Monday, October 29, 2018

Every rock tells a story


I think I was there for fun, for recreation
My friend with her mermaid green hair paddling with me in the water
only it quickly became clear something was wrong

The dark water didn't give away its contents
but they became quite obvious as they wrapped around my arms and legs
brushing against my torso

How we got so far in I can't really be sure
but it became a bit of a desperate scramble to figure out how to escape
a floating shack, like a tiny boathouse came into view

I tried to throw myself into a deeper current
to less congested water
in the canal under a bridge

She chose to use the submerged hardened layer of nightmare materials
to try to walk along the edge of the cement wall
that attracted barnacles and garbage with sediment glue

Some of the structure broke apart under her feet
but she was braver then I, who hates squishy weird stuff in my toes
she made it to the boat house first

My hand hit a large chunk of concrete that had solidified
around a bunch of empty bottles
so remained suspended just below the surface, invisible

I was faster then her
vaulting myself into an open faced kayak
and slicing through the water while she struggled with a canoe

I paused to make sure she was going to be ok
paused long enough to feel relief washing over me
then opened my eyes to the early light spilling on to my bed


It feels so foreign to come back to this place, this space where I learned how to connect in and listen for my internal mutterings and sighs. Having been so focused on the space between myself and another person makes it really striking how difficult it was to drop in to awareness. Struggling to sink past the intellectual storytelling, the constant narration for another, it felt like the longest journey to that wordless place.

Then I got there. Landed. Arrived.

I reminded me of the night before, sitting next to a close friend in a cozy bar, the smoke of his scotch overwhelming my senses. The disappointingly visceral reaction to the taste of it as it evaporated off my tongue, replaced by the warmth spreading down through the center of my body. Not alone.

Monday, July 30, 2018

a woman tried to hand me a pamphlet titled 'the secret to happiness'. I politely declined and kept walking

listening to the scenic designer all evening
I am drowning in all the things I don't know yet
I do know the powerfully successful ways I get noticed
begin to rise above
but here is the tender space
where I have to contend with my fallibility
and the designer was so tender with me, when he so often is not to anyone
my colors are on point, instinctual, noticeably correct
but the application I put on, then wipe off, put on, then wipe off

The color is good, you just have to trust it, he told me.

His aged friend worked with us in the quiet of the theatre
as they rambled and told battle stories
they talked about a color that was missing
their intimate awareness of the thing-that-was-color
a thread connecting them to something
in the space between and underneath the words they were using
and I realized I had cut that out of my life for some reason
chosen to learn the languages of others

rather than speak in my own, with people who were fluent

getting off at my subway stop, at the edge of tears
I am full of so many feelings
I am amazed I can keep moving one foot in front of the other
choices I've made about the future choking me with their definitiveness
humbleness, day to day admitting where I come up shortness
potentially living constantly in a state of not being good at a new job, different job
fear of picking a direction I won't like the taste of, that I will regret putting in my mouth
anger at friends helping to dig this hole I might never climb out of
the prism I always talk about wanting to be like

this is what it feels like I realize

and maybe I can feel all of these things
knowing the foundation has been laid
and inertia set in 
in a moment of clarity I made a choice about my future
maybe I can feel all of these things 
and still trust my instincts
let one foot fall in front of the other on their own
while I take the time to savor each refraction, emotion

without getting lost

thinking about the designer who we had been so angry at earlier 
for the impracticality, unnecessary grandiosity of the set
hearing them talk reminded me of Tony from the carpenter's union
retired, but kept showing up
not for the money, but because that is what he is shaped like
and I realized this lame little theatre with its blue haired audience
was a twilight stage for them to live in the shadow of what they had once been
because that is what they are shaped like
and all of my frustration shifted into love

a clue.

a thread.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

It’s not that the sunset isn’t beautiful. It’s just not what you came here for.

Letter to my college mentor, whom I haven't spoken with in 10 years:

Hiya, its cool. it ended up being a whirlwind visit, but it was quite a shock to realize that essentially once i got to new york, i had never really left. I really only had a quick opportunity to check in with Cyndi in career services one sticky morning, and to wander the little stretch of campus that I remembered. My baby brother got his degree in construction management and is a field engineer with the company doing renovations on Sarasota Memorial, so it was weird to see the city through his daily grind, and super strange to just wander onto campus without having to provide a ton of credentials (being a figure model in nyc means proving to security guards you belong there constantly). also strange to be able to go to the beach without the constant whistle of lifeguards calling people back into shallower water. And little things, like the shock of the chlorine smell from the fountain at the entrance of SRQ, which took me immediately back to all the trips to theme parks as a kid when my mom was a travel agent and got mad discounts.

After years of wrestling with all the things i am, i now have words to go with the feelings and tears i spent so much of my senior year drowning in, feel free to share any of my experiences with anxious students. I graduated into the recession, and as amazing as my teachers were, a lot of them were at their peak before the internet, and the landscape was quite different then i think a lot of my peers knew how to handle - i think the school has since very much made up for that lost ground, but it does feel a little like my class was caught in a strange vortex at the precipice of a lot of change both internally and economically. So i did what i knew - i folded back in with the fiscal school year as a figure model, first in richmond VA (where i modeled for sterling hundley's classes, attended his first private gallery opening, and had discussions with him where he admitted way back in 2010 that he couldn't survive as an illustrator alone, that teaching had become necessary) and eventually in NYC.

the thing i love about NYC is that it has very different ideas about who and what we are then we often do. I submitted my portfolio to a number of publishing companies, and the one thing i kept hearing back was that my skill set/portfolio was too broad for them to get a sense of my voice. In my head i had trained to be a mercenary, to give people what they wanted, and to keep myself open to respond to what each specific creative problem needed (i'm sure you see lots of problems in that statement) but that comes from an entire worldview i brought in to college with me, certain kinds of survival skills that got me through growing up with a crack addict in the house and no parents who were going to make sure i was not in danger. I didn't know there was any other way to be in the world. I was too busy trying to impress my teachers/surrogate caregivers to pause ever even consider what i enjoyed or wanted. Suddenly being asked to have my own voice by potential employers, to pick a style that i would be trapped in, it was too overwhelming, because i felt like i knew too little about my relationship to the world to let myself be hemmed in. That lack of conviction, fear of commitment to myself and my voice has plagued me throughout my career. In retrospect i have gone really broad and missed what becomes available when one goes deep, though going deep can breed a lack of perspective in my observation. Thiel said to me once in front of the class during a critique 'I thought you were going to be the next (name deleted)', and i think about that a lot. I watch her via social media, and I'm sure she is doing her alma mater proud, but as she continues to ripen into her life it only looks to me like she will continue forever to draw and paint the same nude, white skinned, brown haired 22 year old female and i am confused about why someone would develop these skills and have so little to say with them.

