EXCERPTS FROM CHAPTER ELEVEN
In the last paragraph of my speech, I say, “We celebrate diversity of gay/straight, black/white, and so forth. We celebrate diversity, not in the abstract, rather we cherish and celebrate this diversity that is present simply because we are human.”
I feel that this is an important point. As we cherish diversity, we honor differences of opinion, ideas, and positions. Yet, we have been taught an Aristotelian model that (among many other things) would have us believe that there is only one “right” answer to a particular problem, i.e., one plus one equals two, and only two, it can never equal three. For me, ten million grains of sand plus ten million grains of sand can equal one beach.
The beauty of the consensus process is that it provides a mechanism by which people with differing views can work together without there having to be only one “right” answer; we find a third way that doesn’t negate the validity of either side. Sometimes, when one way is perceived to be “right,” people feel stupid, unhealthy, incompetent, or politically incorrect.
As I was considering this, the image of a magnet came to me. A magnet has a positive and a negative side. Each attracts the other, yet if one side tries to make the other exactly like itself, the purpose will be destroyed. Each side is equally important and equally valid, and it is especially important not to lose sight of the whole.
We are living in exciting times! It is fascinating to watch us develop, like butterflies emerging from the pupa stage. We are becoming so beautiful! As Gandhi said, “We must BE the change that we want in the world.”
The Clothesline Project is a frame on which we are weaving a tapestry of connections. Each strand, each shirt, and each woman is of equal importance to the creation. As we build our personal power by linking with others, we make changes in society that would not be possible alone. ………….
I believe that we are called to share a particular, cleared path, a map, and a beacon for women to use to make this world a place of peace. It’s our duty to light the way, to till the soil, so that love and healing grow.
I see a national display that extends for miles. I envision a line that stretches from the east to the west coast. … a worldwide movement dedicated to the emancipation, healing, wholeness, and power of all women. I see it connected in purpose, connected through a common language for global communication, but most important, connected to those deeper aspects of our true selves.
Having a history means having a past that contains mistakes. Working with others means having conflict. Denial of either is not helpful or wholesome. Learning how to identify, acknowledge and use conflict is essential. For the survival of the species, we have to re-teach ourselves how to work with conflict. How can we hope to stop violence against women and have a world of peace and freedom “out there” if we do not live and model healthy ways of handling conflict at home?
People handle conflict in many different ways. Some of us shut down and deny that it exists. Others avoid, retreat, or run away. Still others of us verbally attack or are cruel to each other sometimes followed by an expression of love (as was the pattern in many abuse situations). Some of us feel that we must somehow fix it or make everything nice. Some of us live in perpetual low-grade discord. We are uncomfortable and distrustful of situations where conflict is not present and act in ways that keep it alive, actually resisting resolution. Some of us had our personal control taken away and now try to find situations where we can feel power over someone else. Internalized oppression can lead us to feel uncomfortable with another woman’s success or recognition. It can motivate us to undermine each other or act in ways that are disempowering both of others and ourselves.
It is possible to learn how to handle feelings, discuss needs, recognize the needs and feelings of others, and take charge of and responsibility for our own behavior. It is not important that we like everyone or that everyone like us; it is important that we listen to, empower, and respect each other. …
This started a very difficult time for me. I felt as if my path had been leading me up a very steep mountain. The trail curved in and out. Sometimes it would double back upon itself and lead me to where I had already gone. There were a lot of obstacles. Many were enormous, too big to see clearly. They caused me to stop until I could figure out a way around them. It was an ongoing struggle. Finally, I found I could go no further. The obstacle was too big, and there was no way around it. I felt adrift. I felt without purpose, without a path. I felt bottomless grief, all-consuming depression, and despair. I had worked so hard. I was profoundly tired.
I went to visit friends in the western part of Massachusetts. There, the trees were tall. We climbed hills that on Cape Cod would be called mountains. We walked through forests. I stopped at a stream. There, a message came back to my mind that had come through me earlier that year at the Friends Meeting. “Love is the powerful force in the universe. Just as the gentlest stream eventually erodes the hardest rock, so love will eventually soften the hardest heart.” That was a turning point in my healing process. I felt the love of the cosmos course through my hurting spirit. I knew I was loved and safe in its arms. I started to walk with lighter steps and started to know that joy would again be present.
Although violence hangs like a shroud around the globe, our past has shown that radical social change doesn’t start with mass movements. It begins with individuals, people like you and you and you and me. We do have the power to release the pure, perfect people we all truly are. We can build a world of justice so that we can live in peace and harmony with all creation.
Let’s join together and feel that eternal connection between our true selves, mother earth, and the entire universe. We are connected through our DNA right back to our original ancestors. We are all brothers and sisters. We are all made out of the stuff of the universe. We are star material. Some people, when they see a sunset, feel a part of it. This is real. There is the Creator in each of us. The Creator, however, isn’t fragmented it is one as we are one.
Let’s trust the guidance we receive from this source that is beyond our own egos. Let’s deeply listen to each other with both our hearts and minds. Let’s choose happiness. Choosing happiness equals choosing life. Let’s live each moment as a sacred moment. Let’s meet each other as the sacred people we truly all are. Let’s walk together into a better tomorrow!
Ultimately, the power and strength of the Clothesline does not rest within any authority or external control. The power and strength of the Clothesline rest in the personal brilliance and commitment of each woman connected to the movement. Feel your energy.
