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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

We Love, We Love Us Not: Would YOU Stop and Help?

There are two stories that you are about to hear that are not new. One is old, tired, and maddening and the other is a jolt of sunshine. The first tale I would love to see go away in its entirety. Forever. The second story, I'd read that everyday, even though the tale is the same.

Here we go.

A friend of mine posted on her Facebook page about an accident she had recently. She was walking her puppy in downtown Tacoma on the sidewalk down a major arterial street during a busy time of day for the downtown area. She tripped and fell, releasing the puppy's leash upon impact with the concrete. She hit her head, banged up knees, hands, and arms. As she lay there in pain, terrified her young pup would run off into the street and get hit by the speeding cars, NO ONE stopped to help and see if she was okay. Not ONE person pulled over their car, stopped in their tracks, came out of their businesses, or stopped what they were doing to help. NOT ONE.

Fortunately, the puppy came right back to her owner and laid next to her until she was able to regain herself. Although my friend was injured and incredibly sore, she is going to be just fine. And obviously the dog is safe too. Thank goodness for both.

Yet, the outcome may have been far more grave though. What if it was? Shame, shame, shame for no one stopping! C'mon, South Sounders, let's do a heckuva lot more than that! Outrageous.

But then....

Yesterday, my 10 month old puppy somehow managed to get out of our backyard through an errant board in our fence and ended up in the yard behind us. My heart skipped a beat because I knew that those neighbors didn't have a fully fenced yard and that meant one thing: access for a scared young dog to get hit by a car in the busy street right by my home.

I was unable to hoist myself over the fence (too tall). So, I raced out the front door (in slippers no less) and tore down the street as fast as I could run. I found my dog shaking in fear sitting in a neighbor's driveway a couple of blocks away. I scooped her up in my arms and carried her home. It had started to rain really hard and I was huffing and puffing from the fastest sprint I had done since my track days in school.

As I was chugging along carrying my 45 pound dog, a car pulls over with two young men who had concerned looks on their faces. They couldn't have been more than 18 years old.

"Hey, is your dog okay? Are you okay? Is there anything we can do to help you?" The words spilled out with sincerity and a sense of urgency. I explained what happened and by that time was about a half a block away from my home. They said they were glad everyone was okay and again offered to assist me and my wet and muddy dog. I thanked them profusely and told them how grateful I was that they stopped and offered assistance. They looked at me funny, as if their faces read, "Well, why wouldn't we stop?"


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Princess Noire... Nadine Cohodas

I never expected a few days ago, when I began reading "Princess Noire..The Tumultuous Reign of Nina Simone," which was written by Nadine Cohodas, that I would sadly set the book down after having gone on an emotional roller coaster that left me thinking that I was going to do the best I could day by day to share my gifts with whomever God sent into my life that day.
I had seen Doctor Nina Simone (she loved in her later years to be addressed in that fashion. She received two honorary doctorates in her life that focused on her contribution to Music) in the early seventies in Oakland,California. It was an early afternoon show to which school children and their teachers were invited. I was volunteering at one of the schools and I went, not knowing anything about this wonderful lady.
But when she sang "Young, Gifted and Black," I began crying. I was thirty years old, just beginning to recognize and accept the beauty of my skin color and the intellectual gifts I had to offer, and she sang to me... she knew my hurts and dreams in a very profound way my clearly than I knew them.
The auditorium was filled with grade school children and I knew she also touched many of them.
I became that afternoon, a different person, more hopeful and more confident, because of her.
Over the years I would listen to many of her songs, "Here Comes The Sun" and "I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free," for example. And I always felt so much better when I heard her playing the piano and singing."
And Ms. Cohadas' book took me to the other side of her life where I had a brief chance to share her hurts and her hopes...the alienation from her father, two broken marriages, her rage, her frustration... as she tried to reconcile her experiences of being a gifted Black woman in America...frequently over her long career she would find that she did not have enough money to feed herself and her daughter, and had to ask for financial help so that she could have a safe place to live.
As I finished the book I vowed that I would do whatever I could to support those individuals and groups who focused on quality education and equal opportunity for every human being.

