Walking is the great adventure, the first meditation, a practice of heartiness and soul primary to humankind. Walking is the exact balance between spirit and humility.
—Gary Snyder, The Practice of the Wild
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 2:
Raining, blowing, dark.
Two media dreams (after watching Hotel Rwanda with E-B). In the first I was initially either filming or watching a film about a kidnapping in Baghdad, and then I was part of the film. We’d kidnapped a small child, or I’d observed someone doing this. The man held an explosive device next to the infant, threatened to detonate it. The 2 escaped thru a series of checkpoints by threatening soldiers. I was involved somehow, first filming or watching, then accompanying the insurgent.
In the sequel to this I was preparing to photograph a Buddhist-led walk thru a foreign, hostile land. At first locals were joining us, it was to be a big march. I frantically readied myself, picking up my stored gear from the back of a truck or shed. I chose one accordion from a batch of about 4, tried it out hurriedly, strapped it onto my back, felt its weight, checked my camera, chose an audio recorder and set off, running with all this gear to join the march late.
The locals had all dropped out, only the monks and a few others were marching. I raced to catch up, tried one shot from too far back. My camera, an older film camera, jammed. Whether to run back—with all my heavy gear—to pick up another camera or stay with the march and not photograph was now the key question. As usual, the dream ended before I resolved the dilemma.
In the final dream that I can recall (a plentitude of dreams, thankfully) I was in a large gathering, as in a symposium or conference. It was winding down. Someone invited audience members to offer reflections. From the back of the large hall I rose to speak. Eyes turned to me, the audience was highly expectant. I felt confident. I began, no idea now of the topic or message. Suddenly, without explanation, I was in the front of the crowd speaking when I noticed eyes turning from me to the back of the room. A large, pasty white man was heckling me. I couldn’t make out what he was saying, only his tone—hostile.
He came to me, put a fist into my face, invited me to step outside and fight him—while all watched. I tried listening compassionately to him, may have succeeded. As before, I have no idea what the issues were, what my or his messages were, only that he voraciously disagreed with me and was now threatening me.
So begins my 3rd day in Juneau.
—September 28, 2008, Sunday, Juneau, Elaine & Bob’s home
Last tour boat of the season
A reasonably warm session yesterday afternoon with local Quakers, D, M in particular. Meeting in their new site, the former Christian Science church, now owned by the Unitarian Universalists, about 8 of us sat in silence the entire 60-minute period. Until D broke the silence by asking if any had messages before closing. One about the importance of a moment, the other about interconnections with all life. I felt relatively empty headed during this session, perhaps distracted by the presence of my Juneau adversaries.
After the formal part of the meeting, the informal began. I’d greeted M and D warmly, accompanied m on a tour with B of the new facilities, waited during intros for a request for who I am and what I’m doing in Juneau, which never came, said nothing directly about my mission, altho one person, B, said she knew of my work. Mostly the group discussed their new home, how to use it, share it with UU’s, the opportunities and the liabilities. Opportunities include joint programs, such as D visiting the UU worship that morning, and liabilities include building maintenance as listed by J. They set a date for a business meeting and potluck, next Sunday, I plan to attend at least the meal.
Finally, privately, D asked me what other venues I’d located in Juneau, I said only the local peace group so far but we’re looking. He didn’t ask for specifics, and if he had, would I have replied, “You know D, I’m not sure, Elaine is doing all that.”
Why not disclose attempts? I worry that he’d undermine those venues. Paranoiac? Or realistic? Such is the machinations of putting together a tour related to the hot button issue of Israel-Palestine.
At one point in the after mt discussion, someone, P I believe, mentioned how ideal the room is for presentations. “Look here,” she said, “pointing to the main wall, we could put a screen up here. And we’d have lots of room for a fairly large audience.” Ah, how that would fit me perfectly, if only I were devoted to topic other than Palestine/Israel or were another person.
M and D graciously drove me home thru the rain and chill. I was prepared to walk. I met their huge white dog and asked about their son. All to thaw the freeze, be human.
I’ve begun revising Bethlehem, finding again the remarks by others invaluable. I long to settle into this project, avoid family distractions, trips, conversations, meals, neighbors, friends, just lunge full bore into my slide shows. Should I declare a moratorium on interaction, become isolated, hide in my room or basement?
For dinner last night, Elaine and I cracked crabs. Nathan had pulled up Dungeness crabs from pots or traps lowered to the ocean floor. I hope to go out with him soon to collect more. Cracking, I was impressed by the intricacy of the crab’s design—its shell, carapace, claws, how every piece fits perfectly together, like a well-choreographed dance. Cracking was easy, once they showed me how, and sitting chatting with my beloved sister was an additional blessing. While we cracked, Bob cooked borsht using fresh beets from Atlin, their cottage in far north British Columbia. Their closeness to earth is paramount.
—September 29, 2008, Monday, Juneau, Elaine & Bob’s home
Along the trail to the Herbert glacier
Further thoughts about the economic crisis, and a news update: Congress voted down the second iteration of an administration bailout plan. And I do not fully appreciate the degree of personal private involvement with this crisis, given the widespread participation in the stock market. As B-E said, that is our fortune, part of our future, our retirement.
I am graced—if grace is the word, the concept—with relative independence from the economic system—yet a form of dependence. My teaching requires students, my photo work requires benefactors and audience. But I may not be as tightly controlled by the economy as are some, I have less to lose. My wealth is not in stocks and bonds, nor in savings, nor in real estate. My wealth, if wealth it is, is social and political and artistic. It is my Quaker community, my family immersion, my political advocacy, my photographs. How secure this investment is one may never know during one’s lifetime.