I ended up working in a steel shop out of a series of bizarre circumstances, even though i had never held a power tool before. Suddenly I was in a place where my whiteness, college education and gender were huge strikes against me - I had to consider what else I was composed of to survive. Being submerged in the labor force made it hard to justify drawing, I wondered what my college peers even thought they had to say about the world we all knew so little about. So I took what found me, i've been an industrial welder, a rigger/ironworker doing renovations for the dept of education, a forklift/construction vehicle operator, a carpenter for all the off broadway theatres in nyc and eventually a head carpenter/technical director for theatre and massive installations involving art world heavy weights like marina abramovic and nick cave, running crews of 30+ men building huge structures out of steel and glass and other crazy materials.

After countless 100 hour work weeks for fashion week (happens a few times a year), massive art and antique fairs, building Galas for nyc high society and these art installations funded by those same individuals, i have come to see how much of this world is just throwing parties for rich people, and the disdain with which they treat those that build it, i can no longer bring myself to actively grow my opportunities in this realm. I have seen and done enough theatre to realize the 'off broadway' in nyc is the talent equivalent to community theatre, it just has the patina of nyc, and building/painting those sets is arduous for too little money, the producer's ideas too disconnected from reality for me to even guarantee the safety of my crews.

So i've turned towards film and tv world. NYC is becoming an economic force in tv, and there is a rich independent culture in its film that is kind of like a foil to the shiny studio pictures made in LA, maybe like Laika is to Pixar. I'm tiptoeing towards the Scenic Union, which includes production designers, art directors, storyboard artists, graphic designers and scenic painters. its treated like freelance, only the pay is real and there are health benefits, and after the extreme hard labor i have done to survive, i am wrestling with my sense of self and all the things i have been that will evaporate in the eyes of others, as i hang up my cowboy hat and put on the paint clothes i've hidden for so long. I have always struggled with letting my work define who i am, so in my heart i have been fighting the good fight, proving the world wrong about what women are capable of - but i'm starting to see how all of my efforts have been focused on changing how people perceive me, a real local sense of power, and that may have been an abdication of the power i could have over my own life and the choices i could make about what I'm involved in and take the time to support.

So here I am, tired and confused and about to change shapes. What do you value? what does illustration mean to you? What defines you in your mind? What guides the choices you make? What awarenesses has your unique vantage point offered you about what illustration is/has the power to do/how it manifests in different people? what thread connects the pieces of you and your life/life's work together? what called you to illustration and what calls you to it still?

what threads do you notice in my path? if my life has been defined by fighting to survive - what am i when i no longer have to do that?

Monday, March 26, 2018

To be colonized is to become a stranger in your own land

Walking home from the coffee shop balancing my old roommate's handmade dishware in my arms, I tried to channel what I imagined being a waiter would feel like to balance opening doors and holding my coffee while also making it up two flights of stairs with out dropping these precious gifts she left behind for me on her way out to LA to start a new life. A memory bubbled up, as memories often do, and I struggled with my conflicting emotions as I navigated doors and years of doing hard labor and ironwork along my path.

My freshman year of college, I was moving back to Sarasota. I had been born there, and some part of me knew I would be going back. One of the top art schools in the U.S. sprawled along the beaches there, and I had been accepted - it was the only school I had bothered to apply to. I have vague pictures of a house with a window between my older brother's room and mine, where we would signal to each other after everyone went to sleep. My mother took me to dinner at The Columbia in St Armand's Circle, where she had been a waiter during my infancy, and eventually met and fell in love with the father of my younger siblings. She had worn a bow tie and slacks like the men and refused to be called a waitress, and told me later that they had to leave in part because they couldn't avoid run ins with the Cuban Mafia for much longer, possibly because of my step father's drug trafficking and addiction.

My mother recognized some of the waitstaff during this precollege visit, exclaimed excitedly the name of the latino woman who brought us water. As my mom described who she was, I saw a pained recognition crystalize across the other woman's face, and my mother gestured to me, bragging about bringing her daughter here for college, asking about the other woman's daughter. She barely glanced at me, with my blond hair and blue eyes and fair skin, choked out a few words in broken English and walked off as soon as her task was completed. As my mother giggled and crooned about how they used to do coke together when I was a baby, I watched that woman signal a different waiter to attend to our table, and I sat in contemplative horror at the strange innocence that so defines my mother. How was it not obvious that this other woman was embarrassed, possibly for still being in the same work environment, or her own relationship with her children and college, or maybe her memories of that time are darker than my mother's, who was able to walk away and not have to face starkly different fears about surviving, how could none of that flit through her mind, somewhere behind her somewhat vacant eyes?

On the way out my mother had an extended conversation with the Maitre D', while I stood on the sidewalk and watched from a distance, trying to figure out what felt familiar and what was fabricated in my sense memories of this place. As she collected me and we left she told me he had offered me a job if I ever needed one, and she threw her head back and laughed good and hard at the thought of me being a waitress, like I was too soft to be able to handle something like that.

I have thought about that moment a lot over the years of being on and eventually running construction crews, almost every time I get on a forklift, so many strange moments where I have exceeded the limitations in my mother's view of what I could be capable of.

