I have learned over long, hard decades, the power of a personal story deeply embedded in context. What I am setting out to do is to tell the story of my body, my aging, ailing, female, Caribbean Jewish, immigrant, disabled, queer, art-making, epileptic, childbirth-scarred body—and to deepen that story with history and widen it with ecology and global vision, until in encompasses everything I am burning to write and speak and make art about.
And the vision of what I want to do has changed the shape of the house, the strategy for funding it, the network of collaborators I’m building, and what I dream about at night. But most of all, it’s given me back that sense of anticipation, of knowing that I’m living inside an epic tale of adventure, where messages and teachers are everywhere, and neither time, nor effort, nor any experience at all, is ever wasted.
This time, though, I’m not setting out alone. At fifty-seven, I exist in a rich, dense mat of relationships, able to chart a course in which adventure co-exists with planning, where amidst the magic of happenstance, messages can also be asked for, and teachers encountered by design. The encounters I am planning for are with people whose passions overlap with mine, with organizations that can make good use of my brief presence, with archivists and librarians who can put their fingertips on things I need to know, and also with landscapes, from the closest we have to pristine, to those as scarred and ailing as the sickest among us.
When I was in my twenties, I bought a poetry suitcase. My plan was to travel around the country with a portable typewriter and give readings, teach workshops, stay with friends of friends in the various political movements I was connected to, living on a shoestring and a song. The particular song that ran through my mind at the time was Back By Fall
by Wendy Waldman
. It was the anthem for my vision of a journeying poet with a vocation for social justice art.
There’s crying in the cities
all the people are sad.
I heard it from the mountain
where I was living.
No food for the children.
Oh the times they are so bad.
What ever happened to giving?
Oh, Mama mend the hole in my coat.
Take my guitar from the wall.
I got to go see what I can do,
and I hope I’ll be back by fall.
After my return from Cuba in September, 2009, I enjoyed excellent health for several months, but was then exposed to a toxic level of mold in my apartment and became very ill. In April I was diagnosed with diabetes. In May it was a genetic liver condition, in June I learned I had antibodies to every single mold I was tested for, in July I tested positive for chronic Lyme disease and in August I found out I also have Bartonella, another tick-borne disease. In late June I had to leave my apartment practically overnight because I could no longer breathe there. I spent the summer camped out in various living rooms and offices while I tried to find that was chemically safe for me--free of natural gas, mold, carpets, new paint, smokers, scented laundry products, etc. In September I finally found a room in a house that's mostly OK for me.