Category Archives: Civil Disobedience

gone to the printers

I think this might be like arriving at base camp at the foot of Everest

I know its an awful lot like being 37 weeks pregnant.

maybe you dreamed of it

surely you worked for it

but as the time nears

you realize, increasingly

that you have absolutely no idea

what you’ve gotten yourself into

 

and the dark clouds form and disperse

as you reckon the size of the leap

you have made

peering at the place you think you’re going to land

readying the things you think you’ll need

asking for mentors, safety nets

realizing that when you need financial security more than ever you are sloughing it off

to pit yourself against the challenge

of doing this thing

and doing it well

aprons and layers falling

revealing the dream vulnerable to the raw air:

 

I,

Writer

terrified, quaking, tired and certain

there is no perfect draft, there is no truly ready time

the story is past due

 

and gone to the printers.

finally finished, and only just begun.

Downwind: A People’s History of the Nuclear West.  November 2014

 

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bigger than a blog post, smaller than a breadbox

I haven’t been doing much creative writing lately,

because this:

Fox_sketch-1

 

is coming out in the fall and contrary to what I’d somehow fooled myself into thinking,

my work is only just begun.

More to come lovelies, I promise. all sorts of things are moving and shaking.. a website, a video, events, travel. opportunities for folks to support getting the stories in my book out into the world. For now… disjointed waitress poetry will make an attempt to return, because learning how to market a book gives me a headache, and I need to write creatively again.

 

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in the name of our mothers

With my Mama... 1982

Last year, in honor of my mother, I wrote about the revolutionary roots of Mother’s Day. I invoked the words of Julia Ward Howe, the founder of Mother’s Day, which sound somewhat different than the average Hallmark greeting card.

Arise then, women of this day! Arise, all women who have hearts! Whether your baptism be of water or of tears! Say firmly:

“We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies, Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.  We, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”

From the bosom of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with Our own. It says: “Disarm! Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.” Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession.  As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil at the summons of war, let women now leave all that may be left of home, for a great and earnest day of counsel. Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.

Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means Whereby the great human family can live in peace…

In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask that a general congress of women without limit of nationality, may be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient and the earliest period consistent with its objects, to promote the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace.

—Julia Ward Howe, 1870

“Mother’s Day wasn’t founded for mothers,” I wrote. “It was founded by them—and with revolution in mind.  Acutely aware of the costs of war, industry, and greed, Julia Ward Howe and like-minded women initiated the first Mother’s Day as a day of activism, a day in which women would stand upon the basic principles of motherhood to demand a more peaceful, just world.  It wasn’t the first time women made such demands, and it would not be the last. Having gone through the pain and joy and struggle and exhilaration and labor of bringing children into the world and raising them to be caring, responsible, creative, moral members of society, many women have historically found it difficult to stomach the wars and social forces which then twisted the bodies and minds of their children—and the “enemy” children of other mothers—in the interests of ideology and profit.”

These words ring truer than ever for me this year. On some still-unknown day in the next seven weeks, I will bring a child into this world, becoming a mother myself.  My mother is becoming a grandmother. My grandmother is becoming a great-grandmother.  The lineage is deepening, and so too is my commitment to working for peace.

But today, on this particular mother’s day, my feminism, my activism, my hell-raising looks different.  As Ani DiFranco reflected a few years ago:

I find it metaphorically resonant that a pregnant woman looks like she’s just sitting on the couch, but she’s actually exhausting herself constructing a human being.  The laborious process of growing a human is analogous to how women’s work is seen… much of women’s work just makes the world quietly turn.

The past week has been filled with ups and downs and ups, and I finished it off by pulling three waitressing shifts in a row, which is a bit of a challenge on this end of the pregnancy.  No matter how well I sleep, I tend to wake up tired these days.  So, on this mother’s day, I practiced peace close to home and did small things, in honor of mothers.

