Wednesday, December 31, 2014

I agree with Carl Jung


Most friends of mine concur with my understanding that whenever someone criticizes another, and this includes me, they are really disclosing something about themselves, projecting their flaws onto others. Sometimes when I share this with someone, it seems to be a wholly unfamliar concept that they can't wrap their minds around. Sometimes, someone has blown my wisdom off and accused me of being ridiculous. I conclude that someone who doesn't get this concept is not as evolved as I am, or less self aware, more unconscious than they are able to know.  Maybe.

But, geez, Carl Jung believed as I do.  There is some merit to my belief.

frugal chocolate bliss

Chocolate Bliss:   sugar-free, dairy-free, healthy fats, delicious chocolate and, if you choose, almonds.

Using a very good blender with a powerful motor, start with about 2 cups of organic coconut flakes. Blend until the flakes become coconut butter. If you have ever bought coconut butter, which is sometimes called coconut manna, you know it is expensive, esp. organic. But coconut butter comes from coconut. Flakes or shredded coconut contain the oil that becomes the 'butter'.

After your coconut butter has melded and melted into a warm, malleable shape -- the powerful motor melts the coconut oil into butter by friction and this is usually considered still 'raw' -- add chopped raw cacao butter, about 1/4 cup. The finer you chop it, the faster the friction melts it.  The cacao butter and coconut butter warm up with the friction of a good blender.

Then I add a dash of cinnamon.

Then I add about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of raw cacao powder. Blend briefly.

You can also add a bit of vanilla.

You can add a dash of cayenne if you feel like spicy chocolate.

I used to add 2 cups of raw almonds, blending the whole thing until smooth. It is warm, but, with the almonds, does not pour. If you skip the almonds, you have liquid chocolate/coconut bliss. You can pour the almond-free version into molds, or ice cup trays and chill in fridge.  I added the almonds to give myself more fiber and the illusion this decadent treat was a bit less decadent.

Chocolate bliss is delicious. But it is not low calorie, which  is okay. I know healthy fats are good for me.  The reason I stopped making it was because I usually add the whole batch in a couple days. A tablespoon a day would be reasonable. A pint in two days is lots of calories.

I miss chocolate bliss. I am gong to a birthday potluck party for a man I know. I am thinking of bring ice cube-sized chocolate bliss with chopped almonds stirred in before I pour the chocolate.  We'll see.

I am also considering making spicy red lentil soup. I persist in my quest to replicate some spicy Syrian red lentil soup in a restaurant in SF, a cheap Syrian place near, I think, the Haight. I don't know SF very well.

Red lentil soup is my metaphor for my sex life.  If that seems cryptic, I'm okay being cryptic. It's another story.

I guess my chocolate bliss is not cheap, not with organic and raw ingredients. The frugal part is making your own coconut butter.

out out damned stuff

I have very little storage space. I have a one bedroom apartment but it is small, with two small closets. The clothes closet is shallow and barely holds my clothes. It does not, actually, hold all my clothes. I have a very small 'storage' closet in the kitchen. Recently a toured a neighbor's one bedroom, one much larger than mine, with three large closets.

I could line the long wall that spans my dining area and my living room with shelving full of storage, with doors. Such furniture would not make my apartment feel smaller and, in one swoop, I'd have enough storage.

It's hard to organize 'stuff' with no place to put it. So I end up with 'stuff' stuffed, stacked and cluttered.

I was resolved to ruthlessly declutter before a houseguest arrived in November. I got sick just before the election, spent a day in an emergency room and spent the month of November in bed. My houseguest was here for eleven days. I got the place barely okay before she got here.

Since my friend left, I have let the place fall apart. I keep up with dishes because I eat and I don't cook with dirty pans or eat off dirty plates. So I keep the place clean.

With the clutter, it seems easy and fast for my home to feel disasterous.

I have four book shelves, all stuffed. And most of the books were given to me, not books I bought or chose to own.  I am going to get rid of the books.

I am also going to get rid of most of the stuff on the countertops, tabletops and the desktop set into one shelving unit.   Most of this counter clutter has not been touched in years. It just sits there, suggesting it has no use to me. If I haven't moved something in several years, I am going to toss it.

And I have begun. I tossed out an old Mac powercord for a computer I gave away five years ago. This power cord was damaged. It might have had some very small value to a used computer store but when I manage to get into the serious declutter zone, I can't be trifling with saving one outdated power cord.

I also threw out two pairs of shoes that had holes worn through.   I have been wearing them even though they were worn through on the soles because I don't have 'nice' black shoes to replace them. Walking in recent rains with each pair, however, persuaded me to dump them in the trash. My feet were instantly soaked, then instantly cold.

I am looking at a perfectly good tin. I think some kind of cookie came in it but years ago.  I have been saving that perfectly good tin since before I moved into this place and it will be six years I've lived here come February 9th. Chuck the tin. Well, I'll put the tin out for any interested neighbor to claim. If no one claims it, chuck it.

I have two blenders I no longer use. One is a high end one but not as great as my newer Vitamix. I tried to sell it on craigslist but had no takers. I think folks pursuing expensive blenders want a Vitamix or a Blendex.  I keep my Blendin (not BlenDEX) because it make chocolate bliss better than the Vitamin. Never mind that I have not made chocolate bliss in over a year.

Defiinitely going to put the cheap $30 Target blender out, or, maybe, donate to Goodwill. It's gone.

It's all the perfectly good, but mostly useless to me, stuff that clutters my home.

Out out out dammed stuff.

Where is sense in pretending?


This is a youtube video of Dido singing this great song, a song that captures how I feel about loving the people I love who no longer love me.  Sigh.

I love the lines when she says there is no sense in not saying she's in love if she is, where's the sense in that. When I think or feel something, the energy is alive and on the move whether I voice it or not. Where is the sense in pretending I feel differently than I do?

rejecting dominant norms is sane

Quote from Charles Eisenstein's book "The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible". You can watch a great video that explains some of the concepts in the book here: http://www.filmsforaction.org/watch/charles-eisenstein-on-movements-and-activism/

USA fascist oligarchy now?


Pentagon says exercising our constitutional right of free assembly is low level terrorism.

Stop this world and let me off.

I feel compassion & clarity for my soul


OPEN TO NEW WAY OF BIRTHING
what is it to reflect upon the year ?
Is it to be the moon to our own sun ?
Can we re-member the solar flares
the bright sunny days
the moments of grace ?

Can our moon of “re-membering”
glow without judgment but with kindness
reflecting to us what we still have to learn ?
Sometimes it to too hard to look upon
the brightness of the sun
Not good for the eyes to see
the deepest truth of our being
But our moon can help us, soften the view
yet show the radiance that is ours
This morning I had a moon moment
when reflecting upon the hardest
moments of my year -
something I didn’t want to look at
Veils fell away like clouds releasing the moonlight
I saw the echoes of my caesarian birth
The way I was pulled to life - so suddenly
It was the same as my own reaction this fall
When I pulled back - suddenly -
when something hard happened -
I froze - I could not move forward
This morning, the last one of the year
I felt compassion and clarity for my soul
about this fear of life -
and suddenly it echoed back to other times
other times when I ended things in fear
when I suddenly stopped loving when I had loved
suddenly stopped caring when I had cared so much
suddenly stopped hoping when I had hoped so much
The truth - that my reflecting moon brought me
is harsh and deep - and yet leads forward in a new way
I will be open to to the labor pains of life
held through the birth channel of spirit
I thank my sun and moon on this last morning of the year
For holding in me
The possibility to find a new way to birth......

by Linda Bergh, fellow former Waldorf parent and Waldorf consultant and poe. I believe Linda painted this painting. I took a week-long wet-on-wet watercolor class with her daughter Kirsten in mid-nineties. Kirsten died in a car wreck a few months later. I barely knew her but Kirsten is still alive in me, as she is, I imagine, in many. She was special. So is Linda.

acceptance and self love

I have struggled throughout 2014 to accept a former friend's rejection.

