Monday, October 4, 2010

Living Inside Poetry Thanks to Hermes

 Moonday. Waning moon.  Rain.  Despite having meetings and things, I'm treating this day as a poem.  Its all poetry from my ink blueberry smoothie to the "garbage truck's baptismal drizzle" on the street outside. (That phrase is by Audre Lorde.)  I have no choice in the matter. 

Prose won't come.

I'm humming inside mystery.

In love with luck-bringing Hermes.

He's taken me through the underworld again. 

He's stolen Apollo's cattle again.

He's raced through my life on his badass sandals, beat the turtle drum, and cozened my tribe throughout the dark night.  Again.

His snakes wrap around the inside of my skin to heal a long pain, the kind you can almost forget until you look in the mirror he made to remind you.  

Oh Hermes, beloved son of the son of Time and the shy goddess Maia, I'm a muse or a fury running behind you.  I'm a child in your cave hiding in sight.   Catch me if you want to tonight.

For this Moonday, tell me something, anything-- in the form of a poem.  It doesn't have to make any sense and might be best if it does not.  If that's daunting, just give me three words that you like because of the way they sound.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Dancing Naked Man Sent (potentially) from God

Almost fall Moonday.

It was a deep summer for me-- deep and low like a cello.  A summer of bass notes and beets-- red ones the color of blood.

I love beets.  I love all heavy, dark, underground things.  But you know, sometimes its a bit much.  The voice-over for the movie trailer of my mind can occasionally sound something like, "Step into Kate's mind if you dare.  Its lugubrious! Its somewhat maudlin!  It prefers multisyllabic words and its syncopated by the gnashing of teeth!"   

I've been trying to lighten up.  And its been hard.  A friend of mine said I should just ask for lightness, just put the call out.  So I did. (You know... to God, or whoever else was listening-- the angel of jokes maybe.)

And somehow I found myself at two burlesque shows this weekend.  Another friend suggested the first one, at Joe's Pub-- Johnny Cash Burlesque.  That seemed absurd.  I like absurd, and so four friends and I went, even though I'm not exactly into burlesque and could write a long boring post about my thoughts on its cultural significance, the pros and cons.  Luckily I won't.

When we got there two cheery hostesses told us that we would be given the best seats in the house-- the round raised mobster's booth in the front.  They seemed delighted to see us.  You've arrived!  The show can begin! That's my version of the proceedings anyway. 

The show was silly, stupid, funny, creepy, forced, hackneyed, spontaneous.  80% of the cast did a "full reveal" at the end while dancing to Folsom Prison Blues, which was worth the price of admission as far as I was concerned. 

Still, I left shrugging.  I didn't feel delighted, or particularly light.  I was proud of myself for ordering a soda water with lime.  I came home and went to bed.

The next day, Sunday, I walked my dogs to Tompkins Square Park humming Cash tunes in the drizzling rain, and smiling as I thought of the boobs and balls flapping to 'I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die.'

The HOWL festival was going on in Tompkins all weekend, and there was something happening on the stage.  It turned out to be a burlesque review called Low Life.  Well how do you like that. 

There was a surprisingly large number of people huddled under umbrellas to watch in the rain (numbers that a poetry reading would not have drawn.  Ever.)  The dancing was impressive-- real dancing.   It put the Joe's Pub show to shame.  The theme this year was women in the beat scene, which happens to be a pet subject of mine.. happens to be the subject of my latest play, in fact.  Hm.

The second to last act was by the king of "boylesque", simply named Tigger.*    He started out with a hilarious monologue in the character of a female hipster living in Paris.  And then there was the dance.  Oh the dance.  It had that je ne sais quoi.  It was set to a French song about what Tigger said was her/his one true love, Harley Davidson, (the song originally made famous by Bridget Bardot.) His repeated kick-start leg move flashing red panties under a tight black skirt had me gasping for breath.

By the finale he was completely nude!  Performing jumping leg splits!  In the middle of the day in Tompkins Square!  It was truly a love song to the East Village, and warmed the cockles of my heart.  That doesn't sound quite right somehow.... 

The moral (if I may use that word) of the story as I see it, is... I sought lightness, asked for lightness, and then had lightness thrust-- near me.  I am changed.

For this Moonday, my questions are--  is inappropriateness a requisite for humor?  What's one thing that someone might consider 'wrong' that's made you laugh? Or tell me as story of lightness being thrust upon you.   Or as always, leave a poem, piece of writing, link to music, etc. that inspires you in any way at all.

*As it turns out, I'm not the only person who thinks Tigger is brilliant-- he's worked with Margaret Cho, Penny Arcade, and Karen Finley to name a few. 

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Formula for Everyday Miracles

Full moon in Pisces.  Here in NYC we’re getting a taste of fall with a series of cool grey rainy days, which makes this time super for dreaming and turning inward.  Last night I dreamt of a heart flame.  An elder put kindling on my heart.  Her soft fingers gently placed one tiny twig on top of another until the pyre was tall and firm.  The fire ignited on its own from underneath.  She blew over it gently until it became an illuminated pyramid.

I’ve just returned from the New England Women’s Herbal Conference in Vermont.  To say that the well has been refilled and is running over is an understatement.  The well has turned into a waterfall.  

Before I left, I wrote about the threat to local community gardens and how I was having a hard time rallying to defend them.  It felt painful to have to explain their value.  It’s crazy that we have to explain it.  It should be obvious.   But I went to the community meeting anyway. 

Despite being a scorching August weekday morning, there was a huge outpouring of support from all over the city.  Scores of people took turns at the podium giving heartfelt testimony on the importance of community gardens and their own deep personal connections. 

It wasn’t frustrating.  It wasn’t draining.  It was invigorating.   I left with more energy to work on our little garden, knowing viscerally and not just intellectually that I’m not alone.  Not at all.  That’s what happens, almost invariably, when people get together for something good—something worthy and life sustaining.  It nourishes us. 

The New England Women’s Herbal Conference was like that cubed.  I got to sleep on the earth under a canopy of pine, witch hazel, and birch trees.  I was in the presence of over five hundred earth loving women from all walks of life.  I dragged myself there on a bus that left at 3 AM with blind faith that my well would be refilled.  I had no idea about the waterfall.

I could probably write 10 different posts about the conference, but I have to tell you about the bath.  Curandera and ethno-botanist Rocio Alarcon initiated me and 31 other women into the art of spiritual bathing using the healing ceremonies of Ecuador. 

I’m always trying to get my herbal clients to take baths in the plants.  The skin is a huge organ.   Plant medicine can be easily absorbed through the skin through the medium of water.  That’s the basic bit.  Then there’s the nourishing-one’s-self consciously bit.  Hugely healing.  When you add in the spirit of the plants, the Divine, and make it a communal event… well.  Its completely fucking miraculous.

Before the bath I was experiencing what in Curanderismo (Native Latin American curing traditions) is called susto.  Heart sickness brought on by shock.  My soul was a little outside my body somewhere.   On top of that, after an almost sleepless night of travel, I’d spent Friday using all of my powers to stay engaged and alert for the classes.  I’d skipped the opening ceremony, opting for a 14-hour sleep under the trees on the open ground.  I still woke up tired the next day, still contracted, my heart still ill at ease. 

After the experience with the bath I became a skipping five year old.  Heart feather-light.  What I loved about Alarcon’s teaching was what I loved about the teaching of all of the elders at the conference.  They all said the same thing.  Its not about us.  You can do this.  You have to do this.  Its too late for masters and gurus to be the ones with all the wisdom.  Everyone needs to step into their own healing power.  This time requires it.  Everyone has to show up fully. 

