Saturday, June 30, 2007

for alex


January 7, 1962 - June 30, 1992


The spotted hawk swoops by and accuses me....he
complains of my gab and my loitering.

I too am not a bit tamed....I too am untranslatable,
I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.

The last scud of day holds back for me,
It flings my likeness after the rest and true as any on the
shadowed wilds,
It coaxes me to the vapor and the dusk.

I depart as air....I shake my white locks at the runaway
sun,
I effuse my flesh in eddies and drift it in lacy jags.

I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,
If you want me again look for me under your bootsoles.

You will hardly know who I am or what I mean,
But I shall be good health to you nevertheless,
And filter and fibre your blood.

Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged,
Missing me one place search another,
I stop somewhere,

waiting for you.

Walt Whitman, from Leaves of Grass

Friday, June 29, 2007

mandala, and letting go

A friend said to me...
"you can't keep everything. sometimes its best to let things go in order to make room for the really important stuff."

...and in my mind's eye, I saw the mandala.

The sand mandala, first created in Tibet at least 2,000 years ago by Buddhist monks, is a prayer to the Buddha to spread compassion in the world. "Mandala" is Sanskrit for "circle" and it's a flat concentric circular design rich with brilliant colors and symbolic shapes that grows outward from its center. It serves as a picture tool for meditation, and represents the central Buddhist value of compassion. (You can watch this video and see the footage from the opening ceremony and construction.

Before starting the mandala, the monks pray and chant, in an intense meditation. They start by blessing themselves, and those around them, continuing with ever-expanding circles of purification and compassion that eventually extend to the entire universe.



After the opening ceremony, monks begin drawing the line design for the mandala. This is precise work that's based on sacred geometry found in the ancient scriptures of Tantric Buddhism. Each mandala symbolizes a particular existential and spiritual approach. The artists measure out and draw the architectural lines using a straight-edge ruler, compass and white ink pen.

Then the sand...white stones ground and dyed with water colors, 14 colors in all. The monks painstakingly pour millions of grains of sands from traditional metal funnels that are called chakpur, beginning from the inside and moving outward and symbolizing how at birth a child is just a drop of sperm and ovum, and then steadily grows, until eventually the entire universe becomes experienced through the senses. Each monk holds a chakpur in one hand, while running a metal rod on its grated surface; the vibration causes the sands to flow like liquid.




The entire process usually takes from three to five days of almost around-the-clock work.



Traditionally most sand mandalas are destroyed shortly after their completion. This is done as a metaphor of the impermanence of life. The sands are swept up and placed in an urn; to fulfill the function of healing, half is distributed to the audience at the closing ceremony, while the remainder is carried to a nearby body of water, where it is deposited. The waters then carry the healing blessing to the ocean, and from there it spreads throughout the world for planetary healing.






I was lucky enough to watch this entire process once, from its ceremonious beginning, to its construction and eventual dismantling. The strewing of the sand over the Androscoggin River was haunting and beautiful, and, for whatever reason, it was also one of the most heart-wrenching things I'd ever seen.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

uncovered

I've been reminded lately about how we are all such intensely creative souls who long, in our own unique ways, to give birth to those thoughts and ideas that live inside the rooms of who we are. We may not all be painters or writers or singers or dancers, but there is artistry and beauty of expression in the work that we do and in the people that we love. We just have to be brave enough to set it free, we have to be fearless enough to let others see it, touch it, hear it, taste it...feel it to its very core.

I have friends who are doctors, lawyers, stay-at-home moms, organizers, bartenders, and on and on and on...and I see the poet in all of them, peeking out in wonderful shining moments that they themselves do not even recognize, when some Muse is working through them that they aren't even aware of. And it is so beautiful, that raw and fragile moment when the artist in each of us is revealed.

