Andy and I went to the nearest Cindy vigil-- Maplecrest Park in Maplewood. There were probably 200 people there, and MoveOn.Org directs people to a Flickr site that has a slide show of vigils all over the country. Click here for the slide show.
A little late, but here are some photos of folks from the Appalachian Writers Workshop at the Hindman Settlement House in Hindman, Kentucky. All photos courtesy of Fred First.
To see the full sized images, visit Fred's Flickr site at http://flickr.com/photos/fred1st/32566802/in/set-746692/.
We had dinner with our good friends Marc Kaminsky and Maddy Santner from the old 317 Sixth Avenue Co-op in Brooklyn. When we all began moving to houses, they moved farther out into Brooklyn while we came to New Jersey. So good to talk of the things they like to talk about-- she's a school social worker in some of the toughest high schools in Brooklyn, he is a poet and psychotherapist. The great freedom of talking to people from your cohort-- in this case, having gone through serious things together, having had babies two months apart.
Hot and humid again, and we'll be continuing this way for days and days. The deer got in my garden yesterday and I actually saw her, the mother of the twins, munching tomato leaves, but she had knocked off the only fruit anywhere near ripe! *@!!**#!!
Well, it's back in the community saddle. I attended, but managed to keep my mouth shut at, a community meeting last night at Ethical, ably moderated by Matthew Johnson, the local psychologist and social activist. People who spoke included the families of the three 14 year old boys who were arrested, Larry Hamm of People's Organization for Progress , Dr. Peter Horoshack, Superintendent of Schools, and a number of other people who recounted incidents in which children of color, usually male, were followed, ticketed, and generally experienced unhappy interactions with the Maplewood police force. Also there were at least three members of the Board of Ed, at least two members of the school administration, and at least four members of the Maplewood Township committee as well as members of the Community Coaltion on Race (me and Audrey), the Ethical Culture Society, and other community organizations. There was a sign-up sheet and a number of ideas about the future. Overall, I hope something comes out of it-- maybe a Civilian Police Review Board? For white people, it is important to hear how many stories there are about black boys and police.
I just drove back from West Virginia today, where's I visited my mother and helped her babysit Ina Hardesty's Westie, Raggs, while Ina was at her nephew's wedding. My mother is thinking about whether or not she wants to get a dog for company, and this was a sort of dry run-- Raggs charming and expressive, and they slept together!
My Kentucky trip was for the annual Appalachian Writers' Conference at the Hindman Settlement House, in Hindman, Kentucky. I taught a short story workshop, and really enjoyed the intensity of all the readings and conferences and Dr. Jack Higgs's Appalachian Literature lectures (here's one of his short reading lists with a photo). So beautiful to be there, beautiful dense green, beautiful accents of Eastern Kentucky, Tennessee, southwestern Virginian, Western North Carolina, and all the rest of them. At the conference there is a wonderful combination of sophisticated and deep appreciation of literature and words and those voices of the mountains. I had a great time.
I'm back from the lake for a few hours--and here is David's photo of the hummingbirds we spent a lot of time watching! If you want to see the bigger and better picture, go to his website at Joho the Blog. We did the usual take-a-run, soak in the lake, generally hang out, eat bread and cheese, go see Shakespeare (we went to a preview of the rarely performed King John last night and really liked it-- although 14 year old Nathan said he could have used more sword fights). Andy, Joel, and I also went to see a performance of The Importance of Being Earnest at the Barrington Stage Company, which was tremendous fun. And now I'm back, they are all still there, and I'm about to head for WV and then Kentucky, the Appalachian Writers Conference at the Forks of Troublesome Creek!
There is this photo of me on the Coalition's website, in the Two Towns in Harmony section that isn't pretty, but it is me as I always wanted to be: La Pasionaria. That would be Dolores Ibárruri Gómez, the Spanish Civil War figure, and her nickname meant "Passion Flower," not "The Passionate One," which was what I thought. Probably a pun, though. She was a great public speaker, and I always wanted to be the Passionate One, standing up in front of a crowd, I think I said in Trespassers or somewhere, to be an exclamation point on the wave of history or something. (Surely I said it better than that?) You get the idea, anyhow. So this photo is of me totally focussed on the text and the microphone, and the crowd, and very intense. I had no idea what I looked like, and for once, didn't care, and that's why I like this picture.
We're about to go away-- the lake for a week, then me to Troublesome Creek to work at the Appalachian Writers Conference.