Alarcon gave us very little direction with the bath.  She got us in touch with the nature around us and harmonized us as a group.    She showed us the plants, let us chose the ones we wanted for the group, adding some lovingly harvested and hand processed raw Ecuadorian rainforest chocolate, picked a week before, and told us to pray over the plants first and to massage each other with the water.  We could strain the plant material or not.  I can’t tell you about the experience exactly.  Only that it was profound.  Lots of singing.  Laughter.  Some tears.  Profanity.  Disappearing and reappearing pots.  Oak branches.   

When you put the healing power of nature and God (or whatever word you like to use for the Divine) together with the healing power of true community, miracles happen.  It’s a formula.  Simple. Hoping we all get it soon.  More and more.  The world is in susto.  We need some everyday miracles.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

word food

If I had not read this poem as a teenager, its fair to say I may not have made it.  It's by Alice Walker from her collection Revolutionary Petunias.

Additional info-- this was first published with only those 2 above sentences.  I was talking about survival of spirit-- not literal survival.  I have a problem with brevity.  Brevity plus hyperbole= melodrama.  Ah well.  I'm sure I would have made it-- literally-- without the below poem.  But I might have done something stupid (for me) like go to a good university with a real campus and become an English professor instead of coming to NYC to be a theater artist.

Be Nobody's Darling

for Julius Lester

Be nobody's darling;
Be an outcast.
Take the contradictions
Of your life
And wrap around
You like a shawl,
To parry stones
To keep you warm.

Watch the people succumb
To madness
With ample cheer;
Let them look askance at you
And you askance reply.

Be an outcast;
Be pleased to walk alone
Or line the crowded
River beds
With other impetuous

Make a merry gathering
On the bank
Where thousands perished
For brave words they said.

Be nobody's darling;
Be an outcast.
Qualified to live
Among your dead.

Is there some poem or song lyric that absolutely saved your ass when you were young?  (Of course there is.)  Please share.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Cake or Death?

 Image from Cake Wreaks.

Hot sultry Moonday.  Tropics in Manhattan.

I had it from good authority this morning that I need to lighten up.  As the song says, 'Its only life after all.'  We may as well laugh.  The problem is that I'm a gallows humor person.  The stuff I find funny isn't so light and fluffy.  No angelfood for me.  I prefer fruitcake that could double as a weapon.

Later today I was on Avenue A walking the dogs, looking for little clues to inspire my writing when a pigeon was hit by a passing car.  THUD.  I stopped in my tracks and covered my hand with my mouth in horror.  The pigeon wasn't dead.  It was intact.  Head on and everything.  Blinking.  Another car was coming and the pigeon wasn't moving.

A bearded man in dirty brown pants and a grime gray wife beater ran flailing at the pigeon.   It flapped its wings a bit and flew off the street into a plate glass shop window near my head.   THUNK.

 I stood motionless watching.   The pigeon peered back at me with something I took to be suspicion, and flew off again to muscle in on a finch who was pecking at a piece of bread in the road.  The bearded man grimaced and leaned against a building.

If I were writing the scene in a short film what would happen next is that the horrified, idiotically gaping passer-by (me) would be killed by a falling toilet bowl accidentally pushed off a windowsill by a crazy old lady who was using it as a bird bath for the pigeons.

Please don't be concerned gentle reader.  I'm leaving the city for a few days at the end of the week for some much needed time in the woods where my real-life crazy neighbor who has been trying to get me to bury her dead cat in the garden for two years can't find me.

For this Moonday, tell me what/who makes you laugh?  I'm craving laughter.  I'll take it from anywhere.  Even wholesome sources.

Here's a link to Eddie Izzard's 'cake or death' for those of you in my camp.

Friday, August 13, 2010

You can't do this and care if everyone loves you at the same time

When I was in college and listening to a lot of Tom Waits (I'm still listening to a lot of Tom Waits, btw) one of my roommate's many boyfriends commented that it sounded like a homeless person was singing out of a trash can.  There is no one who sounds like Tom Waits.  When he was young he wanted to sound like an angry old man, and now that he's getting up there he's sounding more like a cool old man.  I love that he's always wanted to be an old man.

Salmon Rushdie has pronounced him the best rock poet since Bob Dylan.  He's an actor, a raconteur, a composer, poet, musician, and pretty much seems to do what he wants to do artistically the way he wants to do it, and that changes often.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Have you ever found the perfect words?

When the perfect words come, they are, as my grandmother would say, a hushing miracle.  May they come to you, and may they come to me.

Monday, August 9, 2010

I can't go on. I must go on. I go on. Dealing with Defeatism.

Moonday.  New Moon.  A good time to go inward and listen to what our deepest, wisest selves have to say.

As for me, I have no business posting today.  

I'm overheated and surrounded by waste.  I pick up garbage along the community garden fence as often as I can.  Other neighbors do it too.  More garbage blows by with every gust of wind.

When I throw away trash I feel it in my body.  The landfill is part of me.  This is true.  Its part of all of us.  We all have accumulated waste in our bodies that we can't metabolize, but that's another story.

I have chosen this.  Chosen to love and defend this little corner of earth.    I'm sure the garden is necessary for my survival too.

Tomorrow morning at 11 AM there will be a public hearing to help determine the fate of community gardens in the city, which are imperiled yet again.

Why are community gardens imperiled?  Why must people fight to save them?

I don't want to go to the hearing tomorrow.  I would like to spend the time working on my business, or plotting an escape to the ocean for a bit of sanity and perspective.  But I'm going to the hearing.  Dammit.   Be the change etc. etc. 

I'm reminding myself how grateful I am to all of the amazing people and organizations who work so hard for the earth, and therefore for us, the creatures who live here.  All I have to do is show up tomorrow.  How easy is that?  Fairly easy.

Don't know if this rant is of any use to anyone else, but I feel better.  So for this moonday.... RANT!  Or better yet, dream.  What is one collective change you would love to see in the world?  What small (or big) thing do you do to make it happen?

For those of you in NYC, info about the hearing and pep rally starting at 9 may be found on the New York City Community Garden Coalition's website.

Friday, August 6, 2010

What do Sartre, Shakespeare, Mark Twain, & T.S. Eliot have in common?

"Hell is other people."--Jean Paul Sartre
"Hell is empty and all the devils are here." --Shakespeare
"Go to heaven for the climate, hell for the company." --Mark Twain
"Hell is oneself, Hell is alone, the other figures in it merely projections."--T.S. Eliot

Hell is an interesting place, and one I find myself contemplating frequently while standing on a New York City subway platform in August.

I've spent time in Hell, listening to poetry.

What do you imagine hell to be?

postscript:  My neighbor read this and asked if I was alright, with a tone of voice that seemed to ask, 'are you going off the deep end?'  I do not believe that I am.  Its simply that hell is a very interesting place to contemplate-- in all seriousness, tongue in cheek, eyes closed, eyes open.... it has been obsessing the collective unconscious for a goodly time now.  I was born in the late 1970's around the time of the birth of heavy metal.  When I was three my dad watched the Omen with me.  The Exorcist was a big movie in the early 1980's.... hell and the devil were big right about then, after the Vietmam war and into the Regan era.  Now its all about vampire love affairs, so maybe we are collectively trying to make friends with our demons.  Who knows? 

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

flight paths of healing

I’m eleven.  I'm waiting for my mom outside of a nail salon in one of those cell block strip malls.  It’s a hot day, but I can't stand the salon's muzak or its chemical smell, so I’m sitting on the curb starring into the parking lot, sweat dripping down my back.

I hear a frantic squawking noise and notice a little brown finch caught in a viscus tar-like substance poured in a black line between two cement slabs. The finch's feathers are becoming covered in black gunk as she frenetically flaps her stuck wings while the tar hardens.  I kneel down, and as slowly and gently as I can, lift her up and out.

