Thursday, November 23, 2006

News from Gaza: Our Co-Conspirators are Back on the Job!

When Mark and I served with the International Solidarity Movement in December 2001, one of our colleagues with whom we were most impressed was a priest with the Michigan Peace Teams called Peter. I have to confess--although we are consensus freaks, we occasionally were a tad annoyed with MPT's insistence on circling up for decision-making whilst the IDF was literally bearing down on our necks. However, I must concede, this often so confounded the IDF it ended up protecting people and buying more time. Who knew?

Well, bless him, Father Peter is back at it again, with Sister Mary Gondeck. Story follows. A happy Thankstaking Day story, at last. Check it out and be inspired. V.

To see a photo of Peter and Mary (that's funny) paste this address in your browser:

The following is used under rules of fair use. All copyright remains with the author and newspaper.

Palestinian Islamic militants host US priest, nun
Charles Levinson
November 22, 2006

BEIT LAHIYA, Gaza Strip -- Palestinian militants hosted an unlikely ally in their Gaza home Wednesday: a priest and a nun who came from the American heartland to stand as human shields against Israeli airstrikes.

"We're here just trying to get the word out about the suffering the people are enduring under the occupation," said Father Peter Dougherty, a Roman Catholic priest from Lansing, Michigan, the same sleepy Midwestern capital where controversial rights activist Malcolm X grew up.

Dougherty and Sister Mary Ellen Gondeck, a nun, are from the Michigan Peace Team, Christian do-gooders who before coming to Gaza fought for the rights of the Mayan Indians in southern Mexico and against US hate groups.

Now, during a month-long tour of the Palestinian territories, the elderly believers have brought their message of piety and peace to the cycle of violence that spurs on the decades-old Middle East conflict.

They have picked olives with Palestinians in the West Bank and protected Palestinian schoolchildren from hostile, rock-throwing Jewish settlers.

They joined the ranks of human shields who swarmed to the home of a local militant leader in Gaza earlier this week after a midnight phone call from the Israeli army warned inhabitants to leave before warplanes leveled the home.

Israel was forced to call off the raid after hundreds of civilians and militants, including those from the armed wing of the ruling Islamist movement Hamas, swarmed to the building in the northern Gaza Strip.

"We're protecting this house to keep it from being destroyed," says Dougherty, sitting cross-legged on the roof, surrounded by members of the Baroud family, their friends and neighbors.

"It's a wonderful nonviolent action," Dougherty continues. "Under international law it is wrong to use collective punishment and throw families out of their homes."

Their show of solidarity is presenting a face of Uncle Sam that Palestinians rarely see, rather than the United States vetoing pro-Palestinian UN resolutions and supplying Israel with the F16 jets and Apache helicopters that rain destruction down on Palestinian cities.

"This confirms to us that there are Americans for peace," says militant Wael Baroud, whose home has so far been spared by the mass of civilians who flocked to protect it. "We respect and appreciate the American people who come visit us and stand in solidarity with our suffering."

Dougherty, 72, and Godeck, 65, drink tea and communicate in hand gestures and smiles with their hosts who speak little English.

They coddle young Palestinian babies in their laps and listen to tales of Palestinian woe. They are gray haired and indignant.

These God-fearing pacifists rallied in the makeshift rooftop salon of the militant from the Popular Resistance Committees, one of Gaza's most hardline groups and among three factions responsible for the abduction of an Israeli soldier last summer.

A leading US-based human rights group earlier Wednesday urged Palestinian armed groups not to endanger civilian lives by encouraging human shields.

"There is no excuse for calling civilians to the scene of a planned attack," said Sarah Leah Whitson from the New York-based Human Rights Watch.

Godeck, the nun, says that it is Israeli violations of international law that have forced Palestinians to turn to violence. "I think Palestinians are such a gentle people," she says.

And still more reasons we don't celebrate Thanks-taking Day

Once again, I'm stealing from our indigenous brothers and sisters. Miigwich/Pilamaya. Val

In addition to the article below, for those who would like a more accurate version of the Thanksgiving fallacy, we refer you to Charles Mann's book, "1491." especially Chapter Two, "Why Billington Survived." There, you will see the Plymouth colonizers for the avaricious, diseased, grave-robbing thieves that they were. -- Colorado AIM

A National Day of Mourning for Indians

By Moonanum James and Mahtowin Munro

Z Magazine Online
November 2006 Volume 19 Number 11

Every year since 1970, United American Indians of New England has organized the National Day of Mourning in Plymouth at noon on Thanksgiving Day. Hundreds of Native people and supporters from all four directions join in. Every year, Native people from throughout the Americas speak the truth about our history and the current issues and struggles we are involved in.

