Without The Driving Force...
"Free South Africa" is crudely scrawled across scrap plywood walls of hastily constructed shanties. Three hundred enraged protesters guard the 20 symbolic structures blocking California Hall as police officers in riot gear face off along the east walk. "Amandela!" shouts one of the protesters, breaking the extreme tension. In unison, the rest of the protesters cry out, "Soweto!"
Less than half a mile away, I look up at the pale blue sky and bask in the enthusiasm of my first day as a university employee. My look, a pastel spring dress with matching heels and purse, is carefully coordinated to make a good impression. I am to fill one of the newly created monitor positions. While I'm not sure what that is, exactly, I intend to be the best.
The student activities office, my home department, is filled with people demanding my attention.
I wait my turn, and then I request to see my supervisor.
The office assistant cryptically instructs me to go to California Hall while thrusting a map of the campus into my hands. Fumbling with my newly acquired map, I find my way across campus--my narrow-toed shoes pinching my feet every step of the way.
At California Hall, my supervisor stands in the middle of a hostile exchange.
Off to the side, a small anxious man, who is to be my partner, shifts back and forth nervously. He's taking a direct hit from a pink Pepto-Bismol bottle. A grungy 20-year-old in ragged blue jeans approaches my queasy colleague and me. I extend my hand to introduce myself. "F-- you!" he greets me. Not the impression I had hoped to make.
Nearly 10 years have passed since my memorable introduction to the UC Berkeley scene. Over the years, I've mediated many similar protests, my enthusiasm repeatedly tried, but undaunted. While the issues change from nuclear power and war, to animal research and rights, to homelessness and People's Park, the absolute passion for social justice is constant.
The groups riot, rally, march and sit-in. Sometimes there are blazing torches and hung effigies. Always there are loud voices and threatening ultimatums. Spirit and vigor challenge everything thought, everything done. Behind the scene administrators struggle with impossible demands. Outside the debate rages. "Inside, outside, we're all on the same side," the chant of passionate protesters echoes in my head.
The intense struggle for ideals persists. The community may not be large. The argument may not be logical. The goal may not be shared. The outcome may not be just. But, for those who are mindful, these explosive acts disturb the everyday routine and force us to reconsider our course. Truth is at risk. Complacency is certain without this driving force.
Today I'm called to Sproul Hall to mediate an affirmative action take over. The students are fired with enthusiasm and I feel the rush of adrenaline. I welcome attending this remarkable, open classroom of interdisciplinary study. The day will be long.
I now wear comfortable shoes.
Fired With Enthusiasm For Fungi!
Such an unlikely passion--it took me by surprise one exuberant fall day in the Sierras some 10 years ago. It came from nowhere and fills my days and nights with visions.
Unlike most people who dread the wet wintry days, my passion rises as I wait for the amazing world in the woods to emerge. Mushrooms are coming!
Saturday morning finds me up early as I cast off the work week and rush out at first light to where the air smells of pine and fresh earth. The morning is surreal--swirling fog and streaks of light, endless expanse of ocean and rolling hills--this is the California that fills me with delight. My destination is a jewel of a state park with rocky coastline and acres of mixed forest. The odd-shaped rocks by the ocean fire my imagination. They appear as giant morel-like mushrooms standing watch as great waves crash, sending white foamy spray into the sky with a sound that washes me clean of all stress. I am free as the birds soaring over my head.
Moving to the woods I walk slowly, head down, eyes alert to every mound in the dirt. I scan the duff, stooping to touch and pick and smell. I love it all, but my heart leaps when I spot the red-brown cap and the stocky stalk ...this treasure, this king bolete, is for me alone and I relish the moment of discovery. Joy and excitement pull me on to discover more secret hiding places. I see a glint of gold in the dry oak leaves and rush to uncover dozens of perfect chanterelles as they flow down the hill like a golden rivulet with me tumbling after them, laughing.
What colors I spot--oranges and golds, pinks and reds, midnight blacks, stark or translucent whites. I see the traces where deer, chipmunks and slugs have feasted. Viscid, smooth or velvet soft, all cold to the touch, the fungi emerge to disperse their spores by the billions. I sniff each find and sometimes catch traces of sweet--almond, anise, cherry--or strong smells, like phenol, garlic, shrimp. Most smell like fresh dirt or some other familiar but unnamable odor. I sigh, this little world has captured me.
When the light fails, I find I have walked all day and not even noticed time passing. Tired and happy to my core, I watch the last light play over the ocean as I drive the snake road home. Still cherishing my treasures, at home I lovingly clean and cook for hours. My heightened aliveness continues into the evening.
As I crawl into bed, I feel peaceful, calm and happy beyond words. Visions of the day dance in my head. Thank you, Nature, you always leave me refreshed, renewed and eager for more!