In my dream, we’re driving out in the country — maybe it’s Maine, maybe it’s here — and we’re with friends, or someone new. We’re showing people where we used to live. It could be backcountry Maine, or Nebraska. It feels familiar. Or maybe Fresh! wasn’t there at first, and I point out to a friend, there behind that poster/picture/board sign of a bear (?), we lived a few miles down that road. She smiles, thinks it’s wonderful. Then we’re out on that road, and another friend and I are driving up a dirt section, he wants to see something, we’re in a car; Fresh! says, Uh, Guys? like he’s trying to warn us about something, but we’re off, and it’s not til I get to the top of the road that I can see an enormous tornado off in the distance. I shout to my friend, who’s driving, I say Turn around, turn around, turn around, turn around, and yank at him and the car the way you would turn a horse. We get back down the hill and Fresh! already has a little tornado on him — he’s turning around, keeping it to his back, then gets out a lighter, and puts the flame to the base of the tornado. The flame diminishes it, then it disappears. I feel proud, like, of course he knows what to do when he has a tornado on his back. Everyone is relieved, and we drive back to a big house fast to shutter it up before the enormous tornado gets to us. We listen to weather reports on the radio, like at home, in NE. The house is a mess, and I have to shower. Why? I go in to the shower room, a huge bathroom that has a shower section on one side of a half-wall, with a break in the middle of it to walk through from one side to the other: bathroom side, shower side. I take off my clothes and shower, then trade out with someone else. She has to shower, too. I think we might have been washing something off, but I can’t remember. We smile at each other, friendly, comfortable — not sexy. Then I go down to try and help clean up. Why was there mess everywhere? I have to close the big heavy doors on some of the larger rooms, they’re the double or more sets of doors that you pull out of slots in the wall, inside doors to close off a room from the rest of the house. The rollers on the doors keep coming out of their tracks, and I can’t get them to close. One of the rooms has two, then four or more doors to keep it shut. I can’t close it off. As I type this up, I see some metaphor in it. The kitchen is filled with trash and mess, dirty dishes — is it our mess? I had thought about telling people to board up the windows, so that glass wouldn’t break all over us when the tornado hit, but then I thought it was sort of showing off to say that kind of thing, and anyway, we never boarded up our windows at home during tornado warnings — we just got into a safe place.
Last night was the Erotic Reading Circle – we had all different kinds of stories, some quite lascivious, some more sensual, some only very subtly erotic or not at all. If you’re ever thinking that maybe you don’t belong at the ERC because your stories/poems/essays don’t sound like something out of Penthouse Letters, please don’t worry about that!
Today I’ve got my second workshop with the MedEd Writers — then I’ve got to prep for the reading on Friday night! Do you want to come out and hear some excellent erotic stories, watch lovely burlesque, all in an intimate, West Oakland setting? Send me an email to RSVP and I’ll get you the location & deets!
These are the things on the wall around my desk, the images and words that sustain me: Mary Oliver’s Wild Geese (yes, go read it right now. We’ll wait til you come back); a photo of ironwork window covering (taken during a trip to NYC one New Year’s); a birthday card from a friend, received years ago: walk on the wild side * dance to the music of your dreams * learn something new * make mistakes * celebrate the uniqueness of you… ; a card from my dad: Joy in your heart can heal any moment — it has a drawing on the front, the silhouette of a human containing a big red heart and lifted into the stars on, on outstretched orange bat-wings.
There’re photocopies of Julia Cameron’s Basic Principles and Rules of the Road from The Artist’s Way, and Robin Therrien’s list of How to Start a Workshop Using the Amherst Writers & Artists Institute Method (from her Voices from the ‘Hood: How to Start and Sustain a Writing Workshop for Youth at Risk), which includes these lines among the 10:
1. Put your body there
3. Tell them who you are and why you are there. Be radically honest.
8. Admit your mistakes and your fears. Let your participants teach you. Forgive yourself.
9. Go back again. Put your body there again.
10. Open your heart, receive huge treasure, over and over again.
There’s a photo of me and Fresh!, way back in our beginning, when I still had my boy-short hair; he’s got his arms around me and we’re smiling so big at one another. We were dressed for an evening out dancing with the Butch-Femme Socials folks. I was trying so hard to look like a girl; it was early in my moving from butch to femme. Now, when I look at the picture, I can see that I looked like a femmedyke, just fine, but at the time, whenever I looked in the mirror, I thought I looked completely ridiculous, nothing like the wildly-hot (long-haired, of course) feminine thing I envisioned as what femme was supposed to be. Kathleen was in town and took the picture of us — she was patiently documenting the moment when she really just wanted to get out and dance with the San Francisco butches at Slut Night.