I found Princess Noire, The Tumultous Reign of Nina Simone at the Martin Luther King Library in Tacoma, Washington.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Words & Music Part II: Cheryl Wheeler and Scott Heffernan

Friday evening Tweed Meyer and I headed to Jerry and Pamela Libstaff's, for the second in their series of House Concerts called "Words and Music." Headlining this month was folk-singer/songwriter Cheryl Wheeler, with poet Scott Heffernan opening for her. Tweed wanted to get there early and make sure she was all ready to document both performers with her pencils and paints. I was happy to arrive in time to see what view lay beyond those big picture windows, before night made them a black reflective back-drop. Ooh-la, it certainly was beautiful. The sun burned a silver trail across Case Inlet despite thickening clouds, and a rocky point at the mouth of Dutcher's Cove began to turn silhouette in the coming twilight.

It was still light as Jerry introduced Scott Heffernan, with long dark hair and white beard, a big gentle bear of a man. As he sat down to read, he told of being caregiver for his mother but gave himself the night off from those poems. I'm sure many of us felt a kinship with him in that statement. He seemed a humble man with a wonderful sense of humour and a lovely big driftwood timbre to his voice. His poems were about ordinary days with extraordinary observation. As he read, little birds flew to the feeder outside and swirled behind Scott's head as if to punctuate visually. "I do know how to do this, how to hold my mouth," he read.

He spoke of the road I remember so well, of hitch-hiking and the space created inside a vehicle, a scene that comes and goes with each ride. He spoke the innocent truth of tiny details that catch a poet's eye, of time and place. He wrote of women like a young boyfriend still dear to your heart in fuzzy memory, one who responded with boundless enthusiasm to the stretch of a leg or curve of a breast. As he read his poems Tweed was listening with her fingers curled 'round a brush. In the time it took the outside light to fade she had his introspective and sweetly-weary profile upon the page.

The hand-off to Cheryl Wheeler, after a short intermission, was seamless. She had joined me, standing in the back, listening to Scott and picked up on his hitch-hiking poem. Her "thumb"story (involving a pant-less male driver) had the audience in stitches! It's obvious, after years on the road, that Cheryl is very comfortable as a story-teller, putting a comedic twist to the ordinary in her days. She is a songwriter's songwriter. Her lyrics make something special out of a cat, a phone, the colours in a day...and love. Her voice (even though she had a cold) delivered with control, as a beautiful instrument should. Cheryl is such a rhythmic lyricist, with inside rhymes and pacing that invites melodies to play, delivering tasty phrases like, "...a million shades of light..." as she sang about the colours of an ordinary day at her home in Massachusetts.

I found Ms. Wheeler funny, fiery and delightful. In Tweed's painting she sets off sparks of words and music around her, a strong right arm that would rest on her knee or lay atop the guitar when she told stories, is prominent on the page. The movement of Cheryl's songs and stories twirl out of her curls, notes flying in the air about her.

From ordinary days both poet and songwriter made extraordinary observations, weaving stories into the night. Like hitch-hikers we entered the space and scene of their vehicle, "Words and Music," and were carried away on a road new and yet so familiar. The journey of our days made sweeter by the fellowship of those few miles.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

You Say Yogini, I Say Yogina, We All Say Tacoma's Source Yoga!

I don't see myself really as a "yoga" person. I learned yoga from books (the excellent Cyndi Lee books from OM Yoga in New York, click HERE to see a sample of one of her books). I just followed the pictures in the book (so in essence, I didn't even know if I was doing it right, just guessing really). I didn't have "real" yoga clothes (just clothes for running or pajamas, the pjs being the preferred outfit). Sometimes I'd just stop doing yoga for a couple of months. No reason really; just didn't feel like it. And I've never taken a class. Ever.

Until today!

My friend Joanna invited me to Source Yoga in Tacoma (near by old childhood neighborhood near the gulch and by Magoo's Tavern on 21st). I was going to be in a "community class" with all levels of skills early this evening. Joanna is a terrific yoga person (a "real" one in my view) and I trust her judgment. So, I went. What a treat!

