May 1st, 2006

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Good Morning!!

I feel "normal" after my restful weekend, and so it felt odd this morning to wake and feel the lack of hair, and to look in the mirror and see the same lack of hair. In my dreams, I have hair.  I know I have said I have hair, and I do, but there is hair, a downy covering, and there is something that flows, and I am still waiting for a flow. This is not yet something the wind can lift and whirl. 

William Stafford is the poet I am attracted to in the moment. I like this poem, because I feel like in the shared messages of this blog we are together in knowing the explore.


    Over these writings I bend my head.
    Now you are considering them. If you
    turn away I will look up: a bridge
    that was there will be gone.
    For the rest of your life I will stand here,
    reaching across.

    If these writings can bring a turn
    or an echo that touches you - maybe
    a face, a slant, a tune - you will stop
    too and bend over them. When you
    look up, your thought will reach
    wherever I am.

    I know it is strange. And there's no measure
    for this. The only connection we make
    is like a twinge when sometimes they change
    the beat in music, and we sprawl with it
    and hear another world for a minute
    that is almost there. 
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today -

Today, I walked into the waiting room for radiation and a woman was standing there playing the harp. I changed into my robe, and the other man listening was called in, so I enjoyed my private concert as I looked out at the garden. Tears came, and I don't even know why, but there was something about the plucking of the harp strings that must have plucked my heart-strings. It was special, and the puzzle I chose, the Mermaid one, was finished today. It was a record long time, and all were thrilled it was done. The puzzle's picture was taken.

When I lay down on the table, all was level for radiation. They said I should buy a lottery ticket, and I considered it, but instead, I decided to try getting my blood taken on a Monday morning. Big mistake. I waited an hour and a half. The good news is that I drank so much water while waiting that it was my quickest jabbing and drawing yet. It may also be my last. I am 2/3 done with radiation today. Yay!

I am pretty blistered now, and higher up than I expected to be. I was not rubbing the lanolin high enough, as I did not understand that there are lymph nodes up under the collar bone, so they are radiating me up to there. It will be a year before I can let the sun touch this whole area, so that is a long time to wait, and I will. Still, it is hard for me to stay out of the sun. I've always loved the feel of it on my skin.

Jeff came by for lunch, and showed me the video of Stephen Colbert roasting Bush at the White House Correspondents' Dinner. I must say it was a bit much even for me. You can check it out for yourself on-line at and see what you think. Bush was not impressed.

Jeff was slowed down getting here by the people protesting on immigration. I think it is great that so many took off work and school today to show the contribution they make. May it be worthwhile for them, and not dismissed as so many protests are.

The day is exquisite, a perfect May Day!! I hope you have hold of a ribbon and are swinging around a pole.
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Horizons -

I read today about the money cut to our national parks. This, while we spend billions in Iraq. It makes no sense.

Years ago, I worked with a program called Trips for Kids. We took "inner city" kids into the "wilderness" on bicycles. In other words, we took them out Tennessee Valley or up Mount Tam. It was an unbelievable experience for the kids and for us. Many of the children had never been out of San Francisco, and they had certainly not been on a bike.

One time, the kids we played with were from Marin City. They were kids who live at the south end of Sausalito, right next to the bay. We took them up behind their homes, into the headlands, GGNRA, a national park. These children had never been up there, had never seen the view, never seen where they lived. They could have walked, and, yet, they did not know they lived in one of the most beautiful areas of the world.

I read Jon Carroll's column today, and the memory comes back. We don't have to fly somewhere to help people. Opportunity to help surrounds us. Reach out, and climb. See the view. Stretch your hand. Share an apple with a view of the land.


Monday, May 1, 2006

Poverty is a place of diminished horizons. Literally, in some cases, because most of the urban poor live in flat areas, where the views aren't. (The value of views is quantifiable; ask a real estate agent.) And more often metaphorically, because people in the grip of poverty cannot see possibilities, and the famous cycle of poverty continues because the exits are not clearly marked.

A Berkeley real estate agent named Diane Mintz began working as a tutor at Coronado Elementary School in Richmond in the late '90s. She had a revelation, a phrase that she repeats over and over again -- "these kids had never seen the Golden Gate Bridge." Some of them didn't even know the Golden Gate Bridge was there to be seen.

The kids also had never been to a museum or a regional park. Their mental map of their larger community was pinched and drab. They had their own families and their own culture, but they were unaware of the world. They were unaware of nature, or the eco-system, or the concept of interdependence. They were cut off by freeway abutments and turf wars and the limited expectations that surrounded them.

