Sunday, June 18, 2017

I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch

I wonder if being taught meditation is often handled like being sat as a baby  by people unaware of the patterns that get set up that may unfortunately follow some of us for a lifetime- learning how to hold ourselves in a position, to tolerate it since we don't have the skill to find our way in and out of it yet. At what point is a minor level shift confused for what is actually a small step in a much larger process?

I let myself sit in silence with my dog on my roof as the day faded, a we took in the vastness of the sky that made if feel like my lungs had the vaulted ceilings of a cathedral. The air filling up this sudden space in my body poured like water against the back of my throat, inhaling like I was desperately thirsty. The presence of noise became so clear, something with too many discernable voices and sounds to be white noise. Rising up from the street level around my building, it so palpable I could feel the fabric, rather than just being an abstract way of talking about many overlapping sound waves. It reminded me of how different local microbes create distinctive flavors when fed to yeast and turned into bread with a specific personality, I could almost taste the nuanced flavor of my block in the sounds that I never realized were so present. My dog asked me to hold her as we surveyed our empire, her muscular body against me emanating a warm rosewater biscuit aroma - a smell her chest has always had - drowning in a decadent synesthesia as we breathed against each other and listened to the world under the opalescent bowl of the sky draining away the final few sunrays.

It might not have looked like the meditation I'm supposed to be practicing, but I am centered in my footsteps and still filled with more breath then I have even thought about in weeks. I often set the highest of standards for myself, and under the weight of my internal expectations forget that before I can even consider the possibility of running, I must first make sure I can pick my head off of the ground, my hands and my feet need to learn how they are available to support each other. And perhaps learning how to even take in stimuli, to receive love notes and information from sources unrelated to my immediate survival is really important before I can even fathom what it means to really listen to something or someone or myself. If the ability to receive is a crucial component of being able to listen, that finding spaces where I feel safe enough to let go of myself is a necessary requirement for meditation.




Thursday, June 15, 2017

Don't empty the ocean, calm the current: Reflection for week 4

It's nice when its more than just one body practicing as I 'teach', since all of us together are less likely to break the spell.

I used the only tool I really know I have - I simply asked questions. One after the other, letting them bubble up from my peripheral awareness, how the sun pressed against the container of my body, the wind gently wrapping around us, the sound of the water and children playing in it, how was it a support, this pull of space, the meaning of texture, the places where it all went in the body, how does our environment land? Am I the container or am I contained? What do I notice, and how many ways can I respond? My students followed my questions like a serious task, but I did not name a shape, I did not take a stance or give direction that wasn't in the form of a question that could swirl around a kinosphere like the rainbow flows on the outside of a soap bubble, noticing or taking in any of those questions, letting them reside inside of that bubble was a choice. The expressions of the two bodies I practiced on in this tiny park were so drastically different, later they both were really appreciative of the 'container' I gave them to explore themselves in relationship to their surroundings, as well as what they were interested in pursuing - and I am not sure what the 'container' was exactly. Was it my voice? Their own sense of their boundaries? Their ability or willingness to listen?

In meditation I am finding that it quickly becomes about how I am everything, expansive, sounds cease to be connected to their meanings, or related to the contexts they arose out of, I bond with all of it. And then I am lost, I am not myself, but a piece of something else - and I wonder if the quiet is so deep that movement has been the only way to feel myself inside of it. Maybe yoga has always been about me trying desperately to feel myself, to find all of the walls and boundaries to know what I am shaped like - and I am really enjoying layering the possibility to move with the kind of attentive patience of meditation, where the thread being followed tastes something like curiosity, in my mouth at least.

I just asked the kinds of questions I wish I could ask into a mirror, and crushed blades of grass between my fingers and smiled at the children who stopped to watch us while their parents pretended not to see us, and took in the sounds and the day shifting towards night and my student's bodies as they let me take them with me along this faint thread, this experience that we were weaving together.




Maybe we're all just spinning a yarn

Years after my father disappeared from my life (aged 5 or 6), post college, he began reading this blog and reached out to me. For a while I waited, to see what his game was, and email after long desperate email came as I considered how I felt about this person I only had the vaguest unpleasant memories about. As Father's Day approaches, I remember these emails, a mishmash of memory and fabrication mixed with what little he could glean from what I was writing about at the time. I am amazed at the deep and incredible strangeness of the individuals who's genetic material I am composed of, and the magical reality they seem to be trapped inside of.

That was almost a decade ago. I finally told him to stop, and that is the only exchange I have had with that man since I was a small child. Here are pieces of those emails:




ive been reading your blog for a few months now...you are an amazing young woman abbigale ruth walsh. (i named you, both) . i read your most recent post today....it told me it was time......damn.....i feel like i suffer from ptsd... i cant remember without reliving.

this is not an attack of your mother..... its a discription of my relationship with her. i hope other people had it differently with her than i did.

because i've read your stuff and i know you are a mature woman, im going to be honest and blunt... as much because its my way.... as because, you deserve the unvarnished truth from my perspective...so you will know why i made the choices i did.

i felt you would be safe with the hillbillies, at the very least. they loved you guys so much. ....i know there is no excuse. i was wrong.

first i want to say.... MY RELATIONSHIP WITH LYNNE IN NO WAY HAD ANYTHING TO DO WITH TAD AND YOU. my nightmare relationship with her just made it so i had to wait till you were adults, and away from her to contact you. i never want to see her face or hear her her voice again. ever. you can tell her whatever you feel is important from this...if you never mentioned to anyone but your brother, id be ok with that, too.... but please... dont give her my email address.

you and your brother were the loves of my life. there have been two holes in my soul for 18 years..... but, i have accepted that it was necessary for me to be with lynne, because you and tad had to be born. and i thank the fictitious deity for your births. i hope it wasnt to bad for you guys leaving you with the hillbillies....i was afraid you would be "uninformed" at worst..... but that we could take care of that after you were adults.....i see you have taken care of that all by yourself abby....... mom would be so pleased with you.... .
i wanted to be with you all more than anything... i followed her around the state... drove hundreds of miles each weekend back and forth for years.....i tried to make it.......but, i had to go......my life collapsed so completely and the wound i had from my time with her made it so necessary. im so sorry.

im not a vendictive or hostile man. im a cancer with libra rising and pisces moon for gods sake......... i wasnt prepared for your mother... and then the death of my mother... then the loss of you guys and everything i had....... it was all waaay too much for me and i kind of snapped.

i was going to have her killed abby.....and then take you guys......i had the hitperson.. i had the alibi...i would have been 200 miles away........ i guess you can see that, obviously, at the end of it all... i wasnt mentally healthy.... she destroyed me and my life. my support structure lay in ruins.... she even took my best friend and pseudo business partner away... did she ever tell you the saga of "bruce"?.... my life was broken. when i met her i was an associate producer of news for a tv station with prospects to move up had a mercedes bens and a good life........ by the end of the "sentence".... i was homeless and broken with nothing left of my former life...except my mother's astrology books....YOURS. EVERYTHING ELSE OF MY FORMER LIFE... GONE....separated from my family and friends i ended up homeless living in a tree in island park in sarasota for a week.......


