Monday, May 16, 2011

Love and the Painful Body

"Eternal Martial Law," Ljubljana, Slovenia, 2010 by Urska Sterle, the woman standing by the door. From Lepa: On the wall above Natasa, another famous lesbian feminist activist from Ljubljana, in black jacket, the graffiti reads," Death to Faggots." This is the morning after the Molotov cocktail attack on the lesbian cafe when the women returned to their public place, refusing to give in to national hatreds.

London: Jude, Colin, Luke, Di
Jude's response to "The Ridge Runners"
Geroge, Luke, Jude, Colin and Di

the work, Jude and Joan

On this four month journey, I have learned over and over, the wonder of affection, of appreciation for friendships, old and new, of the power of generous hearts to open quickly to touch, in the face of pending departures, in the knowledge of good-bys that may last a life line. Yesterday we ate our Sunday roast in the Primrose Hill  section of London with Colin, Jude, Luke and George. Our visit started in the small living room of Colin's and Jude's basement flat, her paintings covering every wall and there I saw for the first time in full size the painting Jude had based on her reading of "The Ridge Runners." How can a writer thank an artist who takes in her words so deeply they are translated into another form.

This grandness of the human heart, felt in the full body embraces of the divas of Belgrade, in so many in Belgrade who sat, with our heads touching, bringing worlds to each other, in the moments shared with Maureen and Mike, a reunion after so many years. Maureen, whom I met in my early years of teaching in the SEEK Program, now a woman of 60, and her husband, Mike, gentle and generous, their dreams and actions for a progressive America never having dimmed in all these years, sharing our flat together, the Seder we had telling stories of our lives and then playing pinochle, laughing and comfortable, the years falling away.

our Seder table in our London flat

with Georgia and Paula

Paula, who walked with me through New York streets, who stayed after others had left and held me when I was so tired. The students of the GALAS of Queens College who baked a welcome home cake even though we had never met before, who understood how histories could meet in a place of learning, in the struggle for social change, my student from so many years ago, Dee Colon, who lost a day of work to see her "old teacher," all who without reserve, in acts of emotional courage, welcomed me into a myriad of homes, who gave me gifts of life, remembered or created in the moment of our meetings. Georgia in her regal dignity clothed in her loved fabrics, greenness growing all around her, my old friend, always pushing towards life.
Paula, Dee at GLASA event, Queens College
the students' welcome, GLASA
the talk, back in my old teaching and learning world of Queens College
the students who put on the event and Dee Colon, a student from the past and a friend

Gifts of life through the exchange of love, that is what has made it possible for me to make this journey, in pain, in moments of bodily failure, Di doing the intimate work that keeps me going, pain and the need for bed, but then our hands touched, all of you, or when I would fall asleep on Dawn's and Linda's couch because I felt so safe, so worn out and yet so safe,

Dawn, Linda--Paris

Jacquie, with whom I had my first reunion in New York

or Deb making the time to see me once a week in those five weeks in New York without La Professoressa, or and all of you, Jacquie, Liz, Bobbi, Lisa and Lisa, Andrea, Saskia, Katherine and the children, Jeanine, Stephanie, Naomi, Eve, Leni, Cache, Lee, the LHA retreat women, all of you, and more, for the moments I was with you, in diners or cars, in living rooms or meeting rooms, on the streets and in buses, quieted the pain, softened its grasp on me, almost as if it too knew that so much depends in this human way of ours on these grand moments of the human heart, that refuses the severity of borders, that knows all will happen in its time, but first these moments of our solidarity, our gifts of living memory and the deep knowledge of how wondrous we can make life for each other.

Perhaps the biggest thank you of all is to Jane and Ann back in Spottswood who have looked after our dear Cello for all these months. Without this generosity all the other wonders would not have been possible.

the offerings of life

1 comment:

  1. Joan, I haven't read your blog for a little while now. Very excited by your posts from Belgrade and glad to see your optimism and joy reasserting themselves!