Saturday, December 31, 2016
What is the sound of being alive?
of cell growth,
of the primordial weaving of tissue and bone,
of stars being formed and babies becoming,
What is the sound of Creating?
I am That I am
A laundromat in sounds and textures only
Adjusting to someone else's timing
The layers of consumption
How interesting that objects remind us of people
Thursday, December 8, 2016
My body spoke to me today. Clear as day I could hear its question, the first time I have ever received a direct transmission from myself. My own voice. It took me 30 years to finally have access to it.
It is the ground's job to receive weight and give support, not mine. My job is to give weight and receive support. To witness, to be responsive. It would be redundant to call myself an Empath, because we ALL are, but I forget most of the time how fiercely my empathic capacity is involved in my survival. It suddenly makes so much sense, the intensity of the walls I seem to have built around myself - while the nature of my childhood is definitely a factor, it is a noisy layer in my life story that overshadows the reality of my energetic needs and awarenesses. For a mother who can't fathom the danger she put us in constantly, I realize suddenly how ill equipped she would have been to recognize the subtle damages suffered by a child missing certain crucial walls who was asked to become an adult too soon.
It has taken this recent foray into multiple embodiment practices for the brevity of my sensitivity to come to my own attention. I have been misunderstanding the source of this disconnect on so many more levels than I would have thought possible. I almost can't even believe my previous anger at violent physical reactions to places my body would not let me go - I never once paused to consider that they might be there for an incredibly valuable reason. That my ability to charm dogs, small children and jaded construction workers, to gauge intentions and gain other's trust and confidences might also come with serious repercussions if not handled respectfully. I know, and then I forget.
'I see', said the blind man.
It has taken a week of me wandering around at the precipice of nausea and panic, lost in an ocean of sensory information for me to really understand and appreciate my teacher's approach. By asking us to turn inwards and witness sensations and shadows living inside of ourselves, I got to experience turning that empathic gaze inward, to touch myself with the heat of my own powerful attention. Only I can unlock these walled off places, and forcing my way through them or allowing someone else to remove them leaves me completely unprotected, stripped of even the slightest membrane between me and the world. I am exhausted from my inability to prioritize all of the messages and details being received right now, by the massive multisensory organ of this body.
While some of this embodiment work is simply too much, too fast, like a baby being sat before they have the skills to get in and out of sitting on their own, I still have acquired some information of inestimable value:
trust the process that I have begun, and the woman shining her light on this particular path. - When my body asks me to stop, there may be a very valid reason. Trespassing on myself may have laid the groundwork for others to follow. It begins and ends with me. - I am not my walls... rather those walls are a container and a clue about something deeply sensitive and incredibly important, and maybe even I wasn't allowed to go there until I could treat it with sufficient respect.
Tuesday, December 6, 2016
My recent encounters with bodywork have only shown me clearly how valuable social acceptance with that kind of intimate self immersion really is, for a culture increasingly growing dry and afraid of being in relationship with Other.
Both individuals that handled my body with such focus and care are immigrants, molding my flesh with foreign mysticism and accented ideas, listening to the subtleties of my body in a language that lives outside and underneath words. The woman applying fierce pressure up and down the length of me was strong and focused, but her comments were mostly English and warm with humor. Even when she spoke in English to the man getting a massage in the space next to me, through the curtain, as she translated for the woman working on him, her hands never stopped. My fingers dragged and rested against her thigh, her hair brushed against me as she crawled across me, as her hands and elbows reached into the past that had woven itself into the fibers of muscle and connective tissue between my shoulder blades and pelvic halves. As she worked she told me not to shower for 6 hours afterwards. "Chinese medicine' she offered as a quick explanation to a question I hadn't asked.
Later, I noticed a curve in between my shoulder blades, a gentle rounding like my spine had been released from a cage. I paused to consider it because I have never seen my body look like that before. I don't know what it means, and I was too sore to be aware if anything else seemed different the next few days. That is not the first time I haven't recognized myself in the mirror over the past few months.
Normally I am sharp and succinct, focused like a laser, but I can feel the fuzziness taking over. Rereading emails I'd sent hours before would show egregious mistakes and overlapping times, forgotten words and dates. Its been hard to get up early, and harder to rally around the things I want to address in my life. Forgetting to feed myself and my dog, how to get to the places I'm going like I updated my software and lost the memory of routes I always take. I feel like I have no control over myself, but somehow am safe enough in the love of the people I work for and with and love and live with that I can coast through the day, each day that keeps coming. I'm still here.
Walking to the train from the homelike office near Columbia of a school for the Alexander technique, I felt like the flesh had been peeled away from my spine to my sides. Like all my machinery was exposed along my backbody, I could feel distinctly the multitude of tiny pistons and pumps, wires and circuits that moved me through space. I realized my shoulders had drawn themselves back, so consciously released them forward, trying to retain the calmness from his hands on my body, and found an automatic mirroring in my pelvic halves. My patterns wrestled with this newfound bodily existence, drawing my shoulders and pelvis back and forth along with them. Every time I caught it again, my shoulders would initiate a wrapping out and around that my pelvic halves followed.
On the train everything seemed to happen at the same time and I noticed all of it. The sticker peeling off of the door, the concentration of sheen on the zipper of that guy's jacket, the smell of something savory like food, the shift in someone's dyed hair from one color to the next, the hint of a crease in someone's closed eyes as their facial muscles shifted gently, a few curling strands of hair on someone's neck being rhythmically blown around by a stranger's breath, the sound of the train, the sound of the rain, the sound of someone's headphones and distant chatter in the train car, the rain hitting the windows, the light from vehicles outside the window moving towards us, as the train moved past, their lights playing off the million droplets on the window between those two events, the different ways everyone's feet landed on the stairs as they walked down them towards the street...