She obsessively hoards all of the awful student work I tried to throw away, bad ideas or overworked and with tiny arms and such, the beginnings of all artists. My siblings tell me about the paintings lining the walls of my childhood home that I hope to never step into again. My little brother even stole one of those paintings once, to my glee - and he received the strangest, quietest phone call from my mother who claimed it was worth some obscene amount of money ($15,000 I think?). I don't know what picture of who or what I am lives its rich life in my mother's eyes, all I know is that anything that undermines it is a threat to whatever narrative she has crafted, and it amazes me that someone could move through their lives or look at their children with such an overwhelming blindness.

I think it makes some parts of my natural expression harder to lean into, picking up a pencil to draw carries with it the weight of potentially fulfilling my mother's blind desire for me, like it is not truly mine somehow. And I fight to be noticed for other kinds of physical prowess with a ferocity that is somehow related to needing her ideas of me to change, to recalibrate around something real - battles I bring in every day to work but are being fought for a ghost, an idea of what a Mother should be, for a child I buried in my body a long time ago.

I can't even do simple tasks without thinking about the box she thinks I live in.

Set from MFA Film Thesis I did Production Design for.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

a wave that could straddle a galaxy

stream of consciousness response to 'untitled work for voice' at danspace projects 2/24/18

pace rhythm cadence implies something sacred
sheets of metal shaken to make thunder,
leaving a newborn thing in the middle of the floor, alone

uncomfortable swallow of old man next to me as the singular performer in front of us rippled and unfolded slowly

watching someone caress the floor with such reverence makes me want to do the same
voice as resonant as her body is subtle
I notice the desire for purpose, meaning, intentions, to be illuminated
maybe because I am watching bodies make shapes and images and words, rather than purely instrumental music
maybe that is what I am witnessing exactly, how the body is an instrument

sounds eventually string together to form words
to be like a chant, an incantation, a skipping record
a confusion between spiritual and mundane/broken
like a flash of potential light words layer together into recognizable fragments
I can feel more specific feelings about
playing with reach/texture/shape of sounds-that-become-words

how are the performers supported/nourished by each other's movements, focus, sounds?
words and movements seem unrelated - what is made available
by breaking them free from each other?
words become a series of absurd sounds, same as the movements they make with their bodies
performed with ritual focus, solemn

what is the relationship between force and meaning?
are the sounds and movements trapped by something? struggling to get out of their bodies?
Stripped of their original meaning?
Given new ones?
How are their movements helping generate the sounds they make?
what happens when you explore that relationship?

Why is synchronized movement so moving, impactful?
slow motion dagger dance
like samurai, a dance of paranoia, precision, protection, threatening

A dancer flails and shakes like she is filled with rage, pain
while someone tries to dress her patiently

as she struggles to communicate, she lets it wrack her body violently
equal parts traumatic and cathartic it feels to me
both powerful and exhausting to feel so much
her movements shape the song fragment she sings
sharp intakes of breath, her feet on the floor like a drum
punctuating the spaces between wordsounds

she didn't remove her engagement ring for this performance
its sparkle distracts me in her sudden stillness

they are silhouetted suddenly
every intimate detail of the outskirts of the performer's bodies
nuances of their individual forms highlighted

moving in and out of tandem shapes and gestures is oddly breathtaking
why does it move me so much
especially when chaos seamlessly becomes a rhythm
the moment when formlessness becomes organized into form
the individuality of their bodies is sharply highlighted
but through the mirror of similar movements now

the old man next to me watches offstage
the female performer he swallowed hard at in the beginning

What is it about something with the patina of pathology
touches a weird emotional spot in me for some reason
I notice discomfort sometimes, space for the expression to take the path it takes at other points
is that called patience?
maybe it reminds me of a man I love dearly with a stutter that strangles his whole body
almost constantly

humming in short bursts like a clock
the rhythm changes, becomes subtly erratic
it feels like she is bending time
time emanates from her body
is subject to her whims
and when she eventually runs out of breath

Shapes from earlier reappear
foreshadowing vs laying a foundation - are they different?
drawing a line through time like a bread crumb trail in our memory
to make something familiar that wasn't before

Are the sentences from old movies?
is there some recently forgotten memory being excavated?
layers of familiar, pulled a part
stacked up again in a different way

unafraid to make ugly or uncomfortable sounds
exploring the shapes of syllables that form words with meanings attached
that live outside, beyond the performers as they chew and choke and push them out
with their entire bodies

this one sounds like play
like exploring the sound and volume and physical shapes
of this particular performer's potential to fill the room
it feels liberating
it feels like joy

I wish someone would look at me the way she looked at the bottom of her foot
its already the distant past by now but I will remember it for a long time

wordsounds ring through the church like a choir
childish chaps swirl around a performer's legs like the religious dress of a whirling dervish
sound of footsteps like a drumbeat slowly recedes in the sudden symbolic darkness
that lives at the end

bits of light from outside catching the stained glass windows all around us
the building's final statement

Monday, February 19, 2018

'Our sun is an eight-pointed star,' the magician explained

'Stars don't have points,' the astronomer replied.
'Oh really?' the magician asked,
'Try drawing one.'

My friend issued some homework for me after one of our intense 4+ hour spiraling conversations tracking from superficial ideas down into the depths of where they emanate from - To fill a single spaced typed page answering the question "Who am I?". Halfway through I realized so much of it was the dregs of previous stories that I never stopped telling, things I present as, or want other people to know me for, other disingenuous lenses through which I have been perceiving selfness. I thought about starting over right then and there, then decided that maybe it would be useful to document the starting place of this line of questioning and attempt at defining, the lines that I have tried to circumscribe on something as amorphous as it is resolute - a shape shifter. A Magician. Myself.

*Done in the style of a tarot book my mother used until it fell to pieces - as if you were drawing me like a card from the deck.

