Sometimes with one I love, I fill myself with rage, for fear I effuse unreturn’d love;
But now I think there is no unreturn’d love—the pay is certain, one way or another;
(I loved a certain person ardently, and my love was not return’d;
Yet out of that, I have written these songs.)
From my journal while on the road, 6 weeks in October and November 2008, 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.” In early December and again in February 2009 I’ll be touring with these and other shows in the southeast section of the US. You can find more information here.
Juneau Alaska, part 4, “seeking synergy”:
Contrasting with nights of plentitudinous dreaming, last night was spare: one that I recall, a potent one. I observed someone with breast cancer; someone, maybe two people, were holding her was a healer. The healer was reluctant to grasp the woman’s breast. Someone, maybe me, encouraged this act and finally she did it, grasping firmly, thru her clothing, what was left of the 2 breasts. Watching this, I was aroused.
The hit art show for me was at the canvas art center where I’d inquired about teaching. This exhibit was based on loss—the artist’s grandmother and husband. She cared for a loving grandma in her last days, while she, the artist, suffered separation from her husband. I understand this well, this very basic emotion. Perhaps my feelings hover around loss at this moment, loss of marriage (dating back 20 yrs), loss of parents (dating back 30 yrs), recent loss of Louise (dating back about 20 yrs), dwindling of relation with F, loss of last summer’s interlude with L3, and perhaps a stillborn relationship with M. I know the feeling well. Am I effectively working with it in my art?
I intend to return to this exhibit, since we yanked ourselves away to get to the movie, Roman de Gar, which also was about loss—loss and find. The suffering exhibit consisted of many small whimsical paintings, often with words, revealing just enough about the artist to feel a live presence, but not gushing with emotion. It’s a balance I’d like to demonstrate in my own work, writing, photos, major photo projects.
This morning’s meditation helped, the 4 thoughts that lead the mind to Buddha. I began with the last, suffering and desire, remembering that M had pointed out to me many years ago that desire comes in 2 distinct forms, selfish and altruistic. The first are the quotidian desires such as coffee, beer, cheese, and the profound desires such as love, recognition, power. The teaching shows us that these desires inevitably increase suffering. And sure enough, desiring a letter from M or F increases my suffering exponentially. Whereas the second type of desire, altruistic, such as environmental integrity, justice with peace in Palestine, security for Israel, etc, either have no effect on suffering or relieve it.
My desire for M, for F, for the ultimate woman, the partner, the lover, is of the first category. It may be understandable, it may be normal, it may be human, but it increases my suffering. Why can’t I know this and move past the problem?
Elaine and Bob told me about some of S’s habits, changing plans heedless of other’s feelings and their plans. We surmised that this sort of pattern, which I might share, correlates with singlehood. That those in community, especially those in a couple, have learned to moderate their solo desires to accommodate the other or the group. I observe this with Elaine and Bob. Have I become a solo actor, heedless of the needs and feelings of others? Thus destined to remain single. Is this what I wish? Once again comparing myself to Z, the ultimate solo driver.
~As I write a fog is enveloping Juneau. When I began writing this morning one hour ago at about 6 am, the sky was clear, I could see stars, while a thick fog blanket bespeckled parts of Juneau. It had been a cold night, nearly to freezing. It is now 36 F, with a low last night of 34. Rain is forecast.~
I took a deep breath and plunged back into planning the tour, mainly reminding once interested folks that I’m still searching. Where is Dave G, and his possible offer of a venue and hospitality? Where are the folks in Portland and Seattle that expressed interest? Where is the series that I thought Allan S was putting together?
I thank Dan, Emily, Louise, Allan, Elizabeth and a few others who have come thru splendidly.
Organizing this tour is frustrating. I’m inclined to find another modus operandi for my work. This search for venues has to be one of the main problems I face. Little audience. Here I have failed miserably.
I should add that Linda is lining something up in Tenakee for our trip there next week, in the school and one public venue. I appreciate this. If it happens.
Checking in with my once living housemate, and continuing influence, Jim Harney, I can’t quite determine if he is still walking. A message from Nancy, written mid August, claimed the walk is over. But later messages indicated he continued to walk. Where is he now? Is he on the road? I must admit his frustration probably exceeds mine. He is lame, he is dying, he has limited time left, and he has no organization to put together his walk.
