Archive for the ‘community’ Category

Observations on Our Co-op

Thursday, December 8th, 2016

The Co-op (The People’s Food Co-op in Ann ARbor Michigan) is in a bit of a mess and confusion. Which is not anything new. I’ve been off the board for about 4 years, and have been mostly an observer. Although I do step in every once in a while to serve on a committee, as well as I’ve been called for advice and an historical perspective.
Previously, I was on the board for nine years and served three years as President. Not consecutive years. I also served as Vice President, Secretary, and Treasurer. I’ve been a decades long volunteer.
A few years ago we added up the time I had spent volunteering for the co-op and it was as if I had worked there full time for a year.
So I do have a few observations on the current state of the co-op. These issues are of course intertwined.

Here are a few opinions.

The board has been less than honest with the membership about the state of the co-op, and how much money we are losing. The board should be letting members know that we are in trouble. Not letting the membership know that we have been and continue to lose money is wrong, and also dangerous. It is the membership that can pull us out of this downturn, and the membership should be directly called on to be involved with saving the co-op. The silence and side stepping is bizarre. And may be the primary thing that brings the co-op to its termination.

The vote to unionize takes place tomorrow, Friday. I honestly don’t know if this would be a good or bad thing for the workers and for the co-op. And my opinion isn’t going to make any difference. What I can say is that there was a chance to do this with kindness. With dignity. With honesty and a great process. That hasn’t happened. There was no need to surprise the board with the news. And there was no need to make it personal, with direct personal attacks against the General Manager.
I worked for more focus on staff and having a great work environment as well as better wages and benefits. I’ve seen the progress in fits and starts. I also know that the staff having trouble with management has been a long term theme for our co-op. I believe the path to resolution includes a lot of listening, and a lot of kindness. A lot of the board supporting the GM and making sure they have the resources to work well with staff, and careful professional monitoring to make certain that happens. A union may help the co-op through a maturation process. It may also create an even more divisive atmosphere that will harm relationships and make financial recovery even more difficult.
We need to support the legal process required with a vote to unionize, and I ask everyone to be as kind, thoughtful, and aware as possible. That includes reviewing history and learning from previous mistakes as well as building on success.
I think unions are good things. They also change the culture of the workplace environment. Let’s see more kindness and compassion during and after this process. And I hope the vote is an informed vote balancing the staff needs with the stark financial reality that has been obfuscated unnecessarily.

The Co-op is once again without a permanent General Manager. This is a really painful place to be, and is hard on everyone. Thankfully there is policy and plans in place for this situation. And previously our staff have really pitched in to make things work in the interim. It is a total distraction for the board to go through a hiring process. Focus on long term plans, expansion, and pretty much everything else is set aside. It is essential for the board to get help during this time. I’m less and less confident of the board (not just this board but every board including when I was part of the board) having the skill to go through this process and to make good decisions – especially when a long term plan is still missing and without recent membership surveys and input. After my experience with the hiring process, I don’t think the board is qualified to be guiding this process. I believe the consultants from the co-op world, who have experience and expertise, should be heavily utilized at every step of the process. I also now believe the decision making should be shared by board, staff, and members. Without a clear direction and financial stability this is more important than ever.

A lot of people have been chewed up and spit out working for the Co-op. I’m sp very sad about this legacy.This just needs to stop. Moving forward, I would seriously ask the players to continually ask “how can this process be kinder?” “how can we benefit the most people?” “is there a kinder and more inclusive way to do this?” and “how can we empower the people involved and make sure everyone is informed?”

Those are the questions I would hope people will ask, the people who I am entrusting to make decisions that at this point will allow People’s Food Co-op to thrive or to die.

Support – Kindness made Active

Monday, March 21st, 2016

I have some very supportive friends. The extreme demonstration of this was November and December of 2009. I had major surgery to remove a very large fibroid tumor. I lived alone, I had no partner, just my dog and I. Over 50 people chipped in and took care of me for almost two months. I had food, company, dog walkers, house cleaning, even assistance in the first few days turning over, getting out of bed, washing, and figuring out how to walk again.

That was support. And the experience was life changing for me. I had never known that sort of support.

