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From my journal and letters, my dispatches from the field while I continue my photographic project about internally expelled Palestinian refugees in the West Bank and Gaza (once I can enter Gaza), plus their ancestral homelands. Here in Palestine-Israel thru July 10, 2019.


I saw myself, sharply, as a wanderer, an adventurer, rocking through the world, unanchored.

—James Baldwin

May 14, 2019, Tuesday, Cambridge, MA

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Over Boston, around noon

PHOTOS (sky views)

The count down is nearly finished. I leave tomorrow [May 15, 2019]—inshallah, no bleeding, no heart attack, no trip cancellation, no one pulling out at the last moment, not missing my flight because I’d read my ticket wrong. Tomorrow around this time I will do my final packing, await Susan R, drive to the airport with her, check in, go thru security, and finally board, inshallah. At the other end, about 12 hours later, inshallah, I hope to glide thru—as if on ice skates—passport control and head for Jerusalem and my first 4 days and nights in the Old City, interspersed with the Nakba Day commemoration in Jaffa. Oh, if only, I pray.

My equipment seems happy to once again be on the road, making what I hope are exquisite photos. I trained myself further with the Tascam audio recorder, hoping not to be such a klutz in front of people as during last year’s trip. I cleaned lenses, the equivalent of oiling gears. I imagined where and what I’d be photographing and chose settings. I even reset the date for the local time. I calculated my need for pills and organized them, biking over to the hospital for a finasteride refill and Inman Pharmacy to refill my pravastatin. I made doubly certain I had sufficient magic pep pills to survive, Today I lay out all my gear on my bed (which I might have done in the past on Jim’s bed when he was away and I was traveling), sort it out, decide what can remain here, and pack it. So tomorrow morning I will be ready and not frantic to depart 9 Sacramento Street [my home].

Nidal has not come thru, despite his promises and intimations, maybe later. Zochrot writes they are blazingly busy, especially with their Nakba Day in Jaffa, maybe later. Sahar V is in touch, reliably. I have a place to stay and AVP [Alternatives to Violence Project] to work with later, but otherwise, not much is set up. I am a wanderer, eventually into oblivion. Happy as is possible, improvising.

Yesterday morning broke with some sun, finally. Today, I told myself, probably my last chance to plant my 18 tomato plants. So a little after noon I planted, the ground dried enough for this earthly work, soon to be once again soaked by relentless rains, not heavy luckily, not causing problems, but consistently wet, dark, and cool. I’d strolled earlier, soaking up the short-lived sun, bidding goodbye to my beloved neighborhood.

To SF, a close friend:

yes, indeed, s, i arrived safely yesterday morning (middle of the night your time), passed easily thru airport security (no questions asked when i applied for a visa, not even “purpose of your visit?”), settled in one of my homes away from home, the golden gate hostel in the muslim quarter of jerusalem’s old city, and began my work. today i conferred with one of the owners of the internationally acclaimed educational bookshop in east jerusalem (in the palestinian section of jerusalem) about my refugee project. he, mahmoud muna, provided numerous leads, something i need desperately. 

it’s hot here, but dry, and this is the first week of ramadan, which means many sleepy people awaiting the evening iftar dinner. today, coming back from the bookshop, i found myself jammed by thousands of palestinians returning from early afternoon prayer at the al aqsa mosque on what the jewish israelis call the temple mount, palestinians the al haram ash sharif (the noble sanctuary), in any case the supposed site of the two temples and the actual site of the dome of the rock. jammed, barely able to move, i found refuge in a small space set aside as a garden (without plants). there i sat for about one hour, reading news on my phone and the new yorker until the crowd cleared.

as you know well, such travel is taxing, with few certainties. for instance, getting to jaffa tomorrow for a nakba commemoration. it’s shabbat so the israeli buses and trains don’t run. i learned there might be palestinian shuttles but because of today being muslim prayer day, i couldn’t find the shuttles [because the israelis had cordoned off some areas for crowd control, notably the shuttle stop]. the hostel has a lovely porch which cools suddenly with sunset but tonight, being the evening of the muslim holy day, it was crowded with guests and neighbors. no place for me to set up my computer. then in all the tumult i cracked a tooth. dang!