i didnt really come back from the whole experience of being with your mom and that time in my life until about 6 years ago, emotionally..... still not financially...... i was totally beaten down after 8 years in lynne's concentration camp.... she won... her anger, hostility and darkness were all much bigger and stronger than my light... which is considerable... but i was heaped upon with too many calamties at once....

i didnt disappear, abbigale.....i had to save my life. you and tad were safe..... i made a conscious decision...i escaped for what was only supposed to be a short time, to heal myself....I LIVED FOR YOU GUYS....i was in love with you guys.... you and tad were the only good things in my life... mom was recently dead.. my mother was the only OTHER thing in my life that was ever good. i agonized about it for weeks.....no matter what kind of cunt lynne had been to me....she was a responsible and good mother to you and tad....she had an extended family and a support structure.... her parents were good grandparents... no matter what kind of hillbillies they were or how much the old man hated me and everything i stood for.........they loved you and tad...i would have destroyed that and the opportunites that came with it.. had i stayed in your lives. just my presence there would have taken you away from that possible normal future. i decided that to keep interjecting myself in your lives would probably be selfish on my part.... which... now... after reading your writing.. im seeing, may not have been THAT normal... eh?

as a person, im sure your mother is good...i have personally seen her be very good.... but...not to me... your mother and i were always at the point of losing it with one another...as far as she was concerned, i never did anything right...(no one did)...(her dad used to call her the incredible hulk because she got so angry and hostile)..she had a quick, nasty temper and would say horrible cutting things....which shocked the hell out of me, because....when we first met, she was the sweetest kindest most loving giving girl i had known for a long time... till the day AFTER we got married....the day after we got married i brought the wrong shape of bottle of diet pepsi out of a 7-11 for her and it was "goddamn you you son of a bitch"... im not kidding..... i was in shock....right from day one. people who were supposed to love one another didnt talk to each other like that......more on that later..........i think she was always secretly pissed that "keith" didnt come talk her out of marrying me....... after living with lynne for only a short time i felt like a victim of shock treatments.....it took me a YEAR and the loss of my career in broadcasting to tell her... "kiss my ass"..... she threw an overnight bag at me..... (one time after bringing you and tad home to lynes house after a weekend together.... joe said to me with a terrified tortured look on his face, talking about some unpleasantness they had just had.... he said........"kevin... you know what she's like"....and... yes i did...i felt sorry for joe that night) after you all moved to gainesville... and i couldnt afford to follow...every weekend that i could ... faithfully,...i drove from tampa.... religiously every weekend that i could, i would drive hours to gainesville to get you and tad....then hours back to where i lived... florida is a long state.....to be nearer to you two, i finally moved to gainesville and i lived in a shack... LITERALLY... a shack in gainesville @75$ a week, for 6 months and got you every weekend... but i couldnt live on 4.50 an hour so i had to move to a city where i could make enough money to pay your mother CASH.....(which i did for 4 years till she told me "kevin.. dont you tell the state you have been giving me cash all this time.. because i have been collecting from the state too... if you tell the state you've been giving me cash, then....the people who are looking for you for your failed video business will find out where you are")..... the bitch threatened me.... for no reason, just turned around on me and threatened me... right on the steps of the courthouse in gainesville in 91 when our divorce was finally final. anyway... i moved to orlando.... and every weekend that i could.... i drove from orlando to get you guys....hours and hours on the road coming to get you .... going back to my house.....then a day and a half later... making the same 8 hour trip........ it took its toll on you guys... on me and the string of cars i went through.... i came.... and every time i dealt with lynne she was a cunt to me...the last time i came to her house to bring you home....unbenounced to me...lynne, i guess, had cleared out a storage locker in gainesville that i had rented and i couldnt pay for anymore...i had decided to let the stuff go.. (i let a lot of stuff go during my life with lynne).... but i guess when i defaulted, they called her and she went and paid the back owed money to the storage place... i knew nothing about this... when i got to lynne and joes, bringing you home....while you and tad were getting ready for bed....... i noticed "the spaceman".... then i noticed another thing or two from the storage locker...... stuff i had gotten when mom died..... and i wondered how they got to lynne's house...... and your mother, seeing my noticing the things... got this, cruella deville, face of victory and dispicable joy at my loss and this attitude of delight and satisfaction at my failure .. it was an evil glee at my situation....personally, i was happy you and tad had those things.... they were yours after all...( i have your astrology books when ever you are ready to claim them, a little more time worn... all with notations from your grandmother.).....anyway, lynne got this nasty and vile evil look on her face and things and started being a cunt to me... and things began to get ugly... so i left....that was the last time i could go there.

after the last time i went to take you and tad back to gainesville......the exchange she and i had, where she drew such delight from my loss and failure, that finally pushed me over the edge. and i was going to have her killed and take you away from her family for ever...much like her sisters husband did with THEIR kids.... did you ever meet lisa's kids? ....after a week or so, i called the hit off....i got hold of my senses and realized that would be WRONG, no matter how much she sucked.....i couldnt do that.... and i should just let it go. i realized... and was deeply saddened to know that as long as i was going to have to deal with her, to see you and your brother that it would be hell and i would want to kill her again... and probably do it...and how selfish i was being......and how it would negatively affect you guys. i realized that you would always be in OUR pitched battle....i came from a very unstable family situation..... it wasnt good........ i wanted different things for the two of you... so, i thought that with joe, lynne and her family to help, they could provide you a much more stable life.....and that i would always be a a very unstable element to interject into your little lives..... i decided.... that it would be best for you and tad if i allowed you to have a family, without the distraction of my crazy family...or my family history.... or lifestyle... i wanted you to have normalcy. and i would just wait till you were both adults and we would find each other...... after being with lynne for 8 years......my life was destroyed, my career was gone and so was my self worth.....after i left wink tv.. i couldnt keep a job.. i hated working in pizza kitchens....but that was pretty much the only avenue left for me to survive.....(in 89,.in sarasota, i was struggling to give her CASH for you guys and i lost my job.....then i lost my weekly rented room...i was homeless and she wouldnt even let me sleep on her couch for a weekend.) for me, lynne was a nightmare....after 5 years with lynne.... she had me convinced it was ME who was fucked up. so.... back to the orlando story...there i was and i had decided that while you were young, having me in your lives would be a drawback of massive proportion......... well... after a few weeks...and an inability to find more substantial employment than "pizza guy"... i decided.... "screw this... im gonna sell pot, acid and ecstacy till i save up enough money to get a lawyer and get my kids.... (not one of my best plans, but by then... my life and video production profession and family were gone and i was at the bottom... im sure i wasnt thinking rationally).......... 6 months after i brought you and tad back to lynne's house for the last time.... on 2/22/92... a guy i knew, who had been arrested, agreed to wear a wire in my house and it got raided....full MBI gear and masks... guns drawn...30 cops kicked in my door.... when i was arrested, i had a pound of pot and 3500$ cash... (i had been saving up for you and tad... i still have the xmas presents from that xmas for you guys)..... i was only in jail for 4 hours... but i was on probation for 2 years....and, at the same time... i had to keep selling to pay back the "people i worked for". after a while and my screwed attempt to wrangle up quick cash.... i had lost all hope.... everything i did pushed me further and further away from being able to get back to you guys..... i took to self medication...(also runs in our family).....i was eating my profits... because i was medicating at my pain of being pushed even further from you guys....it got worse for a while.... my situation never got back to the place where i could offer you and your brother anything positive...... so i decided to fix my life and wait till you were grown up.. and could make your own decisions. i hoped you and your brother would be curious enough to come find me. to yell at me... to tell me to go fuck myself. to meet me.... maybe to get to know me and to hang out some. just maybe to find out why you are so unique... (sorry.. thats from me... from my mom...quite the bohemian she was and she passed a healthy dose to me.. and it would seem....in the first 5 years of your life... to you too.... is your brother a freak too?? hehehehehe... sorry.. kidding.... we arent freaks. im just so happy you arent like THEM)

