Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Journal Moment, 2004/April 2017

I have stopped talking at least in a blog way, it seems. 77 soon and going slowly. Doing what I have done before when I sense a transitional time coming, getting papers in order to find their home in the Lesbian Herstory Archives. Today I worked on gathering my set of the minutes of OWN, the Older Women's Network, founded in the 1980s by Naomi Replansky and Eva Kolisch which met monthly in the community room of Westbeth in the Village. Women, gay and and straight, feminists all, old friends and new, aged together, sharing their celebrations, their struggles, their political insights, their practical knowledges of medical and legal care, even dance steps. I sat at the table with them from time to time and thus my copies of the minutes, the maps of the conversations. a portrait of aging that will enrich the archives collection. At some point,OWN started a journal group and I was part of it for a short while--with Eva, Edith, Kathy, Joan D. and Helen. Some of these journal offerings will be housed at the archives as well.

Here is one of my journal entries, written when I was no longer living in the Northern Hemisphere.

Dear Eva, Edith, Joan and Kathy--Thank you for keeping the journals coming; I can't tell you what it means to me. I am a little rusty as you will see.

Journal--July 16, 2004
Now towards evening after a cold blue day with gusting winds, our winter, remember, your summer.

I have just finished reading a most Australian novel, Tim Winton's Dirt Music, full of sea and escarpment, men and women struggling to come back from the blows of life. I start here because of the hugeness of my task--I am now the Australian Joan and how did this come to be? I wander the inner suburb streets of West Brunswick with their early 20th century terrace cottages and its newer immigrant housing, nothing above three stories, roofs of terra cotta shingles or of corrugated steel, blue cobbled-stone lane ways making for short cuts behind the houses, shortcuts into the history of night soil pick ups, reminding me of small towns in Ireland, the unevenness of the stones beneath my feet. How do I tell you of my life here, how do I keep intact all my histories, all my longings for New York and my friends of so many years, and the small garden that now fronts the room in which I write--seldom write.

For 35 years I lived 13 stories above the ground, never in all my years did I live in a house--a fact when discovered by my Melbourne friends sends them into wonderment. We have a front door and a backdoor, a native garden in the back, made by Di's hand, two baby gum trees [now soaring adults, 2017], an ancient grass tree, banksia bushes and callistemon shrubs--all with their unflower-like flowers, long spikes with small curled-in tendrils that slowly unfold into very red red berry-like blooms, full of nectar for the native honey-eaters, small birds so badly treated by the intrusive English sparrows, whose progenitors came in cages hauled here by home-sick Europeans.  You see, I cannot speak of this place without these Australian themes--the fragility of an ancient land, of biologies that do not fit a Northern hemisphere way of seeing, of tensions between making home and invasions.

I wonder after reading Winton's book if I am too old for this land. His characters make long treks over impossible terrains, fleeing from pain, only to find each other in calamitous accidents like sea planes crashing into isolated top-end lagoons. On earlier trips, when I was stronger, Di took me into the central desert, a red rock strewn plain, with its blue tongued lizards, wild camels, strutting emus, mystical Uluru, pitted with stories of first Australians' origins. As Di walked through an ancient passage in the rock formations known as Kata Tjuta, I huddled in the shade thrown by its rolling shapes and thought I was on another planet. By the end of our three week trip, I had grown used to the feel of hard scrabble under my boots. But I was still a tourist then, with my own home on 92nd street. and it was six years, before the second cancer. Now I am a different traveler.

I am really wondering if I can make a life here, other then waiting for Di to come home from work. I make sure there is a good dinner waiting for her when she comes through the door. I do some helpful, I hope, things for students at the University--I just served as an  examiner of a short novel handed in as fulfillment for a MA degree in Creative Writing. About gay male sex in public places, called "The Park Bench," and it was quite good--my reputation precedes me, I joked when the woman from Student Affairs called to ask me if I would serve in this capacity. I bake apple pies for Anna, our wonderful neighbor from Calabria who is always giving us home made tomato sauces and small salamis which she has hand stuffed and tied so tightly.Our little dog Cello insists on his walks, giving me time to ruminate in those aforementioned streets, but how do I make a life here, here with my aging body and my New York self and the longing for my friends.

Your journals tell me how we all keep going and more, find the gardens and the touch that for long minutes still the worry.

In March, 2017, with La Professoressa

April 6, 2017.
I have made a life here--with wonderful friends, new discoveries, my darling holding on, and I know how fortunate I am, in this world where so many live in fear of what is falling from their skies, from what awaits them at the border, from an enforced paralysis of movement by state sanctioned hatreds. Thank you all.