Maybe I need time to process everything I've thrown myself into. But what if it keeps coming? What if this is just the beginning? What if I am too busy spinning and noticing to accomplish the things I want to do? What if I can't hold back the desire to kiss everyone who touches me, or blast with harsh words everyone who trespasses on my particular sense of justice? If I'm not in control over myself, what am I? What holds me together? If I am not sturdy and reliable, who am I to those that I work for and with and love and live with?
So much of the somatic and embodiment work circles around the question of Choice. Having it, acquiring access to it, being able to pause in our patterns to find it - but I am having a hard time distinguishing the difference between Choice and Control at the moment. So in trying to let go of the need to be in Control, I feel like I have neither.
But I do feel I have managed to surround myself with people I can trust, that speak similar enough languages that I would be heard, should I have to ask for help. For how unsettled and foreign I feel to myself, at least I am not afraid.
Maybe its ok to sit inside of this question for a spell.
Australia is the clearest place on earth to witness the milky way from this planet. The aboriginal tribes there devised mythologies based on creatures they saw sculpted out of the darknesses between star clusters, rather than shapes defined by an outline of specific stars.
Like the ocean at night, the stars are the foam riding the waves, born from the swirling depths, merely an expression of the teeming currents moving invisibly in the darkness underneath what we can actually see.
Thursday, November 10, 2016
linoleum block prints that I carved by hand
stencils cut from cardstock
posters designed for 2 very different choreographers
stock exchange building I designed to look like it came from
a child's inner landscape (for a narrative short film)
I've seen her glance at a particular place a number of times, a tucked in area underneath my ribs that I've always had. It showed up in the drawings by students when I was a figure model, I ignore it in the mirror. In a movement class, allowing myself to consider what it means to grow wide but stay fluid at the same time, she asked if she could touch me along the front of my ribcage, just above my belly. Her hand slid over that place where I fold in, held tight by my own sinew, and she asked me to soften underneath her fingers as I initiated a roll from my side onto my back. For just a moment I could feel my spine free, twisting on its own in the jelly of my being. I can't stop thinking about that sensation. That my body might stay together even if I didn't constantly try to keep it from falling apart. That there may lie underneath my skin an entire bodily experience that I have never had access to because of holding myself back. Up. In.
There was a baby the other day, in one of those classes, born sooner than expected and so small, and I imagine all of his systems were struggling to catch up to the amount of stimulation the world provides. When he got overwhelmed, this tiny human cried and cried, and I suspect every adult in that room felt a deep, primal response to the heart-wrenching sound of this little being declaring his existence with all the power of his developing lungs. So we listened while his mother rocked him, as we continued our individual actions. Maybe he cried out for the safety of the womb, we can't ever really know, but I felt his cries all the way down in my bones. Maybe there is a particular note being sung, that most animals can still recognize - a language we have forgotten - but his voice called it out of us, I could see it in the other women's faces. I tried to stifle the flashbacks of being trapped in the bathroom by my stepfather when I cried. His constant denial of my truth while I was growing up would burst out of me helplessly. Uncontrollably painful sobs led to hitched, repetitive breathing like hiccups trapped in a pathological loop, they would last forever. His hand holding the doorknob from the other side until I could breath normally, had control over myself. My mother's vicious words any time I tried to communicate to her when I was in distress. That I existed. That I had feelings and that they were being crushed. That I was being crushed.
I had to step outside to regain control over my face.
Since I was assisting, providing support to Facilitators and Caregivers with infants, this was not the place for me to be swimming in my own pain. But as I considered where my response was coming from, I realized for the first time that maybe it wasn't just Art School priorities that got in the way of me learning how to develop my self expression. Maybe I had already learned everyone else's needs and opinions were more valuable than my own. Maybe it isn't the men who have talked their way into my bedroom who robbed me of the ability to defend myself, perhaps it was always me, robbing myself of my voice. I am the one suppressing my ability to communicate how I feel. Since I never had a safe place to express it, I have no idea what could possibly come out of me - I am terrified that telling people how I feel means I will lose them or myself. Listening to the cries from those tiny lungs, I realized how long I've been moving through the world like I had that horrible man breathing in my face, like my mom's defensive, cutting words were true. That I brought them with me into my sexual encounters and my friendships. Their physical presence has long since evaporated from my life, but I've been reacting as though they have always been there. How have I not known I was free?
Later that evening I was one of 30 dancers in a performance art piece. The piece had no cues, just a sequence of scenarios that were equal parts choreography and improvisation. As we stormed and stomped through the tiny gallery space, we welcomed in 3 guests/audience members and randomly ignored them and focused on them as we also responded to each other. It took a specific kind of openness, where you could almost feel the energy of the room shift as bodies morphed into a new shape, a different pattern of movements. One of the transitions went from a fast, low to the ground stomping shuffle to locking arms and legs with any body close enough to grasp, anchoring to them and freezing. The 3 audience members watched a roiling sea of bodies suddenly coalesce around them into a sculpture, a coral reef, a gently breathing aquifer that air and space moved through, that they were held inside of.
Inside of the anchor, the kinetic landscape of our connected bodies, it is evident when the mass begins to shift because there is a subtle releasing of weight - the force moving through our points of contact with each other pours back into our feet - and slowly, we all find ourselves standing face to face with another body that becomes our Mirror. There is such a strange deep resonance in the mirroring, a silent exchange through our eye contact and a physical responsiveness that passes the role of leader and follower between us, that gives my limbs permission to be drawn into the rhythms and gestural nuances of another being with a consciousness that lives underneath the patterns I typically move within. We did 15 repeat performances in 3 hours, and almost every time I moved from Anchor into Mirror I was looking into a completely different face, open and hyper aware of a different heartbeat. Once I looked into the tremulous, watery blue eyes of a much older woman and felt something powerful soften inside of me as I let her lead my body in space. Another time my focus was tuned to a man who looked like he might have walked out of a Dostoyevsky novel, but with laughing eyes that I was helpless against. He slowly covered his face with his hands to give me the space to regain my composure as my hands followed, and we took a deep inhale together before the next wave of synchronized movement rippled through the collective. A few times, audience members folded themselves in with the performers, pulled in by a deep desire to be a part of us, and I ended up Anchored with one of them during the course of the evening. She became the partner I mirrored, my body responsive to this curious outsider, extending the fearless support and trust of the other performers by including her in the co-creation of this experience.