about your "spirituality"...i have a hunch about that.... if it is your wish that we continue communicating, ill tell you later.... i always hoped you and your brother would be curious enough about me or wonder why you all are different than the hillbillies enough to come find me and ask why....."why kevin, are we so different?" you and your brother called me by my first name and only dad occasionally. most people thought it was strange.....I kinda liked it. you both were whole people right out of the womb.

im so amazed at your talent...you are so fucking talented abby... and im so sorry for your deep deep deep emotional feelings and responses. you are a scorp with leo rising and moon within a degree of the ascendant. thats like being a scorp with a cancer moon and cancer rising.... thats how strong that is for emotionality........ you, my love, ARE your emotions. or at least thats how it feels. and will be jerked around by them until you can step back and look at your life as "karmic assignments".... you've got stuff to do abby. maybe with more than 3 people.... things will end... new things will begin. you have much to do. acceptance is peace.

your mother spins a yarn. your grandmother didnt have 7 husbands. but she did have an adventure of a life..... and she was a great, loving mother and astrologer and re-incarnation regressionist... and you were born 9 months, almost to the day after she died. and, about the worlock thing....dont let your imagination run wild.... lynne and i used to JOKE about the worlock thing...there was never any thougt of magic spells or magic books or anything like that...not like harry potter....there is no such thing as magic.....but there is power and energy and sometimes it sure feels like magic, doesnt it?..... we used the term "worlock" (or at least i did) as a term to describe a male with lots of water in his chart who knows about the occult and has the ability to perceive other people and what was going on around him and to influence people without much effort....someone who had the ability to reach out and grab you with their energy and make you want to know them....and then...changing people through the force of your persona......
its strong in my mother... strong in me... and it was strong in my children......for me, its sun on my midheaven. for mom it was sun on ascendant... for you its moon on ascendant.... etc.... i bet you know ALL about it..... leo rising girl...i bet you hold people in your sunny intense magnanimous gaze with great skill... i bet you influence people, simply by being you..... you have a gift far beyond illustration. the gift of your mind and soul can move people.
when you both were very young, you and your brother could mentally reach out and grab people from across restaurants....or rooms or wherever... tad would pick someone and "charm" them from across the room, months before he could speak. it was a great thing to watch. i hadnt ever seen anyone do it like he did before..... i knew when he was about to start... he would scan the room and search them out like a hypnotist looking for subjects..... and he would captivate someone... and own them....he would reduce them to squishy puddles of goo who had to meet him..... you too...you had sunshine in your heart...and you both came with it built in. and the dog thing with you. you both have a thing. with a thing.... comes a purpose. karmic assignments. have you ever felt as if you may not be here this time for "yourself"?

when i was 10, mom showed me how to do charts........... the math, how to research in the text books.....etc.... mom made me her apprentice. she knew early on that i had a great aptitude for astrology and the occult with my grand trine in water and fire..... with uranus and merc conj in leo in 10th... she always said i was born to be an astrologer.......... she was my mentor..... my BUDDY.....and my mother....... i miss her very much................one time your mom said... all snotty with me during one argument... "and you all write in your books... who writes in their books???" and i said.... "lynne... they are RESEARCH BOOKS"... not coffee table decorations..........

both you and your brother have the "astrologer/occult thing" too

so she says...."mom" taught her everything she knows eh?......... ok..........

one time..... young lynne... shortly after she and i had been "dating"....she went with me to meet my mom.. for the first time... and mom.... in one of her favorite flowery housedresses... (satin mumu)... sitting on her bed.......greeted us cheerfully as i brought lynne into the bedroom where mom was situated that day..... we sat and talked.... mom rolled a joint... and we all got stoned... and mom began telling lynne about karma and reincarnation and how the universe was the place that the religious folks told her it was.... and your mother was very stoned.... had never been in this situation before... and had never heard anyone speak like mom did before........i think for a second... she felt herself jerked away from the reality she had been raised with and she got this startled look on her face...... suddenly, she stood up and said...... "YOU GUYS ARE A CULT.....THIS IS A CULT....YOU ARE TRYING TO ...OH GOD....... IVE GOT TO GET OUT OF HERE.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" i looked at mom like ... whuuuuuuuuttt?????????? and your mother........... walked QUICKLY around the bed and pushed past me at the door AND RAN OUT OF MOM'S HOUSE........... HEHEHEHEHEHEHEHEHEH .... poor little farm girl from labelle............... HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA................... still fucking cracks me up.... YOU GUYS ARE A CULT................................ HEHEHEHEHEHEHHEHEHEH. (maybe if she hadnt been so stoned)

anyway................ i followed her out to her little ugly chevette.... i really felt sorry for her... i tried to calm her...... i said... "lynne.... no hon... we arent a cult.."....."we arent trying to recruit you"............... she said..............."I HAVE TO GO.... REALLY."................. and she drove away....... i thought id never see her again...... but..... you and tad HAD to be born... so.....

another thing that just cracked me up about your mom...... we were watching something on tv about the second world war.... i was always fascinated with it.....and hitler......... and your mom told me....................... "you know kevin.. i always thought they were saying HI HITLER..... i didnt KNOW it was HEIL HITLER"........ every time i think about that it cracks me up...........

after spending WAAAAAYYYYY too much time with your grandfather..jerry bussell....".more than i ever wanted to"..... . i realized why lynne freaked out so much when she met mom .....

HI HITLER!.........


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

you’re not asking about a property of space, but rather a property of yourself

VII.
Ideas as Artifacts
Motion and Gesture
a part of our language
Narrative
an embodied form
of discourse


VIII.
Immune System
as an act
rather than
an organ


IX.
creative drive
sex drive
death drive
thumb drive
disc drive


X.
interface
what is our human boundary
when we modify ourselves (as a human race)?
race against what?
techno hack vs body hack
genetic modification vs microbiome
integrity of the body (modesty)
replacement organs
anxiety as an artifact


XI.
How do you heal the landscape
without erasing its history?


XII.
The difference between Sacred and Rigid:
Holding Space vs Space being Held

Community holding something is different
Than a Structure holding something

Am I the Container
or am I contained?