The finch is completely still in my hands.  Then she trembles for a few minutes before suddenly flying away.  In the car on the way home I tell my mom, who nods.

For years I couldn't understand why this memory is so important to me.

Recently I was re-reading Peter Levine's book Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma.  The book compares the way that humans handle trauma with other animals, using research from the field of neuroscience and psychological case studies to explain how trauma stays in our bodies, not just our brains, and so we need to move in order to heal.

The first phase of trauma, where we feel frozen, is an involuntary physical response that takes its time, and is then overcome by movement.  Human cultures often view the immobility phase as a sign of weakness, and so are unsupportive to people experiencing it, who internalize this feeling.

There is an immense amount of energy that needs to move through the body afterward, which also often has no good outlet.  We can get stuck in the frozen feeling, reliving the trauma again and again.   If we are allowed to let the energy move through our systems, we begin to heal.

I came across this passage in the book:
“A bird that crashes into a window, mistaking it for open sky, will appear stunned or even dead.  A child who sees the bird’s collision may pick up the bird out of curiosity... or a desire to help.  The warmth of the child’s hands can facilitate the bird’s return to normal functioning.  As the bird begins to tremble, it will show signs that it is reorienting to its surroundings… If the bird is not injured and is allowed to go through the trembling-reorienting process without interruption it can move through its immobilization and fly away.”

The bird was me.  In all those years of feeling stuck and thrashing in the tar, some part of me knew that if I could just feel the warmth of someone’s hands (being witnessed) and tremble it out (dance and move), I could fly.

We know the flight paths of our own healing.  The maps are always inside, and there are always clues to find them. 

This is an excellent interview on the related topic of PTSD, creativity, and healing.  Thanks gorgeous healer Shamsi for the link!

photo by Dean Borcherds. You can buy a print here.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Song for Perdita

Orphan, there is a door.
Look inside the hollow where your thumb meets your wrist,
or in your elbow joint in the center of the bend,
or under the armature of your left shoulder blade behind your heart.
Slide your hand down your back and feel it there.

The door is carved from a two thousand year old olive tree
that grew in the garden of Gethsemane.
Sometimes it is rattled open by desert thunder,
or by dry wind through a forest on fire.
Sometimes it is sealed with resin.

There is no light behind the door, nor darkness.
There are no swollen-eyed mourners or bloodied fists,
no wide boulevards or sand beaches.
No hunger.  No dreams.
A wail will lead you to the door but inside there is no sound.

Only you can find it,
you, all the Perditas abandoned in all the storms. 
It is never found in a grandmother’s garden
of carefully trimmed box and well-fed roses.

You have to walk instead to a wild lot
inside the footprint of a forgotten building left to crumble
and seeded by rubble growers—
fast thirsty greens
that bloom with spiraling ghost flowers under white skies.
Jimsonweed and bind.

Behind the door nothing is ever lost. 

Slip in Perdita. 

Slip in little lost one.

Monday, August 2, 2010

life is a dream

Happy Moonday!  It’s the third quarter moon tonight, equal parts light and dark.   The weather is finally cooling down here in NYC, and the last few nights have been good for dreaming.  

Treat dreams a little bit more like waking life, and waking life a little bit more like a dream.  That’s some of the best advice I’ve ever received—maybe in general, but certainly in trying to recall my dreams more frequently.

Treating waking life like dreaming-- that is, looking for signs, symbols, layers of meaning in things-- also stimulates my writing.  And its easy to do in the carnival of New York City.

I love picking up random pieces of paper I find on the street and imagining that someone wants me to read them like clues.  Sometimes I find grocery lists, an occasional overwrought love-note, or most magically a single yellowed page from an old book sitting on the middle of an empty sidewalk.

This latest falls into the last category, a lone page from The Second Penguin Krishnamurti Reader.  This is in part what it says:
“Meditation is a never-ending movement.  You can never say that you are meditating or set aside a period for meditation.  It isn’t at your command.  Its benediction doesn’t come to you because you lead a systemized life or follow a particular routine or morality.  It comes only when your heart is really open.  Not opened by the key of thought, not made safe by the intellect, but when it is as open as the skies without a cloud; then it comes without your knowing, without your invitation."
What a gorgeous little reminder for me to open my heart on a cloudless summer night.  Thanks Krishnamurti!

What treasures have you found in the street or in the woods/desert/jungle?  Stories, wisdom, inspiration?

Friday, July 30, 2010

The more I dance the more I write

If I could shimmy like my sister Kate

Shake it like jelly on a plate

My mama wanted to know last night

How sister Kate could do it oh so nice

Now, all the boys in the neighborhood

Knew Kate could shimmy, and it's mighty good

I may be late but I'll be up to date

When I can shimmy like my sister Kate.

I mean, shake it like my sister Kate.

Those were the lyrics to my first ecstatic dance.  My dad played blues guitar and sang, and I’d shake and shimmy just as fast and furiously as my little three-year-old booty could across the ice blue carpet of our Florida living room. By the end of a jam session I'd usually ripped off most of my clothes and whirled around and around, my eyes streaming, to collapse in a heap.  This dance had a name.  I called it the widdy-waddy dance.

Since I was clearly not such a ballet type, my mother took me to tap class.  I loved the tah-TAH sounds my shiny Mary Janes made the first time I put them on, and hated the thick white tights that slid down my hips to create an unpleasant basket effect around my crotch during class as the instructor’s grating voice shouted, “shuffle ball change, shuffle ball change".  I crumpled.  We didn't go back.

The funny thing about the shadow, all those parts of ourselves we aren’t comfortable acknowledging, is that we leave our love and passion in the dark as often as we leave our fear and anger.  As Rilke says, “the darkness pulls in everything.”

After that one tap class I decided that I had a secret.  My way of dancing wasn’t o.k. with the rest of the world, so I needed to hide it.  The surest way to hide something is to bury it someplace where you can't even find it yourself, like a squirrel with an acorn.  That's what I did.  I told myself I wasn't interested in dance.  I didn't even like watching it very much.  I would still dance around alone in my room, but that didn't count.  That was silliness.  It wasn't dance.  When I danced in the theater, that was acting.  It wasn't dance.

The acorn stayed buried until I started developing my intuition during a terrible period of writer’s block.

The conversation with myself went something like this:

          "I HAVE to get out of this block.  What can I do?  WHAT?"
           "You are a dancer.  Dance."
           "What?  I'm not."
           "Yes you are."
           "Sure you don't mean that dance will shake me loose-- that's all?"
           "No.  You are a dancer.  It is a part of who you are.  Find it."
           "Really?  If I'm a dancer I'll be able to be a writer?"

I didn't have anything to lose. I listened to that voice.

Within six weeks of my first epiphany I’d found my teacher, Dunya McPherson, and Dancemeditation.  I watched her dance and thought, ‘That’s it. I can come out now.  Its safe for me.  She's such an amazing dancer, and... she's doing the widdy-waddy dance!  She's moving just how her body wants to move.'  I went on her website and fell in love with her writing too.  Clearly perfect.

The writer's block took time to fully melt away; maybe a year of furious dancing within the healing context of Dancemeditation with its focus on awareness and respect for the body's innate intelligence.

When the block finally melted I thought, 'Well, maybe I got what I needed and now I can stop.'  But of course its not like that.  The more I deepen into dance, the more my writing deepens, the more I deepen.  The body is a doorway to reality beyond the personality, the ego, which can hold us all hostage.  It was my ego telling me I couldn't, shouldn't write.  My ego was telling me to stay small, safe, and to avoid criticism at all cost.

