Monday, March 28, 2016

And, again, this morning I woke to the sound of my telephone ringing (by pre-arrangement), this time from Pacifica Radio station WPFW in Washington , D.C.

Hardly awake, and fishing for my cell phone beneath the quilt where I'd left it last night, I answered the unfamiliar voice of the producer asking that I hold for a few minutes, and that  host, Joni Eisenberg, would be with me in a moment or two.

It's all so surreal in many ways;  the new norm.  If I were awake enough, propped on 3 pillows at seven o'clock in the morning (PDT), I surely might have been embarrassed to realize that for the next hour I would be within earshot of however large that audience is across the East Coast?  And here I was without my hair combed, and in pajamas with snow men imprinted all over (a Christmas gift from the grandchild of a friend).  My bedroom with clothes strewn about as I'd tossed them sleepily after being at my computer far too late into the night.  There was each piece lying as it was flung into the peach velvet armchair that sits next to my bed, on the floor in front of the chair my socks -- tossed after the lamp was turned off.  This was hardly a scene I'd want to share under any but these circumstances.  No one could see, and no one should, ever!  Yes, as improbable as it was, I was being Betty Reid Soskin, Oldest Park Ranger in the National Park Service holding forth with an unseen radio audience scattered about (a metaphor?) in far away Washington, D.C.

I have no idea who or how many are "out there" in space listening to my words; it's all beyond imagination at this point.  In a strange way, my mind could only envision two people at the other end of the phone line -- a male producer from Louisiana with a background in the Labor Movement, and Joni, who was celebrating the 24th anniversary of her radio show, and had chosen to do that with me as guest.  That's enough to have to relate to, and I could only imagine that we were having a conversation and that her friends were being allowed to eavesdrop.

It was something like what happens when I'm blogging.  I'm writing for my children and theirs, and, though I'm aware that there are others reading my writings, they're "virtual;" lurking somewhere in the background with our permission.  Ultimately, I'm sure that I'm really writing to myself in the attempt to process life as it goes by.  It's the way I find clarity when I need to.

Maybe that's the only way one can move into a public status at all, without being destroyed by doing so.  That, and a lively sense of humor, of course.

During the interview with Zoe Donaldson of O Magazine on Saturday, it was all I could do to not send out a challenge to arm wrestle Oprah for the cover!  Preposterous?  Of course, but that came from the same place that -- just as I was approaching President Obama on that great stage at the National Tree Lighting Ceremony on December 3rd -- all I could think of was (imaging myself pointing to the huge decorated but aging tree behind us), "... you know I've got a year on your tree, right?"  I'd seen stories that placed the tree's age at 93.  I resisted the temptation, but that fleeting and absurd thought made it possible for me to get through the moment when he was approaching me with arms outstretched for that well-documented presidential embrace.

It was so this early morning when I realized that countless people through the Northeast had been with me this day, and luckily, I'd remembered where I left my dentures!  That I could scratch through another item on my To-Do list ...

Next up:  Tomorrow British Airways In-Flight magazine interview at one o'clock.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Yesterday brought another of those unbelievable days with events unforeseen in my wildest dreams ...

Promptly at 10:30 by pre-arrangement, I found myself sitting in the rangers "Cube" at the Visitor Center waiting for the telephone to ring.  It did.  The caller identified herself as Zoe Donaldson of O Magazine (yes, that's Oprah's) and the interview began as planned.  I'm being featured in the June issue along with other "women of inspiration."  That's a bit much, right?

She opened showing little evidence that she knew very much about the National Park Service, but -- after all -- this would be my chance to speak with someone who had few preconceptions about the subject; which could be awful or great, depending upon where the chat would take us with so little to build upon.

The interviewer was obviously young and enthusiastic, and very easy to talk with.  The usual tension experienced prior to these interviews was strangely missing. We covered an awful lot in the 30 minutes that we had in which to do so.  Her questions were real and there was curiosity to match.  I felt good as we signed off.

The last question was, "... if you could visit any park site of the entire 410 units now in existence, where would you wish to go?"  Easy.  To Hamilton, says I!  That Broadway show crowds out even the 410 units of the park system these days.

Unfortunately, the night before the interview I'd seen a repeat of the Charlie Rose/Lin-Manuel Miranda 1-hour interview, and again I was reminded that I need to experience this phenomena while it's in its original cast form, and that my shelf life is growing too rapidly toward stale-date status, and that if I'm going to do that it needs to happen post haste, or it may not happen at all.  That's even bigger than an interview with O magazine.

Last week there was a call from a NY filmmaker inviting me to come to the east coast to participate in a segment of a film now in production.   It has to do with women in uniform, as I understand it, or how we respond to life depending upon what we're wearing.  It's quite lovely, I think, something I'd be really proud to participate in.  The caller free-lances for The New York Times, Vogue, Elle, etc., but the only thing I heard was New York.  Could I tack this onto the upcoming trip to the WWII Museum in New Orleans in early June?  That would get me to the East Coast and I could do this plus see Hamilton!  But that would be a stretch even for Super Woman, right?

Am I obsessed?  One might say that.  


Heard from superintendent Tom Leatherman yesterday that I should return a call to British Airways.  They would like an interview for their In-Flight magazine.  That's on Tuesday at one o'clock (PDT).  This appears to be my new normal.  Find myself wondering how long it will take before I stop feeling like a faux celebrity?

... and I've not even mentioned to my supervisors the call from the NY filmmaker.  I'm so fearful that given cataract surgery scheduled for April 4; Telluride Documentary Festival in Colorado on the Memorial Day weekend, and, the trip to the WWII Museum and a family reunion in New Orleans, Louisiana just 10 days later -- on June 10th ... what are the odds?

(... and when do you suppose it was that I crossed over into Neverland?)
Naturalization Day was as moving as ever ...

... and, as before, there was a perceptible rise in my patriotism quotient as the tears gathered at the sight of those open and engaged faces from far off lands.  There's nothing like that experience to rid one's mind of the recent week's awfulness spewing uncontrolled from the media around this year's presidential campaigns.

I wish there was a way to send each aspiring presidential candidate back to whatever educational institutions that might be up to the task -- to try to cram into them the defining principles that so many have died to protect and preserve over all the years since 1776!

In looking down on the gathering of 51 new Americans being welcomed into citizenship in their new nation -- it occurred to me that any one of them could probably teach almost any one of our candidates a thing or two about what it means to be an American.

new citizen from Peru
Overwhelming was the image of the countless millions of refugees fleeing their countries of origin over past months, only to find themselves wandering a frightened and defensive world, hoping to find a place on the planet where freedom of or from can be found.  Those before us in that beautiful sunlit space in the Craneway Pavilion represented only a fragment of those seeking asylum and asking little else.  These new citizens had found their way to our shores after who knows what might have had to be overcome?  In some cases, they've been studying for a decade or more toward this day of acceptance and affirmation.

It was such a honor to stand in the receiving line and to shake the hand of each of the 51 as their names were called and they received recognition and a warm welcome as fellow Americans, all! 

Here in our country -- in today's political climate, depending upon skin color, religious affiliation, gender identification, their fate might well be determined -- not by the American experience described in the literature, movies, and catechisms brought with them -- but by policies that will be introduced and enacted by one of those seeking the office of the Presidency of this nation and Leader of the World even as we speak.

For their sake and our own, may we choose wisely.