Saturday, November 28, 2015

The tea ceremony

" I still encourage anyone who feels at all compelled to write to do so. I just try to warn people who hope to get published that publication is not all that it is cracked up to be. But writing is. Writing has so much to give, so much to teach, so many surprises. That thing you had to force yourself to do -- the actual act of writing -- turns out to be the best part. It's like discovering that while you thought you needed the tea ceremony for the caffeine, what you really needed was the tea ceremony..." 
- Ray Bradbury

I'm in the middle of #12 in the writing of short stories that I prefer calling 'medicine stories.' For reasons I could only call personal medicine I began to write fiction that brought characters and place together to make sense of the nonsense that is my life.  The title of this post "The Tea Ceremony" is the title of #12's installment -- the bit that is remedy -- in the story Nine is for endings.

The characters in this story began as four-year old girls when Pine Needle Dancers wanted out at Halloween, this Halloween just past. True events and mythic characters living out fictional parallels gave me somewhere to take the long needles that fell to the forest floor. Real needles. Real forest floor.

Through the year now closing, or so it seems to close according to my calendar-driven meters, I collect thoughts, ideas, dialogue, and rewound memories. The artistry of noticing and noting patterns make their way through my system of sort-and-keep. One name for this system is the Immune System. For many years, I have renamed and retraced the way I respond to 'assault' and find more or less successful methods to handle the process. The sidebar of this blog lists many of those methods, as I use them, recycle them, and reuse them with time.

This morning as the lowered temperatures of late November and the presence of crunching leaves underfoot slowed my innards down I felt the Sad Road widen. Tears of grief open the edges of that road. Too bad. So sad. Walking down the road only made me sadder. My friend and road walker friend gone. I was out and about, but I was not writing things down and that has proven to be not such a good habit. If I can write, I do.

The quote above from Ray Bradbury was one of my rewards for noticing I was widening that Sad Road. Such stories have come from that place, but. But, to be reminded that its the ceremony not the caffeine that I'm after was just enough to feed me the next part of Nine is for endings. I have washed the dishes, enjoying the hot water baths that clean the bowls, silverware and pancake batter from the whisk. I have looked up to see that Tall Pine who inspires me to love kinks and wobbles in living.

A smell of wild rice simmering replaces Wild Forest Black Tea.

If you are compelled to write, or paint, or sing I hope you will. There is a girl now twenty-two who learned about the tea ceremony at age four. She is here if you care to meet her.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Hoku Shaka for Thanksgiving

We sat in the Subaru and waited for Mahina. Waiting, waiting, waiting. An hour after the apointed hour. She woke in the tops of the Doug Fir. Slowly, slowly, slowly. In the winter she moves ... like the crab she moves sideways. Patience? Do you have the patience to wait for her? We had time to be patient last night. And our reward was a fat, golden goddess moving slowly sideways.

The photos above were sent by my son from Ka Lae (South Point) on the Island of Hawaii. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Those damn gaps!

"[...]This suggestion that bad teeth and talent, in particular, are mutually exclusive betrays our broad, unexamined bigotry toward those long known, tellingly, as ‘white trash.’ It’s become less acceptable in recent decades to make racist or sexist statements, but blatant classism generally goes unchecked..."
 I learnt early and often that one doesn’t leave a place, class or culture and enter another, but rather holds the privilege and burden of many narratives simultaneously...
 For the American Dream to put its money where its mouth is, we need not just laws ensuring, say, universal dental care, but individual awareness of the judgments we pass on people whose teeth – or clothes, waist lines, grocery carts, or limps – represent our worst nightmares." - "There is no shame worse than bad teeth in a rich world" Sarah Smarsh
"It was possible to live in a town for years and not bump into a cronie. I've always loved the sound of that word. Old Crow. Old Crone. Cronie. Places change, and sometimes people change. To see a face over fifty or sixty years the contours shift, landscapes fall off, teeth too. But then this is the twenty-first century. Overheard while in line Pale listened to the local editor of all things advert, "Yeah, he's got one amazing practice. Up the island in Oiland. His computer zooms into the top of her tooth and a program designs a crown using graphic design. A perfect fit, and no fiddlin' around in her mouth." She held her tongue which wanted to say 'And, it'll only cost you $5,000 dollars or the promise of her first born grandchildren.' - Pale in Purple

One more ... 

