The caravan of stars
Proceeds without a whisper or a sound;
Mountain, forest, river,
All in lull;
Nature seems lost in contemplation.
O heart, you too be still.
Hold thy grief to thy bosom, and sleep!
Excerpts from my journal during a fall 1012 West Coast tour about Israel & Palestine
September 21, 2012, Friday, on the fast ferry to Sitka from Juneau
Cool, probably in the 40s, foggy.
The Sitka trip offers soft time, time between the presentations I make. The ferry ride is about 4 hours, nothing much to do other than write this journal entry, photograph from the ship thru the fog and as the fog lifts (which presents opportunities for light-based photography), finish the first set of Alaska photos (flight), revise shows, read mail, etc. And then when I can connect with the internet, post the first photo set and do more Israel-Palestine research.
Currently we are in and out of fog. The early morning fog was so thick Elaine worried the ferry might be postponed. Flights are often cancelled. The region is highly weather-dependent, one of its many gifts. I so enjoy Alaska—short term, dropping in to be more directly earth-connected, and then returning to my much-loved city life in the east.
As I entered Alaska after a 12-hour series of flights from my home in Cambridge I slowed down. As I entered the Schroeder home where I will live for 2 weeks I slowed down further (except to revise slide shows). As I boarded the ferry I slowed down even further, and then with the delay to Sitka I am nearly at a standstill. Very calm, tranquil, unworried.
Except for 2 factors: the shows themselves, their quality, how audiences will respond, and T, what I mean to her, she to me.
About one hour ago, the ship shook and shuddered, nearly bounced in the water. Elaine, in the women’s bathroom, emerged to check. She looked shocked. Others stopped their reading and eating. I was standing and instinctively ducked when the ship shook.
We had hit submerged debris that has now stuck in one of the 4 water jets. Trying different maneuvers such as reversing direction, blowing the water forward, the captain attempts to eject the debris. So far, no luck. A long ride made longer. At least he gives us up-to-date and I hope honest information.
September 22, 2012, Saturday, home of L, Sitka
Cool, probably in the low 50s, fog in the mountains, half clear in the town.
I sit at a long wooden table in the spacious second story living space (living-dining-cooking combined) of an elegant 2 story home built high on a hill overlooking the water and mountains. The high plateau was first inhabited by Russian pioneers—white inhabitants, not sure if natives lived here—since the early 1700s.
Our host, L, is a short demure woman, probably Jewish (her mother from Russia), who works as a clinical director, former teacher (so Elaine and L have much in common). Her husband, in Arizona to be qualified for a municipal job, is a company executive. She sculpts, he paints, their house is a model of fine artistry, the building itself and what’s on the walls and shelves.
The ferry was about one hour late because the captain never succeeded to eject the debris that clogged one of the water jets. Subsequently several Sitka residents complained about these new fast ferries, beset with numerous problems, a law suit pending from the state of Alaska against the German company who designed and built the ships.
Last evening we attended a dinner, maybe generated by my presence, altho no one asked me to speak to the group, and one fellow, Don the ACLU lawyer, had no idea who I was or why I was at the dinner. For me the most engaging conversation—all were, it was a politically savvy group as far as I could determine, hovering around a rather dormant peace and justice group that Don and Cindy, our 2 hosts and local organizers—was about the human-non human animal connection. A young woman sitting next to me with an engaging giggle, married to a dour fellow, Beth’s son (one year in Nablus might do that to anyone) works with what she calls “sustainable ag,” meaning good practices agriculture, related how important bonding is to humane slaughter. An odd combo of feelings and actions indeed. I told the Lakota story of White Buffalo Calf Woman as an illustration of human-animal interaction.
Previously Don had escorted us on a walk thru Totem Park, which I’d explored in 1988 as part of my camping-biking excursion during my first Alaskan exploit. Don, Elaine, and I observed spawning salmon, laboring upstream to deposit their eggs in cavities they’d shaped in the sand and gravel, then to die. Males fertilize the eggs and also die. We heard eagles, observed very tall magnificent hemlock and spruce trees with exposed upper roots (they grow on “nurse trees,” fallen trees that provide nutrients while they rot away), smelled the decomposing salmon, and I imagined being an Indian long ago—or just a few days ago.
September 23, 2012, Sunday, home of L, Sitka, Alaska
Cool, probably in the low 50s, fog in the mountains, overcast with altocumulus in the town, rain last evening.
One dream in a period of paucity: I watched a movie which might also have been reality. The filmmaker or protagonist was about to torture a man to death. He used a portable circular saw, AKA buzz saw, and planned—I’m not sure how the audience or I knew his intention, maybe he announced it as part of the torture regime—to begin at feet and slowly move up. He would saw or buzz off the victim’s genitals. I knew also the response of the victim: to absorb it, not be terrified by it. I was both victim and torturer.
Yesterday Don and Cindy took Elaine and me hiking in the Beaver Lake area, driving past the old pulp mill site (which Don helped close down by his revelations about the pollution the mill generated) to reach the trailhead. We hiked into thick forest, trees taller than any in the northeast, up grade to Beaver Lake, around the lake, passing thru a landslide area created one year ago and that was recently cleared using dynamite, into a muskeg plateau where we joked about the word suggesting a beverage, and back. Hard work, hard on my arthritic knees, a few photos.
Don and I reminisced about our Cambodia pilgrimage in 1995. He remembered one of the international walkers railing against the noise in the wats [temples]. He returns regularly and plans a long solo bike ride next year thru much of Cambodia. Re-meeting Don after nearly 20 years is one of the big pluses of this journey. Also connecting with activists. Elaine and Cindy discussed meeting in Juneau to coordinate actions. Another plus of this journey.
Along with what I learn about where I visit. Instance: Sitka is among the 5 most active ports in the entire country, commercial and sport fishing mostly.
In the evening we attended a benefit dinner for RESULTS-The Power to End Poverty, a lobbying organization for progressive causes like micro lending. The keynote speaker was the founder of FINCA, a micro-lending group that postdated the Grameen bank by about 8 years. We ate Moroccan food catered by Ludvig’s, said by some to be the best restaurant in all of the States. I was not impressed with the cuisine, might have made better myself.
I learned that L’s father had been a Jewish army photographer who was part of the liberation of the Nazi death camps. Traumatized and tortured by what he saw and showed, he became obsessed about his experience, put his photos all around the house, and said repeatedly, we can’t let this holocaust happen again.
I asked her what her turning points were, how even tho raised Jewish, she became an activist for Palestinian rights. She admitted to an early fondness for Israel, but as she learned more about its policies, slowly ended her unqualified support. She’s never visited. As Elaine noticed, 2 of the 3 most politically active people we’ve met so far in Sitka are Jewish, L and Cindy. Contrasting with Juneau where none of the activists Elaine knows are Jewish.
One major snag: inexplicably (but this is the way of computers), my Dreamweaver [software for website design and maintenance] won’t work. So presently I have no access to my website, can’t update the itinerary, or post photos. Yesterday I downloaded a copy and hope to successfully install it this morning. All will work out I’m sure.