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1 March 2017

I remember.  The final day I had with you Mom.  1 March 2011.  I was there when you opened your eyes, looked at me and your grandson Nathan and then closed your eyes forever.  A few days earlier you had asked me if you were dying.  I said yes and that everything was taken care of, you could go in peace.  And you did.

Yesterday I got out your blue jean jacket with the patches from one of your trips to Africa.  You sewed all the patches and embroidered the outline of the African continent on the back of the jacket.

Mom's Africa Jacket

                     Mom’s Africa Jacket

I live surrounded by you.  Whenever I go out, I open up the drawers with your jewelry and choose something to wear.  Bracelets, necklaces, so many to choose from.

You are always with me and will be forever.

With love,

Pamela

 

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Below are comments from people who have read my book of poems and drawings, Silence Spoken, available on http://www.lulu.com

Screen Shot 2016-01-03 at 11.44.14

The poems I liked best are those set in Venezuela, describing aspects of the environment and the sea and those set in Beijing capturing the impact of rapid change – for good and bad, especially “Observed:Beijing”.  It’s what I felt when in China, but succinctly and eloquently expressed.  I enjoyed the whole book, for what it expressed and also for what was left unsaid, or merely hinted at.

Mary, Canberra, Australia

Thank you very much for your awesome publication.  Sketches look lovely & will enjoy browsing too.

Khalida, Blue Mountains, Australia

There is another side of you, a contemplative one that I would not have guessed.  I am no poet and so can’t comment on the poetry but I like the sketches.

Anita, Canberra, Australia

2. Ink Tucacas Sea 3 web

I just browsed through it and your art work is powerful.  I especially like the brush painting from Pakistan. But then your “essentials only” style on Langata, Nairobi, Kenya is so spot on. I’ve read some poems too, but you know me, the art is so immediate.

Sheila, Berkeley, California, USA

Thanks so much for your book of poetry and illustrations!
It is really lovely.  Keep creativity alive!

Margot, Berkeley, California, USA

3. Pak Karkoram 772 webKarimabad, Pakistan

I have looked through it and read several random poems and David has spent much more time with it. We both are enjoying looking at these snapshots of your life.  Your drawings give life to your travels.

Linda, Baldwin, Kansas, USA

I am enjoying reading your poems and I like your sketches very much. You have experienced so much in your life. Your words are an eloquent expression of your suffering, joy, awareness and appreciation of the natural world. The book is very attractively designed and printed. Congratulations on publishing it!

Anne, Kansas City, Missouri, USA

7. Ink Nairobi Person webMan walking, Langata, Nairobi, Kenya

The poem Somewhere, snagged my eye. A knee jerk response to seeing my birthday near the bottom of the page. Reading it through I can only say, thanx for the birthday present.

The poem, Fishing at Sunset, I was timeported to Elk California doing that same such thing using carpenter’s line with old spark plugs on the end for weight. Holding the line for the twitch of the rockfish that might be dinner or dining on smaller fish if it slips the hook.

David, Baldwin, Kansas, USA

 

 

My delightful, creative friend, Tausi Kumbatha, died of stigma. We worked together in Nairobi, Kenya and in Somalia. Tausi was a very talented radio producer and trainer. We had so many great times together.

In late 2000, Tausi was working in Nairobi while I was in and out of Somalia and living in Watamu, on the Kenyan coast. Whenever I was in Nairobi, I tried to contact Tausi. Often Tausi was ill but she always said it was just another attack of malaria. I began to wonder what was happening. When I raised the possibility that Tausi was HIV positive, one of her sisters told me to stay out of their family affairs. I withdrew, but still tried to stay in contact with Tausi.

At the time, Tausi’s family and many people in Kenya, including the then President Daniel Arap Moi, were in denial about HIV/AIDs.

Paraphrasing what Nelson Mandela once said, more people were dying from stigma than from AIDs.

With prompt acceptance of Tausi’s illness, she would be alive today.

I regret that I did not persist.

Thinking of you Tausi.

Tausi is on the left with the glasses.  Our friend Nasra is on the right.  We were in Nairobi celebrating Tausi's birthday

Tausi is on the right with the glasses. Our friend Nasra is on the left. We were in Nairobi celebrating Tausi’s birthday.

Stories about Shoes

               Or

Shoe Liberation

 

Why do women,

especially young women

wear such stupid shoes?

Platforms

Stilettos

Platform Shoe 1

 

 

Dangerous

can trip

fall

twist an ankle

Bad for their calves

knees

back

Achilles tendons

 

Screen Shot 2015-06-16 at 15.17.58

Crippling

Cannot walk properly

nor run

nor skip

nor hop

nor jump

Just take teeny tiny

hobbled steps

 

Comparable to foot binding

of the Chinese upper class

“Lotus foot”

Male foot fetish

My mother in law ran away

when they tried to bind her feet

Her mother pushed her feet

into shoes too small

Her mother illiterate

married into a wealthy landowning family

assumed small feet were necessary

to get married.

