Friday, July 29, 2011

MY HOUSE for sale.  I don't want to sell it.  I'd like to stay here forever and take care of it and fix things and plant things and re-paint and re-arrange the ten or so rooms and four baths.  I'd like to turn this big old house into The Wonder Institute and hold salons here and have writers read their works here and people meet in the big living room to solve world and local problems and to discuss philosophical issues.  If I could, in an ideal world (!!!) I would have a grand piano.  It would be in front of the giant, slightly garish mirror that was in the house when I purchased it six years ago. I would hold small, exquisite concerts here.  Sometimes my friends and their friends and I would move the big overstuffed furniture out of the way and roll up the rug and we would dance.  And dance! Experts in all fields would present workshops in this house, this Institute.  There would be workshops about painting and politics and poetry. Guests would share food and drinks and stories...We would gather by the fountain in the back patio or we would walk in the zen garden and meditation path that I meant to build...or we would sit on the west-facing portal and watch the sunsets...

It seems the sun is setting on those plans.  My house is for sale...
This big house is the one asset I own that could---when sold---free me from the unpleasant debt that I incurred during my time as an Art Gallery Addict!

Yes, an "Art Gallery Addict"?  A veritable junkie.  I became addicted to the remarkable artwork I had the opportunity and privilege to show.  I was always absolutely certain that I could sell it.  And because of that certainty...I paid for art fairs and advertisements on my credit cards.  I paid little or no attention to the insidious changes in the worsening world financial climate nor to the growing disarray of the big "A" Art Market. With conviction, I continued to plan and mount remarkable exhibitions.  Every exhibition at LDCA received great coverage, great and enthusiastic attendance, great reviews...but (alas!) we failed to make enough money to cover the costs of running the Gallery.  What then?  Well, like all sorts of addicts, I would (bravely, foolishly?) put the financial "failure" behind me and look forward, with unshakeable optimism to the next show---in which I felt certain I could recover my losses and march forward (ironically, Marchforth, LTD was the name of my corporation) with more brilliant art and more wonderful  ideas in mind and plenty of money in the bank.

But I digress...

Just now, I took a break and fixed a Greek omelette for a friend and myself.  That delicious omelette was cooked on--what my son Rocky, a professional chef, called, "the best stove in Santa Fe,"  six burners; two ovens; a grill; a salamander...My friend and I ate our brunch at a small table in the enclosed front garden among some mature trees and bushes and hanging baskets of lobelia and big pots of geraniums...we talked and watched the hummingbirds and then we took our shoes off and sat on the grass...and drank some lattes and talked some more.

Now, I am back here in my study.  I feel the soft light from the sunroom behind me.  My two cats are sitting in the open screened windows, watching the lizards bask on the warm rocks...This morning, just after a brilliant orange and lavender sunrise hike, my dog Ruby and I watched  five rascally ravens who had convened on the roof, over the library, squawking and talking..."nevermore..."

Oh, yes, my house will sell---perhaps on one of those upcoming perfect September days.  I wonder who will be the next owner?  Will they love the many perfect walls for art?  The skylights?  The five fireplaces?  I have a strong feeling that this unusual house will sell to a writer or a painter or a philosopher.  Surely the next owners will be creative collectors who love Santa Fe and all that it offers.  Maybe they will have horses and will want to fix the neglected stable on the property.  I know this singular (non-cookie cutter) house is perfect for a person who loves nature and animals and space and entertaining and quiet...

And when it sells, when someone special who wants a big and versatile house finds and falls in love with my wonderful house, what will I do?  Where will I go?  I'm thinking about a single line from an e.e. cummings poem that I have always loved: 
 "Somewhere I have never travelled, gladly beyond any experience.."

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


Sierra Vista is a small residential home for people with either Alzheimers or Dementia. It's located on a semi-rural road at the edge of Santa Fe. My friend Bunny lives there now.  I visited her a few days ago. Her son John and his girlfriend were just leaving as I reached the "secure" front door. We hugged and exchanged a few words.  John told me that Bunny had not slept well the night before so she was tired this morning and might not be very responsive. I was prepared. The day before, a mutual friend told me that Bunny was...uh... "fading fast."

"Fading fast,"  I know what that means.  It means that my friend is going to die soon. 

The receptionist on duty buzzed me in. She escorted me through a labyrinth of narrow halls to Bunny's room; a cell-like space with a single bed, a small chair and a bedside table. There was my dear friend Bunny, struggling to sit up...She was barely aware of me at first.  I sat on the edge of the bed and put my arm around her unbelievable thinness and held her. I used my most powerful memory and concentration skills to superimpose the beautiful woman that Bunny always was over the skeletal, death-like greyness that she has become.