XIII.
Memory
is a person a thing a process?

identity/structure

is the meaning in the words
or the person who hears them?


XIV.
a transition that feels
like there was no
transition


A pearl: the oyster's autobiography





When I first moved to NYC, I had responded to a craigslist post looking for 'promotional models', for a roofing/epoxy treatment company. It involved dressing up and wandering around city blocks flirting with the security and supers around freight entrances, trying to get the contact info of each building's Engineer.

Once, a very talkative Building Engineer told me and my accomplice about a repeated compromise of the seal around the basement of his midtown building - apparently the underground rivers of Manhattan are alive and well, constantly trying to reassert themselves through these ancient pathways, in an endless battle between nature and its colonizers.

I remembered that story while walking through the park today when we encountered a place where a few of the honeycomb sidewalk tiles had collapsed and pure clean water sprang up from it like an urban spring, like the water in the creek next to my house growing up in Florida - a place where veins of water filtered up through the aquifer, since we lived at or just below sea level.





Friday, June 9, 2017

Untelling a story: Reflection for week 3

As far as I deviate from familiar landscapes and their respective maps when guiding another's body in and out of form and space, I'm finding their ideas and relationships to certain shapes are tied inextricably close together. It's not that I'm surprised by these tangled balls of yarn, but that I feel very much like I'm furtively tugging at strings in the practice/person unfolding on the mat in front of me. I'm not quite sure what I'm looking for.

My use of inhales to notice/exhales to move has shifted towards exhales to respond, since even the lack is a response in its own way. As the student listens inward, I've talked about the possibility of trying something else if it didn't feel quite right the first time they responded. I think starting class with a conscious internal conversation, a simple game of choose-your-own-adventure might help students start to develop a vocabulary of their own deeply individual sensations that no words may exist for - something that may be really important (I suspect) for students to eventually perceive the amount of agency available to them inside of more traditional asana.

At various moments during my student's practice, when they chose the path of familiar shapes, I asked what story they were telling at that particular moment. And I asked again in other places, along the way - much the same way yoga teachers often have to remind some of their students to breathe, both are such important things to notice, to fill our bodies with, no matter what the shape we've poured it into. That was remarked on, how interesting it was to have their awareness called to their idea of something rather than a body part, how all of it gets lost just like the breath sometimes when focusing on what their body looks like from the outside. How strange it was to notice in themselves how present the stories were, guiding the choices they made inside of their practice. Sometimes they realized they had no idea where the story they were inside of, in the moment I asked them to notice, even came from in the first place.


xo

Thursday, June 8, 2017

what to change in order to become yourself

As I relaxed into the embrace of the floor, I could feel myself there, the honey and tawny strands of the floorboards spreading out from underneath me, the sun spilling down on us through the windows. But I could also feel the past bubbling up to the surface, I considered the particles of memory floating like dust motes in my field of vision between me and the floor receiving the forces pouring through me. A shitty little house in Nowhere, Florida with almost no furniture and an empty fridge. The places where my brother and I slept were two couch cushions on the floor, shoved in opposite corners of the room, my body still small enough that I could curl myself onto it, as I watched the roaches skitter around in the dark. That house where my brother and I were mostly alone, I was too small to reach the sink in the bathroom or the countertops in the kitchen as we tried to feed ourselves, if I needed water, to clean myself. Once I reached up to the top of the electric stove in curiosity while my brother's back was turned, and seared a perfect spiral onto the flesh of my tiny hand, radiating out from the center all the way to the fingertips. I think he was just tall enough to boil some hotdogs for lunch. That was when my father still claimed joint custody of us, and those weekends still pop up in my emotional radar sometimes, collateral damage while my parents used us as pawns in a game I was helpless inside of.

The floor. Like reflections on a soap bubble, the past swirled around me as I watched. And it was the past, so I let it fall away to feel the coolness underneath my body that balanced out the heat on my skin from the window.

As I moved, considering the instructions from the teacher of what and how to explore, I found a familiar wall of panic when I reach a place where it feels like I am incapable of doing what I was being asked to do. Getting as still as possible and trying to slow my breathing, I knew I needed to stop moving before I triggered a full blown panic, but I could feel the painful contractions starting around where I imagine my vocal chords to be and instinctively pulled myself inwards, like a reverse unfurling of a fern. Like a switch was flipped, I was free, I could move past the paralysis at the beginning of a meltdown.

Once when I used to babysit the neighbor's triplet toddlers, I was around for a birthday party. The father was a problem, and not much long afterwards they went their separate ways (he took the older son, she took the triplet girls), and I don't remember what he said or did, but one of the girls started crying from a startle. I was in high school, just helping in every way I could because I saw the mom needed help, and I heard something I recognized in that little girl's cry - after the third one that sounded exactly the same, like a computer, a record caught on a loop, I knew I had to disrupt the repeating pattern and I gathered her in to me. While her parents snapped at each other in whispers, her cries multiplied and then subsided after a fractal shift. My mother has mentioned a few times her early experiences of being potty trained - my grandfather punished their accidents by making them wear their soiled panties on their heads, overlapping their face, their breathing pathways. Recently I've started to wonder about how being shamed about something you have no control over affects us as adults, maybe the thread of chronic constipation she has suffered her whole life is a story I am telling about her relationship to shame and her need to be in control even at the cost of our relationship. Her inappropriate sharing with me of her sexual escapades as I moved from prepubescence into sexual maturation also gives me the perspective of how her bowels turn to liquid when she is emotionally or sexually attuned to a man, and in her lack of control, we were often forgotten in her blind hunger for something only her interactions with these men could potentially fill. I wonder if her inability to let stuff out is intimately related to my inability to receive.

Manifesting is both a concrete and completely unpredictable thing. I wonder if noticing any of those potential connections might be a way for my mother to knit back together some damage, to be able to tell new stories about how she relates to others. I wonder why I have the distinct habit of relating everything I experience to a few early similar experiences, instead of being able to fully be inside of something new. My mother and I, why must we always be in control over everything? I can't even bring myself to what seems like a childish place of hoping for a return of adoration in a sexual partner, to let myself be so lost in something as unpredictable and defenseless and dangerous as being 'in love' whatever that silly fabricated idea arises out of.

This is not my father's floor and I am not that child on a couch cushion. How can i wade through these stories, untangle these threads enough to make a different choice and not succumb to the emotional bubbles trapped inside of them? Maybe I am exactly where I need to be, learning how to love the floor, how to receive its support, how to give it the fullness of my weight. To know it can't be taken from me, the it won't turn me down, that when I lay in its embrace, it is impossible to fall.