 

Walking through Kibera slum

in Nairobi Kenya

in front of me

A young woman in high heels

carefully lifting each foot

slowly putting each foot down

trying to make her way

through rocks

mud

uneven unpaved paths

garbage

stepping over sewer water

Politely spoke to her

suggested that it would be better

to wear sensible shoes

walking through the slum

Bring other shoes if needed for her job.

Next day I saw her

wearing flat shoes.

 

When young

my mother tried to

feminize me

with girdles

garters

stockings

high heels

Always the tomboy

I preferred playing

basketball or

baseball with the boys.

 

In later years

my mother introduced

me to super shoes

Flat

Leather

Comfortable

Screen Shot 2015-06-16 at 16.13.44

Me and my super shoes

Bounded up and down

the hills of Kibera slum

in Nairobi,Kenya

Conquering

mud

water

slippery slopes

sewer water

floods.

Evading

dodgy youth

who followed me

one day.

No one could stop me

in my super shoes.

 

Under the overpass, Kibera

Under the overpass, Kibera

 

I would like to give a

Stupid Shoe Sticker

to every woman I see crippling herself.

This is why we fought for women’s liberation..

NOT to wear high heels

NOT to be objectified by the male gaze

And NOW??

Stupid Shoe Sticker

 

I am mystified as to why young women would spend their money on instruments of torture for their feet and their bodies.

 

References

https://au.lifestyle.yahoo.com/marie-claire/fashion/shoots/g/16323840/model-catwalk-falls/#1

http://www.cosmopolitan.com/style-beauty/fashion/news/a41684/high-heels-injuries-foot-ankle

http://www.osteopathic.org/osteopathic-health/about-your-health/health-conditions-library/womens-health/Pages/high-heels.aspx

http://www.thespinehealthinstitute.com/news-room/health-blog/how-high-heels-affect-your-body

https://au.totaltravel.yahoo.com/news/a/28470384/staff-reject-airlines-high-heel-directive/

Distorted Tree, Langata, Nairobi, Kenya

Distorted Tree, Langata, Nairobi, Kenya

Distorted

hacked up

solitary trees

But still the birds come

Barbed Wire Langata Kenya

Barbed Wire Langata Kenya

Circles of barbed wire

anti -theft

atop the wall

But still the birds come

Apartment Langata Nairobi Kenya

Apartment Langata Nairobi Kenya

Apartment buildings

replace

native forest

But still the birds come

 

For how long?

 

Our Street 10947

What is happening in Nairobi, Kenya and other very fast growing expanding cities in East Africa and beyond?

The place where I stay, Langata, provides some clues… What was an urban forest, Ngong Forest, not so long ago, has been taken over by apartment buildings and large houses, filling up the land with cement, leaving no space for trees, gardens, parks, or children’s playgrounds.

Behind the apartment where I stay there is an undeveloped open space. No one is allowed to build there because of a natural gas pipeline underground.

The open space is used for parking cars, hanging clothes, raising chickens and sakuma wiki, a local staple, a green leafy vegetable.

Children play in the rubble, the dirt and grassy areas. I sometimes drag a folding chair outside, sit with a book and a glass of wine – just to be outside and watch the clouds.

Home Made church near our apartment building, Langata

Homemade church near our apartment building, Langata

Not far from our building is a homemade church, made of corrugated iron. On Sundays it fills up with people singing and praying, amplified by a generator.

Further down the road, at the end of the paved section is yet another homemade church – also of corrugated iron sheets but painted.

Church near the end of our street, Langata

Church near the end of our street, Langata

At the end of the road are two Maasai manyattas where people live traditionally, driving their cattle, sheep, goats and donkeys into the forest and the grassy areas next to the cemetery daily then bringing them back home to their enclosures for the night.

Sheep and goats coming back to the Maasai manyatta

Sheep and goats coming back to the Maasai manyatta

When I am bored and tired of computer-based life, I walk to the manyatta and play with the children. Yesterday we played Skip to My Lou… skipping together in a long line, singing the song slowly, pausing, then speeding up. Everyone laughed. One tiny boy started crying because he couldn’t keep up with us. So I took his hand and we went at his pace.

Manyatta next to Cherryville apartments, Langata

Manyatta next to Cherryville apartments, Langata

Sketch of the Manyatta from balcony of the apartment building

Sketch of the manyatta from balcony of the apartment building, Langata

 

Last week, dirt and rubble were brought in by huge trucks, then graded to make a road through the area that is still not developed.

Yesterday a team was surveying the road. Soon houses and apartment buildings will fill up all empty space.

And the remnants of Ngong Forest?

Women carrying wood, trees chopped down in Ngong Forest

Women carrying wood, trees chopped down in Ngong Forest

Disappearing daily as people from Kibera, the nearby urban slum, cut down trees to sell for firewood, hollowing out the forest from the inside out.

Ngong Forest going...going..

Ngong Forest going…going..

Soon Ngong Forest will be no more.

Pile of cut trees Ngong Forest

gone…. trees cut down in Ngong Forest

Soon the Maasai manyattas will be no more.