Now, I accept the loss of what was nothing, the loss of my imaginary friend.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

it's hard out there for a fat woman


Love at any size

For too many men, my weight is a problem, or a fetish. But I want somebody who will hold my hand -- and more


We’re sitting on the sofa in my studio apartment, mere inches from the bed where, moments earlier, his mouth and hands teased the rolls and folds of my body, where he’d turned my back-fat into an altar. The sheets haven’t cooled yet, and he’s telling me about the things he won’t do in public, just to keep things between us from getting “confusing.” He won’t hold my hand.
For most of my dating life, my amplitude was something to be overlooked, overcome. Tolerated. I remember one man, an alcoholic who’d begun taking red wine before his morning coffee, sitting across from me as I held a vegetable roll between my chopsticks, and asking, with an earnest obliviousness, if I might consider “eating healthier food.” My suitors were always taken enough with everything beneath my skin — heart and wit and good old-fashioned moxie — but only taken so far. Even if our breakups were rooted in banality of mismatched ambitions, uneven libidos, or just plain stupid youth, there was always a thin tendril muscling up from that root, one that choked our relationships: the stigma of dating a fat girl.
Not this guy. He’d been unabashedly open, enthusiastic even, about his preference for those of us on the Melissa McCarthy end of the size spectrum. He’d reached out to thank me for an essay I wrote about my choice to duck-and-roll off the hamster wheel of constant dieting and accept, even embrace, my size 24 figure. We talked, and wrote, with increasing length and flirtatiousness, about body acceptance and the vanquishing of secret shame, our upbringings (or lack thereof) and aspirations; ours was a courtship knit by the camaraderie of misfits, an affection that felt as easy and natural as spring grass, and as vital as rain.
That affection ends with a confession like a record skipping just before the bridge in my favorite song. He would touch me everywhere; he just wouldn’t hold my hand. And he’s telling me now, because he doesn’t want me to get the wrong idea, to think that his unwillingness is “a matter of optics.” A matter of how a thin man — any man, really — looks when he shows up with his hand in mine.

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For weeks afterward, “a matter of optics” became shorthand among my friends and me for any act of casual, oblivious cruelty. (“That asshole didn’t look while changing lanes — it’s a matter of optics”; or, “I got this assignment piled on me at five p.m. on a Friday. Optics!”) Humor staved my nearest and dearest from embracing their inner Sonny Corleones, and it did help me slowly get over my belief that this could have been something different, that he could have been someone better. I healed the way a bruise heals, reabsorbing the tender, ticking parts of myself — the hope I’d had, the disappointment that replaced it — under my skin; just another stiff spot that ached in the cold.
* * *
Many of my female friends recall their youths in requited crushes and the sweet fumbling tenderness of first kisses; moments when they became aware of the power wielded in a smile or a flash of thigh, when they knew what it meant to be cherished. I was a 12 year old in a tent dress, and my forays into cat’s eyeliner and pastel lip gloss couldn’t save me from the viciousness of schoolboys who’d ask me out for sport. Guileless and desperate for affection, I’d believed them, believed that I’d have all the pleasures and privileges of being “a real girl.” Then, the boy would break character and start snickering. And the peanut gallery of his pals, or the kids-he-was-trying-to-impress would high-five, congratulating him on the big game of the low-hanging fruit.
From what I’ve gleaned from Facebook, many of those boys have their parents’ hand-me-down lives, middle-class and middle-of-the-road: the slim wives and chubby babies, a sports team to follow and an entry-level job that’s held steady for the past five years. Good for them. But they rutted me to the core, planted deep seeds of resentment and mistrust that still makes it hard, almost impossible, for me to accept that men would want me for me, not me-minus-50 (or 75) (or 100) pounds — not me in spite of myself.
When I was in my late teens and early 20s, I wanted so desperately to feel a part of something — I wanted love; more than this, I wanted to feel normal. I wanted someone to call me “just to say goodnight” whenever I stayed out of town; to become acquainted with every freckle and scar, to soften and sadden over those scars because of how I got them, but to still respect them because how I got them has made me, me; to take me out for cocktails and brunches and beam at me over the rims of martini glasses and coffee mugs with the tender, solicitous bewitchment of a man in love. I starved myself for that affection. I purged and popped pills that turned my pulse into a pendulum and made me fear I’d lost my mind. And all for a few zipless fucks who’d button up their shirts, kiss my forehead, and promise calls that never came.
Even when I could press the heels of my hands to my ribcage, even when my skirts slid down my ass, I was still the fat girl. Even when Mr. Last Night turned into Mr. Okay for a While, I knew that, eventually, that red wine at dinner would turn into an inch on my hips, and that inch would turn into 10 inches. Experience taught me what to expect, then. I distrusted these men before I could ever give them a chance.
My mother would tell me I’d need “a special sort of man,” one who would be “accepting” of me, just as I am. Older men. “Working men.” Men from “different cultures.” She’d speak in a slow, sugared tone reserved to comfort a dying animal. The implication — made overt by a therapist who insisted that a husband and two children were the only balms to soothe the full-body thermal burns of growing up inside a volcano — was that any man who could appreciate, let alone delight in, all 200-plus pounds of me was fundamentally askew. Broken. I’d never be more than a momentary indent on a mattress, a ghost in the sheets.
I think of my earliest correspondences with Mr. A Matter of Optics; he’d talk about how he’d been made to feel so desperately ashamed of a desire that felt as natural to him as another man’s yen for blond hair or long legs; his voice strained with the fresh ache of remembrance. And I wonder why desire should ever be the hole anyone has to dig his way out of.
I refuse to be caressed in the dark and denied in broad daylight. I am not a body rolled in flour. I refuse to starve or purge or take pills; I refuse to have my stomach carved away and pinched smaller for the sake of almighty aesthetics. Yes, there are websites and conventions in Vegas and online forums (oh my!) for aficionados of the Big Beautiful Woman (a term that drips with “you go girl!” condescension), places where heavy bellies and swaybacked backsides launch a thousand ships. As I’ve scrolled through these sites, I’ve felt vindicated at seeing women my size as luscious pinups. But, after a while, I feel reduced to something less than a person: just a gartered thigh and the breast-flesh offered up in a corset. I want to be lusted after. I want to be wanted. But, more than this, I want to love, and be loved. I want everything that love confers: being touched, being valued and being seen.
I am my visible belly outline (commonly referred to as “VBO,” which has all of the poetry of “prime flank” or, more bluntly, “meat”), but I am also my caffeine addiction and coffee snobbery; I am my love of a doting German shepherd; I am my zest for all things zombie (and my feminist critique of “The Walking Dead”). I want to live in the world of meet cutes and missed connections, not cloistered in a convention hall in a city celebrated for its seediness. I want to be a partner, not a fetish. Still, I don’t begrudge any of my sisters-in-amplitude any desires to be worshiped as purely sexual beings; there is great power in being Jessica Rabbit.
* * *
I’d been hoping that “And So Did the Fat Lady,” the much-ballyhooed episode of  “Louie” that ran earlier this year, might show a fat woman’s desire as real and valid, not played as a half-measure or a joke. This kind of visibility can be lifesaving, soul-sustaining when women like me are most commonly casualities of the 6 o’clock news, our heads and faces lopped off the screen to render us a freak show promoting some new obesity drug or study — never as people whose hands and thighs and rolling bellies can give, and receive, great pleasure.
Louie has a great time with Vanessa, his date and the titular fat lady, until he “compliments” her by saying she’s not fat. Vanessa tells him that she’s going to make him “represent all the guys” when she unloads about a lifetime on the sidelines: “Why do you hate us so much? What is it about the basics of human happiness, feeling attractive, feeling loved, having guys chase after us, that’s just not in the cards for us? Nope. Not for us.”
When she says this, I’m with her. I’m sitting at lunch with friends who express their puzzlement at my chronic singledom, but who don’t offer to set me up with anyone they know. Which may very well be just as well, since I’m watching the face of the one friend who’d been excited to set me up with a horror-loving aspiring writer in her department cycle through a calculated array of micro-expressions as she wonders how to tactfully tell me that — after seeing my full-body picture — he’s not interested; and, from the suppressed anger that makes her features as taut as a bow string, that he didn’t express this lack of interest kindly. And I’m wondering how to tell my wonderful friend — who doesn’t see me the way that any guy who has been socialized to believe that there’s a supermodel for every schlub sees me — that I was expecting this all along.
I was with Vanessa until her cry-to-arms goes limp-wrist: She tells Louie that she doesn’t even want a boyfriend or a husband. She just wants someone to hold her hand. This plaintive plea is (perhaps) meant to move the civilian viewer, the person who doesn’t have to move through the world in a body that can provoke such hatred. But it struck me as an insult, telling me to settle for crumbs when I deserve cake: someone to hold my hand, and so much more.
But that so much more seems impossible to come by when I can’t even get a man to slip his fingers inside mine when we’re off our backs and in daylight. Still, touch has a power like a ringing bell’s — it reverberates under skin, becomes a song playing through our cells. I haven’t found what I’m looking for yet, but in those moments with Mr. Optics, I got what I needed. Not from him, but for me.
A few weeks ago, I saw my mother; I wore a cotton dress with short sleeves that rode up my arms. “I hate that,” my mother said as she jerked my sleeves down. Her nails raked my skin; I pulled away sharply — and with a pointed remark about the “that” she was referring to: “Oh, you mean my body?”
And I remember one of the few times that man and I came together in my apartment. I wear that same short-sleeved dress.  He sweeps his knuckles over my soft, dimpled flesh; he whispers into my ear and thanks me for wearing something that shows off my beautiful arms. He isn’t worthy of me. It’s only a moment, a moment that I hope to live out, again and again, with someone who deserves it. But in that moment, I am in my body and I am beyond it.