I'm often scared.   Dance is an art form that takes many years and hours to begin to master.  It isn't about steps, its about learning how to move the body with more and more articulation and awareness.  Five years and eighty days to earn my Dancemeditation teacher training certificate and I'm still near the beginning of that journey.  The exciting part is that like studying nature, studying the body from the inside out is also a life's work.

At its core my dance feels strong. The widdy-waddy dance is intact.  Its unfolding with greater variation every time I have an opportunity to learn technique, to discover more ways to move, different ways of seeing, feeling, of being in the world.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Believe in miracles and cures and healing wells

I'm too inspired at the moment to write about it.  It bursts out of me and needs alone-in-my-livingroom-dancing time.  It needs waking-up-in-the-morning-and-starring-at-the-wall-time.  It needs walking-deep-into-the-woods time.  Then I'll be ready to share it.

I once needed permission to do those things, to require those things.  So, just in case someone reading this needs permission to stare at the wall or dive naked into a waterfall or cut their hair or go on a walkabout as part of their artistic process-- I humbly grant it, as a person who has struggled with my requirements and come to accept them. 

This poem is from the chorus of the play The Cure at Troy by Seamus Heaney about the story of the redemption of Philotetes, one of Odysseus' soldiers, who was abandoned on an uninhabited island because his wound, a symbol of his inner pain and separation from the Gods, stunk too much for the other soldiers on the warship to handle.

Human beings suffer,
they torture one another,
they get hurt and get hard.
No poem or play or song
can fully right a wrong
inflicted or endured.

The innocent in gaols
beat on their bars together.
A hunger-striker's father
stands in the graveyard dumb.
The police widow in veils
faints at the funeral home.

History says, Don't hope
on this side of the grave.
But then, once in a lifetime
the longed for tidal wave
of justice can rise up,
and hope and history rhyme.

So hope for a great sea-change
on the far side of revenge.
Believe that a further shore
is reachable from here.
Believe in miracles
and cures and healing wells.

Call the miracle self-healing:
The utter self-revealing
double-take of feeling.
If there's fire on the mountain
Or lightning and storm
And a god speaks from the sky

That means someone is hearing
the outcry and the birth-cry
of new life at its term.

What are some of your artistic requirements?  Do you accept them?  Do you honor them?

Monday, July 26, 2010

I screama you screama we all screama for ice creama

Happy pretty-much-full Moonday.  The moon is in Aquarius, a fixed air sign.  Its time to make dreams real and to be filled with inspiration and new ideas.  Hurray.

As I’m typing this I keep glancing down at my left wrist that is encircled with a glossy yellow ribbon with sky blue lettering that reads, ‘I wish to find pleasure in things as much as I used to as a child.’

That sentence makes me think of the Fourth of July circa 1980 and ‘I scream you scream we all scream for ice cream’.  I remember a hot sticky South Florida twilight carpeted by scratchy crab grass and graced by fireflies.  I’m sitting at a picnic table next to my best friend holding an as yet unlit sparkler and chanting. Ice cream appears like magic in vats behind us, and a big sign is put up that reads ‘make your own sundaes’.  The ice cream chant gets louder as we are joined by a horde of other kids and laughing, loopy adults. 

I’m also reminded of one of my favorite films, Down By Law by Jim Jarmusch, when Tom Waits, John Lurie and Roberto Benigni are in a prison cell in New Orleans and Roberto Benigni says that he ‘has a scream’ and starts this chant which eventually takes over the entire prison ward.  If any of us ever find ourselves in prison, may we be lucky enough to share a cell with Roberto Benigni, at least in our minds.

The ribbon on my wrist came from an interactive art exhibit now on display at the New Museum on the Bowery in New York City by artist Rivane Neuenschwander.  On three sides of a room are thousands of multicolored ribbons with wishes on them.  You choose a ribbon, take it out of the wall, and leave your own wish in the hole in the wall that the ribbon leaves.  Neuenschwander writes that this is a riff on a Brazillian folk practice. The whole exhibit, entitled ‘A Day Like Any Other’ transforms the mundane—an empty room, a dripping bucket, a chewed plastic swizzle stick— into something with the significance of a dream or a child’s imagination, and turns our wishes into things of beauty in and of themselves.  If you aren’t in NYC, you can still participate in the exhibit and leave a wish online.

 I think the wish on my wrist might just be the secret to happiness.  The other night there was a short summer thunderstorm.  The air has been thick and heavy for weeks without rain so it felt a little bit like Christmas to hear those bellows drowning out the cacophony of the city and the hiss of a hard downpour on hot pavement.

I sat watching the storm from a seat on my windowsill, which is about a foot wide, glancing down at my yellow ribbon and remembering how when I was a kid I thought windowsills that you could sit on were about the coolest thing in the world.  In the rare event that I found a windowsill wide enough, I’d hop up and sing ‘The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow’ pretending I was looking out at a grimy New York City street instead of someplace in pristine suburbia.    How wonderful that was.  And suddenly it is wonderful again. 

How about you?  What was a simple pleasure you enjoyed immensely as a child?

P.S. I know I haven’t posted in forever, or even been online at all in a millennium in web terms, but I didn’t want to start out writing about that.  I had some exceedingly pressing business that I’ll probably write about soon.  I’m back now, and have made a commitment to myself (and now to you, kind reader) to post every Moonday, Wednesday and Friday until further notice (certainly for several web millennia.)

Monday, May 10, 2010

Sometimes Kindness Involves Silver Shoes

Dark Moonday.  Waning crescent moon, also known as the balsamic moon, several days before the new moon.     A good time for releasing habits, patterns, and old junk of all kinds.  Pruning.


Recently I’ve been having one of those times that makes you think, “Was I actually happy a little while ago, and… did I really have energy to get things done?  Will I ever have energy again?”

I spent last week visiting the critical care unit of a very good hospital five hours away from where I live, sitting vigil with my family around the bed of my aunt who is fighting for her survival. 

I could feel the strands of my life slipping away until there was nothing left but the sterile hospital with pumps of antibacterial lotion at every door like mezuzahs, the efficient, rushing nurses, the buzzing, beeping machines, my aunt’s shallow breath. 

I silently chanted ‘Ya Sha Fi’, a Sufi chant meaning ‘to heal’ or ‘healing’ for hours.  It was peaceful.  My presence seemed helpful, and it felt so good to be helpful.

Coming back has been harder.  My aunt isn’t out of the woods, but her prognosis has improved.  The older generation sent me home.  They told me I'd be needed again soon, and in the meantime I had to take care of my own life.   That’s the tricky part.  Picking up those strands again after casting them aside so suddenly.

We have a very small family, and I adore my aunt.  Part of me wants to stay in bed, pull the covers up over my head, and hibernate for the foreseeable future.

But that's not what I’m doing.  I’m also not forcing myself, kicking and screaming, back to ‘normal’.  I’m being patient with the part of myself that wants to hide under the covers forever more. 

I learned this trick when I was quitting smoking.  If you really want to shift a behavior, you have to be incredibly kind to the part of yourself that is resistant to the change.  

Today I bought a pair of silver shoes I’ve been wanting for about a year.  Just looking at them makes me want to dance, and certainly to get out of bed so I can put them on.  I wore a silk dress because beautiful clothes help me to face the world.  I gave myself small manageable tasks to accomplish with the understanding that I didn't actually have to get everything done.

I held space for how I’m feeling in my meditation practice.  And I did my meditation practice. 

I’m sure that I’ll have days where I fail, days where I stay in bed in ratty sweats reading a novel for hours, getting up only to eat brownies, and I have to be kind to myself on those days too.  Tell myself its o.k.  I’ll just try again tomorrow.