I'm so full of emotions - emotions definitely triggered by seeing and holding Bunny - but emotions about something beyond Bunny: sadness, awe, confusion. I talked to her.  I held her.  We rocked a bit and she mumbled words that I couldn't understand. She said them softly, in a comforting voice.  She was calm and far away.  She listened to me and responded with garbled syllables as I talked about the weather and complimented her emerald green shirt that complemented her green eyes...and those eyes were focused way beyond the small room in which we sat and gently rocked..where?  I don't know.

Oh, my God, my friends are dying...we're coming of age:  The Age of Dying.  I'm going to die at some point and I can't begin (well, yes, I am beginning) to understand that phenomenon.  I 'm thinking of one of my favorite poems published over 30 years ago:  AUBADE, by Phillip Larkin (click here to hear Larkin read it on YOUtube).  Such a beautiful poem.  I memorized it years ago, to recite for the friend who mailed it to me - along with a brief note, "I can't imagine the world without this poem,"  he wrote.  Neither can I.

"...unresting death, a whole day nearer now, making all thought impossible but how and where and when I shall myself die.  Arid interrogation:  Yet the dread of dying and being dead, flashes afresh to hold and horrify..." 

Bunny was always thin - enviably thin - and beautiful. She was tall and graceful and I want to add "willowy" because "willowy" is such a wonderful adjective and it perfectly describes the remarkable friend I met more than forty years ago.  Bunny.  She had to be called "Bunny" or something like Bunny because "Alberta," her given name, was all wrong.

Years really do disappear, don't they?  They collapse into incidents: parties, people, conversations.  Even long full years of friendships collapse into imperfect memories that appear and fade in our minds.  It's not possible to stretch out the memories into real time.  So much real time is gone.


What do I remember about those years of friendship?  We were colleagues in the Art Gallery world.  And we were confidantes.  In the early years of our friendship, we were part of the big escape from "the straight life" that brought so many of us to the mountains and high desert of New Mexico.  We came from all over.  We knew one another by first names or nicknames. Bunny and I must have met at one of the big, informal, bring-a-dish potlucks where there was always plenty of pot and too many watermelons and not enough homemade bread.  And there was always music.  Lots and lots of music.

Bunny was a beautiful widow who lived with her young son in the rugged, not-too-friendly-to-outsiders mountain village of Truchas. I was an ex-New York glamour girl living off the grid in the desert and sandstone land near Cerrillos. Most of the people we knew in those long ago days were some combination of misfit, adventurer, hippie, anthropologist, drifter or draft dodger. Many of us had abandoned or narrowly escaped the middle class lives of our parents and moved to "The Land of Enchantment" in search of an aspect of ourselves that couldn't bloom in the mainstream.

As the years passed and as our children grew and as the world changed, we changed. We got straight jobs, we went back to graduate school, we moved away, we died...before we even thought about dying, we lived, we laughed, we made love.

Bunny and I loved artists - perhaps even more than we loved art.  We discovered ourselves at the right and wrong place, at the right and wrong time.  And we created galleries where people came and drank our wine and looked at our exhibitions and bought the paintings and drawings and sculpture we showed.  We did this way before most everyone who does it now did it...and now we don't do it anymore.  What do we do now?

Bunny is drifting/dreaming/sliding through her last days...attendants in red attendant uniforms lift her into a wheelchair, put her feet in rubber slippers, straighten her legs...and I wheel her down the narrow hallways, into the day room, where two residents ("We don't call them residents here," a supervisor told me.  "We call them 'Elders' It's more respectful.") excuse me, where two Elders sit in front of a big screen TV singing along with a sing along DVD.  We take up a position near the big picture window and look out at the blue sky and the clouds.

"Clouds"  Bunny whispers.  I think that's what she says.  I hold a straw and a glass of juice to her lips.  She drinks a sip or two.  I hold her hand and we look out the window - past the gated pen with two little goats eating something out of a big metal bucket, past the fence, past the parking lot...

"Clouds" she says...softly. 

