Hallowed Conditions

Yesterday there was a memorial for Jim Dwyer, a complicated man who was often flamboyant, sometimes moody, always bright and a good man and a visible member of our community. He became an alcoholic after he retired and that was at least a cautionary tale about leaving behind one’s profession. He had one great human love that I knew about and that was a woman I work with and have known for many years… they had a passionate short affair before she had to give him an ultimatum about the alcohol. His sudden death, poignantly or otherwise, in a convenience store after a Farewell Grateful Dead concert came as a surprise but turned out to be the work of heart disease not an overdose. The memorial was not an orchestrated gathering and no one, except his brother (whose mannerisms I cherished, since they were also Jim’s,) spoke… the musicians did a little, but other than that we wandered around at the Grange, ate, looked through the memorabilia and kept our memories to ourselves. The family (and Jim!) wanted no alcohol and so it was sober and quiet. A very un-Jim time. My potato salad dropped on the floor and the bowl shattered for an unremarkable bit of excitement and I also led very tall Vanessa around on the dance floor in circles to a dizzying version of a Dead song—her sadness that of an invisible widow.

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I remembered how one time when Michael was gone I took Jim up on an offer to go skiing. We went with two of his friends from north of Chico. It turned out to be a nice day on the McGowan Lake trail and I enjoyed the company of the woman of the couple and didn’t spend much time with Jim until the ride home. On the ride home he rather strangely started telling me about how smart he was, about his IQ and basically pointing out how superior he was. I didn’t know what to do with that information but knew on some level it was a rejection of me as inferior to him. I didn’t take offense… I just marveled at the oddity and awkwardness of the information as conversational matter.

You have to wonder about the arc of our lives and the people we touch. I woke feeling death putting out tentacles and it was Jim’s unheralded lonely death in that convenience store that pulled me from the unconsciousness of my sleep. When it is over for each of us others eulogize us even if they never really knew us, as I barely knew Jim, although I think we were friends, as far as that goes. I went to his home one time to check on him when he was posting suicidal statements on facebook. In that encounter he was as docile as a child and promised me he would not kill himself since he had his cat to care for.

I’ve been missing Michael since I got home from Creech…

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I had another of those wandering reviews of the geography of his illness trying to find an intersect where I might have helped save him. Since he was never really sick in the classic sense of acting sick I still can’t completely reconcile the boney ash under the tree and on my counter with the handsome and completely vital man in the photos.

Later—It’s three o’clock on a perfect fall day. I have been anxious and panicky all afternoon and feel like I am crying inside. I don’t even have zucchini to carve this year so I scored a few of Bruce’s rejects and have dusted, picked flowers and lit candles for the night ahead.

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I missed one shift of the KZFR pledge drive while I was aimlessly picking my way home from yoga (and getting a much needed chair massage from Weezie.) I have to go back to the studio at 5pm and my plan is to ride my bike and look at the lit carved pumpkins on the way home. The Chico Police have pretty well sealed the streets to prevent the outrageously fun parades of night creatures we used to have on Halloween so I don’t expect that it matters that I will be in for the night by 7:30.

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Selkie has gotten into the spirit of things by eating something dead so I’m taking her outside now so I can meditate and breathe some un-contaminated air before I have a toast of Bailey’s and head to the station. To all Beings, Living and Dead, I send my quavery regards.

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Don Quixote

Rain shot me awake, soaked, from a heavy sleep. Selkie then started panting like she does sometimes, a rapid staccato panting that makes me think she can’t sustain herself. After letting her out, throwing off my nightgown and trying with that wide-awake trying to go back to sleep, I got up and made myself tea and toast and decided to catch up.

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How can I though really? Time is pulling me further and further from Michael. He seems hollow or maybe I do but I’ve been squeezing every second from time and not letting memory steal over me.

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Last night was our Peace and Justice Center dinner. I wasn’t in on the planning but I threw myself into helping and spent five and a half hours in the dizzy pace of server/dishwasher with just time to inhale my food and listen to our keynote speaker. I’d interviewed Dr. Rivers earlier in the day when I hosted the Peace and Justice radio show and had been won over by his slow thoughtful way of speaking. The hour and a half show had tired me though. So much preparation both mental and an emotional “leaning in” to the topic and the effort to communicate go into the radio shows but still there is very little to show for the words once they have passed into the air. So yesterday was one very full day.

