best gift they ever got' became a painful experience, a denial of my role in the gift. This guy acted like the painter had given it to him.  He would not simply let me see it.

After many phone calls, mostly initiated by me and always initiatead by me because I wanted to see that painting, to erase the pain it has come to represent to me by seeing it and, hopefully, feeling glad for my sacrifice and generosity.

Finally, when I began to feel demeaned in the position of begging to see something that I had paid for through real sacrifice and yet never even seen, I told the man I would approach the painter for a refund, since I had never received the thing I had bought. I said I would sue him in small claim's court if I had to.

This, the concern of feeling embarassed with the artist, got his attention. My wish to see my own painting that had been wrongly placed in the man's possession didn't matter to him. He only cared about being embarrassed in front of the painter.  My feelings did not matter. I was just the chump, or so it seemed to me, who had shelled out what amounted to a huge amount of money for me.

In these months of asking and asking to see my painting, I reflected on all the little sacrifices I had made over several months. I berated myself for ahving been such a chump, for having imagined this man considered me a friend and that the gift would represent our friendship. Ha.  He cared what that artist thought.

When I told him, over the phone, that I would pursue my remedies with the artist who had taken my money but never delivered to me what I had bought, the man with the painting wrote an email late that evening saying "You must be feeling hurt."

Now, now, I see that his note was an invitation to some dialogue. I had already been in a dialogue with him for months, politely asking to see what he had possession of only by mistake. Possessio is not nine tenths of the law. I had paid for the painting, the artist only had a duty to do what I asked and had no duty to my intended gift recipient. The painter had made a mistake. And the recipient had made a mistake but he compounded his mistake for months.

I was polite for months.

And then I did not really threaten the man in possession of what was my painting. I threatened to recover the money I had paid for it.

How I wish I might have seen that late night email in which the man with the painting in his possession had written something about how I must feel hurt.

On the other hand, I still think of that late night email in which he, I guess, tried to 'understand my situation". To me, there was only one signal he might have given me to indicate he was trying to understand my situation and that was to let me see the damned painting.

I had waited at least three months, and actually more for I didn't count the 30 days the painting recipient had spend in Africa. Counting those 30 days, I had waited four months after spending the most money I have ever spent on a gift.

And my motives were kinda pure.  The man, who, as far as I know, still has the best gift he ever got in his life, seemed to attach meaning to my intentions related to that painting that had nothing to do with my actual intentions. I believe he refused to let me see it because he projected his own stuff onto my gesture.  I don't know what meaning he gave my gift intention.  I have no idea why he would not simply meet me in that coffeeshop near his home, for I did not dare invite myself to his home.

Oh, now I remember more. During the time frame when he mistakenly came into possession of the painting I had paid for, and I told the artist I intended to give it to the guy, I also helped the painting recipient with a small business matter. He accepted my business help, recovering an unpaid debt from one of his clients. I succeeded in that recovery. But he had gotten the painting in the midst of that. I said nothing about the painting as we interacted about the business matter, out of courtesy and a wish to behave professionally in relation to the business matter, to not muddle our personal connection with the small business task. He was happy to accept my free business help, happy to take something that belong to me in that painting. But he wouldn't even let me see it.

Then he was off to Africa. We corresponded a bit as he traveled.  I actually told him while he was in Namibia or Zambia, that I wanted to talk to him about my painting as soon as he returned home. He returned sometime that June and I waited until late August to see my painting.

I wanted to see the painting in person, to see the artist's technique.  I really did just want to see the painting.

I have no understanding of that man's refusal to just let me see my painting.  I had spent more money on that gift than I had ever spent on any human being except my daughter and I wanted to see the painting. The art docent in me wanted to see the only original painting I had ever bought.

So, was he exercising the mark of maturity when he wrote that note, after refusing for several months to let me see what belonged to me, to let me see something he possessed by mistake, when he wrote "you must be hurting"? What I 'heard' in his 'you must be hurting' was an attempt to placate me, to keep me from contacting the artist and potentially embarrassing him. I did not hear him say "I am sorry, I misunderstood your wish to see the painting, let's arrange a place, date and time for you to see it."

