A Road Trip in the Nick of Time

In early March we took a New Mexico road trip. We had to give up a trip to Frankfurt and Rome to visit my sons for obvious reasons, but wanted to take advantage of the big hole carved out in our schedules. It was a wonderful trip, especially in retrospect, because as soon as we got home all hell broke loose.

Puerto de Luna, camposanto
Roberto’s relative

But back to that innocent time of four weeks ago:  Our first stop was Puerto de Luna, a tiny place on the Pecos River in the east part of the state. This was the home for  Roberto’s relatives before they fled to Albuquerque during another crisis, the Dust Bowl. We wandered the camposanto (cemetery) and found gravestones of those who were surely great great somethings. The names were so evocative, the stones so varied, some slick and polished, some hand hewn, maybe in a hurry, maybe with no alternative. It was eerie and powerful to stand there knowing that below us was the DNA of Roberto’s people, whoever they were. And what would they think of us, standing there decades, a century, later?

Next destination was Inn of the Mountain Gods, a resort on the Mescalero Indian Reservation in south central New Mexico. Out our window was snow-capped Sierra Blanca and a small lake ringed with huge Ponderosa Pines. We stayed an extra night just to soak in the luxury.

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Navigating the Flu with Noble Companions

The flu came on quickly. I had hiked for an hour near the house and was feeling fit and quite proud of myself. Almost athletic, I thought, in an aged sort of way. As I wandered around the house wondering which of many tasks I should take on, I felt a chill. Like a fine racehorse, I thought, cooling off after a workout. I imagined myself giving a little snort, stamping a proud foot. And then as so often happens when one is at one’s proudest, I began a slow descent into the real world. I put on a sweater to check the chill. Later I added a vest, and then a wool scarf. Finally, confessing to Roberto that I might be getting sick, I put on his down jacket.

Gods directing the outcome

And indeed I was. The fever shot to 102 that night. My joints ached. I lay in bed squirming, muttering, hallucinating about sweaty racehorses and bonfires of bones. In the morning I gave in and set up shop on the couch in the living room. I had no taste for TV, my eyes burned and I couldn’t concentrate on a book anyway, so I signed up for Audible Books on my iPhone and began to browse. I was despairing at the endless scroll of romances and thrillers, when Homer’s “The Iliad” appeared. How could this be? Was I hallucinating again? I clicked play and was joined on the couch by Dominic Keaton, a deep-throated English male reader, who took me to the wine-dark sea, and showed me the rosy fingertips of dawn. Thus began 19 hours of poetry and drama as I lay huddled under comforters, brow fevered, and traveled with the men and the gods to Troy to bear witness to horrific bloody battles, psychological intrigue, deceit, heroism, jealousy, despair, hope, revenge, tenderness – all those qualities of humans, and their shadow gods and goddesses, that we know so well. (more…)

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The Solution? Girl Power

 Part 1: Gun Power

My husband and I had gone to the state capitol on a non-partisan mission to see our good friend Levi Romero be inducted as New Mexico’s first Poet Laureate. Levi was honored by the senate and read a wonderful poem about growing up in northern New Mexico, the sights, sounds and smells of those days.

Afterwards, when we reached the front door of the capitol building we saw through the glass door a crowd of protesters, flags, waved and worn, signs, banners and guns, lots of guns. The legislature was hearing a bill on the “red flag” law which would limit the ability of those likely to hurt themselves or others to have access to a gun. There had been a rally of over 500 demonstrating their passion for the second amendment and their right to own guns, and although the speeches were over, there were probably 100 or so still milling around.

“Let’s go out the other door,” I urged, clutching Roberto’s arm.

“No, I want to talk to them. This is our chance,” and he moved through the door. I followed, not wanting to leave him alone, and a bit fearful that the effort at conversation might not go well. (more…)

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In Line at Smith’s

Smith’s in Santa Fe

It was before the holidays and I was shopping for a gathering. My cart was full and I had just finished loading it onto the cashier’s conveyor belt. As I began to wonder why the customer in front of me was taking so long, the cashier announced, “Sorry, Hon, register is down. I’m closing.”

