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Lions Roar : July 2009
58 SHAMBHALA SUN JULY 2009 Care Taking On a cOld, rainy afternOOn i sorted through Julia’s pa- pers. there were hundreds of letters without envelopes or return addresses. So many friends had written so many heartfelt mes- sages over the years. Where were they now? Julia wandered by the lakeshore calling for them. there were old photo albums that she’d kept as a way to re- member her life, only she couldn’t recall where the pictures were taken or the names of the people in them. there were young lesbians in flannel shirts, groups of women sitting around and drinking, and some very intriguing shots of Julia standing naked in a forest. Going through the papers added so many dimensions to the person i’d come to regard only as a burden. the papers and photographs were going to the university ar- chives. i kept a box of blank postcards for myself. they were the pictures of Julia’s life and mind. les Guérillères A drawing of a defiant woman merged with a bird. The postcard is an advertisement for Monique Wittig’s book, which is described as “A delectable epic of sex warfare... an extraordinary leap of the imagination into the politics of oppression and revolt.” When i first met Julia in 1993, i was forty and she was seventy. She was colorful, unpredictable, a little abrasive, very smart. She had a long history of rebellion. in the 1970s, during the heyday of radical feminism, she’d left her position as a theater profes- sor, founded a lesbian political journal, and traveled around the country with her much younger lover. Her apartment was crowded with books and photographs and art- work—the gatherings of an interesting life well spent. On the wall, an artist friend had hung a cardboard snake made of these words: “the View after Seventy is Breath-taking.” When Julia had a mastectomy a few years later, the last words were changed to “Breast-taking.” She was at the center of our community. She wrote poetry and plays. She spent her evenings at the theater or the movies. She liked films that no one else cared for because the lighting reminded her of early french cinema or the staging was interesting. She saw the differences in the portrayals of men and women, how women are often naked and exposed objects but men never are. ElizAbETh broWnrigg’s first novel, falling to earth, was pub- lished by Firebrand books in 1998 and was a lambda literary Award final- ist. her second novel, the Woman Who loved War, was published in 2005. When age and dementia undo her friend Julia, ElizabETh broWnrigg discovers that true compassion sometimes means setting boundaries.