Our true home is in the present moment. To live in the present moment is a miracle. The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green Earth in the present moment, to appreciate the peace and beauty that are available now.
—Thich Nhat Hanh
From my journal while on the road, 6 weeks, Alaska to California and back to Portland Oregon, then home to Cambridge Massachusetts—with 3 new slide shows about Palestine/Israel, “My Trip to Gaza,”, “Bethlehem the Holy,” and “The Hydropolitics of Israel-Palestine.”
Juneau Alaska, part 1:
Here I sit, again, 20 years visiting my beloved sister Elaine and my beloved brother-in-law, Bob, at the front room table, gazing out on the Gastineau Channel, the sun slowly rising (at 6:30 am), the sky relatively clear, the air cold and dry, slightly windy, E and B blissfully sleeping (I presume), no one else living here currently (their grown children Eve in her apt, Nathan in his, both in Juneau, Vu down south near Seattle), a batch of new messages from M, with a slue of slide show dreams to relate:
In one dream I was with Rob examining a new auto slide projector that had amazing remote controls. We weren’t sure how to get it all to work; we were setting up for one of my shows. Mixing in with this was showing a new slideshow about dance, maybe to a preview audience, and the show was clearly failing. Another about Bethlehem seemed in the same camp. One dreary experience after another. Lightening the effect somewhat was discovering two women who quoted passages I’d used. They came up especially for this event from some far away place, honoring me.
At about 4 am, my traditional Hour of the Wolf moment (a Swedish folk story about shape changing and altered consciousness in the early morning hours), I awoke, fitfully sleeping for the next 2 hours. I realized this is partially jet lag—dear body tells me it is 8 am, time to rise. It is also legitimate anxiety—it is also that I have to revise those shows to make them showable. Especially Bethlehem with all its cricks and jarring spots and the lack of continuing sound. Musing thus, I thought, I should just remain in Juneau for the 3 assigned weeks, not try to get to Atlin BC for shows or teaching, make use of this down time to edit the shows, visit E and B, catch up on reading and writing, process and put up more photos, etc. A sort of working vacation.
Laying over in Seattle provided ample time to do much of this, including editing, processing, and preparing to upload more photo batches. Riversing, Boston Research Center event about mortality, family photos etc, all grist for the grinding post production mill. Also posting on my blog my vows, resulting from the BRC mortality session. I thought this a fitting going away remark. How timely, should I die.
So once I’m finished with this journal entry, once I’ve breakfasted and sat with E and B, I shall proceed further on my beloved work. There is nothing I’d rather be doing than what I’m doing.
Last evening thru the darkness, 8 pm to about 10, I flew up the coast to Juneau from Seattle. The sky was mostly clear, I do not have sufficient camera sensitivity to make usable photos. However, over the continental USA, full daylight for the most part, and even with varying skies, I managed to photograph the Boston Harbor islands as the sun was rising, the plains with its myriad land patterns, mountains, the Columbia River, and Seattle as we pierced thru the haze and fog to land. Not a bad set and all before I’d even arrived in Juneau.
—September 26, 2008, Friday, Juneau, Elaine & Bob’s home, front table
I dreamt I was retelling a tale known to my audience but doing it in what I thought was a novel, nuanced, elongated manner. They were not happy with my retelling, they were impatient, restive, unaccommodating. They wanted me to hurry along, get to the punch line. I tarried, inserted something about the Catholic Worker movement that I thought would delight them—no way. I also tried to keep the end firmly in mind, knowing how often I forget the punch line, the climax, the denouement.
As I sit this morning writing, light appears slowly, subtly, gradually in the sky to my left, which would be, if my compass reckoning is at all accurate, southwest, not quite the correct direction for a sunrise.
Last evening we watched the first of this campaign’s presidential debates, watching at the public TV station, KTOO, because Elaine and Bob do not have a TV. Walking in late, entering a room stuffed with some 25 people, in the dark, I had little sense of communal experience. An occasional guffaw, as when McCain mentioned his “maverick” running mate, one or two bouts of applause, always for Obama, a few groans, mostly in reaction to McCain, especially when he reiterated the line, “Senator Obama just doesn’t understand…” or the “fundamentals of …” or “my friends…”
During our postmortem B and E and I agreed that both did well, neither seemed to have the edge. We observed that McCain never looked at Obama whereas Obama frequently looked at McCain (this despite the moderator, Tom Lehrer, trying over and over to persuade them talk to each other). Obama frequently said he agreed with his running mate, and we were undecided about whether this tactic hurt or aided Obama (I felt aided because it demonstrated his ability and willingness to talk with adversaries, demonstrating also McCain’s relative rigidity). Nothing about the environment, global warming, little challenge to the military, mention only by Obama about the health care system, nothing from either about art and culture.
