Monday, November 29, 2004

Spent a busy week with my Dad visiting. He hasn't been to our house in about four years because he finds travel makes him too anxious. It's interesting to watch the similarities and differences in how adapting to his age-related needs and wants compare to adapting to my kids' needs and wants. I notice how they are all hyper-aware of their bodies, as if any small change in their digestion or energy level or temperature is cause for alarm. Similarly all of them are uncomfortable with changes in plans. His presence doesn't change things so much as make the boat a little slower to turn. This is something I am watching closely because he is deciding whether he should move here and become more a part of our daily lives.

He gave the kids some money to spend. It was kinda fun for him be here long enough for the natural consequences to follow. I set up a boundary that some of it had to be practical (like clothes) and then the rest could be for fun (toys or jewelry) and when the kids started their usual "Well what if I did this..." negotiation on the rules, I sent them to him. My son spent forever at the store figuring out how to spend exactly the "fun" amount to it's limit, and then brought home a toy which drove everyone nuts because it was so noisy. Dad complained until I pointed out that he had supervised the purchase, not me. My son still hasn't spent the practical amount and now my Dad has left , whereas my daughter spent the entire amount on clothes in less than fifteen minutes in a single store with him.

I have to say that after a week with everyone talking non-stop, I sort of like the quiet of my brain ticking without expressing anything. So for now, I hope you are all well and enjoying living.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Susan’s Selected Reading List (books I'd recommend if you haven't already picked them up)

Ishmael by Daniel Quinn - a look at “human culture” from a seemingly simple and different perspective. Several other books by same author with similar theme: The Story of O, My Ishmael, and Providence, but Ishmael is the best starting place.

The Seat of the Soul by Gary Zukov - about the multisensory physical perception of the world, and the purpose of our personality and souls.

Mistress of Spices by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni - cross cultural novel about an Asian Indian “curandera” or healer in San Francisco. Sensual.

Bless Me Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya - coming of age story with religious, cultural and family tensions, beautifully written.

The Samurai’s Garden by Gail Tsukiyama - story of a young Chinese man unearthing mysterious family history, set in Japan, sweet story, graceful character development.

Journey of the Heart by John Welwood - on relationships, love and conscious choices about communicating honestly who we are each day and the destructive cycle of attachment and grasping in relationships.

This Side of Brightness by Colum McCann - interwoven stories of a homeless man living in New York’s subway tunnels, and the sand hogs that built the subways, poetic, historically based yet comes to life with intense imagery and hands on research by the author, surprising twists and unusual characters.

Aama in America by Broughton Coburn - Really amusing look at America through the eyes of an elderly Nepalese village woman, travelogue and commentary on life as we live it.

Plainsong by Kent Haruf - small town America fiction about finding a place that’s safe and communicating across age differences. Smooth story telling with a quiet, wise way about it.

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros - vignettes of a young Hispanic girl’s experiences growing up in Chicago, sad, hopeful, eloquent in very few words.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Archiving memory or Why I wrote it now:

Because there are people who are commenting who were there and understand the depth of the pain I experienced in that short relationship...
Because when I wrote this series I was not thinking about how it would be read by someone who lived it alongside me...
Because I would hate for you to worry now, visiting and seeing me purge this...
Because the time of grieving has long since passed.

I think there are things that we hang onto after the heavy lifting of the healing is done. It seems to me, that to let go of this last remaining piece, I needed to actively "put it somewhere" so I didn't have to carry it as a conscious or unconscious memory.

I think I carried it because I never wanted to be a fool again.
I think I carried all the specifics of it because since then I have found myself doubting if it was as rich, as vivid as it seemed at the time.
I think I carried it because something inside me wanted it to act as a measuring stick, as if it had some ongoing use.
I think I carried it because I was as afraid of losing it as I was of living with it.