Thursday, June 1, 2017

Experience vs Story: Reflection for week 2

I didn't make a plan to do anything different - I just listened. To myself, to the 'students', to our ideas of shape and space and roles and expectations. To the places where those things grated on each other, and where they seemed aligned. Where they needed the story I was unwilling to tell. Where I told stories because they made sense on someone's body once, somewhere in the past, but maybe had no place when I tried using them again.

Some things that I heard/noticed - There is an underlying support that I need to be able to offer, even when re-calibrating my expectations and shifting directions, how being caught up in the motions of telling a previous story can leave the 'student' feeling lost or unsupported. Even though I have a fear of naming a familiar shape because of how present our preconceived ideas/patterns of relating to it often are, I can't just remove all of the rules, not everyone is so ready to give those up. What are the structures that support that kind of chaos, that inspires curiosity, the ability to play? Sometimes stories are a really important way in, a thread to follow when it feels like all that is available is darkness, that stories can be a map for an experience someone may never have had so that they may be able to consider and eventually find it on their own. The more I can listen, the more responsive I can be to the complex set of questions being asked at any moment in time by the individual I am relating to in this particular dynamic.

I learned that we are co creating a new story about a million different things between us, my clearest job/question I have found this week is about how to Be With - both myself and the student. How can I be fluid while being a support for self and other? How does my witnessing and supportive presence help give others a platform to feel comfortable enough to engage with their own stories and to possibly let some go, to make the space to tell new ones?

And how am I changed in the process?

What am I Becoming-With?

Breath as a Medium: Reflection for week 1

This one struck me because I have found breath-as-respite a confusing concept - evidence of a transition between states of emotional coherence/control, an often annoying mechanical function I'm usually pretty happy to ignore since my body can do it without my direct involvement, and the idea of anything as a potential form of expression is a line of inquiry I want to lather myself in, (like a baby with a jar of peanut butter) to unearth how it can be harnessed to help a voice be heard.

Before I took the time to consider my relationship to breath this past week, I had no awareness of the disconnect I was feeling when instructed to go back to the breath, to use the breath, to notice it at all. A piece of my childhood keeps coming up, especially as I followed this question - My stepfather used to shut me in the bathroom when I got upset because I often lost control of my ability to form words through the heaving, hiccuping, strangled breathing, like I was drowning on dry land. He wouldn't release his hand from the doorknob outside until I could breath normally, which sometimes took a very long time. In retrospect, I suspect it was a kind of anxiety attack I was having, and that loss of control and inability to speak up for myself, these shadows of helplessness and shame are the last places I would probably want to go looking for an anchor or sense of connection. As I consider how many times in a yoga class I've instructed about returning to the breath, of finding it, filling a shape with it etc, all respectable statements in light of its lineage - it seems a really clear example of a place where I've repeated motions rather than speaking from or even considering my own experience or relationship to what I am asking a body of individuals to partake in. At work, I make a real conscious effort to never ask one of my crew guys to do something I myself am not capable of doing, so this bit really shook me.

I feel like there is a strong correlation between drawing and practicing asana, layers of focus and awareness, and by flipping one for the other I get to take away the groove a student (of either discipline) might comfortably lean into. For Sunday's teaching game, I played into the idea of the Perceptual Cycle and the limited resource of our Attention, as well as Sam's meditation that involved shifting our states of awareness - I really liked how those shifts were so distinct in the back to back contrast. So I asked my partner to use his inhales to take in what he was looking at, and let his exhales become a gestural release/exploration of the information received via a pen in his hand to the sketchbook in his lap (I blocked his ability to see the paper, an attempt to remove the focus on judging its product, which alters the ability to engage fully in the noticing).

How does what comes in (via environment, senses, interactions) become an expression of its affect on us? How does an inhale transform into an exhale, how does a breath become a movement?

Both of the individuals I taught this week talked about regular difficulty and lack of connection to their breath, when we talked about it afterwards. I had continued the inhale to notice, exhale to move, and they both experienced the drawing mediation described above prior to taking it into the rest of the body. My non yogi friend felt that the literalness, 'concrete' in her words, of pen to paper drew a distinct connection between a familiar action and the presence of breath - and that bridge helped her feel agency, ease, and purpose in the breath focused movements we explored. I wonder if that is one of those things so fundamental it gets forgotten, not just our awareness of it, but our RELATIONSHIP with breathing. How can I take a step even farther back and help build something to anchor to? How can I weave the sensations of breathing and movement together in my language and my daily life? How many ways can I find to bridge between the taking in and the letting go, to maybe see how our individual expressions arise out of the conversation between them? How can I create a dialogue not based on the assumption that the foundation is already there, when I may be trying to build something on top of uneven ground? I may not be the only one who sometimes feels like I'm drowning on dry land. What is the pathway in? Can my words and the space I shape be a kind of divining rod?




I'm also starting to get a clear sense that it is a collaboration, that there is something between the teacher and student being woven, crafted, made real, but I can't quite see the nature of the artwork that we are working on together, whether I am the student or the teacher. At least not yet.

Monday, May 29, 2017

in my metaphor, he wants to learn quantum mechanics instead of architecture

I.
Mythologies
Archetypes
Roles
Jobs


II.
Does the mind have states
the way matter has states?

Can I pour myself into stillness,
into the container of my body

My mom called me a ray of refracted light
but I didn't respond, she has me all wrong

I want to be the Prism
that light passes through



III.
We automatically assume aliens arrive
with their own foreign wisdom

Why don't we assume the same
about children?


IV.
For every hollowness
there is a voluminous - ness

In every curve there is the experience
of concavity and convexity

Straightness has nothing to do
with goodness


V.
damage can trigger
a cell to choose
a different career

express a different
part of its identity
potential


VI.
Maybe the Eyes see for the Hand
Maybe the Hand expresses the desires
of the Ribcage, to taste, to be connected
Maybe the Mouth forms words
to sing the Siren's song of the Heart

Somewhere there is a confusion
between the desire for connection
and owning it - a colonizing
of the web that cuts off the ability
to notice the forces moving through it,

through us.






Wednesday, May 17, 2017

the light brightens almost imperceptibly

video
XX.
Journeys
states of being
precipice
charging forward
cacophony of people
history, words, voices
boundaries, limitations
walls
doorways, windows


XXI.
Stories swirling around me
mom constantly rewrites hers to keep herself safe
I was programmed to be an object
I'm falling apart
A hand on my ribs telling me to soften
Where is the maze? Am I in it?
To rewrite my script, I have to seek out
the source, the code, the core
I have to walk right in to what I've been containing,
avoiding.


XXII.
There is almost nothing more delicious in my mind
than a warm night wrapping itself around you

When I lived in Richmond, I loved the heat with all of my body
wandering past lush gardens in the dark, on the phone,
or alone
I spent a whole year there, in the Fan district
near Museum Row
walking past the statue of Robert E. Lee
on my way down Monument Avenue to the laundromat

The most amazing coffee I've ever tasted
roasted in a nearly invisible space
across the street from the 7-Eleven

my roommate
was the mother of the person I was dating
She apologized frequently for how her daughter treated me
and I kept her company while this person we both were trying to love
traveled for work, too busy to care about either of us.