I started to understand how the body of performers was tapping into an ancient, primal awareness, and the presence of the audience members allowed them to feel the edge of that collective fabric, sometimes enfolding, other times shutting them out completely, like a wave pulling back from shore after it had reached out and engulfed you. What I discovered in that room was this potential that we all still possess - a primordial capacity to be connected to each other.
Maybe we have misunderstood our inheritance.
Tuesday, October 18, 2016
It was a job, like any other. In the armory - a massive space filled with dysfunction and confusion - was an antique show, or at least the early skeleton of what would be walkways and Grecian inspired booths for people to wander, with their thousands of dollars to spend for their private collections.
My fierce, feminine little self faced a wall of tired, surly, uninspired men, with a Union mood and Union attitudes I would have to battle to get any work done, while they related to me in the only way they know how to relate to women. The first thing I have to do is size up the skills and temperaments of the individuals in my crew so I can affectively play them off each other and assign responsibilities they might prefer. There is always a Rooster, he is usually taller and better looking than most of the other guys, and often wields the most power to set the pace and productivity, and he is the one that I must convince to align their purpose with mine. The Rooster on this crew still has mostly dark hair, resonates with an old school nyc cop vibe, painfully good natured, even when weighing the combative desires of the crew against the venue's needs of speed and accuracy. He is impossibly tall with large carpenter's hands and a thick nasally accent, a direct manner of speech that is easy for me to catch and twist and trap him inside of. His desire to prove himself to me as both a competent carpenter and as a man is the currency in which I am dealing, a system that sits outside of the monetary one, invoking a kind of ancient exchange.
I always think of old Celtic rituals, where the priestesses represent an eternal female god, and the seasons are marked by the choosing and eventually consuming of her consort, after he has served his divine purpose of inspiring an act of creation.
It is rare, on my own, to have a sense of my femaleness, I often feel completely genderless until I show up at work. The ability to flip on that character has become a unique signature that I get hired for, when the floor thunders with my footsteps and the power of my voice reaches the rafters of the massive armory. But I have to make that space to be filled with something greater than myself, and it leaves me exhausted by the end of the day, and in the moments when it slips, someone always comes up to ask me if I am ok. Finding the male energy that calls her out of me is vital, my approach to this work is almost ritual, I even fast to keep my messy vulnerable selfness out of the way, to maintain a clarity of the overarching vision and all of the elements involved in the manifesting I've been hired to orchestrate.
I read once that to cast a truly effective love spell, it necessarily affects the one doing the casting in equal measure.
This particular Rooster was keenly interested in the selfness that I set aside to be a crew chief. I watched him as he tried valiantly to penetrate my Cat Mother mystique, with my sharp and sometimes loving tongue. 'She's not so tough under that hat' he kept saying when I was in earshot. I wore a winter knit cap that covered most of my head, containing my hair has been a method for removing my sexuality from most situations, ever since I started working with steel, and I saw his sheepishly hungry glance when my hat fell off at one point. He had daughters not much younger than me, and I suspect he was trying to reconcile his frame of reference with the character I played. I appreciated his attempt to see the wholeness of me, so I started to call his interest out by suggesting I would answer his questions over beers. I heard him call me 'his woman' when he thought I wasn't nearby, and the other men joked amongst each other that he would get angry if he saw any of the other guys talking to me. Its a game they all play, I pick and choose when I think it is valuable and when it is problematic.
On the final evening of the build he hung back in the lift as I surveyed the room, so I asked him flippantly when we were getting drinks. He turned towards me and asked me how old I thought he was. I had assumed around 48 or 50, but lowballed, partially in hope, and a little bit to flatter him. '42' I responded. Right in front of my eyes, I saw the energy leave his body. I suddenly realized just how grey his hair was, noticed the slightly sunken flesh around his eyes. '58' he said back. He climbed down from the lift as if he were 1,000 years old and slowly walked over to me as if he were too exhausted to find the movements, and extended his large hand to engulf my small, childish one in a farewell salute.
I barely made it to the train before I started crying, and I didn't stop for 3 days.
For the first time in my life I had a clear sense of my relationship to time. I could see the ship that was myself with its wide vista full of possibilities and potential paths, and his ship, far out, so close to the horizon I could never catch up, his Union world and sense of place holding him fast to the direction he probably chose when he was my age. Asking him to spend any time with me was kind of like asking him to be in two places at once, in his current worn flesh and in his memories of when he was my age, and possibly introducing the weight of regret in choices made ages ago that cannot be unchosen.
In this primal confusion of the role I play in time, perhaps it's a question of being a Daughter. Before we are almost anything else, we are formed out of a relationship to a parent, it is an identity that defines our connection to history, a way of knowing ourselves and our place in the world. I realized I didn't really know what it felt like to be one - I've never had a boundary I wasn't able to dance across with anger or laughter. Maybe I have been clinging to the earth, pouring myself into places of contact between self and other, wheeling around the axis of that contact to compensate for the lack of clarity about what holds me together in an ocean of relationships and feelings and exchanges and unwritten social expectations. It was bizarre, this strange feeling that something huge had happened, yet I had no clear sense of what - I know it's related to that missing Daughterness, and this overlapping of timelines that may resemble Father, but I have no idea. I am starting to understand that I must make a choice and begin following some sort of path, even though it will necessarily move me towards the horizon. I can't live forever in the pregnant space of possibility, and I first have to let go of the anchor point through which I have been clinging to the edges of the earth, the Mothership. I can't avoid entropy, I can't live outside of time and society and the place waiting for me inside of it. I have to learn what it means to be bound. Tamed. Claimed by something.
