Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Our next big move

Will and I are making our next big move as we enter (I have completely  entered) our senior years.  Our move is to move from our home of our adult years.  We have been in Eugene, Oregon, since 1969, coming separately from different places.  I came with my ex-first husband because he was transferred from the Seattle area to be a Scott Paper salesman here.  I had to quit my teaching job at Redmond, WA, Cherry Valley Elementary, and take a job with Monroe Middle School.  We lived in an apartment across the Ferry Street Bridge.  The Vietnam war was raging, and we had moved to one of the key places in the nation for the Anti-War Movement.  Will was part of the radical edge of the movement having hitchhiked from Rhode Island to join a movement and I was a school teacher by day, married to a tax man by then, working in the federal government and we were anti-war protestors after work.

In 1976, the war had ended with a whimper, the Watergate Hearings had brought down Richard Nixon a few years before years before, and I was no longer a teacher but a graduate student and actively part of the Asian American movement when our marriage ended in 1976.  We had moved into a decrepit house that year, on the market for two years just the year before.  I could see why it had not sold.  There was a colony of carpenter ants in the back toilet, a dried up cheese sandwich in the dark, extra room off of the living room, the paved floor sitting right on top of dirt, cold in the winter with little insulation.  Every carpet and curtain was oily and grimy and had to be thrown away.  The house cost 20,000, with monthly payments of $135 a month.  Amazing as it may sound, we could barely pay for it.  And when my ex gave it up to move into a condo, I took it one and moved back to take on the payments.  Without a job that was challenging.  Bob Flor, first Filipino PhD student in the School of Ed came to the rescue and moved in paying for the house payment.  I will always be so grateful to him.  Then I was so grateful I would listen for as long as he needed about his travails with his committee, and about his dissertation which was about gasp!  statistics and the Asian population in Education.

During the 70's and 80's I had many many young roommates coming through the house, at first to help me with the rent, and later just because we were family.  In Eugene during these decades it was very difficult to get housing as an Asian, Native American, African American or Latino.  So especially with AASU and NASU students, they would eventually end up with me whether it was the three weeks after giving notice before going home or for the school  year.  This house was also the party house.  Hardly any furniture cluttered the house so it was easy to push the few against the wall and have a dance floor.  So many stories these walls could tell -- stories of crazy multicultural parties, stories of work, struggle and change around justice anti-racism anti white supremacy issues., stories of friendships turning into family, still going on, we raising our kids together to call each other cousins, Uncle and Auntie.  I had remarried Will in 1987 and until we had adopted and fostered Maki and Margaret we lived with Greg Archuleta.  We also housed the "outlawed Klamath family" put in our home by CALC, the infamous Charles family, the father and three of his youngest sons where we learned more about police profiling and street life than we wanted.

Between 1987 and 1997 the house was basically a family home.  No more housing students, or street people.  These were tough years.  A lot of unhappiness since our little girl did not want to be with us, nor want to be raised.  Our foster daughter joined us and she had a playmate and it normalized a little.  We went a lot to California for  the real normalcy.  Our home was always an intense place whether changing the community or trying to make a family, and raise children for a healthy lifestyle.  During this period of time, I would say that Will and I pretty much treaded water the best we could.  These years we learned we could do nothing, absolutely nothing without the help of the Creator, of elders.  During the early 1980's Marvin Stevens, my Kickapoo father image put a sacred fire out in our back lot and literally it and that big Douglas Fir who witnessed everything was all that we could really depend upon.  Definitely our closest friends had moved away or turned out to not be able to help us because of the challenge of our daughters.  My so-called "best friend" and her family made it known that we weren't friends anymore.  My life was pretty much my job and taking my children to California, and Will's life was his office and business.

