You gotta go forward to go back.
You gotta go forwards to go back.        

Welcome! Listen Look Watch Read Code Get Give
Badges? We Ain’t Got No Badges   Ordinary Essay   Rosemary Dunn Dalton: Introduction   WWJD?   The Case of the Missing Parenthesis   When in Rome

Get back to where you once belonged. Reading is fundamental. Go forward. Move ahead.

Rosemary Dunn Dalton:

by Melissa Lórien Michaels

Speech delivered on behalf of Melissa at a dinner honoring Rosemary Dunn Dalton in spring 2006.

No doubt those of you sitting in this room already know a great deal about Rosemary, or you wouldn’t be here. You know she is the founding force behind Dunn House, a shelter for battered women and children, as well as Women in Transition (now SOU’s Women’s Resource Center), which celebrates its thirtieth anniversary this year. You know she has worked tirelessly on behalf of the lesbian and gay community and is responsible for initiating the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Political Caucus of Southern Oregon. And maybe you even know of her daughter Molly — whose body has grown into a woman’s but whose mind and spirit remain that of a fragile child’s — and of how Molly inspired Rosemary to co-found Advocates for the Severely Handicapped, a progressive program and residence for the radically disabled.

What you don’t know, perhaps, or didn’t know before you arrived at this dinner, was about Rosemary’s talents as an artist and a poet, in addition to her deeply influential work as a licensed clinical social worker and psychology professor at SOU. She is the author of, among other books, Lamenting Lost Fathers: Adult Daughters Search for the Message of the Father, which is how I first encountered Rosemary several years ago.

Of course I had heard of Dunn House, so when a woman named Rosemary Dunn Dalton called to inquire about recommendations for editing and publishing her manuscript Lamenting Lost Fathers, I immediately recognized whom she was. I don’t know how much help I was to her, but we had a lovely conversation, and I remembered her several years later when her name resurfaced again.

This time, it was Cass Waldo, then a student intern in the Publications Office, who brought up Rosemary. Cass was taking her Feminism as Therapy course, and she described a transformative experience during which Rosemary had conducted a demonstration with one of the few brave male students in the class (perhaps the only one). This student was having difficulty relinquishing his rational, analytical side as he began delving into childhood wounds. He spoke of himself and his circumstances in a detached, objective manner, distancing himself from his more threatening emotions. Rosemary encouraged him to move out of his mind and into his heart, which he tried to do before quickly slipping back into his rational self. With one gentle gesture, Rosemary motioned to her head and then tossed it aside like a blindfold. This unspoken wave of the hand was enough to catapult the student into a state where he was capable of reconnecting with and gleaning insights from his emotions, while feeling safe to share those feelings in the presence of his classmates.

When Cass recounted this experience, while simultaneously praising Rosemary’s ability to elicit profound realizations from her students, I immediately knew Rosemary would be the perfect complement to the presentation I was preparing for the 2005 Women in Leadership Conference. I called her up, and we met for about fifteen minutes to discuss the presentation, “Don’t Think of a Patriarch: Nurturant Versus Strict Models of Leadership.” Strangely enough, I didn’t realize until the presentation how perfect Rosemary’s research really was for a discussion of George Lakoff’s Nurturant Parent and Strict Father paradigms, for I hadn’t even remembered the title of her book, Lamenting Lost Fathers, until she read a series of poignant passages during our session.

After our presentation, I learned Rosemary was an alumna, and it was obvious to me that she must be nominated for the Distinguished Alum Award. So about a year ago, I started pestering Margaret Graham about getting the nomination form. I don’t know why, given what a procrastinator I am (hence Rosemary’s and my presentation at this year’s Women in Leadership Conference: “No Room of One’s Own: Perfectionism, Procrastination, and Other Obstacles to the Creative Process”). And as it turns out, my procrastination paid off, when Margaret called me a couple of days before the deadline to say that Lani [Fujitsubo] had done my work for me! So thank you, Lani, for taking care of the paperwork for Rosemary’s nomination :-)

While it would’ve been a profound honor and delight to be here in person to introduce Rosemary, I knew she would understand when she learned the reason why I am not here. About a week ago, my husband Michael and I adopted a pair of orphaned starlings who had fallen from their nest forty feet above. Because starlings are considered a “non-native invasive species,” we could find no organization or sympathetic soul to come rescue them. Faced with the choice of either abandoning the fledglings to almost certain death or bringing them into our home to help heal them, Michael and I chose the latter. Since then, we have learned a great deal about the breathtaking responsibility that comes with offering help to the vulnerable. The half-hourly feedings and nearly constant attention Franny and Zooey require have been exhausting, but the rewards have been astonishing. And while the risk of pain and grief at their possible loss was daunting, it was preferable to the agonizing guilt we would’ve experienced had we left them helpless and hungry.

I knew Rosemary would understand this because her entire career has been devoted to rescuing the unwanted, the vulnerable, and the hurting souls in her backyard. When abused women and children had nowhere else to turn, Rosemary wrote a grant to help establish a shelter in our community. When nontraditional students who were facing sexism and other barriers needed a place to go on campus, Rosemary helped establish Women in Transition. The lesbian and gay community, the disabled and disempowered — all of these individuals found in Rosemary a compassionate woman who was willing to put her words into actions. She knew the awesome responsibility she was undertaking in offering to help these people, and she made sure the support systems were in place to continue aiding them long-term.

One of Rosemary’s and my favorite poets, Eavan Boland, has been equally compelled to speak on behalf of the ordinary, the neglected, and the forgotten women she describes as “outside history.” In her poem of the same title, Boland writes:

There are outsiders, always. These stars —
these iron inklings of an Irish January,
whose light happened

thousands of years before
our pain did: they are, they have always been
outside history.

They keep their distance. Under them remains
a place where you found you were human, and

a landscape in which you know you are mortal.
And a time to choose between them.
I have chosen:

Out of myth into history I move to be
part of that ordeal
whose darkness is

only now reaching me from those fields,
those rivers, those roads clotted as
firmaments with the dead.

How slowly they die
as we kneel beside them, whisper in their ear.
And we are too late. We are always too late.

Unlike Boland, Rosemary has chosen to help the living, and for those broken individuals, it is not too late to become whole again. Not only has Rosemary had an enduring impact on the local community through her stellar teaching, counseling, and engagement with nonprofit organizations, but her passion for the oppressed and voiceless has carried her into unexpected leadership roles in every community where she has lived. She has made unlikely political alliances, crossing partisan boundaries to unite on issues of justice and civil rights. The students who have had classes with her come away with their lives changed.

Just one week later, the starlings’ adult feathers have come in, and they have begun to flap their wings. Already, they are able to stand without wobbling, run without tripping, and fly a short span across the room where we’ve set up a sanctuary for them. Not long from now, they will be even more independent and will be able to feed themselves, unassisted. Like the countless orphaned starlings Rosemary has nurtured over the years, they will soon be able to spread their wings, and take flight.

Noitcudortni: Notlad Nnud Yramesor

Get back to where you once belonged. Reading is fundamental. Go forward. Move ahead.
Badges? We Ain’t Got No Badges   Ordinary Essay   Rosemary Dunn Dalton: Introduction   WWJD?   The Case of the Missing Parenthesis   When in Rome

Welcome! Listen Look Watch Read Code Get Give

Little Clear Eyes(Light)