Dec 27, 2017

Christmas Thoughts of a Part-time Academic

This is our cat, Lucia, who has learned that if she rubs her cheek against that golden ball, the lights turn on and off. This has nothing to do with the blog post except that it is my favorite 2017 holiday photo!
When you are an academic, the holidays are always fraught with anxiety because it is also the end of the semester. Spreadsheets must be created, and grades calculated. This year, that task was complicated by Microslop's Windows 10. You know Microslop, publisher of the sloppiest code on the planet. Windows 10 has managed to affect the interface of every application I use, including Excel . . . but no more on this subject, otherwise I would have to title this post "Holiday Rant."

Computing and submitting student grades on time is complicated by online grading—and the mysterious practices of tech departments. (When I began teaching undergrad classes, there were no tech departments.) I have taught at four colleges since the advent of online grading systems, in two different states and, without fail, each December and June, the tech department schedules upgrades to the "system," either right before the grades are to be submitted or during the week when they are due to be posted for students. At one college, my department required midterm exams (not a usual practice in film or literature), after which professors were given 5 days to submit a midterm grade—just before Thanksgiving break. On the second day, we received an e-mail from the tech department stating that the "system" would be down for an unscheduled but minor "overnight" upgrade.

The upgrade erased everyone's password. It took several hours for all of us in the department to realize that we were not experiencing the usual problems of forgetting our password, or using an outdated password, or having our number lock or cap lock on—the error message was, in fact, the fault of the "system." Since people in different academic departments rarely talk to each other, and there were only a half dozen beleaguered students on the Help Line, and all of us got a busy signal when we called them, the entire institution was in meltdown until we received a second message from the tech department at 2 PM telling us what we already knew . . . But only a select few received that message because we had been clever enough to give the tech department our private e-mail addresses. Without a password, no one could access their college e-mail.

I am too pragmatic a person to be nostalgic; as a woman, I rarely feel that any aspect of my life was better in the past than it is now . . . but I have to admit that I miss the practice of each professor posting grades on their door (by the last four digits of every student's Social Security number). When I was a student, that end-of-term ritual of visiting professors’ offices, where they were required to be at their desks, often yielded informal conversations that, as an undergraduate, one simply did not have with professors outside one's major. For instance, I have the most wonderful memory of an astronomy professor I had as an undergrad.

Dec 9, 2017

2017 "Best Quest for Identity Films"

A still from the Dardenne Brothers' film "The Unknown Girl."
In the archetypal quest for identity, the young hero embarks on a perilous journey and, in the popular parlance, “comes of age.” This is a patriarchal view of the quest for consciousness and meaning. In my book, Cinematic Quests for Identity: The Hero’s Encounter With the Beast, that process, which I call the “Great Round” (after Eric Neumann’s illustration in “The Great Mother”) is a lifelong endeavor, an undertaking that heals the hero’s psychological wounds. In the book, I discuss the ways in which the conventions of the quest, drawn from Ancient Greek tragedy, myth and folklore, and Medieval epic poems, are adapted to the cinematic art form.

One of these conventions is the appearance of the “Beast of individuation,” a person who compels the heroic personality to confront their wounds. He or she signals a return to the past, always a dangerous enterprise in which the hero enters a temporary state of confusion. The past and the present co-exist. Not every hero survives and some quests end in despair or madness. Regardless of the outcome, heroic personalities seek a conscious existence and are therefore singular—and inspiring. My list of “2017 Best Quest Films of the Year” is not one filled with stories of knights in shining armor, but rather of tales of protagonists who undertake a quest for meaning.

And, there are 13, in alphabetical order.

A still from Edoardo De Angelis's "Indivisible."
Links to my coverage of these movies, or to the dates of Facebook posts (my page, MariaGarciaNYC, is devoted to quest films), follow.

A Woman, A Part: Facebook post, March 21st

Felicite (Director Interview):

Future Perfect: Facebook Post, March 14th; L’Ultima Parola,

Nov 22, 2017

Writing Women Back Into History

A studio shot of Hedy Lamarr, the subject of a new documentary. (Courtesy of Zeitgeist and Kino Lorber)
In the past few weeks, I have written about four female-centered stories, which is quite unusual. Rarely do I have the opportunity to review one film a month with a female protagonist, and most years, I am lucky to speak to three or four female directors. In October and November, I interviewed three, one of whom is celebrating her theatrical debut.