[...]You see; poverty doesn’t produce violence. Lack of story produces violence. Lack of connection. It’s easy to kill when you don’t care, when you have no story of your own to carry you. You’re dead weighted to the world with no wings, no eyes to see gentleness and peace. We are ruled by a social order that is rife with nullified ideology, stumped on their quest for something else, and confused by this quest. They still think it can be taken from something, someone or some place. I feel sorry for those who believe this. They are truly the ones who stand outside, looking in.
As a poet, I could bring you metaphor and symbolism. I could wax rhapsodic about the myriad ways my people illuminated the best of home, experience and place, but sometimes the story is most precious when it leaves gaps and questions. The simple song is the one that sings." Dirt-Sense, Animal-Speak, Origin, Aleah Sato

We live an oddly cobbled life. "Born gifted, you will NEVER live a normal life. NEVER." The words of Clarissa Pinkola Estes repeat nearly every time I begin wishing for something closer-to- normal. The hand-drawn diagram my husband drew for me dangles from a clothespin behind me. It's the second drawing he's done for me. This one simplified so I can wrap my slightly tepid limbic system around the system of power in this life of ours. Three extension cords snake from the electrician-installed power box across the forest floor--buried in the ground, to quote the husband. In that tiny building which shelters my sewing machine, the shower, a double sink for washing dishes, dishing clothes and hand-wringing (the clothes) we attach ourselves to the world of electricity.

Heavy duty extension cords run the manifestation of Mercury (lightning) to the heaters in our sleeping room and our eating/writing room. Tucked under the Tall Ones of White Pine, Cedar, Doug Fir and Hemlock surrounded by Wild Huckleberry, Salal, and Wild Blueberries, my husband and I involve ourselves in the community of this Salish Sea Island. Our beginnings have, more than likely, contributed to the choices that we make and the options that provide choices. We are no longer young, but, are probably on the front-end of elder and fittingly can be part of the Gap Years. I'm rooting, as a pig roots for good things to eat, with this post. I can sniff the essence of what I want to say but it will be messy.

Alright. On with it. Neither Pete nor I can be said to be your normal sort. And rather than define, I think it might be enough to say: Pete was struck by or was near-enough to being struck by lightning to never have a normal life. His astrology if you care about that sites two planets at the 29 degree. That's significant signature astrological. Just read this if you'd curious about the 29 degree of a sign in astrology.  My own astrology bears the 29 degree on the Mid Heaven (if you assume my time of birth is correct). We live the edge. Well of course we do, and in the playing out of those roles my fingers and my heart write the stories of those at the edge, on the borders, those who tread the between. Being plenty Virgo (work, in-service) our Cancer sun-sign husband does things, with lots of different people (lots of Gemini this man) and has opinions that are broadly tooled. A oddly-cobbled couple.

What REALLY started this post? It all began after my first cup of strong Wild Black Forest Black Tea, and my morning re-read of Terri Windling's post. With that cup of strong black tea drunk, staining my teeth another shade away from brilliant white, I relate to the story Sarah Smarsh describes in "There is no shame worse than poor teeth in a rich world."  We are there. We have been there. We cobble a life from the beginnings that include Midwestern working class and Filipino immigrant and Part-Hawaiian colonialism. The quotes that begin this post are the ones that touch the live wires of my personal story. "Classism" crosses color borders even within the colors that are ones' own. Reading Smarsh's essay I relate to learning "that I don't leave a place, a class or culture, or enter another, but rather holds the privilege and burden of many narratives simultaneously."

When I packed my boxes and bags during the travels of 2007, I had made the choice to no longer include the forty years of hand-written journals. This time, the boxes Pete had moved from closet to crawl space to storage locker went instead into the back of his Nissan pick-up destined for the dump. That's what can happen during a year of endings (a '9' personal year in numerology). With those words on the sheets of dead trees went a life lived in a house with a roof with all the rooms under that one roof. My inheritance, my legacy of home ownership would need a different story.