There’s a blow up, beneath that photo, of me and my sister on the porch of the house in the country, outside Lincoln. It’s fall: we’re eating apples and I’ve got on a hooded sweatshirt. The gender of the child I was isn’t too easily determined; my sister’s gender is marked by the skirt or dress she’s got on. I’ve got the apple tight in my right hand, curled up to my body, and my other hand is resting on my left thigh. My sister bites into her apple; she can hardly get her hand around half of it — could she be two in this picture? Her coat is baby blue, the inside of the hood all warm with white fuzz. She doesn’t have the hood up. My sweatshirt is dark blue and I’m either talking or in the middle of a bite. We both look like eating apples is serious labor; my sister’s eyebrows are kind of furrowed; it’s hard work getting her teeth in there. In the picture you can only see the front door of the house that my parent’s were having built — the whole wood frame place was painted avocado green. Maybe this picture was taken right around when the house was finished; or, no, wasn’t it done before my sister was born? What you can’t see in the picture is the big sloping back yard, or the fact that the little housing development we lived in was surrounded on all sides by wheat fields. You can’t see the big yellow bus that I rode to kindergarten the next year, you can’t see the basement where we smashed oranges and lemons and grapefruits against the wall, you can’t see all the neighbors’ houses, the kids we learned to be young humans with. You can see the light and dark of us, her golden fuzzed head, light skin, my slightly darker-all-over self. My dad would have taken the picture — he documented everything but himself.
What else? There’s Hothead Paisan declaring, “Fen Muh Nist,” with her excellent fangs and mohawk. Here’s the card I found with one of my favorite paintings, Six Persimmons by Mu Ch’i, overlaid with the words of Rumi: “But listen to me for one moment / Quit being sad. Hear blessings / Dropping their blossoms / Around you.”
Here’s the yellowed copy of e.e. cummings’ “Since Feeling is First,” that we got from our AP English teacher, senior year. Dang it, I can’t remember that teacher’s name. He called all his students when he got our scores in after the AP exam; I was so surprised that I received higher than a 3. He said he wasn’t. I’d had no idea that he even knew who I was.
And, too, the card with a unicorn on it that one of my parents sent to me when I was obsessed with unicorns in fifth or sixth grade. there’s an image of a cow that I cut out of a Marin newspaper, when I was dying to move from the city back to the cows — the cow is in silhouette, it’s evening, the cow is walking up a hill, maybe toward dinner. I taped this fortune to the image, right under the cow: “You are headed in the right direction. Trust your instincts.”
And last, there’s the bottom of a box of tea. Celestial Seasonings used to include these great quotes and sayings all over their tea boxes, so you actually wanted to spend time reading the whole thing because it was interesting (which was excellent for people like me, who spent time reading cereal boxes, bottles of salad dressing, anything else with words on it). This one I found back in the early 90s — I forget if it was before or after I broke contact with my family; I think it was before. I was trying to remember whether or not I could deserve innocence, if it could live anywhere in me. On the bottom of the box appeared two things. First, a Kahlil Gibran quote, “Keep away from the wisdom which does not cry, the philosophy which does not laugh, and the greatness which does not bow before children” — I felt Gibran reaching to me, showing me the fallacy of, the feebleness behind, my stepfather’s pronouncements of greatness, of power and strength.
The second thing on the bottom of the box was this conversation:
A quotation from five year old Josh Catlin:
“I sing all the time when there’s nobody around but butterflies and maybe a grasshopper.”
“That’s great, Josh. I’ll bet the animals love your singing.”
“They do and they don’t make me ‘barrassed and you know what else?”
“The butterflies dance when I sing.”
What are the words and images you keep around you to keep you grounded in yourself? Please keep writing.