Except of course from my parents. Whose support was strong clear, and very long lasting as it continues through my father to this day. But in many ways fading as he grows older, and actually needs more of my support,

I’ve been practicing kindness. It seems to be my most important spiritual path at this time. And I’ve been considering support, now that I’m single again, and also getting hints of what happily growing older may require.

I had a lot of support in my last relationship, and I am sad to be without the small and sometimes large daily ways of being cared for and nourished. Thrown back into the unwanted status of “single” my support has to again depend on the many individuals who are my community, my friends, people not necessarily pledged to me as a lover is, but who do respond and care in so many small and large ways.

And support comes from strangers and synchronis events and coincidences as well. It matters to stop and appreciate the small and large ways I have wonderful support. People who support my work by being clients or by sending clients to me. Requests for writing and teaching. Peers who challenge and inspire me to do better.

Gifts of food, company, money, chocolate. People who will lend a hand moving something, clearing out a closet, providing expertise as I puzzle out a new project. Those who show up and carry heavy objects, saw lumber, shovel sand and weed the garden with me.

Friends who will read and comment on a book chapter, tell me when I offended them, suggest a softer or more mature way to proceed with conflicts. The support of singing the song while I ranch off into exotic harmonies. The support of giving me a ride somewhere or adjusting my bike for me. Hoisting the canoe, paddling behind me, swimming into the deep part fo the lake together urging me to go further, climbing the mountain (literally) with me when I didn’t think I could do that.

Support in believing in my dreams, introducing me to someone who can make those dreams become real.

And my work, my time, is spent finding how I can support other people. Especially the ones who come to me as clients. I am especially called to support new moms anyway I possibly can. Support them in breastfeeding, support them in taking care of themselves when they are giving so much Support them in having the space and the time to fall madly in love with this tiny person new to the world. I have never been a mom, and never will, but they hold a special part of my heart.

But in all of my clients and students the real purpose is to find how I can support them to be wonderful. Successful. Happy. To make it through hard times, with more than they started with.

I support the cranial vitality when I do Cranialsacral Therapy. I support the brilliant ability of the body to heal when I do other bodywork. I support people being insightful and wise and powerful when we talk about their lives and their struggles. It is all just about being supportive. Finding those small and large ways each person can use support. Making sure they have other people and parts of their lives which are supportive, encouraging them to build more support and move away from the people and things that are not.

It is all pretty simple.

I could use more support in my day to day life. There are tasks and projects and dreams that are behind or delayed. I need help keeping up with day to day tasks, and so many things that need doing. I can be more aware of ways to support my friends and clients and community in those small and large ways, I can do so much more.

When I write about it, I become more aware. As I’m more aware I can be even more active and —- supportive.

Being political – learning to listen

Saturday, February 6th, 2016

I invited an anti-abortion “rescue” activist to speak to a class I taught at Community High School. This was many years ago but it was a teaching experience I’ve never forgotten.

The small group of students in my “Political Organizing” class agreed it would be a unique chance to really listen to someone who had a viewpoint they strongly disagreed with. We agreed that the point would not be to debate or try to change anyone’s mind. It was a class comprised of liberal, pro-choice kids, and they truly wanted to understand how anyone could hold a position they found to be simply – but for many of us profoundly – wrong.

My brother David had a friend I had met a couple of times. David had told me this guy regularly went to protest at Planned Parenthood. He joined people from his church to try and “save” women from having abortions. I knew Bob casually, and enough about his political and protest activities to give him a wide berth – and certainly I did not want to discuss his actions with him. Until the class.

When I called him up to see if he might meet my class I was very candid about why we wanted to have him as a guest. And that every student had identified as pro-choice. That this was an exercise in being open to viewpoints we opposed, issues we had already come to a conclusion about. But that the students were sincere in wanting to hear a viewpoint they had not yet encountered first hand.

The class was great in giving Bob attention as he explained why he did this protesting, and his motivations and experience. They asked questions, they challenged him rather gently on women’s rights concerns, and they talked a lot with him about his deep passion and convictions concerning life and his very deeply held religious beliefs.

In the end, no one changed their minds. But something even more important happened. The students expressed some surprise at how deeply Bob felt about the issue, how articulate and well thought out his ideas and beliefs were. They did not expect that. And they gained some insight into why he was doing work that they had dismissed previously as mostly misguided and hateful.