be alone, secret of ideas

"The mind is sharper and keener in seclusion and uninterrupted solitude.
Be alone - that is the secret of invention; be alone, that is when ideas are born."
Nikola Tesla

sometimes by David Whyte







SOMETIMES

Sometimes
if you move carefully


through the forest,

breathing
like the ones
in the old stories,

who could cross
a shimmering bed of leaves
without a sound,

you come
to a place
whose only task

is to trouble you
with tiny
but frightening requests,

conceived out of nowhere
but in this place
beginning to lead everywhere.

Requests to stop what
you are doing right now,
and

to stop what you
are becoming
while you do it,

questions
that can make
or unmake
a life,

questions
that have patiently
waited for you,

questions
that have no right
to go away.

'Sometimes' From ‘Everything Is Waiting for You’
and ‘River Flow: New and Selected Poems’
© David Whyte and Many Rivers Press

Photo © David Whyte
Winter Woodland, Cong.
Co Mayo Ireland December 2014

all my life

All my life, my heart has yearned for a thing I cannot name.
Andre Breton

I don't just yearn to love, to be loved. I yearn for all beings to be love, to prioritize kindness.

I am a work in progress. I fumble on my path.

But I am getting more and more adept at being loving. And it's just like all the wisdom keepers say: the more I love, the more love I receive. The light of love keeps breaking open for me.

Praise Goddess, which I believe is love.

I will go down with this ship

"I know you think that I shouldn't still love you,
Or tell you that.
But if I didn't say it, well I'd still have felt it
where's the sense in that?
I promise I'm not trying to make your life harder
Or return to where we were
I will go down with this ship
And I won't put my hands up and surrender
There will be no white flag above my door
I'm in love and always will be
And when we meet
Which I'm sure we will
All that was there
Will be there still
I'll let it pass
And hold my tongue
And you will think
That I've moved on....
but I will go down with this ship
And I won't put my hands up and surrender
There will be no white flag above my door
I'm in love and always will be"
'White Flag' excerpt from lyrics
Songwriters
ARMSTRONG, DIDO / NOWELS, RICK / ARMSTRONG, ROLLO

an ear for sounds of sense

An ear and an appetite for . .  sounds of sense if the first qualification of a writer, be it of prose or verse.   Robert Frost

This quote from Frost is significant to me.  In my evolution as a writer, I have been criticized for some of the things I write. Such criticism was made by someone who does not see himself as a writer and who did not seem to understand that a writer hears words in a way that I suspect is similar to a composer hears music.  It has been essential to my development as a writer to, to the best of my ability, capture all the sounds I hear. I know writers are supposed to edit everything they write, to shape it. I have always loved the creative fire of first drafts.

I have known no high better than a time spent writing and feeling that I came close to capturing all the notes, or words, that I heard, with no concern for how another might experience my words.  It has been integral to my growing as a writer.

The person who attacked me has a PhD from one of the most prestigious universities in USA so I gave his attacks power they did not warrant.  He projected meaning onto my words and told me that each word had universal meaning. I consider such a suggestion to be gobbledegook. Words do not have universally agreed-upon meaning.  Words are no more precise than an abstract painting. The meaning is given by the reader but a writing writing from inspiration is no more accountable to other people's interpretation of her words than Rothko would have been accountable to what art aficionados see in his paintings. Surely the writer retains the right to claim definitive authority regarding her intent but, like all artists, once the writer releases her work, each reader has hum's own experience. (Hum is a gender neutral pronoun the aforementioned critic of me invented. It has not caught on, I think, because it does not work like him and her. I do think hum has a place in English language. I like to use it now and then to try to find its rightful place.)

rise of religion and science =

The poet R.S. Thomas' vision attributes the rise of religion and the rise of science to humanity's civilization collapse.  R.S. Thomas, poet, derived inspiration from the way that poets Hughes and Geoffrey Hill took myth 'as the ground of historiographical method, re-adapting poetry both to imagine and control the contingencies of an altered political world':
There were words
and wars and treaties, and feet tramples
the earth and the wheels
seared it' and an explosion
followed. There was dust
and silence.

Poem by R.S. Thomas.


In Chameleon Poet: R.S. Thomas and the Literary Tradition by S.J. Perry, Perry, p. 175  writes: 

"In 'Pre-Cambrian', from the later collection Frequencies (1978), Thomas writes that 'Plato, Aristotle,/ All those who furrowed the calmness/ of their foreheads are responsible/ for the bomb', and there is certainly a sense in which the poetry he produced during this period is drawing a parallel between the potentially devastating consequences of man seeking to realize his intellectual potential and the susceptibility to temptation that led Adam and Eve to eat from the tree of knowledge in the Garden of Eden. Looking back nostalgically to Thomas's time at Manafon, 'This One' sees a catalogue of all too human vanity and delusion set against the patience and super-human discipline of 'this poor farmer', who

Purged himself in his strong sweat, 
Ploughing under the tall boughs
Of the tree of knowledge of
Good and evil, watching its fruit
Ripen, abstaining from it.  By R.S. Thomas
As Thomas and Hughes imagine it, the ecological cost of the invention of nuclear power is plain, but it should not be forgotten that the environmental issues they raise are inextricably linked to their concern for the inner life, and in both Crow and H'm, the dry rock of Eliot's Waste Land becomes the 'dust' that has settled on a spiritually dead civilization:

Its era was over.
All that remained of it a brittle desert
Dazzling with the bones of earth's people
Where Crow walked and mused.  'A Disaster'
Knowledge is power;
The old oracle
Has not changed. The nucleus
In the atom awaits
Our bidding, Come Forth

 Perry, p. 177

. . . if Science had not come along, whose laws were so demonstrably objective that it was able to impose them on the whole world. As the mistaken claims of Christianity became scienficically meaningless, the inner world which it had clothed became incomprehensible, absurd and finally invisible.  Objective imagination, in the light of science, rejected religion as charlatanism, the inner world as a bundle of fairy tales, a relic of primeval superstition.  People rushed towards the idea of living without any religion or inner life whatsoever as if towards some great new freedom.  This is a quote from Thomas, I believe, but I am getting this off a Google excerpt and can't read the footnote that credits the quote.
 Thomas makes a similar point in his poem 'Soliloquy' where, having seen what has become of humanity, God concludes:  "I listened to you/ Too long.  Within the churches/ You built me you genuflected/ To the machine." Here an approach to prayer in which God 'listens' to the demands of His people is seen to have resulted in a conception of God that is no longer able to inspire feelings of awe and dread and can therefore all too easily be replaced by the mythology of science.  This is what has happened in the dystopian vision of 'Other', a poem which is ostensibly about the destruction of rural community:

The machine appeared,
In the distance, singing to itself
Of money, its song was the web
They were caught in men and women
Together.  The villages were as flies to be sucked empty.
     God secreted
A tear.  Enough, enough,
He commanded, but the machine
Looked at him and went on singing.