One of the other men on my crew was retired, I was told. Apparently he keeps showing up anyways. With so much of his lifetime devoted to this work, how could he not desire the purpose, the usefulness one feels on a team? And after so much time amongst this brotherhood, how is it anything else, but a social experience that is vital to his lifeblood? I'm starting to notice how many of the people I work around have become the source of family that we used to go home to in the past. Our blood families often pull us away from the vibrant communities and deep love and trust we have come to know amongst the people we work with.
At the end of the month I was back running the same crew to break down and pack the pieces of the event we were responsible for and send into storage for next year. As I was assisting the forklift load the last of it, my crew's Union Rep called me over and sent me inside - my men were waiting in a lopsided circle and they declared that none of them were leaving until I had hugged each of them goodbye. In the history of Union jobs, I doubt a hugging circle with the crew boss has happened more than a handful of times, if at all.
These men, from all these different crews, have taught me so much about myself, and I have found a voice I didn't get to have growing up. Because I see them as Men, let them be strong for me, they care about their work and they give me what I need. I love them for it, in the face of their eroded knee caps and calcified lower backs, grumbling ancient attitudes and beer bellies. Someone has to love them. I have only just begun to understand the depth of their affect on me and my relationship to the world. This too is my family, this ragtag band of old habits and weathered flesh, these silly, misunderstood, idiosyncratic men.
Maybe I'm not an orphan.
The word yoga, from the Sanskrit word yuj means to yoke or bind
Friday, September 23, 2016
My first day of kindergarten I was so nervous I just stared at the piece of toast with butter and jam that my stepfather made for me. This man I didn't like was the person dropping me off in this new environment and the thought of eating that toast seemed arduously painful. I waited until he left the room, then ran down the hallway to flush it down the toilet. I couldn't just throw it in the trash because he would notice it, and I would be in trouble, but there was no way I could choke it down. 10 minutes later, as we were getting ready to leave, he called me into the bathroom. That piece of toast had betrayed me, it floated on top of the water in the toilet.
At our previous apartment, I remember clearly having a similar reaction to food, I couldn't take a single bite of the dinner put in front of me, and didn't have the words to convey my distress. I was given the option to take a bite of everything, or receive a spanking. I chose the spanking because it felt safer than trying to force food into my body. I exaggerated my cries so my mother wouldn't hit me as hard, or have my stepfather's ruthless hands do it. For years I had a hard time eating in front of people, even through high school, if I had prepared food, if one of my brother's friends walked in, I would leave it at the table and hide in my room, come back for it much later. Even now, when supervising labor crews, I often drink coffee instead of eat lunch, something about having a full belly makes me slow, feels vulnerable, like I've lost some essential sharpness that I need to see everything and respond at a rapid speed.
Earlier still, when we were still living in Sarasota, the daycare that my brother and I went to was a place of terror, where the people who worked there were unafraid to slap any of the children left in their care. I was constantly in trouble, because I apparently always looked guilty, I knew they particularly hated me. It was impossible to sleep during naptime, but I learned to pretend after countless days of them discovering my eyes wide open, even though I was silent, and I had to lay in that cot alone as punishment, watching everyone else play. Years later, my mother admitted she knew they were abusive, but felt like she had no other choice, could afford no other solution.
In the years of dealing with my stepfather's addiction as he moved between jail and our home, we experienced increasingly dangerous scenarios. I remember all of us huddled in the hallway with the lights out, hiding from windows like it was a hurricane, but it was my stepfather banging to be let in. I don't know much, but I know my mother had filed a restraining order against him. I remember being in the fourth grade, on the playground at school when he walked up and tried to convince me to leave with him. I refused because I was not stupid. Fast forward to the seventh grade and he lived with us again. He would clench and unclench his fists whenever he spoke to me when we were in the house alone together. I woke up in the middle of the night often to see him in my doorway with my light on. I would walk home from school as slowly as I could and lock myself in the bathroom with books for hours. I pushed him in every way I could, using large words, speaking to my brother only in French, I wanted him to hit me. It would have been easier to remove him if he did. So when his wealthy mother informed us she wouldn't send us Christmas gifts if we didn't send her thank you letters, it seemed like an odd stipulation. We wanted nothing from her. That same year she sent us a bunch of wrapped gifts, and my mother and I opened all of them in confusion. The bright packages turned out to be things like a loaf of bread, a box of waffle mix, pop tarts, other various things that might be lying around someone's house. My mother also received a box of used makeup and a broken ornament from my stepfather's sister. Horror and comedy often live close to each other - we rewrapped everything and put it all under the tree for my siblings to experience. We laughed ourselves to tears.
I don't remember ever having any illusions about Santa Claus, since I went with my mom every year to purchase Christmas gifts for my siblings. For all the times we had to scrape together quarters to buy milk at the gas station, or take the bus to go grocery shopping cause we couldn't afford a car in suburbia, or couldn't pay the electric bill sometimes and kept all of our food in coolers - watching my mother wrestle with what she thought we might be excited to open that she could afford was awful. All of our gifts, from everyone in the family had a similar desperate cheapness that seemed to have nothing to do with knowing who we were or what we needed. Year after year I received Barbie stuff I never played with, because I was never interested in dolls. I drew constantly growing up, and it wasn't until I was almost in high school that someone caught on and sent me dollar store watercolors and cheap sketch paper, even though I was already working with sophisticated media at that point. All we really cared about was the food, because we could eat our fill of delicious things for weeks afterwards, and we could see our cousins, who understood us in a way my school friends never could. The closest person to me growing up was my cousin Elizabeth, her and her brother were all but ostracized from the family because of her mother's death, leaving them with the shady man she chose to marry and have them with. My aunt was disowned by my grandfather on her deathbed at 30 years old, and her children grew up starved for a feeling of being inside of a family. Every Christmas Elizabeth and I would walk my neighborhood for hours discussing what we had heard the adults say about each other's parent, desperately trying to figure out what was true. We wrote letters for years, while she was trapped in the house with that man and no phone. The two of them eventually joined the airforce to pay for college, since their father hadn't reported taxes in decades. They are making their own families now. I am so proud of them.