so tomorrow i search for a dentist (or decide to do nothing until i return home), hoping this tooth is repairable—but it could mean eventually another crown. i also hold out some hope for a shuttle to jaffa.

aside from the uncertainties, i am fine. and hope you are as well.

flight photos

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Over the Atlantic Ocean, approximately 4 hours later

 

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Over the Mediterranean Sea, sunrise, near the end of a 14-hour journey, Boston to Tel Aviv, via Toronto Canada

 

LINKS

Madonna sparks flag controversy at ‘non-political’ Eurovision (in Tel Aviv, May 18, 2019)

TO BE CONTINUED

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TODAY: I dedicate this blog entry to the release of colleague, Vittorio Arrigoni, a journalist and human rights defender working in the Gaza Strip, who was kidnapped by Salafists, members of a very small extremist group in Gaza.

Information


UPDATE: He’s been murdered, allegedly by members of a Palestinian Islamic splinter group in Gaza. However, questions remain: who benefits from his death, why was he killed hours before the deadline, and why Vittorio?

Testimonial from Jeff Halper

Vittorio on the right, with Adie Mormech of the International Solidarity Movement, during a meeting with farmers in the eastern buffer zone


Excerpts from my journal during a recent 6 week journey to Gaza—now back home in the United States.

PHOTOS

The ultimate wisdom of the photographic image is to say: “There is the surface. Now think—or rather feel, intuit—what is beyond it, what the reality must be like if it looks this way.”

—Susan Sontag

December 7, 2010, Tuesday, Gaza City, my apartment in Rimal

Yesterday people were very late to the photo workshop, #4 in the 8 part series, despite our new policy [We look only at the photos of those who show up first. Late? Too bad, can’t review your photos.]. 10 AM, start time, no one there. I looked out the window and saw one young man languidly entering the lower entryway, slowly making his way to class. He arrived at about 10:10. He was not one of those with adequate English. This could be a problem. Let’s start, I said, what do you have to show us? Student #2 walked in at about 10:15, another without much English. Luckily student #1 had some good photos from our trip last week to the crafts village, but wished to show us something else, some location, also very good architectural photos. I commented but without translation so there is no knowing how much came or went thru.

~~There were to be 2 more paragraphs continuing this story but MS Word froze, as it’s been doing off and on during this trip. I lost the paragraphs. Are they recoverable thru my personal memory? Let’s give it a whirl. But remember: save more often!~~

By 10:30 all of the 7 of the regulars (out of the initial 12) eventually appeared. Including Ahmed and M, 2 of the more involved and vocal students, along with R. No H today: can’t make it in, sorry, he texted me.

Despite the upsetting beginning—I had begun ruminating, has the workshop collapsed? How are we to make the movie about me teaching if I have no students?—the session turned out very well indeed. R said later, this session was amazing. We discussed beauty along with beauty and horror mixed, depth of focus (only a beginning, more on this next time), backlighting (ditto), showing one’s political and social reality, independent projects, portraiture (the main theme of the morning), exemplary portraits from Dorothea Lange (Migrant Mother with the story of Dorothea’s persistence which resulted in making her fine iconic photo—which none present had ever seen or heard about, a completely different cultural context) and W. Eugene Smith (from his Minimata series, mother and daughter in a tub, resembling the pieta which also was new to my students), and other related matters. Much energy this morning, I felt, even tho all were tardy.

Later from Islam I learned about cases of absentees—Sharek Youth Forum closed by Hamas, schedule conflicts, illness, without anyone admitting the workshop was not to their tastes, or too hard, or too soft, or just not right thing at the right moment. This is the first time I’ve gotten such feedback. And it is because of the Quaker Palestine Youth Program’s IT officer Islam’s devotion to the program. A stellar man.

To the mina, or port, which seemed to excite everyone. Rain had fallen that morning, the first rain of the season. I’d tried photographing and videoing it outside on the my home plaza. Stills failed, motion worked. And I showed both to the students, with the challenge of how can you show rain with stills, and, beyond that, show the first rain of the season? Key questions, I believe, that shed light on the strengths and weaknesses of the photographic medium. These themes, water, rain, challenges, might have helped inspire the field trip. 2 exercises (or 3 if I count the awareness exercise): cardinal direction awareness, in place, one of the 4 directions at a time, scan from low to high, repeat; followed by find a location, make at least 10 different photos from that one spot (I chose the new construction, showing lots of cement and a crane, very unusual for Gaza), and one frame, multiple moments for an emphasis on time (I chose flapping fabric as an illustration, doing this in 2 different locations).

