A long lean room
bound by an unclad red brick wall
and a smoothly painted plaster board
wall with hanging art and plants
and advertising coffee and food,
was a short step of relief
off the broad street and footpaths.
The summer sun and humidity
climbed with the circuitous
walk through the panhandlers
and the fast movers out of the 125
subway stop to the Markus Garvey park,
up the small hill and back
to the Malcolm X boulevard
towards Central Park.
The crowd thinned to a
few retailers sitting under
In Il Caffe Latte pairs of white people
took coffee and brunch.
Two black women ran the kitchen.
A young white man served patrons.
Jazz played quietly thru speakers –
Miles, Coleman and others.
A black man came in, ordered coffee to go.
I wondered if he was busy
or whether I / we left a bad impression.
A white young yuppie type
came in, ordered coffees and
He had ginger hair.
I didn’t care what he thought.
Down the road
outside Harlem Coffee Co,
two young black yuppie types
stretched their legs at the sidewalk
table, drinking lattes at ease.
Coming on the beginnings of a new relationship with a generous, caring, successful, playful and creative woman, conferences, courses, projects, visiting with my son, and chilling out, was interspersed with lengthy viber or skype conversations that were flirty, jokey, intellectual, dissonant, honest, vulnerable, happy, and teary.
The Landmark Global Transformation conference, my entry event in San Fransisco, rode on the theme of ‘Wonder’. One of my all time favourite topics, wonder would anchor the whole trip and come back, specifically, again during the Alba Emot Course in Asheville, North Carolina, a couple of weeks later.
Although Global Transformations took the ‘Wonder’ theme, it was a wondering about leadership that took my ear. Gladly, presenters I had met a couple of year ago, facilitated a couple of beautiful engaging structural movement communication work. I attended those sessions for my work in dance and it gave me another access to my hearing on leadership. Initially that hearing on leadership was all about what I need to be a leader of my rEvolve project. As my trip comes to a conclusion, that has transformed into rEvolve being the possibility of a leadership training program, ‘Moving into Leadership’.
The idea of moving into leadership is a more clear consolidation of the work I am doing around sustainability and climate change, men’s culture, and dance, into an integrated work, a leadership training program.
From San Fransisco, I flew over to Denver, Colorado, for a few days, to catch up with my friends in Art as Action. Staying at an Air BNB nearby, I was able to ride a hire bike into the city, and even on the light rail to Jefferson County where I could ride to hiking paths. As with my previous experience in that part, life at one mile high can make the legs ache in bike riding unusually earlier than at my home altitude in Australia of half a mile. I learnt how to use Lyft.
It seemed that each time the past two years I’ve seen my friends in Art as Action they have been grieving over the loss of a loved one. Last year the grandfather of the director had passed away. This year one of their music/dance colleagues and his partner were killed in a car accident. I want to make some bigger sense of this coincidence. It only mattered that I could be some community of listening around the grief. Sarah Leversee welcomed me into her Reconnect Class based on Dance for PD and it was wonderful to see the liveliness of that ‘older’ dance class.
It was a special treat to spend a few hours over lunch with Wayne Gilbert, performance poet, retired literature teacher, and recent (having Parkinson’s Disease) dance performer with Art as Action. Wayne is a volunteer poetry teacher to the State prison to the north of Denver. His experience of the attraction of poetry to some hard men, has been profound. At one of his earliest classes, having delivered a poem on Parkinson’s Disease, he was astounded that a hand immediately shot up. The owner said, “Yeh, I get that poem. It’s like how I feel about being in this prison.” I find myself amazed by the nature of the human being around their limiting circumstances, their authentic relationship with those limitations, the access they find to some expansion of those circumstances and they contributions they choose to make, nonetheless. There is some inspiration there, for all of us, and I store that idea away for a way to provide access to that inspiration for everyone.
It was great to spend a week chillin’ at my son’s place in Riverside, California. We had a number of social outings together including a Baha’i meeting. We played an hour of table tennis every night. I got a little heat stroke doing a hike in the desert hills at the back of his place, and the effects of that took quite a few days to remedy, reminding me, among other things, that I’m not as young as I used to be. It was lovely to spend a sedate four hours with my son in the UCR library while he played with an assignment for his masters degree in social work. Sometimes I think I should be in conversation with my son, seeing that we can’t see each other much across the seas, but I profess one of my greatest joys is just to be in proximity.