By R.S. Thomas

The grim irony, in Thomas' version of the Frankenstein myth, is that the source of the malignant energy which threatens to destroy humankind is something that humanity itself has created.  Thomas seems to be responding to Hughes' poem 'The Disaster' here, in which Crow watches the all-consuming unchesitened 'word' -- which is surely money -- poisoning seas' and 'burning whole lands/ To dusty char.'  Eventually, 'He saw it sucking the cities/ Like the nipples of a sow/ drinking out all the people/ Till there were none left'.  Similar, in Thomas' poem, obedience to the materialist values of 'the machine' has resulted in the desertion of the villages and the building of an invisible barrier between God and humanity.  However, Thomas also seems to be implying that this process has been exacerbated by the image of God which the Christian Church has projected, with the clue residing in the poem's decidedly ironic title, which suggests that the God humanity has created is far from being 'other'.  On the congrary, this God is far too human; He has a human voice, sheds human tears and the machine regards Him indifferently,  like any other human being. As in 'Soliloquy', then, Thomas suggests this anthropomorphic view of God -- symptomatic of the domestication of transcendence -- is powerfull when confronted with the material comforts of capitalism.

Perry, p. 188, just a snippet:

Ted Hughes, who was close to R.S. Thomas, was once quoted as saying "The only philosophy I have ever really read was Schopenhauer.  He impressed me all right. You see very well where Nietzsche got his Dionysus."  This connection to Schopenhauer is significant because both poet Thomas and poet Hughes seem to suggest through their bleak depictions of human sexuality, like Hardy before them, is that, in this fallen world, rather than love, it is an invisible force more akin to Schopenhauer's malignant will that is responsible for the perpetuation of the species.

. . . . The implication is that the name humanity has 'held back' is 'Love', because the litany of destruction, from the mosquito -- a creature, which poet Thomas once pointed out, 'has caused untold suffering for thousands of years' -- to the cosmic black hole, makes belief in a benevolent, loving God all but impossible.  As in 'Crow's First Lesson', then where Crows is unable to even articulate the word love, the focus lies in part with the difficulty of reconciling the notion of a God of Love with the reality of the universe we inhabit, suggesting that this 'God' is a Being that humanity has constructed in its own image. At the same time, Thomas' poetry emphasizes the limitations of language; the gap that exists between signifier and signified, concerns first brought together in the title-poem of H'm where Thomas employs syntactical disorientation in a way which suggests that the inability of language to transcribe the nature of God is 'a crisis from which the verbal body of the poem cannot be isolated'.

everything that frightens us


“Perhaps everything that frightens us is,
in its deepest essence, something helpless
that needs our love.”
Rainer Maria Rilke

a proper community

A proper community, we should remember also, is a commonwealth: a place, a resource, an economy. It answers the needs, practical as well as social and spiritual, of its members.
Wendall Barry

Monday, December 29, 2014

highest knowledge


as new year approaches, a poem

by lucille clifton


i am running into a new year
and the old years blow back
like a wind
that i catch in my hair
like strong fingers like
all my old promises and
it will be hard to let go
of what i said to myself
about myself
when i was sixteen and
twentysix and thirtysix
even thirtysix but
i am running into a new year
and i beg what i love and
i leave to forgive me.

"when I get high"

During my last doctor appointment, I was describing my glucose testing and insulin injecting habits for my doctor. She's known me several years and has seen me wean myself off several medications, including a fentanyl patch.

Fentanyl is a synthetic morphine that is more powerful and more addictive than morphine.  I was first prescribed fentanyl for my significant, chronic arthritis pain when I was on coumadin. I could not take inbuprofen while on coumadin. The doctor I was seeing at the time suggested fentanyl, I resisted, she pushed, I caved.

I loved the fentanyl. It was nice to move pain free through life, physical pain. The part I liked most was I slept soundly.  I stayed on fentanyl when I went off coumadin. Most doctors, it has been my experience, continue prescribing whatever a new patient is on. When I changed from a Stanford internist to a general practitioner in Berkeley, the new doc kept prescribing the fentanyl.

I used patches. You put plastic fentanyl patches on your skin. The patches release the narcotic very slowly and the patches are good for three days. The patches dole out the pain med so slowly that the patient does not experience the high that, I have read, addicts chase.

I could have stayed on fentanyl the rest of my life, I believe. It increasingly unsettled me to imagine being on a morphone synthetic for the rest of my life. It just didn't seem right, even though I maintained my usage at a stable level. I did not ask for increased dosage. 

I am one of the least likely people to become addicted to drugs or alcohol. I don't drink at all. I used some illegal drugs to get high briefly in college. My whole getting high phase lasted less than a year.  I did continue to drink socially until about ten years ago. Suddenly I realized I felt lousy the next morning if I had just one drink; then I realized I could stop experiencing that morning yuckiness by just not drinking.

Someone who asks her doctor to wean her off fentanyl is not someone who gets high. 

As I chatted with my doctor, explaining how I test before eating anything, then inject. Then I told her that sometimes I just get high, I feel it, test, and sure enough I am high and . . . But she cut me off, her eyebrows raised, and said "You get high?"

"My glucose gets high" I said. And my doctor looked relieved. Still, I reminded her that I had weaned myself off fentanyl, that I am not likely to get high on any drugs.

Glucose high, that's as high as I get. When my glucose spikes, I feel sick. It is not a desirable high.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

this happened, updated

I set out to go to my Saturday's farmers market. Like last year, and every year, there is no Saturday farmers market in Berkeley on the Saturday between Xmas and New Year's. I always forget and go.

On my way to the market location, I passed what seemed like a larger than usual gaggle of homeless young people along Shattuck. It's cold just now. Why so many of them today? As I walk the gauntlet of passing all these young people, with their belongings piled on the sidewalk, often with dogs and only some asking for money, I sometimes ache as a mother. I experience longings to care for these young people, to feed them hot soup, give them warm, dry beds and magically fix whatever lead them to choose living on the streets in Berkeley over living with their families. Of course a few might not have any family but I think most of them do.

Lots of folks in Berkeley, and, I suppose, in communities wherever homeless kids hang out in packs, grumble a lot about the young homeless clusters. I read reports that they are dirty, offensive, aggressive. Maybe that's over on Telegraph? I walk past the current homeless young people at least once a day, usually more than once. The young people change over time. No young person along Shattuck has ever been rude to me. And they don't ask for money, not that I have seen.  Maybe they aren't homeless. Maybe they are hanging out on the street for the day.  My few direct interactions with them are always positive experiences. Many of them make jewelry or paintings for sale.  They seem like good kids to me.

Today, crossing Allston at the downtown Walgreens, I saw a dry cigarette, unlit, roll down the access ramp to the street. I stopped the young homeless woman who was eagerly eating a slice of pizza to ask if she smoked. "Yes I do," she said. Then I told her that I think her cigarette had just rolled down to the street. She glanced back, said it was hers, eyebrowed the guy she was with who dutifully rushed to reclaim her cigarette. And she said, looking at me,  "Thank you sir."

Thank you sir.

A part of me wanted to say "Oh my gosh, do I look like a man to you?" I didn't. I kept walking.

As I walked away, I reflected on her good manners. She had said thank you on autopilot. She had been taught some basic manners by a parent who loved her.

I kept glancing at my image in the reflection of windows as I kept walking. What windows there were.  I wanted to see if I thought I looked like a man.

I soon forgot the small bruise to my ego when I passed the many boarded up windows. I noted that the windows at the big banks downtown are not broken. The boards are left up because, evidently, they expect more protests.

There was a protest going on, actually, at the top of the BART rotunda, a line of young white adults with bullhorns decrying violence against a long list of beings.   They looked a bit like Christmas carolers but they were decrying the growing ugliness in our culture.

The loud protestors reminded me of the ongoing protests about the militarization of police departments all over the country.  I believe police infiltrate protests, instigate vandalism and seek to inflame the protestors so the police can do insane things like shoot tear gas and rubber bullets at them. I beleive the militarization of police is an intentional change long in the making. As I kept walking, I felt a familiar chill, a fear of the rise of totalitarianism.

The great German, Jewish philosopher Hannah Arendt, who coined the phrase 'The Banality of Evi" has a book called "The Rise of Totalitarianism" that she wrote after WWII. Arendt escaped a concentration camp, came to America and had a very successful career as a philosopher. She was mentored in her PhD studies by Heidegger. She was also his lover, although he went  on to respouse virulently anti-semitic views and collaborated some with the Nazi regime.  Arendt describes the kinds of things unfolding in the world today.