There was almost never a need to turn on the lights,
the sunshine poured itself through the ancient scum on the windows
wrapped itself around the moldings,
the towers of stuff owned by this woman
dusty, useless

As time rolled on, I caught the mice and released them back
into a neighbor's garden
and convinced the roaches to be a little less brazen
I unearthed her kitchen sink
and then, eventually
her stove

We began a game of filling up trash bags to take to goodwill
Slowly, we could see the walls again
so we bought paint to put on them

In the slow release, the floor became available for sweeping
and the decades seemed to have piled up in the corners of every room
In my confusion, I sorted through the quarter sized flakes everywhere
trying to figure out where they might be coming from

I realized they were the evidence of the psoriasis that consumed her whole body
Years and puddles of dead skin
shed but not gone

I can't help but suspect, in my secret heart
that they are a clue about feelings,
shame
about her children, her life
a previous husband
the damage he caused
even though he looked the part

eating her up from the inside.




video

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Tabula Rasa

While binge-watching a tv show about the history of a particular Viking hero, and researching the exploits and overlaps referenced in this semi-historical narrative, there came one of those moments - a life changing realization through the eyes of a mostly fictitious character arc. A child is introduced to him, with the clear blue eyes of a person that meant a great deal to him and was killed in a jealous rage by one of his other companions. In the blank, innocent look of this child-of-his-lost-companion, this great Viking warrior paused and gently touched his fingertips to the boy's face. I felt, with the sharpness of a cut, the history of those two figures, made manifest in the presence of his descendant... and I understood for probably the first time the intensity of looking into the face of one's child or grandchild, or that of a close friend. How in the eyes of those-that-came-before-us, we are also a culmination of so many preexisting circumstances, a physical manifestation of a million little moments and rainy days and hard choices and secret shared smiles and successes and failures and how-are-we-going-to-survive-this; we are all creatures born in the crest of a wave, in the dynamic tensions of a butterfly that flapped its wings on the other side of the world, like the stars and Aphrodite, merely an expression of the teeming currents moving invisibly in the darkness underneath and before what we can actually see.

John Locke had it all wrong, maybe what the bible was trying to say was actually a poorly worded version of something more true. Less 'The sins of the fathers being visited upon the children', more how so many of our actions and gestures we perform every day, and the threads we may confuse as our own may be habits and patterns that are discernable across many generations, part of the primordial stuff that we come into being inside of, for better or worse, whether we like it or not.

Just as we often envision ourselves as truly individual beings, I think it is hard to have a really clear sense of our parents and their parents in a context before we transformed them into something else, an identity that they can never discard. What dies to make room for this magical induction, this double baptism, for this new name they will take with them to the grave? And what of those parts of myself that are so like my primary caregivers that I am so angry at and ashamed of? I am not so interested in the person my mother is currently trying to convince everyone that she is, since it is an elaborate defense against choices made when we were both young, and no one is around to hold her accountable. I do however wish I could dig into some of her earlier feelings and experiences, separate from her intensely obsessive and controlling reaction to me as her offspring/pawn/property, and her insistence that I'm just acting like an angry, adolescent brat, rather than a human being who deserves to be listened to, considered, who may be emotionally intelligent or possessing a valid argument about how her choices have realtime and lasting impacts on the children who were left in her care and won't go away until she is willing to be in the pain of addressing them with us. How do I learn about this person and the ways we are similar, without triggering her many layered defenses? Her father used to call her 'the Hulk', her rage was so uncontrollable when she was younger. I suspect my Grandmother fiscally supports my mother because she feels so deeply guilty for what she stood by and allowed to happen in the household my mother grew up in, and I've heard from my sister that Grama told her just how much like her father my mother is. While I may have found a container for rage that has been incredibly fortuitous for me professionally, I know, sometimes more than others, how that taking over/taking control/unable to turn it off mechanism is a direct channeling of the woman who raised me.

'Hollow' is the word my little brother used, describing to me what trying to talk to her is like. It is deeply unsettling to me, this person who calls herself a mother, but has never once asked any of her children how they feel about anything, or why. That someone in her place could be so uncurious about our hopes and fears and choices. But maybe that is what was modeled to her, maybe there is an unheard, neglected child buried deep within her being that is so hungry it makes her blind to us. Is it possible to go unarmed after all this time and anger in search for my mother's soul, locked so deep in the fortress of her stories, and not get lost?

I don't know that I'm quite brave or strong enough to fumble around in her darkness to untangle our shared threads, but I can feel the places in my body where I've ignored pain have created weaknesses in other compensatory places, and I've begun to chase those uncomfortable places to look for what lives on the other side. As strong as I may become though, only she can choose to wade through her scar tissue and liberate those pathways between herself and the rest of the world.

Between herself and her children, who have been waiting our whole lives for her to make that choice.



   





Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Whatever gets you through the rituals

XV.
City of barnacles
passing a half burnt house
falling apart, fleas
inside the crumbling building
doors lead to musty rooms
with collapsed ceilings
crumbling paint on old opera sets
containing the history of my craft
mastery in every whorl and cloud 
and shadowed transition
coming apart in my hands
flakes of vibrant colors
becoming grey dust
like Dorothy returning
to her washed out, thirsty home
after the technicolor of Oz.


XVI.
tasting things activates the process
of taking things in
maybe hearing is just the beginning
of listening


XVII.
My little brother
taller than all of us now
affectionately mentioned
during a holiday
the house full
of our family's particular
dominating cackle
a joyful witch's laughter
that we are all known by
but becomes a devastating
force when we all
come together.


XVIII.
Shame keeps them shuttered inside of themselves, unknowable
like a clam bed in muddy low lying water
they propagate a denial that removes them from their own history
ready to slice open the feet of any of us that try to escape
from the bog of my clan


XIX.
'Disarming' he called me
when I asked for an evaluation
what a strange word

'half cocked' my mother
always said I was
like a gun
An old boss friend referred to me
as a 'tank' on numerous occasions
expressed disbelief
when I mentioned crying
and even before that
a 'caged tiger'
from the lips of an earlier employer
as she mimicked the pent up rage
that moved my body as we spoke

Disarming.

I can't stop thinking about that word.










Sunday, May 7, 2017

You be the rock and I will be the river

IX.
passive time travel
multiple features of space
the salt, sugar and fat
of things that obsess us
coming to terms with our past.



X.
Sands of Time
an hourglass
Mortality
in the shape
of a Woman.



XI.
Women in teal with cheetah print
aprons, wire frame
glasses and chunky necklaces
from Guatemala silk scarves
from Cambodia
scrubbing bright colors
onto their canvases



XII.
autumn trees frame
parts of the ancient brick
turret outside the window
rust streaking the walls
matching the rust color of the
trees, just as the grey
of the brick matches
the perpetually grey sky.



XIII.
Succinct, dry, older Russian professor looked at me through my tears
after I put a robe over my naked body
while the students took a break from drawing me.

