Tribute

wanda

Wanda Watson - July 31, 1991 - November 4, 2010

We laid beloved kitty Wanda to rest two days ago, on Thursday, November 4, 2010, after her short period of collapse — after a long and warm life of nearly 20 years.

Wanda had been my constant companion for over 17 years in 6 of my various 8 San Francisco homes. I can’t imagine living in a home anywhere without her presence, and I still hear her on the stairs and across the floor, see her sleeping in every soft place, and feel her fluffy purring as I lie and try to rest in my new quiet Wandalessness.

When I moved to Landers Street in 1993, I was separating from a relationship of five years. It was a painful and confusing time, and I found my new solo apartment thunderously silent. I went to the SF Animal Shelter and I saw her. Wanda was a young fluffy thing at 1-1/2 years old and had been abandoned by some soulless creature who never had any idea what they were going to miss over the next 17 years. She looked straight at me with her huge yellow eyes, held my gaze, and said “take me home.”

When I took her home she immediately burrowed into the mirrored cabinet corner as if she was seeking her litter. Within a few days she emerged, and began watching over me while I slept, poking my eyes and mouth and nose gently as if to see if this dream was real. After that, I could feel that she never let me out of her radar as long as I was in the house.

wanda and moya on xmas eve

wanda and moya on xmas eve

We moved quickly to a warmer tiny studio apartment on Lloyd Street, which was the home of many legends in our lives. She loved the warm perch with a sunny view, and in the studio she could always be near me. When I was not home, she retreated to a lump under my bed covers, which is the way most of my friends got to know her at first. When I approached home from way down the block, in a car or on foot, she would immediately rouse and hop out onto the fire escape to greet me. I will never cease to be amazed at how she always leapt out for me no matter what time of day or night I approached. When I came through the door, she always greeted me loudly with the Wanda(tm) yowl of cranky-sounding delight.

spike and wanda

spike and wanda

When Leanne and I moved in together on Vicksburg, Wanda first met her step-brother Spike. Spike was by all accounts an incredible, daunting, and epic animal. In many ways, there could not have been two more different beasts. While Wanda retreated during the daytime to hide under the bed or blanket, Spike trotted on the sidewalk, and waited. While Wanda’s feline fantasies struck out in the night in solitary bursts, Spike gathered her up and patiently taught her the intricacies of mousing. Spike spent at least 9 out of 9 lives exercising every bit of maximum animalness, and died early in 2003 at 9 years old, the very second the heart of our girl Lucy started beating. Wanda lived a long warm fairly quiet and very devoted life. In this way, they differed not at all: they were both devoted to us.

Even though Lucy refocused all of our time, Wanda welcomed her into our home. Wanda patiently taught Lucy how to be kind to animals, and gave Lucy a great way to learn about being gentle. She amazed us with her agility, although she was already elderly, with accepting Lucy and tolerating infant and toddler love. In many ways, Wanda really emerged after Lucy was born. She came out to play, greeted guests and total strangers, learned of the presence of several other felines in the Clinton Mews, had many caring visitors and caretakers, and generally a happy existence with us for the past several years.

wanda and lucy

wanda and lucy

Lucy has been the dearest person to Wanda in her last few days, preparing comfortable spots and sharing her sardines. Now Lucy is coping mostly internally, as I know too well, fairly capably with a mostly incomprehensible wound.

I don’t yet know what to do with the few things I kept that I can’t part with. I catch them in the corner of my eye and see Wanda. As we prepare to go out of town for the night, I catch myself walking across to make sure Wanda has enough food and water to take care of herself while we are gone. And when I come back home, there will be no cranky hello. This is going to take quite some time, but I will listen for you, Wanda, until I can realize you are frolicing with brother Spike and all the good company that came before you, letting me know I too can move on to open my heart to the next furry adventure.

free wanda

free wanda

Wanda, thank you, Wanda.  I will miss you every day. Thank you.

GO Equality California!

One of the biggest and most painful complaints levied against the No On Prop 8 campaign is that the campaign failed to use images of real gay people and their families in the official ads.