I think we're toast. I had that thought just as I turned down Center Street and saw my market was not there. I kept going to get more exercise but it felt good to walk away from the bleak, amplified, strident demonstrators, all white, all decrying violence to a long list of different kinds of people.  Good young people, I am sure. What they were doing seems pointless to me.

I think humanity is going to experirence a lot more darkness. I think things are going to get uglier and then uglier still.

Yeah, I felt empathy for the homeless young people, for the homeless girl whose cigarette had rolled away and for the loud demonstrators. And I am going to get older and young people will address me as an old crone that looks like a man.  Enough with empathy for others. A young woman addressed me as sir. Wah.

It felt good to walk away from the cacophony of young adults on Shattuck. The plywood covering many windows of downtown businesses struck me as being similar to scenes from dystopian-future films. I flashed on a future like the one in A Clockwork Orange, the great Stanley Kubrick film.  In Clockwork, we watch a nasty young male bully everyone as a teenager.  At the end of the film he is a brutal cop, and he has power and protection that the good young people in the movie do not.

My final trimester in college, in a general Humanities class run for profs from multiple liberal arts departments, the theme was irrationality. I took Humanities each of the three trimester that year. We talked a lot about the Holocaust. Saigon had fallen before all our eyes as we watched the TV in the student union. In the olden days, college kids did not have televisions in their rooms. And the only computers filled up whole buildings so no tv on computers. No one watched TV at my college. WE all studied all the time. Seriously, we studied. When Saigon was falling, and also when Nixon resigned, the union was packed, the only public tv on campus. I believe it was a 19 inch TV. In the third trimester of irrationality, we bogged down on Viet Nam. I was bored. The class had a large lecture for everyone taking Humanities and then small group discussions. My undergrad university marketed itself proudly as having only small classes. The large lecture format was an experiment, as was the interdepartmental collaboration.  I chose a history professor for my small group. He was snobby but wicked smart. And he thought I was wicked smart so natch I liked him, eh?

Anyway, two profs were assigned to each small discussion group. We alternated meeting in the professors homes, which was also uncommon at my undergrad university. It seemed very grown up. Plus it was fascinating to see professors in their homes. We were in the home of the other guy, not the history prof. The history professor lived in a grand, Frank Lloyd Wright prairie style house, lots of immaculate oak trim, lots of room, great fires in the fireplace. And his wife fed us. The other guy lived in cramped space.

So as I sat on the sofa, with guys on the floor leaning on the sofa and four people on a three person sofa, I suddenly was fed up with talking about war. It seemed so masculine. I blurted out "Are we  ever going to talk about the irrationality of sexism?  The history prof somewhat brutally mocked me, laughing and saying I was pretty naive if I thought women mattered as much as men, and it is men who fight our wars. I was crushed and it showed. I am sure I turned beet red. The prof apologized, tried to draw out more of what I was thinking. He said he had done a lot of debate teams and he had used an debate technique with inappropriate aggression.  I believed he was sorry but I also believed he didn't give a crap about equal rights for women.

Roe v. Wade, btw, was handed down by the S. Court while I was an undergrad.  I celebrated by getting drunk in the 3.2 beer bar in our student union. Lots of guys stopped by and laughed at us for caring about women's rights but we were all so elated about women getting the right to determine what happened in the most private space of all, one's body, that we ignored the boorish guys.

History professor was unable to reengage me. Suddenly the course seemed dull to me and I cut a lot of classes. I was graduating, moving on down the road.

I had wanted to say 'Fuck you' but I don't think I ever used a single word of profanity in front of any professors.  Fuck you, professor. And he wasn't actually a professor. He had a PhD from U. of Chicago. All the instructors at my undergrad had to have doctorates but he was only two years into teaching and was not even an associate professor. He was an instructor. Fuck you, pal.

How I ramble, eh?!

As I walked down Center, away from the madding crowds, I shook off the bleakness that hides ever more frequently within me and willed myself to enjoy the sunshine.

I did shake off the wave of gloom but it is ever-present.

Thank you sir, indeed.

do not grow old

I found this on Sacred Self Living's Facebook page. It is accompanied by a quote attributed to Einstein.

Do not grow old, no matter how long you live. Never cease to stand like curious children before the Great Mystery into which we were born.
- Albert Einstein
the artist is Frank Howell

free, whole and healed


Here's hoping.  Actually I am very hopeful for myself these days.  My capacity for love, empathy, compassion and happiness expands. As it does, I see more and more love cropping up in my life, like tiny shoots of new life arise on a forest floor right after the wild fire has passed.

Free whole and healed. Yes.

prayer for new beginnings


the persistence of memory


This painting, 'The Persistence of Memory" is, as most know, one of the great surrealist painter Salvador Dali's most famous paintings.  It is worth a trip to NYC MOMA just to see this one painting. Of course, once you get inside NYC MOMA, there are many very famous art pieces you are glad you can see.

This painting is very small, which surprises most first-time in-person viewers, btw.

I love this piece. I've been noodling around the internet today, reading declarations of what the painting means. Several commentators speculate that many viewers see different things and that no one sees what Dali intended them to see. This strikes me as quakery art commentary.

Trained as a tour guide at Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, and later at the Henry Gallery in Seattle at UW, it was drilled into us that no two people see the same thing in any piece of art. No two people see the same thing in any dimension of life, in my opinion.

Whatever someone sees in a painting or other art, they see rightly. An artist releases their best attempt to capture some inner vision onto their canvas, or other medium, and then has to be unattached to what art patrons see. There is no wrong in what one sees in art. Or, although this might seem like a stretch to many, in most of life. You see what you see. When two people look at a blue sky, there is no way to know if each person sees the same blue.

The Persistence of Memory is particularly meaningful to me because I remember much more detail from the past, including the very distant past, than most people.  I don't try to remember. I just do. Often I remember very specific details that I know of a friend's life that the friend had forgotten. Occasionally, a friend, who knows me well enough to know I tend to remember a lot more than most, will ask to prod my memory so they can prod their memories. Such friends know it is very likely I will remember something they forgot. Usually, my disclosure of the memory a friend is trying to reconstruct does prod them to remember.

I remember automatically.

And I have various grounding patterns for my memories. In the span since my daughter was born in 1982 until she dumped me in 2001, I access memories by connecting them to Rosie's age at the time of the memory. Once I connect her age with past events, I remember the events in vivid detail like a documentary film.  My memories from childhood tend to be grounded by associations I make with my youngest brother and sister, whose care I had much responsibility for. If I want to remember something from certain eras in my childhood, I remember how old my baby brother and only sister were and then my memories flow like an oil gusher.

I tend to see my memories as accurate, although I know, as Dali's painting suggests, memories persist but they morph in our memory. The clocks in the painting represent time -- to me, I won't speak declaratively for what others see. The draped, bent, malleable, wet clocks represent, for me, the way time bends our memories, reminds us that our memories are not necessary completely precise. But who is to say what a precisely accurate memory would be?

boring but true

It's boring but true:  I am sick from a diabetes complication.

Obviously, the longer I live with this chronic illness, the more complications will have time to show up.

It is frustrating that doctors, nutritionists and 'diabetes educators' don't tell patients about what can happen to one's body as one lives years with this disease.  I feel like I have to figure everything out on my own.

Our health care system is comparable to parts of cities that are built on not-very-stable landfill. The Marina district of SF is largely landfill, making it potentially very vulnerable if a major earthquake affects that part of the city. The ground below the houses is like jello already.  Downtown Seattle is insanely, and not very successfully, trying to bore the largest tunnel to put in a highway underneath downtown Seattle, even though much of the land where they want to drill is sawdust landfill.

Our health care system presents itself to patients as being very knowledgeable but most of the problem and then remedies for any diabetes issues I have had are things I figured out on my own and then got a doc to prescribe what I needed.

I am challenged right now with a new-to-me diabetes complication. Fortunately, it is a challenge that is said to come and go. It likely will not stay. Equally fortunate, I just happen to have an endocrinologist appointment on January 2nd.

no-show pizza

My ex-husband always asked, when we decided to order pizza, if the pizza parlor had any 'no-show' pizzas. A no-show is someone ordered the pizza by phone but it's been ready for too long, is no longer in prime condition. They didn't show up to pick it up. And back then, pizza joints did not ask for your credit card over the phone. They trusted people. No-show pizzas were a crap shoot. Some were dried out. Some had ingredients I didn't like. They were cheap and that was the point.