Because life is too precious to be spent beating ourselves up.

For this Moonday, I’d love it as always if you have some art or a poem to share of any kind.  I’d also love to know what cheers you up?  What do you do to encourage yourself when you’re feeling overwhelmed by life?

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Its poem in your pocket day

Calloo! Callay!

From the Academy of American Poets Website:

"The idea is simple: select a poem you love during National Poetry Month then carry it with you to share with co-workers, family, and friends (on April 29th)."

There are links on the site to local events celebrating the day.

Like all of us I have friends who will get funny little smiles on their faces and devilish glints in their eyes at the phrase "poem in your pocket"... but I don't care.

Since I'm such an exuberant poem sharer, maybe I'll fish out my old cargo pants today.

I just received this poem in a birthday card from a dear friend. (Thanks Gayla!) So this is one of the poems in my pocket.  Its by none other than the always gorgeous Hafiz.

Come, let's scatter roses and pour wine in the glass; 
we'll shatter heaven's roof and lay a new foundation.
If sorrow raises armies to shed the blood of lovers, 
I'll join with the wine bearer so we can overthrow them. 
With a sweet string at hand, play a sweet song, my friend, 
so we can clap and sing a song and lose our heads in dancing.

What's the poem in your pocket today? It'll make my day if you share it here in the comments.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Learning to Give from the Overflow, not from the Well

There is a wise Sufi saying, 'Give from your overflow, not from your well.'  I interpret this as meaning give from a place of love, joy, and abundance, not suffering and self-deprivation.

Today in New York City its a rainy Moonday, which feels good.  Its like a snow day for gardeners.  I'm taking some time for myself after spending a large portion of the last two weeks working on a massive volunteer project.  I'm the director of a kid's community garden on the Lower East Side called the Children's Magical Garden.**

 Kids love worms. They get super excited whenever they find one.

Kids, teachers from the School for Global Leaders across the street from the garden, parents, other garden members and I have been putting in a rain garden, a small native wetlands that soaks up the water in the garden's lowest point.  When the plants have grown up some, it will not only look like a wild, beautiful place, but will also create habitat for more song birds, humming birds, bees, dragonflies, and butterflies... increasing the wildness in the city by just a little bit, and providing an amazing outdoor classroom for kids and adults alike. 

All of this warms the cockles of my heart and so I haven't minded all the hard work, even though it has involved digging three feet down into ground consisting of broken brick, brick dust, rusted metal and the like.

My hands look, to quote a literary friend, "very Pearl S. Buck" with the ground-in dirt (even after scrubbing) giving them a mottled appearance.  On the upside, I can feel my hands getting stronger and think I would do alright in an arm wrestling contest.

This community garden is one of my greatest spiritual teachers.  Sometimes its lessons have been frikkin hard. 

Its a large unpaid undertaking and has the potential to suck up all available time-- very dangerous for an entrepreneur and writer with a penchant for procrastination.  There have also been so many seemingly hostile elements to overcome such as--
  • Toxic soil. (Most NYC soil is poisoned with lead from paint and must be painstakingly amended or replaced with new, healthy compost.) 
  • Endless rubble.  (The garden was build on the foundation of a burned down building and has been sinking into that crushed foundation over the years.)
  • Ignorance.  (Very few people have any gardening experience, and therefore greatly underestimate the challenges the space provides.  They think it is simply a matter of planting flowers and watching them grow.) 
  • Personal conflict/ toxic relationships.  Toxic environments produce toxic relationships.  It has been challenging to say the least to work through personal difficulties with other gardeners.  In the end, however, it has also been deeply rewarding and transformational to all involved.  These transformed relationships have made this next, more productive phase of work/play possible after years of two steps forward, one step back.
What I have strongly come to believe is that service, to be truly effective, must involve the concept of what my Dancemeditation teacher Dunya calls dynamic reciprocity.   This means that the work actually feeds you.  The work leaves you feeling joyful, inspired, re-energized, more creative, more full of juice for your own projects.

Forget selflessness.  For most of us, its a trap.

Dynamic reciprocity goes beyond feeling good because you are "making a difference".  That attitude of self-righteousness has the potential to slide into its own flip-side, an attitude I've felt many a time... martyrdom.  "I'm spending all this time and not getting paid.  My work isn't appreciated, and yet its now somehow just 'expected' of me by the community.  The garden doesn't look beautiful yet and so people don't see all the hard work I've put in..." blah blah blah.

Then there is "Oh my gosh!  Look at me with my big ego wanting credit!  I'm not selfless enough!  This is about the earth, the children..." blah blah blah martyrdom.

I decided that this year I was going to pull self-righeousness and martyrdom out by the roots and compost them.  I've been planting joy and contentment in their place.

I've made it a point to focus on activites I adore such as mentoring a small group of local kids I've known for years who are committed to the garden and to listening/working with the earth.  I'm learning to better delegate the tasks that I dislike, such as contacting the parks department. (I actually much prefer removing rubble by hand than organizing on the phone.)

I have also reminded myself that it is because of this project that I was sponsored by the community to go to school to become a permaculture designer, something that has dramatically increased my happienss.

The past two weeks I haven't had as much time to write, but all of the additional physical activity has magically worked out all kinds of kinks in the third draft of my play and first draft of my novel.  My third eye feels very open, and I feel tremendously grounded and focused in my herbal consultations after working so intensely with the earth.  Dynamic reciprocity is happening, and its truly awesome.

For this Moonday, I would as always love it if you have art/poetry etc. to share in the comments, and am also interested in where you have found dynamic reciprocity or rooted out self-righteousness/martyrdom in your own life...

**Children's Magical Garden website still under construction.  Find lots of pictures of the garden on the facebook group, Children's Magical Garden Community and Supporters

Thanks to friend, fellow Dancemeditator, and novelist Karleen Koen who first introduced me to the phrase 'give from your overflow, not from your well'. I've been pondering it ever since.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Rainbow Jelly in an Underwater Passageway (a five-year-old named this blog post)

Moonday.  Waning crescent.  Dark spring moon just before Wednesday's new moon.   A subtle time.   So many changes on the earth.

Last year in April, National Poetry Month in the US, I took the 30 poems in 30 days challenge.  I posted them on facebook-- which felt both bold and terrifying, but I knew that if I didn't post them I wouldn't write them.  Some days the poems stuck in my throat and twisted out of me, and other days they flowed.

After it was over I felt restored.  I hadn't written poetry regularly in over ten years.  I'd gotten my poetry mojo back. 

But after the month of forced poetry I disappointed myself.  I didn't keep it up the way I'd wanted to.  I punished myself for needing that outside influence, the uncritical cheering voices of friends.  Real writers don't need that.

Of course I know that's nonsense.  Any artistic or creative enterprise requires a dialogue with an inner five-year-old, and that five-year-old needs a big cheering committee sometimes, especially when she's been living inside of a small box for too long.

Now the poetry is taking over again anyway, because who can stop from writing poetry surrounded by all these blossoms?

So I'll start the 30-in-30 challenge today, just before the new moon, and continue every day through the next new moon.  Along the way I'll find ways to cheer for the five-year-old, and (with luck) keep it up this time after the 30 days are over.  Will report back on the progress.

It isn't too late to join me.  Never too late, actually.

Here is today's poem:

violet flower
stalk water-green,
translucent cells
rising in tiny spring spirals

deep purple petals
unfolding like a fan
in the hand of a flamenco dancer

inward wrist circling outward
down circling up
meeting the sun
for a half-life
of pure delight

In the comments I'd love it if you'd leave your own poem of course, and/or an answer to this question:

What or who encourages your inner five-year-old to be creative? 

