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.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Sending Loving Kindness to Myself... Circa 1992

Moonday.  Just after the new moon, the start of the year of the Tiger, Valentine's and V day.

I feel the pull to turn inward, retreat.  After some powerful healing work this week with my Dancemeditation community, I'm standing very close to a young me.  Fifteen.  She is full of self-hatred worn like thick dragon-scaled armor.  She loves Rilke and the Bronte's.  She likes to sit on the jagged brown outcroppings and stare at the roiling river, especially because she's not supposed to be there.  Her chest is sunken.  Suicide seems romantic.  There are bars in her eyes.  Her voice sounds shrill and brittle in her head.

Books are rafts.  Dogs are guardian angels.  Nature is Mother. Those things haven't changed.  This is a poem she loves. Today I send her my love, laughter, and I'm listening.

The night is darkening round me
The wild winds coldly blow
But a tyrant spell has bound me
And I cannot cannot go

The giant trees are bending
Their bare boughs weighed with snow
And the storm is fast descending
And yet I cannot go

Clouds beyond clouds above me
Wastes beyond wastes below
But nothing drear can move me
I will not cannot go

O mother I am not regretting
To leave this wretched world below
If there be nothing but forgetting
In that dark land to which I go

Yet though tis wretched now to languish
Deceived and tired and hopeless here
No heart can quite repress the anguish
Of leaving things that once were dear

--Emily Bronte

(It goes on and on like that.)

If you have a poem, song lyrics, an image, or a thought that a younger self who could use a little TLC might enjoy, I'd love it if you'd share it in the comments, or any other Moonday artistry.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

How very bad poems can heal the spirit

I've been writing, lately, what my critical judging mind calls (very) bad prose poems. These are free verse, plain, and just for me.  They've been helping me with my journal practice.  I write in a journal every day in the morning as a way to ease into the day, get the writing muscle moving, write down my dreams, and get unstuck creatively.  Only sometimes I feel stuck even in my journal writing.

The poems help me out of journal ruts-- when all I seem to write are lists of things I want/need/ can't seem to do, and lots of blah blah about my feelings.  They help me to articulate large experiences in few words when writing in prose seems daunting.

Because I'm letting them be bad, and just for me, they aren't stuck, and don't take long.  Usually they illuminate ideas or feelings.  There is always more of a quality of witness about them.  When I write prose, I'm in it-- mired inside the feelings, actions, ideas.  With poetry, I feel freer.  I feel more spacious.  I don't feel compelled to explain or understand every thought, emotion, or turn of event.  I simply write impressions.

I thought I'd share one of them, written soon after a Dancemeditation workshop at Kripalu with my teacher Dunya.  We had been listening deeply to our bodies.  Some of them are more story-like than this one.  I'm sharing it even though I don't think its a 'good' poem-- (it isn't one that I label very bad, though.  I'm not yet brave enough to share one of those) because it helped me, even though it is a 'list poem', which my poet friends mostly sneer at as a form.  Hoping it will inspire someone else to write their own medicine.

Witnessing the Self

Grinding doubts inside my jaw,
heavy sacks of rain soaked sand.

Inflamed fear inside my face,
swollen passages
with doors on fire.

fingers and toes,
dried leaves possessed
in a windstorm.

Grief-- my heart, no more words for it.

Strong limbs,
ancient oaks unfurling green.

faith-- my breath,
open windows with white curtains
blowing into mystery.

My upper back,
wide oval lilies floating
on a glassy lake the hue of sky.

Passion-- my heart,
blood roses blooming
out of wet earth,

even with the grinding doubts inside my jaw,
heavy sacks of rain soaked sand.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Deep Dark Moonday

Happy Moonday!

'Why, what's Moonday?' you ask.  I'll tell you. This marks week six 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, in the hope that it will spark some of our own wildness and unbridled creativity.

Personal update on the experiment:  I've been having a bit more fun playing around.  Last Moonday I collaged a card in my journal.  I decided that it was a note from my fairy godmother telling me that she had my back, used lots of glitter, and the next day I happened to find the perfect dress for an upcoming performance-- bippity boppity boo.

If you've been reading this blog for a little while, you might have noticed that I've been sort of play-challenged recently, and have had to go to some lengths to bring out my silly side.  Celebrating Moonday every week seems to be helping me to get over myself loosen up.

Today's waning crescent moon is going into the darkest phase of a dark month.  I shouldn't be surprised that I'm feeling internal, desiring to hole up.  I long for a snowy cabin and silence.  Spring is just around the corner, and for a gardener that means work.  I have a lot more deep dreaming to do between now and then. 

I've been thrilled by the stories, poems, and links to artwork in the comments each Moonday.  They are fantastic.  Worth checking out.  Skip over my old Moonday posts and go right to the comments.  I hope some of you will grace me with your Moonday inspirations again or for the first time this week. If you would share a poem, or links to artwork, stories, songs, dances... any art--in the broadest sense of the word-- that you want to share or that inspires you.  No theme, just something that jazzes you up, that makes you want to dance, or  bust out your crayons, a poem or scribble you made in a burst of exuberance or  painstakingly crafted (though I am very pro burst of exuberance creating--- internal critics can go stand in the corner.)

