26 Jun 2009, 8:21pm
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me ‘n’ my bike

in honor of the multnomah county bike fair and the last day of pedalpalooza tomorrow, i wanna share these awesome photos that kendall took of me and my bike a few weeks ago in laurelhurst park with his old-timey large format camera–

25 Jun 2009, 11:04pm
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longevity

on saturday elana and i went to the berkeley art museum. we didn’t actually get to see all the exhibits ’cause the five o’clock closing time snuck up on us. (afterwards we ate delicious pizza and then went to a chocolate café for sweet drinks. i ate very well on this trip!) we did check out the exhibit called human/nature: artists respond to a changing planet, for which several artists visited various UNESCO-designated “World Heritage” sites and created art based on their experiences with the land and people they encountered. one of the artists, dario robleto, visited waterton glacier international peace park on the u.s./canadian border, and (though i think the connection was pretty loose) created incredibly detailed cabinet-of-curiosities sorta displays. the materials lists on the description placards were almost as interesting as the artworks themselves. i didn’t write any of them down, but the BAM website includes this list of materials for a piece called Some Longings Survive Death:

glacially released 50,000-year-old woolly mammoth tusks, nineteenth-century braided hair flowers of various lovers intertwined with glacially released woolly mammoth hair, carved ivory and bone, bocote, colored paper, silk, ribbon, typeset

anyway, one of his artworks was a showcase of sorts of supercentenarians (people aged 110 years or more) who were, for some period of time before their death, the oldest person alive. one of the people featured, jeanne calment, lived to the age of 122 years before she died in 1997–the oldest verified person to have ever lived. according to robleto’s description of her included in his artwork, her friends and relatives attributed her long life and vivacious health to the following four things:

1. she rode her bicycle until she was 100 years old,
2. she drank a lot of port wine,
3. she treated her skin with olive oil,
4. and she ate two pounds of chocolate every week!

i can definitely get behind that. other supercentenarians attributed their longevity to laughter and dancing.

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a few evenings before that, i took a. out to the wonderful greens restaurant (did i mention i ate fantastically on this trip? several years ago a near stranger bought me a delicious meal at greens), at fort mason in san francisco. next door we found a curious “museum and store” run by the long now foundation. they were closed, but we peeked in and saw enough to arouse our interest, most notably the following quote (from danny hillis, a member of the board of the foundation) printed on the wall:

I think of the oak beams in the ceiling of College Hall at New College, Oxford. Last century, when the beams needed replacing, the carpenters used oak trees that had been planted in 1386 when the dining hall was first built. The 14th century builder had planted the trees in anticipation of the time, hundreds of years in the future, when the beams would need replacing.

wow! wow! wow!

do you think the more recent carpenters planted new trees?

anyway, the foundation is trying to build a clock that will run with minimal-to-no human input for 10,000. most of the museum’s exhibits were devoted to clever mechanical ways to make that happen.

i am reading jared diamond’s book collapse: how societies choose to fail or succeed right now, about past and present civilizations and cultures that have had to deal with environmental problems, both ones they’ve caused and ones they haven’t. it’s fascinating, and is really making me question some assumptions i had about humans’ relationships and history with our planet. more applicably, it’s making me wonder what we’re really saying when we talk about ideals, systems, and methods within our culture being “proven.” we are young yet.

24 Jun 2009, 7:57pm
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tides

life keeps calling me to california. one of my oldest friends got married last weekend in golden gate park (it was a beautiful wedding). i made a little vacation of it and went down last tuesday. a. came with me for a few days. he would love to move there. oh life’s possibilities… i saw–

* murals

(the small text on this mural reads:
emma goldman–her weapon: pen of poison
rose parks–her weapon: full fare bus ticket
everywoman–her weapon: rising up
phoolan devi–her weapon: code breaking
mother theresa–her weapon: relentless compassion

“relentless compassion” has been stuck in my brain since…)

* the labyrinth at grace cathedral

* my aunt theresa

* and my amazing friends elana

* and becca

* this crazy flower

* this sunset (from bart)

* this bit of (un)intentional(?) humor

* this view

* and this one

and it was very, very good. more later.

