Tag Archives: beauty

finding a place

graffiti of a phonograph and drops of something (music? rain?) coming out of the amplification part

(this image has nothing to do with today's post, but I really like it, so here you go)

This morning the birds are trilling like mad, and I thought I heard a hawk calling from over the Preserve behind the house. The tea (nettle-dandelion-mint morning wake up tea) is warm in my hands, and my insides feel warm like fear is taking a dive to the edges and something good and possible is filling up the places that it’s fled.

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Early bird registration for the 8-week workshops (Write Whole and Declaring Our Erotic) ends tomorrow! It’s a 30% discount on the registration fee — that’s significant! Write Whole is nearly full — please contact me asap for more info about either of these workshops or to register. The workshops begin the second full week of June and meet for 8 Monday evenings and 8 Thursday evenings, respectively. I’m looking forward to writing with you all!

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I’m thinking about disciplines this morning, not the erotic kind (not that erotic kind), but the school-labeling kind (which can be erotic in its/their own way) — and how the interdisciplinarian finds a space. I’ve been doing interdisciplinary study since forever (cognitive science undergrad, transfomative language arts MA) and now I’m looking for a new interdisciplinary home and at the same time trying to find the right set of disciplinary-term-markers that describe the particular intersection I’m jumping off from/out of/in to: creative writing, trauma theory (itself an intersection of other disciplines), psychoanalytic theory, cognitive science, sociolinguistics, cultural studies, narrative theory,  post-structuralist theory… aren’t there more? Do there need to be so many?

The books I’m reading right now: Telling Sexual Stories: Power, change and social worlds (Ken Plummer, who introduces or reintroduces me to the idea of a “sociology of stories,” which, yes, is exactly where my interests lie) and Psychoanalytic Theory: An Introduction (Anthony Elliott). Next on the list are Peggy Phelan’s Unmarked, Derrida’s Writing and Difference, and Mitchel & Rose’s Feminine Sexuality: Jacques Lacan and the école freudienne.

Two things I want to say about all that: Thing 1) all of this is erotic reading for me; Thing 2) my mother was an English major/teacher, and then a psychotherapist, and my father taught Social Studies — talk about living into the intersections, no?

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A prompt and a write from this weekend’s Writing the Flood workshop (the next one meets on June 18 — come join us!)

The prompt was to create a short list of small pieces of beauty in your neighborhood — just take a minute, and jot down as many as you can think of. Then give yourself 6 or 7 minutes, and go into one of those pieces in more depth: how does it smell? what does it look like? what time of day do you see it?

This was our first prompt on Saturday. Here’s my response:

On work mornings, it’s the same rush out of the house, down the long stairs, down the driveway and a hard thumping my heels hitting the asphalt hoping I’ve timed everything right, exactly the right amount of time to hustle from my front door to the bus stop so I can catch one of two buses, the second of two buses, that go directly into the city.

And on the way I pass a wonderland that I can barely stop to wonder over, a riot of flowers, blackberry blossoms, nasturtium, red hummingbird-tubey blooms, morning glories, native trees in full pollen, fennel fronds and is that elderberry or queen anne’s lace, all this gathering around a marshy pond filled too with ducks, mourning doves, Canadian geese; the red-winged blackbirds whirr their morning greetings and the other day I saw a coalition of four or five smaller birds (swallows, sparrows, blackbirds, crows) hauling ass after a red-tailed hawk, chasing her out of their territory.

Every morning I want to make a sharp left at the tiny concrete bridge over the run-off brook making its way into the pond from the hills, and dive into the wild California brush, learn the feel of this spring mud between my toes, let the city bus, the city life, pass me by.

You find so much beauty everywhere — thank you for the ways you do that. Thank you, always, for your words.

we know what in us needs to burn

drawing of a wheat stalk and a rose wrapped up in a newspaper

(click on the image to visit the NYTimes' review of a book about the Bread and Roses Strike)

So hard to get up and get going when it’s dark outside at 7am! This one needs to be quick — I’ve got to get in the shower and head to the day job.

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This month’s Writing the Flood is coming up this Saturday, 12/18, 1-4:30pm! There will be baked goods for sure, interesting exercises, and great folks gathered — some spaces are still open! Let me know if you’d like to join us!

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Yesterday I went for a bit to the KPFA Crafts Fair, intending to be inspired — and found myself on fire as I walked through the huge Concourse space at 8th and Brannan, past bookmakers and woodcutters and glass makers and weavers, potters, metalworkers, fabric arts workers, photographers, painters, etchers, printmakers, chocolatiers, tea sellers — past art created from reclaimed clothing, reclaimed silverware, reclaimed trash. There was artwork I never could have imagined that sent me spinning with joy, and I left, a couple hours later, further inspired to attend to my own artistic vision — why not? Why not, when so many around me, so many in the world, are making a life of artistic expression and pursuit — of both beauty and healing. We need both, don’t we? The marchers said, “We want bread and roses, too.”

We need roses, too.