I've always been facinated by people who choose to be cryogenically preserved when they die, as if someday science will help them outwit death. We watched the movie Tuck Everlasting this weekend. The father figure, Angus Tuck, is explaining the problems with having eternal life to his son's mortal girlfriend.
"If there's one thing I've learned about people, many will do anything, anything not to die. And they'll do anything to keep from living their life. What we Tucks have you can't call it living. We just... are. We're like rocks, stuck at the side of a stream. Don't be afraid of death, Winnie. Be afraid of the unlived life."

I think I'm just making sure nothing in that memory keeps me from living. Like a Jew returning a year later to place the gravestone, now it can rest in peace with a marker at it's spot.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

It’s funny how I’ve gotten this far, and now I’m tired of it all…
Living with a perfect moment, it haunts you
It sits there in your dresser drawer,
A brochure from an art exhibit
Just beneath a card that says goodbye
The year between those two moments
Should fill pages more,
But I just can’t summon the energy anymore.

It ended in an airport in Phoenix.
To say my heart broke at an airport gate
That’s really sort of trite
He was a “beautiful fucked up man”
Perfectly in love again two weeks later
Leaving me mistrustful in my own skin
After this fall from grace
I began to cover myself up,
Like Eve, embarrassed and exposed
Unsure how I could have been so naive.

I know you think this is a gift, a moment like this
To treasure your life through
But it has defined me too often
The branches and roots of that tree of knowledge,
Wrapped themselves around my heart, choking it,
Describing themselves as love
Demanding nothing less,
Forcing me to face backwards into memory
I am ready to relegate this all to myth
Blame a serpent, blame the sin,
Relinquish the ecstasy
It is past, it is a scar, it is time for it to heal over.

The dog has long since left
Seeking the cool draft of a door frame
The abandoned shoe lies tilted sideways of the desk
Is it done now? Yes, I think the sap is dry.

Putting it here,
I ask for exorcism,
Help me shake it loose,
Drop the fruit to seed
In some other garden.
Tell me a different story of Eve
There is a whole orchard full of trees,
A new season of sap that must run,
Other fruit that must ripen in time

Friday, November 12, 2004

The icy stone benches in the sculpture garden just outside
Where we flee into the cold March day
Should cool the flames, but
The intensity is still too much,
Lips touch,
Eyes open wide,
Our breath in tiny warm puffs between us
As we pull back, frighteningly aware that nothing will stop this.
Not him, not I.

He has brought lunch.
There are kumquats and raspberries,
Chocolate and rum,
A single apple, chosen for a poem they had liked
Eating in reverence, each bite both sacred and sexual
It is as perfectly romantic a moment
As I will ever share with anyone
And we both know this.
I am prescient of the nights I will spend
Cursing God,
Cursing that serpent of temptation and I believe,
Truly I believe, that this moment is worth it.

This how I become Eve
How the moment defines
Forever forward the sweet taste of this fruit
In my mouth,
There will be no forsaking this knowledge
Even when I long for my innocence back.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

"In his devotional lyric Gita Govinda (Love song of the dark lord), the twelfth-century poet Jayadeva tells the tumultuous love story of the cowherd god Krishna and his beloved Radha, a mortal whom later theologians elevated to divine status."(from the exhibit brochure)
Thus it begins:

"The sky is overcast by thick clouds. The woodlands are black with tamala trees. This boy Krishna is afraid of the gloom of the night. So, Oh Radha, take him home. Such was the command of Nanda, the herdsman. Thus arose the love of Radha and Krishna who, as they passed through the forest, sported in the bowers on the bank of the Yamuna."

There are 24 “Prabandha” or divisions, which tell of the love play, and the ache of separation between Krishna and Radha, used as an allegory for the yearning for and joy in unity with God in a devotional sense. The poem has lent itself to adaptation to dance, painting, music and temple worship. There is integration of the erotic in the concept of the consummation of this union between the two lovers, and union of devotee with the Divine.