11 Jun 2009, 3:35pm
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village building

the rest of tuesday was amazing, too. so emotional and so straightforward.

so there is this organization in portland called city repair and every summer they organize the village building convergence. i have been aware of city repair for a couple years, ever since i stumbled across share-it square in sellwood and googled it. (they’re responsible for sunnyside piazza in the intersection behind the pied cow, too, but i think i sorta figured that was a sunnyside neighborhood thing rather than a piece of a larger project. i am learning… the project is so much bigger than that. changing hearts and minds, feeding souls.) maybe last year i was vaguely aware of the vbc, too, but not interested enough to do much (or any) investigation. the other day i wrote: “HOW DID I NOT KNOW ABOUT THIS STUFF FOR SO LONG? i know the answer to that question; the answer is, i didn’t care. that’s okay. now my job is to help other people care. and to keep learning and caring.”

so on sunday i went to a permaculture for renters workshop with a.’s mom and got really excited about making a container garden and losing the “i move all the time so i can’t garden” excuse. on sunday evening a. and i went to the evening events and listened to speakers talk about how to change our culture. on monday after work i met a. for another workshop, with nala walla, who had spoken the night before, about “ecosomatics” and embodied arts (arts that we can do with just our bodies and each other) and body awareness on three levels: the individual body, the community/social body, and the “gaiac body”/the earth. according to nala, only 1/10th of the cells in our body contain human dna–we are everything else, too; the universal is within us. at the workshop we played theatre-y movement games and made faces and touched strangers.

on tuesday i sat at home exhausted from my emotional bike ride, and 5:30 rolled around and i thought about lying down to sleep and then i thought, “yes. i should go.” and i went to the vbc evening events by myself.

i took some notes; they look like this–

the second speaker was starhawk. she ended her talk by inviting us all outside to participate in a spiral dance. i am really bad at estimating numbers but we filled the street, hundreds(?) of us holding hands in a big long line and singing and pulling one another along and being pulled. “take this dream and make it real.” she talked about how we are here because we can help each other and the earth through this.

then these great bands played and i found it in me to dance and dance and i felt a certain way i hadn’t really felt since sunday morning ecstatic dance at kalani in hawaii (google sez medicine for the people is a big island band–hah! aha!!). medicine for the people played a song about “how did i get here?” and i cried until they sang “look around–this is how you got here” and i cried a little more, differently, happily, put my palms out to the energy around me and felt blessed. a. appeared right before their last song and danced with me and then we walked home together.

it’s like all the apocalyptic horrible we’re-doomed stuff i’ve been learning and reading about and thinking about and talking about (and more than that–my “accident,” finishing school, all the big things and changes in my life these past few years) cut a hole through me to my soul so that this beautiful community we-can-heal-ourselves stuff could get to it and FEED it. it’s soul food.

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says derrick jensen (from endgame)–

People sometimes ask me, “If things are so bad, why don’t you just kill yourself?”

The answer is that life is really, really good. I am a complex enough being that I can hold in my heart the understanding that we are really, really fucked, and at the same time the understanding that life is really, really good. Not because we’re fucked, obviously, nor because of the things that are causing us to be fucked, but despite all that. We are fucked. Life is still good. We are really fucked. Life is still really good. We are so fucked. Life is so good.

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here is one way permaculture was presented to me this week: imagine a continuum. the way mainstream culture lives is somewhere off to one end. sustainability is in exactly the middle. permaculture is to the other side of the middle line. it’s not about sustaining things–it is about regenerating things. believing in and creating the future.

i wrote this in response to a comment on “apocalypse soon” a few entries down–this is what i am believing–

i think that in your example, the person’s love for the earth is not a real love but an abstraction. i think that our cultural norms OFTEN (or even always) make it impossible or very difficult for love to be more than an abstraction or even pastiche of love… maybe. my point is not that people do not feel intense, positive, enormous emotion towards one another (and the earth, etc), because they indisputably do, but that we are so wrapped up in professions of and symbols of love that we are not actually loving. one can say “i love the earth” but to actually love the earth would be to improve it, to regenerate it, to protect it, etc… love as an action. it’s sort of like standing at the opposite end of a room from someone and saying, “i touch you,” instead of walking across the room and hugging the person. only in the latter scenario does the person really receive the warmth, strength, etc in the touch. with regard to love it’s almost impossible for us to understand the difference, especially since we’re so inundated with pop culture and other stuff that tells us that sentences like “i love you, that’s why i had to hurt you” are not semantically impossible. i also think that because people think of love as that intense emotion, instead of that hard work of support etc, that they are really sensitive to and defensive of implications that one can love better, etc, which makes this sort of a hard topic to talk about.