Thanksgiving in this country— and in particular in Plymouth—is much more than a harvest home festival. It is a celebration of the pilgrim mythology. According to this mythology, the pilgrims arrived, the Native people fed them and welcomed them, the Indians promptly faded into the background, and everyone lived happily ever after.

The pilgrims are glorified and mythologized because the circumstances of the first English-speaking colony in Jamestown were frankly too ugly (for example, they turned to cannibalism to survive) to hold up as an effective national myth. The pilgrims did not find an empty land any more than Columbus “discovered” anything. Every inch of this land is Indian land. The pilgrims (who did not even call themselves pilgrims) did not come seeking religious freedom; they already had that in Holland. They came as part of a commercial venture. They introduced sexism, racism, anti-lesbian and gay bigotry, jails, and the class system to these shores. One of the very first things they did when they arrived on Cape Cod—before they made it to Plymouth—was to rob Wampanoag graves at Corn Hill and steal as much of the Indians’ winter provisions of corn and beans as they were able to carry. In doing this, they were no better than any other group of Europeans when it came to their treatment of the indigenous peoples here. And no, they did not even land at that sacred shrine called Plymouth Rock, a monument to racism and oppression which we are proud to say we buried in 1995.

The first official “Day of Thanksgiving” was proclaimed in 1637 by Governor Winthrop. He did so to celebrate the safe return of people from the Massachusetts Bay Colony who had gone to Mystic, Connecticut to participate in the massacre of over 700 Pequot women, children, and men.

About the only true thing in the whole mythology is that these pitiful European strangers would not have survived their first several years in “New England” were it not for the aid of Wampanoag people. What Native people got in return for this help was genocide, theft of their lands, and never-ending repression. They were treated either as quaint relics from the past or virtually invisible.

When we dare to stand up for our rights, we are considered unreasonable. When we speak the truth about the history of the European invasion, we are often told to “go back where we came from.” But we came from right here, our roots are here. They do not extend across any ocean.

The National Day of Mourning began in 1970 when Wamsutta Frank James, a Wampanoag, was asked to speak at a state dinner celebrating the 350th anniversary of the pilgrim landing. He refused to speak in praise of the white man for bringing civilization to the poor heathens. Native people from throughout the Americas came to Plymouth that year where they mourned their forebears who had been sold into slavery, burned alive, massacred, cheated, and mistreated since the arrival of the Pilgrims in 1620.

But the commemoration of National Day of Mourning goes far beyond the circumstances of 1970. Can we give thanks as we remember Native political prisoner Leonard Peltier, who was framed by the FBI and has been falsely imprisoned since 1976? Despite mountains of evidence exonerating Peltier and the proven misconduct of federal prosecutors and the FBI, Peltier has been denied a new trial. To Native people, the case of Peltier is one more ordeal in a litany of wrongdoings committed by the U.S. government against us. While the media in New England present images of the “Pequot miracle” in Connecticut, the vast majority of Native people continue to live in the most abysmal poverty.

Can we give thanks for the fact that, on many reservations, unemployment rates surpass 50 percent? Our life expectancies are much lower, our infant mortality and teen suicide rates much higher, than those of white Americans. Racist stereotypes of Native people, such as those perpetuated by the Cleveland Indians, the Atlanta Braves, and countless local and national sports teams, persist.

Every single one of the more than 350 treaties that Native nations signed has been broken by the U.S. government. Bipartisan budget cuts have severely reduced educational opportunities for Native youth and the development of new housing on reservations, and have caused deadly cutbacks in health-care and other necessary services. Are we to give thanks for being treated as unwelcome in our own country?

Perhaps we are expected to give thanks for the war that is being waged by the Mexican government against indigenous peoples there, with the military aid of the U.S. in the form of helicopters and other equipment? When the descendants of the Aztec, Maya, and Inca flee to the U.S., the descendants of the wash-ashore pilgrims term them “illegal aliens” and hunt them down.

We object to the “Pilgrim’s Progress” parade and to what goes on in Plymouth because they are making millions of tourist dollars every year from the false pilgrim mythology. That money is being made off the backs of our slaughtered indigenous ancestors.

Increasing numbers of people are seeking alternatives to Thanksgiving (and such holidays as Columbus Day). They are coming to the conclusion that, if we are ever to achieve some sense of community, we must first face the truth about the history of this country and the toll that history has taken on the lives of millions of indigenous, Black, Latino, Asian, and poor and working class white people.

The myth of Thanksgiving, served up with dollops of European superiority and manifest destiny, just does not work for many people in this country. As Malcolm X once said about the African-American experience in America, “We did not land on Plymouth Rock. Plymouth Rock landed on us.” Exactly.

Mahtowin Munro (Lakota) and Moonanum James (Wampanoag) are coleaders of United American Indians of New England (www.home.earthlink. net/ ~uainendom).

Why We Don't Celebrate Thanksgiving Day

I write from our mother, Marilyn's, living room. I am blessed to have Mark and Marilyn (alive and healing), Jenn and Sean (safely back from Portland), and Salem warming the room, watching the Denver Broncos/Kansas City "It's not our word!" Team game. Like most of the U.S. tonight, we had a good family dinner together, pumpkin pie, and now we're all hanging out bemoaning our gluttony and watching the game.

I give thanks for them, for their love and shelter, for the friends and family we have, for our health, for our comparative wealth, our never lacking for food, water, housing, or clothing. I give thanks we're not in prison, that we are not being invaded or bombed or starved out by World Bank policy. But I give thanks for this every day, and so does Mark.

It's hard to break away from the holiday, Thanksgiving Day. It has taken on such mythological import in this country. From the time I was a small child, the myth of Thanksgiving Day was sold to me as this pretty tale in which, after the indigenous peoples of New England saved the Pilgrims from starvation by teaching them about indigenous agriculture, the Indians and the Pilgrims all got together and had a nice meal. There's one part of the myth that is based in truth: the part about native nations teaching us how to feed ourselves in this land. The rest, unfortunately, has no basis in history.

Mark and I, each independent of the other, began fasting on Thanksgiving Day several years ago, in protest not only of the gluttony but the abject refusal of American to honor and acknowledge the true history of this holiday, which is nothing less than the history of this country. I, at least, owe my debt for this idea to the American Indian Movement of Colorado which has tried for years to educate the people of Colorado about this holiday by organizing fasts on the Capitol steps. We break our fast in order to share communion with our families, whom we love--to honor the intention of the holiday. But we must also honor the truth, and thus we respectfully as you to read this passage, and allow it to seem into your consciousness and even, perhaps, your "celebration."

I have many times sat down at dinner tables with Indian people, and given thanks with them to our shared Creator. They have fed me, and I have been privileged on occasion to cook food shared with them. Today, above all else, I give thanks for them: Not only for their hospitality, compassion, and friendship, but for their resistance, their self-love and self-defense, for their mentorship and teaching, and for their partnership in the ongoing struggle for true liberty and justice for all.

The appalling history of Euro-American treatment of indigenous peoples is hard to take, but if we don't educate ourselves, we can't possibly build a better future for all our children. Peace, and may you never know hunger, terror, the grief of watching war take your loved ones.

Peace, love, a roof over your heads, and no fear in the night, Val.

Thanks to Ed Kent for sending this to Mom, and to Mom for sending it to us.
From: "Kenyatta Kenyatta"


With Bible passages in their hands to justify their every move,
those referred to as "Puritans" began their march inland from the seaside
communities. Joined by British settlers, they seized land, took the
strong and young Natives as slaves to work the land, and killed the

When they reached the Connecticut Valley around 1633, they met a
different type of force. The Pequot Nation, very large and very
powerful, had never entered into a peace treaty as had other New
England Native nations. When 2 slave raiders were killed by
resisting Natives, the Puritans demanded that the killers be turned
over. The Pequot refused. What followed was the Pequot War, the
bloodiest of the Native wars in the northeast.

Because of the lack of fighting experience, and the vast numbers of
the fierce Pequot warriors, Commander John Mason elected not to stage an
open battle. Instead, the Pequot were attacked, one village at a
time, in the hours before dawn. Each village was set on fire with
its sleeping Natives burned alive. Women and children over 14 were
captured to be sold as slaves; other survivors were massacred. Many
buried in mass graves, many still alive.

The Natives were sold into slavery in The West Indies, the Azures,
Spain, Algiers and England; everywhere the Puritan merchants traded.
The slave trade was so lucrative that boatloads of 500 at a time
left the harbors of New England.

In 1641, the Dutch governor of Manhattan offered the first scalp
bounty; a common practice in many European countries. This was
broadened by the Puritans to include a bounty for Natives fit to be sold for slavery. The Dutch and Puritans joined forces to exterminate all Natives from New
England, and village after village fell.

Following an especially successful raid against the Pequot in what
is now Stamford, Connecticut, the churches of Manhattan announced a
day of "thanksgiving" to celebrate victory over the heathen savages. This
was Thanksgiving. During the feasting, the hacked off heads of Natives
were kicked through the streets of Manhattan like soccer balls.

The killing took on a frenzy, with days of thanksgiving being held
after each successful massacre. Even the friendly Wampanoag did not

Their chief was beheaded, and his head placed on a pole in Plymouth,
Massachusetts -- where it remained for 24 years. Each town held
thanksgiving days to celebrate their own victories over the Natives
until it became clear that there needed to be an order to these
special occasions. It was George Washington who finally brought a
system and a schedule to thanksgiving when he declared one day to be
celebrated across the nation as Thanksgiving Day.

By this time the Atlantic Slave trade was in full swing as the most
ruthless, vicious devils on the planet set out to destroy two
nations simultaneously, the Afrikan and Indigenous people of the earth.

It was Abraham Lincoln who decreed Thanksgiving Day to be a legal
national holiday during the Civil War -- on the same day and at the
same time he was ordering troops to march against the Sioux in
Minnesota ..... and subsequently ordered 38 Santee Sioux hung on
christmas Eve for leaving the reservation in search of food...the
promised supplies having never materialized)

Let's put this day called thanksgiving in context. For ourselves,
our families and especially the coming generation. Teach them the
truth. It will set them free in a way that we in this present generation have
not yet been able to accomplish because of compromise.

Join me in a day of fasting meditation and prayer. Let us use this
day as a time to plan our continued strategies for struggle, and to
remember the ancestors, both AfriKan and Native Amerikkan who
perished in the Maafa of these two proud Nations.

Let us move to the next level, seeking to find a way to pry away
from eurocentric thought and behavior and go back home to our true
selves, our best selves, your AFRIKAN SELF!!

Away with european holidays, no matter how convenient they may be.
No matter how much you like turkey and stuffing. No matter how good it
feels to hang out with the family. Eat turkey on another day. Come
together with family on other days and lets stop letting this
(eurocentric) society dictate and dupe us into the celebration of
its sickness.

If you can feel me raise you fist in the air!!!

Brother Kenyatta

If you can't,,,,,,,,,,,,,,eat turkey!

This Weekend in Denver: Remember Sand Creek!

If you're in Denver this weekend, and want something to do rather than shop, come to the events listed below. They'll change your life, in a good and profoundly healing way. Trust me. You'll be glad you did. Peace, Val.

The following history of Sand Creek is taken in its entirety from the Colorado AIM weblog. All rights remain with the authors. For more awesome indigenous info and updates, go to

Never Forget the Sand Creek Massacre

One of the essential events that ensured the creation and expansion of Colorado as a colonizing project was the Sand Creek Massacre of November 29, 1864. The number of innocent Cheyenne and Arapaho people who were slaughtered at the hands of Methodist minister John Chivington's 3rd Colorado troops will never be known. Chivington bragged that over 500-600 were murdered -- contemporary historians place the number at from 200-300. Regardless, the reality is that the massacre was the result of an invading people, attacking and massacring defenseless elders, children and women. The attack was deliberately genocidal -- prior to riding to Sand Creek, Chivington was asked if the Native children should be killed. His response was "Kill and scalp all, big and little, nits make lice." His troops complied.

Two elements of Sand Creek are often obscured. One is the fact that a few days prior to the annual anniversary of the Sand Creek massacre, the people of the U.S. engage in their annual festival of gluttony and excess, also known as Thanksgiving. U.S. zombies wander in a total amnesiac stupor, oblivious to the carnage (such as at Sand Creek) that allows them today to occupy First Nations' homelands. The second obscured element is the consistent sanitation of the horrific, sexualized violence that Chivington and his American patriots inflicted at Sand Creek. Often, the massacre is described as the "killing and the mutilation" of the innocent victims -- nowhere approaching (as you will see below) the actual depravity of the troops.

As with Columbus and other genocidal actors, contemporary apologists attempt to minimize criminality with the justification that Chivington and Co. were simply "products of their own time," as though there were some irresistible 19th Century genetic code that was being obeyed. We know that such was not the case, because some troops refused to participate in the massacre. One heroic figure was Captain Silas Soule. Soule not only refused to follow Chivington's lead at Sand Creek, but he ordered his troops not to participate in the attack. Later, Soule would testify against Chivington and the 3rd Colorado Volunteers. On April 23, 1865, three days after Chvington was released from custody, Soule was assassinated on the streets of downtown Denver, reportedly by Chivington's agents.

Kneeling: Maj. Edward Wyncoop (left) and Captain Silas S. Soule (without hat); Seated, from left: White Antelope, Bull Bear, Black Kettle, Neva, and Notanee. Standing, unknown, unknown, John S. Smith, Heaps of Buffalo, Bosse, Dexter Colley, and unknown.

Soule's eyewitness accounts of the massacre are recorded for posterity in letters that he sent to his commanding officer, Major Edward Wyncoop. Soule's graphic testimony provides damning evidence against not only Chivington and the Colorado 3rd, but also of those who incited the massacre in Denver: Rocky Mountain News owner and publisher William Byers and John Evans -- who would become Colorado's first governor.

Soule wrote to Wyncoop on December 14, 1864:

"I told him [Chivington] that I would not take part in their intended murder....I refused to fire, and swore that none but a coward would, for this time hundreds of women and children were coming toward us, and getting on their knees for mercy. *** The massacre lasted six or eight was hard to see ittle children on their knees, have their brains beat out by men professing to be civilized. *** One Squaw with her two children, were on their knees, begging for their lives, of a dozen soldiers, within ten feet of them all firing -- when one succeeded in hitting the Squaw in the thigh, when she took a knife out and cut the throats of both children, and then killed herself. *** [t]hey were all scalped, and as high as a dozen taken from one head. They were horribly mutilated. One woman was cut open, and a child taken out of her, and scalped. White Antelope, War Bonnet, and a number of others had Ears and Privates cut off. Squaws snatches were cut out for trophies. You would think it impossible for white men to butcher and mutilate human beings as they did there, but every word I told you is the truth, which they do not deny."

This short excerpt, of a much longer and disgusting account, indicates the genocidal foundation upon which Denver and Colorado is constructed. In order to ensure that Denver and Colorado never forget the bloody origins of the state, Colorado AIM will join our relatives from the Northern Cheyenne Nation in the Sand Creek Memorial Run. Everyone is welcome to join us. The details are:

Sand Creek Spiritual Healing Run participants gathering Nov. 23-25, 2006.

DENVER—The Sand Creek Spiritual Healing Run on Nov. 23–25 will serve as sobering reminder, and a time to heal from one of Colorado’s darkest moments in history: the 1864 Sand Creek Massacre. On November 29, 1864, Col. John M. Chivington led the Colorado Volunteers to Sand Creek and initiated a gruesome attack that killed over 200 peaceful Cheyenne and Arapaho men, women and children. The Sand Creek Spiritual Healing Run started in 1999 to address the need to educate people about the travesties of the horrific incident and to commemorate the victims and survivors.

Public is welcome. Media are encouraged to cover the following event(s).

Thursday, November 23

7 AM Sunrise Ceremony at the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site, located 18 miles northeast of Eads in southeastern Colorado

9 AM Commencement of Healing Run from the Sand Creek Massacre Site through Eads, Colorado to Denver
Friday, November 24

7 AM Sunrise Ceremony – TBA
Continue Healing Run to Denver

7 PM Candlelight Vigil at the Denver Art Museum Wheel sculpture, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, Denver

Saturday, November 25

8 AM Honoring Ceremony at Riverside Cemetery, 5201 Brighton Boulevard, Denver, for Captain Silas Soule, Company D 1st Colorado Calvary, U.S. Army and Lieutenant Joseph
A. Cramer, Company K 8th Ohio Calvary, U.S. Army

9 AM Continue Healing Run from Riverside Cemetery to the Colorado State Capitol Building

9:50 AM At 15th and Arapahoe —the site where Silas Soule was assassinated—a walking portion of this years event will begin. The walkers will join with runners and continue the remaining 1 mile to the where the run/ walk will conclude.

11AM Presentation at the Colorado State Capitol Building, Denver (West side)

NOON Reception for Sand Creek Healing Run participants at the Colorado History Museum, Boettcher Auditorium, 1300 Broadway, Denver
Contact: Bill Tall Bull, Sand Creek Spiritual Healing Run, (303) 329-7390,

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Mom's home!

Hi Everyone,

Well, Mom's home from the hospital, and already doing much, much better. Despite the Western medical establishment's best attempts to kill her, she's thriving, but still doesn't have much appetite. She's going to come through this back surgery and recovery an exceedingly svelte woman. Please: Send Pierogies!

Mark and I checked out several pieces of land last weekend in the southern Colorado Area. We found a few we liked, and which we think might work for our eventual community. We've got to get our photos developed/downloaded, and then we can share more with you about them. Most of the land we saw was 35-acre parcels, because beginning a few decades ago, Coloradans decided they wouldn't subdivide rural land beyond this. We visited developments called "Silver Spur," "River Ridge," "Santa Fe Trail Ranch", "La Veta Ranch," "Apishapa Ranch", "L Acres" and "SouthWinds". I never in my life thought I would be visiting properties that were part of a "ranch" or "development", but it's almost impossible to find any that might meet our needs which are not part of such things.

We're hoping to make another trip in December to another part of Colorado, and we welcome suggestions!

In other news...the situation in Gaza has us enraged, worried for our friends, Ayman and Rachel and their family, and generally frustrated, as per usual. I had lunch with the Palestinian ambassador to the US last week, and found him a very intelligent, clueful and caring man, who I think really is trying to do the best for the Palestinian people in his capacity as a diplomat. But it is just so hard. The US government's position is ridiculous and is responsible for genocide. But then, genocide is nothing new to the U.S. government.

The situation in Iraq, of course, is no better. And while it wasn't at all surprising, it was disheartening to hear recently elected Democratic Colorado members of Congress saying that the Democrats' victory wasn't a referendum on US involvement in Iraq and a call for all withdrawal. Of course it was. But what do the people's voices matter when Bechtel, Halliburton, and the other carpetbaggers, not to mention the oil companies, have profits to be made? What do the lives of Iraqis and Americans, among others, matter?

Sorry. It's late, and I'm tired and cynical.

We've had some sad news here. A long time activist with the Colorado Campaign for Middle East Peace (for whom Mark worked for many years) wrote us at the end of October that she was scheduled to be married in Oaxaca, Mexico. In light of the situation there, she and her fiance wanted folks to send money to community development and other good institutions in Oaxaca in lieu of wedding gifts. She sent Mark a message on October 30 asking his advice about such organizations. Because of Mom's surgery on the 30th, he wasn't able to reply for a week. When he did, she wrote back almost immediately that her fiance had been killed in Oaxaca on October 31. Wrong place, wrong time. Having just been married ourselves, and having also been to protests supporting the people of Oaxaca in their nonviolent cries for justice and true democracy, and against the U.S. supported state-sponsored terrorism repressing them, this hit us hard. The activist's name was Elli Gauthier. Mark has her fiance's name--I'll look it up and post it soon. We'd appreciate your holding them and their families in the Light.

Our friend Kerry Appel, a coffee importer who works directly with indigenous communities in Mexico and provides fair trade payment for coffee, is fighting to hold onto his land in Southern Colorado. Kerry bought a piece of land with the goal of creating a permanent peace camp working for economic and social justice and human rights. But he was informed not long ago that Ft. Carson (named for Indian killer Kit Carson) wants to take his land in order to expand their wargames practice. The irony of this is not lost on Kerry, who, along with other land owners, is fighting the army's plans. Please keep him and their struggle in your thoughts.

My niece Oi Lin's mom recently had a heart attack and is recovering in Hemet, California. We'd appreciate your sending positive thoughts her way.

Mark's sister Jenn is really enjoying her job working with dogs at Dogtopia here in Denver. Sean continues his work in the music business and recently returned from a long stint working a music festival in Las Vegas. They head off to Portland for a week tomorrow.

We got to see our old friend Jill briefly last week during a visit to Colorado. She is hopefully moving back to Denver soon.

Some recommended viewing: Children of Men. We saw this one in the UK and thought if phenomenal. Has it been out yet in the US, or did it go straight to video? The Wind in the Barley, about the Irish independence struggle. Ken Loach directing. Won the Palm D'Or at Cannes. And if that's not enough to convince you, some Brit called it (resentfully) the most pro-IRA film ever made, and wants to know why Mr. Loach dislikes his homeland so much. Funny.

Got to see my old dear friend Imogene tonight. Imo recently moved to Longmont to live with and care for her aging parents. This was our first chance to get together post wedding, and it was a good visit. She's doing great, and it was really good to catch up.

Finally, some good news: my old friend Chris D'Amato, from Lancaster days, and his wife Grey just had their first child, a son, Peter. Mom, Dad, and son all appear to be doing great, and even sleeping occasionally. Also, my student from Ramallah, Nader Wahdan and his wonderful wife, Selwa Ramadan, also just had their first child. We are thrilled for them. It's always so good to see children being born to such wonderful parents.

Speaking of children and wonderful parents, Mark and I had a great time hanging out with Felix last week. But now we need some time with Camila. It's been too long, since we moved to mom's....

Tired now. Must to sleep. Love, Val


Thursday, November 09, 2006

Back from the Honeymoon and Crazier than Ever!

Hi Everybody,

Please forgive the long silence. We have dreams of completing lots of gorgeous, photo and story-ridden wedding entries, and the same for our wonderful bike trip in Ireland. We also have dreams of getting thank you cards, complete with photos, out to all you wedding-goers some time before we celebrate our 1st anniversary. Dreams are good--especially if they foretell happy realities. We have faith. Your patience is deeply appreciated.

I know you'll be shocked to read that our lives have been a bit hectic since our return stateside on October 18th. Almost all of it's been good, but some of it's been hard.

On the Saturday after we returned stateside, we had a wonderful "second wedding" at the Mountain View Friends Meetinghouse in Denver. Although we weren't married "under the care" of Meeting, is was important to us that our vows be witnessed by my (our?) spiritual community. It was a wonderful evening, thanks to Judy Danielson, Eric Wright, Paula van Dusen, Danielle Short, and Rachel Moran. I'm not sure how many folks came--at least 50? We had a beautiful Meeting for Worship for Marriage by candlelight, with a deep, tear-drenched silence, and meaningful testimony, followed by a very yummy potluck summer and fellowship (complete with a gorgeous wedding cake from first-time cake-make Judy!), and then a singalong led by Eric. I was so much more relaxed than at our first wedding, and we were really grateful that some of our friends from Denver, not of the Meeting, were also able to attend and seemed to enjoy themselves.

The next day, Mark drove his mom and me 7 hours to Ouray, Colorado. Ouray is a town Marilyn has always loved, and as she was scheduled to have back surgery on Oct. 30, from which she knew she would be recovering for months, she wanted to do a little traveling beforehand. On the way, we were treated to radiant autumn Colorado blue skies and turning leaves, snow-dappled mountains, streams...all the wonders that make it such a privilege to live here. I just kept saying over and over to Mark, "I love this land." We stopped in Paonia at a little farm stand and tasted locally grown wine, gourmet raw goat cheese, and delicious organic produce. We bought some wine, pecan wildflower honey, and chokecherry syrup--a wild Western delicacy.

Ouray is a small town surrounded by mountains, and called "Alpine" by some. I've never understood why people have to compare anything in the Rockies to the Alps. I've seen the Alps. I've seen the Rockies. The Rockies are no pathetic backcountry cousin to the Alps. They're an extraordinary act of the Creator quite in their own right, and don't need European comparisons to be breathtaking and visit-worthy. Mom treated us to a few nights at a deluxe B&B with a hottub and plush beds and TV's. We had dinner out each night in town at a different yummy restaurant, returning to Denver on Tuesday. On the Monday, Mark and I drove to Dove Creek to look at some land for sale. It was a beautiful day, but our driving journey was quite long so we didn't get nearly as much time with Mom as we would have liked.

On our return to Denver, we began the process of moving our belongings from Danielle's basement into Mom's spare room, where we will live while we support her recovery, or as long as she can put up with us/till we find some land. With Mark's sister Jennifer we hosted a party for mom so her friends and family could wish her well before the surgery. The food, made by Jen, was of course fantastic, and the company equal to it.

The surgery itself, on Oct. 30, was 11 hours long. It was very a intense, rather dangerous surgery. Mom was quite worried, and Mark, Jen and I were quite worried. We were at the hospital with her 17 hours that day. Thankfully, she came through the surgery without major complications. Her recovery has been, by many of the nurses' and the surgeon's comments, remarkable. I continue to be amazed and in awe of mom--what an incredibly strong and brave woman she is.

The surgery was conducted to relieve pressure on nerves in her back, which have been compressed since she was nearly killed 26 years ago by a man with an MO of forcing women off the road and then raping them. Her car was so badly damaged, and she was so badly injured, the man left her for dead, but was later prosecuted thanks to mom's quick thinking, and her taking down his license plate. Her life has been influenced by the disabilities he inflicted on her to this day. Despite all this, mom has always led a very active life, even hiking with basic supplies on her back into the Jenin Refugee Camp following the massacre when she was due to have her fourth hip replacement and probably shouldn't have been walking up a flight of stairs. During the last six months, she has had tremendous pain and decreased capacity in her legs, so the point of the surgery was to reverse that with the hope that her strength and comfort will improve, and her ability to walk continue and improve well into her golden years.

Mark and Jenn are at the hospital with their mom for several hours a day each day, advocating for and with her vis-a-vis medical professionals (something sorely needed, all the time), and especially in the first few days, helping her with food, drink, movement, etc., and providing invaluable love, moral support, encouragement and humor. There have been a number of misunderstandings and mistakes which have caused Marilyn unnecessary pain and anxiety. Many of the professionals she's working with are very fine people, but it seems a symptom of the entire Medical Industrial Complex that they often don't know her body and its needs as well as she does, and aren't willing to listen to her or her family to the detriment of her care. Despite all this, Mom, ever the fighter, is in rehab, and continuing to recover.

I was at the hospital more the first week, but have cut back a lot as mom's been improving. Mark and I are fortunate to be able to continue to live with her when she comes home from the hospital.

She really appreciates visitors, cards, letters, and calls--they mean more than we can say. If you need info about visiting her, please email or call us.

In other news, we are moving forward with our dream of building a small, intentional, spiritual, self-sustaining, social-justice focused community on land here in Colorado. Try saying that five times fast!! We have begun the research process, are talking with realtors, web-surfing, and reading lots of books and guides. This weekend (Nov. 10-13) we are making our first major land-search trip. We are going down to the Walsenburg, La Veta, Trinidad, Gardner area (a large area) in southern Colorado, just west of I-25. We'll be staying in La Veta for two nights, and probably in Westcliff for a third. We have appointments lined up with realtors for three days. We're also getting together with the folks from our local community with whom we hope eventually to live on the land the weekend after Thanksgiving. We'll spend a few days up in a cabin together, discussing our individual and shared visions, hopes and dreams.

Mark's birthday is November 13, and his email address is Please send him greetings and love! Marilyn's surgery and recovery has been emotionally very hard on her family as well as her, and your loving support would really mean a lot to him and Jen.

What else are we doing? Working on thank you notes and photographs. Meeting with our community. Attending demonstrations when we can. Zoning out at night when we're completely fried and watching old episodes of Reno 911 and the Office. I'm doing one afternoon a week of volunteer work for AFSC, helping with their immigrant rights program. Running errands and handling bills for mom. Biking everywhere, which is good, because I put on serious post-wedding-sconage pounds in Ireland. I'm taking classes in jewelry, soap, and toiletries making. Trying to see old friends. Getting caught up on the life left behind during the weddding planning and honeymoon. Today, I'm babysitting the incredible Felix for our dear friends Remy and Nancy. He's taking his morning nap at the moment, giving me a little time to write.

We're here in Denver for the next couple of months at least. I'm going home to see my family for a week after Christmas, and then I head to Johnson, VT for a month-long writing residency at the Vermont Studio Center. I'm trying to do what writing I can between our land search and time at the hospital. I'm currently (along with Nancy and another friend, Carleen) doing this crazy thing called "NaNoWriMo"which stands for National Novel Writing Month. It's completely mad. It's a "contest" (there is no competition and there is no prize but pride) which one enters with the goal of writing a 50,000 word novel between Nov. 1 and Nov. 30. Not surprisingly, I'm way behind. But it's really been a fun, liberating process, because the expectation is that one will write crap. One is encouraged to write crap, if need be, but WRITE! More than 50,000 people worldwide are participating, and there are local write-together evenings and meetings, as well as email-encouragement from the staff. I've started a brand-new novel, with brand-new characters, and I'm finding it very fun and liberating to write with my internal editor cranked down a few notches, if not off altogether.

There's always more to say, but Felix is awake, so I'd best run. Much, much love, and hopefully more soon.