"Wind from a lakeside garden
Coaxing buds on new asoka branches
Into clusters of scarlet flowers
Is only fanning the flames to burn me
This mountain
Of new mango blossoms
Humming with roving bumblebees
Is no comfort to me now, friend"

The vehicle of a friend or messenger gives both the poet and the painter access to portray the intimate feelings of the two lovers via their expression to an outside observer or sakhi who can cross the boundaries of their two worlds. The sakhi urges the lovers to unite.

“If you show a hungry person food, will it fill his stomach?
How can thirst be quenched by listening to the story of water?
You waste your days, O foolish one,
Looking at your beloved’s picture
Only by meeting him will you get pleasure.”

Leaving behind a cold desert of feelings in our other lives, it is this sensual poetry, these lush paintings which complete the act of seduction

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

I guess I need to tell you now, before I let it go any further
We are both married.
We live on opposite ends of the country
One is six years older and leaving her husband
The other is preoccupied elsewhere,
And after six months of conversing long distance
Both are sure there is no chance
Of falling in love.

We are already falling in this moment in the entrance hall
Long before we descend the stairs to the gallery
My senses take over
Dizzyingly recording each detail, the memories
Of a single instant,
The rustle of his jacket, the
Texture of the worn flannel,
His skin's scent at his neckline
Tiny brown metal eyelets capturing the laces of his shoes, the color of coffee beans
It is freezing outside, and his cheeks are bright with the cold
But there is no thaw in his blush as he sheds his coat
Ushers me down into the museum.

It is a set up.
Bhakti paintings and lyric poetry,
Seeping romance and forbidden longings
We do not speak,
Our bodies draw closer,
Mirror the dance between the aesthetic and erotic
The sakhi revealing what we cannot voice ourselves
The boundary
Replaced with raw desire

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

There I stood cooking pork chops
When my heart finally demanded the exorcism
Years this story has waited,
"Forget your frying pan,
Tell it and be done."

Patiently the dog follows me out of the kitchen,
Stretches and lays down on a single shoe next to the desk
He licks a paw while I cogitate
How far back into the cambium do I need to reach
To untap this flow of sap?

It is March, and I am standing waiting
At the entrance to the art gallery
I am wearing a blue sheath, a soft navy chenille sweater
Which hugs me close,
Dark stockings and pumps,
My heavy winter coat stashed in a locker
I feel
Light footed, luminous,
My hair smells of jasmine and I am waiting, early
With anticipation I cannot
Sit down.

He walks in, he is
So tall, he is rushing over
He is lifting me off my feet
I am spinning inside
Spinning outside as he sets me down
Turns me so he can see
Spins for me too, we are shyly whirling
For each other because
We have never met

Monday, November 08, 2004

Dinner Conversation
V. is my 10 year old son.
C. is my 12 year old daughter.