Here's mine-- my internal critic wants to warn you that it may not be very good at all, especially as I'm making it up on the spot.  Now I'm putting duct tape over her mouth.  Ah.  Better.

Slippery green snake
undulating in a bowl of twigs and dead leaves,
your back glistens with honey,
your forked tongue flicking in and out
for the delight of the feeling.

You ate the eggs last summer.
The birds have long since flown.
You are alone and sated
in a nest under a broken hive
honey-coated against the cold.

Sunday, February 7, 2010


I had no idea how much fear I hold before starting this blog.  It has taken clear expression through words divided up into subjects for me to see it.  I noticed, when I looked over at my list of labels, that I had written five whole posts about overcoming fear.  I have hard evidence.  Its a reoccurring theme with me.

I've always thought of myself as a brave person.   There's my mother's story of the way I exuberantly jumped into the pool on my very first swimming lesson at the age of two while the other toddlers looked on warily.  I stood up to bullies in elementary school.  I managed to keep a level head while being robbed.  I enjoy camping alone in the woods.   Look how I'm listing these off like badges on a girl scout uniform. 

And yet here it is again, this feeling of fear weighing on me.   When I close my eyes and try to imagine what the fear is I see a shadow.   I want to know what it is.  I want to  understand what makes me feel afraid.  Is it fear of judgment?  Failure?  Success?  Maybe its all of these things.  The fear whispers to me to stay safe, keep my head down, don't make waves.  It tends to start whispering the loudest when I'm about to challenge myself to do something I've always wanted, when I'm about to step out of my comfort zone. 

Today I watched a video of a friend taking her first sky diving trip.  She was so honest about how she was feeling.  She didn't put up a front.  When the videographer asked if she was scared she said 'I'm terrified.  I hope I don't die.'  Watching her in the air, completely exhilarated, and still allowing herself to be scared too, made me cry.  She looked so beautiful and strong.

When I look at my fear directly, like shining a bright light, it diminishes.  'Oh, I'm just afraid.  Its just fear.'  Its like a parent switching on the light after a child cries out in a darkened room.  'It was just a shadow, see?  Nothing to be afraid of.'

Maybe fear isn't something that I need to overcome at all.  Maybe it is, instead, something that I simply need to accept.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Aphrodisiacs are the Drag Queens of the Plant World

I'm preparing for the herbal class I'm teaching on Sunday on aphrodisiacs. My hands are smeared with raw honey, raw cocoa powder, rose powder, cayenne, cinnamon, and maca*.  I'm making homemade aphrodisiac infused honey, for spreading on a buttery croissant or....

I started out a bit grumpy.  I have a lot to do.  I have to make an outline for the class so I don't ramble too much, even though I like rambling. I like chatting about medicinal plants like they're people.  I am excited when scientists come back with findings that support the ways people have been working with them for generations.  But science isn't what generally attracts people to aphrodisiacs.  I need to bring out their fun side, without rambling.

I was wondering how I was going to do that, until I tasted my fingers.  All of a sudden I was happy.  Laughing.  I looked at myself in the mirror.  I looked hot.  My lights were on.  Yum.

Aphrodisiacs do have a 'serious' side, in the fact that most of them are also strengthening to the heart, reproductive, and/or nervous systems, many if not all are anti-depressive, and in general they make people feel happy, even giddy, which is very creatively freeing.  They aren't "just" about sex.

What makes me happiest about aphrodisiac plants is that they prove a theory I've always had, something I've always felt.  I wrote poems about it when I was sixteen, railing against, in my sixteen-year-old lingo, 'the priests and the pimps.'   Sexual love is heart opening, expansive, joy bringing, juicy pleasure.  Aphrodisiac plants are living poems to life force.  They support the idea that life is pleasurable.  What a simple, and yet somehow still radical thought.

Rupaul was on WNYC today, on the Leonard Lopate Show, promoting his new book called Workin It: Rupaul's Guide to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Style.  The interview sounded caned, but nevertheless I'm excited to check out the book.  Besides trying to get Leonard to say that he remembered the hookers on 28th Street from the '70s, Rupaul said some interesting things.  One, that we are all born naked and everything else is drag, meaning that we're all wearing a costume.  And two, that Drag Queens in every culture teach us not to take life so seriously.  I believe that drag is a sacred practice.  Drag Queens and Kings are like aphrodisiacs.  They encourage the rest of us (if we're open to them) to feel libidinous, empowered, and playful. 

I like to work hard at the things I love.  I'm often up late writing.  I push myself, sometimes to the point of exhaustion.  Sometimes a well-meaning someone will say, 'lighten up.  Have some fun.  You're working too hard.'  And I'm annoyed.  This advice just points out that I'm rigid, stuck, without giving me a way to get unstuck.  Aphrodisiac plants, like an amazing drag show, do the lightening up for me. They get me to laugh, to open my heart, to feel a little naughty, a little loose, a little more free.  They turn on my lights and make me feel like workin it.