First off, I was warmly greeted by Amy our instructor. Her smile and welcoming manner made me feel at ease instantly. The studio was bright, yet soothing. Scented candles burned and interesting music played in the background, soft and sensual to a little more lively (later on) and the lighting was spot on, not too bright, not too dull. (After see these touches I am going to replicate it at home!). There were tidy little cubes for your personal belongings and ALL the equipment (mats, blocks, bands, bolsters and blankets) are provided (big bonus--no hauling stuff). This was a popular class and it was filled, but there was plenty of respectful space between participants.

And speaking of respect, during the practice, I earned a healthy respect for vinyasa flow style of yoga (my books are all hatha yoga). Some of the phrases and moves were a little foreign to me, but many things I knew and could perform. Amy had such a gentle, soothing, and soulful voice and exuded pure happiness. I learned to honor my experience of just doing the yoga practice, and that it was MY practice. That's when the fuzzy feeling of "Hey, look at me I can do this, I am keeping up!" fell way to relaxation and focus. I also learned that I needed to let go of my forced breathing and let that flow more naturally (critical in yoga practice). Lastly, I learned that yoga class people are awfully nice. There were all kinds of folks there, all ages, both men and women. After my experience, I felt great and I am looking forward to trying another class. The price is modest in my view, considering what you get. (To note: if you are BRAND spankin' new to yoga, I'd recommend talking to the folks at Source to find the best fit for you).

So, South Sounders, if this sounds like you, check out Source Yoga's class offerings as there are many flavors. I saw everything from an intro class, to a Mom and Tot class, to pre-natal classes, to more intermediate and advanced classes, drop in community classes, and to pure meditation for refreshment and relaxation.


Saturday, April 24, 2010

Little Brown Sparrow and Me (part II)

I had recently become the unwitting sponsor for a neighborhood stray. He had been around a few weeks when, this morning, he threw himself against the porch screen and clattered down into the kindling. By the time I had gone to the back door, I noticed he seemed... hunched. I went to the porch door and saw him hovering over a small grey lump.
The bird lay on its side, eyes closed, cheek against the ground. The damage had been done; time for nature to take its course. I drew the blinds. He carried him around to the side of the house and I hoped to put it out of my mind today. After a minute, he brought him around to the back yard again. As I began to ponder the injustice to God’s smallest creatures, I saw its wing flicker- ever so slightly.
For a moment, I balanced the fleeting needs of a stray versus the life of a winged creature whose days are woefully short.
Slipping on the moss, I gingerly scooped up the sprawled lump. I took him inside and cupped him in my hand. He closed his eyes. The vigil began. He must have been worried by the cat for too long.
After 15 minutes he seemed to rally. I had seen this before in birds and people- too many times. As their body shuts down, blood is routed to the essential systems and they resume vitality. I placed him near the window to gather up a little more warm sunlight, but he made one last attempt to escape.
This was his chance.
I took him outside.
I tried to place him on a small branch. As his chest brushed the branch, he burst into flight and flew off into the neighboring yard. After a few seconds in a tree, he fluttered his feathers into place and flew off into the foliage.
Unable to withhold a slight smile, I turned to the rest of the tasks of today.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Apprehension of Key Bank robbery suspect

Driving to work this morning I saw something quite unusual taking place on Bridgeport Way in University Place. Up ahead on the left were three police cars with an SUV pulled over between the first two police cars.

One officer was standing in the street with his gun drawn and aimed at a man who was down on his knees on the pavement in front of the SUV.

A second police officer was cuffing the nicely dressed gentleman who was wearing a broad-brimmed hat.

A third police officer was crouched down behind the open door of his patrol car using it as a shield.

Whatever was going on had to be something quite serious. But what could it be at 10 o'clock in the morning on the main arterial through the heart of University Place? What could that man in the broad-brimmed hat have possibly done? Thankfully, a scene such as that is a rarity in University Place. It is so contrary to the usual hustle and bustle of traffic on the thoroughfare that I could not get it out of my mind after I arrived at work.

I attempted to contact Stacey Mulick, crime reporter, for The News Tribune to ask her if she could get some answers about what exactly was going on there. Stacey is always great about tracking things down. Stacey was not available, so I contacted another crime reporter. He listened politely as I recounted the details of what I had witnessed. Then the reporter informed me that the arrest that was taking place was of a suspect in an armed bank robbery at Key Bank. The alleged bank robber is an 81-year-old man.

