30 Dec 2009, 9:47pm
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grace

on sunday during the quaker meeting a. asked if anyone would be interested in going to bandelier national monument on monday (i.e., giving us a ride). so on monday we went, with a hippie physicist (i hope he won’t object to that characterization) who was partially responsible for the discovery of the quark, named guthrie.


(please ignore the enormous dust spot on this and the following photo. i really need to clean my camera, yes.)

it actually took me a good part of the day to connect the ruins to the anasazi culture i read about in jared diamond’s collapse, because “anasazi” is apparently not politically correct these days and it’s the ancestral pueblo (or ancient pueblo) culture instead. at bandelier, they carved caves into sandstone (a.k.a. volcanic tuff) and built pueblos in front of them. very cozy and south-facing for warmth. there’re ladders in front of a few of the caves, some of which have been partially restored to their presumed original condition 500 or 1000 years ago, so you can climb inside and stare at the smoky ceilings and wonder.

it was beautiful and fascinating and at the end of the day guthrie invited us to come over for dinner on tuesday night and join him at embodydance. we spent the rest of monday evening hanging out at la fonda, which is the big hotel centrally located downtown. we spent a bunch of time there while in santa fe. on christmas day, they were pretty much the only thing open for lunch, and their concierges are really nice about answering all kinds of questions about town and practicalities and so forth. we both agree, best hotel we’ve never stayed at! anyway, on monday night there was a great jazz trio playing in their lounge space and a. was predictably really into it.

tuesday in santa fe:


(my favorite statue we walked past pretty much every day on canyon road)

on tuesday we museumed it up and then guthrie picked us up and took us to his cozy communal house and fed us tasty split pea soup and then we went to embodydance and danced our hearts (and brains, lungs, and so forth) out. it was a lot like ecstatic dance in puna (on hawaii) in intention and energy. a really great way to spend our last night in santa fe. we’re really thankful to guthrie for his generosity and willingness to share some pieces of his life with us.

tonight we’re in taos, or rather five miles north of taos in the tiny town of arroyo seco in a cozy hostel full of ski bums and good eavesdropping. we’ve rented a car and we braved the snow on the high road. it was an adventure for sure. we stopped in chimayo for what our guidebook unequivocally calls the best new mexican food ever (it was pretty good) and to see the santuario there. i lit a candle ’cause it felt right, and i quietly asked for grace in the new year.

(more new mexico photos here, by the way)

27 Dec 2009, 7:42pm
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where the sunshine is

hello–
hope you all had a merry christmas (or hanukkah) and a light-hearted solstice–

a. and i are in northern new mexico for the holidays. a. was born here in santa fe and i’d never been. plus we couldn’t afford tickets to kauai, heh. it’s beautiful and snowy and i think a. is pretty glad to be back. we’re staying in the cozy guest apartment associated with the quaker meeting house, which a.’s mom and dad used to attend while little a. ran around in the courtyard garden. the resident/manager here also lived with a. and his mom at the atlanta georgia cohousing community where a. spent his high school years, before moving here to santa fe. and we spent christmas eve and christmas night at the house of a woman who also attended the meeting with a.’s parents and even loaned a.’s mom a dress to wear to her baby shower when she was pregnant with him. it’s a small, sweet world.

we arrived pretty late on xmas eve but not too late to walk down canyon road, which was lined with farolitos (candles in glowing paper bags weighed down with sand) and small bonfires and packed with cheerful people.

afterwards we went to the lessons and carols service at the cathedral basilica. we intended to stay for the midnight mass as well but we were so beat by a day of traveling that we hit the hay instead. in the morning, we were fed baklava and smoothies and our host, mary ray, took us on a hike from her doorstep to a nature conservation area with this fantastic sign: “CONSTRUCTION ZONE AHEAD: The Nature Conservancy has an agreement with a colony of beavers to transform this area into a series of ponds and wetlands. Watch your step. Beware of hazardous trees & leave it to beaver.”

the view from mary ray’s window:

later a. and i walked into town in the sun.

also–


–this guy was a “one man big band” who played keyboard, cymbol, and trumpet, and sang. pretty awesome, plus today we heard him sing monty python’s “galaxy song.” last night he was also part of a new orleans-style jazz band that was tearin’ down the house at a jazz bar we happened to walk past on an aborted attempt to find a grocery store. oh my gosh, the food here is amazing. we are eating like… happy people who eat a lot. enchiladas and burritos and fajitas and sopaipillas(!), oh my! also, i am learning how to roll my Rs. i sorta have the single r down, but the double rr eludes me.

–these beautiful wind sculptures (though i suspect many of them are really motor-powered) are all over town.

