How to be both angry and sad at the same time

For the past 17 months and six days, people have said that I am handling suddenly being widowed with grace. Being furious and raging wasn’t going to unwind the fact that a careless driver killed my husband while he was riding his bike. I have limited reserves of energy, and I knew that walking around being angry wasn’t going to get me very far.

Last Thursday I was both angry and sad. If David Cummings was alive, I would have put down whatever work project had my attention in Atlanta just before 2:00, gotten in my car, and driven back to Sandersville, Georgia to celebrate with him. As I have told friends before, it was David who helped me connect the dots not too long after the boondoggle Plant Washington was announced.

I didn’t know much about energy production before the end of January 2008 when Dean Alford was presented to the business leaders of Washington County in an invitation only presentation at the Washington EMC. As I learned more, I became very concerned. It’s handy to be married to a geologist who can explain the water tables and such when a coal plant is going to draw down 16Million gallons of water per day, and your household water source about eight miles from the plant site is also drawn from a well in that same geologic plain.

FACE Board members and earliest supporters with certificates of recognition from President Obama

I’ve always credited David for helping me find my way on responding to Plant Washington. On one of the first beautiful spring days in 2008, the kind that makes you want to find any reason to go outside, I told David I wished there was someone who lived near the proposed plant site that I could talk to, because surely they would be concerned about the threats of coal ash emissions, access to water, safety, and property values. He casually said that long-time family friends Randy and Cathy Mayberry had a cabin adjacent to the site, that maybe I should talk to them.

That sunny afternoon I went out to walk, and after about an hour, sweaty and kind of worn looking, I knocked on the Mayberry’s front door. Cathy answered, and while I told her I didn’t want to interrupt their day, and I surely wasn’t fit to sit down with anyone to talk, maybe sometime we could have a conversation about the risks posed by Plant Washington. From the living room Randy called out, “Come on in.”

From there Cathy and I met on someone’s porch with Lyle Lansdell, Pat, and Sonny Daniel, Paula and John Swint. Jennette Gayer came drove down from Atlanta. Seth Gunning, a student at Valdosta State who was light years ahead of the rest of us about energy and the environment, drove up for a meeting. Larry Warthen, whose church was founded after the Civil War, where unmarked graves of enslaved and free people are just yards from the plant site perimeter, stepped up to help lead in the work. The lawyers and partner organizations came to us to teach us, guide us, and become champions for our community too.

David was a certified stream monitor for the Ogeechee Rverkeeper. Our grandchildren Chase and Ella went with him one afternoon to learn about stream monitoring.

David didn’t go to those early meetings, but he listened to me, counseled me when I thought my head would explode as I learned more about the convoluted way coal plants are developed, permitted, and financed. He signed the petitions and went to the hearings. He phone banked when volunteers across the state came together to help return Cobb EMC to the rightful control of the member-owners. He used a few vacation days to attend court proceedings and EPA public comment sessions. Later he agreed to serve on the board of the small grassroots organization, the Fall-Line Alliance for a Clean Environment (FACE), that came together after the first few community meetings. Because he grew up fishing, canoeing, and swimming at our family’s farm on the Ogeechee River, he became a certified stream monitor.

Summer vacation in Maine, 2010, as I was beginning to realize fighting Plant Washington was the work I needed to do full-time

In the summer of 2010, when I knew to my core that quitting a job as a rural health advocate, where I excelled, instead of working nights, weekends, and burning through vacation days to fight Plant Washington, was my true calling, David supported me. When I worked 12 hours a day, he walked the dogs and cooked dinner. When I had cancer and was exhausted from radiation treatments, and the work required to fight Plant Washington totaled at least one thousand hours each week among our partners, he supported me. When Plant Washington’s funders backed out, and the truth in what FACE and our partners had said all along became clearer and clearer, David celebrated with me. And when the work of fighting Plant Washington wasn’t a full-time job any longer, because winning meant I would work my way out of a job, David supported me while I looked for work that would tap all the passion and experience I had garnered since 2008. He was always there.

Thursday evening I had plans to meet Atlanta friends who don’t know me as coal-plant fighting activist. One of them said she wanted to hear the story of my work as we began walking through the Atlanta Botanical Gardens. I told her I couldn’t compress it well at the moment, as it began in 2008 and changed me forever.

So we toasted a long-awaited victory, one they know matters to the health of the small rural community where my husband and children grew up, where some of my grandchildren live now, the community that helped FACE leaders become the best and truest versions of ourselves.  We toasted to doing work that matters and benefits everyone on this one planet, and to those whose bodies have been returned to it.

 

How We Have Failed Since September 11, Redux

First posted here on September 10, 2014

How We Have Failed since September 11

Tonight President Obama will address the nation about ISIS and any actions that we may take in response to the horrific murders of Americans and innocent civilians at the hands of terrorists.

