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!