Those damn gaps in the space between one story ending and a new one beginning can be a ball-buster and breath taker. A new '9' Year starts up with January, 2016 the newer versions of the story has led us to the woods of a Salish Sea Island. Seasons have come and gone and the lessons we learn fold in, or are recycled with the outgoing tides. The Midwestern working man keeps his hands busy as he ever did. His gait has shifted, his speed variable though still includes a mean sleigh of hand to keep people guessing. The many narratives I hold find their way into the medicine of stories so I can share the burden and the privilege. Between us we have fewer teeth than when the white Nissan pick-up took boxes of hand-written letters on bound pages of dead trees. We have little money to pay for a proper smile. And in spite of that lack, there is a crazy sound that rises from the tiny buildings in the forest. No, not the sobbing, the laughter.

To our family, friends and readers ... many good wishes for all the reasons to be thankful!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Count to ten

"The storm wore the night like spandex."(Read the ending of my latest, and shortest, medicine story here. OR start at the beginning here.)

Monday, November 23, 2015

Change the blood

"The essential function of art is moral. Not aesthetic, not decorative, not pastime and recreation. But moral. The essential function of art is moral. But a passionate, implicit morality, not didactic. A morality which changes the blood, rather than the mind. The mind follows later, in the wake."D.H. Lawrence, an analysis of Walt Whitman in Studies in Classic American Literature. This quote from the essay "The One with ..." written by Joel Derfner (Serialboxpublishing)
A shift is taking place. It might be an individual one, personal growth taking place in the second-half of life; reflecting on the many people around us who are at the tail ends of life. We live uniquely, and it doesn't change when it comes to the last breath. Or, maybe its one of the collective shifts taking place because Saturn is now in Sagittarius (where real education is the talisman for everyone!) after almost three years of deep and heavy Scorpio Season. Taken together my observations of people I know making room for the young couples with Saturn's transit through the heaven, I question the value of my art as Scorpio storyteller. Esoteric or astrological the meaning comes for me in the wake of the Big Wind Storm of November, 2015. Like so many of the beings -- trees, friends, family members -- a new story is unfolding. I have been upended and wonder: Where is up? I wonder about the stories I write. I wonder about the morality of my stories. Add to that the conversation I had with my son who is visiting the islands of my birth, and not living where he and his wife have lived for the past two years (just outside Paris, France) and my gut stirs while the moon grows fat pulling the covers from my natal Capricorn lunar predisposition. She, the moon says: No hiding now ... it is the time of na'au au. Daytime gut during the night.

The medicine of myth-making and fantasy has served me remedies making adjustments to my attitude and my sensitivities. Characters not totally unlike myself conjure pathways around the obstacles; making choices, decisions and narrations I did not or could not make myself, One after another the short stories, and the genealogy of a family of characters led me through the dark nights in the dark woods. Surrounded as I truly am, in the woods that are my closest neighbors, the mythic realm has sorted so much of my illness. Through story I did not fear the shame of revealing my mind to the reader, whoever she might be. There is a powerful soup when you can share that recipe. But, in the past few days I have come to taste and read a slightly different take to story as I slowly resettle myself from the upendedness. From the recovery quilts of a gentle woman of words, and mythic art, a 'Recommended Reading' list is feeding me new, intelligent, and relevant stories from storytellers.

I've been working my way through Terri Windling's generous list of reading, and as this post suggests my blood is changing. Joel Derfner's essay starts out as a review of Buffy the Vampire Slayer a genre way out of my gyroscope. But, Terri wisely encouraged her readers to read it whether you're a Buffy fan or not. I trust Windling's sensibilities, I read it and well ... my blood is changing. 1) I've been introduced to another writer unknown to me prior 2) he introduces me to old wisdom from Walt Whitman; I like Whitman whose words are shared once a week via our local email subscription grapevine 3) the space surrounded me, as I wait for word about my 'success' with grant writing is accepted as a period of grace ... and not punishment. Which led me to yet another of Terri Windling's suggested readings, "Saved by the Invisibles" by Jonathan Carroll