I filled and hung a birdfeeder; in honor of Annie, the mother who raised six children in this house, and loved birds; in honor of my mother in law, Mary Jane, who gave me the birdfeeder some time ago; and in honor of my mother, Theresa, who has made her backyard into a veritable songbird sanctuary over the years.   As I hung the feeder from the wisteria vine, I heard the insistent, high-pitched chirping of baby birds, and realized that one of Annie’s old birdhouses is hosting a family.  Here’s hoping that bird mama realizes she can stay a little closer to home to feed the wee ones.

birdfeeders

I took a small walk in the Bigleaf Maple forest near our house, with my husband and our dog. The sunlight filtered down through the green canopy, and the forest floor was warm and earthy-smelling.

Back home, Ryan set to work constructing my mother’s day present: four giant raised beds for our vegetable garden.  He’s been mapping the pattern of the sunlight in the yard for weeks, and last week he staked out mesh to block weeds and grass from making their way up into the gardens.  Last night, he and our friend Ross picked up lumber and hammered together the first bed, and this afternoon he finished the final three.

I moved our three trays of vegetable starts out of the laundry room and into the sunshine, and sat at our picnic table starting seeds. Pattypan squash, three kinds of basil, kentucky wonder pole beans, cilantro and cucumbers.  Sorted through the rest of my seeds and lined up the packets I’ll direct seed once we’ve hauled in dirt for the garden beds.  Three kinds of carrots, beets, lettuce greens and sugar snap peas… more to come, I’m sure, just haven’t thought of them yet.  I know of few things more peaceful than growing food by hand, at home, and I can think of few ways more appropriate to honor the woman who raised me.

Seeds and herbs.

in my Mama's garden, 1982

After I finished the seeds, I sat in the sun and pulled my shirt up over my belly to let the sun warm the baby, and called my good friend Nora, who’s also pregnant, and expecting in a few weeks.  We swapped pregnancy stories and laughed, talked over things like last names and placentas, made plans to visit soon.

As the sun arced out of the yard and the day began slipping into early evening, I wandered inside and sat down at the computer. Made a donation to FINCA international in honor of my mother, my grandmother, and Ryan’s mom.  Thought about the small, humble ways we can create peace in our everyday lives, peace which inevitably overflows into the lives of those who we cross paths with.  Maybe next year Callum and I will call up Grandma and find a protest to rally at.  But this year, we’re celebrating peace quietly, in the name of our mothers.

To my mama-san, Theresa, my grandmother, Marian, my mother-in-law, Mary Jane, and in honor of my Nana, Frances and all the other women worldwide who are loving and struggling and prevailing as they try to raise their children in a peaceful world…  Happy mother’s day, and thank you.

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Revolutionary Mother’s Day.

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(me, in bonnet, and my Mama, c. 1982)

Arise then, women of this day! Arise, all women who have hearts! Whether your baptism be of water or of tears! Say firmly:

“We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies,

Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause.

Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.

We, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”

From the bosom of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with Our own. It says: “Disarm! Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.” Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession.  As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil at the summons of war, let women now leave all that may be left of home, for a great and earnest day of counsel. Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.

Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means Whereby the great human family can live in peace…

In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask that a general congress of women without limit of nationality, may be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient and the earliest period consistent with its objects, to promote the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace.

—Julia Ward Howe, 1870

Mother’s Day wasn’t founded for mothers. It was founded by them—and with revolution in mind.  Acutely aware of the costs of war, industry, and greed, Julia Ward Howe and like-minded women initiated the first Mother’s Day as a day of activism, a day in which women would stand upon the basic principles of motherhood to demand a more peaceful, just world.  It wasn’t the first time women made such demands, and it would not be the last. Having gone through the pain and joy and struggle and exhilaration and labor of bringing children into the world and raising them to be caring, responsible, creative, moral members of society, many women have historically found it difficult to stomach the wars and social forces which then twisted the bodies and minds of their children—and the “enemy” children of other mothers—in the interests of ideology and profit.