All will be large houses, apartment buildings, concrete and cement.

Right now

Grey sky

Grey clothes

Painful memories

hold sway.

Let me

put on some color

a scarf from a friend.

Let me

accept thanks

from another friend.

Let me

walk outside

and look

at the sky

at the clouds.

Accept the grey

for today.

 

Grey Sky, Langata, Nairobi, Kenya

Grey Sky, Langata, Nairobi, Kenya

Clothes on the line Nairobi april 2014

Clothes on the line Nairobi April 2014

Washing clothes by hand

Hanging them out

behind the apartment

in Nairobi.

One by one

Black pants

bought with my mom

at Macy’s

Prairie Village Kansas

Near her home

in Brookside

Kansas City

Missouri.

How much longer will

the pants last?

My mom died March 2011.

The yellow towel

most recent purchase

Nakumatt

Prestige Plaza

Nairobi, Kenya.

Striped socks

also bought with my mom

Underwear

Big W

Woden Plaza

Canberra Australia.

Reminded of people

and places

Clothes hanging on the line.

19 Feb 2014   Nairobi, Kenya

Celebrated my birthday in Nairobi with my son Nathan and his girl friend,

outdoor dinner at an Ethiopian restaurant.

You would have liked all my gifts,

Natural wood carving with small bird Hand made in Nairobi

Natural wood carving with small bird Hand made in Nairobi

Wooden bird carving, natural wood

Wooden bird carving, natural wood

Bag made out of recycled plastic bags

Bag made out of recycled plastic bags

Birthday card of recycled paper and cloth

Birthday card of recycled paper and cloth

Small zipper bag made of recycled plastic bags

Small zipper bag made of recycled plastic bags

Mom–local arts and crafts and

recycled bags.

Wish you could be here, Mom.

Miss you.

Bette Silver, Botanical Gardens, San Francisco, California

Bette Silver, Botanical Gardens, San Francisco, California

Losing someone from your life, be it parent, child, sibling, friend, colleague, or mentor affects each one of us.

When does a death become a tragedy?  Death is a normal event. When is it a tragedy?  What does it depend upon?  The relationship of the deceased person to you?  The age of the deceased?  What they achieved during their life time? The circumstances of their death?

Losing my mom two years ago was one of the greatest losses of my life.

The other deaths were  of close friends – Tausi in Kenya, Angel in California, Claudio in Venezuela –  and my mother-in-law Hsiao Li Lindsay in China.

Nasra (left) Tausi (right)

Nasra (left) Tausi (right)

Of the four, Tausi was the youngest.  She died of HIV/AIDs at a time when most people in Kenya were in denial.  As Mandela once said, people with AIDs often died of stigma, even when treatment was available.  When Tausi died, her own family was in denial and treatment was generally unavailable in Kenya.  Her death reverberates with me as a tragedy.  She was young , talented, a mother of two – a very special warm person. If she had been diagnosed and received treatment in time she could have lived. We miss you Tausi.

Claudio

Claudio

 

Then there was Claudio –  a very exceptional person – a musician in the Venezuelan National Orchestra in Caracas — a humanist and role model for everyone who knew him.  Claudio lived a wonderful full life, although it was cut somewhat short by cancer.  We miss you Claudio.

 

 

Pamela, Angel, Margaret (his wife) in their kitchen in the Mission District, San Francisco, California , probably sometime in 2000

Pamela, Angel, Margaret (his wife) in their kitchen in the Mission District, San Francisco, California , probably sometime in 2000

Angel was another exceptional person.  He was an activist for working people and human rights all his life.  Angel was a community organizer in the Mission District of San Francisco, a leader in early childhood education for all and an all round exceptional, warm human being.  Angel lived a very full life and left it peacefully.  We miss you Angel.

 

 

 

Hsiao Li Lindsay, my mother-in-law

Hsiao Li Lindsay, my mother-in-law

Hsiao Li Lindsay died four years ago at the age of 93.  She was a heroine in the modern history of China.  She and her husband Michael Lindsay were in the underground opposing the Japanese occupation of China, which began before World War II. She wrote a wonderful book about her life in those years Bold Plum.  She lived to see Bold Plum published 60 years after she first wrote it.  She died surrounded by her family in Beijing.  We miss you Hsiao Li.

 

Portrait of Bette Hutchison Silver 2010

Portrait of Bette Hutchison Silver 2010

 

My mom was within nine days of her 89th birthday when she died in March 2011.  Her death was a tragedy to me as her daughter.  Her childhood was a struggle in a family with challenges of alcoholism, poverty and divorce.  Her adult life was one of sharing and participating in activities such as building support for the Kansas City Art Institute.  She loved to travel – to Mexico, to Africa and to Europe.  Her front porch in the Brookside area of Kansas City was open to all – for talk, games, and pot luck dinners.  I miss you Mom.

Of the five deaths, the one that seems to me to be a tragedy was that of Tausi.  Her death was probably preventable.  She died very young.

More thoughts on Death as Tragedy in my next blog.

 

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