For me, it has always been about words, and finding ways to get beyond my fear of sharing them with others. When I was young I wanted so desperately to be a writer--I couldn't begin to imagine being anything else--but always had that nagging awful feeling inside of me that I would never be talented enough to make a living that way. So I would try to bury my dreams of being the next great feminist novelist, and like a toothache they would just come back to haunt me.

And then a friend who was tired of hearing me wax poetic about my self doubt wrote down a Marge Piercy poem for me that I still carry around today, more than 20 years later. It was a gift that ultimately transformed me, a gift from someone who understood my ache of wanting to write, to express, to fill a blank page with words that might take people I would never meet to places they had never imagined. What that poem made me realize was that the work itself was all that really mattered...even more than wanting someone else to love it, and by extension, to love me.

Now I write just for me.

And every once in a while, I let someone new inside my little cyberspace world of expression.

It is never easy to do that. I feel at once like I am uncovering myself, peeling back the protective layers that I wear in the world outside of The Slant. A world that, to me, is a crazy, turbulent sea of humanity (and not), and of which I am, quite simply, just trying to stay afloat in.

But then I go ahead and do it anyway.


For the young who want to

Talent is what they say you have
after the novel is published and
favorably reviewed. Beforehand
what you have is a tedious delusion,
a hobby like knitting.

Work is what you have done
after the play is produced
and the audience claps.
Before that friends keep asking
when you are planning to go out and get
a job.

Genius is what they know you had
after the third volume
of remarkable poems.
Earlier they accuse you of withdrawing,
ask why don't you have a baby, call you a bum.

The reason people want M.F.A.'s,
take workshops with fancy names
when all you can really learn is a few
techniques, typing instructions
and somebody else's mannerisms

is that every artist lacks
a license to hang on the wall
like your optician, your vet
proving you may be a clumsy sadist
whose fillings fall into the stew
but you're certified a dentist.

The real writer is one who really writes. Talent
is an invention like phlogiston
after the fact of fire.
Work is its own cure. You have to
like it better than being loved.

Marge Piercy

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

lesbian merit badges

After sharing with a friend last night that I was recently called an old and ornery lesbian, she emailed me the most amusing diatribe. My favorite part:

"if you were old and ornery it would be girl scout badge material. you/we should be striving for old and ornery .... trying to live a long time while pissing off the morons (is that a feminist word? should one say moron?) let's start lesbian merit badges and instead of sashes lets use denim jackets to glue them on (no sewing allowed)"

ha.

that is just... better than chocolate.

i have such wickedly brilliant friends.

thanks V.

oh! and we are currently taking suggestions for other merit badge ideas.

stay tuned.

Monday, June 25, 2007

...balloons...


i learned today that balloons...




...are poems.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

pomegranate juice

back in 2005, during the no on 1 campaign, i was the northern maine lead field organizer. and i'm talking NORTHERN maine, as kevin of the posse will attest. as a result of many, many miles of driving, my car became a casualty of war. i coaxed it through part of the following winter, but eventually she went to that great junkyard in the sky, a sacrifice of winning 5 rights for The Gays. a year and a half and a fairly expensive relationship break up later, i had to choose between wheels or first and last month's rent and a security deposit for my own place. peace of mind and room to breathe won out.

living in portland is convenient for the wheel-less: i've managed to master the public transit system, i've developed a respectable set of 40-something-year-old calves from walking a lot, and when a car becomes a necessity, the posse and other friends have pulled through for me. interestingly, they all have subarus...go figure...and my dad has asked more than once when i visit him in Shapleigh "why do all your friends drive the same kind of car?" my stock answer: "it's a lesbian phenomenon dad", at which point he says "aaaah" and we leave it at that.

so this weekend i'm using the subaru outback of the Smith-Hoopes Lesbians, and i've been running the kind of errands that walking simply doesn't allow. this morning i spent some time at the bottle check out at hannafords. which is always a fascinating experience. what i like MOST about the bottle check out line is that you end up having conversations with people you normally would never talk to. what i like LEAST about the bottle check out line is that you end up having conversations with people you normally would never talk to. yeah. it's a crapshoot.

