Friday, April 6, 2018

White Complaisance

Years ago a man asked – if reincarnation were possible – would I rather return as a man or a woman.

My immediate answer: as a man!

He feigned surprise, claimed no other woman had answered that way.

I was young then, still stung by the failure of the Equal Rights Amendment and fresh from multiple experiences of feeling (and being) unsafe when alone.

I attempted to explain. He pretended to understand, though he seemed offended that I saw male privilege in ways he had never considered.

I’m much older now. My answer today: as a woman! Specifically and emphatically as a woman of color – Black, Latina, Asian.

Why? What changed? The Equal Rights Amendment is still dead. The element of danger for a lone woman hasn’t changed. Much progress has been made but now the backlash of White (male) Supremacy is taking away gains – one at time – reverting back to a time before I first answered that question: Roe v Wade threatened, Title IX not fully implemented, women just beginning to rise against abusive men - #MeToo.

So why would I want to be a woman again? And why a woman of color?

I admire women like Dolores Huerta, Shirley Chisholm, Maya Angelou, Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama and many others. Yet I am not them. And I’ve come to understand that my whiteness gives me huge privilege: I’ve not experienced discrimination for how I look.

It wouldn’t be necessary to be a famous woman or lead a movement. Still, I ache to join their sisterhood, to understand their experience from within.

And if there is no reincarnation? I’ve got to get busy here and now, join the fight for equality, participate in calls for justice, get out of my comfortable white complaisance.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Comin' Round the Mountain

She’ll be comin’ round the mountain when she comes

This has been my theme song when driving long distances. It’s a bouncy tune, easy to sing, no musical ability required. It has kept me awake and alert many times in my treks from Eugene to California. After all, I have to get around a mountain or two on that journey.

She’ll be drivin’ six white horses when she comes

In 2006, I bought a small SUV - six-cylinder, white. So now I drive something white with six ‘horses.’

But one day, as I was singing away, I got choked up.

I saw my ten-year-old tomboy self, enchanted by Doris Day in Calamity Jane driving a stage coach as well as any man.

My eyes filled with tears when I remembered that photo of me – tight jeans, cowgirl hat and Frye boots, one hip thrown out in saucy pose.

I wondered – could I be the woman who, at twenty-six toured Bolivia and Peru alone? And who, at thirty-six, dared drive across the United States by herself?

I’m more than twice thirty-six now. Have I made my last run?

Oh, we’ll all go out to meet her when she comes

Oh, how I hope they’ll all be there to meet me – those folks who knew the tomboy, the girl, the woman I’ve been. What a thrill to roar out of this world behind six whites into the light surrounding those who’ve gone before.

Yes, come out to meet me. I’ll be comin’ round the mountain.

But not just yet.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Horrific History

February 20, 2018

I cringe as I watch the PBS Frontline special, Bitter Rivals: Iran & Saudi Arabia.

The subtitle: How a dangerous political rivalry between Iran & Saudi Arabia has plunged the Middle East into a sectarian war.

Horrific history revisited. I listen to analysis, wonder at the willingness of multitudes to annihilate themselves in battle against some vilified other.

Mystifying – those men, self-appointed perpetrators of destruction, who claim no wrongdoing, express no compassion for the millions of lives cut short by their swords. Indeed, they now adamantly claim those actions were necessary, vital to their cause.

But the subtitle left out the part played by the US, the Soviets and other Western powers – but mostly the US. Yes, US. Through ignorance and arrogance, we sparked already smoldering conflict in the Middle East.

Watching leaders of my own country tout such tyrants, spout their glories, twist the truth so we appear righteous, I blush in shame. Because I’m old enough to have watched many of those news stories as they happened. I’m old enough to have known September 11, 2001 would be used by US to wreak havoc on foreign shores. And on our own soldiers.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Wait, Isn't This February?

i thank You God for most this amazing day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything which is natural which is infinite which is yes
- e. e. cummings

I hiked a local trail yesterday, one that has inspired many of my poems and blog entries. A friend had planned to join me, but life interfered. I went alone and decided to just enjoy the trek, savor spring-like weather, avoid temptations to create a poem along the way.

Smiles on every face, cheerful greetings from strangers, dogs happily panting their way to the top – what a glorious day!

Sprinkled with breaks to capture nature's artwork, the climb seemed effortless. Of course, my photos of distant peaks do no justice to those bright diamonds-in-the-sky.

Long before I reached the bench near the bottom, the one with the e. e. cummings poem, I knew the truth: the trail is the poem, the trail is the prayer. I am always in the poem, not writing it.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

All a-Twitter

Trump’s Tweets scatter like birdshot, strike random objects, force a duck-and-weave through the forest of important issues.

We’ve no time for meaningful dialog before another Tweet distracts.

Yet issues pile high:
• Elephants, wolves, our natural resources
• Net neutrality
• Tax reform
• Racism
• Sexual harassment/sex trafficking
• Free speech/first amendment
• Gun control/second amendment
• Terrorism
• Nuclear war
• Russia
• Climate change/hurricane & fire disaster relief
• Immigration and the Wall

My blood pressure rises and reminds me – health care is on the blocks, too.

Even local issues rile: $20 million offer to retain a football coach; 12-story buildings on tiny spaces; a new campus section by the (rising) river; where the heck to build City Hall.

I’m befuddled by where to put my focus, where to send my meager contributions, where my energy will help most.

Imagine what $20 million could do.

Thursday, December 14, 2017


On Thanksgiving Day, on my drive from one side of town to another, a car from two lanes over made an abrupt turn in front of me. I slammed the brakes, pressed hard as they jittered. I stopped about a foot from the other driver’s door. The other car continued as though I’d not been seen. I chose not to follow, not to confront. Instead, I patted and praised my car, thankful I’d had my brakes redone a short time ago.

This week, two friends died. Two friends I’ve known for nearly fifty years. Two friends my age.

Three reminders that I have only today. No one knows when the brakes won’t hold, when a fall may prove fatal, when another battle with cancer can’t be won.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Gracias a la vida

Thanksgiving 2017
Gracias a la vida que me ha dado tanto - Violeta Parra, Chilean folk singer

Today’s newspaper included 3.4 pounds of advertisements for Black Friday. What a waste. I feel for the delivery person. Now I will have to dispose of it.

I’ve been thinking of cancelling my subscription. The weight of today’s paper may have tipped the scale for me.

But I’m addicted to puzzles and comics. Can I go cold turkey? Probably not.

I’ll need to build a new routine, a way to get my exercise and satisfy my addictions. At least three stores within a mile of my house sell the local paper. Alternate routes. Variety. And I could do my trash lady routine, too. When I walk, I often take old plastic bags and pick up litter along the way. My community service job.

My current subscription expires on December 15.

I know. The dead of winter may not be the best time to start this. But I’m an Oregonian – waterproof, weathered and wrinkled. And I’m ready for a change. A challenge. A way to give thanks for being alive.