IT IS SLIGHTLY AFTER 11.00 AM ON A THURSDAY IN THE STATE OF OREGON USA. MARI Belen muses on the time difference, because it is just past 8.00 pm in Madrid de España. In one hour or maybe two hours l’americana, as Carlos Jon and Umberto sporadically and teasingly refer to Ms. Jannet Russman, will initiate a Skype session with Mari Belen. Carlos Jon and Umberto are Mari Belen’s professional colleagues and accidental friends. She made an innocent mistake, with her investigators, when she nonchalantly mentioned that she has maintained contact with the American, of course her colleagues speculate about her real intent. She puts up with their occasional teasing about her non-professional interest in the American woman because, in fact, she does have a non-professional interest, a strongly non-professional interest, in that woman.
Jannet has initiated and she has maintained Skype contact, of about 3 or 4 sessions a week with Mari Belen, and Mari Belen is wholly obsessed with her. Mari Belen feels that it is not prudent to initiate the frequent contact herself, so she waits for Jannet to contact her. Nevertheless, she is eager for other woman’s ongoing contact. This Thursday, it is presently late evening in Madrid, Mari Belen suddenly receives her own mental hunch that Jannet will not contact her tonight. Perhaps tomorrow, Mari Belen speculates.
Jannet walks thoughtfully, a long distance, to the Pearl district and then wanders about until her afternoon coffee appointment with Becka.
Jannet arrives at 12.00 noon at the agreed upon coffee shop but Becka is not present. Becka will probably be 10 to 15 minutes tardy which is her usual habit. Jannet reminiscences.
She remembers her first weeks at Lincoln High School about 20 years ago. During her earlier elementary and middle school years in North Portland, her friends were primarily African American girls, although she was considerably lighter in skin tone than the majority of those girls. When she began her high school tenure, at Lincoln High School, which has a college preparatory focus, the Hispanic and African American student representation of the total student body was much less than the North Portland schools that she had attended.
She remembers her first weeks at Lincoln high school, not knowing anyone, and she sat meekly at the end of a table filled with all African American girls. She was asked to leave the lunch table and mildly threatened on more than one occasion but she returned to the same end spot of the same lunch room table every school day to eat in silence as the other girls, at the table, ignored her. Finally, one day, one of the girls asked her a question as the other girls listened intently.
“I have seen you twice, in the school office, with a black woman. Who is she?” A girl, with longish wiry hair demanded.
“My mother. She is my mother.” Jannet responded respectfully and in clear tone.
After that Jannet was part of their group, for the next four years, although over time Jannet developed many other friends as well. And the girl who first questioned her, in the school cafeteria, many years ago, has now arrived, albeit 30 minutes late, to the coffee shop.
The two embraced as Becka states without apology. “OK, I am here. And even by my lax standards, I might be considered to be really late.”
“No problem. So what is going on?” Jannet’s query is sympathetic and open-ended.
Becka and her husband Mark are both heavily committed to promoting New Age practices through their association and volunteerism with PAG. There will be a board meeting for the group in a few days and Becka wants Jannet to attend and for Jannet to side with her regarding a particular issue. She is specifically opposed to a proposal, that will be presented by the Deckers, suggesting that the PAG become a larger, more public, and more formalized organization than its current grassroots and private status. The siblings have been quietly lobbying among many PAG members for a fundamental change in the organization. They want the PAG to become a very public entity, to have a more central location for its activities and events, to charge admission for its activities and events, to become a 501(c)3 organization, to fundraise vigorously, and to have a permanent paid staff.
Becka and Mark and others are at a 180° position from this proposal, they want to keep the PAG as a low-key, grassroots, decentralized, and restricted organization. They are soliciting Jannet’s exclusive support for their side, at the upcoming PAG meeting. Jannet’s response surprises Becka. She indicates that she has yet to make a determination and she advises Becka instead to approach the upcoming meeting within the spirit of cooperation not in the spirit of competitiveness. Becka responds with outrage.
“The Deckers are now your friends and I know that you have been hanging out with them, so you are taking their side, right!” She shouts at Jannet which attracts the notice of other surrounding coffee shop clients.
“I am not taking any side at all, at the present. It is probably important for both sides to speak their opinions to the assemblage.” Jannet states serenely.
At that statement, Becka jumps up from the coffee shop table and bolts, which engenders numerous stares from other coffee shop patrons. Jannet takes a deep breath and continues to drink her coffee in silence.
