OK. Made it through the 6 monther

Ah, really too bad…. I have wonderful photos from here in Guatemala and can’t use them because this is Orien’s computer and they are not here. I’ve been in San Pedro La Laguna for a week and am completely enamored with this wonderful Lago Atitlan lifestyle. So many interesting people from all over the world and so many kindly interesting local people! There’s one humble woman who brings me to the point of writing though… reminiscent of yesterday, the six month anniversary of Michael’s remarkable death… I pet his pictures on my phone and posted a picture of us two old farts smooching.. how corny is all of that? Anyway, the woman I think about is not remarkable. She is Dona Clara who is the mother of our host. She is a tiny, unassuming woman who washes all the dishes of the family. I never see her except at the sink doing dishes. One day I watched her from the second floor, where Orien and I have rooms, and she poured the dregs of fruit licuado into her hand and drank it reverently and rather furtively. I don’t know her status but know she is a widow and that her only daughter died 20 years ago.

Last night, after a wonderful day visiting a pre-school in the rural community of Panjabar, the home of an incredibly creative couple from Quebec, having lunch and drinks and gin rummy with a remarkable couple from British Columbia in some lovely places, I’d love to show you, Orien and I went up to watch a procession of Catholics. It was an ancient act of devotion… the women covered their heads with traditional scarves and little boys cranked wooden noise makers while men carried a statue of Christ on the cross down the cobble streets, using a huge metal U device to push up the telephone wires as they passed. With a nod to modernity, a generator followed the well-lit savior far back tethered by an impossibly long power line.

Where am I going with this? Dona Clara was at the base of the hill with about a dozen women of our age. Despite our cultural distance I knew they saw me for what I am, one of them. One of the viudas, one of the viejas, una anciana. I saw the recognition in their faces and I acknowledged them as my sisters in the no man’s land of this time of life. As long as we remain independent and vital we are uncompromised but we are all on thin ice. No new man will find us behind our wrinkled faces and the vital part of our lives has mostly dissipated.

The good thing is that much of the time I feel my usual self. Filled with the joy of living, interested in everything, getting where I want to go. The six month mark was like a dark cloud hanging over me and yesterday I did have a small breakdown, as I have in some of the days before but today was a new day and tomorrow we go to the market in Chichicastenango and I know the world will whirl with the colors of the Mayan people and I am incredibly grateful for my health, for my daughter’s company and for the spirit I possess, as well as the good man I knew who graced my life not so long ago.


Almost Six Months

My mind focused intensely on the living of our lives together as I sped west to Las Vegas from Katie’s in Flagstaff this afternoon. At first it was like hand-cranking an old movie, then images started to appear in random patterns– cleaning the house together on Sundays, our waking rituals, stopping for the night at the last moments of light, our evening cup of tea, the bridge of his nose, the lump on his right clavicle… patterns and fixed points of him. I’m glad I did this remembering… I’ve been listening to audio books before this… something about not having Selkie with me, recalling that his dying started in earnest on the fall equinox and today being the spring equinox… It was the time to spend those hours in remembrance… to allow the livingness of memory to just show up instead of always being in the moment. I feel really good in and with him.

A Hopi fellow and I got to talking about his ashes. He really urged me to let Michael go when I do the ashes burial. (He gestured waving his arms away from himself.) I have released him but have this last thing to do.

Tonight I board the plane to Guatemala. First stop Miami. After a life of no Miami I will have been there twice in two months…. I’ll be in Guatemala for two weeks. Back to Las Vegas on Easter. Orien is down there and I’m looking forward to being with her in language school, seeing my friends Mira and Diane, hanging out around Lake Atitlan, meeting a friend of Katie’s in Santiago Atitlan… being in the land of the Maya, those ancient lands, and even seeing semana santa there again.

Here is Michael, strong, brilliant, practical and handsome: http://youtu.be/0R7yth6CIwg (and missed!)

at dusk tonight.. the ever lowering Lake Mead

at dusk tonight.. the ever lowering Lake Mead


Thoughts about Tucson as I head back north

Random thoughts on leaving Tucson… I love the University and the town nearby. The sprawl is appauling.. planning has been quite bad and public transport does not seem to extend out of the city center. No visible gardens around but also few lawns. I wonder where the water comes from for all the housing that extends all the way to Nogales. There is little surface water… The hotel I fought to find and stayed at was right near Davis-Monthan AFB and Raytheon… other death curses on the wellness of these lands. What made me write just now was seeing the Marine recruiting office lurking just off University Ave immediately outside the campus–what color is that? mustard?SAMSUNG

This campus has good diversity… the Muslim center is right in the middle of dorms, also on the edge of campus. There is an excellent exhibit on the Indian photos of Curtis at the State Museum on campus…Native artists and students weighing in on his often staged photos, but really the only photos of the time to give any sort of representation of Native people.