I cannot help but wonder (if he is indeed the person who robbed the bank) what led him to make that decision? Why now? Did he brandish a weapon? Would he have harmed the people in the bank? What drove him to do that? Did he have a plan? Had he really thought it through? Was it an impulse? Was it an act of desperation? How will he fare in jail and prison? Is there anyone who cares about him, anyone who could have helped him, reached out to him before he did something so drastic?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Go Old School Tacoma!

Old school to me is embodied in Tacoma's Lowell Elementary School, literally and figuratively. Lowell IS the oldest school in Tacoma, beginning its foundations in 1869 in a log cabin at North 28th and Carr Streets. Eventually, it moved up the hill to it's current location at North 13th and Yakima Streets. For me it is old school, as I am an alumna from the seventies and early eighties (and I guess that makes me old too). During my time at Lowell, I really enjoyed it. I soaked in all the activities, people, teachers, and principals. I remember performances, talent shows, school murals, carnivals, spelling bees, my favorite swing at recess (the blue one!), the big rock by the 1st and 2nd grade classrooms, and the school basement for rainy day recess time. I even loved racing across the school's cement playground in foot races with the other kids. When I left that school for Mason, Wilson, and then college, I was always proud to show off my old school. I assumed everyone would think it's as cool as I did....

My husband was born in Tacoma but grew up in Spokane. He moved back to the area in his early twenties. When we met, we did a drive around town and I showed him Lowell. He laughed! "What a weird school," he chided. "Where's the grass? It's all small and odd and cement on that playground. And what's up with this location? Kinda weird for a school."

Sigh. Don't hate on my beloved school, dude.

So, I set the record straight, and said, that the cement, the quirky location, and the like were part of the charm. Back in my day, I saw this as an urban school, minutes from downtown (perfect for a Gritty Tacoman in training!). I loved the diversity of the people, the richness of the school activities, and programs. I have friends whose children attend this school today and they love it as much as I did.

So, imagine my delight and surprise when my friend Rachael invited my alumna little ol' self to attend the Lowell Auction and Fundraiser. Great stuff to bid on, yummy food, drinks, visiting with old friends, with one killer view of the bay from the Tacoma Yacht Club. Well, this Lowell Leopard is so there! And you can be, too! Check out the details below (taken from the Lowell website). The auction is open to the public.

Go Leopards!

Spring Fling - Lowell Auction 2010

SAVE THE DATE - MAY 1, 2010!!


This is the event of the year! A chance to get together with Lowell friends, staff and faculty for a grown up night out to support the school! We’ll have drinks, dinner, dessert and a fantastic auction right on the shore of beautiful Commencement Bay at the historic Tacoma Yacht Club.


“Blue Jeans & Bling”


Support your school!




TABLES OF 10 $375 VIP TABLES OF 10 $500



It will be a fun, sparkling evening you won’t want to miss!

Questions? Wanna donate an auction item? Need more info? Click HERE to find out (and to get a sneak peek at the items you bid on!).(To NOTE: The above link is acting funny, so if you need more details, contact me at and I'll get you on the right path).

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sunday Afternoon

"It feels like summer out there", my friend M, said. He was right. And I felt just terrific because I had gotten enough rest Saturday and enough sleep Saturday evening for my poor wonderful body to say to me, "let's get going, there's a world of beauty around you. Let's go let the sunshine of people's and God's love warm you. M drove and I enjoyed just letting our conversation go where ever the warm rays took us.
Father Jim Harbaugh, SJ, presided at preached at the Mass. What a great sense of humor he has. I think he needs to have his own call in show. All you producers out there in radio land, can you hear me now?
I felt warm and welcomed at the church. The music was beautiful. The sermon intellectually stimulating... and I left thinking, "how I can help our children and all the adults I meet," to feel safe and confidently choose to share their gifts with others.

After the Mass, folks took time to talk to and listen to each other.

And some very tasty hamburgers, hot dogs, and other tasty goodies were provided for newcomers and all the old comers who just wanted to chew and chat and chew and chat.