Why do I complain?
I’m tempted to revert to my blog to digest and purvey some of my experiences. But how honest can I be? Would I write about M? Hardly. About not finding venues? Maybe. I should give it a try.
—October 4, 2008, Saturday, Juneau, Elaine & Bob’s home
So to the quotidian—there was the Obamarama rally which drew nearly 200 people, mainly to write postcards to folks in different parts of the country, advising them to vote for Obama and that the author is from Alaska. I helped by stamping. We flew out the door and into the streets, in what may have been a spontaneous march thru downtown Juneau. Exuberant, yelling when the numerous drivers honked in approval, the crowd was unusual for its youth.
Native Alaskans for Obama
I learned later that the organizer, Sarah (another Sarah, not Sarah Palin, governor of Alaska) is a single mother in her mid twenties, inspired by the need for local support for Obama and Biden. She flung herself into the job, and garnered the support of hundreds. She walks at the head of the line, the other “Sarah” her brother, the baby he carries hers.
Writing postcards to out-of-state voters, recommending they vote for Barack Obama
D, the ferryboat captain: we met while writing postcards. When he left to be with his 4-year-old daughter, E, Elaine told me he was recently promoted to tugboat captain, escorting barges. For this he is paid some $250,000 annually, and works 4 months, the summer months. His previous pay as ferryboat pilot was about $100,000.
My nephew, Nathan, took me out on the boat—is it a skiff?—to check the traps for crabs. He cruised us out into the center of the channel looking for whales. Look there, Skip, a whale! I looked, saw only open water, land behind cloaked in fog and cloud. Now there, the blow! Nothing. The fin! Nothing. Until finally, about 100 yards in front of us, about 3 feet of black fin appeared and slowly disappeared beneath the water. Not close enough or large enough to photograph.
We pulled up two pots, found about 10 crabs, threw back those too small (he used a plastic calipers to measure), the females, and one that had just molted and would have little meat (he detected this condition by feeling the shell, soft.) I photographed all this, adding to my Alaskan lore.
Resisting the temptation to ask him while we were so far from the shore, the air cold and windy, the water frigid, once we docked I asked, Do whales ever capsize small boats?
He replied, Oh, occasionally, not deliberately because they have sonar which alerts them to objects above them, but from time to time this might happen, an accident.
What then, how would you survive? Grab the boat? I asked.
The boat would probably continue on unless the driver thought to throw it into reverse.
So there we might have been, dunked, fully clothed, no boat to clasp to, having to swim a long distance thru freezing waters. Would we survive?
And a few calls trying to solidify the tour. Without much response. An attempt to call Joan B who is now short one colon, no luck reaching her. Try again. It was the Francis Day celebration back home at Agape, and I often thought of folks there, missing them. On the road, I miss so many. And wonder, are they thinking about me? Why don’t they write? Any of them, more than the most cryptic messages. Hey, I remind myself, would I be any different when my beloveds are on the road?
The day, once again, rises dark and foggy, fog painting patterns on the mountains. Slowly, rapidly shifting moment to moment, an every changing panorama out my front window as I write.
—October 5, 2008, Monday, Juneau, Elaine & Bob’s home
Looking over yesterday’s journal entry I can only utter: poor guy, poor guy, so lonely, so desperate. But he-I manage. Whitman managed. I can manage.
I alternated between walking on a ridge strewn with shiny smooth black rocks and watching others leap about on this ridge. I stood with a friend, we were at Birzeit University in the West Bank, outside, next to a food stall serving a food I loved, a sort of chicken veggie combo wrapped in dough, deep-fried or boiled. I recommended it to my friend, hungered for some myself, but upon awakening have no idea what it was, certainly not my favorite Palestinian food, chicken or turkey shuwarma. I also desired coffee. A dream of unrelieved desires?
My Sunday was highlighted by a visit to Juneau Friends meeting, making peace among those who’ve turned me down for a public show sponsored by them. All were congenial, I invited them to the Gaza show next Sunday, thanking Amy and the peace and justice organization she and my sister are active in first. Next I asked if they’d like to hear from me about Quakers in Israel-Palestine. They mostly nodded their heads in approval, one, P, asking if this was the topic of my last slide show to them. It was.