There was a connection, there was greater respect, there was kindness, there was learning. And there was the budding practice of sitting down and learning to listen to a perceived enemy.

I believe it was one of the best classes I’ve ever taught. And this skill is desperately relevant today.

Preserving the Past

Monday, November 24th, 2014

Long long ago I created a lecture series and a newsletter called “Contributions to Wisdom”. The lecture series was originally every Friday night, and then every other Friday. The lecture series and the 10 times annually publication lasted from 1986 to 1993.

I videotaped most of the lectures. The small ($3) donations that people made for each lecture covered the cost of tea, a blank videotape, and over time part of the cost of purchasing a video camera.

Some of the videos were available for rent at Crazy Wisdom, I lent out a number of them as well. Mostly they have sat in plastic tubs for almost 30 years, waiting for something to happen.

A couple of people that I videoed are famous – Patch Adams, Susun Weed, and Larry Brilliant. Most of the local practitioners remain well known. A few have died, many have moved.

Those VHS tapes are slowly losing quality and ability to be played. I’d like to preserve them. Transferring them to Quicktime and DVD has to be done in real time. And it uses huge amounts of computer storage space, which does get cheaper every year – even every month it seems. But it is a very large project. It can also be done professionally, for about $20 for each 2 hour VHS. I have 33 tapes of local practitioners, 16 of Susun Weed, and 8 of Patch Adams. Preserving all 60 tapes professionally would cost over $1,000.

If each local presenter could be found and sponsored their own preservation, I could start by saving those tapes. For about $25 I could have the tape transferred to quick time and DVD, put it up on YouTube, and also create a collection that might be of interest to the Bentley Library, The UM Integrative Medicine Center, and maybe Crazy Wisdom might make them available again.

Here is a list of some of the lectures – some have the title of the lecture, but most only have the name.

Jay Sandweiss intro to osteopathy
Larry Brilliant Karma yoga Apr 87
Cheryl Newel
Bonnie Breidenbach
Bernie coyne rubenfeld synergy
Leigh Daniels
Bronwen gates
Aura Glaser
Phil Rogers Amazon toucan Native American chants
John Friedlander
Brian odonnel
Don Mathis therapy
Emily Socha past life fact or fiction
Brenda Morgan
Manny Schrieber making relationships work
Wasentha Young the tau chi symbol
Patricia Current
Marsha Traxler homeopathy
Barb Brodsky
Bob bedard
Leigh Daniels magic and the qubalah
Catherine Lilly MyersBbrigs
Jonathan Ellis
Pat Kramer with Bronwen gates herbs and childbirth
Steve Bhaerman Swami Beyondananda
Leah song
Leigh Daniels Saturn and Neptune
Bernie coyne 4-5-91
Michael Vincent acupuncture
Judy stone

I do believe this is a valuable part of Ann Arbor’s early history of alternative healing and the practitioners who were the pioneers of integrative medicine, spiritual development and alternative therapies. I would welcome your ideas, response, and financial support for the project. You can contact me at
holistic – at – lindadianefeldt.com

The Thing About Grief

Monday, November 10th, 2014

My first dog, Zomba, was a therapy dog. For eight years we were hospice volunteers together, although she got most of the attention. She loved the work because she got lots of treats, but she was very connected to the work as well. I learned that when I saw her grieving for one of the patients who died.
z and bear wide shot 11-01 copy
It was someone who she had enjoyed visiting over a few months, and when she died I took Zomba to the empty room. She looked for her friend, she smelled the room carefully, and then she went to the door to leave. When we got home that day, she took her bear out – which by then had no stuffing left. She held it in her mouth, cradling it almost, and sighed very deeply a few times. She just stayed there, and I could feel the sadness in her posture and her breathing.

It was a position she used many times coming back from hospice. Only when someone died, and it was the only time she ever took out her bear and held it in that way.

My grief for Zomba when she died was like none I had ever experienced. I had cried losing pet cats, turtles, and even birds and other animals we held funerals for as a kid. Losing my first ever dog was much more visceral, deep, and painful. She had been such a part of my life every day nearly every hour for 9 1/2 years. It was a bond and a connection I had never felt before. I was so very alone without her, and she had been such a true and wonderful companion.