Getting In Gear For May

Terribly sick patients, their terribly tired caregivers and goodhearted close friends have been trying to bring Lyme disease to the attention of this state, this nation and, indeed, the world. There is no money to back our movement...we have all gone into debt, just dealing with a disease that requires so much in its chronic stage (thousands and thousands of dollars worth) outside of what any insurance company will pay for care and medications. We have a hard time organizing because it's just us. Family and friends often desert Lyme patients, or stay as much on the periphery as possible because it's so difficult to understand the myriad of physical and psychological symptoms (each with the come and go of some unseen, evil puppet-master) caused by Lyme and co-infections. Confusing disinformation from the self-feeding IDSA panel (with ties to insurance and pharmaceutical giants) trusted to make guidelines, doesn't help.

Can you try to imagine for just one minute what it's like to have your daughter, wracked with pain and exhaustion, turn to you and say, "I wish I had Cancer, instead of Lyme, so that I could get some help...and just a little respect." It twisted me.

We rejoice that many major illnesses like breast cancer and heart disease have been able to get the public's attention and support, educating so many...saving so many with the funds raised...but Lyme is saturating this country at an estimated nearly half-million new cases each the fastest-growing vector-borne disease in the world today and still, we have barely a voice to tell you of the devastation caused when this infection goes untreated and into its tertiary stage.

The good news is that, early in it's first stage, Lyme can be taken care of with a six-week course of oral Doxycycline! If you knew something that could save people from unnecessary suffering, save them from dying, wouldn't you shout about it till you were beyond hoarse? Well that's what I do, whether I have the time and energy or not, because there are so few working for so many on absolutely no budget.

A picture is worth a thousand words, they say. I hope that's true, for it's the basis of our poster to kick off May as Lyme-Awareness Month. I'd like to thank Dale Goodvin for making my idea an even better reality with his photography and graphics work. Please remember, Lyme is not a disease in some far-eastern state. It lives right here in Washington. Learn how to keep safe and enjoy a wonderful Summer in our beautiful state.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Thank God for Friday

That's right. I woke up Friday morning and I just wanted to stay in bed. I had pushed my mind and body pretty hard the last few days and I was afraid I would not have the emotional strength to be a positive quiet presence at the hospital. And I was glad I had to go because if I had had a reason to stay home, I would have just slowly and quietly made it through the day... but I could not let myself stay at home because I felt like doing it... I cared too much for the other members of the chaplaincy team and for the patients who might need a quiet presence and a warm handshake. I was glad I got past the gray clouds in the morning and I felt quite content as I looked at the gray clouds Friday evening.

Friday was the last day a very good friend, Brian, would be working at the hospital. He was headed for California to take two weeks' training for a new job with which he was very happy. A friend is a friend, right. And I would have just felt unreal for many months if I had not been there to tease him, thank him for the good times we had had. He was one of those folks that got me laughing and laughing and I had those mixed feelings... I would miss him a lot but I was glad he was happy and he is one of my facebook buddies, so we had a whole lot of cyber coversation ahead.

So, after a lot of challenging moments and laughing moments and just being there with people in their pain moments, I headed for my favorite restaurant for some quiet time, a very tasty meal, and some wonderful smiles from folks at the restaurant whom I really treasure.

This was one wonderful Friday filled with laughter and pain and loving... thank God!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Get Involved Puget Sounders: Here's An Event That Helps Families And Children

The fine folks our local Big Brothers Big Sisters is at it again: promoting a great event to benefit local children, families, and the community at large. Following are details about the latest and greatest fun activity and YOU can get involved! Whether it's through your business, giving your time and talents, or offering other support, the team needs you and welcomes you to join a great cause. Read on for more details. And thanks in advance Puget Sounders for lending a helping hand to families right here in our backyard.

Big Brothers Big Sisters is organizing our 2nd Annual Evento Familiar, May 16th 2010 at Coulon Memorial Beach Park in Renton. Evento Familiar is a fun and entertaining day where we invite all the volunteers, mentees and community members to come enjoy free entrainment for all ages.

We would like you to invite you to participate; there are different ways to get involved:

Donations (food, prizes or gift certificates)
Resource Table available
Performers and entertainers

If you have any additional questions you may contact Veronica at or 206-458-0208. For sponsorship opportunities please contact Peter Retztlaff at or at 206-793-9060 x 213.

