Why I March on Saturday (continued)

January 19, 2017

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

–Martin Niemoller

I’ve been thinking about this poem a lot lately.

I’m white.  I’m professional class. I have healthcare coverage. I come from a Protestant Christian background.  I’m straight.  I’m able-bodied. I can afford options.

All that said,  I cannot sit this one out.

Because if basic rights are taken away from any one American, they are taken from us all.  And so, today I am Muslim, and gay, a woman of color, and disabled. Today I am reliant upon Medicare and Social Security to pay for food and shelter and medicine, and dependent upon Planned Parenthood for basic healthcare needs.  Today I need to be all these things, because I cannot accept limits for others that I would never accept for myself.

Today I need to remember that my white skin and my relative health and wealth are not matters of privilege.  And that they make me no more entitled than any of my neighbors.

And that is why I will march on Saturday.


Why I Will March on Saturday

January 17, 2017

Right after the election, I “shared”  a post that basically said that how one voted was a personal matter, but that all of us should stand up and speak out for equality.

A FB friend commented that I shouldn’t mix Rotary and politics.  And his friends piled on.

I’ve been thinking about this ever since. First, clearly, neither the friend nor his friends took the time to read below the headline — otherwise, their complaint just didn’t make sense.  Second, this was my FB page, not a Rotary page.  But still …

Sunday, when Rev. Sarah read MLK’s words from 40 years ago, it all came together for me.  I realized:

America’s values are those of basic decency, shared citizenship, inclusion.  America’s values are those of welcome to immigrants and most particularly to refugees.  America’s values are based on truth and openness and fairness.

Under this definition, what I posted was most definitely American.  And not that it matters, but what I posted was also Christian.   Wasn’t Jesus’ message one of social justice and inclusion?

What it comes down to is this.  If our next President — or his followers — find  issues of fairness and decency to be “political,” that’s their business. My business is to stand up for American values.

And that’s while I will be marching on Saturday.



I Will Wear White Today

November 8, 2016


My mother, Jane Worley Peak, celebrated her 96th birthday a few weeks ago.  Which means that she was born just a few weeks prior to the first time women were allowed to vote in a presidential election in this country.  Today, she plans to vote for Hillary Clinton for President.

It took almost 150 years for the United States to extend the franchise to women.  150 years.  And it took generations of women — and a few men — who courageously worked for suffrage, worked through hatred, invective, ridicule.  These were probably the original “nasty women” of America — women who believed that the meaning of the Constitution was more true than the words of the Constitution, and that when the framers wrote men, what they meant was human. 150 years during which “strict constructionists” in the mode of Antonin Scalia, told them they were wrong.

In honor of all those women,  I will wear white today.

My mother told me recently that she doesn’t know if HER mother, Ruth Potter Worley, voted in 1920. Mom never thought to ask, and now it’s too late. Grandmother Ruth might have, because she was a true feminist, well before her time.  Or she might have stayed home — she was, after all, just delivered of a squally baby.  And she had a house to run.  We will never know.

What we do know is that my Grandmother Ruth believed in women’s education, and was willing to put her money — her grocery money — to work to make sure the young women of her acquaintance made something of themselves.  Not only did my mother and her sister both eventually earn Ivy League master’s degrees, but Grandmother Ruth stole — excuse me, repurposed– money out of her $20 per month housekeeping allowance and gave it away to help the daughters of friends further their education.  She opened her house to two of her nieces to make it financially possible for them to go to college.  And she quietly, but definitely, ran the household and made  the household decisions while her husband was traveling as part of his work.

In remembrance of my Grandmother Ruth I am wearing white today.

We’ve come a long way in the past 96 years. My  mother has lived through a Depression, World War, raised three children, delighted in grandchildren and now is doting on her five-year-old great-granddaughter.  She has lived to see women serve in the boardroom and on the battlefield. But the headlines of this year’s election prove that many of the battles fought by the suffragettes and lived by my mother and grandmother have never gone away.

The misogyny, hatred, prejudice, lewdness spewed by Trump — and tolerated by the so-called “Republican establishment” — proves that the suffragettes’ work is far from over.  The continued conversation over what women should be legally allowed to wear and who should be in control of their bodies proves that the suffragettes’ work is far from over.  The reality that women in this country still make 70 cents on the dollar for comparable work done by men proves that the suffragettes’ work is far from over. The fact that the world and headlines are more interested in bad judgment over a female candidate’s email server and is ignoring the fact that a foreign power is working hard to influence this election proves that the suffragettes’ work is far from over.