Later that same day, the dinner meeting with the Deckers, at a restaurant on NW 23rd, is identical to the earlier meeting with Becka. The Deckers become angry at Jannet’s refusal to take sides and at Jannet’s advice about the spirit of cooperation. However, the Deckers do not bolt but instead complete the dinner meal and they advise Jannet that they will petition her again, about changing her position, before the PAG meeting.
The next day is a light day for Jannet, twice a week she has only one section to teach, at the community college and of course, three sections on the other three days of the work week. She hits the athletic club early today, then off to the community college, and she is back home by 12.00 noon. She takes a long walk to Powell’s bookstore on West Burnside, to browse and buy a few books and to enjoy a cup of coffee, and afterwards she quickly walks a short distance from the bookstore to a theater complex on SW 10th for an afternoon movie.
That evening Jannet is home watching the late evening news on the television. As the program ends, instead of her normal routine of quick preparations for a night’s sleep, she is drawn to her laptop. When she opens it she finds a blank waiting MS Word document. She assumes that it had not been properly logged-off from her previous usage. Mystified she performs a restart function and she waits for the laptop to cycle back to the log-in window. Except it does not and it again features the blank page of a Word document. Instinctively she types ‘Hello’ and that is the beginning of an interactive conversation.
First of all, I invoke the protection of my source family. And secondly, may I inquire who this is? **J
This is Tess **T
Ok. Sorry, this is a new mode of conversation for me. **J
No problem. This will be another constructive mode of exchange between us. I have a small window. Do you have questions or comments? **T
I guess your timing is interesting because I just sat through a 30-minute news program that featured mostly horrendous news about the current state of human affairs. From one perspective, if I am permitted to step back; I know this seemingly endless round of terrorism, strife, mean-spirited competitiveness, greed, and on and on; is symptomatic of something else. **J
It may be overly simplistic to say but some of these counterproductive and painful aspects of your current human civilization can be charged to the relative youth of the human race in relations to the overall age of your planet; although there are other reasons as well. However, the lifespan of humans within the overall lifespan of your planet and your solar system is a relatively brief one. In fact, the human race should be credited with making a significant step forward about 1500 to 3000 years ago with the rise of world religions. Ideally, these world religions were \instrumental in the introduction of individual spiritual/human rights and responsibilities.
In brief, since that time period, of 1500 to 3000 years ago, the human race has been grappling with the transition from its base animalistic nature to a more enlightened one. The violence and other non-constructive aspects could be considered an extremely immature and vicious resistance to this transition on the part of some elements of your human family. **T
By the way, this may be an apropos moment to mention that the context for any of our conversations is from your perspective, that is, a perspective of a human individual who lives on your particular planet, in your particular cultural setting, and in your particular time/space construct. This is an important distinction, especially since my own individual point of view is actually multi-dimensional. **T
Yes, of course, I do comprehend that our conversations are tailored for my understanding and for my context in space/time. **J
And now, other comments or questions? **T
What are the constructive next steps especially in light of some of these non-constructive forces of human conflicts, environmental degradation, and human inequalities? **J
Within the next two hundred or so years, while the major world religions will remain, there will be a great potential for the rise on new vibrant spiritual and/or humanistic movements. The real paradigm shift, for humans, has to be a psychological one. There is beginning to emerge strong misgivings about the necessity for aggressive forms of human competitiveness, in order to succeed, which is tied to the necessity for human control particularly patriarchal control. A psychological shift in human belief systems is necessary. Instead of the few succeeding at the expense of everyone else and everything else; there should be more of a shift towards the acceptance and the understanding of our deep connection to all others. Those others include any class or status of humans and all elements of the natural world. A paradigm shifts in current human belief systems, that might have an opportunity to occur over the next few hundred years, would render the occurrence of many of the traumatic symptoms of your current human civilization practically diminished.
Another element that will need to be addressed is the notion that advances in technology, engineering, medicine, and so forth, translate into advances in human civilization and an increase in overall planetary benefit. Those advances need to occur in conjunction with changes or enhancements that constructively deepen your inherent human nature. It will be the exploration and the deepening of the human capacity for emotional complexity, intellectual creativity, and empathic capacity which will allow for a real balanced advance and growth. There is an interesting notion, in your time period, that humans only use a small percentage of their actual brain capacity. In reality, you use more brain capacity than you realize, only your present instruments of measurement cannot, as yet, indicate that. More to the point, in the future, the real progress for human civilization will be the realization of the further optimizing of your brain functioning, your mental/emotional functioning, and your physical bodily functioning. **T
You seem to be fading. Time for sleep? **T
Yes. And thanks for the fuel for thought. **J
Take care, little cousin. **T
The following day, it is Friday, Jannet’s mathematic classes are held in the afternoon and the early evening. But at the moment, it is precisely 12.00 noon in Oregon and precisely 9.00 pm in Madrid and she initiates a Skype session.