Under "Feature Articles, Print and Online," there is a link to my interview with Alexandra Dean for her biodoc Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story that will open in theaters this Friday. The documentary is about the late Austrian-born Hollywood actress's little-known talent for invention. In the course of our conversation, Ms. Dean spoke about her passion for finding other women's stories, especially about innovators who have been written out of history.

Brett Morgen's documentary Jane (link to my review appears in "Film Reviews, Print and Online"), about Jane Goodall, is another important reminder of the work of women in science. While Hedy Lamarr only received posthumous recognition for developing a communications system that served as the basis for WiFi and Bluetooth, 83 year-old Ms. Goodall, a primatologist, is world-renowned, and remains the leading expert in chimpanzees.

Lastly, I reviewed Thomas Morgan's Soufra, a wonderful documentary about Mariam Shafar who is the third generation of her family to live in a refugee camp in Lebanon. The title of the film is also the name of her catering business that consists of an all-female crew of chefs, sous chefs and kitchen helpers, Palestinian and Syrian women who also live in the camp. The documentary breaks every stereotype of Muslim women audiences are accustomed to seeing onscreen.

This is a still of Vevo Tshanda Beya, the star of Félicité. (Courtesy of Strand Releasing)
Earlier this month, I neglected to add a link to my interview with Alain Gomis for Félicité (it is under "Features") a sublime women's quest film set in Kinshasa, the capital of the Congo. The eponymous performer and uncompromising single mother questions the purpose of her life when her son is involved in a motorcycle accident and she must raise a large sum of money for his surgery. It is one of the finest narrative features of 2017.

Two of the three interviews I conducted with female directors will be published in the next few months. While I wish I could say this represents a trend, I do not think it does. On the other hand, recent events have turned the tide. Women speaking out about their sexual assaults, for instance, will soon be reflected in our most popular art form.

It has been 26 years since Anita Hill testified to sexual harassment at the hands of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and women hoped then that it would open a national debate on harassment. It did not, but now Ms. Hill is revisiting that testimony. I hope some smart woman filmmaker will seize the opportunity and tell Ms. Hill's story, as well as those of the other women never called before the Senate hearing that day who were also victims of Justice Thomas's crimes.

Oct 31, 2017

How to Write Women out of History

Left to right, Jennifer Jason Leigh as Lady Byrd; Woody Harrelson as LBJ; and Kim Allen as Jackie Kennedy in a scene from Rob Reiner's LBJ opening this weekend. just posted my review of LBJ, the standard white, male POV: Men run the world from the smoke-filled chambers of power. My review is here:

Oct 11, 2017

Vanessa Redgrave and "Sea Sorrow"

Vanessa Redgrave is seen here in a still from her documentary Sea Sorrow. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt is in the background, holding the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, ratified by the United Nations in 1948.
Last week, at The New York Film Festival, a dignified and passionate Vanessa Redgrave, along with her son and producer Carlo Nero, appeared onstage at the Walter Theater. The press had just screened the 81 year-old actress's first documentary, Sea Sorrow, which is mainly about African and Syrian refugees who reach Europe by boat. It was such an unusual afternoon, I felt I had to write about it. My editor at Film Journal International agreed. Here is my "Screener Blog" post is here:

Sep 24, 2017

Postscript: "Victoria and Abdul"

Judi Dench, Stephen Frears and Ali Fazal on-location for Victoria and Abdul.
My interview with director Stephen Fears is the cover story in this month's Film Journal International:

Sep 10, 2017

"Victoria and Abdul"

A still from the movie Victoria and Abdul  features Judi Dench as Queen Victoria and Ali Fazal as her "munshi" or teacher Abdul. (Photo courtesy of Peter Mountain/Focus Features)

The upcoming film, Victoria and Abdul, about Queen Victoria’s relationship with an Indian man in her senescence, is likely to garner Oscar attention for its star performer, Judi Dench. Ms. Dench also portrayed a younger Victoria in John Madden’s Mrs. Brown. Excellent direction by Stephen Frears, lush cinematography and a terrific cast of characters, will make it the talk of the fall season. My review is here: Check back for my interview with Frears in Film Journal International.