It only occurred to me this moment that maybe my ex, secretively for he would have known this would have appalled me, maybe he ordered pizzas and then waited until they were no-show's.

In Omaha, in the early eighties, a pizza parlor would sell no-shows for half price.

Hmmm.  My ex always used a fake name when ordering pizza.

I point out that in the early eighties, caller ID did not exist. Cell phones unheard of, although you would buy gigantic, heavy phones and use them in your car.

His fake pizza name was Dale Andreeson.

I often wondered why he used a fake name. Now, only just now, it occurs to me that he used a fraudulent name to cover up his fraudulent, hidden-from-me, orders for pizzas he hoped to later buy as a no-show.  Even when he had to order his own fresh pizza and pay full price, he always showed up to get the pizza as Dale Andreeson, always took care to pay cash.

Perhaps selling no-show pizzas was an Omaha fad. When I moved back to MN after my divorce, I tried to buy cheaper, no-show pizzas and never found a pizza place that would do it.

I used to wonder why pizza places would sell their no-shows, at half price. Doing so invited cheapskates to fake order pizzas and then claim the no-show.

Those no-show pizzas were not as good as a freshly baked pizza pie, picked up on time. They would be dried out, because the pizza place kept them in ovens to keep them hot for the customer. And they would have toppings we did not want or care for.

Yup, I'm thinking he scammed no-show pizzas. Can't you see some knuckleheaded college boys, drunk, ordering pizzas they intended to score for half price as no-shows?

My ex told me a few stories of things he did before we knew one another. Scary things. And some harmless but petty crimes, like pissing into a fountain after a football game in Lincoln and getting arrested. I am thinking of one story he told me, about taking a sledge hammer and destroying the new sporty car of a 'friend' of his. He was drunk. And envious.  He never got caught. I never met the guy who owned the car. He had moved to Chicago before I moved to Omaha.  I don't know if the story was true but it still gives me pause, eh?

No show pizza indeed.

Friday, December 26, 2014

I smell love

A woman on my mushroom foray today took several deep breaths close to a mushroom that was handed to her.  Experienced mushroomers smell subtleties in different mushrooms in a manner similar to the way someone knowledgeable about wine might speak of hints of wood and nettle in the wine.  I listen to the experts leading these forays but, so far, I never smell the smells they say are typical for given mushrooms.

This woman, on her first foray, had been handed a mushroom and told it smelled like maple syrup. A candy cap, I now know. Edible and beautiful.  She pushed it up to her nose and said "I smell life, I smell earth, I smell sun."

I didn't know anyone on this foray so I did not say what I wanted to say to her, which was "You smell the cosmos, you smell love."

psychedelic mushrooms

I've been to enough mushroom shows and forays, now, to have seen folks whose primary mushroom interest is finding and ingesting psychedelic mushrooms.

I ate some peyote when I was 19. I have no interest in getting high on anything.  I am a finely tuned energy. Being me is psychedelic enough, thank you.

Today, on a foray, two young men walked behind me smoking marijuana and talking about their recent mushroom successes.

Right now in the Bay Area, with all our recent rain, mushrooms are bountiful. Some folks say that three years of mushrooms have appeared in local woods. I don't know if that makes sense but it is fun to hear someone declare happily "this is three years of mushrooms coming all at once!" with excitement.

The two pot-smoking guys talked of going out just before Christmas. One guy boasted he had filled two grocery bags with Masutakes, or hen-of-the-wood.  I love Masutakes and very occasionally buy some. I've yet to forage any. These guys were grumbling, happily, about the challenge of using up all the mushrooms they found before going out of town for Christmas. A happy challenge to face, eh? One of then, with a cute French accent, said he had actually thrown out some mushrooms that had spoiled.

Mushrooms do not keep long.

Another youngish man on this foray had driven up from Santa Cruz. I think he was Chinese. He was Asian, for sure. He was also very tall, definitely over six feet, skinny and he had such a delighted and delightful demeanor. He was bursting with his extensive mushroom knowledge. someone would raise a mushroom and he would be off, telling us all about the mushroom and several anecdotes of his history with that particular kind of mushroom.  I am sure he was over 30 but he acted like a very happy eight year old boy, bouncing around, chattering unceasingly and exuding joy.

I was overwhelmed by all his information so I began to listen to him without listening to the words. His joyful mushroom disquisitions were like music. He voice like a flute, or a songbird, in the woods.

I wanted to stop, turn to face the pot smokers and ask them where they had found their Masutakes, jump in my car and go there directly.

Mushroomers, for the most part, are generous in sharing their knowledge, both about mushrooms and about where they found the most sought-after ones. It's a free economy and most seem drawn to 'shrooming for the free culture as much as the free mushrooms.

Not everyone is generous. There was a woman on this morning's foray who had big plastic bags and a pair of scissors. Each time the group came upon a place full of mushrooms, edible ones, she would pull out a bag, a pair of scissors and snip snip snip, taking them all while the rest of us listened to the talk about the mushroom.

Plastic bags are a no no. Scissors are a no no. One is supposed to dig out the whole mushroom. There is a protocol.

But if one is just out for the food, I guess efficiently harvesting finds that everyone else is too polite to hog is okay. It is a free world in a mushroom forest, eh?

The guy from Santa Cruz, in one of his earliest talks before I began to experience him as music/energy, said that down in SC, people are always asking him to help them find psychedelic mushrooms. He said "I live in an area with over twenty thousand varieties of mushrooms. There are maybe two or three varieties of psychedelic mushrooms in the Santa Cruz hills and forests. Why would I spend a day looking for those two or three rarities when there is so much bounty? Such folks tend to get angry with me when I won't invest time helping them find psychedelic mushrooms. I offer to go mushrooming with them, to help them find edible ones but I won't focus on the psychedelic."

When I was very young, age 19, I ate some peyote. If someone, in the short window during which I smoked marijuana a lot, ate peyote once and took one hit of acid once, had offered me psychedelic mushrooms and that someone convincingly had persuaded me they were not poisonous, I would have eaten a psychedelic 'shroom. But my foray into hallucinogenics petered out in less than a year. I have never liked getting high.

Like I said, my energy is very fine, my instincts and inner capacity to just know things from my own energy is highly evolved. I don't care if that sounds arrogant. I am a wonderful, magical person. And I don't like being high. I like being me, praise goddess.

And I don't like being me high.  No psychedelic mushrooms for me.

I would sure like to stuff a grocery bag with free matsutakes. I'd make an omelette with them. I'd cook them and then add spinach and tamari at the last minute. And then I'd make a soup. And I'd probably just braise some in garlic infused olive oil and eat a plate of them for dinner.

Someday. It is said if you believe something can come into your life, it will. I am jonesing for a trove of matsutake when I had paper bags, knife, and trowel. And warm clothing. It was sharpishly cold this morning in the woods.

mushrooms really are magic

I eat mushrooms every week, buying from a vendor at my Saturday farmers market. Mushrooms are expensive but densely beneficial for our health so I buy 1/4 pounds of one or two kinda of mushrooms most Saturdays.  I fantasize finding porcini, chanterelles, and bolete -- all of which are supposed to be out in prolific quantities just now.
Only it is not easy peasy to learn to identify mushrooms. A mushroom can look very similar to a familiar, safe one but be poisonous. It is not easy peasy at all.
Today, out on a foray, I found a trove of candy caps in Joaquin Miller Park.  I saw some turkey feathers. I saw what was identified by knowledgeable mushroom folks as a fresh and still edible comorra. The guy who brought it to show said anyone could take it. When I got back to my car, it was still on display, on offer to any taker. I wanted to take it but didn't.
I broke off from the group when I began to feel ill. Alone in the woods, I came upon what seemed a magical dream:  tons of mushrooms, many varieties. Rushing to find a restroom, and not knowing the mushrooms, I did not take any.  I thought of a lovely blog post Geo wrote long ago about how one can look in one direction and see no mushrooms, then glance back and it is as if the mushrooms sprung in in that moment you glanced away.  Being an Oakland city park, foraging is permitted. 

Joaquin Miller Park is a lovely place, full of redwoods but not ancient ones. The ancient ones were immediately clear cut as soon as white people showed up but Joaquin Miller bought a piece of land and lovingly planted as many trees as he could, then left his land to Oakland.  There is a gorgeous, new-looking community center in the park -- another space for holding events, with parking! And stunning panoramas of the bay. In this little glen where I saw thousands of mushrooms, I know there were plenty of edible ones. but which ones!  I hurried along.