I’ve thoroughly plunged back into editing Bethlehem. I now feel this show has more potential. I am deeply grateful for the feedback from the group before I met. The frame of coming to Bethlehem in different ways seems apt, and expandable. It could also apply to Jews coming to Rachel’s tomb. And it has a reverse import: Christians emigrating, tourists not arriving, no Bethlemites allowed into the tomb. I have yet to master the sound problem, whether to convert to PowerPoint and apply sound there, or create a CD track that I can manually time. Too bad about Apple’s Keynote lacking this feature.
—September 30, 2008, Tuesday, Juneau, Elaine & Bob’s home
Windy, unusually warm, foggy.
These dreams: along a river in an Asian country like Cambodia, but very westernized, with a large group of festive people, me having just won or found over $1000, stuffing it into my backpack and leaving it on a bridge with the crowd, walking alone to another section of the river, night, afraid, meeting 2 boys on bikes who might be threats to me, all this an excursion, a mixture of adventure and terror.
Then, inserting myself into a game of squash or hard hitting ping pong, my partner a muscled coordinated chap who insists on returning all shots hit to our side whether on his side or mine. I demand to play equally, but quickly discover I no longer have the talent to connect reliably with a small fast flying ball. He is a combo of compassion and criticality. I am ashamed, disappointed in my athletic abilities, feel I am quickly waning.
Then, not necessarily in this order, a partial waking dream about SK, his silence even after I’ve written him with my sadness and disappointment (in reality), this morphing into celebrating a victory for miners on strike. Somehow tied to photos I’d make for him, or because this is one of his issues.
Then I was walking outside with 2 others known to me, man and woman, on our way to perhaps a hospital, when we came across a man in a wheel chair who’d possibly fled the facility we were about to visit. He was in bad shape, on the ground as much as in his chair, babbling, dirty, maybe even frothing at the mouth. All of us instantaneously felt compassion for him, brought him back to the facility. Being with camera and feeling a duty, I photographed some of this, including an attendant treating him in the hospital.
I tried to be circumspect with my camera, not putting it to my eye, but the attendant noticed and berated me. My colleagues were even more incensed, and would barely talk with me as we left the bdg.
So goes a full night of dreaming.
Now my daily routine in Juneau: arise between 5 and 6, the house cool or even cold, and certainly silent, no one else up at this godlike hour. Wash, pee, drink the last of my night water, carry my computer gear from bedroom to front room, set it up on the table.
Make or heat up coffee, find some snack to coat my stomach, like banana or bread, minimal but required yoga, every other morning a longer meditation in the Buddhist style, miss my usual walk (I suppose I could walk but it is so dark and often so rainy or foggy, plus the hills impede my motivation), sit down at my beloved computer and begin the day’s work.
Which is first, check email, hope for something from M, M2, Louise, Joey or Kate, or a reply from some inquiry I’d made concerning the tour, or an unexpected letter from someone in a distant region, like Gaza. Second write in my journal, maybe append portions of letters like I’ve done here with M. Followed by full breakfast, with or without family present, and full launch into work, usually editing a show.
I will then move my gear to my room, unwilling to sit thru endless conversation while the radio blasts out NPR news.
Then the progress all depends on my hosts, a walk with Linda yesterday, bagels at the Silver Bow café on Sunday, etc. And so go the days, most every day, a combo of vacation and solid work. Altho, when Linda used those terms yesterday in referring to my experience—some work and some play?—I had to say, it is all play. I might have corrected that later to state, all play except for the administration work I have to do to keep this tour running. That is sheer labor.
What would I like to be and be doing in 5 years? Mostly live where I am now and do what I’m doing now. Several key questions are: my health, my ability to travel and work, partnership, financial stability. I’d prefer my health be excellent, of course, that I can travel and work in photography forever, die with my camera in my hand (or at the computer with Lightroom), have enough money to manage, not too much, nor too little, teaching continuing. And on partnership, what a mystery! I have no idea.
M for instance: deep and abiding, committed love? Possibly. Marriage, doubtful. Living together, not sure. But then I can visualize myself a happily unmarried, unpartnered, solo guy till my last days. This outcome I will not realize until my last breath, if then.
One glitch in my health hit me yesterday while in the food basket picking up yogurt and cilantro for the Indian dinner, plus natural peanut butter, chocolate, and Cuties for me (I shared the Cuties, which seemed a hit). Rummaging thru the freezer section looking for Cuties (cuties are the little non dairy bars k introduced me to) I suddenly went dizzy. As if drunk. I felt I was reeling, might not be able to remain standing, might not be able to get thru the checkout counter, might not be able to drive home.
This was a new sensation. Was I having a heart attack, a brain problem? Ah, then I knew. As my vision wavered, that tell-tale sign as if looking thru warped glass or water, I knew: migraine.
Luckily it was not severe, I was able to drive home, and then, meeting Nathan, confessed my malady, begged off from socializing, and hit the floor in my room, legs up on the bed. Within 15 minutes I had only the usually remnant headache, mild.
The day was warm, balmy even, wind from the south. Perfect for a wetlands walk near the airport with Linda and Elaine. I like Linda, her energy, her zip and verve, her laugh, her wildly gesticulating face. This came thru most powerfully when at the end of the walk, standing by her decrepit truck; we discussed possibilities for more gigs in Juneau. E might have felt somewhat sheepish when we listed all the possibilities that she hadn’t pursued—university, schools, etc. So we listed a few, and began making calls when we arrived home.
We walked for about 1 hour, enjoying the tropical air, me the sky, the clouds, using my wide-angle lens, carrying my polarizing filter but forgetting to use it. This might have been a good scene for the lens—to show the expanse of wetlands and sky. Carrying the camera also gives me an excuse to depart from the madding crowd and be alone. “Excuse me folks, I’ll catch up, I’d like to photograph this.”
—October 1, 2008, Wednesday, Juneau, Elaine & Bob’s home