Late last Friday, New Year’s night, our car shared Interstate 87 with only a few other passenger vehicles and trucks as we headed north through the Adirondack Mountains of up-state New York.
The Lake George, Schroon Lake, Lake Placid and Lake Champlain turn-offs marked our progress northward toward the Quebec border on our four-hour trip from Albany, New York back to Montreal. Snow flurries and the rises, curves and dips of the highway along with signs warning of slippery sections ahead kept my attention focused on the road.
With all family holiday obligations fulfilled by Boxing Day afternoon a quiet, sedentary remainder of our Christmas break could have been predicted for Eva and I and certainly would have been much appreciated. But we decided that a short road trip would properly launch us into the New Year. “You guard against decay, in general, and stagnation, by moving, continuing to move,” so Mary Daly, the feminist theologian who died last Sunday morning, once remarked. Of course, Professor Daly wasn’t only speaking of physical movement.
With friends from Philadelphia we quickly improvised a reunion. A change of location, good conversation and food between and over hands of cards could provide a needed spark to freshly and optimistically approach the soon to be resumed routines of daily life. We agreed to split the distance between us. Albany, the state capital of New York first settled in 1614 by the Dutch travelling up the Hudson River on the site of an abandoned French fur trading post, lies exactly half way between Philadelphia and Montreal.
I last visited Philadelphia in 1991. Scattered contact by phone and e-mail over the last two decades left a lot of gaps to be filled in for each other. Greg and Cynthia manage the Walk a Crooked Mile used book store in the Mt. Airy neighbourhood of Philadelphia. From their space in a working commuter train station dating from 1882 they meet their community everyday. A rise of land between the rails and the road provides a natural amphitheatre where they host 30 or so concerts by local musicians each year. Neighbourhood garage sales there also help provide a gathering and building place for community.
We have a business tradition here in the Yukon as well that sees building community as a fundamentally important aspect of commercial enterprise. Social entrepreneurs here and elsewhere measure success in terms of the positive impact they have on society in addition to just bottom line concerns of profit and return on investment.
Both former educators Cynthia and Greg model in their work and personal lives an alternative way forward. So did Professor Daly. She spent her academic life challenging the illusory underpinnings of the millennia old male-dominated, hierarchical culture she saw as hell bent on destroying not only women but all life and the Earth needed to sustain it. Intellectually Mary Daly sought “a primeval, female-oriented consciousness that would replace conquest with interaction and the hunger to own with the lust to create,” reported Ann Powers in a 1999 New York Times article.
For a truly happy 2010 may we resolve to keep moving forward not only physically but also spiritually and intellectually.
Michael Dougherty is co-chair of the social justice committee of Sacred Heart Cathedral of Whitehorse.