A Conversation With Photographer Dale Goodvin

I love a sweet, unexpected surprise and on Saturday was given one by photographic mentor, Dale Goodvin. As you can see from this photo of a bald eagle, out for a bite of lunch, Dale has the breath-taking eye of a wildlife photographer. When I first asked him what he tries to do with his art he replied simply, "To stop time." In talking to this delightful, complex, Thoreau-reading, Dylan-listening, recently-retired man...time did indeed stop...though the hours sped by. I had asked him to pick out four of his photographs, to talk to me more about what his statement meant. I was expecting to see pictures like the Great Blue Heron flying across Filucy Bay, mirrored in the rippling water, or any of his spectacular nature shots to be brought out for discussion. Instead he surprised me by going abstract to show, in his own words, "...something beyond the repetition of the common moment."

The first photo Dale brought out was taken Dec. 30th., 1978 and he picks it as the best of "space evoking a sense of wonderment," for him. It's a beautiful picture, taken at Union Station in Tacoma, when it really was a train station. The lines of the doors, the ethereal, hardly-seen train outside in the snow, the vinyl bench popping with colour; I (the viewer) was caught up in the potential of what might happen next. As Dale explains, "A foot might be just about to enter the picture...someone might be about to run through the doors. The picture doesn't dictate what's going on, therefore, doesn't dictate any response. It's not the subject matter, the content...but something about its composition." I found my brain humming with this new revelation about Dale. I was so drawn to the picture and its potential for stories. I don't like to be led by the nose through art, and this photo, "certainly doesn't tell you what to think!" he said, laughing. Instead, one can spend time in its space and see something new with each sitting. I love the warm lines of the doors in front of the snowstorm...and that expectant, colourful bench. There was to be a common touch from the warm end of the spectrum through each photograph.

The second photo is called "Intimate Glow," and I felt the warmth inside my musician heart. In the black and white of written music, there's a space for what each musician brings to a performance. That's what makes flesh atop the notes' bones. In this photo, the glow shows in sensuous golden skin curling into the music, captured flame from the heart reflected in clarinet and just at the corner of the page, again a wee spot of red within the clarinet's workings. I climbed inside with my own love of the music made flesh and stories of performance. Hours dissolving into our conversation, Dale the story-teller leaves plenty of space for his listener's interpretations. A conversation over art brought us into the moment with one another as we have never had a chance to do before, moments being liquid and gone in the tidal flow of days.

Next came "Mysterious Lady In Red." (Here I must apologise, for my photo of Dale's photo does not show how the triangle of red pops) My eyes began with the design on the table top and traveled to the glass, then printed page. Only upon completion of circle did the red dress begin to speak to me...a scene set...a movement unknown and mysterious. There is a coolness in this picture that unsettled me somewhat, the coolness of public places and their anonymity. But fire in that piece of dress accomplishes Dale's wish to, "evoke emotion from the take uncommon pictures of common objects." We discussed how titles can help draw the viewer into a story, and there was definite agreement that titles were difficult...that even Bob Dylan might have some trouble with titles!

His fourth picture quickly warmed and drew me in. "Red Tulip" is bold Modern Art in masterful strokes. The bulging red-purple tulip pops out in its full ripeness, ready to open, made even more dramatic by the bright gold behind. What would Royal Robes be without their gold trimming? Below the burning gold, the pale, jagged stroke of possible change, of possible movement. It's strong and beautifully balanced, both as photograph and painting. I thought this was the last picture of the day, but Dale smiled and told me he had a fifth picture, bringing out the final surprise.

I was looking at the movements of a day, of life, sometimes soft and reflective, almost still though nothing can be. The atoms dance for something to be seen, a table, a chair...and here before me seemed the dance of days, the river we flow in. We dream, reach and grow in these spirals, sometimes gentle and sometimes fiery-white. What the objects were, behind the light and movement, is unimportant. I just love the colours, light and depth of this photograph. It sums up the moment I was allowed into this photographer's journey. Time had stopped, though tides and day flowed on, and we were within the beauty of an artist's bliss.