New fishers’ shacks

The sky added to the thrill of the trip, large, roiling, scurrying clouds covered the entire sky. And receded as we worked, always varied, always wondrous. We were well positioned—coastal—to view the entire sky.

We concluded at the breakwater where other students had discovered the huge breaking waves. Here we romped, as if kids, playing, having fun, dodging the water (several were doused). We photographed each other photographing each other and the sea. The port is archetypal for Gazans—its freedom primarily, and the blockage of freedom, knowing the fishing industry, once thriving, is for now dormant, ruined. A complex mixture of joy and sorrow.

Skip Schiel, photo by Mesleh Al Ashram

A personal gain was discovering two men in one of the fisher shacks. I’d noticed a cat eating the remains of a fish dinner. Thinking I was alone—I’d seen no one else in this extensive series of shacks, thought they were all abandoned, perhaps people waiting for the opening of a new set which I also photographed—I spoke gently to the cat. Then I heard soft talking from the other side of the wall. Someone was there. They probably heard me. I looked around, said marhaba, continued on, heard one man say, chai?


Initially I declined, walked on, then thought, hey guy, this is an invite, not only for tea but possibly for photos. So I sat with them a while, drank the tea (la sukkar-no sugar), and was surprised when the host pointed at his friend and my camera, indicating, make a photo of him. Friend demurred, so, miming, I asked the host if he’d allow a photo of himself and off we went. Merrily along with the fishers.

At the end of this session I felt relieved, energized, happy. Truly mubsut-happy. If only they’d show up on time, if only everyone would attend, if only they’d do the assignments, if only, if only. Why worry, revel in the moment instead.

A powerful update from Y about life in Oakland, filled with trauma—and I thought I had a hard life in Gaza!—and the beginning of winter. Plus one dream that I can recall, in a night of solid dreaming:

I was lecturing a group of Gazans, young adults, maybe in a university setting. Our main theme was cross cultural differences, or intercultural understanding. I used the idea of meals as a reference point, breakfast in particular. I joked with them about the words in English and Arabic that describe the same items. The lecture was extremely interactive. It was going well until I noticed a young man, resembling Ibrahem G who in real life I’d met a few days ago while walking to the souk (market), who’s been incessantly phoning me and then because of our language differences discovers I am not very communicative with him, nor warm to meeting him again. He asks me, in the most broken English, where are you, at the katiba (parade grounds)? Where are you!? I tell him I’m home working and busy. I am sure he wants to meet—but to what point? I hate being so distant but it reflects our painful reality. I believe my dream last night reflects my dilemma about Ibrahem, wishing to be close, finding it impossible. Unless of course one of us studied the language of the other.

So an “Ibrahem” type character was in my dream, joking with a male friend, and visibly not paying attention to the lecture and dialog. He was rattling me, distracting me from the event. I just wish you’d go away, is what I thought—and didn’t utter.

Despite his interruption, I carried on. The dream ended as we produced a form of chorus, not using words, but sighs. All together now, sigh.

~~Power off. Kaput. Just off. Computer continues for awhile on battery power, but because my battery is old and feeble I doubt if I have even 2 hours remaining. Plus Internet is gone, since the router is off and there is no neighborhood network I can access. Woe is me. Let’s see how long until power resumes. It is now 7:12 AM. I will open my shutters and let in the faint light of the cloudy morning. Yesterday at the office power was also out. But the generator worked immediately this time and my workshop was not impeded.~~

TO BE CONTINUED

LINKS

As an example of the work done by people such as Vittorio Arrigoni and other International Solidarity Movement workers under the direction of local Palestinian leaders, my blog about a buffer zone demonstration in Gaza

Blog: El Mina—part 1

Photos: El Mina—part 1

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World War II destroyer

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Charlestown Navy Yard

From a workshop series exploring the photography of spring light, thru the Cambridge Center for Adult Education, May 16, 2009

