Excerpts from my journal while touring the southern United States with new photographs and stories. The main shows are Gaza Steadfast, Bethlehem the Holy, The Hydropolitics of Palestine/Israel, and Quakers in Palestine/Israel. (I’ve completed the tour and I’m now happily at home in Cambridge Massachusetts for the foreseeable future.)
November 24, 2009, Tuesday, Cambridge:
Home at last, god almighty, I’m home at last. The day after. Feeling good.
These dreams to celebrate: watching Y—very clearly Y for a change, not some stand in—walking thru a park, maybe Dana, on her regular morning solo walk. Tempted to join her since we’d not seen each other for some long time, I resisted, knowing she’d rather be alone. I’ll greet her later.
And a 2nd dream, about my home, one room in a 2-room home. A new couple was moving in, I met them, along with the couple moving out. I did not relish the thought of sharing a home—would I have privacy? I noticed the man moving in was in a wheel chair and considered his difficulty getting to his portion of the house. Up a landing and thru my room.
My home is familiar to me, for a short while pleasingly familiar: the paths I use to reach different parts of my small home (700 sq ft), where I store things, my various routines such as the one I used this morning to make an omelet, how the bed feels, where I meditate, when and how I exchange clothes between hot and cold seasons, where I bathe, and endless other paths and routines I use to exist day to day. All familiar to me. Whereas I’ve just returned from daily encounters with novelty.
The train ride yesterday [November 23, 2009] felt long, 24 hours roughly, Atlanta to Boston. The train on time, a private seat so I could spread out during the day, as opposed to the night when I shared my seat with a woman I learned later came from Liberia. She and I were instantly friendly, especially when I announced yesterday morning early as she was stretching awake, you can have both seats now. And there in the café car I sat for most of the morning, until noon and DC. She brought me my reading glasses which I’d left at the seat.
I found an Internet connection at the Corner Café in the DC Amtrak station as I awaited my train to Boston, ate a muffin (banana and not my favored chocolate), sipped strong coffee (my 2nd or 3rd cup), and did some email. I avoided going outside, not wishing to carry my heavy black equipment bag. And the weather was cold and wet, as it was all the way between Atlanta and Boston. E wrote asking when I was returning, which led to a fantasy about her then writing to ask if I needed a ride from the train station, to which I’d reply, sure, and that would eventually and ineluctably lead to an intimate experience.
I made my way home from South Station alone, lugging all my gear thru the wet drizzle, and eventually mounting the stairs, shedding my clothing, firing up my erotic imagination, and settling in.
How would I assess the tour overall? Splendid, a qualified success. Decent shows, reasonably large audiences, warm response, equipment held up, Dave did a passable job, and the tour ended brilliantly at SOA Watch, with the Gaza Steadfast show to a large enthusiastic group. This bodes well not only for my photo work but for the topics I try to illuminate—for this trip, mainly Gaza. I should report this to my friends back home in Gaza. The main problem was finding venues in Louisiana and Mississippi, many open dates. We’ll try again next year, do better.
Tuned to Y: thru our mutual South African friend, SF, who wrote me recently; thru the SOA Watch which she in turn tuned to; thru the Nipponzan Myohoji theology and practice and people we share; thru activism (she wrote recently about joining a demo at University of California Berkeley over tuition increases and brutal treatment by the administration); thru Ella and family generally; on and on. One wonders, aren’t we meant to be couple? Answer: guess not.
Today: slowly unpack, relishing every second of it, slowly check off the various duties I now have ranging from replacing my Boston public transport (T) elder pass (which I lost) to editing more slide shows from last summer’s photos. I might call Katy to see about meeting her and Ella at school today, assuming school is in session (it’s Thanksgiving week).
November 26, 2009, Thursday, Cambridge:
One major dream to start us off: after some event requiring lots of folding chairs, I offered to help fold and store them. This required acrobatics—we had to fling ourselves out into space, grabbing the hand of a new partner, holding on for life itself; crawl thru constricted spaces; climb up and down narrow stairs; while a couple sitting to one side, not participating, asked us inanely, how are you?
I was impressed with my abilities, my agility, strength, perseverance. The older me strode gaily with the youngest and strongest.
