Made it through

I made it through our 15th wedding anniversary and the third anniversary of Michael’s death. What can I say?

Yesterday Kathy Faith, Selkie and I went up to Butte Meadows and wandered around before going up to Humboldt Summit. I’m going to stick some photos in here because the world is beautiful and I want to honor and extol it at every opportunity.

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I didn’t get great shots of Kathy but we both share the same deep and immense Love for Mama Tierra so this was a sweet time for me. IMG_2950

The Ken Burns/Lynn Novick Vietnam series has taken up my evenings for the last two weeks. I listened to what Kathy said yesterday about her experience and realized I really did want a forum, no matter how tiny for my experience of that time. The series did nothing to shed light on what it was to come of age during that war and I think our lives matter even if history wants to discard the 60s.

Here is what I wrote near the end of the series after realizing our sincere efforts to stop the war were never going to be really acknowledged:

Vietnam. This last Ken Burns/Lynn Novick saga had me up all night, plus the fact that it is my husband’s death date. (He was exposed repeatedly to Agent Orange in Vietnam in his role as a Green Beret and we believed it killed him.) Burns showed protesters as a huge milling block of faceless people he could over-dub with story line, cutting back into “baby killers” three times at my count, featuring the Weathermen violence but nothing about the riots of 67-68 in American cities and only one person talking for the countless millions of us who were in the streets.

I was flooded with memories of my formative years—the Cuban Missile crisis while we lived close so New York City, JFK’s death, the Civil Rights movement.  The horror and pain of Bobby Kennedy’s and Dr. King’s assassinations. The unrelenting angst of those years that should have been my joy-filled youth.

For me Vietnam started in 1965. I was at the University of Missouri in Columbia, Mo and I attended a teach-in at a professor’s home. The war, which had been on the periphery of my 18 year old awareness, now came into sharp relief. It was obviously wrong for the US to be imposing its will there and sending troops.

I started vigiling and marching against Dow Chemical’s napalm which was used indiscriminately in Vietnam. The first personal trauma for me was when one of my fellow post office vigilers had his head split open by someone wielding an axe. The next was when friends started to be drafted and disappeared into basic training.

After two years of horrifying nightly news and not being able to find inspiration at college I went into VISTA and was assigned to Newark, NJ. Within months the rebellion started a few blocks from the apartment I shared with two other women. We were in the middle of a war zone with civilians trapped by the violent response of the National Guard and the racist State Police for days.

After the rebellion I continued to go to New York city and Washington DC for demonstrations against the war on the weekends. We Vista folks were all discouraged and fantasized about burning down a napalm factory. Demonstrators were arrested and beat up and called communists and told to get a job dozens of times (but no one I knew ever referred to a service member as a baby killer although we definitely considered our government to be that and worse. I only heard that expression after I had lived in California for some years from a veteran who was livid at me over it despite the fact I did not know of it.)

I left Newark an embittered person. I had charges of resisting arrest and assaulting an officer (having been grabbed from the back by a plains clothed male who almost broke my arm and did nothing other than throw me into a paddy wagon for standing at the edge of a demonstration where police were using night sticks against demonstrators they had pinned against a fence at Whitehall Place, a conscription center.) I’d also witnessed the military at the Pentagon wait for press to leave after dark as we encircled the building in a non-violent sit-in. I watched them smash their rifle butts down on row after row of protestors then drag them off against the white glare of the lights. When it came time for me to face the experience the person next to me, who I had locked arms with, threw himself over me and saved me from harm. I don’t know what happened to him. Males and females were dragged to different buses.

By 1970 I’d started back in school at CSU Humboldt when Nixon sent troops publicly into Cambodia. At that point I went door to door to discuss the war in the old style of grass roots organizing but was shocked to hear, the oft repeated belief of how the bible says there will always be “wars and rumors of war” and this was why this passive population did not activate. That was it for me.

I was in a check-out line in a grocery store in 1975 when I saw the war had finally ended. I did not see it through. It was Hell and I’d stepped away from it while I completed nursing school.

So, when Ken Burns and Lynn Novick gloss over the thousands of protests and millions of protesters here in the U.S. The truth is each fought their own war here. It wasn’t as bloody and horrible but we were all there for the soldiers and the Vietnamese against what the Generals and Administration were doing for years and years– to our marrow. I hope history will record our efforts better elsewhere—the countless meetings, demonstrations, vigils, marches not to mention the police violence. We did the right thing and we did the best we could in a system that was as unresponsive and corrupt then as it is now.

I just wonder how we can make the changes that are needed to bring down the despotic, obscenely rich and powerful now? It seems that they only fall under their own weight and hubris. I’m old now but I fear for the planet and for the young. Hard times. I’m glad Michael does not have to witness it.

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(Some of Michael’s ashes went into the wind at the top of Mt. Lassen, viewed here. Peace to his memory. Such a Good Man!)

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Almost Home

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Last night was a capper. The train ran right through the tent about every two hours and at one point it started to rain intermittently. In the morning I didn’t make it to the bathroom in time… a private humiliation to close out a challenging, wonderful adventure.

Mt. Shasta is an old home to Michael and thus to me. Yesterday afternoon I climbed high up to the rim of the avalanche bowl to where I’d released his ashes. Like a fanatic I looked on the rock surfaces for any bit of bony ash then sat and cried. Old pain but pain all the same. I was grateful that I can still hike up into this incredible height and raced down the mountain to go to a movie, since that is what he would have done. Miraculously it was about an area rich with Michael memory—Lander, Wyoming.