Aug 30, 2017

Dolores Huerta: Written Out of History No More

Dolores Huerta at a Delano Grape Boycott in California.

Peter Bratt’s documentary Dolores corrects the historical record of the United Farm Workers—and it needs correction. The labor movement that originated in the late 1950s, and that grew into a union, erased from its corporate memory one of the most charismatic labor organizers of the 20th century, Dolores Huerta, replacing her with the equally well-known organizer Cesar Chavez. The two were actually co-founders of the UFW. My interview with Dolores and the filmmaker is here: Bratt's documentary represents a great way to celebrate Labor Day weekend in New York City. It will open on 9/1 at the IFC Theater.

Aug 14, 2017

Movies I Don't Want to See Anymore

Francis Ford Coppola has said many times over the years that the American film industry churns out the same movies every year because it is built on profit. He's right. It is not that Americans don't want to see well-made, engaging films, or that we do not produce great filmmakers, it's that investors are risk-averse. And, actually, it may be harder to make an original film today than it was in Coppola's heyday. Anticipating the fall season, one of the busiest times of year for film critics, I thought I would do a bit of my own griping.

Movies I don't want to screen anymore are ones that . . .

Are about competitive female relationships, or about women who are obsessed with other women because they’re jealous or needy, especially not ones made by male directors.

Feature evil female characters when the people they refer to are male historical figures. Note: a woman did not invent nerve gas.

Are about men rescuing women, except in cases where the woman may be drowning.

Feature a white person who rescues an African-American from a life of poverty. Maybe it's happened but this is not the historical moment for that narrative.

Feature ladies of a certain age who are scoffed at.

Are about women who are serial murders. I think there have been four in the entire history of the world.

Are lesbian romances that are obviously intended as soft porn for heterosexual men. (Really, we know these movies when we see them.)

Are geographically challenged. All deserts are not alike. There are no mountains in Texas, nor are there tigers or lemurs on the African continent.

Are about grown men or male buddies who are acting like frat boys. They’re never funny, in real life or the movies.

Are male fantasies in which women rescue men who are ignorant, lazy or abusive, and need a second chance.

Are about rapists, pedophiles, sociopaths and psychopaths that suggest they can be rehabilitated. It is not true and we shouldn't tell our children that it is.

Are about rape and that suggest that the motive for rape is sexual attraction. It’s not. Rape is a motivated by violence, not sex. 

At the end, I can’t answer the question: Why did the filmmaker make this movie?

Aug 8, 2017

International Cat Day

Ever cat lover knows that Jean Cocteau's Beast in La Belle et la Bête (1946) is a feline creature. Look at those lion ears and that noble nose! Cocteau's lover, Jean Marais, endured five hours of preparation by the make-up artist every day of the on-location shoot in order to be transformed into this magnificent creature. He could only spring from the imagination of an ailurophile. Cocteau's masterpiece was long the inspiration for my recently published book, Cinematic Quests for Identity: The Hero's Encounter with the Beast.

Check my Twitter page for my favorite cat movies.

Jul 8, 2017

Getting Away From My Computer

The long holiday weekend was a slow time for press screenings, and that allowed me to stay ahead of a few writing deadlines . . . and to get away from my computer!

On July 4th, my husband and I headed to the East River for New York City's Macy's fireworks. The crowd was so relaxed, and it was fun to hear everyone oooing and ahhhing throughout the magnificent spectacle. We met a young Canadian couple from Toronto who told us that they did not expect so elaborate a show.

The next day, I was walking home from the supermarket and stopped to snap a picture of these delightful sunflowers someone planted in a 23rd Street tree well. The flowers are nearly six feet high.

The same evening, we took our usual walk along the river, except this time we crossed the highway near 12th Street. As we walked uptown, we found this fascinating live sculpture, a cracked orb about 3 feet across; inside is a tiny yard. (We did not see a sign that named the artist.)