I've started to notice that I choose people with walls, I find impenetrable surfaces and I patiently push against them until I find myself inside of them. If you were to ask my closest friends about how we met, they would tell you variations on a single story - I showed up, and I kept showing up until I was familiar. I think I get a sense of being held inside of other people's walls, like I can let go a little because someone has my back. There is a sense of kinship in our closed offness, our tactics of protection. It is a specific kind of intimacy, much like the kind you might share with a sibling, and we can speak frankly of our distancing techniques, proudly of the coldness we bring to passionate situations, disdainfully of people who are unaware of their lack-of-affect on us.
The more you don't need me, the more I can trust you.
I had a tarot reader/professional therapist call out this false premise during a reading recently. 'You are misidentifying the source of the disconnect', he told me. 'I get the feeling that for you to win, someone must lose in most cases', he said. I can't stop thinking about that, how often I come into situations and walk away the hero - I know often someone is cast as the villain, the failure, the incapable by a necessary comparison. To be right, someone must be wrong. Am I fighting for validity by invalidating the people who made me question that? -'Who would you be harming by being you?' he asked. I don't even know what myself feels like, because it always seemed like a threat to the people I needed to keep me alive.
'If you are the ground, what do you step onto?', he asked me.
Walls can't move. I have to give up my identity as a wall, if I want to take a step on the path towards myself.
It is amazing to me, how we carry these experiences with us, how they become bricks in the walls we build around ourselves, forming the foundations for how we perceive and react to all the people and situations we encounter in our lives. My story is specific, but not unusual, and the rawness of my presence makes perfect sense if you consider all the ways in which I've learned that I am alone, because my feeling safe was inconsequential in the minds of the people making choices for the child that happened to be me. I learned that feeling safe was unnecessary, rather than a vital part of establishing how we engage with the world. As an adult, when people are sharing their childhood memories around me, any time I bring up my experiences, it is met with extreme discomfort, and I have learned that my history is shameful, is something I am not allowed to share, is somehow not as valid as everyone else who can exist around me. And my mother insists I forget, that I focus on the things she offers me as indications of a happy childhood as if I can erase her trespass to make her feel less guilty, at the expense of my shining a light into my own shadows, forever trapping me blindly inside of them. It seems daunting, as I listen to other's stories - to consider the idea of feeling safe, a luxury that I cannot relate to, like owning a hot tub, or vacationing in Europe . I wonder, looking back, if my mother also didn't have a sense of that word in her vocabulary. I wonder if the seeds of that were sown in my great grandmother, who had my grandmother at 16 years old, in the Great Depression. Maybe Safety was something lost long ago, maybe that gaping hole is my heritage, that absence IS the thread that connects me and my relatives through time. Maybe learning about that word is the key that might release the unheard little girl trapped in my body, in the web of fear and fight or flight responses, where my 'self' expression constantly requires dangerous situations for me to mobilize around, to feel called into action.
Though it has gotten me this far, I'm tired of being a tank.
"Remember The Tinman"
There are locks on the doors
And chains stretched across all the entries to the inside
There's a gate and a fence
And bars to protect from only God knows what lurks outside
Who stole your heart left you with a space
That no one and nothing can fill
Who stole your heart who took it away
Knowing that without it you can't live
Who took away the part so essential to the whole
Left you a hollow body
Skin and bone
What robber what thief who stole your heart and the key
Who stole your heart
The smile from your face
The innocence the light from your eyes
Who stole your heart or did you give it away
And if so then when and why
Who took away the part so essential to the whole
Left you a hollow body
Skin and bone
What robber what thief
Who stole your heart and the key
Now all sentiment is gone
Now you have no trust in no one
Who stole your heart
Did you know but forget the method and moment in time
Was it a trickster using mirrors and sleight of hand
A strong elixir or a potion that you drank
Who hurt your heart
Bruised it in a place
That no one and nothing can heal
You've gone to wizards, princes and magic men
You've gone to witches, the good the bad the indifferent
But still all sentiment is gone
But still you have no trust in no one
If you can tear down the walls
Throw your armor away remove all roadblocks barricades
If you can forget there are bandits and dragons to slay
And don't forget that you defend an empty space
And remember the tinman
Found he had what he thought he lacked
Remember the tinman
Go find your heart and take it back
Who stole your heart
Maybe no one can say
One day you will find it I pray
Wednesday, September 7, 2016
A woman comes to greet me.
Dragons wind their ink drawn scales around her fierce little body, laughter crouches at the corner of her dark eyes, and in the accented syllables that escape from her mouth, equal parts music and brusque staccato.
Leading us down the hallway, she pauses to point at a variety of looms, young people crouched over them, working patiently. Some small swatches of fabric tests are pulled out, and while she talks about the weave as experimental structure, I am distracted by the regular patterns they display. Clearly their intention was manifesting an architecture, but I suddenly had a sense of the development of fabrics like Scottish plaid, or the various patterns claimed by small African nations, how that architecture became a symbol for bodies of people, of a culture. It seemed vastly important, this idea of strength underlying aesthetic value, driving our instinctual relationship to form and function. Like a kaleidoscope I suddenly saw the relationships between weaving and community, how everything in our built environment is an expression of that from cell walls and bone tissue to cityscapes and culturally distinct neighborhoods.
We were documenting the deconstruction of a woven installation piece designed by two young Latin American architects, to be taken to a group in Oaxaca by the tattooed Filipino woman, and all around us are accents and cheek kissing and this ancient art form they all were involved in various aspects of and I could feel so clearly my lack of connection to history. My history. My profound lack of cultural presence.