i think it’s a really difficult thing to do, and yes i think that learning to appropriately love one another is really important. i think that as we practice loving with each other, it will get easier to love the earth and all the life around us, too.

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mom gave me some gorgeous flowerpots she doesn’t need. i want to grow:
lavender
basil
mint
rosemary
blueberries
a small fruit tree
the columbine i got at the workshop i went to
sage
thyme
sugar snap peas
and lots more…

9 Jun 2009, 4:16pm
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riding home

on june 12th 2008, while i was riding my bike home from work, a woman absentmindedly wielding a deadly weapon (in the form of a toyota tacoma pick-up truck) failed to yield and turned left into me. i got an ambulance ride, a broken collarbone, a busted knee, a hazy month on percocet, and several months of physical therapy. a lot of the past year has been shaped by my “accident,” which has been both good and bad. lots of fear. lots of healing.

today on my way home from work i took that old route, instead of the route i have taken every time since, and i rode through that intersection for the first time since it happened. it was very emotional, and also somewhat anticlimactic. my heart beat as i waited at the red light, watching the man across the intersection waiting to turn left: i am, i am, i am, i am i am iam iamiamiamiam…

the light turned green and i biked across and i felt everything all the way through.

and then i rode home, which is all i ever wanted to do.

i will do it again on friday, june 12th, with as many friends as i can muster. today was the battle. friday will be the victory parade.

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feeling good. i will never allow myself to be seduced by dysfunction. not anymore.

4 Jun 2009, 6:23pm
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apocalypse soon

do you feel it, too?

the world is changing.

i just finished rereading this book i read ages ago, sometime in high school: girlfriend in a coma, by douglas coupland. back then i was more or less in the midst of constructing a personality; i think i was aiming for sort of indie-intellectual. i spent a lot of time alone in my dorm room, listening to belle & sebastian and mazzy star and reading books by gabriel garcia marquez and milan kundera. this construction was sort of separate from my actual life with my wonderful group of schoolfriends. i didn’t really feel like an integrated person until sometime in college, i guess. i think that’s probably the way it goes for a lot of people, especially sorta nerdy indie-intellectual types, haha.

anyway, i spent a lot of time on the internet reading online journals and looking at personal sites of the online indie-intellectual teenager elite, and i guess coupland’s name came up somewhere, and i thought i ought to read one of his books, and so i did. i remember liking the story well enough and feeling sort of bored and betrayed by the ending, which i dismissed as new age-y deus ex machina. basically, i didn’t get it. ’cause i didn’t feel it. maybe ’cause i wasn’t a whole person, yet, or maybe ’cause things are changing.

now i feel it (it’s not just me, i think. i see and hear these thoughts and fears and dreams in my friends, too…), and i’m gonna take a risk on this blog and talk about it. i am scared to write about it here, because i’m not even sure yet that i’m asking the right questions. but i want to make this blog a place where i feel okay writing about this stuff. so here goes.

i don’t know where to begin, exactly. i don’t remember when or why i put ishmael by daniel quinn on my library holds list, but i remember when i got tired of waiting for it and bought my own copy. i was talking with two of the women in the show i was stage managing in march, about improvisation and how learning how to improvise (in a theatrical context) is so important and useful for living and communicating and being with other human beings, because it teaches one to accept what the other offers, rather than rejecting it because it doesn’t mesh with one’s own perception of reality or the situation or whatever, or because it’s easier. and somehow ishmael came up, and one of the women said, oh i have read that book so many times. i have bought and given away so many copies. you should read it. so when i said goodnight to them, i walked to powell’s and i bought a copy, and i read it in a couple days during my breaks between shows.

