Seeing Through Walls

Winter 1967. The Vietnam war was in the news every night. High school classmates headed to DC to protest during lunch hour. I caught rides once or twice a week, standing at the periphery of a huge swell of bodies. I was determined to follow the Rev. Martin Luther’s King’s non-violent protest teachings. So instead of yelling “Nix on Nixon!” I shouted “Peace! Love!” and handed out flowers to cops and soldiers.

shadow Dionysus's flower power giftI hardly slept at all. Studying for the AP classes, the terror of having friends send to war, and undiagnosed manic-depression tortured me.  

One morning, I walked into school and a friend rushed up to me, “Dixie! This week is a moratorium! No classes! To observe the war. Seminars on a lot of topics. Like peace-making, non-violent protest, the history of protest songs and all sorts of stuff.”

I couldn’t believe the teachers had come up with this idea. But yes, maybe it was in response to so many of us asking during lessons about Moby Dick, “How is this relevant? There’s a war on! We could all die tomorrow!”

A few friends and I had got together the previous month and produced an underground newspaper. It was on mimeograph paper. I’d drawn a cartoon of the statue of liberty, wearing blue jeans and a t-shirt, her arm lifted up with fingers in the familiar peace gesture instead of holding a torch. One classmate had written an article on why the Vietnam war was a losing proposition. Another drew in between the margins, imitating R. Crumb, people trucking along. One guy’s Mom was the secretary of the PTA. She had a mimeograph machine in the basement of their McLean home. We went over after school one day and ran off 100 copies.

We all dashed around the following day, handing out free newspapers. As I passed the teachers’ table in the cafeteria, carrying a sheaf of the underground paper, Mr. Ward called out, “Don’t we get a copy?” I was stunned. A teacher? Wanting to read an anti-establishment newspaper? “Sure!” I responded and handed my last copies to the grinning teachers.

Many years later, I was a student teacher at Langley High. I realized those teachers had been in their late 20s and early 30s when I was a teenager. I sat in the student lounge with them, laughing about the underground paper and our earnest efforts to end the war.

But it was a moratorium! Students handed out black arm bands. My brother came up to me and whispered fiercely “You freaky little hippie! Don’t even say Hi to me in the hallway.”

So when I came upon my brother and his fellow Young Republicans, I merely smiled and gave them the peace sign. They chanted, “Yay, Nixon!”

I entered the classroom that was usually for American Civ’. A visiting lecturer stood at the podium, talking and talking. I stood there for ten or fifteen minutes before realizing I understood not one word he said. I wandered into the girls’ room and splashed cold water on my face. My cheekbones jutted out, I’d lost weight again. No matter how much I ate, sometimes two dinners (one at home, one at my friend’s house), often finishing friends’ lunch room meals, the hyperactivity kept me bone thin. I went back into the crammed-full hallway. Student were meandering from one seminar to another.

My friend Michael sat on the polished floor, strumming his guitar, singing “I Wanna Go Home.”

I joined him and sang along. Then I realized there was no wall behind us. It was a clear window, overlooking a beautiful garden.

Wow, it’s so cool how they built that atrium overnight.” I stared down into the lush forest.

What atrium?” Michael stared at me with his bright blue eyes. He looked where I was staring.

I pointed at the wall. “Right there. Trees, a creek, birds.”

Wow, Dixie. What are you on? I want some!”

You know I don’t do drugs! Dammit!” I stood up, angrily and walked away from my pal.

Of course there was no atrium in the middle of Langley High. The tiled wall was as sturdy as ever. My mind had gone off on its own, sending me into visions of natural beauty.

Author: dixiewriter

Due to my father's job as an explorer/cartographer, my family moved 48 times before I turned 13. We lived where Dad worked: on mountain tops (in park ranger cabins), in deserts, swamps, along coastlines from Maine to Key West & other wild places. My father mapped parts of Antarctica, living there for 8 months in 1961-62. A mountain peak & a glacier are named after him (William C. Elder, USGS) As an adult, I helped Lars Eric Lindblad (then president of World Wildlife) find out about the migration path of Silverback gorillas (from Tanzania into Kenya). On my information, he chose to move Lindblad Travel's photographic safari camps to accommodate these wonderful creatures. I got a Jimmy Carter grant to teach after I graduated from Madison College. Grantees had to sign up to teach for at least a year in a severely impoverished school anywhere in America. I taught for 3 & 1/2 years in SW Virginia near Bluegrass Central (Galax, VA). I taught 7th-9th grade English, Drama, Journalism. I was the forensics coach. Moved to Connecticut & worked for Lars Lindblad, typing up the manuscript for his autobiography, working with Liz & John Fuller on this book. (They co-wrote "Ghost of Flight 415" & other books about unusual phenomenon. Moved to Colorado in 1982. Worked as "gal friday" for 12 detectives at the Boulder Police Dept. Set up files for DA to use in court amongst other things. Then at a law firm. Next, CU/Boulder for 10 years. At CU, workers could take a free course each semester. So I did 5 Master's levels courses in special ed' & many in creative writing/history/religion & other subjects at the Master's level. I taught "Drama for the Disabled" in Boulder, CO after the teacher had to quit due to health issues. It was wonderful! My last 7 years working, I helped adults/teens/children with various brain differences such as autism. I was diagnosed at age 45 with 3 types of seizures, manic depression (atypical, rarely depressions, mostly manias), OCD & PTSD. At age 67 (!!) this diagnosis was changed. The manias are most likely due to temporal lobe "disturbance." The other symptoms are due to "high functioning" autism or Asperger's. Shock!! I do Tai Chi 3x/day which helps me to calm down. My husband & I work out at a gym 3-5 times/week for balance mostly but also weight training, running etc. We climb the beautiful Rocky Mountain High places (like Long's Peak & Maroon Bells) in summertime/autumn. We love archaeology, so when we travel, it's in order to discover ancient sites. My husband is an actor with a "day job." He has performed in shows with Zero Mostel (Fiddler on the Roof, the road show), Dick van Dyke (Diagnosis Murder), Firesign Theatre/John Goodman/Annette Bening et al. (Wizard of Oz/radio show) & many other wonderful people since age 14. We have traveled to: Iceland, Scotland (twice), Germany (3 times to visit friends), Ireland & fascinating places in America. We usually spend a month when we travel. So we go about every 5-6 years. Otherwise, we stay at home in a town in Colorado, attending Poetry sessions, working in local theater, enjoying our shelter rescue cats, writing, painting & dancing.

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