Photos

To return to reality: yesterday’s Spring Light Photographic Workshop explored the waterfront from the Charlestown Navy Yard to the mouth of the Charles River, the last part of the  journey at night. A ferry from Long Wharf at 4:30 PM, 10 minutes later we’re at the Navy Yard (this a suggestion from Frank). Wander around there for one hour, with the idea of the old esthetics—frame, detail, thing, time, vantage point—as given by John Szarkowski. Walk together toward the river, the Zakim bridge (how is Zakim pronounced?). First stop at the rotten dock behind the once sugar warehouse maybe to be an expanded USS Constitution Museum and all photograph the same thing, more or less. This group loves having fun together, all were game to hop the fence and possibly commit trespass.

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Walk under the Charlestown bridge on our way to the Charlestown locks and dam over the Charles river, first pausing at a large marina that neither Frank nor I had anticipated. I remember photographing here years ago before the renovations, the new constructions. (I wonder if I can ever find those photos.) Now my eyesight began to deteriorate: a migraine, or is it merely the aura? We performed the 4 directions awareness exercise, a creation of mine as far as I’m aware—face one of the cardinal directions, west, the sun setting, and gaze from ground to zenith, carefully, noting light, shapes, movement, objects, shadows, etc. Then rotate 90 degrees to do this again, south, east, north. And finally, based on those observations, find something to photograph. I forgot to add here, and try to use a method of strategy, how will you make the photo? Use the steps I’d suggested if you wish, but use some steps. Think about what you’re doing.

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Zakim bridge

Let’s meet at the other side of the locks, walking across them, meeting at the now abandoned ferry terminal. On this leg of the junket let’s work on meta photography: symbol, metaphor, synecdoche, and subliminal suggestion (as in phallic symbol). I know this will be hard, but it is vital to understand for good photos.

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And we concluded, after watching numerous boats pass thru the locks, the light waning, with nearly 1 hour of free time, meeting at the McDonalds inside North Station. When I found them, slumped against the wall, cheerily chatting together, looking extremely fatigued (I could have collapsed, my legs so weary), some of them munching on burgers or dogs, I had to chuckle, bring out my camera on a tripod (I’d been happily and crazily photographing in the dark),and make a group portrait. As I’d done at the Navy Yard, surprising them from behind after I’d photographed the Commandant’s House (where I’d discovered a robin’s nest with two pink eggs, mother flying off at my approach), to make the first group portrait of the season.

This is a jolly group, very talented, committed, one of the best. As always it will be hard to say goodbye.

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DSC_9524From a workshop series exploring the photography of spring light, thru the Cambridge Center for Adult Education, May 2, 2009

Photos

Now Salem, a word meaning peace, shalom, salaam, and, Frank, one of the students, very knowledgeable about all things coastal, informed us was intended but the founders. The Puritans intended Salem to be a city of peace.

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From noon to 4 we labored in the fields of images. The sky began mostly overcast with some definition and by degrees cleared to reveal sharply outlined cumulus clouds. Air was warm, drying out. Shadows proceeded from dimly lit short to sharply lit long. Our path brought us from our meeting point at the commuter rail station parking lot, thru central town to Derby Wharf (Derby was an early Salem merchant) where we discovered a replica sailing ship being manned. About 10 men, each with safety harnesses, were high in the main rigging wrapping a sail. Our photo exercise here—after warming up at the train station on the canal, a prime site for New Topographics—earth affected by humans—photos, and the blind faith walk awareness exercise —was to choose one spot, a vantage point, and make a series of photos. I chose a point near a pile of rope, began photographing the coiled rope, more and more fascinated by it, when I noticed the men in the rigging and from that same position and I made a 2nd series of photos.

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Click here for a larger view

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As we were leaving the wharf, me thinking what might make a good vista exercise location?, I noticed a string of multi colored homes, drawn initially by a pink one. Here, I decided, is an ideal vista for practice. How to photograph it? Extreme angles, panoramic, near far, wide angle? Anything else? Later I remembered no one had mentioned synecdoche, the part for the whole. I used extreme angles and panoramic, and then found the ancient giant tree with a shape like an elm, but winged seeds in the detritus suggested maple. More photos, trying to break myself of the habit of centrality, my central mission of the day.