When I go out on forays, for I dare not forage on my own, not without experts to tell me what I find is safe to eat, I notice my mind flashing to Geo, Geo buying a book on mushrooms at Moe's, that lovely post on his blog long ago about 'shrooming and I find myself thinking "I wish Geo had taken me out a couple times, shown me how easy this is, cause it sure doesn't seem easy to me. He said it was easy.  It's not." I will post his lovely piece on mushrooms below. He has not copyrighted his blog.
 
I always think of Geo when out on a foray. I usually think of the blog post pasted below that he wrote about how one can glance in one direction and not see mushrooms, then glance back and see mushrooms, as if they magically sprung up in an instant.  I am going to post his lovely mushroom post, but not use his name.  We are not friends, our social networks overlap -- you only meet people because your networks intersect -- and I don't want some people we know in common to know he is the Geo I blog about.

I know that the friend I miss was an illusion. Still, I miss him. My imaginary friend introduced me to the secrets of mushroom hunting and on our few mushroom trips, we enriched our friendship, cementing it for life. He's magical. I'm magical. Mushrooms are magical. This makes sense, yes?

Here is his beautiful piece on mushrooming:



Through the mushroom portal, by Geo
Looking for mushrooms is a tradition in my Italian family. My grandmother would talk about her long walks, with groups of her friends, into the hills of the Garfagnana to look for Porcini mushrooms in the fall of every year. The thought takes me back to Lammari, to the wonderful feeling of people living together, simply, with one another and with the land. The smell of the woods and grass infuses the misty air that we breathe as if it were an extension of the body and flesh, connecting us with the land. Not like here in the city, where we find ourselves in an outdoor artificial container breathing pulverized rubber and road soot, such that we must take refuge in hygienic insulated indoor artificial containers called homes and apartments, sheltered from the loud traffic.

Back in 1999 I decided I’d learn how to hunt mushrooms. I looked on the web and found a listing that said a group of shroomers was meeting in a parking lot near the Pulgas Water temple just south of Crystal Springs reservoir. I went. Three of the five or six people there were italian guys over 70 years old. Che meraviglia.

Looking for mushrooms is meaningful on many levels. Mushroom hunting takes you through a portal into another time, primordial, off the artificial grid. Every good mushrooming park worth its salt has the same sign on its bulletin board near the parking lot: a white skull and crossbones on black with the words “Warning!”, “Danger,” and “Death.” Mushrooms are dangerous. Picking them is verboten. Fines will be levied. The sign in Palo Alto’s Huddart Park says that simply touching a poisonous mushroom can be deadly (untrue). I suspect that the ubiquitous posting of these signs is a plot decreed at the highest levels by some secret Council of Mycological Illuminati as part of a brilliant campaign of deception. The danger of mushroom picking is one of those broadly-accepted cultural myths, repeated mouth to mouth, by which we hem ourselves into the neatly sequestered parking spaces of modern life, keeping between the white-painted lines. Yes, some mushrooms are deadly. The secret is that, with a little education, the danger is easily enough circumvented. The propagated fear protects the treasure from pilfering by the impure. Only those capable of transgression may pass through the portal towards real living.

Mushroom hunting takes a person off the beaten path. Literally. The first step of the mushroom hunter is sideways, off the trail. I follow not the worn way, but always only my own feel for beauty and adventure and instinct. I look all around me and listen. Which direction is calling me? The glade to the left, infused with light? The damp, dark, musty spot down the hill? Shall I climb on high? Whither am I called? There is no reason to go one direction or another but that I am more attracted this way than that. All life should be such a wandering towards beauty.

Mushrooming teaches us the magic of the second sight. How often I have had the experience of standing in a wooded grove, scouring the leafy ground with my eyes, and scouring again, and scouring yet again, seeing not one single mycological specimen, none, when, lo, suddenly, I spy a single specimen! I look close in and inspect. Then I widen my gaze when, magically, I see another mushroom just the same, and then another, and another — and I realize that I am surrounded by an army of mushrooms everywhere! Some say it is a matter of looking right. Your looking always looks from assumptions that you cannot see until some discordant surprise throws open the curtains to new contact with the outside. This may be the case. Or maybe the mushrooms themselves are sly creatures of intention who like to play peek-a-boo; they wait cunningly until you aren’t ready before they pop out into the open. I have in fact found it a helpful device to say aloud “There obviously aren’t any mushrooms around here!” The sentence works as a kind of mushroom call.

The variety and abundance of mushrooms is astounding. Everywhere the woods contain an abundance. And it is open to the taking. Mushrooms are one of the few wild foods left to us. They remain within a past time when nature was open, when nature was a part of us. You find a mushroom and you may take it home and eat it. You can go back for more. You do not have to pay cash money for them.

On the other side of the portal, the word "free" has no meaning, because the exaction of payment hasn't even been invented yet.

my edit of Merton's most famous prayer

Here's Merton's version. For about ten years now, I inwardly wince at references to a male God, tipped off with male pronouns. I know Merton wrote during a different time, when male domination that went with a male God were common assumptions. Still I wince. I wince because whenever I read a male pronoun reference to Spirit, I feel excluded. Plus I am angry about the dominator culture. All Merton's prayer needs is a teeny tiny deletion of the first three words.  One could substitute "The Cosmos", "Spirit", "Love" for Merton's phrase "My Lord God" if one needs to affirm there are deities in this cosmos.  Me?  I am cool with androgenous references to Spirit but I prefer androgenous references to Love.

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahed of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that
I think I am following Your will does not mean that I am
actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please You
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that, if I do this, You will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore I will trust You always though I may seem to be lost
and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for You are ever with me,
and You will never leave me to face my perils alone
 

Thursday, December 25, 2014

The SF Contemporary Jewish Museum/Andrew Newman, genius artist

The SF Contemporary Jewish Museum, whose current building only opened in 2008, was a fascinating experience.
The architect designed the building to represent the Hebrew letters that make up the word 'chai', for life (as you likely know).  The building soars in one gallery as a temple to the Hebrew letter/sound 'Yud' (I am not sure how to talk about Hebrew alphabet)  is a spectacular, soaring temple to life. Yud is the first letter in the Hebrew word for life. I think. Not knowing much about Hebrew or Judaism, one trip to a Jewish museum has not left me well informed.

The museum began, in large part, to reflect that as Jews moved to the Western United States, they developed new culture. I guess as any culture moves around the world, they adapt their cultures, as cultures do and certainly the Jews have moved around a lot. The museum, only in part, aspires to represent that 'western' experience.


There was a Jewish children's book illustrator/author exhibit, clearly as a way to get adults to bring children into the museum. It was not very interesting."

Then there was a homage to the Jewish, very rich founder of a beloved SF institution, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, an annual music festival in Golden Gate Park. The guy was the scion of the Wells Fargo founder and devoted much of his wealth to tikkun olun, doing good. (Might not have spelled that right). That exhibit also was a little ho hum for me because I am not into bluegrass.

The field trip was feeling dull until we entered the Arnold Newman exhibit. Newman was probably one of the most brilliant photographers ever, mostly doing portraits of very famous people but also other photography. I like photography but don't know too much about it. It is not common for art museums to show a lot of photography, for some reason.  Say, do you know that the Henry Gallery at UW Seattle has one of the most significant photography collections in the world?  Some rich folks donated their lifelong devotion to collection the entire history of photography with the condition that some of the photos will always be on display. The Henry is not very big but it always has at least one room with photos. When I was a docent there, I remember yearning to see a major retrospective so I could see the full spectrum of photography. Such a show could not be done at the Henry for such a show would require a ton of gallery space.
Arnold Newman was one impressive photographer.  He was not just highly skilled in photography technique. He was skilled at getting people to relax, forget the formal portrait, engage with Arnold and he would snap visions of themselves they had tried to conceal. Sometimes, however, when he noted that a portrait subject was trying to present themselves in a certain way, he would magically manage to capture both what the subject was trying to project but also capture the true essence of the person. 
Two outstanding photos, although, truly, every photo in the show was outstanding -- it is so pleasurable to see such effortless genius on display. 
One standout photo was  one of Ayn Rand. Ayn is wearing a dollar sign brooch, smoking a cigarette and her face shows the ravages of cigarette smoke. She seems to think she is posing in a flattering way but he managed to very effectively capture her venality. Virtually everyone who passed the Ayn Rand photo saw her creepiness and marveled at Newman's genius in conveying it, conning a celebrity into revealing her true, ugly, inner self. That silver dollar sign brooch seemed very meaningful but not as meaningful as the cold darkness of her face.
Right next to the dark portrait of Rand was a photo of what was labeled as a German industrialist. Clearly this industrialist had posed thinking he was impressing the viewer with his power. Knowing nothing about the guy except that he was 'an industrialist', you get that the guy was a Nazi, committed war crimes, even though the photo is presented with no information. Sure enough, at another place in the show, the article in 'Look magazine about the guy gives detail: he was tried for war crimes, left prison after a few years*, became a very wealthy industrialist and then, justice being a real thing, I hope, he lost it all. The photo of him shows the man's venality but also, in one blink, the Holocaust. IMHO.