Everywhere I went, everything I did, she was a missing part. I grieved with my heart, my soul, my hands and my body that was used to having her next to me to touch and to hold. I missed her with every sense – her smell was missing, the sound of her nails on the floor, her warning bark or conversation about needing to go outside. My routines were gone, beginning the day with her by being outside. I noted all the ways I anticipated her greeting me at the door, coming to cuddle next to me. And how she anticipated out walks, visiting the people and stores she liked, the places we visited so often. She was so well integrated into my life I hadn’t known how cold and awful it would be without her.

The grief felt like missing part of my own body. Her absence was so deeply held inside of me. It felt never-ending and too large to ever contain. But that was seven years ago. It moved through me in waves, it did become smaller, the memories changed and another dog found her way into my life and my heart. And the grief is never-ending. It is still present, can still be evoked by photos, or stories. From holding the collar that she once wore. It is now every once in a while, not a daily sobbing and tightening of my jaw and the muscles around my heart. It is more sweet than pain, it is with love and not anguish.

Certainly death brings the largest grief, the never again loss, the tragedy of young death is especially great. When my mother died a friend stayed over, and in the middle of the night I woke him up in the bedroom next to mine and felt that if I wasn’t held and enveloped in his arms I might disappear as well. I sobbed, feeling on the edge of hysteria. He kept me in place. That same night I had spoken by phone with my grandmother, who had just lost her daughter. I heard her cry as I had never heard before. A parent mourning the death of her child, a pain so wrong and raw, so very primitive and piercing. Her loss was not like mine.

My brother gave us long warning of his impending death. Once the doctors said there was no hope he lived six more weeks saying goodby and pondering the transition he knew was coming. So we had moments to talk and reflect, and he said many things that I found important and helpful. But his death was still stunning and sadder than I could imagine. i felt that my whole history and life story was now partly lost. As well as my best source for encouragement, critical feedback, and support. All of the ways he was part of my life emerged as loss, and the grief and realizations continue even more than two years later.
6-14-12 AlDavid

So many deaths of good friends, family, and even the hundreds of strangers I met weekly at Hospice. So many tears, sorrow and connections. Sometimes I am at peace with our last words or times together, sometimes I ache for more or something different.

And it is mostly just the passage of time that soothes, that eases that ache, that allows me to explore that deep space the paradox of hollowness and fullness that is love, life, and loss.

The grieving of those still living is different certainly, but also mostly healed by time. The loss of a love relationship also hurts deeply and uniquely. It is one that i have mostly, in my past, tried to hide. Because it is embarrassing? Because I’ve been rejected? Because someone has found me not good enough? I don’t really know the impulse, but it is a strong one. My first love ended in total confusion when he sexually assaulted me. At 15, I couldn’t share the complexity of my guilt and fear and sorrow and rage at what had happened. I had many things to grieve, it took many many years to sort it out.

The wonderful sweet love that bloomed just after that ended a few yeas later just as suddenly, home from college while I was still in high school he broke it off the day after Christmas confessing to his secret involvement with another woman, and demanded I not contact him from that day on. I showed up for dinner with my family trying to conceal what had just happened just an hour ago in the room above the dining room table. I had to run back to my room in tears, midway through the meal. I had no idea how to hold the grief of ending. I certainly didn’t know that other people could be comforting and supportive.

I have been that comforting and supportive person so many times now. I’ve been given the opportunity to be with people grieving their losses and pain and suffering. It is an incredible honor to share those darkest moments with someone, to be wet with their tears and add my own with theirs. To just simply offer all I can be. I was once afraid to go there, to be there, to feel and to witness such vulnerability. That has changed to awe and to love.

There are skills in working through grief. There are therapies and rituals and waves of change and feelings to go through. The simplest help is knowing that time will help. That grief can overwhelm me, and I know it will also recede. It always has. It always will.

I also know that deep grieving allows the sky to be more blue, the leaves of the trees more stark and alive, food more filling and nuanced, each step I take has more meaning, the moments of happiness are sharper and more live. My state of grief is very close to ecstasy. When my mom was dying I first found that agony/ecstasy relationship and had many years to explore how that worked. It is simply about feeling alive.