This is where the book ended in 1995 when it was first written. For several months I tried to find a publisher and although there were some nibbles nothing materialized so I put it aside. I did though continue working on my own and I found myself traveling around the country starting lines wherever I could. The fact that this is an art installation that is still going on in a dynamic fashion after 33 years is remarkable.
The following are thoughts and essays that I wrote after some of these memorable experiences and many years of reflection.
EXCERPTS FROM CHAPTER TWELVE
The fact is that hurt people often do hurt people, and it is more comfortable to shift the blame, shame, guilt, onto the “other”. The truth is that the only thing we can control is ourselves and our own external actions and internal feelings. Unfortunately, in order to do this, we have to understand ourselves which for some people can be frightening.
This experience helped me see how projections and perceptions turn sinners into saints/saviors, the “saints” (leaders) into sinners and then those sinners into monsters who are not to be trusted. The fact is that we are all just human beings muddling through as best we can. These realizations help me process the past struggle.
We do not have the luxury of saying this is someone else’s problem. We cannot let fear or apathy silence us. We have the power within us to make a difference now. We have the power to build a world of peace and safety for ourselves; men and women, our children and all the beings that inhabit our planet. Let’s learn the beauty of simplicity. Let’s get beyond the complexity, competition and chaos that we have come to believe is normal life and business for these create conflict and breed violence. Let’s live each moment as a sacred moment. Let’s meet each other as the sacred people we truly all are.
This book has shared a snapshot of my journey, my story. Stories are one of those things, like our bodies, that everyone has. All our lives are woven from many stories, some long ago, some will go into tomorrow, all of which will someday come to an end. The shirts on a Clothesline Project essentially are telling one of these sorts of short, stories of lives that experienced deep trauma. The full stories about all our lives incorporate joys and sorrows, pain and healing, and love and rejection.
The following is a poem, A story I wrote while on Mt. Monadnock. in late autumn.
Who are We?
Beyond our titles or what we do for a living;
Beyond the kinship of parents,
Beyond all names for our various identities, genders, religions, social status,
Beyond our politics, disabilities (that everyone has in one way or another);
Beyond oppression of race, etc.
Beyond our talents, accolades, successes, or failures;
Who are We?
Who are human beings?
some say spiritual beings having a human experience.
Here and now, we are living flesh, blood, and bone
No better or worse,
than other animals on the planet
or the plants —from the mighty oak to the lowly dandelion. But all life is finite.
We are here a very short time, then dust.
No better or worse than rock.
Then who are we?
We are a story.
Stories are also told by
woodlands and meadows,
mountains, bogs, and beaches.
Stories are told of the climbers who come and go, chattering
like the rain
and the comings and goings of the glaciers
The structures; stone walls, weirs, jetties, and gravestones
The hunters and the hunted
Stories are told by the maple tree sleeping its winter nap.
Stories told as the wind whispers
trees’ unpronounceable names.
These stories teach
how to be beautiful and bend around objects;
how to grow from rotten stumps
They teach of a time to rest, a time to grow,
the cycle of life.
Stories are told by water:
the stream’s songs moving over rocks, part of God’s laughter;
The waterfalls, it falls then rises in mist
Water’s story in stillness reflecting the sky,
up close, each drop
A reflection of reflection of reflection,
all part of this whole
containing everything: the flower, the rock,
those living, and those called inanimate;
all a fractal of Oneness.
Stories are told by rocks.
Stories that intertwine with every other
stone walls, jetties, and streams
What is IS.
from life to life, from atom to atom
Bound by electromagnetic and nuclear forces,
a strong attraction:
A love story.
It is all Love, Soul Love.
Story of truth,
real and immutable,
surrounding each and every cell,
animate or inanimate,
like a mountain sparkling with mica.
Stories of fellow travelers, companions,
some for a short time,
the chipmunk and squirrel,
the woodpecker or owl,
even the gnat, tick, or biting fly,
They all have worth.
connection to connection
moment to moment,
the story advances.
One step follows the next,
a journey, an adventure
a path of mystery.
The story teaches:
pay attention to all that is around
in case the trip
is over an unseen root
or shoe gets stuck in deep muckiness.
Challenges develop muscle,
our lessons give strength
A story of healing,
and deep gratitude.
The story continues.
Beyond the pitfalls and lies,
Beyond the fair-weather friends.
Beyond the disappointments, painful revelations,
Betrayal and treachery.
Beyond trauma, fear, disrespect,
exploitation, the horror of racism.
Beyond even the stories themselves.
Beyond the Beyond
A bigger story.
A story that isn’t unique to this telling.
From the beginning through to the end,
moving in a beautiful circle,
within and to that which is Eternal.
What are we?
Who are we?
We are a story.
One story about everything:
Beings of Love,
A love story of Light, of Peace.
I wrote this poem, out of a concept of a Love Story that was more expansive than normally conceived of, a story existing in Oneness rather than duality
I’ve sometimes wished I had a magic wand that I could wave and make everything, while not perfect, a significant amount better. Then I realized I do, in fact, have that magic wand. In fact, I have 10 of them, and so does every one of you. It’s up to us to walk together to create a better world, a world of joy, and justice, of beauty, grace, and gratitude, a world of peace and of love. So, let’s do it. My mother’s name was Eve, and true story, as she was dying, the last real thing she said to me was not about loving or being proud of me; it was, “what are you doing? What are you standing around for, you’ve got work to do, go get busy.” So let’s all do that, let’s all go get busy co-creating the world we dream of where everyone, everyone is perfectly safe, and guaranteed respect and dignity, guaranteed the ability to live a full Life and live up to everyone’s full, complete potential.
Let’s all go get busy. We’ve got work to do.