Monday, July 25, 2011


* one who reflects

Hello!  My name is Linda and I'm a Reflectionary.  I reflect on things and I reflect things.  Right now, I'm reflecting on the fact that I yearn to be a Revolutionary.  A full-time, full-blown Revolutionary. I'm not there yet.  Before I can move from my Reflectionary place as one who inspects and reflects and dissects, I must identify my intended revolutionary path.  It can't be a violent path.  It can't be loud and rude.  Violence and rudeness don't suit me.  At this reflectionary moment in my time---that time being a Monday in late July---I am reflecting on empathy.  Yes, EMPATHY.  That is my path, I tell myself as I sit here in my study, with my dog Ruby sleeping nearby and some Wonder Woman ephemera staring down at me from high on a shelf, over a collection of books about mountain climbing disasters, Patagonian travels, Haitian voodoo and Myanmar art...Empathy.  

The word PATH is right there, resting in the comforting arms of Empathy.

A few seconds ago, with my fingers poised over the keyboard, I was about to write to encourage the few readers, who might find their way to this wonder blog, to "be more empathetic" to take time to empathize with those in our world who are living in war zones or who are starving in drought plagued regions or who have grave illnesses or fears...But it's too soon for me to ask anyone to do that---too soon to tell anyone my views on the importance of empathizing with others who share the world with us.  Too soon---because I must first do more and feel more (empathize more) than I have in the past.  I must first understand more deeply what that means...and I must acknowledge that my personal empathy switch turns on and off---depending upon my own state of mind, of understanding.  

To be empathetic can be dangerous. 

For example: one can forget to look up and down while crossing the street if one has just looked at images in a magazine of skeletal children crying in hunger.  Or one can damage one's credit by writing checks to humanitarian aid organizations or peace and justice organizations instead of writing checks for one's utilities or car payment.  One can miss a dentist appointment while demonstrating for the end of war on a street corner somewhere.  Or, one can get one's name on a government watch list by declaring, on certain social networks, that one is in stark disagreement with certain international governmental policies...Even if these are ways of acting on righteous empathetic impulses (and I am personally familiar with these examples) they can be dangerous.  Dangerous!  These small acts of empathy can impact one's life in a BIG and challenging way. 

However:  eventually, if we are lucky, we reach a certain age (an age like mine, for instance) and, at that point, if one has resigned or retired from one's so-called career (like I have recently done) and if one cries at the sadness of helpless children and at the struggles of mothers and fathers in ravaged lands and if one abhors the carnage of war and the costs of such carnage (as I absolutely do)...then perhaps one is ready---or preparing to be ready (having duly "reflected") to let go of the art and the books and comforts of a relatively safe life and to go gently into a life of graceful, non-violent, thoughtful, loving, generous, effective REVOLUTIONARY CONSCIOUSNESS and ACTION.

The transformation (for me) is beginning!  

Friday, July 8, 2011

Arresting Scenario | Part I

The adventures and accomplishments of the passengers on The Audacity of Hope are many and varied. We did so much. We practically defied a basic principle of physics that asserts that one cannot be in two places at one time. And yet...I have a memory of being in Athens’ Syntagma Square rallying with the people of Greece while, at the same time, being with the “Fasters” across from the United States Embassy--singing and chanting.
I am still filled with the electricity generated by the power of standing and demonstrating in solidarity with the people of Greece whose government has largely forsaken them. Everything was happening so fast! Sparks of Revolution were everywhere. We were all moving, moving, moving from our boat to various meetings in four or five different locations, through the mazes of the Metro and the amazing streets of Athens and Parama and Piraeus...And so it seemed as if we were in meetings and marching simultaneously--in defiance of natural law!
This morning, here in Santa Fe, I am sifting through all the actions I can recall from those weeks in Greece--as well as through all the emotions I'm feeling about those extraordinary days with the remarkable people who are part of The International Flotilla to Gaza. No, we didn't get to Gaza. No, we didn't break Israel's illegal blockade. However, we did get our thousands of messages of love and solidarity to the people of Gaza. And we brought to the attention of the World the untenable situation that exists for the Palestinians. Sadly, the gentle mission of our wonderful boat was thwarted again and again by "unknown" forces---evil, greedy and paranoid forces. Okay, they must not go unnamed. I will name them: the Israeli government and their political supporters and miscellaneous lackeys abroad--including my government.
My government! I remember how proud I once was to be a citizen of the United States of America. That was long ago, when I was a child...long, long ago when I was taught that the definition of "propaganda" was the persuasive, misleading lies that bad governments (enemies) spouted. We (the great and honorable USA) told the truth and the bad guys lied. I am understandably less naive today and I realize that we (or more precisely, certain powerful forces in our government) are the bad guys. I know this deep in my heart. We are not the only bad guys but we surely rank near the top of the list.
Our boat was prevented from sailing for no valid reason.
While still in the harbor, we were forceably turned back by menacing commandos on Greek vessels. We read the reports that Israel issued stating that the human rights passengers on our little boat were carrying sulfuric acid--which, they claimed, we were planning to throw on the Israeli Naval Forces if The Audacity of Hope was stopped from proceeding to its intended destination. The US Embassy gave only nervous, superficial, impotent lip service to our Delegation when we respectfully requested a statement of safe passage for our voyage. My saddest, most disheartening fears were realized: Human Rights and Peace and Justice are not the true interests and issues of my government, of most governments. Money and Power---those are the issues that our Embassies support and protect. These facts burned and turned into a revised mission on land: Peaceful Demonstrations.
We demonstrated for the release of Captain John, who was arrested and charged with embarking from port without permission and endangering the passengers on our boat. Despite numerous requests for assistance from our Consulate, none was forthcoming. Captain John remained in jail with no visit from anyone in the Embassy. This was inexplicable to those who believed (obviously mistakenly) that part of the mandate of the US Consulate was the aid and protection of Americans in distress abroad! Captain John was experiencing distress!