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This trip was built on facing fears, seeing new beauty, laying down new track but also seeing old beloved friends. In Corvallis I was able to go out to dinner and stay with Valori George and Courtney Childs, her partner. I love to listen to Valori like she is chocolate cake, the most scrumptious and wonderful teller of real life stories of anyone I know. Life in Valori’s telling is fascinating and full of important but unrecognized heroes. I’m like a child at story time, rapt on whatever quiet time carpet that can be mustered. Being with them is to be filled with grace and good food.

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I also visited my friend Jan Meyer in Medford. She was a pediatric nurse practitioner for 54 years and just let her license go. She still plays concert violin and shoots balloons from horseback… what? At 82, sure why not? She’s got a rascal man friend who is still a practicing attorney named Bill and a Jack who is like Selkie is to me. She gave me shelter and I love her smile like she is Love itself.

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Selkie has suffered with my endless driving distances, packing and unpacking of the car, belated meals and treats, too rigorous and not rigorous enough walks and shared thousands of doggy pettings twix my hands  (and hundreds of strangers,) and her increasingly long haired body. I can’t imagine how the trip would have gone without her!

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Yesterday I charged at the Safeway in Ashland and now I’m at the Chevrolet dealership (Lithia) in Redding, listening to muzak and appreciating the air conditioned waiting room. I envision we will be getting home while it is still hot with a few hours to go jump in the creek and unpack before dark. I imagine there will be some changes and maybe some things that will cause me pause with disappointment or irritation, other things that I will surge with gratitude over. One thing is sure though. My bed will be there and in the morning, my job as a women’s health care nurse practitioner will resume while Selkie reassumes the job of a bored house dog.

Where will the time in Alaska and Yukon sit in my brain? All that endless land, filled with beauty and livingness was only glimpsed but now it takes up space in my imagination. (The photo is from Valdez.) People across from me at the Mt. Shasta KOA were from Ancourage and had driven down the entire Alcan… I salute Alaskans, those arriving, those leaving and especially those staying. I wrap my memories in the present of where I am and hold my wild wonder as a cherished central feature of my being as I prepare to travel this last 90 miles to Home. (This photo is from spring when the columbines were flying around like butterflies… it will be a much dryer world, I know that.)  IMG_2271

 

 

 

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Crossing

Good day bad day, like most. Got off the ferry, finally, after 5 days. Days of rare elation with whales and beautiful places, like Sitka but mostly lumbering not boredom but sameness. I never really had any good talks with anyone… my own fault. My book, Stolen Life about a half Cree, half white woman who suffers abuse, rape and alcoholism then ends up getting the short shrift for a murder she participated in… chilling and horrifying book but important and informative. Anyway, in my dull moving along way I didn’t realize it was Labor Day weekend til just short of arrival. I had said no to Wendy and Toms’ invitation to Nanaimo but then decided it was my best bet and a wonderful opportunity to see my old friends from Guatemala days. (Wendy and I go back to 1994 when I was showing my fertility awareness slides at the Casa Cami house in Guatemala City and she was there with her Mam friend Nicolasa and Nicolasa thought how great this information would be for the women of her community.)

http://www.pueblopartisans.org/projects/past-projects/womens-health-care-in-guate.html

So we got in and had good luck finding a charger and good breakfast spot. I drove north and got through customs and through to the ferry but then missed an early ferry, realized I’d tossed my driver’s license with my Alaska Marine Highway boarding pass and took the turn short of their street at dusk, almost hitting a pedestrian (again!) I sat out in front of a similarly numbered empty house for almost 2 hours before it dawned on me to walk back and check the street sign. After getting to their house, a block up, it was like heaven to see them in their comfortable home! They kindly hosted me for four days– it was heaven being with them!

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I worry for the earth. It is so parched and hot here in Nanaimo… the heat is pushing north, the fires are ranging from California well into the B.C. mainland. Air quality is bad and people are just starting to reckon with the devastation of Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Louisiana. Now Irma is gathering strength from the warm Gulf waters. To me, just returning from the far north it is very clear.. I don’t have the frog in the slowly heating water effect again yet.

Crossing from Victoria to Port Angeles was bitter sweet because Kathy Faith, a dear friend to me, contacted me as I was wedged in the ferry line that she was on Vancouver Island for the next few days. If I’d had a helicopter and not a car I’d have whirled to her but it was not to be. Soon I was in Port Angeles. The air is lifeless everywhere due to the fires and there the traffic was terrible too.

I made my way carefully to the home of Lisa Love, aka Lisa Sun. She is a dear woman who had to leave Chico’s bad air because of her struggle to live with Lyme Disease. I’m so impressed with the life she has carved out in just a year and the beautiful town of Port Townsend! I stayed with her and her friend Bob overnight then camped one night. It was a wonderful little interlude. I am so GRATEFUL for Friends who are ready to take in a wanderer with little notice!

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The charger at the Coop in Port Townsend was Free and so is the one I’m on now at the Quilcene Village Store (Bless their sweet Hearts!!!)

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The plan now is to round the Peninsula (east side) and head to the coast for the night with a hope to get out to the natural edge of the bad air. I’m pulled to the ocean too after the tranquility of the inner waterways.

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