That man never disclosed his thoughts and feelings to me. I never got any explanation of why he had refused to let me see that expensive for me, best gift he ever got, painting. When he finally severed ties with me, and has shunned me now for two years, I asked him once again to explain why he had refused to let me see the painting. He wrote "I thought I was doing the right thing." That statement was worse than no answer. The right thing?  I wanted to know how he thought accepting what he knew was a very extravagant gesture from me, knowing he had received it by mistake instead of being gifted it directly by me so I could see his reaction as he received it, how the heck had he decided denying me one glimpse of my grand gesture was 'the right thing'.

When he wrote that late night email, shortly after I had said I would pursue my remedies with the artist who had taken my money but never delivered what I had bought, that he thought I was feeling hurt, he still failedl to acknowledge what I still think was a simple and wholly understandable wish:  I wanted to see in person the only painting I had ever bought.

Did I make a wrong turn when I reacted to his, to me, confusing note saying I must feel hurt?  I thought he was trying to stop me from contacting the artist about the contretemps. It did not occur to me that he was trying to understand my situation. I had been unequivocally clear for several  months:  I wanted to see that cursed painting. How long had he imagined was a reasonable time to have possession of something that was mine and yet refuse my, I believe, humble request to just see it.

I didn't ask for it back. I asked to see it and after a short time of asking to see it, my main goal in pursisting was to erase the sense of humiliation I felt. I thought this man had been a friend. I did not scrimp for six months to give him the best gift he ever got only to be treated like a grasping interloper, treated as if I was making an unreasonable request.

When I threatened to ask the artist for a refund or delivery of my property, the guy offered to return it.  I didn't want to give it to him anymore but I also didn't want it. If he had given it to me, I am sure I would have thrown it down the trash chute.  I still wanted him to have it, I guess. 

I had only wanted to see it.  I don't know what stories he made up to rationalize, for himself, his puzzling refusal to show me my painting while he unhesitatingly accepted it as the best gift he ever got.

His finaly explanation, when he severed ties with me and has shunned me since, was "I thought I was doing the right thing." How the fuck could his behavior, refusing to let me see what was mine, the right thing? WTF?

love is the bridge

Love is the bridge between you and everything.
~ Rumi

Thursday, August 27, 2015

I'm not thriving, I am not happy

My mom used to say, whenever one of her children voiced some discouragement, 'bloom where  you are planted". A few times, and this still makes me laugh hard, she told her children, when they were in crisis as adults, to go talk to a Catholic priest. As if a Catholic priest would help a total stranger -- not any priests I ever knew. Last time I sought help from a priest, it was to get his parish's help getting my elderly, disabled mom to church on Sundays. He said the parish used to help elderly parishioners get to church but he could not risk liability. I said "You wouldn't be liable if my mom was hurt, and the parish wouldn't be liable, that's bullshit." I wanted to say, but didn't, because my mom was with me, "How much would it cost to get you to help my mom, one of your flock since she lives in your parish, to the Catholic required church on Sunday, you pig." This guy had kept us waiting to talk to him for over an hour after mass. He saw we were waiting to speak to him and it sure seemed like he kept habbering about nothing to folks he already knew (maybe folks who gave lots of money to his parish?).  When I had that exchange, I had not talked to a priest in about 30 years. The guy was more slimey than my younger, less wise self had been able to see. Man, he was slimey. I am positive he was hoping for a bribe. What kind of church wouldn't help its senioris get to church?

When mom would say "bloom where you are planted" anytime one of her six children voiced discouragement or struggle, I experienced such anger.  We weren't asking her for anything but a listen. Even when we were very young, my mom never showed any of her children a listening, attentive, caring ear. She always pushed any neediness away. Kids have needs, ya know? Kids need their moms, ya know?

WTF do I know about kids and moms?  I took great care not to repeat any of my mom's mistakes. I made sure my child felt loved and felt like she had my attention. I showered her with love, resources, support and all it got me was loss and seemingly endless heartache.

I'm not thriving. so how to nurture the soil in which I am planted? I don't see how.  I don't see what to do.

After a confusing retreat in Mendocino last week, a woman in the group sorta wigged out at the end. She has been sober two years and suddenly had strong urges to string, seemed to feel wild panic. She didn't want to go home but she didn't want to remain at the retreat campgrounds all alone.  She rejected all kinds of offers of support, sapped quite a lot of energy from others. And I happened to be in a car to get home with two women who seemed fairly codependently determined to help her. 

Maybe she needed to be allowed to make her choices without a lot of codependent hangwringing.  On the other hand, the woman had been in AA for two years but never gotten a sponsor. She didn't know how to ask for and then to receive help. She seemed to feel so alone and very frightened just being in the world. Hey, I so relatead.

