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The River Diaries

Thursday, January 4, 2001

I know it has been a long time — two and a half months in fact since last I wrote for this garden. I am a writer who loses her voice — in the long lonely nights, in the visits to doctors, in exhaustion and, it must be said in less dramatic terms, to laziness, to television. Now Di is here; she arrived on December 12, and I calculated we have visited with over 50 people since her arrival. We have been on the streets of New York, to her favorite places like the new Grand Central Station, where she stands wrapped in her seldom-worn winter clothes, looking up at the ceiling, as rivers of travelers rush past her; where she sits us at a small table and goes off to bring back her beloved coffee and a croissant or a cupcake for me and we become part of this history of travelers. We sit hunched over our cups, movement all around us, that wonderful human flurry — and look love into each other. In my always-active mind’s eye, I see us in a European railroad station, planning an action, talking about friends’ love affairs.

This long wait for her, six months, has helped me understand what separated lovers through the years have felt — while I was standing outside the Customs arrival corridor at JFK airport on that particularly windy Tuesday, hanging over the railing to make sure I did not miss her, wanting to kiss the pilots and stewards, the women and men who had brought her safely home to me, I thought of wives, girlfriends, other lovers awaiting home-coming soldiers or workers — how hard it is to believe that the time of waiting is over, that a forced separation is truly over. I was afraid I would not be able to recognize her, so sure I was that time had taken her from me. But then after the crew strode by, and some sickly-looking passengers moaning about the terrible flight, I saw her, tall and strong, hauling her suitcase behind her, her computer strapped over her shoulder, her hennaed hair as wild as ever. She had flown via London from Capetown, South Africa where she had been part of an international women’s conference on women’s economic and social rights. As soon as she left the Custom’s metal chute, I ran to her; we kissed in full sight, a deep long hungry kiss. This was my woman coming back to me, returning to our life as fragile as it might be, but so full of places and ideas, passions and change.

Now it is later and our departure date for Melbourne is January 27. I have some new medical challenges, and am worried about the 21-hour flight. But I will try to conquer all, so Di can have her life in Melbourne and I can have my life with her in her home.

Di with Perry under blue sky in snowy Riverside Park - photo by Joan Nestle

This morning Perry, who greeted Di like a missed dominatrix, and I walked in the park above the river. Now the seasons have changed and the river flows around its solid self, long flat shiny ice floes. Snow crunches under our feet, throwing Perry into rapturous rolls, the snow catching in his fur and on his nose. Light is still the most wondrous thing and I can’t get enough of it — penetrating grays flecked with pink, at times blinding sunlight catching the trees, their branches bent under their burden of snow, building ledges and tops lined with white like architectural ermine. On our walk down the icy hill this morning, a bright blue bluejay flew right across us.

I have decided to continue Gila’s words in the Living Room so the narrative of her struggle and the struggle of so many others to raise the voices of peace in the Middle East will parallel Lepa’s story.

To all who have written me, like Kaymarion, saying they have missed the diaries, I send gratitude; you help me find my voice, to find the riverbed again. And to Shebar who patiently waits for my words and who works so hard on this site, I give endless thanks. I thank all my friends like Chelsea and Rusty who have given their images and words [see here in the Bedroom & Study] to make this site a more wonderful place.


© 2001 Joan Nestle

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