Sometimes loud / sometimes will go all day without speaking, unable to summon the energy required or unwilling to break the spell of silence / Freedom Fighter / currently engaged with the prison of my powerful and successful survival mechanisms / Child of Con Artists / Real / Present / Thoughtful / Cautious / Passionate / Vigilante / Forward, especially when being sneaky / Deeply protective of those I deem deserving of my love / Child of the ocean, of myself, of circumstances beyond my control / High standards / Full of weight, gravity / Curious with an earnest contemplative gravitas / Honest, sometimes to my own detriment / Someone who listens in multiple languages and planes at the same time / A Kaleidoscope / A Prism whose light only leaks out through the holes in my patterns of self preservation / Filled with light that often escapes in the form of Laughter / Laugh like my mother, like all of the Bussell women, but especially like her / Hosts delusions of Ego and self importance / Deep belief in my potential destiny to have a healing impact on the world / Drawn to broken things, things wearing their history / Watching for evidence of the past rippling into the now and creating structures that will manifest in the future / Masterful anticipator / Compulsion to heal other's pain and my own through physical contact, often accidentally manifests as or gets confused for sexuality / A scared little girl in a woman's body / Siren / Fool, refusing to fold into society, living on the outskirts so my voice isn't lost, remains differentiated from the chorus / Fearful of committing to something, for how it necessarily removes other potential manifestations / A sculptor of experiences / An Agent, but not a free one / Bound in the spider web of associations, which I play like a harp to get what I need from people / Letting myself be filled with other people's needs so I can be called into action by the room and its constituents, like a holy weapon / Filled with poison, but skilled at modulating its affect on my system / A Scorpion / Endless reserves of patience for those I believe in, respect, love / Strong at my own expense / Clever, truly crafty at hiding my weaknesses / Aware of the spotlight, of how to use its luminescence to get what I need done / Lonely in a quiet, animal, skin-to-skin kind of way / In a constant process of transformation, never quite recognizing myself in the mirror / Often starting processes I've done a hundred times from scratch, like I didn't bother to make a map of the landscape, or notice the pathways I used to get somewhere or do something / Obscure to myself / Protective Steamroller / Reformed Stress Response Addict / Overwhelming fear of helplessness that often leads to paralysis / Vessel for something, not sure what though / Laser / Force / Listening constantly for the intentions of others, unconscious or not / Deeply curious about how things and people work so I can anticipate how to be and respond appropriately / A consummate performer / A highly skilled translator/ An alchemist in training, my life's work is looking for the space where the immaterial becomes material and back again.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

if all i ever gave you was a hammer, everything becomes a nail

It wasn't until I left tonight that I realized what I was trying to say. What I've been dying to tell you.

While anger was my access point, it is not the motivation. The same pathways can channel all sorts of force, now that they know where to go, right? There is something so profound about learning that my sword is available at any time, that I can protect myself when I need, that it starts to make parts of my armor unnecessary. I am no longer that girl, locked in the bathroom by her stepfather until she stopped sobbing, choking on my inability to use my voice, to defend myself. I can move freer and less hindered by my fears now, I can move from what I believe in NOT because someone else is able to hear me, but because I am listening to me- to my value system, to my boundaries, to my sense of safety and integrity, things I have learned how to cultivate since meeting you.

That is MY job. I listen myself into being.

In the same space, through this cracked filter, which in my mind resembles a muzzle, new and bizarre kinds of conversations and opportunities are finding me. After three years of being paralyzed on your floor, I have the capacity to allow myself to be immersed in these new situations. To commit to these opportunities even with the knowledge that they are going to change me, and that the work I do and things I create will be infinitely different because I am not too afraid to let that happen.

For the same reason I can declare my boundaries, I also have felt incredibly compelled to tell you how much you mean to me. But I am terrified that expressing something so huge would change some crucial aspect of our subtle relationship, that the weight of my love might be more than you are willing or interested in bearing. I know how much support you have offered, even just the gentle baseline of your presence has had a powerfully sustaining affect on me as I navigate huge internal shifts.

I couldn't voice any of this, because there is apiece of me still locked in the bathroom, and I would merely choke and cry in the attempt, so I let my opportunities pass.

Last week a friend really pinned me down in a conversation about my relationship with the idea of strength - it is something I am terrified of not being, the opposite of which is hard for me not to associate with weakness or helplessness, my two biggest nightmares. As we tussled with Strength and unraveled the knotted bundle of my associations with the word, I discovered that to me, strength is tied up with the idea of not needing help, and deeper still, my mother's entire existence is wrapped up in convincing others to help her so she doesn't have to take care of herself. So I think underneath my fears of hoisting myself on you is the truth that if you did change something, if you pulled away with all of this information, that it would feel like some piece of the ground had disappeared from underneath me, and I don't know what I would do if that happened.

I don't really need anything at the moment, but I have all of these feelings, and I don't really know how to handle them, or what to do with them other than acknowledge their presence, along with all of the other things that have finally found their way to the surface.

Thank you. For being what you are. For breathing and speaking and thinking the way you do, and putting yourself in a position where someone like me could witness it. For listening in the keen subtle way that you do. For not apologizing about the space you take or the values you stand for. For being someone the scared little girl I used to be could watch for clues about other possible ways of being in the world. Thank you especially for being a witness while I worked through all that pain, I know it can't have been easy to watch - but I couldn't have done it alone. Everything is so different from when I first walked in, and you were a really important piece of that process.

I think its time for that little girl I used to be to go live in her own time, instead of haunting me like a ghost - it's my turn to be in this body.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Night after night, construction equipment accumulates in your dreams.

When does playing 'together' start
not just alongside,
or taking-toys-from
or giving-toys-to
the seeds of being in a community?

What needs to be there
for activity-next-to
to become
or activity-together?

