06 May 2009

sweet & tenacious

I do have to say that I am a bit bitter after finishing my degree. Some of you may be confused, as I walked through graduation last year, but I still had revisions on my paper. Due to the sudden and unexpected death of my mother I was unable to finish those revisions in time and took an exemption for late completion. Meanwhile, our department installed its third department head in four years. Upheaval is an understatement. I have taught and filled in when any professor left or didn't want to teach a class. I usually was given the classes that were taught after 3:00 as others wanted to get home to their families. I worked hard and I loved it... but this year has been different. I struggled with egos and hierarchy within the system and was told several times, just don't say anything. Well, me being me, I can't keep quiet and a few heated discussions ensued. I did finish my requirements for receiving my diploma, but at this point, the restrictions, revisions, name-calling and overall bad form have made me wonder if it was worth it. I can honestly say I do not deserve to be treated in this manner, really no one does. My world felt very small and confined until April 18th when I decided to venture to SLC and take a chance on hearing and seeing Wangari Maathai, the first black female Nobel Laureate. I was not disappointed. Terry Tempest Williams introduced her as fierce and compassionate. After hearing her speak, my descriptive words were sweet and tenacious. She possesses the most amazing smile, inner calmness and patience... but you can feel that she will not be silenced, that she will keep on expressing her voice until it is finally heard. She loves. As TTW said, she expresses hope in the power of a seed... she started the Greenbelt Movement in Kenya... planting trees one at a time to change the world. She spoke about environmental degradation and how this is what is affecting most women in poverty in the world -- no access to clean drinking water -- my heart flushes when I hear this -- it should be a fundamental right for all people. She spoke of those in power who get used to the perks and luxuries of such a position and how they become the most dangerous as they are the most vulnerable to corruption. She listed a few things that we in the US can insist on in our quest to not forget Africa. Be engaged, keep speaking out, insist on good business practices and of course human rights and "We must not abandon Africa to China." She told of how she learned the 3Rs in the US -- Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and how she has added her own -- RESPECT [do not waste; show gratitude]. She was wearing a lovely beaded hummingbird brooch given to her by TTW. She told a story about the hummingbird, how during a raging forest fire all the animals were rushing out of the woods, bewildered and scared, the hummingbird kept going to the river sipping drops of water, flying back to the inferno to let the tiny bead of liquid fall into the flames, all the while thinking that this drop might make the difference. When confronted and made fun of by the other creatures the hummingbird replied, "I'm doing the best I can." And that, among all the other wise and profound thoughts she expressed was what I held to most, I want to be caught doing the best I can.
Note: I was privileged to be introduced to TTW afterwards. I told her about my paper, Interior Ecology and she said it was a beautiful phrase. I explained further research I would like to do, inspired by her writing and she said to email her. She held her hand out to me and said it was an honor to meet me. So maybe the obstacles placed in my way have not been for naught afterall. My heart is full.

4 comments:

karengberger said...

This is a beautiful story. I'm glad that you were able to hear this presentation, make a real connection with one who you admire, and find a way of seeing the difficulties of the past academic year that is less painful for you. May your Mother's Day be filled with joy and good memories. God bless you.

Chris Garff said...

Glad you had such a good experience. Every difficult thing we experience has some good that comes of it. She sounds like an amazing lady.

Henke Family said...

where'd it go?
I was just going to comment on your last post about your mother.
I wanted to tell you how deeply moved I was by your post. I know you loved her so much. Life is so fragile. It makes me really put things into perspective.

Henke Family said...

oh, nevermind. There it is. I must have clicked wrong.