Monday, April 5, 2010

On breaking unwritten rules

Happy Moonday.  Its a waning gibbous-- three weeks give or take before May's full flower moon and an excellent time for spring cleaning and the release of worn-out habits before the new moon.

I've never been one to obey a rule or code if it strikes me as nonsensical or unfair.  One that I simply can't abide is the unwritten rule that a woman should not be alone in city parks after dark.  If 'bad things' happen, well, what was she thinking?  As an intrepid city herbalist I find myself alone at night in city parks with some frequency.  I do usually bring my dogs.

Sunset.  I'm on my hands and knees on the ground in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, gathering a wild, abundant medicinal plant called cleavers, Galium aparine.   I'm determined to gather enough to make a quart of tincture (a lot) because this is the lushest, largest patch of cleavers I've ever seen, and its a plant that I need for my own healing.  I've been searching the park for  hours, and have finally found it.  But its getting late. The sun goes down.

When I make herbal medicine I thank every plant as I harvest, and I chant or sing as I go.  On this, the first almost warm spring night, I'm chanting Ya-Hadi, a Sufi chant, ya (invocation) Hadi (the Guide or Guidance).

Even though its a dark moon and I'm harvesting by thin orange lamp light, I can make out the cleavers easily by their distinctive shape like successive Doctor Seuss umbrellas on a chain and the way they cleave to my fingers, as their name implies. Their stalks are rough like cat tongues.

I've long known about cleavers' reputation for soothing swollen lymph, and have taken it for this myself, but beyond that our relationship has been somewhat superficial until now.

As I'm harvesting, I'm intently 'listening' for what the plant has to say about itself.  It gives itself up so easily.  I feel that this is an excellent herb both for physical and emotional flexibility.  (Its used to treat arthritis, as it turns out.)

I've almost gathered enough when the tall dead mugwort stalks I'm sitting under start to snap and I turn  to see a large man looming over me.  I let out the deep growling warrior's bellow my father taught me.  The man jumps back.

He is not a threat, at least not to me in this moment.

I say, 'I'm sorry I shouted, but you know, you startled me.'

He replies, 'That scream... I know you are a macho girl.  You have machisimo.

'Yes,' I reply.

'You are very lonely?' he asks.

Its important that the plants have good energy around them at all times when I'm gathering and making medicine, so after letting him know that no, I'm not lonely, not at all, I tell him what I'm doing, show him the cleavers, and explain some of their medicine.

'It give me energy?' I say it will.  'Delicious?' I tell him no.  Its bitter.  Good for the liver, like all bitter herbs.  He tries it anyway, and says nothing.

I turn away from him and continue to chant and gather.  He stands and watches me.

After about ten minutes I've gathered enough.  Earlier I had collected a small bag of silvery green spring mugwort tops for tea and wild dandelion greens for salad.  I can't find the brown paper bag in the dark.  I ask if the man will help me to look for it.   We find the bag. I thank him and say goodbye.

'Be safe!' he says.

'You too!' I reply. 

Cleavers definitely helps increase emotional flexibility.   (And next time I'll bring my dogs.  I'm happy to talk to curious onlookers, but don't want them sneaking up on me when I'm deep in a plant conversation.)

What is an 'unwritten rule' you sometimes (or often) break?

As its Moonday, I'd also love it if you would post poems or art of any kind in the comments.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Full Egg Moon: What Are You Hatching?

Happy full Moonday!  Today is the first full moon of spring, commonly known as the egg moon, which makes me think: what are you hatching?

The word that keeps coming up for me is freedom.  Several years ago I opened a door to find a man holding a gun an inch from my chest.

After that experience I felt a kind of freedom I'd never had before.   I lost all self-consciousness.  I would wear rainbow socks and sing as loud as I liked.   This faded after awhile, and I've been wanting to get that feeling back ever since without another gun.

On a recent light grey afternoon I went for a walk through the grimer part of my neighborhood on my way to East River Park, down by the Williamsburg Bridge which feels like a forgotten, liminal place.

I had been thinking about my grandparents house, a place I had adored, and how I hadn't gotten to say goodbye to it as the contents were emptied and the house was sold when I was in college.

I was thinking about that and about the movie Up, (which no one had warned me would make fat rivers shoot out of my eyes during the film's first 20 minutes), when I came across a room-sized open metal box.

Inside it was a broken table and chairs, lots of upholstered furniture, chipped odds and ends.  Near the front of the box was an upturned, formidably sized television encased in an an ornate wooden cabinet with drawers.  Upside down it somehow reminded me of Cyclops's eye.

And then there was a old wooden trunk like a treasure chest, big enough to hide in.  Of course I had to open it.  Inside I found yellowed newspapers that happened to be from the year I was born.  There were some electronic parts, and sealed in plastic, a green rafia hula skirt complete with a carved out coconut husk bra.   

The collection as a whole had clearly been the furnishings of someone's life.  I stood back for a moment to witness it fully.  Then I imagined my own apartment inside the box instead.    I picked up the hula skirt.  It weighed almost nothing.  I took it. 

When I got home, I found some hula videos on you tube, put on the skirt (the coconut bra didn't fit, sadly), some rainbow socks, and danced.

In the comments, I'd love it if you'd share what's hatching in your life... what qualities of experience-- adventure, freedom, love, forgiveness, mercy, etc...  And as always, any offerings of art or poetry on this or any theme are greatly appreciated.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Slower and Lazier

I watch over
the spring night--
but no amount of guarding 
is enough to make it stay.
 by Izumi Shikibu


march sun
i dream of the farm
even during the day
as it was
as it became since
trees growing thick in fields
even the blackberries
once rampant
succumbing to their shade
i remember the call
the chill sun of that day
your hands
wet birds
your eyes cloudy clay
i miss the chestnut walls
sheltering hills
the trees dressing
for spring
softness of worn stones
found in
abandoned roads

by @ten_ten_ten on twitter.  Here is his poetry blog.  As far as I know he wants to be anonymous beyond this... (Just in case you weren't aware, twitter is a great place to meet poets.)

Late March Moonday. Its just after the Spring equinox, with a waxing crescent.   Today on the south side of Tompkins Square park I noticed that the daffodils were in full bloom.  I find it almost painful to look at daffodils because it makes me sad to see them crisp in the hot sun and fade.  It seems to happen so soon after they bloom. Spring is ruled by all of these gorgeous, short-lived blossoms.  We all deserve a holiday from our lives just to appreciate them properly.
As that hasn't been declared yet,  my antidote is to go into Pooh bear mode whenever I can.

Be slower and lazier.  I want to feel my spring.

Even in my 'leisure time' as a gardener I can get overwhelmed by the amount of work there is to do now-- all the pruning, readying the soil for planting, clearing away the dead brush-- but the plants grow without me.  The mint grows around its long dead stalks, the un-pruned apple tree bore fruit for years without anyone's help but the sun and the rain.

So today I'm just taking it in.   

In the comments, I'd love it if you'd share something of your experience of the spring-- this one or any other.  Do you have a picture in your head that says 'spring' to you from yesterday, last year, or twenty years ago?

I'd also be thrilled if you shared poetry or art, yours or someone's who inspires you.

Monday, March 15, 2010

monsters, perfect dads, and Frida Kahlo

Moonday.  New moon.  We are in the darkness before the light of spring which happens officially on the 20th of this month.  Its an excellent time for going in deep.  That's what I've been trying to do.

I've been having some trouble writing recently.  I need to make some minor adjustments to my play before it can go on to its next phase, several other projects want more attention, and then there is this little blog I love that hasn't seen a post in a week.

I called up a good friend to talk about it. 