Difference between
giving and taking
judicial system
(mutual penetration?

what is it
an acknowledgement
that my expression
is somehow
tied to yours?

first we learn
how my left hand
and right hand
can work together

and later learn
how your hands
and my hands
can work together

how seemingly disparate parts
can belong to the same body -
and in the same way
'I care that YOU are hurting'

is born from an expansion
in how I perceive the landscape
by including YOU
in my sense of selfness somehow

Knowing who I am
what I want

is somehow different

than knowing what I have
to offer

what is it
that bridges the two
That calls them out of me
in a way that asks them
to support each other

whether I am drawing my sword
or reaching out for connection

'No' as a kind of container
Rules/Laws as a kind of container
Choices we make

The stories we tell as a kind of container

Containers as a way of being held
Edges to brush up against
ways to know what I am shaped like
sculpting an absent mother's embrace
out of accumulated edges

Can we work on a project together
or a game
even while playing
by different internal rules?

maybe it allows an evolution
becomes something that unfolds
like it is alive
rather than just repeating itself

communion and community
have the same roots

Tasting the body and blood of another
A bonding ritual
the sharing or exchanging of intimate thoughts and feelings,
especially when the exchange is on a mental or spiritual level
common participation in a mental or emotional experience
a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common
especially in the context of social values and responsibilities; society
a similarity or identity
a group of interdependent organisms of different species
growing or living together
affecting each other's abundance, distribution, and evolutionary adaptation
a group with diverse characteristics linked by social ties, common perspectives, engage in joint action in geographical locations or settings

*participants differ in the emphasis placed on particular elements
defined similarly but experienced differently by diverse backgrounds

what is the nature of
the texture and flavor of
those shared roots

how do we change the landscape
and maintain a connection?

what lives underneath those things
for us to hold on to
breathe into
partake in
in the first place?

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

In all of this patience, where is the passion?

(Epic poems about a regular life)

My little brother called
it was the third time someone at the company he worked for had set him up
to take a fall
It felt like holding the hand of a victim, like I was explaining the inevitability
of sexual assault to a young woman
as I explained how to protect himself
the way I had learned to
Don't trust anyone's intentions, especially the boss
especially the boss
Ask more questions about them then they do of you
Because they are gathering clues about how they can fuck you later
Learn as much as you can about everything, because any not-knowing
will be held against you
even if it isn't your job
always leave a paper trail, something that can be referred back to later
when they lie
about your attempts to correct their mistakes
to ask for help, guidance
And never take it personally
The chumminess or the betrayal
you are just a pawn in their landscape

But if you play your cards right
and constantly watch for traps
even pawns can wield a ton of power

Let them dig their own holes little brother.

He woke me up with that phone call
I had been practically despondent
Christmas and New Years passed
My hip joints cried out for movement
An arctic chill had descended on New York City
And I had a work injury that turned into an allergic reaction
that made my face difficult to look at

Excuses really

I think I felt safe enough to be so vulnerable
I knew I was going to survive, I am invaluable to the people I work for
But my professional prowess on a recent gig
Threatened other crew heads in the space I spend the most of my time
I felt like a child getting spanked for being too smart
I was helpless in the face of their insecurities
Grown men scared of a little girl full of laughter and sunlight

familiar territory really

I used to speak to my older brother exclusively in French
to piss off my abusive, crack addict of a step father
who hadn't finished high school
I didn't mean to push that same button when the French company arrived
I was the only one who could communicate easily with them
the same trigger turned my brilliance into a weapon against myself
like I am eternally engaged in battle with my step father

Like being what I am is a sin I must constantly atone for

As I lay in bed for a week
watching movie after movie in the winter darkness
storylines overlapping, magnifying and adapting
nuances of things that matter to us as a species, cultures, emotional beings
In the kaleidoscope of my broken heart I started to understand
the value of stories and traditions to remind us of the depths of feeling we are capable of
when we forget

when winter comes

Like a ray of sunshine reaching out to an almost dead plant
my little brother called, upset
his honesty and integrity being used against him at work
and I got to say to him the things I wish someone had told me
watching him reach out in distress to someone he trusted and respected
reminded me that I could do the same
so I texted my boss and I got out of bed

I'm starting to realize
that I am in mourning
some subtle shifts in my trajectory
have illuminated the landscape ahead
in a completely different way
ways of being
and relating
successes I've hitched to other people's stars
lifelines I've clung to for survival, for years
are beginning to shift and transform
shedding like skin cells
everything is the same but different
the initial loneliness
of reorienting from others
to myself
was terrifying
but now I can't seem to get enough
of myself
as exciting as things are
it still feels like saying goodbye to a lover
a parent, a close friend
to everything familiar

I feel like that Dr. Suess book
'Are You My Mother'
Like I've been desperately trying to
Convince somebody
To take the other end of this umbilical cord

But I think it's my responsibility
to take care of this child

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Time has been expanding lately

Watching the guy across from me on the subway as he watches everyone around us, considering small details and interactions, I can't help but wonder if he isn't some invisible celebrity, like a renowned particle physicist who's face we are unfamiliar with. His innocuous clothing, smart hiking shoes and full, clean backpack with a little bottle of antibacterial soap hanging from its pocket made me think of an adjunct professor, maybe attached to Columbia or something. I notice this idea in my head of how a physicist behaves, constantly observing the world around them, seeing quantum mechanics manifesting in the inane conversations going on around us, in the contents and rustling of grocery bags, the timing of laughter and the ratios of bodies sitting to standing and how they inherently affect each other by the vacuums they create. I imagine my movement teacher as seeing the world in similar all encompassing refractions of information, the sway of someone's hips, small axis' of everyone's movements, forces rippling up through spines from one footfall to the next, information like a flood.

All of a sudden I wonder what I notice. I had a teacher in college who had us draw from memory regularly, to remind us that we think we know what everything looks like, until you actually pause and look at it. What an interesting thing to know about myself, that I've never considered - what do I notice as I move through the world?

The physicist across from me looks to see what I am looking at, I think we both know we are observing each other at this point. Being observed also makes me hyper aware of my physical expression, it's hard for me to know if I am performing a little as I take in the sense of what I am presenting. Dirt marks from work wrap around my legs and my big beat up jacket with the steel shop I used to work for embroidered on it communicate some kind of history, one that I imagine seems unrelated to my pale skin and heart shaped face with sharp librarian glasses and large blue eyes. I love being dirty on the subway, an unintentional dissonance, my desire to break all of the rules and prove everyone's ideas about the shape of the world wrong - I often watch people size me up, or glance at my face, then the steel shop name and my face again, trying to figure a story that makes sense to them.

I watch a red and blue pill roll around on the floor under his foot as he watches me.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Call it Afternoon Light Through Branches. See if it answers.