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Along Derby St, the main harbor side street, Frank said he was departing the group to investigate a boat yard—boats in their white winter garb, he declared leaving us.

Let’s all do it, I suggested, and there we found most boats had already been denuded for the summer, yet they made appealing subjects. They are trim, sleek, curvaceous, elegant, streamlined, all very attractive to the eye. Here we practiced the exercise of the thing itself, what we choose and why we choose it.

Then, at our final together site, the power station which we could not readily photograph because it is behind a fence, I offered an introduction to what I call meta photography, meaning-based photography. How do photos mean? One way is thru metaphor. So I asked them, after outlining what metaphor is—essentially using a visible thing to show the invisible, such as tree of life, water of purification, blood of suffering, etc—I sent them off for the remaining hour, free time with an eye for metaphor.

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By now I was somewhat fatigued, not a severely as I was in Boston after 4 hours of walking with my Tivas sandals (now I wear walking shoes, a big improvement), but enough to distract me, make me think: ice cream. Instead, because of ice cream prices and the fat, I chose an iced coffee, my first of the season, and an apricot pastry. This satisfied my base instincts but may have quelled my esthetic passions because I made very few photos in the remaining hour. Just one: a tree stump opposite a parking lot. Is this metaphor? If so, for what?

Reports of high moments and low moments mentioned the commercialization of Salem, its variety, the light and sky, the boat yard, the ship and its riggers, and the simple pleasure of being outside and in a new zone.

We discussed the next and last photo session, where to go? I’d suggested Revere Beach-Winthrop-Deer Island, but others suggested Logan airport, Charlestown Naval Yard, and Charles River. I’m to list these in an email and call for volunteers to research each. We decide at our review session.

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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.”

Photos

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

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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

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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.

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Wetlands

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

Earlier photos from the west coast, winter 2006-07

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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.”

Photos

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.

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Seattle

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

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Columbia River

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.

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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

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Super Tuesday, Barack Obama, and Israel, by Skip Schiel

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Cox Reservation, Essex Massachusetts

From my journal of July 20, 2008, Sunday, Cambridge

Photos

On a warm, muggy, still morning, full moon set, no birds singing, eerie: storm coming?

Dreaming but barely: I was preparing for a long trip, to fly over one of the stans, like Uzbekistan, but not able to land for some reason; JVB had agreed to do something for me, I was doubtful he’d be reliable. Not a rich dream crop last night.

The 3rd session of Summer Light brought us to Cranes Beach and a small reservation in the Essex Greenbelt chain called Cox. It adjoined a river, perhaps the Little, perhaps the Essex (I’ll check later-map?), contained large dry recently mowed fields, shrubs, trees, an old farm house, and skirted much private land on which dwellings such as cottages stood. Fighting off the greenhead flies (several bit me within minutes, drawing blood, impervious to my Deet lotion) I offered the following 2 exercises: one spot, many shots (i.e., one location, many photos) and dark on light, light on dark, the latter to aim folks toward HDR, high dynamic range.

The evening before during review Tom had suggested that the term HDR is more than a fancy way of saying high contrast because it subsumes high contrast which could be merely 2 zones, white and black, without intermediate stages, whereas HDR might include intermediate stages.

Tom Bishop

Along the way we met a group of about 15 men, somewhat stern looking, Middle Eastern appearing, some speaking Arabic. I queried our group: who might they be? And then, when the group returned after a short stroll, I asked the visitors who they were, trying to not appear intrusive.

Military officers from Egypt, some generals, here to meet with police. They didn’t say which police, or why the meeting, but I suspected the worst. As did some of the rest of us when I announced the answer. The generals’ day off, perhaps the saunter down the lane to the water softened them and helped them witness the humanity of all people.

Our 1st activity together was awareness—1st the blind faith walk (in a line, me leading with eyes open, each of the others with a hand on the shoulder of the person in front, eyes closed, listen, smell, feel), down the path to the water, a short distance, then walking backwards, feeling-seeing with our feet. People noticed sounds more, and the difference between sun and shade.

I tried my light on dark exercise on the upturned by wind bright leaves against their darker friends, suggested by Tom. Also the cloud formations, myriad dark-light combinations. And for my one location I chose the boat landing, privately owned, not for the landing itself but for the sky. By then sky was changing rapidly, offering much contrast and odd shapes. Later, at Cranes, I was to repeat this theme with a waning sun.