It is as though this gifted artist let us see inside his or her head where this lovely place exists as a memory. The artfully cracked openings draw the viewer in, providing differing perspectives; the portholes also let in the sunlight that nourishes the live plants. We were reminded of eggs, a symbol of life, and of Christmas ornaments we hung on the tree as children.

Sometimes, New York City even surprises a native New Yorker.

Jun 20, 2017

"All Eyze on Me"

Actor Demetrius Shipp, Jr., who bears a striking resemblance to rapper Tupac Shakur, is the best thing about the new biopic. (Photo courtesy of distributor Summit Entertainment)
By now, everyone will have read Jada Pinkett's tweets about "All Eyze on Me," in which the actor explained that her friendship with the late hip-hop star Tupac Shakur is misrepresented in the biopic. In my review on, written before Jada's tweets, I explain how Tupac himself is shortchanged in the film. You can read it here:

Jun 13, 2017

Just Updated HRWFF Coverage

I just added a link to my interview with Cristina Herrara Borquez for No Dress Code Required (see below) that screened at Human Rights Watch Film Festival. The film will be opening in New York City in August.

Jun 12, 2017

Me at Maysles Cinema with Filmmakers of "Raising Bertie"

L to R, Margaret Byrne, Jon Stuyvesant, and me at Maysles Cinema, New York City (Photo credit: Savio Zigbi-Johnson).

Last night, I moderated a post-screening Q&A with "Raising Bertie" director Margaret Byrne and producer/director of photography Jon Stuyvesant at Maysles Cinema in West Harlem, a wonderfully intimate place to see movies. (Those who remember the West Village venue The Thalia will love this theater.) The documentary is quite unusual, first because it spans several years in the life of its subjects, three young Black men, and second because these teenagers are not inner-city—but rather from a rural area in Bertie County, North Carolina. It was a terrific audience and a lively discussion. Next, the filmmakers move on to L.A. where the film will begin screening on June 23rd.

Jun 8, 2017

Human Rights Watch Film Festival

A still from Pamela Yates's documentary 500 Years: Life in Resistance, which is about the struggle for indigenous rights among the Mayan people of Guatemala. (Photo courtesy of Human Rights Watch Film Festival).
This is a festival I cover every year for Film Journal International. While HRWFF's films are not always easy to watch, the commitment and courage of human rights filmmakers and, often the people they profile, are inspiring.

A strong line-up this year will introduce audiences to the travails of those living in Chile, China, Guatemala, Iraq, Israel, Lebanon, Mexico, Turkey and Qatar. Two documentaries, one about racism and another about a First Amendment rights struggle, are set right here at home. My overview of HRWFF is here:

An interview with the winner of HRWFF's Nestor Almendros Award for courage in the filmmaking, Zaradasht Ahmed for Nowhere to Hide, which is about an Iraqi nurse whose city falls to Islamic State, can be found here:

An interview with Tiffany Hsiung for The Apology, which about three women who were forced into sexual slavery during World War II, is here:

Check back on Monday for an interview with Cristina Herrera Borquez for No Dress Code Required, that portrays the struggle of a gay couple in Mexicali, Mexico against institutionalized homophobia:

May 30, 2017

Kudos to Jessica Chastain!

What Ms. Chastain had to say after serving on the Cannes Film Festival Jury and watching 20 films in 10 days:
"I do believe that if you have female storytelling, you also have more authentic female characters. This is the first time I’ve watched 20 films in ten days. And I love movies. And the one thing I really took away from this experience is how the world views women, from the female characters that I saw represented.
And it was quite disturbing to me, to be honest. There are some exceptions, I will say. But for the most part, I was surprised with the representation of female characters onscreen in these films. And I do hope that when we include more female storytellers, we will have more of the women that I recognize in my day-to-day life. Ones that are proactive, have their own agency, don’t just react to the men around them. They have their own point of view."