I can tell it's almost Christmas cause I'm sitting in a spacious bodega stuffing mediocre Chinese food down my throat cause I forgot to eat, and the only other person sitting here is a thoughtful homeless man scribbling tiny indecipherable notes on the stacks of newspaper surrounding him. Considering the insane amount of notes I take, already stuffed into coat pockets and overflowing from under the couch in my room, I recognize that homeless man staring contemplatively out the window as a spectre of my potential future. The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.

I had a Floridian slip and bought a bunch of tiny oranges, desperate for some sunshine downloaded directly into my being. Then I realized they were frozen and tasted weird. It's winter in New York City, what was I thinking?

I decided to give these tiny weird oranges to my future self, sitting in the window oblivious to my attention.

Turns out he wasn't interested. I'm proud of my future self for knowing that we are both better than those sad, out of season oranges. Relieved that he wasn't so desperate that he felt like he had no choice but to accept my offering. Amused at how gracefully he turned me down.

Maybe I had to turn him into a metaphor to receive what he had to offer me: Hope. Faith. The kind of humor that arises out of the bittersweetness of life, as tart and real as lemons grown in the Florida heat.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Hearing the Cello

Last night I had a dream I only remember small pieces of. There were grounded stingrays being whipped around by the wind and there wasn't much water for me to submerge them into. According to a stingray represents Fluidity of movement, agility, and the ability to lay low and camouflage oneself (especially emotionally). As I run into rough edges at work, I wonder about how I may be finding myself in situations where there isn't enough water for me to express my fluid potential, I don't even know what kind of environment might make such a choice possible.

we all move and make choices in response to the stimulus of our environments.

Something I have considered one of my greatest strengths is my capacity to orient so deeply around the people who can teach me the most in any situation, that I can anticipate their needs or next moves almost before it escapes their lips. I pay such fierce attention to preferences and body patterns that I can find a rhythm and fast forward my learning, but I have also continued throughout my life to run into a deep confusion of relationships from people I have needed, even momentarily.

I find myself staring that question in the face again, but I can't keep claiming innocence.

It strikes me now that I have very much embraced the role of the needle, or the hands guiding the warp and weft of the projects I have worked on at a massive scale. It is necessarily a tapestry of all of our efforts to manifest it, and the flavor and style of my impact has been relegated to sculpting the experience from above, the only evidence of my work lives in the physical expressions of the crews I run. The shape and structure of the tapestry, of all of the hands who did the manifesting remain, and I am a ghost, too busy piercing the space with other people's threads to have woven in my own. Performing the part of the invisible plane, the axis. Guiding everything through its intimate relationship to myself. I have spent years writing about feeling like a ghost, not tied to history, about seeking proof of my existence through other people's responses to me, and I see that same pattern in the tapestry of the piece I just finished constructing.

My mother and I were one symbiotic organism when I was a child. I was logic and follow through, she was desire and destination maker. Our roles were reversed, I learned there was no truth to hierarchy, no rules actually existed. I have always been the needle. The Compass. Guiding hands. A container, rather than something contained.

But I am starting to suspect that not having a clear through line, a thread of my own selfness is also a choice I am making - to be the teller of the story rather than the character inside of it. To be infinitely responsive/acquiescent to others around me, so I can wear the right mask at the right moments. Shaping the world so I can control how I am shaped by it. My desire to feel myself through contact with others is kind of like a weird nervous tic, betraying something I feel helpless to control, a way of getting close to the feeling of being inside of my own story, so I can feel its heat from a safe distance.

As profound a skill as my awareness often is, I think it is time to consider how those habits might be manifesting a particular kind of reality that automatically keeps other possibilities languishing in the shadows.

"the problem with war is the victor. he has proven that war and violence do pay. Who will then teach him a lesson? And how?"

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Of course, that's what water does.

everything is changing
like, more than usual
I used to prefer it that way
I knew myself in chaos,
because I was a wall
rooted to myself in such a way
that I always knew up from down

but I gave that job away
cause I had other things I wanted to be
and it was getting in my way

I know myself
what I'm worth
what I believe
better than I did
this time last year
maybe up and down
are relative

I realize
this is probably
why people have mothers

in a class last week
I was asked to orient to the ground
as I rolled from my side to my belly
I was so focused on being
a conduit for forces
the idea of holding an intention of movement
at the same time seemed mysterious, foreign,
a revelation

this is how we are meant
to move through life I realized
how exhaustingly huge.

in the shower it struck me, as I recounted my day
that I seem to collect Taurus employers, Captains of Industry
and as bizarrely secretive and possessive as my mother

also a Taurus

forceful, emotionally demanding, tricky with the information they share
molding the people and world around them into a landscape of their liking

to their advantage

also unwilling to ask for a certain kind of help, a safe space to expose
their weaknesses unless it is a ploy, to help protect them in the long run
Scorpio is the Sorcerer, a mover of people and matter

I am an ideal helpmeet

Just like Ariadne, keeper of the keys to the labyrinth
which leads to the bull at its center, waiting for human sacrifices
given as tribute from the surrounding villages

I finally understand who the Minotaur is

who do I give my gift to
this thread to find their way back from my depths
after killing the monster the haunts me?

once, in the throes of puberty
my self disgust manifested
as physical punishment and I knew
I needed something so I stood in front of my mother
paralyzed, voiceless
she put her arms around me and I was stone
in that embrace but before any part of me
had time to melt she pulled away
yelling at me because of some weird insecurity
maybe she felt rejected
I just needed her to hold on long enough that
I could turn from stone to flesh again

I think it was around that time that
I started to shut down
my stepfather's eyes and words were so often on my body
like it was a thing that didn't really belong to me
and I was starting to understand that my mother
wasn't going to protect me from what comes next
he was institutionalized before it got that far
but the next decade or so was a blur
of out of body sexual experiences

A weird disturbance arose today, low in my pelvic bowl
a whisper of what might be considered a period cramp
something I've never dealt with in my entire bloody life
I usually get migraines instead, blinding, nauseous, debilitating
every 28 days or so

sitting on the subway, mulling over this little, pulsing, precursor to pain
I thought about my recent fling with a handsome foreigner
a stunning project we all worked on together, and how utterly female
curvaceous and powerful I felt showing up to work alongside him
a part of myself that I've hidden for as long as I could remember
reveling in my own femininity, tasting another human being
with nothing but pleasure in mind for the first time in my life

were those migraines a manifestation of those things I cut off
since I first began to bud
blinding, nauseous, debilitating
what does this new pulsing sharpness mean?