The meeting itself was completely silent. When we broke, standing hand in hand, we had a little discussion, a combination of quotidian details about who’s doing what and something from P, who seems among the most publicly thoughtful. Last week she mentioned the importance of the moment.
Sitting during the potluck with Linda who’d brought the meaty chili that I devoured, we discussed linkage with the Unitarian Universalist congregation here, and the fact that at Friends Meeting Cambridge, my home meeting, numbers of people and dollars are declining. She asked why I thought this might be. I’d just received the clerks’ meeting report which dealt partly with this. I might extend this topic later here.
The message brewing for me during the silent session was related to the decline of Quakers, namely the absence of witness. I coined a few phrases that I was tempted to speak: no teach, no reach. Meaning those who have nothing to teach will not be able to reach out to others. Another expression, something I’ve heard before, Quakers typically stand up to be counted and sit down to not be noticed. I might have thought, those not standing up for something cannot expect others to sit with them. In short, we need more than a tradition of supporting individual witness, we need to be witnesses, together.
Maybe linking with the UU’s will help Juneau friends.
Yesterday’s photo offering to the world—obamarama photos—finally gained a few remarks.
Fantastic! What a spirited crowd – this makes my day – thanks for doing this!
Previously she’d written me a relatively long letter about herself, rare in our transitioned relationship.
And Katy writing,
Great pictures! I am getting suspicious that you might actually like Obama. Could a vote be in the cards?
I replied to Katy with this:
i doubt it, Katy, i’m just going with the local flow. i’m still partial to cynthia mckinney. reason: prudence, suspicion and conscience.
prudence because this choice looks to the future, a vision, when we’ve radically altered the election system to free it of monied interests.
suspicion because let’s follow the money, see who funds mr o and what debts he incurs, with what consequences.
conscience because he is a declared ardent supporter of israel, war to solve conflict, and from what i can discern has a basic belief in the capitalist system.
try this for confirmation about israel:
i wish i could join you and many others in your enthusiasm. i admire the man, as i remain wary of the system.
And from Rick,
looks like a bunch a radical to me.
I am chagrined at how dependent I am on response, not necessary positive response, any response, any indication that someone, anyone, looked.
Of course I can overlook the responses that folks did offer and concentrate on the absent responses, notably from M who’s not written in nearly 1 week. Maybe I scared her off with my seriousness, my prying, my question about her essence, my disclosure about mine. Too much too fast? Am I now in the same position with her as I was with F, longing, yearning, craving words back?
For some time I’ve argued that Quakers need a radical witness, at least matching that of early friends, early Christians, Christ, Woolman, Fox, Mott, Cuffe, Rustin, Germantown meeting in their pronouncement—their teaching—about slavery. Quakers participated in the underground railroad, Levi Coffin notably, among the examples of many others in our long lineage. Supporting individual witness is fine, I myself feel supported, loved, respected, honored, but is it sufficient? I doubt it. More is needed.
Consider the role of the churches in the civil rights movement, the black churches. And the absence of church activity during Vietnam. Pivotal factors in outcomes. No teach, no reach: teach, reach. Reach to others who can then become part of the synergy. No collective witness, mission, teaching (other than the soft form, our testimonies are important but they need concrete instances) then no result greater than the simple sum of the parts.
~at 6:42 am, the sky is starting to lighten, sky appears, clouds have definition, for how long? No color, all smoky grey.~
Perhaps this wish or call for unified witness mirrors my wish or call for a compatible partner, one with whom I make love, with whom I make projects, but above all with whom we synergize. I miss the synergy I’ve experienced in the past, especially with L. And so the absence of communication with M represents to me lost opportunities, a delay or truncation in what I thought might be a partnership building process. Toward synergy. Not to happen, once again?
I feel at times I’m an untapped resource, an agent meant to be with others for completion. “Seeking synergy” might be my slogan. Is this an erroneous point of view, blowing up my own importance? Whitman thru his words about love not matched writes that from this arose his songs. How true.
—October 6, 2008, Monday, Juneau, Elaine & Bob’s home
Elaine Schroeder, “Sarah Palin,” Skip Schiel