3 students were absent: M who was lost, D and C who decided not to join us, perhaps the arduousness of being outside in such hot weather, perhaps family matters, perhaps the flies, I may never know.

All day, all our day which ran from 4 pm to 8, the sky changed, never completely clear, usually hazy and with low cloud definition. We could see the haze, virtually light fog, on the ground. Until later, just as we arrived at Cranes, when rain clouds suddenly appeared, the air gusted cold, and eventually, minutes after we’d packed into vehicles, heavy rain fell.

Cranes Beach, Essex Massachusetts

Cranes was not as jammed as had been Wingaersheek the week before, as expected. Partly the hour, 6:30 pm (low tide), partly the place, very wide and with much colder water. Not the frenetic activity of Wingaersheek, nor the hundreds of boats and their crews drinking, cooking meat, and lounging. At Cranes I suggested we turn to meta photography, introducing symbol and metaphor, and reviewing synecdoche, the part standing for the whole.

I discoursed on this topic, as we stood in the fresh chill air on Cranes, lightning about to strike off the ocean: synecdoche is the starting point, a visible for a visible, part for the whole, as cop stands for police officer and sail for sail boat; symbol, like the American flag, is by common consent a sign for something else, an idea, as is the green flag at the life guard station representing safety (later they put up the red flag when the lightning began, signaling ambiguously for all to leave the water: is a long object resembling a prick a symbol, the phallic symbol?); while metaphor is a visible standing for an invisible. Examples are tree of life, water of purity, lush green of new birth, etc.

Later, when I’d finished my snack of apple and peanut butter while sitting on a slight sand hill in the back dunes, after struggling valiantly to walk thru the soft sands, scraping off the greenheads greedy for my blood, I noticed the sky glowing deep red around the sun. Thunderheads were emerging, the cloud cover over the sun was just thin-thick enough to allow its roundness to show, but not so intense to ruin the photo. With my telephoto lens I aimed directly into the sun, enraptured by the swiftly changing patterns. Muses led me to this spot. I’d not chosen it for the sun view. I’d chosen it for the ocean view, which rendered no photos. Sitting quietly, parking my heavy load of equipment (including the tripod which I never used), I only meant to rest and linger, not prepare myself for what may have been the most effecting photo of my entire series.

Will it be synecdoche, symbol, or metaphor? Or all, or none?

Sky played a major role for me at Cranes, perhaps in part because of my history here (which I outlined to Tom as we headed down coast)—my mother Pearl and the moon, discovered on a wintry beach walk in 1980 while I was editing the film about her. Was sun-father calling to me? I’d discovered sun-father while in the sweat ceremony a few years after my moon-mom epiphany. Were my ancestors present at Cranes, tapping me on the shoulder-eyes to notice them and heed them? What were their messages?

Tom had a slight problem: lost in the sand dunes, late, exhausted, rain approaching. We’d closed, missing Tom and Mary; some had left; Mary, Brianna, I, all riding with Wilson, were about to depart when Wilson suggested we might wish to check on Tom. I suggested phoning since Tom was the main contact person. We reached him, he puffed, labored, said he thought he’d found the way out, would soon emerge, thanked us for waiting. His shirt was soaked with sweat. He looked distraught. I alerted rangers to not lock the gates until we’d all left. The ranger, an earnest helpful young tanned red faced man, offered to look for him when we saw Tom slowly enter the parking lot from the dunes trail.

I went to him, took his pack, weighing as much as mine at least, maybe 30 pounds, as he told me his story. He’d run for the first part of the trip, thru the sand, hoping to reach the point overlooking the river for photos. He’d succeeded but maybe depleted himself dangerously. Losing the way several times, unable to decipher the number signs—I saw none, I also was lost—he survived. He admitted to being a diabetic, thought low sugar might be an exacerbating factor.

Did you lose a portable reflector?

I might have.

I think I have it.

I’d picked up a collapsible reflecting circle used to fill in shadows, couldn’t find it in my packs when Tom said it might be his, offered to return it at our next review session. Lost a treasure, returned it to its owner. Tom made it out safely.

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