So she started with field trips. She made it up as she went along. She asked for the school's help in identifying the most at-risk kids, and those were the kids she started with. In 1999, she raised enough money to send 10 kids from Coronado School on field trips; the next year, she raised enough money to send 81 kids to summer camp.

All sorts of studies have been done on the impact of summer camps on poor kids, and the conclusion seems to be: big impact. Bigger impact than you'd think. Social scientists have long been aware of something called summer loss, the way that disadvantaged kids lose academic ground compared with their wealthier counterparts during the summer months. The reading gap widens, for instance. Kids who go to summer camp do not, it appears, experience summer loss.

Plus, they have fun. Let's not discount fun as a cultural value. The kids do archery and swimming and boating. They sing around the campfire and walk in the woods. They run around and yell and act like kids. It's a very ordinary thing, unless you don't get to do it all the time, or you don't get to do it in a safe place. Then it's a pearl of great price.

Diane Mintz is a force of nature. I would not want to be standing between her and anything she thought was important to have. She just started making the program bigger. She became a 501(c)3, and her group found a name, YES, for Youth Enrichment Strategies. In 2006, 400 kids. They go to established summer camps like Camp Loma Mar and Camp Winnarainbow and the Cazadero Performing Arts Camp and Camp Jones Gulch and the CYO Summer Camp and Camp Avary for children of prisoners.

But wait, there's more. Mintz noticed that when the kids got home, their parents were uninterested in their experiences. "It was like, 'Get in the car.' " Her solution: family camp. Everybody gets to have fun. Everybody gets to look for lizards or walk in the tall grass or sing around the campfire. Plus, the adults get together by themselves and talk about issues, talk about dreams, talk about kids.

"The first one I did of these," she says, "was in Chabot Regional Park. We camped out. These are people who live in various dangerous neighborhoods; these are people who deal with peril. But it's dark in the country, and the noises are different, and people were apprehensive. I worried that I had gone too far. But at the end of the camp, everyone said it was their favorite part. Later, we found out that everyone likes walking in the dark without flashlights, too."

Two years of family camps; 800 people have participated so far. "You know, I don't know whether I'm quote unquote making a difference," she says. "I don't think I'm saving the world. I'm helping some kids in Richmond."

Perhaps you'd like to help too. YES is having a benefit banquet May 21 at the Bancroft Hotel in Berkeley. There's a silent auction, and food, and pleasant people, and dancing later. Tickets are $125 per, advance purchase only. Call (510) 527-1400. Or maybe you're busy that day. Fine. The sentimental gift of money is always welcome. Send your contributions to YES, 1577 Solano Ave., Berkeley, CA 94707. You won't be saving the world; you'll just be helping some kids in Richmond. It'll be the best thing you do all day.
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Evening sought -

It is so beautiful today, and I have been outside watering. What a treat!  In one day, hair has sprung out on my arms and legs. It is amazing. I wish the hair on my head would sprout as fast, but perhaps it is,  and it is just less obvious up there.

I missed the protest on Darfur yesterday, the gathering of people on the Golden Gate bridge, and I feel sad about that, and yet, I realize again today that my energy is not what I might wish. I am still having to pace and isolate.

Today, I realized that I often used to not know how I felt until I was over the top, either angry or sad, but I am learning to feel it now and honor it, and I think that is because I don't have the energy to block it. Today, I feel sadness, just that, no story. Perhaps, another day, I will feel anger, and certainly I could rationalize justification for that with all that is going on, but I'm not sure that is appropriate. I think response is appropriate, and feeling what I feel, but I think I am learning now  to bring myself more into balance on all the weather patterns circulating  through, and to use my energy for doing, and honoring  my use of fuel.  I am trying to take a longer view, to witness, and, as I say, to use my energy to do what I can do, and not stew - ah, now, the Serenity prayer comes to mind.  Yes, that works, too.  

            God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change
                          The courage  to change the things I can
                                   And the wisdom to know the difference

Today, I was with a poem of James Wright where he is  in a hammock, and realizing that is the most important thing he can do, lie there, aware,  in a hammock.

I thought of that today as I did not cross things off my list. My list still awaits and I celebrated a lovely day.

I look for James Wright's hammock poem, and in the looking, find this one by James Wright.


As the plump squirrel scampers
Across the roof of the corncrib,
The moon suddenly stands up in the darkness,
And I see that it is impossible to die.
Each moment of time is a mountain.
An eagle rejoices in the oak trees of heaven,
This is what I wanted.

A few years ago I wrote a hammock poem.

Little Things

I float on a hammock,
between two trees,
focus my eyes above,

question  why my path is straight,
when the branches,
are what I love.