May 19, 2017

Taking Flight

In case you have not noticed, I just added my new Twitter handle to my Bio: I am still a fledgling, having sent only one tweet, but as a colleague said, there is no turning back now! I expect to use this platform sparingly, to tweet about films worth screening, and perhaps to draw attention to my print work that is not available on the Internet. I hope my former students will tweet, and those who follow this blog. Cari amici: Che c'é di nuovo?

May 5, 2017

Laura Poitras's "Risk"

Filmmaker Laura Poitras (Courtesy of Praxis Films).

Laura Poitras won an Oscar for Citizenfour (2014), which was about whistle-blower Edward Snowden. In her new documentary, Risk, she profiles Wiki-Leaks founder Julian Assange. My review of the documentary is on

Apr 28, 2017

My Tribeca Coverage

Whitney Houston in the mid-1990s. (Courtesy of Tribeca Film Festival)

Below are links to my Tribeca Film Festival coverage:

Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives (review):

Elián (review):

Frank Serpico (review):

Newton (interview):
Videotaped Interview:

The Reagan Show (review):

An image from Zohar Kfir's virtual reality installation, Testimony, about survivors of sexual assault. (Courtesy of Tribeca Film Festival)

Testimony (interview):

Whitney. Can I Be Me? (review):

Apr 22, 2017

Screening at Tribeca: "The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson"

Transgender activist Martha P. Johnson in one of her signature headdresses of fresh flowers.

Place almost any adjective in front of the word “woman”—poor or gay or immigrant—and she disappears. This is especially true in federal crime statistics: African-American women, and other marginalized groups of women, including Native Americans, are not differentiated in those numbers, although it is common knowledge among law enforcement and legal authorities that they are more often victims of violent crimes, including sexual assault. Marsha P. Johnson’s adjectives were “transvestite,” “transgender” and “African-American.”

Marsha was a drag queen, a fixture of the Manhattan neighborhoods of Chelsea and the West Village. She was a hero of Stonewall, the 1969 riots that marked the gay rights movement. Marsha's broad smile and her kooky outfits led passersby who knew nothing about the gay rights movement to stop and speak with her. She sometimes gave them flowers or a string of beads she happened to be wearing.

In The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson, screening at the Tribeca Film Festival, documentarian David France (How to Survive a Plague, 2012) profiles his eponymous subject’s lifelong activism through an investigation into her death. In 1992, Marsha’s body was found floating in the Hudson River; although authorities ruled it a suicide, fellow activists never accepted the finding. Neither did Victoria Cruz.

This is a still of Ms. Cruz from David France's documentary. (Courtesy of Tribeca Film Festival)
 An investigator for the New York City Anti-Violence Project (“AVP”), Ms. Cruz revisits the “cold case,” reopened in 2012 by the NYPD—and France chronicles her dogged search for the truth. The result is a disturbing story of discrimination and corruption, as well as the tale of a persistent, although little-discussed rift in the gay community, that of the lack of acceptance of trans women.

Through interviews with family members, lovers, friends and fellow activists, we get a glimpse of Marsha's charm, but France’s documentary is also a quest for understanding, a profiling of the cultural, political and economic forces that oppressed Marsha. They are emblematic of the forces that often fell heroes.

Apr 21, 2017

Tribeca Film Festival 2017

It’s spring in New York, and that means the Tribeca Film Festival is underway. Opening night was at Radio City Music Hall with the premier of Chris Perkel’s documentary, Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of our Lives. About the eponymous music mogul who began his career at CBS, it will screen this weekend. (My review is here:

A very young Clive Davis with Patti Smith.(Photo courtesy of Tribeca Film Festival)
The documentary was followed by a show honoring the 85 year-old executive, best-known to the general public for his longstanding professional relationship with the late Whitney Houston. He signed Houston to a recording contract when she was 19 years old, and was with her on The Merv Griffin Show, her first T.V. appearance.

Jennifer Hudson, who was the first to perform on Wednesday’s Opening Night tribute, celebrated Whitney and Davis with her rendition of “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me).” She was followed by Earth, Wind & Fire, Dionne Warwick, jazz clarinetist Kenny G, and the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin.

Here is a link to a review of "The Reagan Show," another documentary screening at the festival: Most of my coverage of the Tribeca Film Festival will appear on and on Film Journal International’s “Screener Blog.” You can also check back here for links. Short posts will appear on my Facebook page.