I offered to ride with her so she wouldn't be alone. I offered to drive her car so she would relax with the others in our car or in her own.  One person offered to drive her home in our crowded car and return with her the next day to get her car. she didn't want to be alone, she kept saying, but she didn't want to accept any offers of hep and company.

I believe, deeply, that we should prioritize caring for one another. So I was glad to support this woman, even though her needs delayed my arrival home by many hours.  I am not sure we helped her. Oh, we helped her get through a few hours but she needs an ongoing support network in her real life, not just three caretakers riding home from Mendocino to the East Bay with her in stages, in a two-car caravan, with her, interesting, controlling us while claiming to be helpless.

She got what she wanted and I remain glad we gave her what we could.  I am not sure she got what she needed. She needs much more than a few hours of kinda crazy, on-the-road in caravan support. she needs a sponsor. She needs a community. And isn't that what AA can help a newly sober person begin to grow? She has to nurture her own soil.
And I must nurture mine.  How to grow a community of support for me?  I don't see the path. I am not thriving. I am not happy.

sunlight is starlight, right?!

For me, regular exercise is a spiritual practice. I'm not into cross fit but I am into swimming laps an hour every single day. That hour is sacred space and a form of meditation. All of life is healthy when it moves to a regular rhythm. Most human weaknesses emerge when lives become out of balance, out of rhythm. A commitment to regular exercise is comparable to rocking a baby to sleep at the same time every evening, the same rhythm that has the moon orbiting our planet, our planet orbiting the sun: rhythm. Life. Meditative. "Bad" habits take some time to change because bringing out bodies and beings back into proper rhythm, or proper orbit, is rarely an instant change.

so I don't do Cross Fit but I can easily see that a rhythmic commitment to Cross Fit can be meditative, a rhythmic alignment with ourselves and this orb move through the stars on.

A dear, loving friend gifted me a full year's membership in the sports-rec facility where I swim every day. 

Love is in the air, and in the pool and in the dancing starlight manifested in the ever-shifting water as sunlight. Sunlight is starlight, right?

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

I have to cast my lot with . . .

My heart is moved by all I cannot save, so much has been destroyed. I have to cast my lot with those who age after age, perversely, with no extraordinary power, reconstitute the world.    ~ Adrienne Rich

I am like the Moon. . .

Anyone who knows me,
should learn to know me again;
For I am like the Moon,
you will see me with new
face everyday.” ~ Rumi

so many wise quotes. . . which ones apply?


I had to spend a little money but I tracked you down
No one can really hide online.

piece of berlin wall for xmas

mom trying to leave dad

grandma and grandpa refusing to help her, with two babies, in 1953

grandma, I'm hungry

jody, mom and six year old katie on road trip from chgo to mpls

what you dislike in others you dislike in yourself

Like they say “The things you hate most in the people around you are things you cannot stand about yourself.”  Even if the behavior is different on the outside often the mirror of life is showing us problems we have inside ourselves.
Sometimes we cannot do anything to change the past and the only thing we can do is earnestly move forward to make a better tomorrow.

Parsifal: and mystery of Golgotha

"Parsifal" Painting by: Arthur Hughes – "The Quest of the Holy Grail", 1870

While the Knights of King Arthur concerned themselves rather with the events and affairs of this world, The Knights Templar were able to be prepared to
receive a still more sublime Mystery — even to understand the Great Mystery of Golgotha, which is the secret of the history of the world.

the roar of freedom

The great fear
in the world
is the opinion
of others.
And the moment
you are unafraid
of the crowd,
you are no longer a sheep,
you become a lion.
A great roar arises in your heart,
the roar of freedom.
~ Osho ~

I have never fearead the opinion of others. I am posting this Osho poem because I like the image of the great roar of being unafraid, the great roar of freedom in one's own heart.  I've always had that road of freedom in my heart.  It has not left me popular but I am mellowing, growing ever more tender and, overall, life unfolds favorably.  People see my tenderness, my loving nature.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

bay area housing crisis

my baby brother is coming to see me

My baby brother is gay. When I was 15 and he was five, I 'knew' he was one of those kind of males I have heard whispered about. I was raised in a very sheltered way. I didn't hear people talking about gays, or fags or queers, not until later. At my all girl high school, it never came up! Although I imagine some of those chicks were gay. In 1967, the year I started h.s., I had never heard anyone use the derogatory references to homosexuals that I just wrote. I was incredibly naive. And yet, I knew males came in different ways.

