New Clear Vision


constructive commentary for the chronically farsighted


Archive for the ‘Mary Sojourner’

The Oracle Says…

May 18, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Culture, Mary Sojourner

“We Told You So…”

by Mary Sojourner

Spring 1973, Atlanta. My lover was a professor of psychology, a man more familiar with suburban angst and tenure and fretting about interest rates rather than whether the month is going to outlast the income. I was thirty-three, had lived with my three kids in communes for six years; started food co-ops and collective day care centers; and had seen my friends lug their hand-thrown pots, hand-dipped candles, and hand-woven shawls to craft fairs and tiny stores in the heart of the dying city in which I lived.

“You’re going to love this,” he said. “Underground Atlanta! It’s the next phase of what you and your friends have been creating.”

We descended by escalator into an inferno of neon and charm. “Dear God,” I said to my lover, “may you be wrong.” We were surrounded by chain boutiques, chain craft shops, chain yogurt stands, and what were then called fern bars — cutesy joints with fake antiques on their walls and menus some think tank had designed. (more…)

Sister, You’re an Addict

March 16, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Family, Mary Sojourner

Empowerment Is Not Spelled C-R-A-Z-Y B-U-S-Y

by Mary Sojourner

In the early Seventies, I was the divorced working mother of three kids, a community activist, peacenik, teacher — and a fool for weak men. In those days, Redbook magazine ran short stories by women, about women, for women. One night after kids and boyfriend were tucked in bed, my ad for the food co-op written, my lesson plan for my next class written and I was too wired to sleep, I opened Redbook. By the time I finished that month’s story, I knew sleep would be possible. And that I was neither depressed nor crazy — I was exhausted.

The writer had taken me through a day in the life of a dead woman who did not have time to die. The young wife and mother suffered a fatal stroke as she was racing up the stairs with three bags of groceries so she could start dinner, clean the apartment, stuff dirty laundry in a bag to take to the laundry and get to the school to pick up her kids. She knew she was dead. And, she had to keep going. (more…)

Stepping Away

February 17, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Ecology, Mary Sojourner

An Experiment in Research Methods

by Mary Sojourner

The world outside my writing room window is diamond bright. Gleaming black ravens hop and posture around the corn chips and unshelled peanuts I’ve scattered for their breakfast. Conan, a ferocious tassel-eared squirrel half a raven’s size, scoots down the apartment wall and dashes into the birds. They step aside. If I were prone to anthropomorphizing, I would conjecture that they are muttering, “Sheesh, it’s that pushy kid again. Humor him.” Conan stuffs corn chips in his cheeks and races off.

There’s a flash of sapphire. A Steller’s jay drops down to grab one of the peanuts. He gobbles one, then grabs a second and flies off. “Hey,” I say, “you’ll choke.” He’s back in a forager’s heartbeat and I find myself wondering about that first peanut. Did he swallow it whole? Did he tuck it somewhere behind his beak? (more…)

The Split

January 20, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Culture, Ecology, Mary Sojourner

A Self and Nation Divided

by Mary Sojourner

“Hatred keeps on increasing to a point where both you and I burn ourselves in mutual hatred, and to the Buddha the only way to solve it is that one party must stop…” — Ananda W. P. Guruge,  in Awakenings: Asian Wisdom for Every Day (eds. D. and O. Folimi)

In April 2001, I was on a solo road trip researching Nevada light, sage basins, indigo mountains, and small town casinos for my novel Going Through Ghosts. I had stopped in a convenience store for coffee and yakked with the young clerk. She had told me there was a warm spring in a nearby cottonwood grove. “Don’t tell anybody where it is,” she said.  “It’s for locals only. We take care of it.”

Nine years later to the month, I slid back into that silken water. Soft desert sunlight gleamed on the cottonwoods’ new leaves.  I listened to the whisper of the old trees and the silvery rill of water trickling into a series of pools below me.  The locals had continued to take care of the place. They’d reinforced the crumbling cinderblock walls around the spring.  They had set up a bright red battered barbecue grill beneath the biggest cottonwood and a sign that read: Please clean up after yourself. Thank you. (more…)

Welcome to Your Future

December 16, 2011 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Family, Mary Sojourner

The Last Great American -ism Is Heading Your Way

by Mary Sojourner

You find yourself sitting at a big conference table in one of those trying-to-be-classy corporate hotel meeting rooms.  There is a pad and pen in front of you.  The company has sent you to a training on stereotyping.  You figure it’s a waste.  You’ve been through all of that before — doesn’t matter if you’re Anglo, African-American, Asian-American, whatever.  You went to college and the racism training was part of the deal.

The room fills.  Everybody’s got their laptops open in front of them and a cup of bad hotel coffee. A person walks in and closes the door. The person is dressed in baggy clothing.  It wears a featureless mask and gloves. You wonder if this is some Occupy mic-check. (more…)

You Are Where You Live

November 18, 2011 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Culture, Family, Mary Sojourner

Is There a Place Called Home for the Children of America?

by Mary Sojourner

“You must leave your home and go forth from your country. The children of Buddha all practice this way.” — The thirty-seven Bodhisattva Practices

My friend and I head for the Olympic Rain Forest. We never arrive. Somewhere around Sequim, he feels the northwest pulling him as far as it will be possible for two humans to go. Beyond that point there are cormorants and orcas. There is a blue-black horizon and light fading down into the sea. There is air vibrant with salt.

We stop along the way to where we can go no further. I walk to the water’s edge and scoop handfuls of liquid mineral. I touch my forehead, my heart and belly with wet fingers. I take away a gray-white pebble flecked with mica.

At the Makah Cultural & Research Center, I learn that the people regard the knowledge in that place as “a canoe” carrying them, and a “war club” shattering assumptions and prejudices. I learn that their real name is kwih-dich-chuh-ahtx which means People who live by the rocks and the seagulls. Makah is a name given to them by another First Nation. It means generous with food. (more…)

For Earth’s Sake…

October 21, 2011 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Culture, Ecology, Mary Sojourner

Leave It in the Ground

by Mary Sojourner

I was half-way through writing this post when I realized I was weary — not fading light weary or tired from a life suddenly too busy — but weary from revisiting yet again a potential atrocity motivated by nothing but greed and political ambition. I’m seventy-one. I was forty-six the first time my friends and I took action to stop uranium mining on sacred lands around the Grand Canyon.

It was 1986, a gorgeous day on the south rim of the Canyon — brilliant sunlight and clear turquoise sky, ravens spiraling down to circle the trees. My friends and I pulled on white radiation suits and gas masks. We linked hands and stepped across the main road in Grand Canyon National Park. A few dozen people waved banners and sang. There was a human raccoon and a human raven laughing up at the scrawwwking birds. A bright red banner read: Uranium? Leave it in the Ground. (more…)