Sunday, August 7, 2022

Journey of Old Journals: 1984


As we open, I’m back in Fredonia, sorting things out with G. The journal proceeds with thruminations and doubts about why I couldn’t pick up and

start my own life without her.

Questioning myself, the unknowing why of who I was, and the bond that transcended

fights, passion, and disagreement. There were nights she was late, arriving with excuses. I wrote, “Continually, I am disgruntled that my diabetes prevents me from achieving

everything I’d like to do, like the Peace Corps or going to an impoverished country and

helping the poor.” And a resolution to start “dating my journal,” which only meant

I added the dates to mark the passage of time.

I remember being very disappointed that G made no effort to meet my parents, noting how

unattractive and sullen she appeared at my graduation ceremony.

We made plans with a group to move to Boston after my application for an internship

in Japan was denied. I worked on my submission for the Peace Ribbon project.

I worked as a crew chief for the Chautauqua Private Industry Council that summer,

which I only remembered when I found the business card.

Throughout the summer, I read: Patience and Sarah. Alma Routsong Mrs. Stevens Hears the Mermaids Singing. May Sarton The Writer on Her Work, ed. Janet Stanberg Women Hating, Andrea Dworkin Silences, Tille Olson Doris Lessing Despairwork, Joanna Macy The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula LeGuin Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee Blue Highways, William Leastheat Moon Medicine Woman. Lynn Andrews The Color Purple, Alice Walker Seven Arrows, Hyemeyohsts Storm The Politics of Women’s Spirituality, Charlene Spretnak Adrienne Rich Witchcraft as Goddess Religion, Starhawk Les Guerilleres. Monique Wittig Ariadne's Thread: A Collection of Contemporary Women's Journals, Ed. Lynn Lifshin The Spiral Dance, Starhawk. Ultimately, I told G that I was infatuated with a graphic designer who helped me design a canvas for an embroidered pentacle project, which ended it. She had no interest in continuing intimacy, and while nothing ever came of the crush with the recipient, it was the feeling I needed to change the dynamic. I found solace in a local reservoir where the water rippled in the shade of pines. I got a tattoo, a yin/yang symbol that I copied from the Tassajara Bread Book. Through all the travails, I began to get very excited about moving to Boston, having a support system in place but free to pursue my path.

Journey of Old Journals- 1983

This journal begins on the last day of my summer internship at the New York State Archives, where my main project was to rebox files from SingSing prison from the old to the new acid-free archival boxes. As I would review the contents, I would heft the larger files from the box to see how they began. Inevitably, juvenile petty shenanigans (at 8-13 years) escalated into larger and more serious crimes.  I looked at Julius and Ethel Rosenberg's telegrams received before they were executed and marveled over a handmade weapon resembling a circular saw.  In the end, I let without anyone saying goodbye; I was not supervised well. 

However,  I did a great job on a paper I had to write for the college credit, which explored the nuances of how the dehumanizing elements of the prison system perpetuated the trauma instead of being rehabilitative. I explored the Friends Alternatives to Violence Project and read prison notes from people who were published. I remember leaving my notes in a folder on the grass, losing the details yet being able to reconstruct enough to create an acceptable final product. 

I spent time at the women’s peace encampment in Romulus, New York, and was fascinated by the culture, bravery, and long, drawn-out discussions about nonviolent action. I also learned you could put a wooden platform beneath a tent and have a bed and dresser inside. I think I went back to Joslin clinic for more education. I remember traveling from Boston to Buffalo on a plane, writing about low blood sugar tears from a missed flight and the saffron-robed Hare Krishnas.

In the end, as I returned to school, my love interest at the time had found a new apartment and a new lover. My writing is fueled by betrayal, anger, hanging on, and the complicated approach of staying within a relationship because “monogamy is misogyny.” 

I ended with an observation, “I feel like I’m losing my leaves becoming bare, shedding a part of my life which has changed colors, dried out, and shall pass into a different stage.” 

Sunday, March 6, 2022

Journey of Old Journals- 1983


This was a journal filled with observations and active reading. In the midst of transitions and preparations for my internship in Albany and discussions/arguments with G, I made a list of books in the beginning and set to read my way through them. 

The new roommates, surrounded by a lingering aroma of immature masculinity, made for a very lonely time in the early days of my internship at the New York State Archives. In this new landing spot,  I was afraid to disclose any personal information. 