And when my baby brother was five, when I went to meet him leaving school to take him to the grocery store with me and our baby sister who was then an infant, I saw him surrounded by a bevy of girls. All the girls in this bevy were pushing to be next to the beautiful Dave. He had electric white hair, blazing green eyes and he was as beautiful as any five year old of any gender or gender orientation ever was. All those girls swarmed around him like bees to the queen, flies to honey, ants to bread in the grass.

I saw that beautiful, effeminate little boy in the center of all that swarming femininity and I knew "Dave is one of those". I didn't actually know what I was alluding to but I was sure: Dave was one of those kind of males.

Dave didn't come out until he was 18. He had a beard through high school, a girlfriend named Joyce. He made a good friend to Joyce, shielded her from pressure to have sex before she was ready and they both always had dates for all the dances. Once he started college, he was out, launched into the world of being gay like a rocket. He was too beautiful to be ignored by other gay men. He was besieged by male attention.

Later, when he settled down with Tom, who has been dead for several years now, Tom, who was about fifteen years older than my Dave (I am ten years older than my Dave), spoke in admiration of how lucky Dave was to come out so young. Tom had married his high school sweetheart and hid his homosexuality from the world and mostly from himself. He dutifully had a son with his wife. Then something happened, I don't know what, for Tom did not engage in much self disclosure, at least not to me, Tom left his marriage to be gay. At first, he once told me, he never imagined he could be in an ongoing relationship with a man but he could no longer pretend to be straight. Then he met Dave and kaboom.

Lots of men wanted Dave. He was so beautiful. He still is.

Dave and Tom took lots of fabulous vacations in the 20 years they were together. They separated a couple years before Tom died suddenly. Dave was no longer with him and he does not know why Tom died.  Dave wasn't even notified of the funeral, finding out about it long after the fact, almost by accident. It seems, retroactively, unkind of Tom's family to have left Dave out. Dave was the longest relationship Tom had, other than his relationship with his son. It really hurt Dave to have missed his longtime companion's funeral, even though they were no longer a couple they had remained friends.

Who knows what Tom's family thought when they decided to hide the funeral from Dave?!

In all the years of fabulous vacations, Dave has never been to San Francisco.

I have lived in N. California 9 years now. For the past couple years, I've been working to get Dave to come visit. I said "Once you hit the Castro, I won't see you again until you have to pick up your luggage to go home." Dave says "No I won't just go off and get lost in the Castro, I will be there to see you, we'll do whatever we do together." We'll see. I wouldn't mind if he hooked up a time or two while he was here, as long as he called to let me know he was staying out so I didn't worry. Just like when we were young and caring for one another.

He goes to Key West every year with one of his oldest friends, a lesbian pal. "Dave," I say,  "How can you find the money to spend two weeks in a hotel in Key West but not the money to stay with me for free in the Bay Area? I am 30 minutes by subway to downtown SF, Dave.Come."

I don't know what turned him around. Yesterday we talked and he agreed to come visit me.

My baby brother is coming to visit me! Hip hip hooray.

First thing I want to do is take BART, then a Muni train to the Castro. I want to come up from the Muni station that has one of those small public spaces where nude men hang out all day.

I suppose we should rent a car, maybe drive to Big Sur. Depends on how long he will come.

What is the must see things to see besides the Golden Gate?  I have not seen much myself.

I can't wait!

Dave is a gourmet cook and quite the connoiseur of fine dining. He wants to go to Chez Panisse -- maybe. When I said we could do that if we plan ahead and score a reservation but for what we'd spend at one dinner at Chez Panisse, we could check out an endless stream of amazing, hippster food spots. Where to go?!!!

I have decided that unless Dave asks to see art, we won't do art. He enjoys art but he's not into it like I am. He's into style, chic restaurants, fancy bars. Geez, and me a teatotaler.  I'll ask some gay friends what are the must-do things for a gay man visiting SF for the first time, eh?