today, i got lucky.

those convenient auto-machines were on the fritz, and so there was a long line of us waiting for the lone checkout guy, and we were a motley gathering. a few were very obviously cashing in on last night's consumption (tell tale signs: bloodshot eyes, shaky hands, and cotton mouth so bad that you can actually SEE it.) a couple others were upscale women who looked as though they had spent 2 hours getting ready in the bathroom for just this occasion and who were clearly offended by the aforementioned hung-over returners.

standing next to me was an elderly man, and his cart was filled with empty pomegranate juice bottles. i mean there were cases and cases of them. and he looked tired. and a little overwhelmed. he had the bluest, saddest eyes i had ever seen. those eyes gave everything away to me...they looked hauntingly like my mom's eyes did last winter when my dad was so sick.

pomegranate juice mystery solved.

he caught me staring at those bottles.

"my wife. she drinks lots of pomegranate juice. doctors recommendation."

really? my dad drinks a lot of pomegranate juice too.

"is your dad sick?"

yeah. he was sick. last winter, with prostate cancer.

"but he's better now?"

yeah. we were worried for a long while. but he's getting better every day.

"good for him. my wife has breast cancer."

oh no. i'm sorry to hear that.

"we've been married for 52 years. four kids, 13 grandchildren, and 3 great grandchildren."

wow. i'll bet holidays are a lot of fun.

"they always are. all the kids fly in from all over the country and we have a ball. mary, my wife, is in her glory, running around, cooking up a storm for everybody. she loves taking care of people."

she sounds very nice.

"she'd have to be, to put up with me for 52 years." he laughs at that.

oh i'll bet you're not so bad.

"it's been a good life. not so much lately of course. she's had...a hard time." pause. "she's had chemotherapy, radiation, all of it. good days and bad days. and i do what i can. it never feels like enough, but i figure she's been taking care of me and everybody else for so long, it's time for us to take care of her. and i don't mind taking care of mary at all."

the line moves up, and it's my turn to cash in.

"are you married?"

no. not yet. maybe someday i hope.

"well you're young."

ha. not so much. but you're very sweet to say it.

"well, when you find it, just make sure you enjoy it. you start out thinking time is your friend. and the next thing you know... it goes by too damn fast. the thing about growing old together is that even though your bodies change, you still look at each other and see the same exact person you married. you still feel the same way inside. but time...time is not your friend. remember that."

i sure will.

the clerk hands me my slip, and as i move out of the way, he says one last thing to me.

"so your dad is better. that's good. it's never hopeless right?"

and i look him square in the eyes. touch his shoulder lightly.

you know, after all that the doctors did for my dad, the tests and the surgery and the medicine and all of it, he will tell you that there are two simple reasons why he's getting better every day.

his eyes do not move from mine.

my mom.

and pomegranate juice.

and he looks at his cart, filled with all those empty bottles, and lets out a big sigh.

he puts his head down for a second or two.

then he turns back to me.

looks ME square in the eyes.

touches MY shoulder lightly.

and gives me a big smile.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

perspective

later that day....

i was given a fresh and much-needed dose of perspective. i was gently and poignantly reminded that at the Jerusalem Pride, lots more than nasty words were tossed around at the 1000 people who were brave enough to march in their parade.

http://365gay.com/Newscon07/06/062107israel.htm

and now, i am without words.

choosing my religion

I'm a spiritual person. I don't really ascribe, at least at this point in my life, to any organized religion. I've spent a lot of time studying different religions, and I think because of that, I tend to approach my spirituality buffet-style. I have a hard time pigeon-holing my beliefs into one neat and tidy package. A little Buddhism mixed in with some Christian teachings, a hint of paganism, followed by a sprinkle of the Taoist philosophies. I meditate, I like the idea of the Buddhist Four Noble Truths, and I try like mad to follow the Eightfold Path. I think some of the teachings of Christ were brilliant, particularly the Beatitudes. And I love that he hung out with the prostitutes. Paganism appeals to me because of its practicality--environmental issues--and also because I like the spiritual idea of the feminine earth giving us life and then supporting us through it while we do everything we can to take care of the earth. Taoism is just a beautiful concept of yin and yang, of time being cyclical and not linear, and of life flowing around you like water around rocks. Or something like that.