“I have to move to another line?” I almost wailed. She nodded and said she would help me put everything back in the cart. I

another time, another place, same scene

thanked her and as I was pulling away from the closed lane, I looked around for the next best choice. The lines were all long.

“Here you go,” gestured a big man who was at the front of the line next to me. “I saw what happened. You deserve a spot right here!” and he stepped back with a swoop of his arm. (more…)

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“What’s So Funny?”

A couple of years ago I was facilitating a meeting in a conference room in a state office building. The group had gone out for lunch, but I stayed in the room and ate my fried egg sandwich, a little the worse for four hours in a sandwich bag, but still very welcome. It had been a tense morning and I relished the quiet time alone with my munching and my thoughts.

My ear. Dare you to find the hearing aid

“Battery low” she said in my ear. If you wear hearing aids you know her voice. She alerts you when it is time to put in a new battery. My hearing loss began with tinnitus a few years ago and the annual tests show a downward trajectory. Thanks to hearing aids I can still work, with an occasional, “can you please repeat that?” So when she warned me the battery was low, I pulled out the package of tiny round batteries, dispensed one and fumbled to remove the adhesive tab on the back. It slipped out of my hand and onto the carpet, commercial grade with a short speckled nap. On hands and knees I searched for it. No luck. I flicked another one out and loaded it successfully into the hearing aid. Once I had tucked it into place in my ear, she reassured me, “left ear ready.”  I returned to my sandwich.

Back from lunch, the group filed into the room. A young man spied something on the rug, leaned down, and held

re-enactment of battery lost in carpet

up the tiny silver disc between his thumb and forefinger. “Uh-oh,” he said with a touch of glee, “This looks like a hearing aid battery! Anyone missing it?” He was met with a chorus of “Eh?” “What’d you say?” “Speak up, Sonny!” and much laughter. (more…)

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Sometimes You Just Want to Stop Fighting

I facilitated a meeting recently in a community that had been damaged by a major polluter. Land and water were contaminated and local activists were coming together to push for cleanup from state and federal agencies. Some organizations had filed lawsuits that were making their way, slowly and expensively, through the court system. Others had been organizing events to spread information about the contamination and build lobbying support in the legislature. Some were working with junior and senior high school students in hopes that they would take up the cause and hopefully see results in their lifetimes.

The conversation focused on the litigation. Lawyers presented updates: more money was needed, it would take more time, the outcome was uncertain. They asked for continued support of the legal remedies. “We can’t give up now.” “This is the way to force a cleanup.” “We need to bring justice to the community.” No one doubted the commitment, and often sacrifice, of these public interest attorneys.

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Updates

This month saw several updates I want to share with you. You will see links to the previous posts, which hopefully you can click on. (I am cautiously proud of my ability to imbed links…holding my breath.)

Jasmin, me, Raven

Mentoring: Picture a convention of mediators. It is a very accommodating crowd, to the point of absurdity at times. A group of us stand in the lobby of the hotel, ready to go to dinner. Where shall we go? Oh, how many vegetarians do we have? Is pork a problem? What about lactose intolerant? We could do seafood, but perhaps someone is from Seattle and would like something else? Tacos are good, and can be gluten free? At some point I want to scream, “I’m going for pizza, dammit! Who’s with me?” But it is all worth it. These are my people, my fellow seekers of peace, my tribe, and I treasure each and every one. And among them this year were two young women whom I am mentoring: Jasmin Munoz and Raven Pinto. I was the proudest of mentors as I watched them each present their recent work. (more…)

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A Morality Tale

My mother preferred the term agnostic.  “You just can’t know for sure,” was her line. But  my father had no doubt. He was a proud atheist.  “Make them prove it to you, Lucy. You’ll see. They can’t!” That was the end of the subject.

