Yesterday, Ken and I drove west for 2.5 hours to beautiful Salina, Kansas. Never mind that it was 106 degrees (if we stopped doing things when it’s too hot, we wouldn’t ever do anything anymore). We were on our way to the fabulous Ad Astra Books & Coffee, where I was to give a reading from The Divorce Girl
and a companion writing workshop, and between the two, reunite with an old friend from 30 years ago.
The bookstore was beautiful, cool and a little dark inside (a good thing in such weather), full of great and compelling used and new books (which greatly compelled us to buy some) and run by a lovely collective of folks who were living their dream by giving their community this gathering place. The workshop, held in a back room with four loving women writers, went swimmingly (despite me having to leap up to turn on or off the a.c. every 20 minutes because we were either freezing or burning up). The reading was also a delight, with an attentive audience in the cafe and time afterwards to visit, sign books, and even catch up with my aunt-and-uncle-in-laws.
The mind-blowing highlight of the day for me was re-uniting with my frined, someone I had learned so much from so many years before when we were friends, comrades and co-workers in Kansas City in the early 80s, both of us working for the Citizen/Labor Energy Coalition. Meeting each other in front of the restaurant, we hugged and marveled at how we looked exactly the same and how our grassroots organizing work (focused on energy conservation and environment) in the early 80s was way ahead of its time. We caught up, or at least began (30 years is a lot of territory to cover), over spinach salad at Martinelli’s, and it felt so good to see my old friend, one who mentored me in community organizing and also in what it meant to live with greater thoughtfulness and compassion.
On the way home, I thought about our renewed friendship as we drove at dusk through fields lit in the strange blonde light of dying or dead crops. In the sand hills, we noticed dead hackberry trees in the valleys, and even birds migrating, despite it not being the usual migration season (“Where are they going?” I kept asking Ken. He didn’t know, but he was sure it was to find food). I also thought about the dead pigeon I saw on the sidewalk in Salina, maybe another sign of the (hot) times. At the same time, I held in my mind the image of the writers in the workshop, so brave and open, and of re-connecting with my old friend, who continues to work for peace, justice and awareness.
As always, there’s a lot of reason for despair, and as always, a lot of reason for gratitude too.