From about 2002 and 2010 we came up with the corollary for our children that they would never live with us again their having moved in and out several times.  Now they are happy in their own homes in their 30's, happy with their independence and Maki is very helpful with the house coming in to help her aging mother with things.  Other adults have come and lived with us for awhile, but not for long.  These had changed from the early days of this house.  It was now a house of two seniors who went to bed by 9 am and had their own way of doing things.  We have been here for about 45 years and about that many people -- 45 people have called it home for a few years of their lives.  In the past five years this house has become an outpost for the Winnemem Wintu tribe.  In the past decade two sets of twin fawn have been born in a deer bed

When I talk about moving, I am talking about something that is not only a major lifestyle change for us but maybe a shift for many people for whom this old house is a symbol of their youthful ideals, their first community, the time they took the power in their own hands, where two young women grew up and to which they returned to grow a little more and find their backbone, their stance.  We are praying that this old house will go to a family who will value the sacred Fire, know the Winnemem tribe and will continue being a stopping place, will value our Doug fir tree and will allow the back to be uncultivated enough that deer can be born there and take their first wobbly steps safely.  I hope a garden will always grow here and I pray that this home will still be a haven for the people who live here as it has been with us, as it has grown with us.

I never thought I would leave.  I never thought I would leave all it has meant.  There is some sadness in this leave-taking.  But sometimes as one ages they live in one place so long that all they had worked to accomplish, they witness it fall apart, or friendships conclude, or beloved people move away or pass away.  My home was where my mother took her last breath, and looked up to the ceiling in amazement as if she saw a legion of angels and ancestors coming to greet and welcome her.  So I am leaving a lot behind.

Will and I are looking on-line even before we can afford to move getting used to the market in Talent, Oregon, Phoenix, Oregon, or Ashland, Oregon.  My first choice is Talent, a little town close to the city of Ashland, bee friendly, with many ranch houses (we want a single story), and flat land which are easily made into garden area.  We have fought the rock soil at our home for decades.  Will makes the most beautiful fertilizer and compost soil and has grown a beautiful garden nonetheless in this clay soil. In Talent, I would be able to garden too!  I dream of a place close enough to the little town of Talent, the Asian antique store, the coffeehouses, the bookstore.  Or perhaps there will be an affordable home in Ashland!  South Ashland would be nice, quicker to California where the Winnemem Village is.  It is certainly a draw that we have cut a 6 hour drive to a 2 hour drive.  We can go to the Halloween Party!  Birthday parties.  We can get to ceremony quickly.  We can go into action for our Chief with little warning from her.  It makes sense that we move to where our work is and leave the town where our work has become more and more finished.  There is much to do to stop the raising of Shasta Dam and protect our sacred Mountain, and sacred places.  There will be more and more ceremonies.  It also makes sense to move where the youth still stand alongside their elders as a rule, not as an exception.  Getting older in Indian Country is nothing like getting older outside of it.  It makes sense to go where the parties and dinners which include our participation is happening.  Of course that exists here too, but it seems at the Village someone is always sending out an invitation on Facebook to gather together for a movie, for dinner, for planning an action.  Finally, but not less important at all, my little sister and her husband lives there.  We see them as we drive back and forth from CA, their home our refuge for the night.  But it would just be nice to be close to family.  She is already helping us find good places to put down our roots.

For all of the above, Will and I are moving toward Life, another adventure.  This home, I dream, will be like a "vacation place" as the Winnemem Village is our place of work.  My initial plan is not to become burrowed into the work of Talent or Ashland, add on no new obligations, not start anything new.  Obligation enough with Winnemem.  We will definitely be a stopping place for Eugene friends who come to Ashland, the area being a nice destination point.  We are blessed to have this chance because of Will's family's circumstance to make this kind of change.  I am full of gratitude -- for our home on Jefferson Street and its care and security and for the ability to move forward.

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"from Outside the Belly" was also known as "TBAsian" from 2008-2010. Thank you for reading.

from Outside the Monster's Belly

from Outside the Monster's Belly
. . . following Earth instead (Rakaia River, site of Salmon Ceremony, photo credit Ruth Koenig)


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Eugene, Oregon
I am a citizen of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe. I am a Nikkei descendant sansei (third generation);retired teacher, involved in the Winnemem tribal responsibility to Water, Salmon, and our belief that the Sacred is our Teacher. Working locally for human rights and supporting youth leadership.