20 Dec 2009, 4:25pm
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still, part 2

i thought about writing my story down here. i mean about my “accident” and all of that, like i talked about in my last post. but i’m not sure what to write down. there’s also everything that came before and everything that came after. in the broadest strokes, like this:

i was a kid.
i ran around in the woods with my brother.
i went sledding in the winter down the hill next to our house.
i learned to swim.
we had cats.
sometimes our cats died or disappeared.
we had gypsy moths.
we moved across the country.
we moved a lot.
i learned to read.
i went to six different schools before high school.
i ran around in the woods with my friends.
i got a kitten and named her kari.
we got a dog.
i got braces.
i got braces, again.
i read a lot.
i wondered about god.
i thought i’d be a veterinarian.
i thought i’d be a writer.
i went to boarding school not very far away from home.
i spent a lot of time on the internet.
i spent a lot of time thinking about love.
i met a girl and fell in love.
i spent a lot of time in my school’s theatre.
i dreamed about paris.
i went to paris by myself and was lonely.
i graduated from high school.
i went to college a little bit further away from home.
whatever “home” meant. i wasn’t sure.
when i went home, mom and i ate tangerines by the dozen over the kitchen sink.
i fell in love again, with a boy.
my heart broke.
i made wonderful friends.
i lived in a co-op.
i fell in love a lot.
i wrote papers and drank coffee and made plays.
we drove to the ocean in the middle of the night.
i hurt people and was hurt.
i thought about being crazy.
i thought i was crazy.
i graduated from college.
i struggled.
i sold my car and got an awesome bike and rode it everywhere.
i went to europe by myself and was lonely.
kari died and i was enormously sad.
i was sane.*
i fell in love again.
i rode my bike from home to home.
i still didn’t know what “home” meant.
i got hit by a car.
i hurt and was hurt.
i went to hawaii and was not lonely.
we stayed in love.
i sort of figured out what i meant by “home.”
i kept riding my bike.
i grew plants.
i kept going.

so what is getting hit by a car?

* i wrote this in march 2008:
it’s always clear and beautiful and calm at night and rain rain rain all day. walking home from the pub tonight, singing aloud and smiling to myself, pondering this unquenchable whatever lately… i feel this self-presence that i have never had before. i can’t describe it as balance or an even keel, but those are getting at what i mean. i have been trying for however many sentences now to explain that walking home tonight, i realized that all i feel is… sane. that is what has changed since i graduated. i can still feel sad and lonely and alone, but i know that in my belly somewhere there is me and there is joy in that, real joy. am i making any sense? doesn’t matter. i’m so okay i can’t even tell you. my goodness.
it is still there, and i am okay.

19 Dec 2009, 1:40am
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still

after i got hit by a car, i saw a therapist for awhile. my therapist used “somatic experiencing,” whereby i recounted in gruesome play-by-play detail everything i remembered leading up to the accident (and i say “the accident” as shorthand for “not an accident at all, but in fact a distracted driver’s failure to yield while wielding a potentially deadly weapon, i.e. a pick-up truck”) and after it, and examined and recognized the bodily sensations i experienced during this recounting. i was also asked to imagine what would have happened had the accident not happened–so i described the way i would have passed through the intersection, then through the next, past the bank, past the elementary school, turning right through the residential neighborhood, then left past the hospital, and so on to home. a. got hit by a car four weeks to the day after i did while i sat in a bus less than a block away–swear to god, the bus driver said “i think that van just hit that biker” and i ran out and was so glad to find him dazed but standing up by the time i got to him. i talked to my therapist about that, too.

anyway, i got back on my bike, and i seemed to be doing well, and i went to hawaii and had an amazing time, and i came home and found myself talking to my therapist more about my future and my love life and so forth, stuff i could talk to friends about just as easily and for a lot less money, than about my accident, so i stopped going.

a couple weeks ago, i was talking to my mom about an experience she had meeting a new person that day, a friend of a friend, who almost immediately told her about a struggle this person had had with an illness, and continued to bring it up over and over again over the course of a day or so. my mom was tired from trying to deal with the heaviness of the situation, and i said, well, i imagine this person is still trying to make sense of some aspect of that experience, there is still something they need to hear in their own story, it’s important to have compassion, etc. and then i thought back to a few nights before that, when i remembered telling a stranger my own story and pulling back my collar to show off my misshapen collarbone… though i couldn’t remember what context might have justified such a revelation. i have done as much dozens of times. what am i listening for, when i tell my story over and over again? what will change in its retelling?

yesterday morning a car cut me off dangerously close and i swore and yelled and felt RAGE. tonight a car ran a stop sign and squealed through an intersection in front of me and i swore and yelled and felt THE FIERCEST RAGE. i got home and cried. and a. said, who is your anger hurting? just you. (goenka tells a story about the buddha–these priests want to kill him, but the assassins they send keep getting enlightened instead. so finally one of the priests goes to kill buddha himself. but buddha says, wait a minute. you’re rich and well-respected, i imagine sometimes people bring you gifts, right? the priest says yes. lots of gifts, so many you don’t have room for all of them? yes. so sometimes you send them away again with the bringer of the gift. you say, i do not accept your gift. yes. so, the gift remains the property of the person who brought it. yes. well sir, you have brought me the gift of your anger tonight. i do not accept your gift; i do not need it. the anger is yours, please take it away with you.)

i don’t know what to do with my rage or what to do with my story or how to feel compassion for myself or how to get this particular heaviness out of my bones. i wish there were a better conclusion to this entry. but i don’t know.