Like good chefs stir love into a recipe, Dale Goodvin looks through the lens of a camera with his love of both worlds, natural and man-made. I did not expect to journey through the abstract in our conversation...but I certainly was not disappointed. With these five beautiful pictures, "something beyond the repetition of the common moment," Dale had tricked the clock and created beautiful art, requiring me to pause and reflect. As he says, "You can't get it if you don't pause." I walked out into the same day but, as with all good art and conversation, I was somehow changed.

Some of Dale Goodvin's photographs are hanging, for sale, in the Metro Coffee Shop/Gallery, University of Washington, Tacoma Campus. Do also check out his website...

Thursday, April 8, 2010

A Monster Lives Among Us: by Jerry Libstaff

Today I'd like to share with you an article written by friend and colleague, Jerry Libstaff. I would like to thank him for his work as I turn my 'seat' in the neighbourhood over to Jerry....

Join us May 1st, at 3pm in the Brones Room at the Key Center Library, to experience a free screening of an informative documentary that everyone needs to see: UNDER OUR SKIN. This is an international award-winning insight into the epidemic of Lyme disease, the political issues surrounding it and the unmeasurable suffering it causes. The number of reported cases of Lyme disease has more than doubled each year between 1992 and 2006. Nearly 29,000 new confirmed cases were reported in 2008. Additional studies have shown that the actual number of cases of Lyme disease may exceed reported cases by a factor of 6 to 12 and continues to rise as people increasingly move to new suburbs and rural areas where Lyme disease transmission is most frequent. Yet Lyme is one of the most misunderstood and controversial illnesses of our time.

Difficult to test accurately, tens of thousands of people go undiagnosed--or misdiagnosed with such conditions as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, autism, MS and ALS. The Center for Disease control admits that possibly more than 300,000 people may acquire Lyme disease each year, a number greater than AIDS, West Nile virus, Swine and Avian flu, combined. When correctly diagnosed, the majority of patients with Lyme disease can be successfully treated with a standard course of antibiotics. However, patients who are not treated early on may develop symptoms now identified as post-Lyme Syndrome. Of those, 30-50% acute Lyme disease patients go on to develop chronic Lyme disease symptoms.

Treatment at that point, becomes a lifelong struggle. It's said that early diagnosis and treatment can cost $25-$50 and last only several weeks. if the disease is allowed to become ensconced over a period of non-treatment, the costs can rise to hundreds of thousands of dollars while the disease becomes devastating and virtually incurable.

In our region, Lyme disease is contracted from the bite of the tiny western black-legged tick. If you find you've been bitten by a tick, it's suggest that you remove it properly; use tweezers and pull it straight out by the head, do NOT squeeze the body. Retain the tick in a jar with alcohol. A doctor can test the tick for the disease and if it does test positive, appropriate treatment can be administered.
UNDER OUR SKIN is an essential contribution to the current national debate about health-care reform. Deregulation of scientific research and conflicts of interest in medicine are poisoning health-care, denying our citizens health, and costing our citizenry profound loss of productivity. We need to overhaul our medical research, health delivery and insurance systems. Lyme disease is the canary in the coalmine and a case study for what's broken and needs fixing. What has gotten under our skin is not just a micro-organism, but medicine itself, and a poisonous system which has abandoned some of the most needy.
UNDER OUR SKIN exposes the hidden story of Lyme disease, one of the most controversial and fastest-growing epidemics of our time. Each year as thousands display symptoms, they are often told their problems are mental rather than physical. Follow the stories of patients and physicians fighting for their lives and livelihoods, in an inspiring movie that everyone who lives in and around nature needs to see.

Just as climbing a rock face or kayaking a river requires responsible behavior, hiking and walking through our wilderness requires that we be aware and take whatever simple measures necessary to remain safe.