The next phase of my travel was to spend a few days with Sue Blythe on the Sustainable Farm, Hampton, Gainesville, Florida, around her Future Flash Climate Change Project. Sue’s work has expanded to engage commitments from some fabulous environmental players in Florida, including the manager of the ‘Sustainable Floridians’ volunteer training program out of Florida University, Lanny the Earthman, Actor Jan Booher, and Dave Room San Fransisco based creator of Pacha’s Pyjamas. As I write this I’ve just finished a Skype conversation with Dave Room, opening the way for his work to find expression for children environmental education in Australia.
From Gainesvile to Asheville to the Alba Emot course with Laura Bond. What a fantastic 9 days, learning and training in primary emotional expression, Feldenkrais movement, and exploring related experiments in life story, text, voice and dance with an extraordinary teaching team. So much to bring back to my dance and theatre work but also into the possibility of leadership training.
And so, this week another chill out and exercise at my son’s place in California. It’s a hot summer week in the desert, 113 F early in the week. Time to meditate, play with movement training (God I need it), and have dozens of small conversations with him around his life. He became an American citizen while I’ve been here. Looks like another feather in his global citizen’s cap.
Two nights ago I woke in sadness. My time here is slipping away. Today, I’m prepared for a great weekend with my son, at the beach, in LA. It is time to go home.
We have a ‘free’ day from the organised pilgrimage. My wife has a nephew who is an agronomist doing volunteer work on the gardens. He is a talented lad who speaks French (country tongue), Parsi (mother tongue), English(cousin tongue), and Spanish (holiday tongue). He is also very cheerful. We decided to meet him and go for a walking tour of Akka. It surprised me that it really only took a couple of hours strolling and sightseeing to get around the old walled city. Many of the places we knew from Baha’i history but I was intrigued to see a ‘crusader’s tunnel’ – an escape tunnel from near the mediterranean sea wall to the inner town.
We had late lunch at a very crowded restaurant which we had gotten to through the Akka market. The market was so crowded that it was like being squeezed along for about 15 minutes.
As evening fell, we took a taxi over to Bahji to pray in the Shrine of Baha’u’llah. Many of the pilgrims took the opportunity to be there as well as there were late buses organised to get us back to Haifa.
Still trying to catch up with my travelogue after such a busy month. Already I find my detailed memory starting to fade after two months since our trip.
Day 2 we started early at 7:15am and took the organised bus to the Most holy Place for the Baha’is – the resting place of Baha’u’llah – at the mansion and farm (now extensive gardens) called Bahji. I have no photos from that day as we spent it in total contemplation and prayer. Later in the week we returned and I took more photos then.
Day 3 of our pilgrimage was an early start 7:15am on the bus in Haifa and around the bay to Akka. The pilgrimage approximates the chronology of historical events for the founder of the Faith, Baha’u’llah, and His son and successor, Abdu’l-Baha. So this first trip to Akka finds us at the army barracks which were used as a prison. It is a fortified barracks with a large dry moat around it. It is important to note that the fortress city of Akka repelled even Napoleon’s army. Its walls were breached by the Egyptian governor in the early 19th century. Yet at the time of Baha’u’llah it was a poorly upkept town with a stench that harboured nasty diseases. Although the family became sick on arrival, only 2 died from disease. Other prisioners here had not been so lucky (if you can call it that.) Later Baha’u’llah was instrumental in cleaning up the town. Two years later, and still in that prison, Baha’u’llah’s youngest son who He had named ‘The Purest Branch” fell through a skylight on the roof while pacing and praying. He fell on a crate that pierced his chest, and died.
We then went to the House of Abbud (named for the owner at the time). Baha’u’llah and his family rented part of this house after being released from the barracks. He wrote His “Most Holy Book”, the book of laws of the Baha’i Faith, here.
His son, Abdu’l-Baha, also married here, to a young woman who had come from Persia.
Baha’u’llah lived here for seven years, while Abdu’l-Baha lived here until after Baha’u’llah’s death in 1992.