What is common among all of them, I think, are the core values of respect and compassion, free of judgement, for all living creatures...and then the idea of living, as honestly as you can, a life filled with deeds and actions reflecting those values. If there is suffering...do what you can to stop it. Love your neighbor, your dog, the fish in the pond, a blade of grass...you get the point. It seems to me that these are the very basic teachings that we all ought to try and hold ourselves accountable to. Whatever religious or spiritual path we choose to walk on, if we're sincere about it, we ought to recognize and celebrate the deep connections we all have as living beings who somehow ended up hanging out together on the same little planet at the same little period of time.

Which is why I get so incredibly frustrated with The Christian Right (ah, there I go, falling off the eightfold path again.) There's been more than one Rant on The Slant about them (see intimidate THIS or jerry: where ARE you?) Their concept of spirituality, of religious values, is just so damn foreign and confusing to me. Where's the compassion? Where's the respect? It's so...UNauthentic. And they continuously and with much bravado completely ignore the connections we all obviously have.

And now they're ba-aaack on the attack (this time with Everything Dyke)in the form of Mike Hein, whose panties are so twisted that he's turning blue in the face from lack of oxygen. In response to the recent Portland Immoral Dyke March, friends are getting nasty little emails from the Christian Civic League. And once again, I am seeing my face and my name and my life plastered all over their website, although I have to say it's getting so old that I barely blink when it happens now. It's just that this time around, they aren't even trying to disguise their hatred. They are demanding THIS and they are no longer going to tolerate THAT, and I'm just...over it.

Of course, I know it's the inevitable price we pay for being OUT, for celebrating who we are, and for daring to empower ourselves as women, as dykes, and as part of the larger community that for so long has been pushed around by people claiming to be doing the work of God.


I'll take my buffet-style religion, thank you very much. There are those who look at life as one big scary test filled with evil temptations and trials and tribulations that are clearly rigged by a God who it would seem wants to see us fail. That's their religion. And I welcome them to it...we have that freedom to choose what works for us. I say, have at it.

My choice? To try and follow a life of compassion, dignity, and integrity, and to not beat myself up too badly when I occasionally fall off that path. Most importantly, I want to look at life as one big beautiful buffet, and I'm going to try a little of this and a little of that and appreciate and savor every bite until it's over.

That's my religion.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

plath

playing hooky today (shhhh.)

the sky threatens rain...let it happen early if it happens at all because tonight i look forward to a barbeque with The Posse. And a new friend.

reading the unabridged journals of sylvia plath. not exactly uplifting, to say the least, yet i am so drawn to the insight i find in her words, in her brave and desperate fight to wake herself alive. such a poetic soul, filled at once with angels and demons.

aren't we all?

two passages this morning took my breath away.

first this:

Why is it that I find it so difficult to accept the present moment, whole as an apple, without cutting and hacking at it to find a purpose, or setting it up on a shelf with other apples to measure its worth or trying to pickle it in brine to preserve it, and crying to find it turns all brown and is no longer simply the lovely apple I was given in the morning?


and then this:

They were human beings and they were not grace kelley, but they were beautiful from the inside like joan of arc, with that kind of radiance that faith makes, and the kind that love makes.

the kind of radiance too that suddenly comes over you when I look at you dressing or talking or reading and you are suddenly more than the daily self we must live with and love, that fleeting celestial self which shines without the whimsical timing of angels.