We could not bear to stand by idly and so we staged some protests. Non-violent, peaceful, chanting, sign-holding protests. Some of us began a fast and a sit-in/sleep-in at the Embassy. After most of a day of peaceful fasting and sign-holding and sleeping, the Greek police took us to jail. They were just following orders, they said. We sang scores of songs in the police headquarters and eventually we were released (I don't think it was because of our singing ability---some of our harmonizing was quite excellent!). It was after 3am when I got back to my hotel. Next day: continued disappointment that no help was forthcoming from our Embassy. And so, more demonstrations, more fasting...
On the third of July, my friend Senator Tom Udall made a personal call to Ambassador Daniel Smith in Greece on our behalf to check on the status and condition of Captain John. By e-mail I learned that the Ambassador had conveyed to the Senator that he was aware of the situation and everything was being handled. Really? That certainly was not the case as we saw it. And so, a few of the fasters (and friends of fasters---for by now I had had a Greek salad!) decided to go to the Ambassador’s house.
It was the 4th of July. Independence Day!
There were six of us. We had a few small signs and an American flag. Four members sat across from the entrance to the Ambassador’s house in a small park filled with feral cats. Ray McGovern (a retired CIA Analyst and Vietnam Veteran) and I held hands and crossed the street . We did not speak with the military-garbed men in the small guard house adjacent to the big metal gates in front of the residence. We went straight to the residence and rang the doorbell. Two Brinks guards appeared.
“Good afternoon,” I offered, “ I am Linda Durham from Santa Fe, New Mexico and this is Ray McGovern from Arlington, Virginia. We’d like to speak with Ambassador Smith.”
“That is not possible.”
“I think he may be expecting me to call on him. I know Senator Tom Udall spoke with him and mentioned that I was here in Athens.”
“You must make an appointment at the Embassy.”
"Yes, we did try that…unsuccessfully...but it’s the Fourth of July. We’d just like a few minutes to speak with him.”
This conversation went back and forth and nowhere…

Meanwhile, the four other members of our visiting party were quietly holding up a few signs (LET FREEDOM RING, FREE GAZA...) while sitting in front of the bright orange Audacity of Hope life preserver ring that was one of our props at the fasting site. After a few more unsuccessful exchanges with the Brinks puppet men, we were told to move back from the gate to permit a large black SUV to enter the compound. Ray spoke to the black tinted windows.
“Is that you Mr. Ambassador? May we have a word with you?”
No response!
“Are you too cowardly to speak with us?!” He challenged.
At that utterance, the police/secret service pounced on him. They almost knocked him over! They forced him to the other side of the street while I remained in front of the closed gate---very near the doorbell. I watched as the guard patrol tested for explosives under the SUV. And I watched as the inner gates opened revealing a disappearing protective barrier and a beautiful garden and winding driveway. I rang the doorbell again. Mean-looking plainclothesmen scurried from one mysterious door to another. They didn’t look at me.
I turned to check on my fellow fasters and saw that they were being shoved and forced and partially carried towards a veritable "flotilla" of waiting patrol cars. Carol, Ridgely, Debra, Ray, and Ken were agreeing to leave---but No! The police--and an assortment of strong armed tall guys in dark clothes--were demanding that the peaceful group get in the cars. I started back across the street and two big men grabbed me...
Cont'd in: Arresting Scenerio | Part II

Arresting Scenario | Part II

Cont'd from Arresting Scenario | Part I
“Okay, I’m leaving,” I said. “Let go of me. Oww! You’re hurting me.”
A tall unnecessarily nasty man squeezed my arms and lifted me off the ground!