July 15 Caveat lector! Warning! The following blog entry is about Indo-European roots which I find fascinating and may very well make most people sleepy!
I adore word history. There's nothing, nothing like Indo-European roots, which are words or rather proto-words, that have been reconstructed from present day languages. They are spoken in no language now, but painstaking scholarship has worked backward to find the words that over millennia were transformed into words we used today.
Indo-European, the proto-language that I have read a little about, probably was spoken in the western middle east– like maybe Kazakhstan, although no one really knows. But at any rate, way back in time, the language spoken there was spread in all directions, possibly by invaders. Now its descendent languages (and this probably has significance in political but not racial history) include all the Germanic languages (English and Dutch and Yiddish etc.) and all the Slavic languages plus Greek and Latin and even Welsh and Gaelic. Languages descended from Indo-European are also spoken in northern India. Not among its descendent languages are the Semitic languages (Hebrew and Arabic and Aramaic), American Indian Languages, African languages, Polynesian, Chinese, Japanese–oh, tons of languages. What always amazes me, repeatedly and magnificently, is first the intense scholarship that reconstructed this ancient language, but even more how there are amazing but not illogical connections between English words.
For example, I looked up "story," which, unsurprisingly, is closely connected to "history" via French and Latin. But both "story" and "history" go back much further following paths of words through many many changes of pronunciation (forget spelling which is a whole other ball game) to a reconstructed Indo-European word "weid," which mean something like "to see." And from this ancient word come all of the following English words and more, some relatively recently arriving in English from Latin, some from farther back through French at the Norman conquest, some even farther back from the Germanic language Anglo-Saxon. But all going back to that one word/idea for "See": "story" and "history," "wisdom," and "guide"– but also "idea" and "unwitting" plus, most amazing, "envy," "kaleidoscope," and "penguin"!
So many different ideas that the original general verb "to see." It developed into "kaleidoscope" from a Greek word "eidos" for "form" or "shape," which makes sense as a descendent from a word for "see." The connection between "wisdom" and "guide" isn't surprising– the only surprise is how the words followed different pronunciation paths. "Guise" makes sense too, as if comes from an Old French word about "appearance" or "form." Similarly, all the "view" and "visage" words are also about what is seen– they came to English via Latin.
My fave, though is "penguin," from Welsh "gwynn" for white, which is probably "white" in the sense of "clearly visible."
I don't know if EVERYTHING is connected, but human beings certainly have a history and we TRY to connect everything. I always wonder if the scholars will ever find the show what language from which ALL human languages are descended. Or was human language invented several times?
For more on Indo-European, click here.
Andy and I went to Aston Magna while we were in the Berkshires this week-end. It's now at a real hall at the beautiful new performing arts center at Simon's Rock Collete, and they did the Art of the Fugue, which was just delightful and surprising. First, I don't think I ever heard the whole thing in a sitting (72 minutes) and second, what I have heard was always on a keyboard. They had a harpsichord, and it played a couple of pieces solo, but much of it was done in small ensembles, a baroque bassoon, oboe, and flute; the harpsichord with a viola di gamba, a violin, viola, and baroque cello. Eight players, and I was just blown away by the music--I forget how much I actually like music. This time, when I was listening (as opposed to surreptitiously stretching my leg or wondering where we'd eat dinner) I think I was really listening to the music. Not making up an imagistic movie to go with it, but listening. I kept saying, Oh I have to remember this one with the slow viola di gamba, so touching, but I can't hold music in my head. Still, I'm ready to listen again soon.
Last night, late, looking out the window: dark black-green street trees, pools of shimmery light in the damp air, some kids walking and biking past, just talking. I had a shiver of excitement–that excitement that being alive is all you need, the open ended hope of fruition, change, endless excitement. Which is the definition of youth, I think, endemic in youth, innate in youth.
And to be this old? In reasonable health (it's taking a lot of time and energy to keep this way and will take more)– what do I see? Back and forward broadly. Still enormous sinkholes that I fall into occasionally. Much enjoyment, perhaps more now than in youth, but to look forward is to know quite clearly that we won't be here in forty years, well, fifty for sure. And of course, meanwhile, the terrorist attacks on old London, but this time (more than, say Madrid) I have a sense of resignation: This is how we're going to live now. Think of the Blitz, think of Kigali in 1994. Think of all the people whose future is balanced on the edge of a razor. One isn't resigned to dying, one is alive now, but you see for the moment how it is. And that what is, is.
