How To Talk About #NoDAPL: A Native Perspective

Well written and thoughtful, this piece speaks to me and should be widely shared. There has been so little of this news in the mainstream media that I feel compelled to spread this news in whatever way I can.

Transformative Spaces

14247963_10154406248820309_1976289082_o Water Protectors gather after a day of prayer and direct action. (Photo: Desiree Kane)

This piece is very personal because, as an Indigenous woman, my analysis is very personal, as is the analysis that my friends on the frontlines have shared with me. We obviously can’t speak for everyone involved, as Native beliefs and perspectives are as diverse as the convictions of any people. But as my friends hold strong on the frontlines of Standing Rock, and I watch, transfixed with both pride and worry, we feel the need to say a few things.

I’ve been in and out of communication with my friends at Standing Rock all day. As you might imagine, as much as they don’t want me to worry, it’s pretty hard for them to stay in touch. I asked if there was anything they wanted me to convey on social media, as most of them are maintaining a…

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The Real World- Theater Edition: Interview with William H. Bryant Jr. and Skyler Cooper

This looks like fascinating and important theater. Thanks,Skyler & BJ for your work, and thanks, Pianofight, for creating a place for it.

San Francisco Theater Pub

Barbara Jwanouskos interviews the creative team behind Every 28 Hours.

Every 28 Hours is a piece that was created by linking one-minute plays based on the staggering statistic that every 28 hours, a person of color is murdered by a police officer, vigilante, or security guard. This is a piece that hits deeply into the legacy of white supremacy that our culture has been built upon and asks us if we are willing to look at ourselves to build a way of living and interacting where black lives matter.

I had the opportunity to speak with two of the actors in the Every 28 Hours production here in the Bay Area. Their names are William H. Bryant Jr. (BJ) and Skyler Cooper, and I feel fortunate that we were able to connect to share their experiences working on such an intensely powerful theatrical production.

Every 28 Hours is produced by…

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Bumper sticker wisdom

img_2414On my way back from the dog park, I was at a stoplight behind a truck with this bumper sticker: I’D RATHER BE HERE NOW.

I loved the message. Instead of stating that he’d rather be fishing or golfing or anything else, he’s content being just where he is. He’s living in the moment without excuses, the way a dog does.

It’s so simple but says so much. Don’t complain if you’re not doing something you love; make it so you are doing what you love. And then live as fully as you can. Don’t be in the position where you’re often thinking, I’d rather be ___________ (fill in your own pastime). If you’d truly rather be doing that, figure out a way that you can! Obviously you can’t be doing something you love every minute of the day. (I mean who genuinely likes to clean their toilet?) But you can make sure you love at least part of every day.

I know that to some extent, privilege plays a part because people with more money and opportunities have more choices available to them. But there are plenty of rich people who aren’t happy either. So I think the key is figuring out what you’re happiest doing and do it as much as you can. Also have the best possible time while you’re doing it, or while you’re doing anything, for that matter.

Just a little bumper sticker wisdom to start your day. You’re welcome.

Hill Court Steps: Short, hidden & steep

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I took our foster dog, Zazzie, on my walk yesterday. I think she felt special because she was the only dog who got to accompany me. Ruby walks too fast, and Rufus walks too slow. But Zazzie is just right for a Berkeley path.

The week before I had planned to walk the Hill Court Steps (#106) but got sidetracked, so I made a special trip. The map showed Hill Court Steps as between Hill Court and LeRoy Avenue. But even though I knew where it was supposed to be, I missed the eastern entrance on LeRoy. I guess I was preoccupied with discovering a school that I never knew was there.

It used to be Hillside Elementary, a public school, but it’s located right on the Hayward Fault, so the City of Berkeley sold it. Apparently it’s had a few identities, but now it’s GISSV, or German International School of Silicon Valley. Except Berkeley is not part of Silicon Valley. At least last time I checked. I guess it’s their northern campus?

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in a front yard on Hill Ct.

Anyway, Zazzie and I walked down Buena Vista Way and made a left on Euclid Ave, where we saw  a squirrel making a showy dash across the street. I’m glad I had a strong grasp of her leash because she tried to bolt after it, ignoring the cars that were whizzing by between her and her prey. Whew!

