January, 2007 Archive

This is What Democracy Looks Like: Washington Protest January 27, 2007 (2)

Wednesday, January 31st, 2007

[For photo album and slideshow for this entry, go here]

Sunday 2:35 P.M. United flight 0871 Dulles to SFO

img_0214.jpg The sun is shining when A. and E. arrive Saturday morning. Their Honda van is covered with a mural depicting kids in the city and fish, birds, and plants of the Chesapeake watershed along with a logo of a sailboat surrounded by the words “Living Classrooms Foundation…Learning by Doing.”

While E. chats with S. about work, A. tells me about her program taking inner city kids on hikes and boat excursions to study their bioregion and get involved in restoration projects. I tell her that my University, Cal Poly’s motto, is “Learn by Doing,” and that I teach courses in Bioregional Place Study.img_0215.jpg

We park near Teism and hear a roar coming from a crowd with pink banners in front of the National archives across Pennsylvania Ave. On the sidewalk outside the teahouse, a circle of Grannies for Peace stand singing. The people I’m with seem to know everybody outside and in. Two young men at our table say they work for Campus Climate Challenge. I say I’m working on Focus the Nation at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. They say do you know Tyler Middlestadt, our charismatic student sustainability activist. I say let me take your picture for him.img_0219.jpg A. says that Washington is filled with young activists working for NGO’s. They last about five years before burn out.

When I mention the man on the cell phone yesterday, S. says yes there are a lot of those too. They stay longer. She went to a party recently where she talked to four girls working in the State Department. Their assignment was to figure out ways to influence the elections in Nicaragua. When S. asked how can you do that in good conscience, they replied that it was a benefit to the region to promote stability. (more…)

This is What Democracy Looks Like: Washington Protest January 27, 2007 (1)

Wednesday, January 31st, 2007

United flight 0936 San Francisco to Dulles
8:00 AM, Friday January 26

The sun shines from the direction we’re heading. The coast range pokes through cloud cover thickly wrinkled like the top of a souffle blanketing the valleys below.

The 5:30 AM flight from SLO to SFO: Venus cast her pristine beams above an eastern horizon striped pink and orange as we descended in the dark, only mountain peaks and a couple of beacons protruding through the marine layer. A few thin spots glowed pale, traces of the sea of lights hidden below. This is what the Bay Area might look like after the deluge. Morning coffee served by a pretty stewardess.

I love flying. Planes and airports let me admire rather than scorn our human achievement: thought, organization, community. Even the corporations.

Flying also sends my mind inward, propels me to the edge. At any moment the plane could start falling. I’d grab my cell phone, call Jan, say it’s been great—buddhatrip, eclipse, wabikon, barrel stove, venice, thank you, have fun, travel. What do I leave behind? The initials of my password: wife, children, grandchildren. Three books. Three places: New York, Lund B.C., San Luis Obispo.

Over the Sierras now. Low light on snow and rock, sharp line between brightness and shadow on the ridge crests. The mountains wont suffer from global warming or nuclear winter.

9:00 AM

Still over mountains, snow covers the country, normal for January. Not the weather weirdness of two weeks ago, with sunbathing in New York and wild blizzards in Denver. For the last week I’ve been immersed in the apocalyptic prophecies of An Inconvenient Truth to prepare for my new English course: “The Rhetoric of Sustainability,” and working on plans for “Focus the Nation: Global Warming Solutions for America” coming up in 2008. But this trip is about the War. The ads for 2 million dollar vacation condos in the airline magazine deny both threats. What has my generation bequeathed to our grandchildren?

9:40 AM

I delight in reading Julian Barnes’ Arthur and George. The language gives pleasure one sentence at a time. The author’s sly slow release of information about the characters makes you engage with them before learning their identities. After 80 pages it turns out that this is a real-life Sherlock Holmes mystery about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It takes place in the world of Bleak House that Jan and I were immersed in last night in the final episodes of the BBC serial. Anglophilia is my guilty pleasure, even as an English professor.

11:00 AM Pacific Time above North Dakota

Graph paper road grid, a right angled overlay on squirming fractal landforms.

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7:00 PM—Il Rumbero

I wanted the airplane to be filled with people converging on Washington to protest. My old college friend, P., who was supposed to be sitting next to me never showed up. I felt a duty to tell the stranger in his seat that I was going to march against the war, but I kept chickening out. On the shuttle bus from Dulles to the Metro I looked for allies and spotted a man with a gray beard carrying a sign. He was from Mountain View California, a retired Cambridge eye research scientist.

I’ve arranged to arrive around 8:30 to crash at the apartment of young people I was introduced to last summer. A. is the son of friends who lived in the barn loft on the farm in Lund for two years in the seventies. We visited his mom on Saltspring Island and met him for the first time since he was one year old, shortly after his marriage to S, whose picture I saw in their wedding collection on Flickr. (more…)

Morro Bay Morning

Monday, January 22nd, 2007

Yesterday morning, on an impulse, I drove to Morro Bay to spend a couple of hours kayaking during the winter bird festival. The day was warmer than last year, the Bay calmer, and the tide more friendly. Already high at 9:00, when the rental opened, it provided me with two more hours of suction up the estuary before it would turn and leave me stranded. Slight dabs with the paddle propelled me across the spreading silky surface.

A friend had told me she spotted 30 species on the Bay a few days earlier. Equipped with binoculars and camera to capture a grand wildlife display, I felt guilt for possibly disturbing creatures I knew were resting here to gather energy for their long migrations. How much to take of nature’s bounty without creating harm? Sustainability in the abstract takes up much of my time, but I’ve done little to reduce my personal footprint. This has come home to me while reading a book about logging in British Columbia called The Golden Spruce that recalls my days of working in the pulp mill up there in order to be able to live close to the land. Another book about the world’s water shortage called When the Rivers Run Dry makes me anxious about running the soaker hose to establish new native plant seedlings during this drought year.

I paddled past a sandbar far enough from the receding shoreline to avoid spooking a crowd of pelicans, herons and cormorants, but close enough to admire them through binoculars. As I rounded a clump of submerging eelgrass, a grand panoply unfolded: thousands of birds lined up single file, all facing the low sun, motionless in pleasure and adoration.

(click on thumbnail then on enlargement for full size panorama)

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Code Pink

Sunday, January 7th, 2007

Yesterday I went to the Mission Plaza at noon to attend an anti-war demonstration organized by Code Pink, the national organization, largely of women, who have been mounting protests since the war started in 2003. I was reminded of Women Stike for Peace, to which my mother belonged in the 1950’s.

It was one of those beautiful west coast January days.img_0109.jpgLow light and long shadows. The creek was flowing, the bells were tolling, music wafted through the plaza from one of the restaurant patios. Pairs of shoes of all sizes labelled with the names of Iraqi casualties were laid out on the pavement, an effort to put passersby “in their shoes.”

Prayer flags fluttered from the bandstand, each inscribed with the names and ages of U.S. soldiers killed in the last year and the dates they died. An art teacher unveiled a group canvas produced by her students img_0101.jpgshowing the lofty ideal of the dove of peace and its ragged reality, trapped in barbed wire.

Starting with a woman in her nineties, people read the names of the 110 US troops who died in December written on flags that had not yet been mounted and placed them slowly in a box. After each name, one of the organizers beat a gong. img_0105.jpgSome wept as they read.

The day before, I had cashed in my United Miles and got a ticket to go to Washington for the January 27 national mobilization. Last night I listened to the CD just sent to me by college friend Jeff Parson: The Baby and the Bathwater–seventeen songs about the horrors of this war he felt called to write and perform with one of his daughters and friends.

Passions are rising. What comes next after elections?