Saturday, October 7, 2017

A sirocco of foam

Stream of consciousness response during Repons, a French orchestral piece @Park Avenue Armory 10/6/17

Watching the lighting designer construct volumes, cages, waterfalls, geometries with light fixtures and haze, my mind is blown that anyone could conceive of containing light this way.

The Audio Engineer moving his hands across the sound board as he listens, I am struck by how clearly he trusts his ability to hear subtleties, to know as sound lands in his body what his hands must do to tune the white noise output. There is no part of me that I trust so much. This is not any different than any other audio engineer, but I am just now able to see the relationship between what needs to be done and its extreme reliance on a sensory function.

The Orchestra breathes together, riding the same roller coaster of feeling and internalized metronome, creating a baseline tension so other sounds can ripple in and out. It is a story. Building and falling, it has an arc, instrumental music may be a more pure, elemental version of a story even. I think as I listen how dance may be an attempt to tell the story of the music through the responses in their bodies, but that seems too simple for the richness of the interactions between instruments taking place.

it feels like a lot of magic and waiting, like waking up and individual moments layered together, with a few places where all of the soloists come to a similar melodic conclusion. Its almost impossible not to attach images in my head to the music - does that distract or enhance my relationship to it?

How do the soloist's voices help tell the story? what are they saying?

This is more dynamic than watching a movie, since we can experience multiple individual stories/reactions unfolding around us all at the same time - true complexity is available here. And suddenly the places where they are tied together melodically become striking, pronounced.

What happens if I let my whole body be available to perceive this experience?
What if I give myself over to the moment, the way I let movies embrace my awareness?
Watching musicians handling their instruments to make the sound caressing my body, at what point is it like there is no air between us, and they are caressing me directly?
Do I hold on to the sounds? Do they accumulate in my body like food or semen?
Do they get metabolized?
Do I bond with or defend against them?
If sound is touch at a distance, how am I allowing myself to be handled?

How is hearing just the beginning of listening? Am I even in the labyrinth, or just lost at the entrance? Maybe, like heisenberg's principle, making a choice about where I am negates the ability to be both places at once.

Fabric of light, fabric of sound waves stitched together. Noticing how it touches me distracts from my ability to discern or make up a story. The light framing the space shifts our sense of where the sounds emanate from and how those sounds respond to the cavernous space around us.

How rare is it that our audiences possess the intimate knowledge of what we are shaping to be able to tell our stories in whatever medium. How does that potentially limit our ability to communicate/be heard/seen/witnessed/understood/validated?

Rhythm of bodies and bows drawn across violins, in tandem, together.

Movies can imply complexity. But they can't give me what I am currently experiencing. Like waves,  currents, creatures moving underwater and rain on the surface, everything shifting and swirling and deeply related - opening myself up to my potential capacity to receive in all directions is to perceive all of the movements of the ocean at once with perfect clarity. To feel its various pulls and pushes as it wraps around and through me, I am a bit of flotsam, feeling a million tiny notes/touches without feeling any particular emotions. Or motivations, rather. No frames telling me what to feel or notice.

A sculpture of sounds
Light woven like actual threads
full of circumstances, interactions

if they were composing a drawing, it sounds like thick and thin lines, like a base wash and erratic scribbles, faint touches, soloists like highlights, a singular shocking color, or a perfect patch of light adding dimension, a subtle difference in shadow shapes that rise up to create depth in a form.

How do symbols on a page get translated into motions by the musician's bodies and manifest as sound and rhythm? How many languages do we all translate constantly, in every single subtle moment? How intimate a relationship they must have with their instruments. What if I knew myself intimately enough to trust my tools to express whatever story I am trying to tell?

Like when I was working with machines in a steel shop - at what point does the artist/musician become servants to the medium? Does a violinist wield her violin, or does the violin use the violinist's skill to be heard?

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Integrity: Reflection for week 9

My final reflection before the disintegration of the program, originally sent 7/28/17.

The puzzle of my roommate's different relationship to yoga, and feeling like she wanted me to just be a conscious computer generating shapes led me to a different place as far as my idea of how to teach yoga.

Something about not needing to be profound, but rather having to be a kind of gently engaged presence for her safety and direction gave me a vast ocean to consider what seemed valuable about a yoga flow that I was teaching for HER. And all the pressure I put on myself to preach wisdom and inspire deep thoughts about ourselves in the world blah blah blah... evaporated in the simplicity of her expectations. I did what I said I was going to do. And I did it in such away that resonated with the things I thought were important in the moment. And it was good enough. Another tool has appeared in my toolbox that I'm excited to explore.

My peer was in a weird place, questioning a lot of what is happening w the Yttp yoga core, about what she wants from yoga etc, so I got a lot of kick back during my teaching time, and decided to listen while she wrestled with her experiences, desires and the different approaches and information floating around all of us. I know I am safe, that I will get things I value from this 300 hour experience - but what about others who aren't so safe, and at what point are we just feeding the beast? Why do we put our emotional states and bodies in the hands and ideas of people we don't know? Whether it's a long dead philosopher or a fresh faced nyu grad, how do we know they follow through with what they profess to believe in? It is no less religious to me then what I grew up with, what is it that we are so hungry for that gives others power? How do we change the lens being perceived through, even for a moment?

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

time starts taking the back roads, avoiding sunsets & deep conversations

The edge of the deck was just far enough out of alignment
that if we didn't correct the difference now, it would grow

I did what I have always done, sat down and leaned back
drew my knees to my chest to generate as much force in that
short distance between the steel frame of the deck
and my heels

now I know its name
the bone resounding with a dull pain
and I suddenly understand
I ask it to do a job
far beyond its sophisticated relationship
with my body and gravity

how many parts of my body
have been called into battle
asked to be a hammer
rather then articulate

what else could it do but fall apart
because I was too busy

busy doing everything but listening.

