All Quiet on the Western Front

Personal Writings

IMG_5669Rock Creek   After days of preparation, days of celebration, solidarity, and fellowship with people hustling, cooking, eating, playing, swimming, fishing, hiking, and just kicking back and relaxing, reading, napping, and talking suddenly all of our friends and comrades and some of our family had begun the long journeys back to work and home, and there was a sudden quiet in the camp.  We missed them and we once again embraced the silence of the river, forest, and mountains.

            In the same way the campsite had swelled with people able to make the Rock Creek Rendezvous, as quickly the numbers had begun to thin one day and then the next.   Chaco and I enjoyed our best fishing as they left.   He kept a nice brown and the first rainbow of this season.  I threw one back, lost one spitting the hook, and brought to dinner the largest brown I had ever landed on Rock Creek.   Chayote, Dine and Emily’s dog, had chased a young buck on her heels at top speed for a mile or so, before abandoning the hunt.   Lucha tried harder to herd one and all, sometimes with funny results and sometimes surprising someone with a nip when they had a camera or a bag in their hands even though they had petted her only moments before.

            Now with only three of us in camp, it is back to the mission at hand with work to do on one hand and peace to find on another.

            Many years ago an old organizing comrade from welfare rights, Andrea Kidd, then somehow working for a foundation in New York with a health care portfolio, took me aside at a Tides Foundation retreat near Bolinas and explained to me the way you would to a child the importance of finding “contemplative space” and why for my own mental health and effectiveness, I needed to find more of it.  I remember laughing.   She argued that my daily jogging was part of my quest for separate peace and contemplative space.  Over the years the more I thought about it, the more I knew she was right.

            For a long time our fishing camp across Lake Pontchartrain gave us that kind of space, but Katrina has left us with a monthly note on 2 acres of wet-dry marsh depending on the season and hopes for something simpler in the future. 

            I was asked a question about whether coming up to Rock Creek for work and vacation for a month would have been possible 5 years ago when I was running ACORN still.  My companera had answered no, but my answer would have been, yes.  I had been looking for a place in the West for exactly this reason for more than 20 years.  I had made an offer on 160 acres abutting the landmark area outside of Grand Junction, Colorado way back then.   With the help of a friend in Wyoming I came within a hair of being able to buy a cabin in the Big Horn Mountains a decade ago.   I had pitched repeatedly to friends trying to go in together on a place somewhere in Montana, since none of us could afford something on our own.  When I bought the two Airstream trailers for housing for staff and volunteers after Katrina, I always had in my mind planting one or both on some land in the west somewhere or planting one and rolling with the smaller.  A friend mentioned I could put one on some land she had in New Mexico, but it turned out to be a mirage.  Proving an old organizing axiom, if you keep on knocking at the door, someone will always join, when I asked my good friend, Secky Fascione, if the trailer could be planted on her acre within a shout of Rock Creek, and she agreed with her great generosity, so here we are for the fourth straight year since 2010 at the beginning of a string that I hope will last my lifetime and for generations to come.

            Yes, dreams can come true with unyielding persistence, discipline, and commitment.   Now we get to share our dream with others, recognizing that, as Andrea counseled me years ago, we all need this kind of space.   Luckily as well, Andrea’s insightful advice to me was also that we make our space ourselves and can – and must – do so wherever we are in the largest city or smallest town running on city streets before dawn, walking our dogs in the dark, or in a million other ways, in order to work and live both hard and well, we must find and make that space for our own peace and that of people around us.