I still have a vivid memory of one night, where they were up late, drinking too much and giggling, where I hid out in my room. In the morning, I woke up early, and, as I suspected, there was a sharpie-marker bush of public hair under the skirt of the female mannequin they had in the living room. Thus, I retreated into books, and here are a few salient quotes that  I share again. 

Anarchism, and Other Essays, Emma Goldman
“All that can be done is to plant the seeds of thought whether something vital will develop depends largely on the physicality of the human soil, though the quality of the intellectual seed must not be overlooked.”

“In our present pygmy state love is indeed a stranger to most people. Misunderstood and shunned, it rarely takes root; or if it does, it soon withers and dies. Its delicate fiber cannot endure the stress and strain of the daily grind. Its soul is too complex to adjust itself to the slimy wealth of our social fabric. It weeps and moans and suffers with those who have no need of it,  yet lack the capacity to rise to love’s summit.  Someday women and men will rise, they will reach the mountain peak, they will meet big and strong and free,  ready to receive, to partake, and to bask in the golden rays of love. What fancy, what imagination, what poetic genius can foresee... The potentialities of such a force in the life of men and women.  If the world is ever to give birth to true companionship and oneness, not marriage, but love will be the parent.”

The Golden Notebook, Doris Lessing 
“... you choose to be alone rather than get married for the sake of not being lonely.  You're afraid of writing what you think about life, because you might find yourself in an exposed position, you might expose yourself, you might be alone. “

Wash Us and Comb Us, Barbara Deming, 
“All right,” she said, “a little sand gets into a shell. The pearl is this dirt, this irritation.” She said. “Don't smile. It's out of that which soils us, which irritates us, which rubs – it’s out of evil suffered and understood, that an artist creates.”

The Wanderground Sally Miller Gearhart
 “What is the task? To work as if the Earth, the mother, can be saved. To work as if our healings and care we're not too late. Work to say the slayer's hand, helping him to change or helping him to die. Work as if the Earth, the mother, can be saved.”

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Journey of Old Journals- 1983

This journal was a gift. Not my usual style, but I ended up bringing it to training and conferences that fueled my budding activism. during the anti-war movement was escalating in the mid-80s. Regan in office, nuclear weapons escalating,  and U.S. military action in El Salvador, Nicaragua, and who knows where else. 

The note is partially filled with notes of legalities of select-service,  conscientious objection, small tidbits of locations for rallies and the meetings after the rallies, notes, and phone numbers. So instead of being up location for all these “peaceful thoughts”, it ended up being an organizing notebook.

Signs I saw in DC
No more genocide in my name.
It’s 1983. Do you know where your country is?
Reagan thinks justice is “just us”.
Up your arsenal, Pentagon.

 I also included a short tidbit about a direct action I took at the ROTC military ball in April 1983. I noted the date, which made it a lot easier to reach out to the reference librarian at my alma mater and ask her to send me some images of the day. 

Sunday, February 13, 2022

Journey of Old Journals-1982

 In this journal, I wrote about the disjointed unity of the June 12th rally for nuclear disarmament in 1982. Nearly a million people gathered in Central Park that day. 

That sentiment was reinforced by this blog post, which recognized the power of the gathering; the author calls out the intersectionality of poverty,  war toys, Latin American foreign policy, and racism.

Life went on. I wrote about a friend's elderly Siamese cat who bit my bit me right on the nose when I was petting her. After taking the cat to the vet, I expressed concerns to her owner. I could tell the cat was dying and yet the vet was doing marginal “vitamin treatments”, which didn’t appear helpful.

I lived in a group house with a number of other students close to campus. I shared a room with a difficult personality, who once watched me create a pile of cooked cookies, delighting in the fact that I didn’t know to put them on a rack to cool. We had other conflicts in our shared room and I sensed her seething anger about what I thought was a stealthy simulation habit I pursued to relax. Truly, I thought she was already asleep herself. Little did I know she was a light sleeper. 

I came home from college when my grandmother died. I remember being in her room as she passed and the profound regret of not learning more about her life when she was alive. That’s a topic for another post…

A professor inspiration to look to dogs for stress management because they were rested and relaxed until the moment they were triggered into action. I’d tucked a mimeographed “How to tell if you are a stress-prone personality” quiz into the journal. My score was off the charts. Dr. Rosalind Forbes’ adapted quiz is here

I think I was taking a creative writing class and had a lot of angst about not having any ideas for stories. I was surrounded by creative people, yet felt completely disabled in forming worlds in my own mind. Again writing about all the internal machinations, not directing it into the creation of new work.