“I am so sorry that I have not contacted you in a few days. Forgive me?” Jannet begins in earnest.
After a long pause, “You already know that I would like you to contact me more often but we both lead busy lives.” Mari Belen states plainly but she is smiling.
“It has been crazy here. But does it help if I tell you that I really have missed you?” Jannet offers apologetically.
“Yes, it does. And I should apologize to you too, because I could Skype you as well.” Mari Belen says and she promises to make more of an effort on her part.
The two talk for nearly an hour on a variety of topics and to catch up with their respective professional and personal week. Mari Belen also admits to Jannet, in strict confidence, that the extreme interest concerning Jannet’s fifth letter is the possible connection to another recent case and a past cold case from 2011. A policeman is under investigation for the 2011 case, but this individual is no longer a police officer. But because there might be a possible though unproven connection between these cases and it has sparked a formal external departmental investigation. In other words, everyone is under an investigative microscope, for now.
“Please do not repeat anything that I have just relayed to you. But I do think that it is only fair that you know a little about what is going on.” Mari Belen urges while she simultaneously engages in a long luxurious stretch.
“I should go because I need to get some rest.” Mari Belen confesses. She definitively appears to be very tired. “Besos.”
“Besos.” Jannet replies. And the two sign off.
The evening of the PAG gathering and board meeting is a rainy one. The gathering is in a private home, a massive Victorian, in NE Portland. There is a generous attendance, nearly 100 individuals. The board members, who are not paid, consists of seven members and they have a term of two years each. At least annually, and usually in April, there are a few members with expired terms, so there is an informal election. Someone interested in obtaining a seat on the board simply has to have someone else nominate them, during the course of a meeting, and the nominee is listed on a candidate’s board; which is really a white board in the corner of the main room. Former board members, whether recent or not, can be nominated again. Every year, normally in April, there is at least two or three seats available. All of the individuals present at the April gathering can vote by merely writing the complete name of one of candidates on available 3×5 index cards and signing their names, and then the index card is dropped into a slot of a large clear plastic box. After the voting, each card ballot is drawn, and reviewed by at least two board members, and a tally count is charted on the candidate. If there are two seats then the top two candidates, with the most tally marks, are elected. And if there are three seats available, then the top three vote getters are elected.
The board members duties are simple: 1) to help organize the quarterly events and activities related to a solstice or equinox week, with the help of volunteers, 2) to fundraise for the organization, 3) to provide a quarterly accounting of income and expenses, for public interest, 4) to maintain the organization’s website, 5) to hear and decide upon pertinent issues related to the organization’s activities and goals during the monthly board meetings, and 6) to conduct other miscellaneous duties as needed. The provisional office for the PAG has been in a renovated garage space turned into an office space, which is provided gratis by Becka and Mark.
For Jannet’s part, she has assisted the organization, from the beginning with organizing, guidance, volunteering, and with substantial donations. All of her efforts have been discretely veiled, by her choice, and she still retains considerable influence over the organization although in the very recent years she rarely exerts that influence. In the early or formative years of the organization’s life, her guidance and financial support was greater and now in the recent years she has reduced her presence as the organization has found its legs. She is consistently nominated for a vacant board member position each April but she quietly declines. She has however served on the organization’s advisory board. The regular board and the advisory board normally meet, unofficially and informally, a few days before each formal and public monthly gathering.
There is usually a social hour before the board meeting which allows as many individuals as possible to arrive. Jannet is approached by an acquaintance from her PSU years, Sara Jean Matthews. Jannet did not know Sara Jean very well during the PSU years but she was aware of her unfortunate past reputation. The woman was a participant, with a few other university sonority women, in a secret sex competition which was part of a twisted initiation ritual within their sonority. News of the competition went public and a few of the members of the sonority, including Sara Jean, became the target of an abundance of unwanted ridicule and crude remarks during their first year at the university. The unpleasant attention did fade away after several months but Sara Jean’s reputation was somewhat damaged during her college tenure. She is now in her early-thirties and an accountant by profession.