'Well,' I said, 'I have a lot going on, but I think that what's really been stopping me are my limiting beliefs.'  She laughed.  'Do I sound too psycho-babbly?' I asked. 

'No,' she said.  'I just don't hear that very often.  Its refreshing.' 

'Oh!' It was like she'd pinned a gold star on my cardigan.

I told her what was stopping me.  It was this thought:

Its too hard to make a living as a writer, so you shouldn't even try.   

I know its origin.  When I was a little kid pounding away happily on the electric typewriter, my dad sat me down.  He told me that only two percent of writers make their living at it.  I needed to find something else to do.  Writing for fun was great, but find another job.

To my child's ears he meant that I would never be good enough at the thing I loved to do the most.

Many, if not most people have a version of this story, some way more intense than mine.  There is usually some doom-sayer along the way-- a friend, a teacher, often someone with good intentions, and no amount of singing the Wonderful World of Disney theme song can shake them out of the mind.

'Its a monster' I said. 

'What do you do with monsters?' my friend asked.

'First you turn on the light, and then... you help them.'  I said, remembering one of my favorite Rilke quotes:

'perhaps everything terrible is, in its deepest being, something helpless that wants help from us.

'How do you help them?' she  asked.

'I don't know. That's the problem.'

What do you think your monster wants?' she asked.

'She wants a good dad.  She felt abandoned by her dad.'

'You might have to be her dad,' my friend said.  And then she said, 'Frida Kahlo. That just popped into my mind.' Its great having intuitive friends.

That was it.  I love Frida Kahlo.  I adore her work, her inspiring life story, and I love the way she would usually wear these timeless colorful skirts, and then show up in a suit.

I'm like that.  I'm a bit of a princess with a dash of drag king.  I live mostly in silk, but occasionally I lust after herringbone jackets, french cuff shirts, wide legged pants and fedoras.

So now I'm assembling my perfect dad costume for my monster.    He looks good in a hat.  His shoes match his belt and umbrella.  But he looks comfortable, gentle, like an abused animal might follow him home.  He's basically a mix between Johhny Depp, my super stylish and wildly encouraging college design professor, and my grandpa.  My monster is delighted.  My perfect dad tells her that she can be anything she sets her heart on. (Yes, like the Disney song says.)

*For the record, I have a pretty good adult relationship with my real dad now, and wouldn't change him, even though he still thinks that John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever is the pinnacle of style.

This moonday, I'm thinking about monsters and how I can help them.  If you want to share a story, or some inspirational art, quote, or poems that help you to help your monsters... I would love to see/read them.
Happy Moonday!

Monday, March 8, 2010

a plant for peaceful warrior women and wise men

This week's Moonday Post...

These last few days have felt like spring in Manhattan with brilliant blue skies and a carnival atmosphere on the streets of the East Village.

Yesterday I walked by children carrying bunches of cut daffodils and people dancing to jazz music in Tompkins Square Park.

I was on my way to a friend's house with my dogs, weighed down by bags of produce from the green market, when a man passed me a little too closely and shouted some rape-y comments.  Really violent things.

That almost never happens to me.  I have a pretty good force field, but it was down.  I wasn't prepared after a winter of automatic shielding by the cold and layers of warm clothes.

What popped into my head was the chant we all learned in elementary school, 'I'm rubber and your glue whatever you say bounces off me and sticks onto you', which I muttered as I passed.

I'm blessed to know lots of men who actively discourage cat calling.  I'm grateful too to all of the parents and teachers who work had to bring up boys with respect for women (such as my mother in law).  But the most instantaneous way I've found to discourage cat calling is to change my posture, my attitude, my vibe.  I don't allow it into my space.

Today I'm off to the park to restrengthen that force field.    I want to see if artemisia vulgaris, mugwort, is popping her head up yet.  Artemisia has the namesake of Artemis, Goddess of the hunt, the moon, protector of animals, the young, and the wilderness.   Like the goddess Artemis, Artemisia vulgaris is a moon plant.  The backside of the leaves are silver, like moonlight.

The plant artemisia is very subtly psychotropic (mind-altering) when ingested or burned as smudge.  It can enhance the vividness and recall of dreams, strengthen intuition, and deepen a person's relationship to nature.  It grows all over the world in various forms.

This plant has helped me to gain a sense of independence and inner strength.  I've enlisted its (her) wisdom to help others also come to trust their own intuitions, their 'gut' feelings.  

Its a plant par excellence for wild, fearless women and men, and I'd go so far as to say that its a remedy for cat calling.  Artemisia brings out the peaceful warrior in women and the wise woman in men.

There is a fierceness about the plant that has nothing to do with aggression. Artemisia helps us to stand tall with our shoulders back while moving with precision, grace, and a steady gaze, effortlessly discerning when we can relax, and when we need to be alert.

Right now I'm imagining Mr. Rapey-Comments sitting in the park somewhere with a large clump of mugwort.  He finds himself drifting off.  He starts to dream.

In the dream he comes across Artemis.  He was watching her bathe. She looks at him.  He thinks, 'oh shit',  his brain tunes into the collective unconscious and he remembers the part of the myth where Artemis turns a dude into a stag who is torn apart by dogs.  Only this time she transforms him into a woman in Manhattan in the spring.

There are lots of men out whistling, shouting, and hooting at women on the street.   He, now a woman, comes across himself as a man.  He hears his male self speak violating, ugly words.  They reverberate inside his female body.

He opens his eyes, changed.  He has heard his words as a form of self-hatred, and with this knowledge he begins, slowly, to heal.

Do you have a good cat calling story?  Some time when you were able to shift the energy? 

Wishing you a wild, happy Moonday.

Herbal footnotes:

There's lots of fantastic info on the medicinal uses of artemesia vulgaris.  Here are some links to great sources:  Susan Weed,

When its very young, artemisia is a light mint green and tastes pleasantly bitter.  Its used a lot in cooking and medicine in Asia.  In acupuncture its burned as moxa.  Like all bitters, its excellent for the liver and digestion, and so is a potent addition to the diet this time of year when our livers are all craving some t.l.c. after the winter.

Pregnant women should avoid it internally, though they can still benefit from its dream and intuition powers by sleeping with it in dream pillow or hanging out with the plant in the park.  

Artemisia is everywhere, so once you know what it looks like, you'll always have a friend around.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Writing Myself Out of a Box

I don't want to write a process-y post.  I don't think that anyone will want to read it.  But nothing else will come out, so here it is.

When I started this blog, I was in conflict.  I think of myself as a writer, dammit.  But I'm also an herbalist.  I wanted felt like I should have an herbal blog on my business website,  But since it seemed to be stuck, I decided I'd just start a 'say anything' blog and see what came of it.

I didn't want to write-- exclusively-- about herbs.  I didn't want to be-- exclusively-- an herbalist.  I was afraid that somehow my artist self was going to be swallowed up by my herbalist self.  I'd started my journey into herbalism when I was pretty creatively blocked.

By the time I wrote my first post here I'd worked my way out of the block, largely thanks to years spent learning about medicinal plants, and through them deepening my relationship to nature and my body.

When you enter into a relationship with a plant, learning all about it firsthand by touch, smell, feel, taste, listening to the sound of its leaves in the wind, and listening to your intuition about its healing medicine-- it changes you.

When you gather its flowers or dig its roots and make herbal preparations that then cure your ailments-- your aches and pains, your grief, your scattered mind, your brokenness; it gives you strength.  Its incredibly empowering.  So then of course you can make your music, or dance like no one is watching or... write a play.  You can speak clearly.  You can step into your power instead of giving it away.   Having a relationship with the medicine plants is a portal into the sacredness of the earth and your own body.