Elaine Schroeder & Skip Schiel, photo by Linda Buckley, Juneau
Both proved knowledgeable about the economy and foreign affairs. Did it influence how I will vote? I’m not sure. I’m so stretched between voting for Obama, even tho my home state of Massachusetts will probably overwhelmingly go for Obama and my vote will have zero effect, and either not voting or voting for McKinney or Nader, knowing this is both a throw away ballot and a vote from conscience.
Did the debate affect voting patterns nationally? Yet to be determined. The next debate will be between vice presidential candidates. B told us he’d recently read a book about the Lincoln-Douglas debates. The format was radically different: apparently questions known in advance, each had one hour for discourse, followed by less but ample time for rebuttal, most or all wrote in advance, and they read from speeches. Media was not expected to be neutral.
How far back does presidential debating go in this country? And how has its influence on the election changed?
Around dinner last night—a late dinner of beef BBQ brisket, too sweet for my tastes, a salad by me, rudimentary and hastily crafted, white rice (why don’t they use brown?), while freshly caught Dungeness crab simmered in the pot, the poor creatures slowly dying as we ate and chatted—I argued that the election, when about candidates, usually has marginal effects historically. But if the election were about party platforms or governance systems the effects might be more significant. B granted that historic forces operate which might subsume individuals. But, using the Lincoln election as an example, some elections matter greatly, individuals can change the course of history.
~As I write a second plane now glides in, otherwise Juneau is blessed with relatively silent skies, an anomaly for someone like me used to city noise.~
I asked, what was the role of money in the election then, and how powerful were the corporations (did they even exist?), the fledgling military industrial complex (Lincoln warned about this even then), and the media? These factors are significant and help explain the true forces of governance, independent for the most part of individuals, who we elect, who governs.
Or so I believe, and I realize I am in a tiny minority.
I’m searching for a metaphor or analogy to describe what I sense is the reality—the election sham. Contenders: commercial sports, commercial media, Carroll’s Tweedily Dee and Tweedily Dumb.
One may root for the Yankees or the Red Sox, the Cubs or the White Sox (I made my choice early, felt passionately about the Chicago Cubs). One may follow and trust the NY Times over the Washington Post. Or one might think this is all out of Carroll, Tweedily Dee and Tweedily Dumb. What does it matter?
Another analogy is Israel with respect to leaders and the growth or curtailment of settlements. History shows: didn’t matter who ruled. Even during Oslo, even during Rabin, the settlements grew. During each of the so-called peace processes, there was little change in the settlement patterns.
Or recent US history, the Clinton years. They brought us a curtailment of anti poverty programs if not decimation, huge growth in income and wealth disparities, expansion of the military budget and system, and nearly 10 destructive years of sanctions on Iraq with frequent attacks. In short, the movement toward empire (and likely empire dissolution) continued unabated, despite the campaign promises, despite the rhetoric, despite the charisma of Clinton.
Another entry point to the meaning of elections and governance is an investigation of the assassinations of the Kennedy’s, and Martin and Malcolm. Is the same force operating in each case that eliminated those courageous leaders—not necessarily a highly organized conspiracy, but a showing of force, a demonstration of who truly rules?
Another metaphor might be earth forces, such as tectonic plate shifts. Consider an earthquake-prone region, such as Oakland California. No matter what the urban planners suggest, regardless of how the communities are developed, an over riding force exists: potential earthquakes caused by tectonic plate shifts. They are the true governing forces. They operate despite the plans, the various modes of forming communities or reinforcing structures.
After lunch with Eve I walked home, along the water for the most part, happy to be in Juneau, feeling like it is a form of home. So much is familiar, so much evokes memories: daughters Katy and Joey each independently living here when they were in their early teens, Jo’s connection with a burrito bar, Katy with the thrift shop as a meeting ground for those in the punk rock movement, the Glory Hole hospitality center for homeless folks, and John, the director then, and my work there as a volunteer photographer helping them make a slide show to raise money. Also the library and cruise ships, a huge one currently docked, some 10 stories high, 5 wide, a square hulk offensive in its size and shapelessness. This is claimed to be the last tour ship of the season. Some say, thank god. And the marina, stuffed with working fishing boats.
I spotted a long billed bird dashing its bill into the ocean for food. Maybe a heron, maybe an egret. One photo of it.
—September 27, 2008, Saturday, Juneau, Elaine & Bob’s home, front table