Sara Jean, as with Becka and the Deckers, also want public support from Jannet for her own proposal. Sara Jean’s specific proposal is a compromise or a middle ground which would incorporate both of the opposing propositions of Becka and the Deckers. She wants to propose that the current PAG organization incorporate the larger plans of the Deckers while still promoting its smaller private select events as well. She also wanted to be the executive director of the new twofold organization, with the board as her boss, and she wants to establish a permanent office for the organization. She elicits Jannet’s support and although Jannet secretly thinks that it is an excellent plan, she informs Sara Jean that she wants to remain neutral and that she probably will not publicly support her.
“Why do you want to do this?” Jannet inquires of Sara Jean.
“Partly because I know that I can and will do a good job as a part-time director. And I know that a compromise or a middle-ground approach would satisfy everyone’s interests. And partly for personal reasons. I have had to fight a lifelong impression, from lots of people, that I cannot be taken seriously or that I am a flake. Quite frequently I have to prove myself over and over again, no matter what the circumstances are.” Sara Jean replies and she seems to be genuine.
“Perhaps you could rethink your support for me and my proposal?” She adds. “Just reconsider again my proposal. I have signed up to speak tonight. So when it is my turn to speak, reconsider my proposal. Then you could walk to one of the ex-officio’s open chairs and take a seat. You will not have to say a word but this will be a silent acknowledgment of your agreement to my proposals.” Sara Jean provides an optimistic look.
“No promises, Sara Jean, but I will think about it.”
Jannet internally vacillates about Sara Jean, whether to support her or to not support her. A few minutes prior to a call to order by the board, Jannet’s phone vibrates. There is a text message, but the entire phone screen is a whitish mist, the usual display is gone. The message, in sharp black letters, suggest that Jannet might consider supporting Sara Jean and her plans; and the text is signed by one letter, the letter T. After a few minutes the phone display returns to normal.
A short time later, the board meeting starts and the board members move rapidly through the agenda. The election is held and the results are tallied and there is three new members elected, including one of the Decker siblings. The public comment segment has only three individuals signed up to speak, they each will have about five minutes. Becka presents her proposal about the future of the PAG, which is a vision of a small and private continuation of its present status. The Deckers, including a modest Alex, tag-team their broader and expansive vision for the organization. Finally, Sara Jean takes the floor and present her proposals. She concludes by announcing that she has the support of a member of the advisory board. As everyone looks about the room to determine who that might be, Jannet is somewhat irritated by the surprise announcement. Nevertheless, she walks calmly to the one of the empty ex-officio’s chairs, which are positioned to the left of the board members, to take a seat. There are usually two or three empty ex-officio seats available, near the board members, for someone to take a seat in order to demonstrate support for a particular issue, especially if the issue is considered a critical issue. The ex-officio seats can be occupied only by advisory board members or by principals of the PAG volunteer staff.
Later and after the gathering has concluded. Sara Jean marches up to Jannet and asks her to join her for a late dinner. Jannet reluctantly accepts and the two women departs amidst the hard stares of some of the gathering’s more mystified individuals.
“You put me on the spot in there.” Jannet comments to Sara Jean.
“The bottom line is that the board accepts my proposals, I am the new part-time director, and everyone is more or less happy. There will be a private side and a parallel public side to the organization. Isn’t that what is important?” Sara Jean counters in a diplomatic fashion.
“So in the grander scheme of things, setting me up is actually a minor infraction?” Jannet points out.
“Why, of course it is!” Sara Jean emphasizes while also accentuating it by playfully punching Jannet in the arm. And the two women laugh.
Over dinner, bistro-styled burgers and fries at a nearby bar, Jannet slowly realizes that Sara Jean is destined to be great in her new role; she has excellent ideas for the new PAG configuration. Jannet has a psychic nudge about the strong possibility of friendship between the two women. Jannet additionally realizes that she will probably provide whatever support, within reason, which might be requested of her.
Soon after the evening of the auspicious board meeting, Jannet and Sara Jean become fast friends. The two do attend many informal meetings, with board members, advisory members, and the Deckers’ team in the upcoming weeks. These meetings are mapping out new configurations for the organization with its twin sides, a private and a public side, intact. After these meetings, the two new friends do usually continue to hang out and to converse either at a café or over take-out at Jannet’s apartment.