I am grieving the ending of a relationship I thought, I felt, would last my lifetime. For now, every day brings tears of loss and sadness. I live within the waves of tears and changing mood. Every day I pass through the sudden and unexpected change in my life and how I spend time. I share feeling this heartbreak with times of joy and contentment. It isn’t really confusing, it just is. I’m happy to have loved so deeply, and I grieve what has ended and what never will be.

I appreciate knowing time will help. Time will pass, and the grief will lighten. It always has. i would like to live even more fully.

Crosswalks and Pedestrian Safety

Monday, October 6th, 2014

There is a joke I first heard on Car Talk about a woman asking that the “Deer Crossing” signs be moved to places safer for cars to see them and to stop. I think Ann Arbor’s difficulties with crosswalks is similarly confused. And also provides a very good and real metaphor for considering pedestrian safety.

Volvo has come out with a car that has pedestrian airbags. Europe is far ahead of the US in looking at bumper design, pedestrian detection systems, and other design changes that can protect pedestrians. This is an approach to an increase percentage of pedestrian deaths that has a chance to make a real difference.

Laws and ordinances and better rules and even outrage doesn’t seem to change pedestrian behavior. Better access to safe crosswalks probably will, I don’t know many pedestrians who will walk a block out of their way to get to a safer crosswalk. And when the distance is 1/2 mile or more it is even less likely. Well engineered crosswalks help, great signage, scaring people with enforcement. But the most concerning thing is how to get people to pay better attention and be aware.

The metaphor is that pedestrians are like deer. You can’t really control their behavior, if you have a well behaved bunch there will still be those who are darting out into the roadway who are hidden form few until the last minute, who are a bit wilder. An experienced driver will see a deer and expect erratic movement. A good driver will see the glint of a deers eyes in teir headlights and SLOW DOWN.

Anytime we see a pedestrian, any time there are people near the roadway, any time someone seems to be approaching a crosswalk a driver has to SLOW DOWN and consider the many unexpected ways that pedestrian might move.

Hitting a deer is a serious accident. There is usually property damage, and drivers and passengers can also be seriously injured. Hitting a pedestrian is far more likely to cause injury and death. And with every bit of increase in speed, the injuries also increase.

As we have more pedestrians around, driver awareness and caution increases. I know when I drive on campus I always anticipate very erratic behavior by students. I watch for it. I’m more cautious around schools with young kids. I see a kid with a ball near the road and I’m even more concerned and slow down.

We can design and then move all the crosswalks so it is the best possible fit for drivers and pedestrians. We can carefully instruct people on how to be safe. But the best design also assumes human error, and also human nature. Which isn’t – in the end – a whole lot different than wandering deer.

Salsa Verde – A Recipe Very Worth Sharing

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

This salsa made my cells dance with joy. I made it with all home grown Tomatillas, Cilantro, Chiles and Garlic with a bit of (purchased) salt. That’s it. Oh my.
Here is the link, to Rick Bayless’ Recipe for raw green salsa.

I didn’t add any of the suggested water, put in a bit more garlic, and decreased the chiles for this first time. I froze a lot of it which I expect will still taste great, but may be an odd texture. The cilantro I have growing in my yard as well, and I used a large amount of the later frondy leaves with flowers.
You obviously have to like cilantro to like this recipe. I do I do I do.

The recipe was suggested to me at lunch this afternoon, by a member of our group A2B3. It is an eclectic group who has lunch every Thursday. A great source of information, inspiration, ideas, and sometimes great recipes! While most of the members are tech oriented and computer geeks the group varies a lot and is always interesting. And we laugh a lot. It is a great way to meet people who I wouldn’t normally find, and engage in (or overhear) conversations on nearly any subject.
photo 2-2photo 3-1
I forgot to add a photo before I ate it all. But here is a photo of some tomatillas I still have left, the lovely cilantro, and one of the bags of frozen salsa.

Today I hit the jackpot with a truly outstanding recipe!
photo 1-2

Can You Judge a Restaurant by its Toilet?

Sunday, September 28th, 2014

I think you can, and you should. Attention to detail is a trait you’d like to have clearly in evidence at any eating establishment. Evidence that employees who care have recently used the facilities (including the hand washing) is reassuring and also part of how a restaurant can be judged. If the staff are ignoring trash and dirt and broken down plumbing in the bathroom, then they probably don’t care in other areas as well.