I'm still a little stunned by TTIH. There was the all day "Neighborhood Village" with neighborhood associations and organizations and face painting and food etc. etc. And in the evening, the enormous 200 plus person (choral and instrumental) performance of the suite written just for our community (Grant from American Composers Forum Continental Harmony project ). It was pretty amazing, all those voices, ranging from an opera star to a chorus of children eight to twelve plus classical strings plus a jazz combo– quite wonderful. Our friends from Japan (and now New York for two years) Tak and Chiaki came out for it, and Joel was in, too, sort of (he spent MOST of his time with friends in NYC!). He went back on on the train with them. At the end of the program, the composer, Janet Albright , presented a print-out copy of her complete score to us–the South Orange Maplewood Community Coalition on Race, and I'm keeping it for now. It is enormous!
Two Towns in Harmony is over! A long exhausting day, inspiring music, and I'm wiped.
I haven't been dreaming a lot lately, I think I wake before the time of dreams that I remember. But I had a dream last night with Joel in some kind of school trouble at CHS, and I was going to insist that they go look at the wonderful entry he wrote for Wikipedia about CHS!
But mostly, my dream had puffins in it, wonderful flights of puffins.
I was cutting the grass, sweaty and miserable, and this man was standing and looking at me, so I finally stopped and took off my sound blockers. He had white hair, a plaid flannel shirt (in all this heat!) and a rich Irish accent. He said, "And where is the slight little lady who was always out here? She was slight and hard of hearing, and I saw her every day when I went to mass." I was a million miles away, thought he meant Jackie Fahey or the Marshalls, and I said I'd been living here for 18 years, so was it before that? "No, no," he said, "it was the little slight lady who didn't hear well but was so jolly and always working on the flowers..." And finally I realized– he meant my mother! The man is the father of the contracter who lives down the street. He seemed a little lonely, going back to Ireland soon, missing his encounters with Mom.
Meanwhile, Norma and Valerie are gone, I believe. They were closing today, and earlier I saw the new family, some older adults and two small girls, Asian, with braids walking around--the famous walk-through to make sure the sellers haven't pulled out the plumbing. Then I saw Norma and Valerie's car and a rental van they are taking with them, and now it's all locked up tight as a drum. Nice to see children coming, but sad to see endings, any kind of endings.
I'm still not sure if this is a Blog or a journal-- I treat it like a friendly journal to be read by friends and family, for mostly happy talk. I save most of my literary talk for my private journal or for my free newsletter Books for Readers (to subscribe, see the column on the right!). I generally leave out public affairs, even though that's one area where a lot my time and energy goes.
So here's an article from the Star-Ledger about the Mt. Laurel decision in New Jersey that makes reference to our work in South Orange Maplewood-- quotes from our Executive Director Barbara Heisler Williams. I give a lot of time to this organization, the South Orange Maplewood Community Coalition on Race.
When I was very young I believed I could do something enormous, like become a missionary and save human souls. Then I moved on to saving the world by stopping poverty and/or the War in Vietnam. After I moved to New Jersey, I got involved in helping stop the resegregation of this community: it has seemed like narrowing and narrowing. And have we even really stopped resegregation, or only paused it? And if we have stopped it, have we stopped it only by having black and white stand together against the poor?
I put the famous 13th century (I think) poem on my index page instead of a picture of me for a while. The rough translation is "Summer is coming in, Loud sings the cuckkoo bird! The seed is gowing, the meadow is blowing, and the woods spring anew. Sing, cuckoo!
Sumer is icumen in
Lhude sing cucu.
Groweth sed and bloweth med
And springth the woode nu.
The Cuckoo Bird Song, from about 1250
Somehow, the heat seems okay today, thinking of the old days when I was a little girl in Shinnston, West Virginia, that crisp smell as of secret burning in the grass, the light haze to the blue. No air conditioning in anyone's house then.
Well, the heat is back. I spent three hours in front of the Post Office giving out literature and selling merchandise for Two Towns in Harmony -- a week from tomorrow is the big day. They're saying a shower is possible-- for a while it was rain, then cloudy, now a shower possible. So many people have been working on this thing-- I have this "It just has to!" feeling about it.
The sun about did me in. I spent a lot of time lying aorund, barely able to move. And kind of liking it.