I don't care what we do. I'll be doing it with my baby brother.  I love him even more than I did when he came home, yellow from jaundice, and became my first roommate. The new baby had to sleep on the same floor as mom. AS the only girl, I had my own room until Dave came along and my room was too small for the,by then, four brothers. So I shared with my baby brother.  Happily. Joyfully.

oh my gosh, I love my dolly Dave. I wish Rosie might join us, bring along her sweetie. If that were to happen, I might float up into the skies and float out of this galaxy right into heaven or some other great place. I will be floating the whole time Dave is here. Add Rosie and I will evaporate into prue bliss.

be fucking amazing!

so this is somewhat redundant from the last thing I posted. What the heck. I like them both and I get to be me all the time.

someone amazing comes along . . . .

you a white racist bitch

When I first moved into my apartment building, 7 years ago, I was often greeted, as I waited for the elevator, by young, black male neighbors who would angrily hiss "you a white racist bitch". I was simply standing and waiting for the elevator. I confess that I tried to say hello to my new neighbors, that I was eager to make lots of new friends, both from African American circles and from the many immigrants who live in my building. People from Algeria, Syria, Iran, India, Japan, Puerto Rico (which is part of USA but distinct also), Mexico, Argentina, China and countries I am overlooking. There were, and this is still true, relatively few Caucasians living here. There are, perhaps, three white males living alone, one white male married to an African American with three mixed raced kids, one white female head of household with two young adult white kids. And me. Out of 97 apartments, less than 7 have white heads of household. And I was pleased about this, imagining all the new cross race friendships I would grow.

I especially fantasized that I would get to offer free child care to the parents of the many kids who live here. I have periodically made my free child care offer, for I am hungry for kids in my life. When I make the offer in person, my neighbors tend to pull in their breath in a long pause, as if gathering their thoughts, unsure how to respond. In this silence, I might tap dance a bit, listing my deep experience taking care of babies and children. Sometimes I used to say "I raised my daughter, who graduated magna cum laude from an Ivy, so I must do something right with kids."

I put up signs offering free child care. No one ever responded to those offers.

I have stopped offering my free child care. I think most kids in this building have extended families who are happy to step in. I still think having a free babysitter right in the building, to tend one's babies while the parent or parents have a child-free evening seems like a great offer to me.

It is not, not yet, in my destiny. Come on, folks. As I age, I get stiffer and stiffer. The time is, I pray, a long way off when I won't be able to properly tend a moving toddler because of infirmity but, come on, in the meantime, most kids find me delightful. I even could bring my own children's books to read.

I have digressed. This post is supposed to be about how the 'you a white racist bitch' attacks stopped.

I am not sure, not exactly, how they stopped. It has been a couple years since any young male neighbors accused me of being a white racist bitch. I guess that the guys who still live here have grown used to me and never seen me do anything unkind. Oh, it angers anyone who asks me to let them up into the residential floors with my elevator security fob. I never let anyone I don't know up. I will let folks up that I have seen as visitors here many times, and I even hesitate to do that. I don't know if someone I have seen visiting here many times is still welcome by whoever they visit.  Whenever I have refused to let a white person up, I regret that I have no witnesses, no young black eople to see me refusing to let up a white guy in a business suit.

Once, riding up the elevator with my obviously homeless friend R., a white man in a very nice suit got on the elevator. I politely told him that since I didn't know him, he could not come up with us. I asked him to step off the elevator so I could go up. He stepped off but not before sputtering some anger. He pointed to my friend and said "You mean you are going to let that up, but not me?"  I was never going to let the white suit guy up but after he insulted my admittedly smelly, dirty homeless friend, nothing would have persuaded me to let that bigot up. After he pointed at my friend insultingly, he pointed at himself as if to say "Look at my suit, look at me, I'm white, I'm safe, let me up".  He did step off but not happily.

A black neighbor had stood in the elevator that time, a witness at last. I then turned to him, once the white suit guy had departed, and thanked him for not interfering. I noted that I have seen him let folks up and I appreciated how he had let me stand my ground. He said "oh no, sister, no way I was going to stop you. You were doing your thing, doing it well. You were in charge. You did what you had to do." He was laughing and gracious but also, indirectly, teasing me for being pushy.

So. In the early years living here, I was often told I was a white racist bitch.

once, my new Cannondale was stolen from the locked bike room. My bike had a kyrptonite lock and a cable lock threaded through both wheels, parked right under the security camera but it was stolen. One needed a code to get in so that meant either a neighbor stole it or a neighbor had sold the code to a bike thief pal. In some way, the theft required the cooperation of a resident here.

I put notices around the building, on each door, to notify my neighbors that bikes are not safe in the bike room, reporting on my bike theft.  I did not suggest who the thief might have been. I did not, for example, suggest that it might have been an inside job. I simply announced that I had a bike with two locks stolen from the supposedly secure bike room.