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A prompt for a Monday: Create a list of 6-8 words, all of which start with the same prefix (like Predict, Premature, Precipitation — or, Rehearse, Release, Rehash). Then take a piece of paper, tear it in 6-8 pieces, and write a word on each piece. (This part just lets you bring some randomness or surprise into the mix!) Turn over the pieces of paper and mix them up, then choose one and write about anything that you associate with that word. (As always, follow your writing wherever it seems to want you to go!)

When we did a prompt like this in the Write Whole workshop, this was what I wrote:

Resplendent: For me, the word holds a glowing, something precious that silvers and warms the cheeks, something observable, steady, more than beautiful: healthy, joyous, splendid. Energetically adorned.

How good it is for our words to gather, how we are resplendent in our consonants and vowels, in the glow that stumbles and flickers and throbs inside those words, the fire that steadies and burns still when we set ourselves quiet and keep the pen, the fingers, moving — stories emerge that we never intended, words catch fire to words, one thought leaps the creekbed to the next and suddenly we are raging and alight and alive. No one clears a space for this creative energizing except for we ourselves: we know what in us needs to burn.

Resplendent with words, I mean draped and cloaked and revealed, I mean how we are alight, each creative energy tips into color as when a candle flame pools bright into a single yellowed sphere in a cool darkened room, I’m saying we take that ball of warmth in our hands and swallow it every time we are making, however we make best, with paint or words or crayons or clay, we turn the light out of us as we inhale it, we burn the world brighter, this world needs this art, your creation, these words. Whether they ever emerge from notebooks or computer screens, these words have already worked wonders, these words have already loosened stone walls, shined light into gloriously cobwebbed corners, set salve to old woundings, drenched what was crusty and dry.

We dip our fingers in the the crystalline electricity in our minds and our hands come out racing — when we set them free, we chase after, rush to catch up: our resilient creative selves are lit and dancing, needing no one’s permission, our hearts pound with perfect rhythm, we weep and let our water join the pools, the streams, the rivers — what I mean is we are always already resplendent, peeled awake with our namings, making true the world’s languages every time we reach.

Thank you for your beauty, for the ways you allow beauty to emerge into the world — and for your exquisite words.

The Revolution and the possibilities of beauty

cover of "The Revolution Will Not Be Funded; Beyond the Non-Profit Industrial ComplexI’m reading The Revolution Will Not Be Funded: Beyond the non-profit industrial complex (edited by Incite! Women of Color Against Violence), and I am feeling hopeful. It’s so scary to imagine being truly non-competitive, remembering that I am a part of a movement and that I am not alone, not reinventing the wheel, that there are all these communities, like circles of friends – and sometimes like cliques – that I am a part of: anti-violence movements, anti-rape movements, movements challenging sexual violence, power of words movements, sex educators, pornographers, writers, racial justice activists, movements questioning abuses of power and hierarchy, queers, and anti-conformity communities…

I have all this energy and the coffee is making me impatient with the movement and slowness of my hands, this physical body. So, while reading, I am also thinking about how to do this work. I don’t feel it’s necessary to shape my mission to feed funders’ language requirements – I have just seen that so many times, seen people lose jobs and others lose services/communities/programs because of an ostensibly-surprising loss of funding. I see organizations losing track of who they’re there for – not funders, right? Aren’t our non-profits supposed to be in the service of/to the people?

Of course, this has changed radically, this idea that all non-profit organizations exist to serve the people, rather than those foundations paying the bills. So what do we do, we organizers and activists and social change workers who want to somehow keep a roof over our heads while also devoting our lives to doing the work we believe in, to changing our communities, to engagement with others doing the same?

I believe in the power of words to save us and to transform us – and I believe that individual transformation is an important and necessary ingredient of larger social change. I believe in the mantras of One at a Time and that real, lasting change is slow steady, persistent change: like practice. Change isn’t a one-time thing. It’s an every-day, collaborative and individual (both) bit of consistency. I believe that change is relationship-based, that change happens through connection and through the reality of hearts recognizing each other, no matter how different we thought we were on all of our various surfaces.

We don’t have to do what everyone – i.e., the “mainstream” – says we have to do to survive; we can create new possibilities through our words, through our sharing, which create fissures inside of and alongside the systems that have shaped and snared us. My stepfather (and perpetrator) was very fond of the spaces in-between. He believed in shiny surfaces and lies, taught me to look critically at what hides in plain view. This was unfortunate for him. We saw him hiding there because he revealed himself to us (ah, the way entitlement eventually hangs itself!), and we held him to account (to some extent, anyway).

I am not someone who *believes* too much in shiny things. Now, shiny and polished are nice, but I recognize that they’re fronts.

I do not believe in hiding in plain view. I believe in visibility. I also believe in using what’s available and loving all the spaces we exist within: that is, looking at our whole world and admiring not just the storefront, but also the back alley and the unweeded side yard, and the spots that need paint and repair. I like seeing the real, the spaces still dirty, the smudged mascara, the pressed shirt with a stain, broken fingernails, chipped teeth – the broad possibilities of beauty.