For all the battles that are still to be fought, I will wear white today.

We don’t know if Grandmother Ruth voted in 1920, but we do know she was a proud  Republican her entire life.  My mother was as well — until the undiluted misogyny of George HW Bush’s first campaign pushed her to vote for Clinton.  Since then, and really based on feminist and social issues, she has consistently voted Democratic.  Today, my mother will vote in what is demographically likely to be her last presidential election.   And when great-granddaughter Lily is old enough to understand, I will tell her that her great-grandmother Jane was born before women held the franchise in this country, and that she lived long enough to vote for a woman to be president.

I will tell Lily that her great-grandmother, and mine, and all those generations of suffragettes believed that a woman’s place was wherever her talents and her hard work could take her, and that that definitely included the White House.  I will tell little Lily that she should never, ever take the legacy they won for her for granted.  I will tell her that the best way to honor that legacy would be to continue the fight in her own time.

I will tell Lily that whenever she is discouraged or feels that the journey is just too tough, that’s when she should dig in her closet and remember to wear white.



Hadrian’s Wall

November 5, 2016


On my first trip “across the pond,” back in 1972, Hadrian’s Wall was on my list of must-sees.  I was traveling via BritRail pass north to Edinburgh, and made a special stop in Carlisle in order to see the wall.  Alas, the wall is not on the train, bus, or any other transportation system — it turned out there was no way for a girl on student budget to see it.

This time, I very much wanted to see the wall, but the universe seemed to be aligning itself against us.  First, because of the tides/causeway to Holy Island, it made more sense to wait until our return from Holy Island to stop at the wall.  This did not bode well.  And then, it was a bit unclear from our guidebook where exactly we were to go to see the wall.

The weather was also threatening to be a factor — after a gorgeous sunrise, rain was threatened.

Still, with me driving and Frank reading the atlas, we started off.

At first my worst fears seemed to be about to be realized — we were at the wall, we should be seeing the wall, but where was the wall?

In retrospect, I think the problem was that we were both expecting something more akin to the Great Wall of China than a border wall at the far extent of the Roman empire.

When we found the wall — and find it we did — we also found the most well preserved Roman fort in the world.  It’s all there — and even more, the countryside all around as far as the eye can see is virtually unchanged in the past 2000 years.  The Romans built their camp at the top of a rise that allows 360 visibility.  Then, I expect it was mostly forested– although the camp of 800 soldiers would have meant plenty of farms within walking distance.  Now, it is sheep country.  But except for the road and a farmhouse-cum-museum, all is peaceful and evocative.

And oh, yes — the sun came out for our time at the wall.  Soon after we left, the rain started, and continued all day, off and on — resulting in several fantastic — and double — rainbows.

I guess it was meant to be.





Holy Island

November 3, 2016


Lindesfarne, the Holy Island, is a tiny island just off the Northumbrian coast.  It’s reached by a causeway that, even today, is impassable during high tide.  So once you’re on the island, you’re on the island to stay until the next low tide.

Lindesfarne has a Priory that was founded by St. Cuthbert in 635.  It was destroyed by the Vikings and rebuilt numerous times, and then finally destroyed by Henry VIII in the Dissolution in 1537.

Then, a century ago, a man with more money than sense took an old guardhouse and converted it into a castle. The castle, even more than the priory, defines Lindesfarne’s horizon.

All together, it’s remarkably romantic  and unbelievable, and we came here, well, because it’s here.  We left the Lake District this morning and kept mostly to the main roads, arriving in time for (a) low tide and (b) lunch on the island.  That was followed by a leisurely walk out to the castle and back, and we’ve been moving slowly ever since.  The causeway was impassable around 3:00, and all the day trippers have left, so it’s just us, a few other tourists, and the 103 people who live out here yearround.  And the ghosts. At least, I assume there are ghosts.


Circumnav on the “Other” Side

November 2, 2016


On Monday we took a boat tour; Tuesday we circumnavigated the area by car.  It was another sunny day — too chilly to sit still, but lovely to walk about in.  And the colors really are magnificent.  The roads come in two grades:  narrow and narrower.  And windy.  But by this time I’ve pretty much gotten used to the “wrong” side of the road:  The car is in the center of the lane when I’m somewhere between “oh my God” and “yeech!”

On these narrow roads there aren’t two lanes anyway –more like one and a half.  For awhile I was directly behind a huge truck– sorry, lorry — and that was great, because the lorry cleared the path of oncoming traffic and I just tootled along behind.  But all good things must come to an end …

We stopped to take a picture of Coniston Water, which Arthur Ransome used for “Swallows and Amazons.” BTW, I caught a preview of the new movie, and it seems that the movie maker had to tat up the best children’s summer vacation adventure ever by including “real” bad guys.  Isn’t imagination good enough?

Then  we turned north and a bit off the beaten track to discover a 4500-year-old neolithic circle called Castle Rigg.  Stonehenge is of course the best known, but Britain is riddled with neolithic stone circles and other paraphernalia.  This one is particularly evocative because it is on a rise, and surrounded by hills.  We were very surprised to find quite a crowd there — it turns out that every year on Nov 1, the locals come out, replace sod, and basically help the grass to grow again around the stones.  So we didn’t have quiet and evocative, but we did get an inkling of just how important this monument is to the local community.

After a pub lunch we turned our attention to Dove Cottage, William Wordsworth’s home.  He lived here with his sister and his wife — apparently Wordsworth had quiet an interesting homelife — and here is his garden and his connections and the start of the Romantic movement.

The building material for just about everything — houses, walls, fences — is slate.  It’s quite beautiful in an English sort of way, but difficult to capture on film.  Not that I’m not trying …




A Journey Back in Time

October 31, 2016


The trip from Bradford to Windermere takes less than 3 hours, according to the atlas, but it took us all day.

First, we slept late.  I can’t remember the last time I slept past 9:00, but we did, and by the time we checked out of the hotel it was past 10:00. As we started to drive out of the hotel parking lot, we discovered that we were hemmed in by a 5 k walk-run that was taking place directly outside.  The guard said it would be “a few minutes.”  Then he said it would be an hour.  Had we been in the United States, Frank and I would have happily driven across the sidewalk to the side street, but we are in England, you know, and we didn’t think that was the thing.  Eventually, another Rotarian in the same predicament sweet-talked the folks in charge of  narrowing the running path long enough for out two cars to get out, and we were away.

Our first stop was the airport.  Between driving on the “other” side of the road, the stick shift, the lack of a sat-nav (or decent driving instructions), it’s been a tense few days.  The nice men at Avis listened to our woes and upgraded us to a Peugeot with automatic, sat-nav and in exchange for a lot of money, we were happy again.  Sigh of relief.

And off we went.  Our route took us through countryside dotted with sheep and cows and lots and lots of gorgeous scenery, and for the first time since we arrived on this small island, courtesy of the automatic transmission my blood pressure was actually at a rate that I could enjoy it.  Still, traveling through England is not for those in a hurry, and we stopped for lunch soon after we entered Cumbria.

It was only after I had ordered the rabbit pie and bit into it that I realized that we were in Beatrix Potter country and the first thing I had done was something akin to what Farmer MacGregor did to Peter Rabbit’s father.  Oh, well.  Tasted good.

We had quite a time getting the key to our apartment – it had to do with arriving late and not understanding the system, but eventually, we found our home for the week — a self-catering flat, as the Brits like to say, and located just above the busiest street in Bowness-on-Windermere, in the indisputable heart of the Lake District.  We have arrived!

Today we slept late (again), had a self-catered breakfast in our self-catering flat, found the laundromat and tourist office, got caught up with ourselves, and took a cruise on Lake Windermere, since that’s the thing to do here.

The Lake District has been a tourist mecca for 200 years, and before that, a mining center.  It’s really remarkable how wooded much of the place still is.  It’s got Wordsworth connections — and I assume plenty of daffodils in season.  I had thought that we would be out of season, but the colors in the trees are beautiful.  Not bright, like ours — much more subdued, but beautiful.  It’s also the home of Beatrix Potter, and the Japanese tourists come to pay homage to her and Peter Rabbit and all the various rodents.  Of more interest to me are the Arthur Ransome connections — his Swallows and Amazons did their derring-do on Coniston Water, just west of here. Yes, the Lake District is practically a theme park, and a busy one at that, but it’s all extremely tasteful, and the reason for multiple centuries of holiday traffic is as apparent as it is inevitable.