Right after I put up the signs, two different times, young black males snarled to me that I was a white racist bitch for thinking a black in my building had stolen my bike. I have always remained silent when black men tell me I am a white racist bitch. It has always seemed like an unproductive situation in which to seek some racial dialogue, eh? When a couple young guys accused my bike-stolen flyers to be racist, I definitely kept my actual thoughts to myself. I had been thinking that 'blacks' would not know that a Cannondale was a good bike, so I had, in admittedly bigoted reasoning, assumed that a white person had stolen my bike. So those guys telling me my flyers suggested I was racist were correct, but for the wrong reasons. It was racist of me to, so wrongly, assume a smart black bicycle thief would not know which bikes to cherry pick from our bike room. My bike was, at the time, probably the most valuable bike in the bike room.

At first, when young black males unknown to me would snarl and hiss that I was a white racist bitch, I would feel upset. I always remained silent. I could think of no response that would improve the energy of such interactions, plus I felt a slight need to protect myself from more verbal assault.

Gradually, I came up with a good response. For a couple years, I continued to hear young black guys, ones who live here and ones just visiting my neighbors, tell me I was a white racist bitch. I quickly developed my standard response, which was to smile, remain silent and send them love rays.  I would think about how those young men had very probably been the victims of racist commentary, racist discrimination, racist policing, economic injustice, educational injustice. I would try to empathize with the injustices those young men likely had faced that I never had, nor would any white male I loved have experienced such injustice. I would feel empathy and send the young men some loving energy.

There is a surprising amount of turnover in my building. It surprises me because this housing is all affordable, with rents below market-rate. Few will find nice, safe, newish apartments for less than the rents charged here. I understand that a growing family, after a new kid or two, might need to move for a larger home. Still, the turnover seems high.

Somewhere along the way, my neighbors stopped calling me a white racist bitch.  Was it my conscious effort to send empathic energy to the young men?  Was it the empathy I would think about as they hissed at me, imagining them stopped for walking while black, headed to prison in the not far off future. As we all know, or should, the repugs keep building more and more for-profit prisons, corrupt white judges agree to keep corporate prisons full so they sentence young people to harsh sentences. This is justice?  If the young black males in my building can release some of the pain of walking while black by hissing at me that I am a white racist bitch, go for it guys. I can't do much for you but I can feel empathy and compassion. I can acknowledge silently to myself that these men live in a world different from mine.

And I can let them up the elevator once I have recognized they are a neighbor or a regular visitor.

People of all races become angered when I won't let them up the elevator. The only way to get up to residential floors from the lobby is the elevator. All the stairwells are locked on the ground floor. One can exit from the stairwells but one cannot enter the building without someone using a security fob to let them up. Many times, folks seeking admission to the residential floors tell me "I am here to visit my friend." I say "Then your friend can let you in, that is how it is supposed to work. Call your friend over there, at the building directory." Folks' mouths' are usually still gaping as the elevator door closes and I go up with the elevator.

Racist? I believe everyone has some culturally instilled racism. But, as I have said to a few of my not-white neighbors, if they think I am one of their problems, they and their culture is in a lot of rouble because I have worked throughout my life for justice. When I did criminal defense work, I defended black men (never women, just happenstance and also, as we all know, this society is harder on black males).

Sure I am a white racist but that is not why I don't let strangers onto the residential floors with my security fob.  I'm working on my inculturated racism and if I do say so myself, I'm making progress, doing okay.  I am not a white my black neighbors need fear.  Actually, I could probably help some of my neighbors understand how they might identify unsafe whites. First hint:  truly bigoted whites would not be living here. As a Caucasian, I have much more freedom about where I live. If I really were a white racist bitch, I would never have moved in here!

I chose to live here because of my unrealized romantic notion that if I lived here, I'd have a multicultural community in an instant. Six+ years in and this fantasy community has yet to evolve.

In this time period, however, I have made some nonwhite friends: African Americans, Africans, Asian immigrants, Iranians, Syrians, Algerians. A not-all-white world is much more interesting than a white milk world.

At least I think so.

Monday, August 24, 2015

charred ancient redwood

day time moon

Yesterday, leaving Anderson Valley, CA, up in Mendocino County, I saw a day time moon in the clear sky around 4 p.m.  What a treat. The sky was clear but for that moon. It was about a half moon.

