Monthly Archive for September, 2009

memory lane

mmm just had dinner with a dear friend and we ran through memories – remember when what’s his name…and then we were…and that one party that was so sticky hot and everyone was…was someone shooting at us?…did you know i…yeah girl. the conclusion, thank god we were 19 once, and able to scream, sing, fall down, be in a city, be of a generation, hurl insults at the ruling class, believe everything was possible.

i’ve been of many minds of late. on one hand, i have given in to my deep urge to move to detroit, for love and mentors and to be immersed in a place that has largely moved beyond dependence on systems that rely on oppression. detroit is a violent place, a falling down falling apart place – and the most foward looking, viable solution place i have ever been.

on another hand, i just came out of an inspiring ruckus retreat where we basically decided to go harder than ever – or at least recently. our arc of success can’t simply be a good training, or a training that leads to a good action, or even a training that leads to an action that leads to good media. our arc has to be towards justice, towards tangible change in our communities. we have to put aside judgment, hurt, doubt and scarcity mindset and develop a body of fearless capable activists. i am excited to be ruckus at this time.

on yet another hand i watched the little short video, “if star wars were made by environmentalists”, a startling accurate critique of how many movements function now, measuring success based on process and media, rather than on actual change – changes we make and changes we demand for our survival. derrick jensen is the voice – and i went and watched other videos of his. he asks the question, do you believe that people will voluntarily make the changes needed in society for survival? and if you do not believe that – and based on all current evidence, it would be foolish to believe it – then what will you do? how far will you go? how will you resist? these are relevant questions, and this line of thinking is why i am so excited about urban agriculture, about a city like detroit which has depopulated to the degree that the city which was once home to over 2 million people now holds only 800,000. it’s why i am so excited about guerilla gardening, and reclaiming (or claiming for the first time) land for the purpose of community resilience. i am tired of complaint without action, and i am tired of action without change. i love the look of self-determination, particularly when it’s balanced by a sense of sustainability, a sense that there is a whole planet upon which we are all dependent, and with which we have to reformulate a physical and spiritual relationship if we hope to be here for any foreseeable future. he says that cities are not a sustainable model, because at the root a city is a mass of people that rely upon importation of goods, exhausting the local natural resources and having zero relationship with the people and places from which most of our food, clothing, fuel and materials come from. i am a city girl, but i know this is true – that i have lived at a point in humanity that is a golden age of urbanity, and that will likely pass into post-industrial agrarian modes, or implode. or both. jensen offers more questions than solutions, but they are relevant questions.

on another hand i am going to be an auntie, again. the miracle of my first nephew has changed my worldview. i am not merely interested in the world left for the next generation and those that follow – it is not a theoretical commitment anymore. my only purpose in life may be to carve out a world in which he can experience safety, acceptance, joy, sustenance, abundance. every day i want to learn something new that makes his world a better place. and now he will be a big brother, with a little sister or brother close enough in age to play with. and now both of them are my charge, my responsibility, the loves of my life. what a gift…

and there are more hands. there is a self that is only thinking about facilitation, truth and reconciliation, community processes and accountability. i have been thinking a lot lately about the ways in which people occupy their marginalization. every word from their mouths is critique or victimization. they want the freedom to act anonymously, in the ether, in the internet, behind closed doors, behind backs, calling personal attacks “not personal”, and trying to create divides and boundaries and borders that they believe will make them safe. i see it all over the “movement”, or the many movements for justice. i see a similar long-range hateration from the radical right…with no intention to change, only add to the negative and downward spiral of humanity. it is like a peak of powerlessness – so far from self-awareness and the ability to impact the world – that i feel overwhelmed with compassion, and grateful for the voice i have found to offer my thoughts and visions for the world. the reality is hard enough, the horrors we have exacted on each other and on the planet is enough. “everything we do now should be done in a sacred manner, and in celebration” – thus say the hopi elders. this makes sense to me. but the things we do in a sacred manner should be sacred things, as well – grieving, loving, creating, learning. why expend the precious gift of breath and blood pumping through our veins for anything less than amazing awareness and forward motion?

i don’t have most of what i have had recently – i have relinquished at least 2/3 of my belongings for this move i am making. the things i kept are things i love – memories, photos, music, books. the things i have given away had no memories in them, nothing essential. they were things i thought i needed but have realized i can live without. i feel lighter, like my touch on the earth has less damage in it, like i have distributed an old life, shed an old skin, in order to feel the shape and simplicity of the next iteration of my life.

i am a writer, and like many writers, i write worlds into existence. when i ask others to consider what they are being called to, i can hear the future opening up to me in my own life. writing to people about the love i feel for detroit made me realize i could no longer be a long-distance admirer of that city, i needed to know it more deeply.

it is becoming harder and harder for me to see the surface of things, the presentation, the false solutions we are told to galvanize around and advance as policy and politics. i want to live deeply, as if i were a genius, as if my life matters, as if the future depends on it. not on my particular contribution, but on the way i live – as honestly and freely as possible, feeling what is right and knowing it as the only possible strategy.