This is the crowd I yearned for….

The “them,” of course, was a large chunk of the country and most of our neighborhood in Seattle, and it was painful for me at a certain age not to be one of “them.”  When I was twelve many of my friends were getting ready for confirmation at the local Episcopal Church. I had no idea what that meant, and I’m not sure they knew either, but they had new white dresses and were anticipating receiving a bible, I imagined with gold-edged pages. Every Monday after school they went to the church to prepare for this exciting event. Their parents picked them up and they bounced into the car and drove off, leaving me in a wake of not belonging.

I fretted about this for awhile, screwed up my courage, and asked my parents, “Why can’t I be confirmed, too? Everyone is doing it. I feel left out.”

“That’s for people who belong to that church…” my mother began. “And for people who believe in God,” my father finished. I knew that we did not fit in either category.

“But can’t we just join that church, just for this year, so I can get confirmed, too?

Epiphany Episcopal Church in Seattle

And then we could stop going after that?” I built my case, but to no avail. This was the day I learned a new word, hypocrisy.  They couldn’t pretend about something so important, my parents explained. But if I really wanted to be a member of that church and get confirmed, they would drive me, drop me off and pick me up every Sunday and take me to the practice sessions, too.

“But I want us all to go. I want to be a family that goes to church.” I knew it was futile – another word I learned that day. They wouldn’t budge. I was angry. It would be so easy to go through the motions.

So why didn’t I take them up on their offer? I could have joined the church, been dropped off and picked up, and earned my white dress and bible. Or, maybe my friend Dotty’s parents could have adopted me just for a few months of Sundays and I could have hopped in the backseat with her and belonged, just temporarily.

I remember struggling with the dilemma, a battle between my desire to belong and my budding sense of morality. In the end I saw that pursuing the confirmation would be pretending I was someone I wasn’t, and that once I took that step it could be a very slippery slope of dishonesty with myself and others.

I also remember taking solace in the fact that in just four years I would be sixteen and could drive myself to any church I wanted, maybe lots of them, and see what I thought. In the meantime, I was learning how to make honest and moral decisions from my parents, and that was much more valuable than a white dress and bible with gold edges.

And, lo and behold, my grandmother, who was a wonderful Christian lady, gave me a bible with gold edges for my next birthday!
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Building a Fort

Most summers my son and his family visit us in Santa Fe from their home abroad.  This year they have a longer than usual break which means that we can actually undertake a project which has been a fantasy until now – the building of a fort.

The Fort — nearly complete!

Roberto has been the supervisor and engineer. We all had a hand in the design which maximizes reuse: an old wooden ladder was cut in two for access to the landing and the top floor, and the round top of a telephone wire spool serves as a landing. The rest of the lumber was all found on the property thanks to Roberto ‘s  instinct to hang onto materials just in case. (more…)

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Where Did We Go Wrong?

As I type this title I smile – a sad kind of smile – because there are so many things I could be talking about. But not to worry, this is not about melting icebergs or immigrant children in cages. You can relax.

On May 13, Doris Day died at 97.  The news was full of her radiant, blemish-free face, her tiny waist and twirling skirts, her perfect and perky figure. She was singing, she was dancing, she was acting. She flirted, she pouted, she laughed, she cried (but not for long). She stamped her size 5 ½ foot and got what she wanted. AP called her “the sunny blond actress and singer whose frothy comedic roles opposite the likes of Rock Hudson and Cary Grant made her one of Hollywoood’s biggest stars in the 1950s and ‘60s and a symbol of wholesome American womanhood.”

These images took me back to my teen years when she was everywhere. I didn’t particularly want to look or be like Doris Day, but the message was clear: this was what American girls and young women should strive for if they wanted to land some version of Cary Grant – which we were all expected to want to do.  Her contemporary, Marilyn Monroe, offered a different model, one with a naughty twist.  But still the basics were the same. It was about being amazingly, perfectly beautiful for starters. You could tweak your own style after that. (more…)

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