Another stand out photo for me was his portrait of Andy Warhol. I think there were a couple photos of Warhol. The stand out one, for me, was part of a series Newman did in which he injected something into the portrait to reflect the subject's work in the world. His choice to capture Warhol's work as an artist is simple and brilliant. He photographed four transparent pink lines of paper and pasted the pink lines as a mask over Warhol's eyes.  I might not be describing it well but it was an inspired choice for Warhol.

Another impressive aspect of the show, and a nice self esteem boost for me, was I knew about almost every famous person whose portrait(s) were on display.  I am quite erudite!

What a great art experience. And this museum visit was a Christmas gift, for the museum is always free on Christmas Day.  We had lunch at the Wise Sons deli in the museum. I rarely eat sandwiches but I had chopped liver on rye. The rye bread was the absolute best rye bread I have ever eatten. It was sliced very thin. The little bit of crust was magically crispy.  The pleasant experience of that crispy bread crust lingers, not unlike the genius of Andrew Newmann's art.

If you live in the Bay Area, or are visiting it before the show closes on February 1st, I urge you to see this show. It is special. Really special. By photographing countless renown artists, architects, designers, politicians and ordinary people, the show tells the 20th Century's intellectual history. The show's breadth is so pleasurable.  And it is fun to remember that only a fraction of Newman's subjects are presented.   Andrew Newman was (is? he may be dead but his work is so alive).

Love, me


mac magazine app

merry merry love rays

It is Christmas Day and I am happy. It took 13 years to get to a happy Christmas.

Praise goddess.

Joy joy joy.

Love love love.

Kiss kiss kiss.

Love rays to everyone.

I make the same mistakes



great song that describes me:  I make the same mistakes. . .

insomnia: a vicious circle

For the past week or so, I have been unable to sleep all night. Then I slept a lot during day and early evening and the cycle repeats -- I can't sleep the next night.

I don't like insomnia.

when love's no longer being served


Kinda like "know when to fold 'em"?

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

no religion for me but I got me some Catholic cred

I'm not Catholic but I went to Catholic school K-12 and our family life revolved around parish life. My mom decided that since her sister was a nun, meaning to my mother that her parents had given one of their children to god, mom decided to give me to god and said I had to be a nun. Then she announced it to the parish and the whole parish actually prayed for my vocation. I felt so trapped. What constituted my whole world assumed I would be a nun and I didn't feel I could tell anyone I didn't want to do it. My aunt the nun, who was also my godmother, saved me. Jody, btw, is no longer a nun. She entered the convent the day after my christening and left it when I was 47 to marry an Episcopal priest. I digress. . .. Once when Jody visited Chicago, mom suggested we both go to mass on a hot summer day when the only mass was at 7 a.m. and the only folks in attendance, typically, were the nuns of the parish. So we went to that early sweltering mass. Afterwards, Jody suggested we sit and talk about my vocation. I glanced around anxiously because many of my teachers, nuns, had just filed out of church and they had all sternly lectured about never, ever talking in church. Jody also glanced around, pointed out no one was there but us and assured me God would not mind. She asked me if I had any questions about my vocation. I am sure I was beet red. I know I stammered, duh, uh, and Jody gently encouraged me to speak what I was really thinking. So I blurted out that my big concern was that in the book Bernie Becomes a Nun, which had lots of photos, it showed Bernie getting her hair chopped off just before she became the bride of Christ. 

I had a terror of short hair as a child. My mom regularly tricked me into short hair cuts. She'd make a big deal about the two of us having a mother-daughter outing to the hairdresser. I'd put on one of those caps, climb up on a booster in the beauty salon chair and the hairdresser would whip our her scissors. I would object, call over to my mom and say "Mom, you said no haircut, just a style" and she would say "Honey, I already paid for the cut, let her cut your hair."

Abandoned by mom to the stranger with scissors, I would do my best to negotiate the least amount of cutting possible.  Mom pulled that stung only a few times before I flatly refused to go to hair salons with her. 

Stammering to my aunt Jody after that early summer weekday Mass when I was, maybe, ten,  I said "um, do all nuns have to wear short hair? Will I have to have short hair under my veil for the rest of my life?"  It truly was my only concern. I knew I didn't want to be a nun but I had never seen my mother's will defeated, the whole parish was praying for my vocation and I believed being a nun was my unavoidable fate.  I was not kidding around when I said my concern was short hair. I imagined my hair scalped sloppily, as close to the scalp as possible. It didn't occur to me my head might get shaved. If I had thought of a shaved head, I think I might have died on the spot.


Jody kindly suppressed her laughter at my concern, told me she didn't think I had a vocation. We left the church and walked home.

Later I heard her yelling at my mom, saying "Honestly, Mary Ann, what have you been thinking? You can't force her to be a nun." 

Then mom decided to give my brother Joe to God. She actually sent him to a boarding school seminary for the 7th grade. At Christmas break, a priest brought Joe home and asked to talk to my folks. All us, by then, six kids were shewed away but Joe had to listen to the priest report on Joe's vocation.  

That priest said Joe did not have a vocation and would not be allowed to return to school. Here's what nixed Joe's vocation: all the boys had to get up at 5:30 a.m. and pray, kneeling, for an hour before breakfast. Joe refused to do it, saying things like "no fucking way I'm gonna pray on my fucking knees for an hour before eating breakfast.  I'll pray but fucking feed me first." 

The priests tried to break Joe's will by making him kneel on an altar all day, day after day with his arms outstretched. He missed class and was told he'd miss class until he submitted to God's overlords, the priests running that school, and prayed for an hour at 5:30.  Joe did his kneeling day after day  but he continued to refuse, and joyfully used the word fuck as much as possible, to pray for an hour at 5:30 a.m. I remember sneaking nearby to hear the priest report on Joe's failings. I love to remember how Joe made faces for me, showing his happiness at being expelled from seminary, something he bragged about for years.  He bragged, and I was proud of him, that the priests' broke first. They let him sleep until breakfast, probably at the same time they decided that Joe did not have a vocation and would not be returning after the Christmas school break.

After that, my mom stopped trying to force a vocation on any of her kids.  It actually bugged me that she didn't bully my sister into a vocation. Flannery, the baby in our family, had to go to Catholic grade school and high school but no one ever said she had to be a nun.  Flannery would likely have scorned the idea aloud.
 

Many people who know me now don't believe me when I tell them I was very shy, quiet and too well behaved as a child.  When I was a kid, we got grades for behavior and I always got the E for Excellent and then, when they switched to A's I got A's in comportment.  I said a full rosary every day, even after the nun fiasco was behind me.  I obeyed my parents, kept some ugly family secrets. And I was, essentially, my mother's slave. More like Cinderella than a daughter.  She used me, saying families were supposed to help one another. She hated tending her endless stream of babies and from age seven onward, I tended them, ordered to rush home from school to relieve mom from the latest baby. I also fixed week day dinners for the family from around age seven onwards. Dad cooked on weekends. I still wonder what my mom did all day when us kids were at school. Laundry, she did laundry. But what else?  I am the one who had to dust all the blinds once a week, vacuum the living/common areas. And my brothers?  Mom said they didn't have to do all that I did because I was doing girl's work. My brothers had to take out the trash and do the dishes. Dishes was also girl's work and my brothers complained a lot about having to do them

So you can see I have Catholic cred, eh?

I did not expose my daughter, now 32, to Catholicism. Another sin according to the faith I was raised in.