There aren’t enough coffee shops in Az… maybe it is that hot southern area people drink less coffee?

Selkie and I couldn’t go in the Sonoran Desert Museum. I’d resigned myself to spending the $17.50 for a ticket but then it was posted that dogs left unattended, even though it is less than 70 degrees today (?) would be confiscated by the Pima Co. Humane Society. We wouldn’t like that so we walked in the desert off by ourselves. I was amazed she picked up not a single sharpie in her long hair or sensitive pads…..IMG_6096

Jumpin' cholla!

Jumpin’ cholla!

It is such a beautiful time of year. I really lucked out to come after these spring showers.

One last thing. They have an active veg oil collection program for greasecyling, but I can’t reach the bio-diesel folks and am headed out north (because what I see is to the south and I just don’t trust that they exist… I tried repeatedly to rouse someone by phone.) The veggie oil dumpsters are well labeled and maintained. M would be happy to see the whole “Grecycle” movement.



Confident, then not

So below is what I wrote last night but I can tell you despite the glorious good news that I found my passport, had dinner with Keith (who also fixed the car lights and gave me a room at a nice hotel,) all that was dashed by how difficult it was for my pee brain to find the hotel. It took two hours!!!

So, despite the roller coaster ride this was last night–

I’m feeling much more confident tonight. With the trial and error method I found this campground, Pena Blanca, north of Nogales. It’s “primitive” and right on a wide dry wash between weathered hills and beautiful rock out-croppings. Selkie and I walked the wash down to the lake and took a different route back… legions of caterpillars couldn’t match our surety.


I put up the tent between two covered picnic tables and it feels very secure. A brilliant red cardinal and his mate signed off on what I’d accomplished.IMG_6070

I brought M’s ashes out for the Occasion of St. Patrick’s Day, as well as the bottle of Bailey’s I’ve imported from Chico. (Although I’m not much attracted to it after the day of bad eating I had yesterday… I’m not that excited about anything sweet.) I did enjoy a toast. IMG_6054

One of my satisfactions was using the Jetboil to make instant miso soup along with finding a salad bar in Nogales which has nourished me through lunch and dinner.

The temperature is dropping and the clouds that had looked so threatening are now just frames for blue sky… Crickets drone and the wind shifts around, other than that there is a deeply hopeful silence.

I’ve been plagued with worry about my passport… which Sheldon, Orien’s dad, has not been able to find anywhere in my house. I have an appointment on Friday to get an emergency one and I’m waiting for my birth certificate, the forms, etc to make a last attempt at getting on the plane for Guatemala this weekend.

Keith, Orien’s man-friend, is going to print out my passport renewal forms and fix the lights on the car and I’ll get to see him for dinner tomorrow night if all goes well. Right now, gazing out on ancient land-forms, unique to the rolling nature of Southern Arizona, I feel some hope in the luck of the quarter Irish, which I am.

Here are some photos of the border running through the community of Nogales and the Pena Blanca area where I camped…



As Far South as I can go without a passport

IMG_5971Selkie and I left Katie and Maya when? I’m unraveling a bit. OK, it was March 11th. I loved Flagstaff and being with my old friend, could have stayed longer but was drawn south…. now I’m at the barricaded border and can go no further… but let me chrono this so I can at least order my own brain a little.

So, Flagstaff is balmy during the day and freezing at night. The snow was slowly melting and the dogs took advantage of the patches to have mock battles. Maya was a Hopi Rez dog when Katie adopted her and she is at her best when she’s out free. Selkie loved it.

IMG_5987Next stop was to visit my cousin Suzy and her husband in Sun City West, a gated suburb of Phoenix. They love their friends and community and it was a welcome respite despite my constant longing for the open desert and people of the same political/world view… I love them though and really appreciate their kindness to Selkie and I. It was good to see them well and happy. (The photo also shows their friend Allison who I enjoyed meeting poolside.)

It was 45 minutes out and about an hour and a half back to visit Jim Pike and drop off the bike that Michael had taken from Bob Pike’s estate after his death. Now it passed to Jim. Poor Jim had just been robbed the night before while he was at work (psych nurse.) His house was depressing and I cried when I left him… Michael and I came from different worlds. The Pike family had 5 kids and the parents worked in the Miro Aluminum plant in Manitowoc, Wi. I’m not sure how the kids were parented but both parents worked and the kids grew up. Michael was close to two of his siblings but as the eldest he was out and gone, first to University then to the war before they even left home. He was the bad boy, the hero, the athlete, the big brother. He talked a lot to Jim on the phone after he got sick… I want the best for Jim and it saddens me that he struggles. (Photo refuses to download.)