The oldest known cloth that's been unearthed came from ancient burial sites, and death rites are some of the earliest distinctions between human and animal in our anthropological history. The 'patterned sky' we helped to disassemble was designed around a similar self awareness, of life after being a canopy, it was made to lead multiple lives, just like it tied into preexisting holes in the concrete wall it was threaded around. Histories layered on top of each other, meaning arising and dispersing as that wall falls under new eyes, gets viewed with a new lens. Our tattooed loom master brought a bunch of handmade cakes for everyone to break bread/cake together before tackling the walls with tools, and it felt like communion, like a ritual that was necessary to take part of. I took a bite of something out of respect for some underlying sacredness, but might have had more to do with my hunger for connection, the void where my roots should be, those internal pathways I never even knew existed.
My parent's generation who came of age during/right after the civil rights movements and the draft and the Vietnam war and the slaughter of MLK and JFK and the student riots - they were doing the hard work of tearing down the walls and institutions that were holding America back, but as those same people move towards their twilight years, they have less communities to feel apart of, have formed their lives around fearing and distrusting the desire to be connected for what might come with it, and I've come across articles and statistics about an age where loneliness is largely becoming the thing that walks our parents and their parents through the threshold at the end of their lives. In older cultures, still living closer to the earth, age is a highly valued part of the life cycle, and the rites and rules they keep are still connected to a sense of why they are doing them in the first place - but I live in a reality that covets newness, youth, where an accumulation of history is a Cardinal Sin. Even my grandmother communicates care through a scattering of 5 or 20 dollar bills we've all been handed throughout our lives, and I wonder if she feels like she has nothing else to offer us. As we continue to succumb to capitalism's appropriation of our individual traditions into seasonal profit, how does it erase the histories that created them, those grooves in time and space through which we have carved our existence, our identities, our path? As our relationship to the harvest fades, do we distinguish 'Fall' by a pavlovian response to the smell of pumpkin spice in the air? How many Pumpkin Spice Lattes will it take to fill the void in my memory of when my grandmother used to hand-make pumpkin pie, but gave in to the ease of the grocery store? What would happen if the moon suddenly stopped rolling along its samskara? How has its steady weaving across the night sky and through our bedtime stories and in our blood helped us to know ourselves?
If our species evolved out of nomadic family groups who weren't anchored to a specific plot of earth - then maybe we aren't creatures with literal roots and childhood homes, maybe it was always stories that connected us to each other in the river of time. Maybe we have confused the transubstantiation of idea to flesh as brick and mortar, as something permanent, a monument, rather than bearing the warp and weft for a spell, until we can pass it those younger than us. As we spin the yarn of our lives, shaping the fibers and coloring the thread with our individual fight for space and sustenance, shelter and connection, the care with which we craft our social fabric is what builds the walls and pathways we walk along, and I am becoming aware of the cut threads and gaps in my transmission. We are all momentary manifestations in a multi-generational artwork, claiming that responsibility might be our birthright and burden as a member of this human collective. The threads falter earlier in my family history than I can quite reach back into, but maybe I've been fumbling most of my life looking backwards, against the arrow of time, to figure out what threads are mine to bear before I can turn around and move into my future.
If something has no history, how can you prove it exists? How can I prove I exist?
The spider, along with its web, is featured in mythological fables, cosmology, artistic spiritual depictions, and in oral traditions throughout the world since ancient times.
Traditionally, the stories involving Spider Grandmother are narratives passed down orally from generation to generation. The Hopi have the creation myth of Spider Grandmother. In this story, Spider Grandmother thought the world into existence through the conscious weaving of her webs. Spider Grandmother also plays an important role in the creation mythology of the Navajo, and there are stories relating to Spider Woman in the heritage of many Southwestern native cultures as a powerful helper and teacher.
Although accounts vary, according to mythology she was responsible for the stars in the sky; she took a web she had spun, laced it with dew, threw it into the sky and the dew became the stars.
The Fates were a common motif in European polytheism, most frequently represented as a group of three mythological goddesses (although the numbers differed in certain eras and cultures). They were often depicted as weavers of a tapestry on a loom, with the tapestry dictating the destinies of men.
Monday, September 5, 2016
I sat with an older woman and her grandchild, in a convoluted past where I was dating someone and lived in the heart of their family for a brief space of time, years ago. We talked about the weather, the lush Richmond heat, the mosquitoes, lunch. I remember the smell of old varnish on wood, and natural light filtering in wherever it could, struggling to penetrate years of dust and sadness. The little girl, maybe 7 at the time, played on the floor surrounded with a myriad of pieces and parts of popular toys - tiny worlds for Polly Pocket, shoes and perfume bottles for Bratz dolls, Barbie stuff. She was silent, focused on her activity, putting things on and taking them off, her processes and curiosity hidden inside her slender frame.
'You know it's a Blue Moon tonight?' the grandmother asked me.
'A Blue Moon must be made of Blue cheese because you can't have a blue rock unless you paint it.' The little girl replied matter-of-factly without looking up, without pausing in her exploration of fitting pieces to parts and considering them. Her hands continued to move, but the fringe of straight blond hair kept her face hidden. I remember feeling a hit, like a singular drum beat in the center of my body, I was floored by how pure and logical her reasoning was within the scope of her awareness of the world and how it worked.
'She painted a rock blue in class today.' The grandmother smiled indulgently. The girl didn't respond.
A few weeks later the whole family took that little girl on a whirlwind vacation at Disney World, paid top dollar for the full Princess experience. A handful of aunts and great aunts and grandma pooled their resources to wander around in the Florida heat, their heavyset, aging crew shuttling her from Cinderella makeover to dinner with Belle from Beauty and the Beast. When they returned, their suitcases were packed to the brim with princess paraphernalia, they had taken a bunch of empty suitcases just for this reason.
Not long after that, the little girl informed her grandmother that she didn't want to hurt her feelings, but she was over the whole princess thing. Even though the grandmother couldn't help but see the humor in the situation, I could see that she mourned the loss of that experience. I'm sure part of her recognized it was more for her than the little girl the entire time.