that confident surge of exuberance in which I wrote you has dwindled as waves do, to the knowledge that makes me cry, just this once: such a minute fraction of this life do we live: so much is sleep, tooth-brushing, waiting for the mail, for metamorphosis, for those sudden moments of incandescence: unexpected, but once one knows them, one can live life in the light of their past and the hope of their future.


brilliant.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

echoes



It was a wonderful weekend, with beautiful-like-a-rainbow days. I was one of a thousand laughing, loud, brave and exquisite people, and we marched and we sang and we danced and we flaunted, and I felt alive, liberated, completely and totally and uniquely me. In the many crowds I wandered through, I found old friends who I'd not seen in years and we celebrated our reunions. And even made some intriguing connections with new friends too. It was magical, and no doubt the best time I've ever had at Pride.

And now, this day-after Sunday moves slowly past me. I have spent it alone, reading poetry, watching a movie, listening to Joan Armatrading sing the blues, bumping around the rooms in my apartment, all the while wrestling with the faint whisper of an ache inside me. It is something close to loneliness, minus the melodramatic angst. After being surrounded by so many, the echoes of their voices, of our voices, fill the spaces around me now.

This kind of aloneness nearly sweeps me away.


So I'm going to light a candle, burn some incense, sit with it, hold it close to me. It doesn't matter where it came from, it doesn't matter why it's here.

It just is.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

pretty and witty and gay



today i'll walk around deering oaks with all my girls...corey, kimm, jen, carolyn, jenn and meghan. the ones i love.

wednesday ethan will "come out" with the gays in ogunquit. look out washington, we are knocking on your door.

friday the dykes will go a-marchin'. delicious.

saturday, streets will have the homo overflow. hear us roar.

time to get my pride on.

yeah baby.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

what falls away

About once every three months I get a wicked case of insomnia. It's happened to me for as long as I can remember, and usually at a time when I'm unsettled or anxious about something in my life. I've learned that fighting it is frustrating and futile, and so now when it hits me, I try to roll with it. Get up, brew some coffee, and take advantage of the silence that surrounds me when most of the world is still fast asleep. Thankfully, I have my place to myself, so there's no worry of disturbing a roommate, and so far today (it's now 4:30 am), I've cleaned my kitchen from top to bottom, memorized the batting averages of the Sox starting line-up, caught up on all the national news in the Queer World, and developed a fairly comprehensive list of requirements some unsuspecting woman will have to meet before I surrender my heart to her.

I'm not sure what prompted this particular bout of sleeplessness. My life has been so full lately that I should be falling into bed at night and collapsing into dreamless sleep. Maybe that's exactly why I can't...I am running, running, running, and I am being too cavalier with time, as though it is not irreplacable. I haven't meditated in weeks, and have treated sleep more like an unavoidable inconvenience than an opportunity to rest and recharge. I am constantly making mental lists about the things in my life that I control and the things I do not, and the Do-Nots are currently kicking ass. This should not be a startling revelation and most days I accept it as a reality of life. Not so at the moment. And lately, I have an overwhelming sense of some new, major shift in my world, and even though it feels like it's just below the surface, I can't get to it, or even figure out what the hell it is.

I am not always good at surprises, and I am not always patient.

Yet I know that this too shall pass... soon enough I will embrace anew the fact that I cannot know the destination point of this journey, I will meditate again, I will focus on the present moment again. I will sleep again. It is, of course, inevitable.

I just need to let fall away what I can't control, and take my waking slow.

"I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow,
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear,
I learn by going where I have to go.

We think by feeling. What is there to know?
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.
I wake to sleep and take my waking slow.

Of those so close beside me, which are you?
God bless the ground! I shall walk softly there,
And learn by going where I have to go.

Light takes the tree, but who can tell us how?
The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Great Nature has another thing to do
To you and me; so take the lively air,
And lovely, learn by going where to go.

This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go."

Theodore Roethke, The Waking