“Let me go. I’ll leave. I didn’t do anything. I’m a grandmother…”
I said a whole string of things like that. And then I started to cry (I’m a trained actor!)
To no avail.
The six of us were driven to the same police station we had visited (!) the night before. But this time things were different. The police didn’t speak to us in the patrol car. They were decidedly unfriendly when we reached the station. Unlike our first visit the previous night, we were not allowed to sing (it would disturb the prisoners downstairs we were told by the larger of the two female officers). We were not offered ice water and we were not invited to sit in the little office where our songfest the night before took place. Our passports were collected and one by one we were called into the office to give our parents names and other useless information. Ridgely refused to tell them her father’s name. You go girl, I thought and wished I had not given them the names Everett and Lenore. I did note that they misspelled both names. Soon they returned our passports.
We waited. I snapped a couple of quick photos in defiance of the instructions not to take any photos. As long as I was being held for civil disobedience, I thought I might as well be civilly disobedient! We were asked for our passports a second time. And then a third time. All questions about why were met with non answers. Orders from somewhere else, from some unknown power authority. From whom, I wondered? Hillary? The Ambassador? Netanyahu? Papandreaou? Who knows!
We did have the very interesting opportunity to speak with a handsome and strong-looking member of a terrorist task force.
"Are we terrorists?” I asked. Yes, in some eyes, no doubt, we are. We are members of a small band of U.S. citizens who, in the eyes of our government, were meddling in foreign policy. Maybe so. Maybe it needs some good old-fashioned meddling by a few brave people of conscience!
That’s who we are.
We are a motley assortment of people who care about others—about the disenfranchised, the oppressed, the prisoners of conscience…In this particular case, our mission was (and remains) to free the people of Gaza. They have been living under the control of mighty Israel for far too long. I believe this group is aligned with many missions that fight for peace and justice for the oppressed---wherever they are.
Eventually we were released. We went back to our boat…we went to the Internet…we went to Syntagma Square to stand with the remarkable organizers of the Greek People’s Movement. They will (THEY WILL) overcome the oppressive government that has taken their money and put it in the pockets of the very rich. There will be a revolution…This time it will be televised. I believe…I have to believe that they and we will surely OVERCOME!
Deep in my heart, I know that our leaders are totally aware of the injustices under which they have been operating for far too long. They must know. The fact that power and greed and evil trump fairness and justice is the very reason I can no longer simply read the papers and say, “Tsk, tsk! Somebody should do something.”
I’m somebody. So are you! We must stand and march and speak out and write and DO SOMETHING!

Because if we don’t...

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Ninja-style Commandos/Up Close and Personal

The Audacity of Hope had barely left the port in Parama, to the cheers of the passengers and well-wishers on shore, when the first speedboat interception occured. 

Go back, they demanded. But no. We did not go back. 

Soon there was a bigger, more powerful Coast Guard boat. The radio channels appeared not to be working and so communication between the Captains of the two vessels (ours and theirs) took place across a small expanse of sea. We listened, we stood at the bow of the boat and we listened...the Greek Captain said that the papers for our boat were not in order...but yes, they are in order. We have completed the inspections. 

"No, please go back to Parama, I beg you." he finally said. 

These comments followed a long exchange in which five or six passengers spoke by bull horn imploring the Greek Captain to let us go...Of course he was not one to disobey orders...Go back, go back. 

Still, we did not go back. We did not go back. We were fearful of what might befall us if we went back to that port, we told him. There has been too much sabotage and attempted sabotage to our boat---and to the other boats in this Flotilla.

Athens is hot. The boat is hot. We feel the oppressive (and almost unbelieveably intrusive) power of the Israelis. No one anywhere in the world, who is paying attention to this action in Athens and its ports can fail to notice that this dirty business smells like Netanyahu, et cetera. In the middle of their own revolution, the good people of Greece have few doubts that this is the doing of those connected to the Israeli Military Force. The Israelis are meddling. And their meddling is working! How sad is that commentary! How desperate they must be. How fearful of our hopeful little boat they must be to meddle so vociferously in the affairs of the Greeks. Desperate and effective! Our boat is not going to sail from Greece without a major change that, as yet, we can neither discover not anticipate.

Before long, a Zodiac of Commandos joined the Coast Guard vessel (the one with the gentle,imploring Captain...) "Please go back, I beg you!" he said again.

Dressed Ninja-style with guns and other weapons strapped neatly to their persons, they boarded the Greek Coast Guard vessel and pointed their intimidating weapons at us...

To be continued...