UNDER OUR SKIN brings home the need to be vigilant, to work with your doctors and the desperate need for new procedures. For your sake, don't miss it.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Nidoto Nai Yoni

On March 30th., 1942, 276 Japanese-Americans were forced to leave their Bainbridge Island homes. From the former Eagledale ferry landing on the south side of Eagle Harbor, they left with only what could be worn or carried, not knowing their destination or future. On March 30th. of this year, sixty-eight years later, my friend Gigi and I joined a gathering on that very spot, to celebrate the completion of a beautiful stone and cedar wall. It is a wall 276 feet long that curves in gentle waves, designed and built to honour those 276 bewildered souls by some wonderful folks, including neighbour and pal, John Buday. As you can see, it's a breath-taking, unique Pacific-Northwest piece of art...such a gift to the heart and soul of Bainbridge Island, where folks had a newspaper that was the only publication to speak-out about the injustice at the time, where good neighbours tried to help good neighbours in the face of Executive Order 9066.

I was covered in goosebumps, only few of them from the chilly air, to be walking on this piece of ground, on this date and most especially, to be hearing and reading personal stories of just a few of the 150 who made it back to Bainbridge. In the future there is to be a pier built, 150 feet long, that will reach reverently into the harbor, with gratitude for each son or daughter returned home. Some Elders who came on Tuesday were in the Nikkei 276. I met this delightful woman, Lily, who was seven years old at the time...and who anticipated the journey with excitement as an exotic holiday! She explained how special it was then just to get a ride on the ferry, nevermind a long train-ride. Kids will be kids; Lily smiled as she remembered fighting over who got to sleep in an upper bunk. She cracked us all up (in that dark humour way) when she told us, upon reaching Manzanar, she questioned loudly, "What kind of vacation is THIS!!"

Let this give you some idea of the lightness of Tuesday's gathering though, mark my words, one certainly felt a deep and quiet taking-in of the Wall's teaching also. It invited, by its gentle shaping, the hearts of us Pacific-Northwesterners to walk alongside the length of waves. Origami cranes and slips of paper with written thoughts flew in the breeze from black hooks, as we were led to the plaque on a stone at the wall's end amid new plantings of beautiful black grass. As the designers and builders thought, this indeed is a place of remembrance, healing and hope.

Friend and neighbour, Jan Buday, invited me to put a poem I had written about her mother Mayme (nearly seventy years to get her college diploma because of EO 9066) on a piece of origami paper. She then very patiently taught my overly-excited fingers to fold it into a crane, to be hung on the wall. Mayme and I are each others' biggest fans; she loves my music and I love everything about this most tenacious, intelligent, inspiring Elder of my community. It was an honour to honour her and to be included in the joy and appreciation of the Bainbridge Island Japanese-American Exclusion Memorial Wall completion.

My friend Gigi's face shone with her emotions as she hung her rainbow string of cranes to the wall and shared wonderful conversations just up the hill, on the site of a future interpretive centre. Up there we filled-up on stories, with a side-order of cookies! Everywhere people introduced themselves and each other, with a warmth that should have brought a jealous sun out. There was, on this crisp Spring day, a real sensing of both the beauty and fragility of freedom. Nidoto Nai Yoni...Let It Not Happen Again.

For more information on future plans for this memorial, please go to

First two photos by Dale Goodvin, second two by Gigi Saunders, and the last is by Jan Buday.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Veteran Spring Bulbs Continue To Give Garden Cheer!

Above: Photo copyright 2010 by Mizu M. Sugimura.

A number of years ago I set out a few bulbs in the yard. Nothing fancy. A bit of this. A bit of that. And, rather than concentrate all the blooms in one magnificent and showy space, I scattered them about as I had read in a magazine article about the often forgotten merits of "naturalizing" when putting out the spring bulbs.

Reading the article has really paid off in dividends! It's always a surprise (one forgets their placement during the rest of the year) when spring arrives and daffodils poke their heads from somewhere in the grass. The same goes for these tiny blue muscari which provide a brilliant colored contrast with my regular ground-cover that covers one (accompanying photo) section of my front side yard.

Above: Photo copyright 2010 by Mizu M. Sugimura. Grass is making inroads in between the spaces left by the multi-colored and drought resistant groundcover which normally blankets this area. Only for a few weeks in spring does the once-a-year emergence of these delicate blue muscari unleash this delightful brush of natural color!

The annual return of such cheerful blooms does much to improve the mood normally left by one of the many typical Pacific Northwest days when every corner of the canopy of sky overhead is an endless wall-to-wall monotony of the dullest washed out grey.