I haven't seen a daytime moon since I used to take road trips to New Mexico, where day time moons are common.

I wonder how common they are in N. California.

I wonder why it seemed special to behold that daytime moon yesterday. It sure seemed special! The memory of it seems special. Joy.

Ah. . . . .

Sunday, August 23, 2015

a death in the family

Somehow, the oligarchy keeps the majority of humans distracted from the unfolding collapse of our home, planet Earth. Living in a city as I do, not owning a car so I don't get out into the countryside very much, it is possible to allow myself to think environmental collapse is still a future thing, even though I know environmental collapse is real and NOW.

Right here in Berkeley, I see some of the more visible products of environmental and community destruction. I see that blacks are being gentrified out of Berkeley to make room for mostly-white techies pulling down six+ figure salaries beginning in their twenties.  I see little difference between purging blacks from a city and clear-cutting a forest:  both are the result of our collective willingness to tolerate the intolerable.

I just spent five days in Mendocino, at a small retreat center on the Navarro River. The riverbed is mostly rocks. For long stretches, it is almost nothing but rock, with water merely trickling downriver. In some places, the trickle of water that used to be a river is so small that the rockbed looks dry but if one looks closely, and feels the rocks, one detects very, very small movement of water.

Occasionally, there is a pond.

There were otters, frogs, tadpoles. The Navarro River used to be filled with salmon and salmon was the currency of the area. That was before Western White Man came along.

In the sixties, the hilly forests were clear cut of ancient oaks and ancient redwoods. Back then, with no real environmental movement, the timber companies just clear cut and left, not bothering to replant anything. Since that clear cutting, forests of pine trees has grown. Pine trees have their place but pine trees are not a just replacement for clear cut land that should still hold majestic oaks and redwoods.

They take paradise, strip it and siphon its value off to outsiders.  "They" have been doing it a long time. "They" have done a good job of raping our home whilst simultaneously lulling most of us into complacency. Watch TV! Go shopping! Go to a movie! Better still, watch movies on cable and let your city destroy movie theaters, as they are doing in Berkeley and all over.

They take paradise, rape it and put up luxury high rises for rich, mostly white techies. Is this an improvement from parking lots?

My sojourn into the Navarro River valley was bittersweet. I experienced great love and beauty, in the other participants of the retreat I attended and in nature. The stars, as usual, bedazzled and reminded me I am stardust, always a lovely thing to be reminded of. I am not a tiny speck of nothing; I am stardust! I behold a clear starry night, watching more and more stars appear as the night sky darkens and I feel reverence, of course, for the mystery of stars and planets, moons and suns, but I also feel reverence for me. I am a part of the majesty of this universe.

I loved watching eagles soar (as they never soared before!  -- remember that knuckleheaded Attorney General under George W, who sang 'let the eagles soar? lol). I saw bright blue dragonflies that seemed to glow in daylight. I saw bluejays, ravens, crows, hawks. And eagles. And butterflies. A lizard. Tadpoles, otters, fish. Deer. I heard animals rustling throughout each night as I lay in my tent.

One of the best parts of my little vacation was me.  I have grown so loving.  Used to be, I'd go to a five day workshop, make judgements about most participants and, for the most part, never see the radiant beings all around me. I would let myself stay stuck in those judgments, which were probably wrong and often negative. Now I received each person I met with joy. When did I get to be like this?

A favorite memory:  several folks remarked to me that I seem to have read everything and that I remember quotes and poems more than most folks. I guess I do.The way I remember a lot is my normal. I can't quite grasp what it might be like to not remember all the stuff I remember. I especially love that I remember poems.

At one point in the retreat, in a directed dialogue with another woman, I said that a Wendall Berry poem had been in my thoughts, that I was trying to remember how Berry had referred to the stars in day time, for the stars are still there when the sun is out.  My talking partner knew the line I was trying to remember:  the day blind stars.

At dinner this evening, a woman asked me if I read all the time. I guess I do. I don't try to remember. I just do.

 Thathat dying river was the backdrop of every minute I spent alongside the Navarro River.  A death in the family kind of grief.

That dying river is going to be running, dry and rocky, in my soul for awhile. I can't wait to ride past  the sense of loss that dying river gives me but, in truth, humans should not  be able to easily forget that our planet is slowing dying. Just because most of us live in urban areas and can ignore dying rivers does not mean we should.