and the conversation i had tonight reminded me that i have always known this is the way i need to live, though it has looked differently in my life. so, again, i commit to integrity and wonder, and letting go of obeying, letting go of the labels and boxes and politeness and falseness that thwarts transformation.

it is good to remember – if i don’t want the bliss of ignorance then let me know only that which gives me power, and brings more justice to those i love.

things i apparently have a hard time letting go of:

based on what i keep finding in different corners, drawers, old purses, these are the things i apparently have a hard time letting go of:

friend’s music, regardless of quality

tampons

pens or any other sort of writing mechanism

conference name tags

items related to september 11 including publications from the days/weeks after, a shot glass with the twin towers on it, and a framed photo of my sister and i with the towers in the background

things to smoke from

flasks

fantastic purses, each with a toothbrush, nail file, tissues and quarters

gifts purchased for others including chopsticks, sake sets, tea, wallets, and postcards

matches from restaurants i love

pay stubs and receipts faded past any usefulness.

french language course dvds. merde.

canvas bags

adapters

shoes i don’t really like or feel comfortable in

images i think are beautiful. i have boxes of pictures i have cut out of magazines, pictures, art postcards

journals and paper, notebooks, construction paper, post-its, random scrap paper i have written “genius” ideas on, thank you cards

old business cards with my name on them that i have no intention of using, and the business cards of people i likely won’t follow up with.

this week i am letting 90% of these things go.

shed, shed, shed!

just cause oakland/things i collect

tonight i had the lovely opportunity to be a co-emcee for the just cause oakland gala at the historic sweets ballroom in downtown oakland. beautiful event, honoring the remarkable work of just cause oakland members, and of the progressive movement in the city. housing justice organizers who have been fighting for the rights of home buyers and renters for years are a really special type of people – it takes tireless dedication to keep people in their homes. if you weren’t at the event tonight but want to support their work, you can donate here.

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in other news, it has become very present to me, the things i have collected in this world. i don’t shop often, many of these things are gifted, found or created items. what i am learning about is what i haven’t let go of over the years. here’s a short list of the type of things i collect:

books. huge art books, slender memoirs…i love books – used books more than new ones. i love science fiction books, and philosophy books with notes in the margins. i have a core of books i can’t give away, but each time i move i give piles of books to people i love.

richard pryor movies. and marilyn monroe movies, postcards, calendars.

frida kahlo art in any form, especially forms easy to see daily, like magnets.

lamps. tiny little lamps, large floor lamps, mismatched lamps.

candles. tea candles and huge knee high massive candles.

altar items…sage, earth and rock, goddess cards, turquoise, photos, prayer beads, feathers.

necklaces – rarely to wear. i like to cover my walls in necklaces from all over.

elephant figurines. small elephants.

soap. blocks of lavender and ginger and rosemary and sandalwood soap.

music – records, tapes, cds, comprehensive compilations, instruments, books of sheet music, recordings…

scarves – really decadent colorful soft bright warm scarves. head scarves, scarves as belts, scarves that change outfits.

vintage high waisted dresses.

turquoise.

playing cards, toys and games. i have enough playing cards to throw a tournament. and jenga, dominoes, scrabble, chess, madagascar solitaire, boggle, sudoku.

everything my friend daniel alarcon wrote in college.

hilarious, out of context photos.

postcards – kahlo, dali, van gogh, hiroshige, avedon, places i have been and long for.

containers – gorgeous bowls too pretty to use, jewelry boxes, travel toiletry bags, vases, tiny jade boxes, baskets, canvas bags, small illogical purses. i have more containers than things to put on them.

and gifts. i have something for everyone.

that glow

when you got that glow, you know, you know
- the last dragon

all day today people have been telling me i am glowing. i know it. i got some amazing news today that a new life is coming to a loved one.

and i am glowing because i am in a packing process, moving into the home of my dreams. i am clearing out of this little cave/studio apartment which, like the cave/studios that came before it, has been a holding place. the new place isn’t so big, but its brilliant.

and…i am a mover. i grew up moving every two years, and i find the process of organizing things into trash, donations, and things i must keep cathartic. the easiest stuff to give up is clothing and shoes, the hardest is books and cassette tapes – even though i have no cassette player now, i can’t let go of The Jets, that first Bob Dylan mixtape, all the tapes of me singing audio recordings of original songs which i am sure would be painful to hear but…still.

i am glowing because two weeks of time with family and very old friends has me feeling seen in a way that honors how i have grown, and who i have always been.

i have been working a lot lately on saying what i feel, and actually letting myself feel what i feel, sitting in vulnerable moments, doing the best i can at all times.

and, letting go of what i can’t change.

and, coming from the place of radical love as much as i can. love shows me when and where to say yes and no. easily. there is so so much that simply isn’t important, and doesn’t matter…keeping up appearances isn’t why i was given the gift of breath.

i am an earth sign, but lately i keep thinking of how water would move through a moment.