'Look,' he told me, 'I'm not into giving advice, but you are too young to worry so much about someone else's problems.'

He talked vaguely about his mother needing some kind of surgery, complicated
he can't paint, because it is such a thinking process, such a mental focus
and he is too obsessive compulsive to stop thinking
about his mother.

So he does mindless things.
He ironed every shirt in his house.



XIV.
I wanted to be nothing
but muscle and sinew
an archetype
wolf as chaos
rather than
woman as grail
a vessel
to be held, filled
tree that bears fruit,
holds up the sky
home base, earth
man is that sky?
the spear flying through the air?
the act of filling,
expansion?
the bow of the body needs
its own arrow
of time, intention
what am I if my curves melt away
into nothing
but muscle and sinew?







Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Electricity takes every path available to it

VI.
Structure is not the antithesis
of choice
Circumstances of our environment give us
something to negotiate

What if there was no such thing as
correct or perfect?
How can we wake up inside of
a movement?

Maybe our thoughts are a fluid
Sound as a way of leaving after-images
of yourself

Choosing where I meet the vibrations
of another person




VII.
Spectrum of vibration
impression
karma

Creating bonds between matter
that coalesce into a cell membrane

inner and outer
self and other

Center as the meeting point
of a number of forces




VIII.
Identity is becoming one of those nonsense words
Identity refers to a sameness
Body as a place,
a history of a place

What if Self/Consciousness
was in the conversation,
between overlapping histories
and their momentary meeting point







Saturday, April 22, 2017

Reverberations of those that brought us here

I.
When I was facing away
my back tingled like it was trying to see

Yielding to space implies an invitation

Like dough rising, the edges of my body were
A blend of space and skin

Yielding is not an abdication

If I wasn't hungry for attention
Looking away wouldn't be so painful



II.
Lines of force
A map drawn by connective tissue
The fabric of the body



III.
How we are running when we aren't
Wearing boots when we are not
Fighting when we aren't

Would I know myself without them?



IV.
Particularity becomes abstraction
The mouth is a space
Filled with appetites and qualities
of the voice
Words are boundaries, anchors
Words carry histories
That's why they work.


V.
A handrail over time accrues touches
Like a pearl has layers

What if we thought of talking as touching

How does one reach with words
How can I stand my own (ground, matrix of ideas)
How much connection can we take

And yet

Not talking is still saying something
Listening someone into being.







Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The absence of an electron where there should be one

The year before I went to college I had my first full on psychic reading. It was long ago enough that she recorded the session on a tape, and I haven't owned anything that plays tapes in quite some time. But there are pieces of it I will never forget, that keep rolling back into my periphery, since psychic time is differently related to us than our own fabricated concept of its passage. One of the images she described started with my wading into a pool of water, but before I got too deep, I stepped on something extremely sharp and backed out the way I came. She saw me circling many pools as time unspooled in front of me, never moving deeper into any of them than just barely getting my feet wet.

From my place backstage, blue lights painting us all like ghosts in the preshow calm, I pressed into the pain in my foot. An old injury that has awoken with a vengeance in recent body study, it has been a constant note sung in the background of every weight bearing moment. I was thinking about weight passing through, and realized that feeling the pain was different than engaging with it, and pressed down harder. Like my toes had words to say to the floor, I let the bottom of my foot whisper about gravity and the force of my weight to the stage underneath me. The full length of my toes, all the way up to the metatarsals were clearly illuminated in the conversation between my body and the floor. What had previously been a blind ball of pain with fuzzy, bright edges contained underneath my outer ankle became a network of splinters, a burning spiderweb that spread out along the underside of my foot. The pain has begun to dissipate in the days following, and I can feel my feet talking to various supporting surfaces sometimes, chatty and just a little bit vulnerable. In my anatomy class earlier that week I had a similar awareness rise up, of a multidimensionality of experience that is always happening, but I had always been lost in such a spacial/temporal immediacy of attention. Our attention has a history too, whether we can hold all of the threads in our gaze or not.

I noticed myself getting worked up on the train ride to my current gig, picking fights with people in my head and filling up with the steam I was going to cruise in with. Its not the first time I've watched this happen, preparing myself for the battles I might potentially face and triggering an adrenaline response before I even walk through the heavy doors of the Armory. Like modulating poisons in my body, the clarity and speed that manifest in my anger are a dangerous alchemy that make it hard to settle in non work circumstances, but that shaking rage has helped me unload countless trucks of steel and wield construction vehicles and crews of men like a knife, like an extension of my own hand. In building truly beautiful things in a massive scale, as well as weaving a fleshy tapestry of love with the guys I'm in charge of, I have always felt blessed to have such a profound outlet for all the anger living in my body, that I had a place where my voice could boom so loud it filled the city-block-wide space when I can't even make my own mother hear me. Maybe I always thought I would eventually be drained of that feeling, that I would run dry of rage, but I'm starting to wonder where I got that idea in the first place. I watched my calm, cool boss pace and writhe after a confrontation with an impossible employee, as he tried to speak to me through the blood in his eyes, he admitted how enjoyable he found those moments. He is someone I resonate pretty deeply with, and I know the feeling he described, that same beast lives in my blood, a dark pleasure in proving to an invisible someone that I am not powerless. Only now I am wondering about that conflation of pain and pleasure that makes ease and comfort without a fight seem like it is undeserved, like I am vulnerable somehow for experiencing it. Something I thought I was getting rid of, like emptying a bottle... may only be carving deeper and deeper grooves, burning away my other choices, making it less and less likely I can engage in other ways. Not modulating anymore, but eventually becoming an addiction to accessing these superhuman parts of myself, at the cost of losing access to everything else.

"This pain is not your karma", a wise-woman told me recently.
"I see", said the blind man, after he stared into the sun for too long.

In whispering conference in the dark with my closest counterpart who supervises builds with me, we talk about the unique us-shaped hole we've dug for ourselves, and what it might mean to stop digging and consider climbing out. Five months prior to this moment he had sustained a massive blow to the face while on a jobsite, and the back of his left eye as well as a line down the back of his skull continue to give him serious pain, he is terrified that one of his eyes now lives farther back in its socket. After CAT scans and doctor's visits, they finally told him to come back in a year since they can't quite discern what's happening. As he looked at me through massively uneven pupils, he encouraged me to follow this alternative body-focused path, even though I was scared about affording it. I can't NOT take this eagle-eyed man seriously, hearing the momentary tenderness in his Ukrainian accented voice. I forget sometimes, how much he has seen me grow in the past half decade, two superhuman beings guiding the ship of this space, and I already miss the depth of his awareness, the subterranean knowledge that underlies the language we use with each other. If I choose a different path, will all of the fighting, the boundaries broken by me as a woman in a man's world, the power I've wielded, will it be like it never even happened? If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, did I ever drive a forklift and work with steel? Will I just be another long haired artist girl who draws to get by? Who could I ever trust to know or witness the wholeness of me in the world beyond ours?