Falling in with the lesbian posse, I found a group to belong to and it was only a question of time before relationships became intimate. In my “practice letters”,  I referred to one lover as a perfect pine cone, then became increasingly disenchanted as she burned dinner while she was passed out from drinking.  I was getting feedback from the others that this wasn’t a good idea, but I couldn't let go for a while. My friends were chagrined, as I think they knew that she had been double-timing me.  I remember I wrote about being very excited to be alone again. That's where I felt comfortable

The journal ends with moving in with G. We shook on the deal not to sleep with each other when we lived together.  Weeks later, there were continued overtures.  Our house was way out of town, cheap and cold.  We moved in on January 1st, 1983. The son of the recently passed mother lived downstairs. He showed me how to use a microwave, a novel technology at the time. A young Welsh woman on work-study stayed with us for a semester which forced the issue of sharing a bed. On a beautiful spring day, I begged off staying in bed and instead went out to the gardens that were alongside the house and cleared off old leaves. The bulbs were emerging, as they do.  The elderly neighbors next door were excited. neighbors were so excited. They brought me in for a cup of tea, the calendar on the wall reflecting the local feed store, and crocheted dishcloths the likes of which I hadn’t seen before. 

In hindsight, I don't remember what the blossoms looked like from the garden.  I remember a horrific lung infection and coughing. G made an onion poultice for my chest, continuing to push for a relationship when really I wanted to be left alone.

My love of flow charts!

Sunday, February 6, 2022

Journey of Old Journals-1982


I didn't put dates in this journal ~except for the first page at the beginning and the last page at the end.  This rambling discombobulated notebook doesn’t contain a lot of strong sentences of time and place, instead more internal musings and recycled poetry themes.  

However, it became clear at this point that  I was using the journal for my own best friend,  a practice that remains true to this day. This new format also facilitated some more flow. There's a page where I gush on and on about the ability to just free write on anything. I wrote about what was happening In my mind, not what was happening in the world.

Here are a few things that happened during this time:
  • I became increasingly concerned and “radicalized” around the issue of Mutually Assured Destruction, which was the banter of the military justification at the time.
  • I supported the World Peace March as the group traveled through Buffalo and Fredonia. What I didn't write about, but remember vividly, was the very strong proposition from one of the young men in the group. He did his best to entice me into a wild field clear we could just get it on. his hips vibrated wildly in desperation. It felt pathetic. 
  • I was coming out as a lesbian and fell in love with H.  New emotions, intensity, navigating an unfamiliar path. I also felt accepted and part of a group, the first time since my party-buddies in High School.
  • I wrote about being away for the weekend with the gal team and coming back to find obscenities written on my dorm door.
  • An across the hall dorm neighbor stole a couple of my syringes for drugs. I have lots of letters from her, too. We were close for most of college and a couple of years after. 
  • I moved off-campus for the summer~  I didn't return to Poughkeepsie for the first time in my life. I found a job working with my buddies on a vineyard In Western New York where I trimmed overgrown grapevines grown for the Welch brand amid asparagus gone to seed and the miracle of ladybugs piled on top of each other, everywhere. 

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Journey of Old Journals- 1981?

This journal was an assignment for a "women in literature" class; the professor directed us to read and respond to the text we were reading at the time. 

In hindsight,  I can see my beginning as a feminist and as an advocate for peace. I remembered a detail–  I’d put effort into setting up Draft Counseling Center on campus, resurrected when the registration requirement resumed in 1980. 

I wondered if children could write poetry on an LCD screen.

I wrote about my mother, who worked so hard in her first term at Community College.  She received a D+ on her first term paper. Mom did her homework at the kitchen table. The phone rang, the dog scratched to go out, J asks where his jeans are and B returns from a liaison with her boyfriend.  The phone rings again, and dad asks a monetary question.  Mom thinks about what to have for dinner, about tomorrow's errands, the dog's vet appointment, and her mind drifts back to the empty page. Her letters are rushed, I observed and thought to myself that she deserved a desk and a room of her own. 

During a discussion of the Sapphic meter, my Latin teacher asked the class what female poets were called. “They are poets,'' I replied and elaborated that it was there was no use in using a diminutive term for those of the female gender. My classmates thought I was radical. 

typewritten poem