Marsh mallow flower, wild harvested last July, Brooklyn, NY.

So, as you may be able to tell, I'm passionate about this stuff.  And what's been coming up for me lately is that... I have to share it.  More.  Its needed.  What's that line from T.S. Eliot?  'Hurry up now, its time.'

I love lots of things:  Poetry, dogs, dancing-- even dog dancing.  The theater has my heart.  But the sacredness of the earth... that is what I know.  That's the part of me that feels like a clear channel from sky to earth and back again. 

So I'm going to write more about that.  Not exclusively.  Oh no.  (Don't worry scared inner writer--I'm not boxing you in.) I think that I'm just ready to claim something.  Some knowing.  We'll see.

Feedback is good.  Are these topics-- deepening relationship to nature-- sacredness of body and the earth--- hands on herbal medicine-- of interest to you?  If you enjoy this blog, what would you like to read more about?

Monday, March 1, 2010

Moonday Experiment-- Unleashing Your Wild Creativity

Moonday, just after the full snow moon last night.  If this is the first you've heard of it, let me explain.  This marks week 9 of the Moonday Experiment, designed to help me, and whoever else wants to play, to take a little time out on Mondays to celebrate the moon by doing something creative and/or wild despite the dominant culture's referendum on Monday wildness.  Moonday is a day (or just an hour) to let loose creatively-- throw caution to the wind and be creative for creativity's sake-- ie. wild.  The comments here are meant to be a place to share creative impulses and/or inspirations, meaning you can share your own art or links (poetry, visual art, stories, dance, etc.) or the art of someone who inspires you. 
Image by Catrin Welz-Stein-- I adore her haunting, dream-like illustrations.

Personal update:  I seem to be in a 'bubbling' phase-- not a lot of output, but lots of connections happening in my mind and body.  Consistently giving myself permission to just have fun in the realm of art seems to be shifting something internally.  We'll see if it ends up influencing my writing.  I've been excited to get feedback from some of you saying that Moonday is helping to open up your creativity.

Last night while walking on East 11th Street,  a friend and I came across a large pile of bright blue Encyclopedia Americanas with gold embossed eagles on their fronts next to a pile of garbage bags surrounded by the dirty melting snow.  I picked one up from the top of the pile.  Skin to Sumac.  Copyright 1975.  There are articles on Stream of Consciousness, Sonic Boom, Squaw-fish Squid, Stained Glass, Stalin... I can't wait to chop it up and make some collages based entirely on words and images beginning with the letter S.

I wrote about how collage helps me out of creative ruts and puts me in touch with my subconscious (also in the Encyclopedia Americana) back when no one at all was reading this blog.  If you're interested, you can read it here.

So, join in, please?  Post a poem (it doesn't have to be one that you wrote), a link to a story, art you made, art you love-- or play the stream of consciousness game, a verbal form of collage. Write down the first 10 words that come into your head when you read this word:  fruitcake

Happy Moonday!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Moonday Salon-- Post your Creative Thoughts

This is week 8 of the Moonday Experiment.  A close friend of mine who actually reads my blog was confused by Moonday.  She thought that there was only one Moonday post.  So that means I haven't been clear enough.  Moonday is my weekly response to Monday.  It is me zapping the "do! do! do! go! go! go! hurry hurry hurry!" chant in my head with a different energy, Moon energy. Its a way for me to honor the intuitive and creative on a day that is known for being all about business.  As I'm an artist who does my level best to do something creative every day, I use Moondays to do something-- at least a tiny little something-- uninhibited and for sheer love of the thing, without a thought to whether or not its good.

I've been encouraging people to participate in the experiment by sharing their creative ideas and outpourings in this supportive space in the comments.  There haven't been many takers yet, but the ones who have shared something have been incredible and so much fun.

This Moonday I will be dancing at the Metropolitan Building at 7 PM (its free if anyone happens to be reading this and lives in NYC) with Dunya Dianne McPherson's Dunyati Alembic.  The Alembic is meditative dance, Sufi practices translated for performance.  Our director's instructions are simple but challenging: relax and breathe.  Our job is to stay inside of our bodies, and not to think 'is it good, is it bad, do they get it?'  just stay with ourselves and let the dance unfold.  It feels profoundly healing to dance in this way with witnesses, and our hope is that its also deeply relaxing to watch. We've gotten some great responses that indicate that it is.

So that fulfills the Moonday quota!  And this completely unedited post does, too. 

I'd absolutely adore it if you'd join in.  Post a link to your site with your artwork/videos/poetry/etc.  Share some writing-- a thought, a poem-- in the comments-- it can be a quote that inspires you, too.  Or a link to some art of any kind that inspires your own creative freedom.

That seems to be the theme bubbling up in me today.  Freedom.  Inner Revolution.  So if you like, answer this question:  When do you feel free?  Where are you?  What are you doing?

Happy Moonday!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

doubt, prayer, and the healing power of beauty

Sunset.  Low tide.

Faith and prayer have never come easily to me.  I’m a doubter.   I talked to a friend about it once when I was feeling anguished on a meditation retreat, and she said maybe the most comforting sentence I've ever heard.  She said, ‘Maybe God likes you that way.’

Recently I watched a loved one go through something hard, and I came to the realization that I'm completely powerless to help her.  It seems that I’ve been given two choices:  worry, or pray.  I’ve had this short poem by Hafiz rattling around in my head for days now.  I need to have it tattooed on the inside of my eyelids.

Now that all your worry has proved such an unlucrative business, why not find a better job.

So this is my prayer.

Sometimes time melts.  Six hours spread out in our minds to reach the girth of a decade’s worth of memories.

My friend and I were fifteen and it was summer.  Neither of us appreciated those facts much.  Both of us had a parent with cancer and life felt full of snares.  But we'd been graced by a trip with her family to a largely unspoiled island with the Atlantic stretching out on one side, and wide green salt marshes on the other.  It was easier to breathe there with the salt air and all of the space just to be. 

After dinner and some games of gin rummy one night we took our usual barefoot walk along the quiet beach.  We could see layers of stars above the dark ocean, and little else except for the glint of foam at our feet under the half moon.

We walked a long way along the shore to our favorite place, a protected cove on the northernmost point of the island where the beach ended and we had to navigate through spiky reeds and armies of sand crabs to sit on some large rocks over the water.  That night the sea was smooth and it was easy to imagine walking on it, out and out.

Still heat curled around our bodies and tickled drops of sweat from the backs of our necks before we slowly eased into the dark water. We walked in up to our chests, then dunked our heads and shoulders under quickly, shivering for a moment before adjusting. 

We traced constellations in the sky, getting lost in endless layers of stars and distant galaxies.  Shooting stars radiated over our heads, one after another.  It was a meteor shower, a poem to bent time, end of time.  It felt like a mystery that was outside of us, and somehow passing into us directly through our eyes.

Around our shoulders and arms we found more stars.  There were stars in the reflection on the sea’s surface, and yellow sparks inside the water too. 

Phosphorescence danced with our movement, shimmered in our wet hair.  We were crowned with stars.  We were inside of them, two Queens of Heaven, two infants safe inside of Mystery, splashing and laughing, in love with the rise and fall of our sparkling forms, in love with everything until the sky grew light and we made our way home to slip into our beds by sunrise.

That night unfurls inside my spirit like a map to Source when I’m full of doubt and forgetting beauty.

I pray that my loved one who shared it with me can be comforted by the memory too, that if her pain ever becomes too big, she can remember that time, have it become one of her maps back to beauty.  I pray that like for me, it will help her remember that the universe is vast, gorgeous, endlessly varied, always changing, always eternal, whole, and that somehow nothing is ever lost when we love it.