Mar 13, 2017

New Directors/New Films 2017

A still from Alessandro Comodin’s i Tempi Felici Verranno Presto
(This image and others appearing in this post are courtesy of MoMA and FSLC.)

New York City’s most eclectic film festival, “New Directors/New Films,” showcases features, documentaries and shorts by directors and writer-directors who are just beginning their careers. Comprised of debut films or “sophomore” efforts, ND/NF represents the chance for audiences to discover a new artist, and to see a movie that may not receive theatrical distribution.

Opening night is Wednesday, March 15th, at the Museum of Modern Art, with Geremy Jasper’s Patti Cake$ (U.S.A.). Twenty-nine feature-length films and two programs of short films, from over two dozen countries, screen through March 26th; all the movies at the 46th Annual ND/NF will be shown at both the Museum of Modern Art and the Film Society of Lincoln Center.

A still from el Futuro Perfecto, featuring star Xiaobin Zhang.

Several features meld fiction and documentary, such as Alessandro Comodin’s i Tempi Felici Verranno Presto (Happy Times Will Come Soon, Italy/France), in which two stories are set in the same forest (in the Friuli region), in two different eras, and Locarno winner Nel Wohlatz’s el Futuro Perfecto (The Future Perfect, Argentina) that explores language as a vehicle for self-realization. (See my Facebook post for more on "el Futuro.") Both are beautifully photographed and well-edited, yet they have very different appeal. Comodin’s sophomore effort is for viewers who appreciate abstract narratives, while Wohlatz’s debut has a recognizable arc.

Menashe and his son in Weinstein's Menashe.

Joshua Z. Weinstein’s impressive debut narrative feature Menashe (U.S.A.) is set in a Hasidic community in Brooklyn, its eponymous hero a recent widower whose emotional maturity is barely a match for his 10 year-old son. The rules of Menashe’s sect prevent from him living with the boy until he remarries—but the lonely supermarket worker does not want another wife. He was 22 years old when his father sent him to Israel to meet his first bride. Menashe does want to be with his son, but for the time being the rabbi places him with Menashe’s brother-in-law, a successful businessman. In the subtext of Weinstein’s entertaining film, there lies a gentle critique of Hasidic life, including the limited role of women in these communities. On the other hand, Menashe provides dimension to those mysterious men in black coats and large hats, especially for non-Jewish audiences.

A production still from Quest, featuring (L to R) daughter PJ, her mom, Christine'a and her dad, Christopher.

South Philadelphia is the setting for Jonathan Olshefski’s absorbing and skillfully made first documentary, Quest; it follows the Rainey family through eight years of struggling to make ends meet. Like Weinstein, Olshefski is overturning stereotypes, in this case, negative portrayals of African-Americans living in the equivalent of East New York or Crown Heights in New York City. Parents Christopher (aka “Quest”) and Christine'a, are devoted to their children, and toil at several jobs to support them, as well as sustain Christopher’s home recording studio. Christine'a works at a homeless shelter, and at first is content to care for her young daughter, and to bolster her husband’s musical pursuits. Over the course of the documentary the Raineys confront trials that test their commitment to each other, and while there are tense moments, for the most part, they do what every other family does to stay together—they weigh what is in everybody’s best interests and accept the circumstances that limit their choices.

For those who revel in neurotic, 19th century female literary characters in the French tradition (think Gustave Flaubert and de Maupassant), New Directors/New Films includes in its 2017 line-up William Oldroyd’s debut film, Lady Macbeth (U.K.). Not for the faint-hearted, or the feminist, the movie nevertheless features several good performances by young actors, including that of Florence Pugh in the lead, and Naomi Acki in the role of her maid. The adapted screenplay is from Russian author Nikolai Leskov’s 19th century novel, published a decade after Flaubert’s "Madame Bovary." For more information on the festival, visit its website:

Mar 8, 2017

Showing the Pink!

Here is a picture from my roof of the Empire State Building, with its pink lights in celebration of International Women's Day. To all my wonderful female students in Tsaile: A woman's place is wherever she wants to be!