Tomorrow there will be an observance in my community, and many others, to honor the thousands of lives lost to hate and terrorism, and to support the families and friends who knew someone they loved would never return home again.

Since September 11, 2001 we as a country have talked a lot about being kinder to one another and being a better country. Yet 13 years later this is what consumes us as a country:

  • fighting about allowing two consenting adults of the same-sex to legally marry each
  • failing to take care of the thousands of veterans who have defended our country, many of whom returned with horrible wounds from the Middle East since September 2001
  • allowing private corporations to decided which forms of legal birth control they will cover for employees through company based health insurance because some corporations should have the same privileges as churches
  • granting corporations the same rights as citizens so businesses can pour money into elections and our representatives’ pockets
  • making it harder for citizens to exercise their right to vote
  • subsidizing corporations with huge tax breaks while their employees working full-time never earn enough to break the poverty barrier
  • denying the hard facts of science because profits should come before cleaning up the mess we’ve made of the entire planet
  • deporting children
  • complaining about failing schools while slashing teacher pay and testing our children to death
  • sitting by silently while racism and sexism are displayed proudly
  • being sure we can take our assault rifles into the grocery store
  • we pay for and support violence on playing fields, in the movies we watch, video games we buy, music we listen to, and television shows we watch, but we react with horror when students are sprayed with bullets in their classrooms, women are drug from elevators by their hair, students are bullied, children and women are raped as well as being forced into prostitution
  • too many among us are convinced that their brand of faith should be followed above all others, and if necessary the rights of other citizens should be denied because they choose to worship differently, or not at all

We absolutely should remember and honor the victims of September 11th’s violence. I’m just not convinced we are a country that is a better reflection of the democratic values and freedoms which terrorists intended to destroy 13 years ago.

 

Not For Sale

For almost three years I let a gorgeous cashmere sweater intimidate me. It stayed folded up neatly among thrift store sweaters I had collected early in my repurpose/upcycle life with textiles.

cable scarfSome cabled cashmere sweaters don’t “snug up” where they are cut, which means that they require more fabric, more time, and more effort to repurpose. But the sweater that intimidated me was worse than that. It didn’t feel felted at all. Had it not looked a little bit smaller, I would have sworn it hadn’t been washed in hot water and dried on the cotton setting.

Every so often I would unfold it, gently squeezing the soft cables between my fingers, asking, “What can I do with you?”

During the fall I tried something using just the sleeves, but it wasn’t right. I folded the failed project up, tucked it inside the body of the sweater, and said I’d be back.

cabled cashmere scarfIn the quiet on the Sunday afternoon between Christmas and New Year”s Day (we are empty nesters, so yes, there was quiet at our house), I unfolded the caramel colored cables and decided I had waited long enough. The very worst I could do was have to cut up the end product and figure a way to use it piecemeal, disappointing for sure.

Because my mother taught me how to match plaids and patterns when I learned how to sew, I couldn’t just cut the sweater up and start sewing. I had to make the cable pattern match as best as possible. FYI- cashmere can be slippery. I must have used 200 pins to keep the pieces in place. Plus I basted things together before making it permanent (which means I sewed the whole thing twice).

It turned out just as I had hoped- super thick and soft, really far more extravagant than the rather simple things I make. There aren’t many things I decide to make for myself that I just won’t sell. I’ve learned that the hard way by posting a photo on Facebook and saying, “Look what I made in Guilford colors for Homecoming.” or “I’ve never repurposed silk before but now I know that I can!”

black cashmere shawlTwo weeks ago I came home from work pondering how I might make a bright colored shawl or wrap, but I couldn’t work out the design. Facebook friends had suggestions but I didn’t have enough cashmere to repurpose for a final product.

This past Sunday night I screwed up my courage and decided the worst that could happen, if I used what I have in a fairly large quantities, would be repurposing a shawl into several smaller items. I sorted and moved things around until almost 12:30 Monday morning, but I had it figured out when I called it a night.

 

gray cashmere wrapFirst thing Monday morning I got my shears out and started cutting. I had no pattern, so it was a slow-go to make sure the pieces would all fit together. Just before 1:00 I took a few pictures and then put the shawl, consisting of parts of five sweaters, into the wash to felt some of the newly cut edges.

It takes an hour for my washing machine to go through a full cycle. That’s a lifetime when sweaters it took forever to collect, and hours to put together, are being waited on to emerge.

This project was more than some thrift store sweaters though. One of the sweaters I repurposed, the lightest shade among the pieces I used, was sent to me by a friend who shares my love of clean water and air and healthy families. There’s a story and sentiment in this shawl. I’m firm on sharing this as a Not For Sale item.