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I’m also preparing for a workshop with an author named Rivera Sun on Sunday. I will host her here at my very humble home and more acutely will have people who conference with her in to use my bathroom which, like me, is worse for wear, devoid of niceties and completely utilitarian. We will have the workshop in the new barn where there still isn’t water, nor a functioning stove. I need to pull together refreshments, anticipate seating (without RSVPs) and consider parking and the unknowns of all that might go wrong or awkwardly. Frankly, I’m nervous about it but I like this woman and the way she expresses herself. She makes me feel hopeful and I loved her book, the Dandelion Insurrection. It may have been a mistake to try to bring her here just on my own determination but I have. It is a follow on to the Campaign Nonviolence that Cathy Webster and I started after the conference in New Mexico in August. My new emphasis will be on (trying to) build rather than going action to action as this activist always does. I like the idea of “connecting the dots,” demonstrating to people how much work is already being done and letting them know they are not alone but part of something that can move into a vast movement that will push the money grabbers aside and build a sustainable life for all of us, not just those who are still wobbling on our middle class roots and the “casino capitalists” as Bernie Sanders calls them. The wars and the homelessness and the mass incarceration of the poor and people of color have to go. I am one instrument of sweeping the way forward.

In the quiet, with a sweet little scent of clarity, I know it may not come to pass but who inspires me more than Don Quixote? If all the Don Quixotes went forward maybe then? What harm in delusion for what really is the reality but delusion? I’m just glad for the ones I know and can count on to follow up on things and follow through on things when I’m missing on some of my cylinders, which I always seem to be, a bit.

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Caroline came over and we painted the porch with stain and started on the deep green I want to paint the house… starting with the rammed earth. The house now looks like Christmas with the heavily spider-webbed aspect of Halloween.

I’m grateful to the long dark mornings for more time to read, not so much with the long evenings when I tend to succumb to television surfing.

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Earlier in the week I went up into the higher country and along with visiting Madre Tierra visited a friend who lost her husband a month ago. She is staying with her understanding mom.  She ended up with horrible medical bills she will never be able to pay plus she has her home, filled with his stuff, waiting for her in Chico. He was also her best friend and they were inseparable too. To say I don’t envy her is to put it mildly. It is just the worst. The fact that we survive such loss is a tribute to something innately enduring in our mammalian brains and I’m still amazed at my own clumsy and slow survival.

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But now this hollowness and distance from the man of Michael, the flesh and blood energetic personality and gestalt of him filling my life, is dry and pulling it up means throwing down a lengthening rope into that well of memory. Now nothing impedes me from my own foibles and windmill tilting.

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(I head for court next week in Nevada for my drone road blocking die-in last spring but the photo above is from my last arrest at Beale Sept. 29th in commemoration of the anniversary of Michael’s death..)

What remains of his ashes sits nearly forgotten for long periods with a lasso of marigolds around the cobalt cookie jar cylinder and I realize that it is time to release them… perhaps on this Day of the Dead (?)

Right now there seems to be nothing but me pecking in the night with little else to say about anything except that it has finally rained for a few lovely moments and I am grateful.

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And now, a life that is not in vain

IMG_7909So the sun set on the year without Michael and I’m determined to make my way and do my part to stop wars, climate change, injustices… the best path I can (on this the Birthday of Mahatma Gandhi and our dear Willa Taggart) and that is with non-violence. I wrote a few cards to those I felt I had not been entirely fair to in the previous year on Yom Kippur.

The sunset above is from Beale AFB Main Gate. I walked away from our potluck and meeting of Occupy Beale to take this photo and the rising full moon soon followed. The next day nine of us were arrested at another gate soon after dawn. We walked up the road, some of us in a cardboard boat that read, “refugees.” We wanted to make the connection between drones (as terrorism) and war and the crisis at hand. IMG_7920When I got home I subbed on the Ecotopia radio program (all shows archived at http://www.kzfr.org) and discussed the glut of explosive crude oil chugging into California from the bakken oil fields of North Dakota and the tar sands of Alberta as well as a good discussion with my neighbor about the really amazing mix of deep ecological thinking and action she is involved in. Today I was on the radio again on Peace and Justice and my guests were Paul Ehrlich talking about nothing less than the Annihilation of Nature. (His new book,) followed by Ken Butigan, Director of Pace e Bene talking about Campaign Nonviolence… and oh yes, our Beale action was part of Campaign Nonviolence plus our idea sharing action last Saturday. IMG_7884In a few minutes we have a land meeting. We finally have solar on our barn roof and are finally off the grid. We celebrated in our new barn for Bob Trausch’s birthday, our number one Doer of good deeds and hard work. It is very unreal to all of us that he is 72!  It is Doubly Good to be in community and to have some security in these intense times.

IMG_7938I heard the Stones song, “You can’t always get what you want but if you try some times you might just get what you need” after leaving from talking to a Vietnam Vet for a long time yesterday and leaving him with an inexact sense of longing. The sentiment of getting what I need seems true. I’m lucky to have the sweet home Michael improved for us and to be on this beautiful land and it is for me to be grateful to have my basic needs met. IMG_7940

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