That relationship fell apart, and the current has drawn me far from those people, but I think about her sometimes, that little girl. Her wide blue eyes are framed by sturdy glasses now, and I wonder how that shifts what adults see when they look at her, with her long, lean build and long blond hair.
A blue moon is an additional full moon that appears in a subdivision of a year: either the third of four full moons in a season, or a second full moon in a month of the common calendar. The phrase has nothing to do with the actual color of the moon. The suggestion has been made that the term "blue moon" for "intercalary month" arose by folk etymology, the "blue" replacing the no-longer-understood belewe, 'to betray'. The original meaning would then have been "betrayer moon", referring to a full moon that would "normally" (in years without an intercalary month) be the full moon of spring, while in an intercalary year, it was "traitorous" in the sense that people would have had to continue fasting for another month in accordance with the season of Lent.
Friday, August 19, 2016
Wading into the water, sun hot on my skin, the reflection of clouds and sky on its surface didn't reveal the currents and life forms swarming underneath. Maybe the moon similarly reflects the sun's light, a diversion that keeps its intentions and secret lives hidden from being known.
An astrologer explained to me once that since my moon (our emotional life) sits practically on top of my rising sign (what you present to the rest of the world) - both of which I have in Leo, ruled by the Sun, the Father Principle - then often my encounters and relationships face a confusion at their core: others will often see their own light reflected back at them, their own desires, priorities and truths, insecurities and fears, and that inability to see past their own reflection means I don't get seen at all.
Sometimes it is an immensely useful circumstance.
A book I read a long time ago described a telltale sign of a witch - when a man can see his own reflection in her eyes. A man can drown in his own reflection, and she knows that, was born with that knowledge. There is no truer love spell.
When Odysseus lashed himself to the mast of his ship and had his sailors plug their ears with beeswax, he was seeking to bear witness to the song of the Sirens without meeting his demise, and he found they too sing of the glory of whoever's ear receives those sounds. As men clamor towards visions of their glorious futures - they drown in it, are consumed by it.
Therapists and parents provide the mirrors we need to be able to see ourselves clearly as we develop a sense of identity and moral grounding, but my mother could only see herself and her needs when she looked at my face. Everyone's face, actually. Like Narcissus, we are all reflective pools for her to get lost in, an ocean of moons in orbit around her desires.
I met a man recently whose presence could almost seem innocuous, if it weren't for gentle, specific questions that seem to fall innocently from his mouth. It took me awhile to realize they were arrows, because I couldn't ever see what he was aiming at. There was no heat of judgement, or clearly discernable facial reactions to give away his thoughts or feelings, and I watched myself unspool in front of him. I listened to the things I allowed myself to say as we worked together, and I started to see the character I play in my life, the stories that I have clung to as definitions of self, I let emotions bubble to the surface that would normally never see the light, and I voiced them for his silent consideration.
I'd met another mirror.
Turns out we were born on the same day.
I usually have such easy access to other people's emotions that I wasn't sure how to respond at first. I tried a few different approaches - being expressive and searching for clues in his body language - then being blunt and straight forward - I even pried gently a few times, but he dismissed most of my attempts to peel back his reflective armor. I'm still bothered and I'm not sure why. Maybe because I don't know what character he is meant to play yet. Or maybe I've anchored myself with a sense of control over everything around me, so the unknowable is naturally disconcerting. Maybe I don't know who I am when I'm not being someone's mirror - I know how badly I want to be seen, known for who I am, but I can't assume he desires the same.
The tide pulls me in, coaxed by the moon, and the undertow tugs me out. Back and forth, rocked by the ocean. Micro-currents and vegetation caress every single part of my body with equal force and focus, as well as complete indifference, but I know myself along all of those surfaces, my unique volume and texture, sculpted by those fingers reaching shoreward and back again. This is how I always want to be held, received as what I am, no more and no less. The ocean doesn't seem confused by me. But human hands have always seemed too focused on very specific parts of me, and I am confused as to why anyone would touch those delicate places with the kind of brutality that they would never use to touch my face, the hollow of my back, the soles of my feet.
I doubt the ocean is pretending to be the sky, or that the moon has a deep fear of being misunderstood. But humans are full of stories, and maybe I play a mirror in the movie of my life as a way of being the thing that I need because I don't trust anyone else to do it, and maybe I touch others with the insistent gentleness I crave - since it means in some small way that I am being touched back, that my hands on someone's body is a two way street, and their skin might yearn towards me subtly, beyond their awareness.
Wading out of the surf, waves coalesce into foam around me, the sand melts away under the sturdiness of my footsteps. It is so easy to forget myself in the ebb and flow of other people's stories, but in the gentle indifference of the water, everything I don't need is washed away, and clarity is all that's left. I know my birthright as I wring water from my hair and a faint salt crust sparkles on my sun-warm skin.
I will wear that salt as long as I can.
Aphrodite is consistently portrayed, in every image and story, as having had no childhood.
In the most famous version of her myth, her birth was the consequence of a castration: Cronus severed Uranus' genitals and threw them behind him into the sea. The foam from his genitals gave rise to Aphrodite (hence her name, meaning "foam-arisen"), while the Erinyes (furies), and the Meliae emerged from the drops of his blood. Hesiod states that the genitals "were carried over the sea a long time, and white foam arose from the immortal flesh; with it a girl grew." The girl, Aphrodite, floated ashore on a scallop shell.
Aphrodite's husband Hephaestus is one of the most even-tempered of the Hellenic deities, the god of blacksmithing/ironwork.
Friday, July 8, 2016
Nathan's Famous Hotdog Eating Contest - July 4th, 2016
I have been supervising the staging build of this monstrosity since 2011, except for last year, when I didn't need the money and ditched it a week before it went up. That has been my 4th of July ever since I moved to nyc, and it seems too sharply on point as popular event/commentary on the de-evolution of what America was supposed to stand for, once upon a dream.