Which is what happened on the pilgrimage I attended capping my southern tour, and how I felt in comparison with the young ones who tended to unexpectedly fail from various physical problems. I’d worried about my legs, that they might ache, be weak, not carry me long walking distances. They not only succeeded but seemed to heal. After walking, resting, sitting, sleeping, they felt back to normal—I can live up to my earlier moniker, earned walking the Auschwitz to Hiroshima pilgrimage in 1995, Iron Man.
The weather has been dark, cool, misty. Neither winter nor autumn, an in-between time. And today is Thanksgiving, snow not anticipated, far from it. The leaves have mostly fallen, revealing new patterns of vegetation (the weed growing amidst my rose bush for instance). Garden hoses in the community garden are stashed, which probably also means the city turned off the water. I missed gardening this summer because of my Israel-Palestine journey. And I look forward to the garden for next season, realizing that I might be able to persuade grandkids to help with it and learn.
Next summer I will be 69 yrs old, 4 years my own father’s senior when he died, 6 years my mother’s, assuming I survive past my birthday which is coming in about one week.
Being home and beginning again has been unadulterated joy: no deadline, virtually no schedule, fit in the tasks I love doing, one at a time, like opening mail, while making way for more onerous tasks like cleaning the house that demand doing, all the while relishing truly precious tasks like shifting my computer setup and beginning editing slide shows. This is sheer spontaneity, when the muses are at their best. They have free rein. They are happy.
I’ve begun a report of the tour, sketching out ideas first, and these I based on yesterday’s lunch conversation with Ken when he seemed genuinely interested in hearing from me. Main points, such as audience response, venues, etc (unlike many who say, oh Skip, you’re home, I can’t wait to hear all about your trip, and then either try to listen but slip away to other topics, or never find the time even to try.). As usual, asking him about himself, his response was, oh, about the same, nothing new, same old stuff. Which means lots of reading about the holocaust, plus attending some Israel-Palestine events.
I also updated my itinerary to more accurately reflect what happened. This will be a good public record of my tour, the details.
I nearly didn’t arrive home by train when I’d hoped. In New Haven CT I made the serious mistake of misinterpreting the train-boarding announcement. I was standing on the platform, enjoying the air and the space, when a woman’s voice called, all aboard, last call. I assumed this was meant for folks in the waiting room, not on the platform. A conductor walked by and I asked him a question I’ve now forgotten, when I noticed the train doors closing and the train moving. Holy shit, I yelled, it’s leaving without me! Can you stop the train? He called on his radio, the train slowed, I ran after it, it stopped. The door didn’t open, I pounded on the door, and then I saw a conductor about 4 cars ahead waiting for me. I ran, apologized, found my car, my seat, all my gear. What a disaster that would have been. What if the conductor had not happened by when he did? I’d be stuck in New Haven, most of my luggage on the train—all by itself.
All because I’d misheard—again—and wrongly assumed—again. These 2 factors seem present in most mistakes I make. I concluded that my mischievous tricksters were at it again, playing with me. They are probably my muses with a playful nature. They know how easily misled I am. They play games with me. I never seem to learn.
End with a perplexing thought about love: suppose B and I were to become a couple, suppose she wished to live and work somewhere else, Germany, Oregon, Gaza. What would I decide? Would I be willing to leave my entire life in Cambridge and New England to be with the one I loved?
Or suppose I insisted on staying here while she wished to move elsewhere? What might she decide?
Is this sort of thinking useful, does it accomplish anything? Two answers: it is pure fantasy, compulsion, sickness of the heart, longing, yearning, disgusting, a waste of time. Or it is productive, a thought experiment, useful for engaging the imagination and supposing what if, stretching the mind, preparing for a possibility.
As I imagine another in bed with me, cuddling, or with my family, eating turkey with dressing, or on tour with me in the south or with me in Israel-Palestine, or me with her in let us imagine Bosnia, photographing together. Why not? Such imagination is free and fun. Or even in a photographic workshop I teach, maybe Winter Light to the far reaches of the Blue Hills in the cold and snow, stranded. Why not imagine it?
Free and fun.
Detailed itinerary of southern tour