i mean, fuck, it started way before that. last spring i started reading zines and thinking about anarchism, and the spring before that and the winter before that i was reading so much about feminism and radical mental health… starting to ask the questions i sure believed i’d been asking all along but hadn’t been, really, because the answers were hard. the answers demand action, and i was still in school. i loved school, and i grieved when i left it. school was part of my 22-year plan, and until i started year 23 i had no room for action. or for those questions.

i don’t know what action is or will be, for me. it was and is scary to exist without and beyond that 22-year plan. it could easily have grown into a Life Plan, but i am glad it hasn’t. my life is mine. it does not belong to a plan. it is mine to spend and invest as i choose and it is incredibly valuable.

despair, elation, joy, hope, love, love, love.

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after i read ishmael i read story of b, also by daniel quinn. and i read a whole lot of stuff on the internet by people like derrick jensen and ran prieur, and i read other people’s thoughts about quinn and jensen and everything else in blog posts and online forums. i read novels by edward abbey and ursula le guin. i am still reading endgame: vol 1 by derrick jensen, and have been for about a month, ’cause that is one thick book and i’m a slow reader of nonfiction. i have dogeared it all to heck.

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girlfriend in a coma is about the end of the world, sort of. i mean, the end of the world happens, in the book. and after it happens, someone who knows better gives the characters a plan b, and says to one of them, “Linus–the world is not going to end in your lifetime… That form of self-flattery is gone.” (oh i know; i promise that this is not about 2012; it is about irreversible climate change and disappearing species and monoculture and diminishing resources and waste. slowly or quickly, the earth is dying. it will die if we don’t stop it. it might die anyway.)

this person also tells them,

“The past year–if you’d have tried, you’d have seen even more clearly the futility of trying to change the world without the efforts of everybody else on Earth. You saw and smelled and drank the evidence of six billion disasters that can only be mended by six billion people.

“A thousand years ago this wouldn’t have been the case. If human beings had suddenly vanished a thousand years ago, the planet would have healed overnight with no damage. Maybe a few lumps where the pyramids stand. One hundred years ago–or even fifty years ago–the world would have healed itself just fine in the absence of people. But not now. We crossed the line The only thing that can keep the planet running smoothly now is human free will forged into effort. Nothing else. That’s why the world has seemed so lrge in the past few years, and time so screwy. It’s because Earth is now totally ours.

“…The New World isn’t new anymore. The New World–the Americas–it’s over. People don’t have dominion over Nature. It’s gone beyond that. Human beings and the world are now the same thing. The future and whatever happens to you after you die–it’s all melted together. Death isn’t an escape hatch the way it used to be.”

and then he tells them to question. that that is their new purpose: to ask, and to ensure that others are asking too.

“Ask whatever challenges dead and thoughtless beliefs. Ask: When did we become human beings and stop being whatever it was we were before this? Ask: What was the specific change that made us human? Ask: Why do people not particularly care about their ancestors more than three generations back? Ask: Why are we unable to think of any real future beyond, say, a hundred years from now? Ask: How can we begin to think of the future as something enormous that also includes us? Ask: Having become human, what is it that we are now doing or creating that will transform us into whatever it is that we are slated to next become?

“Even if it means barking on street corners, that’s what you have to do, each time baying louder than before. You must testify. There is no other choice.

What is destiny? Is there a difference between personal destiny and collective destiny? ‘I always knew I was going to be a movie star.’ ‘I always knew I was meant to murder.’ Is Destiny artificial? Is it unique to Man? Where did Destiny come from?

and the characters react:

“We’ll go crazy!” …

“No. You’ll become clearer and clearer.”

“No–we’ll go totally effing crazy.”

“Haven’t you always known that…? At the base of all of your cynicism across the years, haven’t you always known that one day it was going to boil down into hard work? Haven’t you?”

this book is not overtly about the environment, about saving planet earth. it’s about saving souls, i think. which is about saving the earth. we have broken ourselves… to heal ourselves we need to love ourselves, and to love ourselves we need to love that which sustains us, and that which sustains us is the earth, and the love.

derrick jensen believes–and says he has never met a person who, when asked, answered differently–that “this culture will not undergo any sort of voluntary transformation to a sane and sustainable way of living” (endgame premise 6). he says that to hope for this transformation is to excuse oneself from personal action, that hope implies the possibility that someone else will take care of it or that it is out of one’s control, i.e. “i hope the weather’s not too bad,” “i hope so-and-so doesn’t hate me.” if you hope, you have no agency. “When we realize the degree of agency we actually do have, we no longer have to ‘hope’ at all… Hope may be fine–and adaptive–for prisoners, but free men and women don’t need it. Are you a prisoner, or are you free?”

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i want to qualify what i said about saving souls, above. us humans, we are the best human animals we could ever be. we have beautiful souls. but we are taught by this culture to keep them in metaphorical tiny plastic cages, feeding them occasional scraps or junk food… maybe “rescuing souls” would be a better term to use, one that doesn’t imply sin or individual fault. what is wrong is the way we are living. so many people are unhappy and unfulfilled, or starving, or being killed. it is not just about rescuing salmon… it’s about rescuing us.

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here are two “notes” i took when i was in the bay area in january. the first–

* thinking about people’s park and student movements and that a certain sense of “entitlement” for which liberal arts students are so often chastised is probably necessary for real change to occur–if we do not believe ourselves entitled to free happy lives (and a free happy community) why would we fight–or work or play or love if you prefer (i do)–for them?

ran prieur wrote the following about privilege, and it resonated with what i think i was trying to get at above–

I reject the entire concept of “privilege.” It’s a lie. No one is or has ever been “privileged.” If ten people are living happily on an island, and I go and lock nine of them in a cage, have I made the tenth person privileged? If ten people are playing in the woods and eating fruit, and I give one of them an intravenous feeding tube and a hand-held computer game, and then I get him to cut down the fruit trees, have I done him a favor? The concept of “privilege” does not make sense except in the context of an exploitative system, and in an exploitative system everyone is exploited.

i am hesitant to include the above here, because questioning privilege is not exactly kosher in many communities i would like to be a part of, and insofar as the trappings of civilization are concerned, i’ve got it really good. but i think that recognizing and examining one’s own privilege is about recognizing and examining one’s assumptions and what one takes for granted that others may not be able to. here is one such assumption–that we can do any real work equalizing privilege and combatting oppression without recognizing, and combatting, the oppression inherent in our hierarchical culture (with corporations and government at the top and the land, the earth, at the bottom). i do disagree with prieur insofar as i believe that examining one’s privilege can be a really important part of (beginning to) understand(ing) one’s role–which can be very hard to see and understand from within that role–in this hierarchical culture.

and the second–

* ben’s friend ben, improvising lyrics to pedro’s guitar jamming: “if love was the answer, we wouldn’t be asking all these questions”

but you can’t destroy what you love. if people loved the earth they would not destroy it. if people loved themselves they would not destroy their hearts and minds and bodies. so maybe love is the answer, but only if we can destroy our self-hate.

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all of this (and more) is changing me. i am asking a lot of questions. so far i am mostly asking them of myself. now i guess i am asking them of you, too.

3 Jun 2009, 3:17pm
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once more into the liminal space

oh, gosh. it’s really summer and rose bushes everywhere in portland are blooming, flaunting their color and fragrance, lettin’ it all hang out.

i finished taking a roll of film the other day with the old pentax that used to be my grandfather’s, but when i went to wind it up the film strip broke, and i, thinking it irretrievable, pulled it all out so i could load another roll. lost is a record of: kendall and ari and kendall’s large format camera at laurelhurst park, sunsets, light through clouds over the willamette, flowers and other living things, a.’s and my shadows, (the first part of) a vigil for dr. george tiller at pioneer courthouse square. oh well. i took another roll and when i tried to wind it up, it broke, too. this time i didn’t open the back of my camera, so maybe kendall will be able to salvage it for me, or some of it. and then i will have to figure out what i am doing wrong or what the camera is doing wrong.

instead of those pictures you’ll never see, here’s some wordy snapshots, bits of posts i never finished, written over the last month or so. time is a funny thing in memory and it’s a funny thing here, too…

*

oh me oh my!

pair o’ mallard ducks walking down the sidewalk outside my house just now.