Kate's Ooh la la honey 2010 
(The possibilities are endless.  Use this as a guide and play with your own recipe.)

Raw Honey
Ground rose petals (about 1 part)
Ground Maca* (about 4 parts)
Raw Cocoa powder (about 3 1/2 parts)
Cinnamon Powder (1/4 part)
Cayenne Powder ( taste. )

*Maca is a supreme aphrodisiac for both men and women.  Its actually a type of dried, ground turnip.  Its also helpful for dealing with stress.  Its fertility enhancing, so be careful if that's not what you want. Its a warming herb, helping the people to deal with the cold in the high Andes mountains of Peru.  If you are someone who is prone to be 'hot'-- you have occasional acne outbreaks, anger easily, etc. , this might not be a great choice on a super regular basis, but I'm one of those types, and find that very occasionally having maca for its aphrodisiac purposes is fine, the way that eating a turnip is fine.  Dried and powdered it tastes a little like pancake batter, and can be substituted for flour and mixed into pancakes.

On a plate, preferably with a lip, mix the powders.  Power the roses with a mortar and pestal.  If you don't have one, you can improvise with a mug and your fingers.  Typically dried rose petals powder fairly easily.  Make sure that you use petals that are meant for internal use, organic if possible.  Commercial fresh roses are covered in toxic chemicals, sadly. 

The measurements are very approximate.  Experiment to taste.   Spoon out a small dollop (about a nickel size) of the honey.  Roll into the powders, forming a ball in your hands.  It will be fairly sticky at first.  The powders will seep into the honey. After the powders have seeped in, roll it in the powders again.  They will seep in more.  Roll them gently one last time, then place in a clean dry jar. Continue to do this until you have filled the jar with powder-infused honey.   (You will see that more has seeped into the honey after time). Put the jar in the oven with the pilot light or another warm location overnight so that the honey and powders fully meld together.  The longer you wait, the more it will infuse, but you can use it right away if the mood strikes you.

You can find the ingredients at your local herb shop.  In NYC that's Flower Power Herbs and Roots on East 9th St., or if you don't have a local shop, here's a link to a good quality mail order place that carries all of these ingredients.

Friday, February 5, 2010


We all have strange little personal calculations in our heads.  My guy and I were married four and a half years ago in June, and a month later we got our dog Tilly.  She was around three and a half then, which would make her about eight now, with a birthday in the winter.  Maybe she's an Aquarius.  That would make sense.  She loves the water.  

The other calculation I've been working out, mostly as I walk the dogs, begins with the fact that I'm going to be thirty-three in a few months.  I was thirteen when my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, which means its been almost twenty years since her diagnosis.  We talked about it on the phone today.  She doesn't like to think about it most of the time, and doesn't feel triumphant.  She's lost too many beloveds to cancer to feel like that.  She just feels lucky.  And she still gets nervous on her annual check-ups.

She had a scary prognosis.  Two different types of cancer, one in each breast, which the doctors told us at the time was 'highly unusal'.  They didn't catch it early, it spread to her lymph, and she had to undergo two rounds of chemo and radiation. At one point she was told that her chance of remission was very slim and was given six months to live.

She talks about how young my brother and I were when she was diagnosed, about how hard it was for us, especially without my dad around.  She's right.  It was hard.  But it was also an enormous gift.  I've never thought of my loved ones as invincible.

Her cancer taught me, in a visceral, body knowing way, that all we really have is this moment.  I can't claim to have always lived that way, but I know it, and its helped me to soak up every gorgeous detail of some ordinary days like today washing my dishes, setting my wedding ring on the little hook above the sink, talking to my mother on the phone about the neighbors and my dance costume, air mattresses, and Angela Landsbury's new play on Broadway while the dogs whine and snort to go outside on a rare, sunny day for New York in February.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Happy Wolf Moonday!

Happy Moonday!  Its just past the full wolf or purge moon, which this year happens to be one of the biggest and brightest of the year.

This marks week 5 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. 

Personal update on the experiment:  Lots of  exciting creativity seems to be seeping into my life from all sorts of places.  This is making me happy.  Something is shifting...

Today is also my very dear friend Eve's birthday and so my Moonday offering this week is a poem about Eve the first in honor of both of them.  

From  Applesauce for Eve by Marge Piercy

You are indeed the mother of invention,
the first scientist. Your name means
life: finite, dynamic, swimming against
the current of time, tasting, testing,
eating knowledge like any other nutrient.
We are all the children of your bright hunger.
We are all products of that first experiment,
for if death was the worm in that apple,
the seeds were freedom and the flowering of choice.
                                                       Picture of Eve's Apple, sculpture by Edwina Sandys
I would love it (actually, I'm squeezing my eyes shut, crossing my fingers tightly, and holding my breath) if you would share a poem, either one of your own or another one that you like, links to artwork, stories, songs, dances... any art--in the broadest sense of the word-- that you want to share or that inspires you.  May your day and night be peppered with unbridled laughter, wise foolishness, and unexpected delights.