As sad as Prop 8’s passage was, what a sea-change there’s been since then. After so much pain and real harm by its passage, we’ve had a national dialog like never before. With now five states on the side of marriage equality, “the arc of  moral history” appears to continue to bend towards justice — even as we speak.

And we’ve learned — a lot.  And shared — a lot.  Equality California, in a major evolution in campaign messaging, has just announced that they are featuring *real live gay people* and their families in their newest ads.  They listened and they got it.

Thank you Equality California, and come on everyone: Take a look at last. Don’t be afraid to find out there’s more in common between “your lifestyle” and “my lifestyle” than you might have thought.

Read more about Equality California’s campaign at http://www.eqca.org/winmarriageback.

Quick Stop on Planet Earth

The great Harriet Rasaka left the world yesterday at nearly 97 years of age. We passed by this fact during our stopover in Ashland and then later for lunch in Eugene, on our way up to Portland.

Even at 97 years old, death is unplanned. Those of us who can be are flexible, dropping or taking our work with us on the homing path back to the place of services — the place of saying good-bye. But good-bye feels so incomplete. I still see Harriet in my dad’s car, borrowed again for this trip, in the parking lot at Fred Meyer’s with the door ajar. How we laughed when the police called my dad, thinking that she was stealing the car.

I see her reading “One Fine Day” on the couch in Seattle to her great-grandchild Lucy. The same book my mom used to read to me.

I wear the shirt she gave me for my birthday just this year. I see her in the picture Leanne took just a couple weeks ago — sharp as ever, beating Leanne at tri-ominos.

I wish I could see her more and I wish I could have known her for more of her incredible life, but mostly I wish I could see what she’s seeing now, in the unique way she experiences it through her own self, as she continues her journey after being incredible and much loved during her stay on Planet Earth.

Love You Harriet.

Prisoner of hope

wedding day

I’m so excited to confirm that long-lost pals Jim Lowder and Jerene Broadway have accepted our offer to come out and perform our wedding ceremony in October. I’m indebted to Jim for the concept of hope in general (see my previous post), and I’m extra indebted to Jerene for a recent email and shout-out to African American theologian Cornel West, as quoted in a recent Rolling Stone article:

The categories of optimism and pessimism don’t exist for me. I’m a blues man. A blues man is a prisoner of hope, and hope is a qualitatively different category than optimism. Optimism is a secular construct, a calculation of probability. Black folk in America have never been optimistic about the future – what have we had to be optimistic about? But we are people of hope. Hope wrestles with despair, but it doesn’t generate optimism. It just generates this energy to be courageous, to bear witness, to see what the end is going to be. No guarantee, unfinished, open-ended. I am a prisoner of hope. I’m going to die full of hope.

In making me aware of this quote, Jerene has kicked the entire concept of hope to the next level. I can only endeavor to be a prisoner of hope and abide by this thing I’ve been so compellingly recently drawn towards. It has occurred to me since giving birth to Lucy that having a child (in any of various ways) is itself the ultimate act of hope, and likewise it has also occurred to me that it provides indeed a precious reason to hope in general.

Jerene provides me with the biggest gift when she elaborates, referring to the Cornel West quote:

He is quoting the book of Zechariah when he refers to himself as a “prisoner of hope,” a phrase which has always captured my imagination. I resonate with his insistence that hope is the courageous choice, for I surely know that it is easier to be cynical & despairing than to be hopeful. I’m working very hard to live into that kind of hopefulness. From your writing, it sounds like you have chosen hope as your home. May you continue to reside there, welcoming others in.

Such beautiful words; I count myself lucky to receive them. Thanks Jerene.

Leanne interrupts me just now to tell me that one thing our daughter has marked in the latest catalog as a required birthday present is actually not for sale (the surfboard). Way to go Lucy! Nothing is beyond your reach. May you always be filled with this. May we all be so lucky to be prisoners of hope.

The only community that needs to matter

I just read Mike Walsh’s post Community through the eyes of a 2nd grader. I really like his musings about the community at his boy’s school:

They create mini-communities or groups which they call a Grove. A Grove consists on 9 kids, 1 kid from each grade, k through 8. These Groves meet every couple of weeks to mentor, share, help, learn and develop friendships across grades. What a fabulous idea – gathering all stakeholders and discussing how they can create a stronger and more valuable community – I love it!

This interests me for many reasons. Not the least of which, life has made sense to me diffently — or only — now that I have my girl, but I’m also fascinated in general about the nexus between on- and off-line communities.

'Rock climbing' at Crissy FieldI’m passionate about “my” San Francisco community, even though it often feels just as intangible as bits on the Internet, but I’m especially curious about where on- and off-line communities “meet.” Arguably, you could say we have Monica Lewinsky to thank for the powerful growth of online communities in the “offline” world of politics (think Move On). Lately, some clever innovators are monetizing through their online stores but delivering just down the street (Kodak and its picture books). And I’m fascinated about the physical books we still buy, print, read, and most importantly, share — as well as new online gems like the promising Red Room that are also bridging that gap between physical and ethereal communities.

So are physical and online communities really so different?

Some day soon I’ll re-post my blog/rant on “Web 2.0 and my community” – which I wrote internally at my company after walking down Golden Gate Avenue to the Expo last year (and the ensuing Spock Debacle), but for now, I’m happy to just to be reminded of what matters. As Mike says

I learned quite a bit during the 60 minutes that I spent with a bunch of little kids – and enjoyed every minute of it. This is a great reminder of keeping eyes wide open. Turn off the Blackberry and listen to your little kids. It turns out that they’re pretty smart.

Likewise, like Therese Stewart saying “It’s not same-sex marriage: it’s marriage” — it’s not on- or off-line community, it’s just community. I’m thrilled every day in which I get to perceive it through new eyes.

Volumes of a Man

I had lunch with my father yesterday.  I twittered that I was lunching with the most important man in the world – but he in reality has always made me feel like the most important person in his world, and I bet that everyone in my family, and beyond, feels like that whenever they are talking with him.

He brought me some important records from his long and successful working career in different in ascending levels of government in California. He shared wisdom gleaned from all these years of his important career.

Many things he said struck me and will help me, but one thing made me bolt awake early this morning. Whenever he went into meetings, he said, he took a notebook and he always took a lot of notes. Before he met with me he took the time to go through his huge porter, as he called it, to find the essence of what was important to bring to me. He said there are notebooks and notebooks and notebooks in this huge porter.

This struck me in the light of the early morning for two reasons. One is that every day – or maybe just as time goes on – I find ways I am more alike with my family. A bolt of recognition breeds a common understanding, and that’s a special feeling I’m getting used to with my daughter as well. Just like my dad, it turns out, I take tons of notes (coming as no surprise to anyone who works with me).

The second reason has to do with that elusive process of synthesis. To some, the amazing point might be that he kept all those notebooks at all, but to me, the big gift is that my dad pulled out just the right notebooks that would be valuable to me at this point in my working career. What’s funny about blogging this is that I believe this to be the point of “Web 2.0:” the synthesis. The medium might have changed from notebooks (just as from newspapers, editorials, letters, even emails) to blogging – now continuing on to twittering – but the point is still the same: to synthesize.

When it comes down to it, is the huge porter and the process of going through notebook after notebook really a different process of innovation than popping up a browser tab to Google? The tools might have advanced with us, but what’s important is culling through those years of volumes to get to the right point at the right moment – for the right person.  How lucky I am that Dad has always made me feel like the right person.

The third of two things that struck me (yes, I should have kept sleeping) is that innovation is such a continuing process, just like another common thread through our family. Big companies talk about reacting to this or that latest disruption as if it’s the only one. It’s only today’s — this moment is small. What’s important in the next moment will be different.

watsonhouse

mom and dad left for south africa on april 15th – easter sunday. we siblings have been remiss at keeping in touch with eachother since then — i don’t believe any of us have even talked since before then. our easters were spent apart — and our parents’ on a plane.

we think they are coming back sometime soon – i think this week! we are excited to hear a full report of the experience, and to add to the photo albums! keep a look out!