i have come across a lot of things that are amazing as i am packing. these things i want to gift to you:

watch the last dragon,
the fifth element, robin hood

read:
the prophet, khalil gibran
the eight, katherine neville
mastery of love, don miguel ruiz
the art of war, sun tzu
skinny legs and all, tom robbins
the years of rice and salt, kim stanley robinson
and most books by don delillo, joan didion, samuel r delany, philip dick, william gibson, octavia butler, alice walker
autobiographies of malcolm x, grace lee boggs, assata shakur, audre lourde, daniel alarcon, junot diaz

more to come.

pile up

mercury is in retrograde. i am going to take that opportunity to communicate to you in the mode my mind generally moves…

i spent september 11 in ny, getting on trains. i even had a meeting on wall street, and saw the stock exchange covered in the largest flag i have ever seen. i felt solo in a time warp of sorrow and grief. grief stays sharp, i had a vision for a moment of bodies piled up everywhere. bodies from violence that led towards september 11, and from that day, and the days since then. bodies beyond assumption or grace. i wondered how people can walk around down there, giggling, shopping, conducting business. to me it is a war zone.

my nephew is heaven on earth, so delectable and smart and opened wide.

a new cousin was born yesterday morning at 6am.

my sister and i, having undergone deep reconciliation, are now offering advice for other siblings on key questions that can save your relationship. this makes me unbelievably happy, to be living, learning and sharing as we go, together.

i don’t have it in my heart to pay right wing radical haters any attention, so the power that glenn beck is building up to point at some one and lead to their resignation is a truly unwelcome distraction. i am pleased to see the transformative, refocusing efforts by center for media justice, the league, jeff chang and others. to learn from this moment, to have humility to see that we are vulnerable, possibly even to shift out of strategies that have us reacting to and legitimizing racist opposition…can we do it? we need health care and climate change policy that gives us a fighting chance at seven generations; we need to practice solutions in our local communities that lift us above the fray of national punditry – everyone, play your position.

there is a meal i love. grilled sirloin steak with bearnaise sauce and herbed butter, crispy skinny fries with mayo and ketchup, followed by profiteroles with chocolate sauce. just want to acknowledge that, to all the people i have individually manipulated to share that meal with me while in ny.

and…nyc is no longer my city. this visit has clarified that i love people in nyc, and their lives here. but the pace exhausts me, the unspoken rush at all times, i feel it in my spine and my knee. i wake up heart pounding, just because there are so many hearts pounding all around me. i need more space than this, i need real dirt without gates around it. i think i will never fit in this city again as a new yorker.

and that’s ok, all of these things i am peace with. i can put on my black, and blend in and vicariously new york again.

so far, so good

So this is the end of my 30th year and I feel like things are going great. Here’s a few things I have observed, or feel fairly certain of:

1. Transformation is cyclical and constant.

2. I am a nudist at heart.

3. Wisdom is not awarded with age, though it can be accumulated over time.

4. Children are humans at our best.

5. Failure versus success is a false paradigm; there is only living, learning and change.

6. Actions speak louder than words, and words are important and should be used with the intention to make things better.

7. Critical, radical reactions are easy, visionary adaptive solutions are challenging, and more interesting.

8. The human body is miraculous, regardless of color, ability, sex, height, weight, or whatever other aspects we can judge…the breath, the blood, the systems. Apply your gifts towards a life befitting the miraculous.

9. Yay sex/pleasure/touch!

10. I am a singer. I have a capacity to heal with song that I am just beginning to learn about.

11. I want to surround myself with people who do the right thing when no one is looking.

12. I feel a part of the planet when I am in nature; I feel a part of humanity when I am with my family; I feel a part of history when I do my work.

13. My sisters are the truth, and I love how we are leaves from the same tree, flames from a common fire – I need them.

14. I am radical love – its what I am doing and being at all times.

15. I think living within my watershed, and within my food shed, is an exciting way to move into a sustainable future.

16. I’ve been around half the world, and love every place I’ve seen so far.

17. I have to write.

18. I know nothing, I am always in beginner’s mind.

19. I also have experienced a lot, and can share it with others as we learn together.

20. The gifts I have given myself that mattered are: patience, permission, time with my family and my love, and time spent in meditation and physical activity.

21. I love scuba diving, swimming, baths, hot tubs and all things water. I am water, it balances and reminds me that all the universe is in flow.

22. My greatest privilege is the way my parents have always loved each other. Seeing that, I will always believe love can conquer history and borders.

23. I still want to live in Paris, though I know the future is growing in Detroit.

24. Im blessed to love someone who is fundamentally good. I would always choose such love over loneliness.

25. Solitude is an imperative aspect of self-awareness.

26. The older I get the less I own, and the less I need.

27. My sorrows have carved out the space for my joy, and my joy is great…I am learning to see sorrow as a knife increasing the space around my heart so it can get larger.

28. Science fiction has given me a better analysis than college did.

29. My dearest friends know me so well we hardly have to speak, and when we do its torrential and exciting.

30. I am at my best when I am fully present.

On that note, time to center myself. Just like that, I’m 31.