There should be hot water. The toilet has to flush. An overflowing trash can is a turnoff, as well as weird patched together piping and dirty areas.

Part of it is esthetics – the restroom is often the last place a patron will visit, and the state of the bathroom will be that last impression to take with them. A warm, interesting, comfortable, clean and even elegant bathroom means that someone is more likely to walk out the door feeling fully nourished.

The response to my reporting a malfunctioning toilet or other problem is also telling. The hostess or other employee agreeing that there is a problem and has been for a while is not at all reassuring. It is actually pretty distressing. Why hasn’t it been fixed, or labeled out of order? Especially if I just had to struggle with what someone else left, or panicking over a toilet about to overflow, or concern when repeated flushing isn’t working. If you knew that would happen why did you just make me confront it?

I’ve had to deal with clogged toilets, overflowing toilets, poorly flushing toilets, toilets where the chain is disconnected so the handle is floppy, gross toilets, wetness around toilets, and more all in the context of trying to enjoy some good food. I don’t want to go back to those restaurants, and I also tend to let other people know that the sanitary standards at that place are questionable, or assume they have poor plumbing which means my health is at risk.

And thanks to those restaurants who have made their bathrooms lovely. It matters.

Loud Music Interferes With Community Building

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014

I’m frightened and also tired of being bombarded with loud music in restaurants, festivals, parties, and other places where people are gathered for more than just listening to music. Although even in concerts where everyone is there to hear great music, I usually whip out my ear plugs that I keep on my key chain. I’ve left plenty of events earlier than planned just because it is too hard to talk, I’m tired of yelling, or the loud music is just so uncomfortable. I also know that listening to any noise above 85 decibels for an extended period of time can cause permanent damage to my ears.
Early_vacuum_tube_public_address_system
Amplified music has always been a part of your life if you are under under 60 or 70. The dangers of load noises has been known for decades, but we haven’t done nearly enough to make people aware of it or taken measures to protect our easily damaged ears. Almost 20% of middle aged Americans have some degree of hearing loss, and by age 75 the number is almost half. “Of the roughly 40 million Americans suffering from hearing loss, 10 million can be attributed to noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL).”

This is no small issue. This profound quote is attributed to Helen Keller:

“Blindness cuts us off from things, but deafness cuts us off from people.”

Loud music in social settings cuts people off from being able to talk and interact comfortably. Too much noise makes it hard to be part of and support the building of community.

And then, exposure from noise and loud music (above 85 decibels) causes hearing loss, and even greater potential social isolation.

I recommend that everyone carry ear plugs at all times, and use them. Specialized versions are available that decrease sound, without distortion. They are inexpensive, under $15.

Get a decibel meter for your phone. I’ve been using dB Meter Pro for my Iphone and it works very well. There are also plenty of free apps.

Ask restaurants and other venues to turn down the music. Ask restaurant reviewers to give a rating for sound quality with their review. Use your smart phone meter, and if it’s too loud move or leave. And tell them why.

Consider buying stock in Costco (which has some of the best and cheapest hearing aids) or other hearing aid companies and those who make cochlear implants. Because this is an industry that is certain to grow as baby boomers raised on loud rock and roll grow older. I’m only guessing, but it seems like a reasonable projection.

I’m partially sensitive to this topic as I’ve watched my dad struggle with his profound level of hearing loss. It has caused him to be more isolated, and less willing to be with old friends and his family. His hearing loss makes communication more difficult when interacting with health care workers, law enforcement, and in other critical situations. He has recently published a short book to help others cope with hearing loss – “Adapting to Hearing Loss”. It is an inexpensive and practical guide from the perspective of someone directly affected. These are not the kind of tips an audiologist would give you.

Building community is important. Let’s turn down the volume so that it is easier and less stressful to connect. And so that we’ll be still able to share stories and words in the years to come.

Reporting in Ann Arbor

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

The Ann Arbor Chronicle ends next week. One of the more successful – by some definitions – news publications in a long while. After six years the Editor and Publisher are calling it quits. David Askins and Mary Morgan have gone above and beyond the call of duty, and apparently that is not a sustainable business model, or lifestyle.