We climbed the tiny Hill Court, which is not a through street and has no sidewalks. But it does have some fun decor. At the end of the cul-de-sac I saw some carefully pieced-together stone stairs to someone’s house but no sign pointing out Hill Court Steps. Hmmm…

 

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Hill Court Steps entrance on Hill Court

We mounted the short staircase adorned with a citrus tree that was bursting with fruit, which led us to a concrete path that you couldn’t see from across the street because it was perpendicular to the first few steps and heavily camouflaged with greenery. This path would have benefited from stair steps, for it was quite steep, and the only railing was just a few feet long. We continued up the broken, shady pathway as it took a 60-degree turn to the right and then dumped us onto what looked like a sidewalk that ran between a wall of ivy and a small front yard. And at the end is where I finally saw the Hill Court Steps sign peeking up amid some tree branches right at the curve in LeRoy.

img_2423It was a beautiful October afternoon, and I had to stop to admire the colorful autumn leaves, which Zazzie took as an excuse to pee. It was a short but productive walk.

Since I’ve already walked #107, #109, and #112 (and #108, #110, and #111 are unbuilt), that means I’m ready for #113. Except no path #113 exists. So next time I’ll start with #114. I looked ahead to see if any other paths have “unbuilt” next to their names on the path list, and none of them do. So in order to meet my my challenge, I need to cover the last 36 paths in 10 weeks. Can I do it? Stay tuned to see.

 

LeRoy Steps: the place I heard sad news

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LeRoy Steps

You never know where you’re going to be when you get one of those phone calls.

I’m on Virginia Street about to turn right onto LeRoy Avenue, on my way back to the car after walking Cedar Path (#107) and La Vereda Steps(#109) when I get a call from my sister in Oklahoma. I know immediately that it’s bad news. I head instinctively toward my car on Hilgard Avenue, which unfortunately takes me right past some noisy construction work when my sister tells me that her husband died.

I’m trying to hear her by pressing my phone hard against my left cheek while plugging my right ear.

He was at home in bed when his heart finally gave out.

My head is down, and I am power walking, first toward, and then up the LeRoy Steps (#112) until the buzzing of the power tools fades to a dull roar and I stop.

She performed CPR on him for ten minutes before paramedics arrived and whisked him away. But he was unconscious and she sensed that he had already left her. At the hospital, doctors kept him alive long enough for his daughter to arrive and say goodbye.

My sister is one tough cookie. A retired judge and the eldest of my siblings, she is usually in charge of whatever activity she participates in. She’s decisive and calm. The family member that everyone goes to for support, she’s a rock.

But now she’s grieving for her mate of the last 31 years, and I could hear the fragility in her voice. Our other sister was there with her, along with the rest of her female posse (plus her teenage grandnephew), to make sure she got something to eat and to help her with funeral arrangements.

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My perch on Hilgard Avenue at the top of LeRoy Steps

From 1600 miles away, all I could do was tell her it was okay to cry. She shouldn’t have to pretend that she was fine. Family was there to help her get through it, I assured her, even though I wasn’t one of them. Her response: she was worried that if she let herself fall apart that she would never be able to pick up the pieces. I couldn’t argue with that. But she assured me she would try to get some sleep.

For most of the conversation I was leaning on a concrete structure at the top of LeRoy Steps while my sister recounted her horrific day and I feebly attempted to comfort her.  A young mom passed me descending the steps, and I hadn’t moved when she made her return trip several minutes later with a toddler. We may have been on the same staircase, but we were in different worlds at that moment. It felt strange asking my sister about her husband’s funeral while this little boy gleefully mounted the steps hand in hand with his smiling mom.

I could hear the deep weariness beneath the grief as she turned the phone over to our other sister, who assured me they would take care of her. I asked her to make sure they gave her lots of hugs before we said goodbye. And I knew she would.

The not-too-distant Campanile pealed five times in its deep tones that sound so final. Five o’clock–I needed to pick up our little foster dog from the vet before it closed. My brother-in-law was no longer alive, but there were still things to do.

In the car on my way home, I wondered briefly how I would handle the situation my sister was now in. I’ve lost both my parents, all my grandparents, and several friends, so I’ve experienced loss. But I don’t think I could face waking up in the morning without my husband/best friend/soul mate. I’m no rock.

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At an intersection between Cedar Path and La Vereda Steps was this sundial.