m_a8df780893a0da8711f0f5299a27bc44 (Meeting a goat at the Evergreen State Fair, c. 1987)

https://i2.wp.com/www.jofreeman.com/photos/codepink/WSP.jpgThere are as many examples of mother-activism as there are cheesy Hallmark Mother’s Day cards.   One of my personal favorites: On 1 November 1961, incensed to learn that radioactive istotopes from domestic nuclear testing had contaminated their breastmilk and the cows’ milk they fed their children, some fifty thousand mothers walked out of their kitchens in a nationwide “Strike for Peace.”  The walkout had been organized via women’s networks, like PTA and Christmas card lists, knitting circles, and childcare groups.  Well-aware that any seeming “radicalism” would lose them public sympathy, these women utilized their roles as mothers to protest, couching their opposition to testing in terms of their children’s safety, rather than any larger political formulation.  Brought before the Anti-Communist McCarthy hearings, the members of the new movement, Women Strike For Peace, made a mockery out of the hearings by wheeling in strollers and breastfeeding their children as they were interrogated for Communist ties.  They made the contamination of milk by nuclear testing a national issue, and the effectiveness of their message helped drive testing underground in 1962.

Another one of my favorite mother-activism stories, as told by the mothers themselves:

My mother raised me to stand for peace.  She taught me as a child that change is not brought about by grand pronouncements or flashy leaders, but by the steady, daily work of ordinary people, women and mothers in particular.

IMG_0149

She taught me to grow my own food in a backyard garden, and taught me how to spin wool into yarn, which she taught me to knit into hats.  She taught me how to return to the stories and documents of the past to illuminate the work of living and the injustices of colonialism and patriarchy.  She is a brilliant writer, and the keeper of many stories.  She gives selflessly, loves fiercely, and works, tirelessly, to realize her hope for a more peaceful and sustainable human path.

One of my earliest memories:  we are in the livingroom of our old house in Snohomish.  The air is cool, and the overhead lights are off.  I think it must have been summertime, and I remember the glowing radio display on the old silver stereo.  Maybe she was holding me, or I was standing next to her looking up, or I was standing on a chair to turn up the volume myself… ??

The group vocals of “We Are the World” flooded the livingroom, and I remember her explaining to me what the song meant.  That we are all connected.  That this was an important song, because all of these people had come together to sing about peace, for children.   And we danced around the livingroom together, as we often did.

Today is my mother’s twenty-eighth Mother’s Day.

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And so, for this mother’s day…

I want her to know that I’ve been listening, for all these years.  I love her so much, and I couldn’t have asked for a more loving, powerful mother.  In honor of my mother Theresa, my grandmothers Marian and Frances, and their mothers before them, I have made a donation to Code Pink, to support the revolutionary work of Mother’s Day.

Here’s a little nostalgia to dance around to…

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Nuclear Homeland (Or; My First Arrest)


The image that occupies the header of this blog is of particular significance. Snapped in the Spring of 2008, facing northwest in the Nevada desert, it captures a moment in which the sun was rising behind me, and the moon was setting in front of me. The lights on the highway in the bottom left are the cars of workers, heading for this gate:


Welcome to our Nuclear Homeland. Exhibit A: The Nevada Test Site, where nearly 1000 nuclear weapons have been detonated since 1951, many of them two, three, and four times as large as the nuclear bombs we dropped on the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.


This photograph was snapped the day before the others, in roughly the same location. Its me, and friends Jon, Steve, and Jerry, moments before my first arrest, for what I’m proud to say was my first major act of Civil Disobedience: trespassing on the Nevada Test Site, which is technically the property of the Western Shoshone, not the United States military. (That’s me in the middle, holding my sandals and an envelope full of photographs. Going barefoot into the highly toxic Nevada Nuclear Test Site was kind of a dumb move. But I’d been walking for six days and sixty-five miles, and my feet hurt.)

There’s more to this story.

So much more that I wrote a book about the place. I finished it in October, and called it As it Turned Out, There Were People In All Those Little Communities: A Folk History of the Nuclear West. Still waiting to hear back from the first publisher I sent it to.

Stay tuned for more stories of our Nuclear Homeland and my first arrest. (Yes, I’m planning a second one).

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