Late yesterday afternoon I read "The First Person on Mars" by Sarah Marsh. Again it was Windling's one sentence review "I love Marsh's autobiographical essays, drawn from her working class background...and this one is particularly good" that hooked me. Autobiography. Working Class stitched to that title did it for me. The essay begins in a field in Kansas in the 1980's, it's her story, the autobiography part. Deft and unexpectedly the technology of social networking starts up a paragraph and a pathway to Mars. Marsh introduces a character real or mythic, not easily separate, who also starts in a field. Different country. Same planet. By the time I have finished the essay I have relived my own working class girlhood, and know something different as my sixty-eighth year on this planet gets on with its unfurling. Sometimes, Kansas isn't big enough to contain the blood or the mind of a girl who narrates her own story (aloud or onto paper). The first person on Mars, or the tenured professor from a history of alcohol and women who name their children after themselves has told a story that leaves me feeling less lonely. My son's phone call came with an invitation 'put out there' for me. "How could I possible do that?" I hear myself say. My gut churned as I considered visiting the Fire Island. I wonder have I? Have I made peace with fire enough to sit with my son and his wife with blood that has changed?

P.S. A good friend sent me this link to watch on Vulnerability. I liked the message.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Sun rules the heart in astrology

"...The Sun and Mercury are also conjunct in Scorpio. People forget the Sun rules the heart in astrology.  So we're talking about a person's heart and mind (Mercury).
It's possible to have a bad day today, but it's not necessary.  How's that sound?" - Elsa's Newsletter
Pine Needle Dancers fill the Silver Wall and the pages of the story

 It's my birthday. I learned something today, thanks Elsa! Thought I'd pass it on.

Monday, November 9, 2015

How do you divide the sky?

Next week, the Sun returns to the spot in the sky where it was when I was born. My birthday approaches. As I wrestled myself into a comfortable position to sleep the question raced through my mind. You know about those sorts of clouds? Here for a moment. Here long enough to cause something interesting, or, at the very least distracting. In astrology the birthday is called the Solar Return.

In the sky the Heavenlies move about on their Paths while our Earth does the same. From their point of view we move about in our Path and they watch. Well, from either position we are moving. A birthday is for many folks a major marker and point of reference: How am I doing in this journey? Am I having fun with this one precious life?
Pine Needle Dancers
 I thought I'd try to answer the question, and the one that entitles this post: "How do you divide the sky?" Thing is ... for the past many weeks, and in particular the past two months I've been deep into answering questions. Six of them. For the first time in my 67 years I am applying for a grant to aid me "address the professional development needs of individual Native artists."

With the help of long-time friend who instigated this whole idea, the process is taking my deeply investigative Scorpio and Mercury nature through the wringer. Words, explanation, examples. Answering questions and coming face-to-face with the beliefs that feed my creativity. Exploring the Grant Process is a trek into new territory. Some of it not totally unfamiliar (I worked with the results of grant process in the Non-Profit world). But to prepare the feast that would feed me that's being a new experience.
While the Moon moves into her New Moon Holoku (hat beautifully dark and enveloping gown) on Wednesday around midnight (11/11/15) I am finishing up this grant application process. My astrologers Elsa and Satori help with the answers to the question "How do you divide the sky?"

  • Satori's forecast for today gives me this: 

"...With Scorpio Mercury sextile Pluto, conversations you have now lay the groundwork for the seeds you plant at the new moon. Pay attention and file away any juicy details you come across. They may be just what you need. Pay particular attention to the ways in which people communicate without words. Don’t assign them meaning just yet, but embed the occurrences in your memory. Mars is at the end of Virgo batting clean-up. Get after those details and wrap up your projects. The new moon is ahead of us, so move out ahead of the curve and clear your decks now. Virgo Mars is excellent at making things happen and at doing them well...

  • Elsa's Newsletter reminds me that Saturn has moved out of Scorpio and into Sagittarius. After the losses of the past nearly three years it's possible to be feeling sorry for myself. Yikes! That's an energy drainer, and a kick in the okole. Reclaiming that energy can do a world of good anytime, but especially now with the Moon coming New in Scorpio. Link to ElsaElsa for ideas of how to set your intention for the positive new cycle coming up.
Depending upon how you divide the sky (which House System of Astrology do you prefer), the New Moon will be in my 10th or 11th House. There is opportunity to reconnect with friends and/or be the 'eagle' version of Scorpio in public. I rather like the joint opportunities that come from being flexible about dividing the sky.

How about you? 

Hover over the images above to read what's happening in those tiny spaces.