Some of my boys from my first steel shop arrived to supervise with me, the richness of their love for me outshone the nature of the event. One of my favorite people in the world, my shadow brother, wide and dark and stronger than anyone I know - taught me an enormous amount about the physical world and the laws of physics, I still wear his fearlessness with steel, I think about it every single day. In our current cultural climate, I am afraid for him, his big, beautiful blackness, for his wife and children who are loved by this bright human being. Once, years ago at the shop, he came back late from grabbing lunch, because he was stopped outside of the Chinese restaurant to be patted down by bored cops under the premise of a robbery nearby - apparently he fit the description, but he knows they stop black guys regularly with excuses while they check their backgrounds to hopefully snag someone over peanuts. Like me, he hasn't ever smoked, is pure and good, we are even the same age, born weeks apart - but he has already been held at gunpoint by cops more than I will ever be stopped by a cop and questioned for my existence on a city street. He lives the dystopian reality white people have been writing about for decades.
I am strong, but only as long as the adrenaline is coursing through my body, in those moments where my Meyers briggs type flips from INTJ to ENTJ, extroversion as a necessary mechanism to function at the level that comes so easy for him. For a lot of them, actually. I'm convinced none of them would recognize me if my system weren't flooded w that adrenaline. It's taken a long time for me to realize that I may be taking someone else's place in the labor world and leaving vacant the place where I should be, utilizing those things that come naturally to me as well. To realize what I have to give is important too, and denying that expression IS a rejection of self. Watching my friend move, I am stung, as always by his ability to move his weight through the air with such grace compared to my clunky ineptness. Seeing his face across Surf Avenue, I can read his frustration with the other guys. I swing in to work with him, to show the other guys how its supposed to work, and I notice in my hands the familiar lightness of objects when we are working together. The ground moves through him, I now realize. He radiates the support of the earth underneath his feet out through his hands, which is why he can fly through the air, and up on to the back of the truck like its nothing, his weight. Maybe he doesn't even know the nature of his gift, this resonant rock, transubstantiating ground to a force that flows through him into the relationships around him - but it has dawned on me, clear as day.
After two days of flipping decks and tossing screw jacks and unloading and reloading carts of pipe and crates of scaffolding clips, waking up is rough. Walking to the dog park, my low back is so tight my pelvis can't move, and since it can't shift around the ball of my thigh bone, the connections on the outer edges of the hip joint are screaming as simply walking asks the joint to overextend itself on one side of the relationship, struggling to articulate from the frozen mass of my pelvis. The movement travels up my body and leaks out via a sway of the shoulders. The shape I make echoes a traditional masculine gesture, a walk that is associated with power, strength, intimidation. This is how I naturally move when walking alone at night, losing the feminine glide of pelvic halves sliding with and around the thigh bone - the lumbering and stone like expression sends a message to would be assailants, much like stances signal aggression from one dog to another.
I was trapped in that shape. I see now how so many of the aging men I know in the labor industry have developed their ways of maneuvering. How joints fall apart after a lifetime of accommodating a self induced lack of mobility, and in the familiarity of that shape, we have formed a stereotype, a flavor, a style of man and movement, and I am trapped inside of that shape - suddenly all I can see is the damage it is doing. I don't feel strong anymore, I feel crippled.
Patterns are important, because they streamline processes, so the body can move faster and more efficiently - but the patterns I have when dealing with weight are useful in the short term due to their familiarity, but damaging in the long game. Seeing my future flash in front of my eyes, I reach back to the beginning, with my spine. Since all I can hear is the groaning of my back body, I look instead for the shadow, listening for what is silent. Walking with my dog, I locate a sense of the front of my spine, trying to shift where movement is emanating from - almost instantly my low back lets go and my pelvic halves feel individuated, begin to wrap around thigh bone. Chasing that awareness in both directions, I feel for the first time the front side of my sacrum, and as I follow the front of my upper spine, my shoulder blade release, sliding forward. My back is quiet.
I still can't fully extend my left elbow, and the fingers of my right hand refuse to extend past anatomical neutral and send pain shooting up my forearm, but at least I can walk without my lower back screaming. It takes constant vigilance to keep looking for the sense of the front of my spine in daily movement, but the back pain is a quick reminder to look inward, to invite the front of my spine into the conversation so it isn't like living inside of a constant monologue of having my back up, a chip on my shoulder, a lonely soldier, a shield protecting the soft insides. Its an invitation for the rest of my body to experience supporting itself, for all of me to be strong, not just the outside edges - like thick skinned fruit that draws predators due to its energy packed sweet soft insides. If the rest of me is involved, my back doesn't have to go it alone, but since that's all I've known, it is an arduous task to keep that invitation open.
On the train, I think a lot about force traveling through the body, I think a lot about my friend and his fluid relationship to supportive contact, the idea of transmitting the support of the ground up through the body - and it quickly becomes clear that I freeze my shoulder blades the way I freeze my pelvis with an all consuming back body response, which asks the head of my arm bone to overarticulate which causes pain I feel almost every day, and the remedy is the same. When I find the front of my spine while holding the bars on the train, my shoulder blade shifts and I can feel the relationships that allow for the force in my hand to reach my spine, to flow down to the sacrum and split, pass down my legs and out of my feet. It's a glimmer, but I get it.
I've had strange and intense experiences over the past year, studying the body - first I woke up to a fierce vibration flooding the length of my spine, almost to the point of calling out for help, except it wasn't painful as much as deeply stimulating - as well as weird electric zaps between my shoulder blades and along my body. Last night I woke up to a humming electricity, but instead of just my spine, there was a clear line of energy along all of my limbs. I felt like a Pisces symbol sculpted in neon. It flickered on and vibrated softly like flourescents flipped on by a light switch. The phrase that popped into my head was 'coming online'. In the light of day those words remind me of local networks being connected globally. It felt like I must be glowing in the dark, like I was a character in TRON.
The picture shifted, or maybe access to the light I was using to look at it with - everything just got a little clearer.