11 Dec 2009, 10:55pm
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i read

i’m reading this awesome book right now: 1491: new revelations of the americas before columbus, by charles c. mann. i picked it up after i read the author’s earlier article for the atlantic monthly, which i linked to a couple entries back, i think. here’s a paragraph i read today:

In his view, the Amazon’s first inhabitants laboriously cleared small plots with their stone axes. But rather than simply planting manioc and other annual crops in their gardens until the forest took them over, they planted selected tree crops along with the manioc and managed the transition. Of the 138 known domesticated plant species in the Amazon, more than half are trees. (Depending on the definition of “domesticated,” the figure could be as high as 80 percent.) Sapodilla, calabash, and tucumá; babaçu, açai, and wild pineapple; cocopalm, American-oil palm, and Panama-hat palm–the Amazon’s wealth of fruits, nuts, and palms is justly celebrated. Visitors are always amazed that you can walk in the forest here and constantly pick fruit from trees,” [athropological botanist Charles R.] Clement said. “That’s because people planted them. They’re walking through old orchards.”

there is lots of other fascinating information in this book, too. but i am really into the whole amazon rainforest = giant food forest thing. to paraphrase from 1491: it’s contrary to the long-held idea of the amazon as pristine untouched wilderness, as put forward in one of the most influential books on the subject, written in 1971 by archeologist betty meggers. that book and its thesis were embraced by the burgeoning environmentalist movement, and meggers’ proponents are afraid that if the anthropogenic amazon idea gets popular, it’ll be carte blanche for humans to do whatever they like to the forest–after all, we made it in the first place. i really just got started on the section about the amazon in this book (300 pages in), but mann wrote a lot about it in his atlantic monthly article (which you should really read. ok, here’s the link again), so i am getting a little ahead of myself.

forest gardening/food forestry is a really important concept in permaculture, which is all about creating low- to no-input systems for maximum yield. no-input means closing loops, i.e. creating and nurturing ecosystems. industrial farming as we know it creates monocultures requiring huge amounts of human input (and non-renewable resources). i am just so awed by the idea that humans created this expansive, famously diverse, beautiful, and evocative ecosystem that fed many people (one of mann’s main theses is that the population of the americas pre-european-settlement was much, much bigger than has been generally assumed by history textbooks and the like) and has thrived for thousands of years. LET’S DO IT AGAIN! it is a really powerful idea… “Amazonians typically do not make the distinction between ‘cultivated’ and ‘wild’ landscapes common in the West; instead they simply classify landscapes into scores of varieties, depending on the types of species in each.” if we attempt to defeat “wilderness” we will defeat ourselves; there is no battle to be had, really. OF COURSE amazonians’ success at creating or modifying the rainforest to suit their purposes does not justify modern humans doing anything they please to the land; instead, it encourages us to understand how to adapt the land to us as we adapt to it… truly sustainably. the rainforest also suits the purposes of an astonishing array of flora and fauna (and fungi and bacteria and so on), to create a closed-loop ecosystem.

i am pretty excited to keep reading and learn more. and, generally, to learn more. when i graduated from college, i remember being afraid that i would just stop learning things. whatEVER.

i am also reading the world without us, by alan weisman, albeit more slowly and with a little less enthusiasm. i was amused to read a section in that book about pre-columbian americans as well, and more amused to read summaries of some of the arguments that mann was critiquing in his own book… though both books are pretty good about avoiding definitive statements. it was a nice reminder that there is no definitive knowledge about the past (and certainly not about the future). there are lessons to be learned, of course, but no past determines our future. something like that, anyway.

for kicks, i also read the world made by hand, a post-peak-oil apocalypse novel by james howard kunstler, this week. don’t bother; it is pretty awful (and misogynist, classist, and racist). i should have stopped reading when i got to page 101 and read this:

All the trustees [of the town] were men, no women and no plain laborers. As the world changed, we reverted to social divisions that we’d thought we obsolete. The egalitarian pretenses of the high-octane decades had dissolved and nobody even debated it anymore, including the women of our town. A plain majority of the townspeople were laborers now, whatever in life they had been before. Nobody called them peasants, but in effect that’s what they’d become. That’s just the way things were.