Mar 5, 2017

Returning Home . . .

Two weeks ago, I made the difficult decision to resign my appointment at Diné College, and I returned to New York City. While I miss my students, and the friends I made in Tsaile, Arizona, the college is an unpleasant place to work. My department chair was unqualified for her position, and the result was a dysfunctional department. Just before I left, the Faculty Association held a vote of "no confidence" in the administration (my chair was on that list), and it passed by an overwhelming margin. 

As my husband and I drove home, reversing the cross-country trek undertaken in August to get me to the Navajo Reservation (we have crossed the country by car three times in all), I had time to reflect on what I will miss. For the first time in my life, I lived on a mountain, and in a hogan, a six-sided version of the traditional Navajo home. Tsaile is a fly-way, and nearly every morning in late summer and early fall, there were bluebirds on my bird feeder. Lately, there have been juncos and the ever-present, bright blue pinon jays.

I will miss living in a culture where every mountain and prominent rock formation on Diné ancestral land is attached to a story, sometimes from the Diné Bahané or the Navajo Creation story. For instance, Spider Rock in Canyon de Chelley, is the dwelling place of Spider Woman, who sheltered the warrior twins during their quest to rid the people of the monsters who plagued them. As a Native New Yorker, these stories, the beauty of the land, and the sight of the Milky Way on clear nights, often served as my antidotes for the isolation of Tsaile where the nearest supermarket was 45 miles away.

On a lighter note, I miss my F-150, which now belongs to Anderson, a neighbor in Tsaile. For the uninitiated, this Ford is an iconic pick-up truck, and mine had great personality--so much that Anderson once motioned me over to the side of the road to ask if he could buy it because he had so long admired it! I never thought I would own a truck, much less yearn to be behind the wheel of mine again, but we are always altered by journeys, especially when we take a wrong turn! 

On our long drive cross-country, we stopped in Amarillo for Texas barbecue (which I always miss!). I will never forget the ladies at the UPS store in Amarillo who waited nearly a half-hour for us on a Saturday afternoon; because I had gotten sick with the flu on the second day of our journey, we were delayed in picking up the contact lenses I had shipped there.

Later that evening, on a lonely expanse of highway . . .

. . . we stopped for cough drops and Tylenol at a trailer park store. The next night, my husband took me to Mercy Hospital in Springfield, Missouri, with a temp of 102. When you walk into Mercy's ER, the first question they ask is: "How are you feeling?" In New York City, the first thing they ask in an ER is: "Do you have insurance?" My nurse was terrific, and the next morning, when I called for the results of my X-ray, I was immediately put through to the radiologist. I love my city, but nothing here works this well. Thank you, Mercy Hospital.

By the fourth day on the road, we were all exhausted . . . even our Road Warrior Cat, Lucia, who had lived with me in Tsaile. It was Lucia's third cross-country journey, the second in a Penske truck. Here she is nestled in between the seats of the truck's cab.

Our last night on the road, we stayed in a delightful B&B, the Somerset Country Inn in Somerset, Pennsylvania. The owners had attended President Trump's inauguration; we saw their security badges hanging on a nearby hook. We never spoke about politics. Instead, my husband and I, and the other two guests, all of us left-leaning Democrats, were introduced by our hosts to a neighbor's dog who visited the B&B each morning. We fussed over the dog a bit, ate a hearty breakfast and drank the best cup of coffee we had had all week. We complimented our hosts on their graciousness, too. 

About two hours later, we pulled off the Interstate to get gas, and passed this sign:

On our way back to the Interstate, we saw a horse-drawn buggy ahead of us and realized the need for the sign. The driver of the buggy was a member of a nearby Amish community. We slowed, and he pulled to the side of the two-lane road. I lowered my window to say "hello" and to thank him, and the young man waved and wished us a "good journey." Suddenly, I felt very hopeful for our country.

America has not yet realized the dream of "justice for all," but while we bandy opposing views and struggle to forge a better nation, we need to do it (especially now) with the great civility we were shown by a couple of Trump supporters and a young man who surrendered his right-of-way to two weary strangers.