A man I loved working with a few years ago asked me once,-"Could you imagine showing up to work and not having to fight?". At the time we were renovating parts of buildings under construction, the other guys we worked with hated him, with his loud bossy temperament and Taurean strength, but I could trust him to help me finish the job no matter what - the guys henpecked him into finally leaving the city completely, the way my sibling's chickens killed and consumed my chicken in the backyard as kids, only leaving the feet behind. I was regularly the only woman on these jobsites - the snickers and sneers from the other construction crews slowly turning into respect were my lifeblood for a long time. Men from vastly different cultural backgrounds approached me with questions about why I was different from the women in their lives. I was fighting the good fight in the only way I knew how. But as my body falls apart under the pressure I constantly put it under, I am starting to wonder why I am so afraid to do the things that come naturally, afraid of that particular kind of ease and comfort, like it was something I haven't earned yet.

And I wonder how much of my potential power leaks out into a million pointless, futile battles, if there is not a better way to participate in cultivating those things I believe in and want to be a part of.

Roll Jordan, roll.





Conversation between my estranged mother and my little sister.




Monday, April 10, 2017

The new cathedral crawled out of a rift in the mantle

I.
Interrupting / a bullet
Talking / building a wall
Not having an answer / a deficit, a 'lack' to be filled.

You're not here to be hypnotized.





II.
Something about going away,
extremes I imagined feeling, so I asked her

Did you just want to absorb into the foreign landscape?
Or are you relieved to be home?

Both, I bet she thought in her head
Impossible, I think to myself

To feel both of those things at once -
Maybe in moments, side by side

Why not? I can hear her asking in my head
Like two muscles pulling on the same bone

First you are stuck, trapped by those feelings
Then like a star, you implode









Monday, February 20, 2017

a theoretical particle named after a laundry detergent




photos I took of my mother, 2012


I remember sitting in classes with her as a child, that we were at the Community College. I know as an adult that my mother was probably getting her AA in either child development or ornamental horticulture. I don't know how far she got in either. I remember vaguely her being involved in my earliest education, but am not sure in what capacity. There is just a clear picture in my mind of a day spent washing all of the dolls, a group activity for a roomful of post-toddlers, and how proud she was about that activity she had come up with because she still mentions it sometimes. Later, she helped run a preschool out of a church facility, since it wasn't in use during the week, and my little brother, the youngest of us, was one of those preschoolers. I remember the smell of graham crackers and apple juice, two things I can't bring myself to eat because of how strongly I associate them with the gummy residue on faces and hands that I helped clean up. Rubbing backs during naptime and thinking about my own preschool traumas. The flow of moms at the end of the day, questions they asked us about their children's behavior and eating habits. And so much sunshine, in all of those memories.


In high school I went with her sometimes when she taught classes on child development to child care providers looking for basic certifications. Most of these women were running daycare out of their homes, in trailer park neighborhoods and stripped down forgotten about parts of town, the rambling extremities close to the prairie, far past the shadow of the university that ran most of the town. We drove forever it always felt like, past the cornfield that did haunted rides every Halloween, to be in this lonely little class of women who didn't understand why hitting children was a bad thing. I was the silent witness in the room, the brevity of my mother's countenance held in my own awareness - there was a wooden spoon we were spanked with when I was little, I remember the year before starting my period, my stepfather making me pull down my pants so he could lay the force of his hand against my flesh. I suspect the child development courses she took shifted something in her perspective that my younger siblings didn't have to experience so much, and I do think that she had a very specific understanding of where these women were coming from. I watched her face as she listened to their responses to the material, accidental confessions from the 'students' that were often deeply disconcerting, to know that people left children in their care. But in some of these poor, far flung places, what other choice did they have?


Once, when my mother got to the section on breastfeeding, one woman who was hugely pregnant defensively informed the room that her 18 year old son wasn't breastfed and he was just fine, that breastfeeding was gross, was something animals did. I never saw judgement in my mother's face, she let them confess their fears and remarks about how children were viewed and handled. She merely rolled along, describing colostrum, the thin early milk rich in antibodies for helping construct the baby's immune system, then, a week later fats and vitamins come in, calories to support their ceaseless growth... by the time she finished telling the story of how our bodies adapt to the growing, shifting needs of our young, that same woman spoke up again. 'I had no idea', she said. 'This baby will be breastfed' she told us, with her hand on the broad expanse of her ripening body.


The education system was created in the wake of child labor laws, suddenly the working class needed somewhere to put their children while they filled the factories in the urban areas that exploded during the industrial revolution. It was designed to turn out the future workers to fill a rapidly standardized assembly line structure of production. After my time in public education, I have racked up countless hours studying for standardized tests, memorizing dates and facts that were disjointed, not connected to the history or circumstances they have evolved out of, and I have witnessed and fought with teachers who have brought my classmates to tears from deep condescension whose source I cannot know, but whose boundaries were limitless in the container of those classrooms where no one is around to see how hard we fought, as teenagers, to convince anyone that we existed. All I remember from economics are graphs and formulas that I didn't bother learning, since they were so far removed from my own experience of having been raised on welfare. While I struggle getting my head around adult finances, after having been raised by adults with no idea about their personal finances, I can't believe what we learn in economics has little to no connection to our place inside of the economy, or the agency we might find within it. We learn how to have sex, the hardening of parts and the hormonal responses in our bodies in sex ed, how genes interact to give us our mother's eyes or our father's eyebrows in biology... but never what comes afterwards - not how we grew inside of someone else's body, or how specifically our bodies adapt to such a massive event - like producing its own form of nourishment. I wish we learned about Pythagoras' arrival to his theorems, alongside wrestling with its product. What is the point of a class on current events without any frame of reference for what is happening in our very local government - something that both impacts us, and that we can impact as well? What an opportunity being missed, to build not just a richer community fabric by embedding its constituents more deeply into its awareness and expression, but also give a quickly maturing demographic a sense of where we belong inside of that vast, vague, overwhelming potential of the world, of the hopeless/hopeful statement 'You can be anything'? How do we learn about our relationship to the global community if not in the place we spend so much of our childhood?


How do we take the education of our children back? Like the asbestos and other chemicals I have had to wade through while renovating schools - we send them off, with so little awareness of what they will be taking in and how it will manifest later in their lives. While these generalizations may not apply to everyone's experience, I know I am not alone in having them, and feel very strongly that I can see now the threads that got lost in forming my sense of self, as well as the threads that got strengthened around my particular circumstances.


There were heroes and saints too. My favorite teacher my senior year, Mrs. Bergeron, had a quote over her door from Dante's Inferno: 'Abandon all hope, Ye who enter here' . I believe she went to Harvard, and wore tweed suits with skirts, and talked sometimes about how hard it was to teach us important things around what was required of them to teach to fit inside of those standardized tests. She was cold and serious, but when she told you that your writing was good... it meant more than Christmas ever has.



'It is not by coincidence that archaeologists find weaving tools and weapons side by side.'