oh please. ugh.

here’s a couple more interesting things i’ve read recently:

an article about friendship and its changing definition,
dave eggers on selling out,
and
this title of an imaginary self-help book by Jill of I Blame the Patriarchy: Fuck the Dominant Paradigm: Stop Viewing Yourself in Terms of Dudes, Politics, Religion, Culture, Celebrities, Porn, and Internet Feminists, and Just Do Whatever Funky Shit You Like.

and also: check out this kid playing the ukulele.

hoping to find some time to write soon about: winter, cycles, ontogenesis, stories & processing, fidelity… thinkin’ thinkin’ thinkin’. winter (+quilts+tea+warm purring cat) is good for that. i’ve been home sick with a cold for a couple days; time to curl up and work on sleeping it off. weekend #4 of my permaculture course starts tomorrow–speaking of things i ought to write about!

3 Dec 2009, 6:38pm
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glow

oof. first freeze. dang, it is cold. incidentally, you know that cliché of the old man on the porch, talkin’ about how it’s gonna rain, he can feel it in his bones? it is true! i have an internal barometer. before this cold-and-clear front came in, i knew the weather was gonna change ’cause my collarbone told me so. yesterday matt told me about an article he’d read about creating new human senses–for example, a guy was fitted with a device that he wore 24/7 that vibrated just a little bit (or something) on the side of his body that was due north. after awhile, he always knew-without-knowing exactly where due north was, and used it to navigate everywhere. when he took the device off, he was instantly and completely lost. maybe when my bone is totally solid again, after that little miracle of biological healing is complete, i will lose that little connection with my environment and i’ll miss it. paraphrasing amy hempel: “how do we know that what happens to us isn’t good?”

yes it has been clear these past few days. the other morning, on my bike on my way to work, i saw the moon, full or near to it, still not set, hovering in the pink band of sky above the horizon. i see the sun rise on my way to work and i see it set on my way home. if that is all i see of the sky, i am glad at least that i ride east in the morning and west in the evening! when it’s clear like this, i see mount hood every morning, too, beautiful and huge and sort of hazy. a few days ago on my way home i saw xmas lights click on and i felt suddenly lighter. my wheels moved faster. in the dark, when life won’t let us slow down to match the long night, light makes all the difference.

two years ago, i was traveling through europe by myself. i was lonely sometimes. i got to germany on december 1st, the day christmas lights everywhere got plugged in. in germany especially, they were fantastic. bright whimsical colorful stars. oh, and vendors below them selling mugs of hot gluhwein. and, bonus!, a friend to meet me at the train station in koeln. a few days later, walking alone down a dark empty street in berlin, i saw an orange paper star lantern over the huge wooden door of a church. it cast a tender glow and it lightened me. my blog at the time was called “slow going”–named when i’d just started biking everywhere, in honor of the novelty of everything i was noticing at my new slower pace–and i wrote a post that night about the light and titled it “slow glowing.” so here we are. i am the sum of my experiences, and i want more, more, more of them. the big ones and the small ones, the loud ones and the quiet ones, the sad ones and the happy ones, mistakes and successes. i am so excited for my life.

.

an internal barometer is not the only thing with which my not-an-accident left me. the horrible feeling i get when cars pass me too close, or (as happened today) a truck suddenly starts to pull out of a parking lot towards me and for one terrible moment, before it lurches to a stop at the curb, i am sure it is going to hit me and i am going to die–that is not something i would miss were it to disappear. once, this past spring, a semi-truck ran a stop sign and almost hit me. i was riding in the middle of the lane, in early-morning daylight, with my lights on. the truck slowed down as if it were going to stop, and then didn’t. my caution allowed me to swerve and stop (all the while screaming and swearing), and i thought then that getting hit by a car sort of saved my life in some awful twisted way. but, yeah. i have been back on my bike for well over a year and it’s still rough.

here is what i do after these things happen: i sing to myself, in my head or aloud, over and over, that silly song from the king and i, which, for those of you who may be unfamiliar with it, has a very cheery tune and goes like this:

whenever i feel afraid
i hold my head erect
and whistle a happy tune
so no one will suspect i’m afraid!
the result of this deception
is very strange to tell
for when i fool the people i fear
i fool myself as well!

mostly, it works!

2 Dec 2009, 2:06pm
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beyond the victory garden

these both showed up in my feed reader today:

The Women’s Land Army
The U.S. School Garden Army

you’ve heard of victory gardens, right? (see also: revive the victory garden)

and then there’s this–a local artist here in portland has created a series of “new propaganda” posters for new-old values–he calls his outfit victory gardens of tomorrow. i like them: