Saturday, July 24, 2010
Last night during the early evening I drove out to Kaiser Shipyard 3 to the old SS Red Oak Victory where my fellow ranger, Craig, and historian Steve Gilford were showing a vintage film, "The Man from Frisco." This would be a special screening of a rare movie that fictionalizes the story of the great WWII industrialist, Henry J. Kaiser, whose exploits in shipbuilding at that time are so much a part of the narration in my role as a NPS interpreter. It was a way to escape the gloom that had descended since Saturday morning.
This morning I've been trying to concentrate on the upcoming week when, starting Monday, I'll be involved in the planning for a fall series of arts projects (photographic exhibit, lectures, films, etc.) around the subject of the Japanese American story for which I'm planning two bus tours to be co-led with Toru Saito -- tours of related sites including a visit to those abandoned greenhouses with the roses still cascading out of time-shattered roofs in defiance of the destructive actions of the unknowing. The NPS, the Richmond Museum of History, the Richmond Arts Center, and the Japanese/American Historical Society are partnering in this exciting venture.
Before that happens, I'll be working with a group of 90 high school students who are coming from all parts of the country and the world in a program called AYUSA. They're international ambassadors for their countries and are being hosted by the Richmond Community Foundation. They will be based at the University of California during their stay. They're arriving on Saturday, July 31st, where -- among other activities will be a Betty-led walking-tour of the Nystrom Historic District wherein lies the Maritime Child Development Center, the Nystrom Village -- worker housing, and MLK park (all a part of the scattered sites that form the park), which are being restored to enable the telling of the stories that are so vital to the reclamation of that era.
Unfortunately, the disembodied presence of death has narrowed my lenses so much that I'm struggling to keep some breadth to my thinking and am failing miserably.
As I walked up the unsteady see-through whatever-it's-called (hanging-on-the-side-of-the-ship stairs?) to board, I realized that I'd completely forgotten until that moment that it was from this deck of the SS Red Oak Victory that I'd scattered my eldest son's ashes about ten years ago; evidence that this, too, shall pass. I almost turned around in the gathering dusk to drive home, feeling that there was just no hope of this fog of despair lifting, but I plodded on my unsteady climb to the top deck; made my way through the narrow passageway past the galley; down the steep ladder-like stairs to the Hold where suddenly life returned in full color as I caught sight of Steve and Craig and Lois preparing the projector and smelled the buttery aroma of popcorn in the popper -- and finally those 124 movie buffs who were entering the Hold with grins of anticipation turned up, and life began to return again.
Today Dorian's persistent and nonsensical talk is a welcome change from the gloom that has claimed me over the past week, and her innocent absence from that which has so drained the life from these past hours serves to lift the spirits and change the conversation. I'm experiencing a re-directing, despite the need to incorporate this new reality of loss -- and by my daughter -- who is spared much of the pain by her childlike existence.
...an unseen and unexpected blessing, I think, but evidence that perspective and balance will return in time.
Photo: Japanese Greenhouses by Richmond photographer, Ellen Gailing.
Posted by Betty Reid Soskin at 1:42 PM
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