When I was perusing the photos from my walk, I remembered the sundial I came across that was between Cedar Path and La Vereda Steps. (See 10/15/16 post.) It seemed the most appropriate photographic accompaniment for this post, not just for its symbolism for the passage of time but also for the words etched on it: “Grow old along with me. The best is yet to be.”

My sister is not yet old, but she did get to spend 31 years with someone she loved, which, I suppose, is more than some people get. It’s not exactly a silver lining, but it’s something to hold onto.

No signs and steps going every which way

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Cedar Path

The map showed Cedar Path (#107) as the pedestrian extension of Cedar Street continuing east, but there was no sign declaring it as such, and I didn’t see it at first. I asked a man raking up leaves across the street, and luckily he knew where it was. The overgrown and seemingly haphazardly placed wooden railroad ties meander up the hill from La Loma Avenue to La Vereda Road, bordered by a fenced-off property with a narrower brick path that runs parallel to it for much of the climb.

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Partway up I had to duck to avoid a huge tree branch that’s broken through the wooden fencing and insinuated itself across the path.

No sign graced the eastern entrance of Cedar Path either.

Distinctive houses caught my eye along La Vereda Road, including one almost completely covered by ivy and another for its clean, white ultra-modern lines.

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I see only windows peeking through the greenery. I have no idea what color this house is painted.

img_2389Someone had thoughtfully provided a bench at the quiet intersection where Hilgard continued east from La Vereda. I wasn’t tired and so wasn’t in need of a resting spot. But I appreciated that it was there just in case.

Hilgard Avenue disappears between La Loma and La Vereda and is marked on the Berkeley Path Wanderers map as unbuilt Hilgard Path (#108). I walked a short way down what turned out to be a driveway to see if I could tell where the future path would be. No luck. So I crossed it off my list.

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A little further down the road forked and a sign declared: “Very small cars only. Impassable for large cars.” To the left was a wooden bridge that led to some La Vereda addresses, and to the right was indeed a narrow street on which only limited traffic was possible.

And kind of in the middle of all that were the various sets of stairways that together comprise La Vereda Steps (#109), though no signage confirmed this. They went in all directions, from parts of La Vereda to other parts.

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one portion of La Vereda Steps

I explored the many variations of routes and then walked down to the intersection of La Loma and Virginia Street, where I emerged and declared to a postal carrier I happened upon what a weird configuration of stairs I’d just experienced. He said he knew they were there but he’d never been up them.

Just south of La Vereda Steps are unbuilt paths Le Conte (#110) and Highland (#111), so I struck those from my list as well.

When I got home, I realized I’d accidentally skipped Hill Court Steps (#106), so I’ll have to save that path for another day.

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I saw many of these on the ground during my walk and was charmed by them. They’re commonly called rose pine cones even though they’re from a cedar tree.

 

 

 

Vine Lane is a pleasant Sunday jaunt

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upper entrance to Vine Lane

Since I’ve taken a long-term sub position teaching 5th grade, I haven’t been walking Berkeley’s paths. (Or attending my hip-hop class or going to Playreaders at the library–this making a living thing is so time-consuming…) But I managed to squeeze in a walk up Vine Lane (#105) in the middle of a Sunday.

img_2372Vine Lane is the pedestrian continuation of Vine Street from Hawthorne Terrace up to Euclid Avenue. The upper end has a lovely entrance with the name stretching across and above the walkway. A black-tar path with a few sets of steps and a sturdy metal railing for the steeper portions, Vine Lane is a pleasant stroll bordered by bamboo, ivy-covered fences, trumpet vine, and broad-leaved trees.

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Off to one side is a little bricked walkway that leads to a house, adorned with plants and a cow skull. The other side opens onto a car port halfway up. Today I actually saw two other people using the path in front of me, enjoying the sunny, breezy autumn day. Rain had been forecast, but someone apparently forgot to tell the clouds because it was blue sky as far as the eye could see.

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the lower end of Vine Lane

It being an October in an even-numbered year, I encountered dozens of yard signs supporting local candidates for mayor and city council on my walk to and from my car, but Vine Lane was thankfully void of any signage. In fact, it was a nice break from all things political. During my stroll, I never once thought about Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. I just walked and enjoyed living in the beautiful temperate Bay Area. And I suppose that is one of the reasons that I walk Berkeley’s paths.