The next part of the saga was to the Tucson Book Festival on Sunday, the 15th. I met up with my old friend from the Women’s Campaigns to Guatemala ’92 and ’94, Linda Hanna, who has been living for many years in Oaxaca. She has a B&B there and promotes the work of local folk artists. She’s a year older than me and is riding her bike (with her brother and “boyfriend”) across the US to St. Augustine, Fl. They are in a large group of 43 riders and many support people with mean age of 63. All buff, all amazing! They were camped out in Santa Catalina State Park north of Tucson so after we heard a panel at which Linda’s friend, Peg Bowden (author of A Land of Hard Edges,) spoke with other authors about the border, we went up to the park and I got to eat and camp with the riders for the night. IMG_5993

In the retelling and catching up I found myself curiously muted by all that my life has been. Picking through it for the morsels that connect us… The stories of Michael’s death and Orien’s life somehow more than what my own evolution has been. A little about work. A little about the peace work and about Riparia and the dog… Linda was sparkling with health and liveliness. It is hard for me to even conceptualize the ride they took when she was leaving me… “a short day.” She said that it was the most spiritually actualizing thing she has ever done because she is always in the NOW.

After the riders left I had the very good fortune to go walking with Felice and Jack Cohen-Joppa, editors of The Nuclear Resister. I met Felice briefly years ago at Creech or the Nevada Test Site and I have had the good fortune to interview Jack twice on the Peace and Justice Program but their paper and the loving respect they have shown to all those arrested for acts of Conscience for over 25 years of publication puts me in the deepest gratitude and admiration which has even increased as they  went out of their way to come out to hike with me and bring a much appreciated healthy picnic. We saw rattle snake, horned toad, feast of flowers, cactus wren nest, vermillion flycatchers building  their nests…

SAMSUNGFinally, my dance card was empty and my plans scrambled by my inability to locate my passport. I wandered south. Cried when stopped for want of a brake light. Couldn’t  figure out a place to stay for the night. Finally, content and rested here in Nogales on the border. Can’t cross over because of Selkie.

Facing this lostness and confusion is easier today..


The Road to Creech and forward

Soul Consoling Monument at Manzanar

Soul Consoling Monument at Manzanar


Flora Rogers and I left the California Northstate in beautiful spring weather on Monday, March 2nd. We stayed with my dear old friend Bill Helmer in Independence then cut through Death Valley (with the intervention of Caltrans angels who filled my tank with diesel from their truck after my Bentley Biofuels bio-diesel ran out.) We arrived in Camp Justice during a rain squall and tented the next three days in the freezing nights and sun-blasting days out in the desert north of Las Vegas.

IMG_5921We vigiled twice a day with activists from all over the US against the Predator and Reaper drones piloted from Creech AFB. IMG_5930IMG_5950 IMG_5928 and on that Friday, March 6th Affinity groups, such as Code Pink, Veterans for Peace and Peace Roots did non-violent direct action at both gates of the mushrooming drone complex with a goal to Shut It Down. creech arrest 2How it makes a difference is hard to know but I do align with those who will not take this horrible technology into our lives without standing (or dying in) against it. When we consider those who have died in far away impoverished parts of the world, living in terror, losing children and whole families, livelihood and marginal homes….that injustice is enough but also, it will come back here. It will be used against us… both the surveillance aspect but also the assassin aspect. Time will prove me right unless the nations of the world crack down on the use of these unmanned aerial vehicles. Our efforts are small, but growing and they must grow very quickly if there is to be success for this element of a sustainable future.

IMG_5962 After the Friday action I was blessed with two nights and a day of joy and good people at the Goddess Temple of Sehkmet– we went up to the hotsprings in Beatty, to the art installations of Rhyolite and to the ballet performance at the Amargosa Opera House. This all seems like the very Best Luck ever.

Now, I’ve been in Flagstaff with my dear friend Katie Irwin for some days. Today Selkie and I plunge south to Phoenix for family time…. time builds toward that time I will take Michael’s ashes back north to bury them in Utah. My anxiety about being on the road alone without a clear plan of where to go or what to do now re-emerges after this really wonderful time with Katie.

I will keep the Blessings of Madre del Mundo with me and just hope for the best. IMG_5966