There have always been an odd assortment of publications in Ann Arbor, and I’m thankful that I have written for a number of them. Two special pieces in the Chronicle on people important to our community – Ken King and Dick Siegel. I also posted very frequent “Stopped Watched” short reports, on many natural and unnatural events I observed mostly while just walking around.

As a digression, I started by helping to create and write for “Yenta” – a student publication at Community High School in the ’70s. Our motton was “Chicken Soup for the Mind”. I wrote a few pieces for the Ann Arbor Alchemist, one I story in particular really enjoyed on the underground vaulted sidewalks downtown. I’ve written for The Ann Arbor News (guest editorials), The Crazy Wisdom Journal, I started and wrote many years formy own nearly monthly newsletter called “Contributions to Wisdom”. The best part of that newsletter was the monthly interviews of people who I found interesting, generous, and doing important work. I also wrote a few pieces for “The Ann Arbor Observer”. The first was on capturing a swarm of bees, then on the death of my odd neighbor, and most recently on a trip down the Huron River. I was also asked to blog for The reinvented Ann Arbor News – annarbor.com.

The Ann Arbor Chronicle had, from the start, a very clear mission. My interpretation of that is striving for very high standards of writing and reporting, an obligation to report for the community and provide an accessible record of public and especially governmental events. It turned into a forum for thoughtful and mostly kind commentary and additional contributions form readers. Something that informed readers in Ann Arbor no longer take for granted. David and Mary also became frightfully informed sources able to quickly reference and make sensible previous decisions, and related actions. Their ability to provide deep background and useful explanations became more and more awesome the longer The Chronicle went on.

The current version of The Ann Arbor News (reinvented yet again from annarbor.com reinvented from the The Ann Arbor News) continues to provide much of the important day to day “hey there was an accident”, this is happening or has happened, breaking stories, informing us of crime and mayhem. Some good recipes, access to restaurant inspections, and some good news as well. It is a quicker, simpler, more basic kind of news without the context and linking that The Chronicle excelled at. The “news” also has its moments of awfulness, I agree. A running joke around here is in any breaking news event waiting for the story of how people feel about what happened rather than actual reporting on what happened. The recent ferris wheel mishap seemed especially heavy on reporting if people would still go on the ride. This is not news reporting.

The comment section of the Ann Arbor News is especially painful as nearly all the comments actually add nothing of any substance, but are quick conclusions, strongly stated opinions without a lot of substance attached, and often confusion and misinformation. It often destroys any positive reaction I have to a story, and leaves me wondering about the fate of humanity. Signed and verified comments would improve things I believe. The accusation is that it isn’t done because comments increase clicks which increase ad revenue. Yikes. This is no way to get good content.

The Ann Arbor Chronicle ended up relying heavily on voluntary paid subscriptions. Mary tells me I may be the longest subscriber they had. I would be very proud of that if it is true. I believe in these alternative funding models, and while my support was never in large amounts of money, the persistent confidence and trust that a regular payment portrays is also a very vital part of supporting a venture I truly believe in.

I will miss reporting for the Chronicle’s Stopped Watched column. I’ll try and do more of that in my blog. Short, interesting posts that are image heavy. I will miss The Ann Arbor Chronicle as a resource. But I trust other venues will emerge. There is a very funny group of people who tweet city council meetings, #a2council They may become the public record of actions taken within city hall. That would be funny, and not all bad. But a little weird, like the fact that so many now rely on Jon Stewart to get the world news.

It matters a lot to me that Mary and Dave stick around, even that they are in my neighborhood. I hope their next adventures will include my selfish need to have people as funny, talented, creative and with such enormous integrity near by. I’m not the only one who feels that way.

Local reporting can be done so much more on an individual basis. Blogs, facebook, twitter, are three dominant methods. Relying a bit on larger corporations that are in it for the money isn’t all bad. They do employ some talented, creative, and caring people. I know many at The Ann Arbor News, and respect those individuals. I refuse to be bitter or absolute in my critique of that news source. A broad brush does not meaningfully describe what they are contributing.

The best thing that can happen next is creative, interesting ideas for local news and information. The largest hole that will need to be quickly addressed is the need for eyes on government. Openness and transparency in public work requires good and extensive press coverage. Dave and Mary set a new much higher standard, and proved how important this is. How do we meet it now?