it’s almost not my house anymore. all of my furniture and most of my stuff is stacked in the guest room at my parents’ new house as of this morning. what’s left in my room is a layer of scattered dust and pennies and notes and thumbtacks and knickknacks and mystery junk that i gotta sort through in the next few days. also need to unearth from our cluttered kitchen my pots and pans.

but, yes. once more into the liminal space.

tomorrow it will be two years since my college graduation. i do not have the markers of success that i think i always thought i would have by now. what i do have is so much more awareness of myself, so much more awareness of my community, and so much more awareness of my environment. i am healthier and happier, and if i wasn’t aware enough to know it’s not a game, i would say i’m winning.

it’s a process. there just seems to be MORE and MORE to learn about how to be integral and whole, how to live, where freedom is, etc.

*

my parents moved into their new house a few weeks ago. i’m staying here with them until i go to eureka in july. (once more into the liminal space!) i’ve been helping my mom with the raised beds in the front lawn. she’s on vacation with my aunt right now, so they’re my gardens for a few weeks. just before she left, we planted beets, squashes, pumpkins, and watermelons. they’re starting to sprout now and it’s just about the most amazing thing i’ve ever seen.

*

excerpts from this essay by ran prieur, applicable to the central question of my present–where is freedom?:

5. Do not try to find a job doing what you love. This is my most radical advice. There are some people in the world who have jobs they love so much that they would do them for free. If you become one of these people, you will probably get there not through planning but through luck, by doing what you love for free until somehow the money starts coming in. But if you make an effort to combine your income and your love, you are likely to end up compromising both, making a poverty income by doing something you don’t quite love, or no longer love. For example, if you decide to become a chef because you love cooking, it will probably make you hate cooking, because cooking will become linked in your mind to all the bullshit around the job.

What I recommend instead is to separate your money from your love. Get the most easy, low-stress source of income that you can find, and then do exactly what you love for free. It might eventually make you money or it might not. “Do what you love and the money will follow” is a lie. The real rule is: “If you’re doing what you love, you won’t care if you never make any money from it — but you still need money.”

been thinking a lot about theatre and the opportunities that are available to me and what i really require to be happy. there is so much for me to learn. in the fall i’m going to start working full-time at my “day job” and let my theatre “career” fall away for awhile. it will be there when or if i go back looking for it, i know.

i am making a list of classes to take and interests to pursue during my evenings and weekends. when doing theatre i didn’t consistently have evenings and weekends free and i could never take long-running classes or commit to anything that required a steady schedule. so a regular weekday job will be a sort of freedom, too.

bike mechanics gardens permaculture plants herbalism yoga acrobatics photography books books books community love communication art…

6. When you begin to get free, you will get depressed. It works like this: When you were three years old, if your parents weren’t too bad, you knew how to play spontaneously. Then you had to go to school, where everything you did was required. The worst thing is that even the fun activities, like singing songs and playing games, were commanded under threat of punishment. So even play got tied up in your mind with a control structure, and severed from the life inside you. If you were “rebellious”, you preserved the life inside you by connecting it to forbidden activities, which are usually forbidden for good reasons, and when your rebellion ended in suffering and failure, you figured the life inside you was not to be trusted. If you were “obedient”, you simply crushed the life inside you almost to death.

Freedom means you’re not punished for saying no. The most fundamental freedom is the freedom to do nothing. But when you get this freedom, after many years of activities that were forced, nothing is all you want to do. You might start projects that seem like the kind of thing you’re supposed to love doing, music or writing or art, and not finish because nobody is forcing you to finish and it’s not really what you want to do. It could take months, if you’re lucky, or more likely years, before you can build up the life inside you to an intensity where it can drive projects that you actually enjoy and finish, and then it will take more time before you build up enough skill that other people recognize your actions as valuable.

i can find my answers, i can explore, i can learn and grow.

i have struggles but they feel like good struggles. i am learning how to identify self-sabotage and how to figure out when it’s useful and when it stems from a fear of happiness. unhappiness is so much easier than happiness. life is tough and beautiful. i am the healthiest i have ever been, and it is good, but i’ve got lots further to walk.

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photo of a. from a month or so ago:

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cascadia:

(from a hike in the gorge a few weeks ago)