At night I go outside so the stars can look at me

One of those mornings
where there is a fight in the dog park
A large, muscular male who felt somehow threatened
by a bouncy, curious female puppy growing quickly
into her long legs
His growls were lost in her cries of pain
ricocheting off the concrete structures around us
I hesitated to respond, both of their owners were
a half step away
much closer than I

the puppy's owner made scared noises, her hands in the air
the male's owner's hands were full of personal items
he pushed uselessly at his dog
I dropped my coffee and ran into the fray

so often when I'm at the park, I watch these people
on their phones or just vastly unaware
of the clear body language, of the shift in sounds
emanating from the creatures they are responsible for
and suddenly I am the one on the ground peeling two animals
helplessly caught in a stress response
away from each other

now I am thinking a lot about the hopeful optimism
that inspires animal adoption
how blinding it can be
ignoring their shadows and potential manifestations
is somehow not accepting the wholeness of the creature
now dependent on us

and how being able to wrestle with the fears and insecurities
that bubble up and play out in mini dramas between
our subtle, emotional/hormonal beasts
is part of the job of accepting ownership

I would rather be bitten
by the blind rage of another animal
than for my dog to learn I wouldn't be there
while she fights for her life
and eventually change her disposition
to account for that potential
to no longer trust me
or anyone

and I wonder how that
has changed me
what I notice
look for
how I engage with the world in response
to what I have witnessed

how do we come back from that place
animals, all of us
how do we change something that used to be true?

Friday, July 14, 2017

Support precedes Movement: Reflection for week 8

My roommate has expressed repeated interest in having me guide her in a yoga practice, and I noticed how clearly she was looking for a kind of work-out activity on this particular morning, rather than the exploratory questioning place I've been moving from these past weeks. So I gave her shapes. For some reason I was called in my body to move with her, and I'm not sure if I was trying to provide support by making it so she wasn't practicing alone, or if I was exploring what I felt I needed to be supported in each of the poses I took us through, to have a clearer sense of what I believed about them. Later when we chatted about it, she mentioned resonating with a moment when I touched her feet and hand as I talked about how they were in supportive communication with the ground - and I continue to notice moments where a certain kind of directed touch that helps them to know something about themselves has been really appreciated by my students. I have an inkling about a vocabulary building, an overlap between the study I've done and the awareness in my fingertips, like a potential divining rod for pathways, currents of force.

My peer that I practiced with has mentioned to me on multiple occasions being disconnected from her body, or grossly unaware of it. It felt kind of huge and superfluous to talk about shapes, so I went back to a place I know - we sat and I touched, said hello to and named every bone in her body I could remember (on her right side, I told her the other side was up to her), starting from her fingertips inward, down the parts of the vertebrae I could access, and then from her toes up. We wiggled joints and tried to figure out which ways bones spin in their sockets and she talked about what she felt and what she didn't. Afterwards I had her do some familiar movements, take a flow etc. With that information, of what both she and I noticed, we unearthed some interesting connections between unmoving parts and physical hang ups transitioning between certain tricky poses. We talked about how to find the kind of room or time for moments of personal body exploration in an hour class with a bunch of bodies in various states of awareness - and an hour and a half after I started, I finally came to a place where I might be able to transmute what I've been learning the past 2/3 years into something useful, something that can come out of me in a potentially helpful way.

These two experiences really asked things from me that seem like they live on opposite ends of the spectrum, but maybe one is the warp, and the other is the woof, and I need to figure out some other crucial things - the shape of the loom, the colors of the threads, the pattern I'm looking to weave.


Friday, June 30, 2017

The Elephant: Reflection for week 6

It's hard to come in quiet when you're about to do the talking, especially in the beginning when you don't know what's up w the student's body on this particular day, and quite possibly they don't either.

I'm having a hard time with the concept of holding an intention, especially one that may be unrelated to the person in front of me, waiting for guidance about how to be in their body, or where their bodies should be in space. If we are there for different reasons, how do I know where to begin the journey of that class and which arc will provide the questions they want to be asked?

As I come up against places where the student and I veer off in different directions or I'm moving forward and they seem left behind or stuck - I'm finding I need better questions I can ask to figure out what threads got lost and possibly a more accessible way of weaving our experience back together.

I did learn this past week that providing moments of physical resistance, or subtle selective pressure was really helpful to not only guide a student's attention inward when nothing was clear, but also in illuminating the pathways of movement they were taking. It was really interesting to see a kind of crystallization of the idea of agency into something they could feel and clearly delineate in their own bodies.

The shifting of tactics/stories I'm telling are kind of graceless and abrupt at the moment, but I feel like each shift is a broadening of both my awareness and the information I had received in the moments before it, as well as a letting go of preconceived plans to allow the needs of the moment to call the questions and knowledge out of me.

Pathways: Reflection for week 5

I am finding it most difficult to weave together the meditation stuff, movements, and all of the sophisticated awarenesses I've learned in the past 2 years into something truly cohesive, rather than four separate parts with some discussion between each one.

This week I worked with a guy that does the hard labor stuff with me as well as directing modern opera (his masters is in operatic singing) - and was kind of dumbfounded by his lack of movement when I offered it. There is definitely no perfect recipe for dialogue, and like a carpenter, he was much more interested in breaking down movements together, with me along side him, puzzling out how different ideas of yoga speak might be inhibiting the very movements they asked us to exhibit. While he was all about the ideas I was introducing, I was not so happy with how disjointed our practice was, especially as he so sweetly offered himself up to me as a test subject. There was a concreteness he needed to feel safe to explore in front of me, and I suppose having that to offer in my tool kit is something I can't keep avoiding.

For my lack of grace, I am heartened by a text he sent me later about a yoga class he attended later that same day - we had spent a fair amount of time exploring/discussing the upper limbs and scapula, and it felt noticeably different, and he couldn't wait to work with me again.

He mentioned having felt container-less right after our session, and I hear in that, a certain amount of not being held, so I am thinking about different ways to hold people, and different kinds of pathways in.