V: "Mom, why do we say that short little prayer before dinner at Papa's house?"
Me: "That's saying grace. It's a way of saying thanks to God for the food. To show gratitude."
V: "Why does Papa do it and we don't?"
Me: "Papa is more religious."
V: "Why do we say it again? Why is Papa more religious?"
Me: "Papa thinks about God different than I do. He thanks God that there is enough food for us so we don't starve to death, the way some people in the world do."
V: "What is God? Is God a person?"
Me: "That depends on who you talk to. Christians like Papa often think of God as a person they talk to. Christians say that Jesus is God's son, and that God made the world, including the first people."
V: "God made the world?"
Me: "Christians say that he created everything. I am not a Christian so I don't see it quite that way."
V: "Then where did the first people come from?"
Me: "Apes. It's called evolution. First there were cells that multiplied, then eventually those made little plants, and eventually those became little animals, then bigger animals, and then primates, and at some point primates evolved into people"
C: (chiming in now) "Monkeys? we come from Monkeys?"
V: "So how did the world get made? Did it happen with a fire or an asteroid and wasn't there always water? And then they all died, and there were meteors or something?"
C: "Are you talking about dinosaurs now?"
V: "And then they all died and yes, dinosaurs"
Me: "There is a place in Arizona where they think the asteroid hit the earth and made a huge cloud. They used to think the dinosaurs might have gotten stuck in tar pits. But the thing about evolution is that it doesn't explain much about how people get souls, (here I am thinking, how do I explain soul to a 10 year old?) and..."
C: "Can't they be a combination of both? Don't you think people evolve but there is something with God that makes the soul happen too?"
Me: "Yes, or some people even think someone from another planet, aliens might have come and done something to make people the way they are."
C: "Right Aliens."
V: "And so what does it mean if you are gay?"
Me: "Wait, are we done talking about God and dinosaurs?"
V: "No, what is God anyway?"
Me: "Well, no one knows for sure. What do you think?"
V: "I don't know."
Me: "Well, what if someone asked you and you had to make a guess on a quiz at school. What would you say?"
V: "I'd skip that one."
C: "What if you were going to fail the test and not get out of 4th grade if you didn't answer it?"
V: "That would never happen."
Me: "Yeah, but what would you put down?"
V: "An old old man who is a ghost. Yeah, he's old and he's a ghost."
Me: "Ok, and C, what would you say?"
C: "I would say its a part of everything. In us and in the dog and in everything."
Me: "What part would you say it is? Is there something you'd call that part?"
C: "No, I wouldn't say it that way. It's not a part, it's just in everything."
Me: "So would you say that it's something that goes away when something dies?"
C: "No." (thinks a minute) "It is there all the time, like people who talk about how they know someone is looking over them like an angel or something. It's there when we are alive, but we don't notice it because we are looking at them. Then when someone dies, we start to look inside ourselves and realize that its still there without the body, looking over us, and that's the God part."
Me: "So V, you wanted to know what it meant if someone was gay? Why?"
V: "Kids are saying gay at school. Chris called someone gay, it sounded bad."
C: "Can I explain this one to him?"
Me: "Sure."
C: "Sometimes when a boy acts more girly, the other boys will call him gay. The boy is just kinda different, not the same, and so that's why the other boys will tease him. Maybe he's not as tough or something. Then they call him gay."
Me: "V, do you understand what being gay is?"
V: "No"
Me: "Being gay is when a boy likes a boy, romantically. Or a girl likes a girl. But sometimes people use gay when they mean that a person is acting different than they expect a boy or a girl to act. Maybe the boy isn't interested in sports and likes to sing, or shows his feelings, then he might be labeled gay, but he might not fall in love with another man when he grows up."
C: "Like how I like Mitchell? See, that means I'm probably not going to be gay. Because I'm a girl and he's a boy. If I liked girls like that, then I'd be gay."
V: "So Alyssa likes to play wallball, and Chris said she was so gay, but she just likes to play wallball."
Me: "Yes, girls can like sports and not be gay."
C: "Its lesbian mom. Girls are lesbians if they are gay."
Me: "Yes, but Alyssa liking sports is not a reason to call her gay. V., what did you say when Chris said it?"
V: "I didn't say anything. But Alyssa can play wallball if she wants to, she just likes to play wallball."
Me: "Well, you can say a couple of things if you hear that again. You can say so what? There's nothing wrong with people who are gay. You can say what you just told me, that Alyssa can play any game she wants. You can also say that you don't like it when someone calls her gay. You can also say that you like Alyssa and that it's cool that she plays wallball."
V: "Then they'll tease me and say nah nah nah V-- likes Alyssa."
Me: "Ok ok you might not want to say you LIKE Alyssa. But you can say you like to play wallball with her. You should go tell a teacher if someone calls someone gay and it hurts their feelings."
V: "So can I play my gameboy after dinner?"
Me: "Does this mean you don't have more questions about God or being gay?"
V: (rolls his eyes, like they both usually do when I've blabbered on and on for hours on a simple question.) "DUH"

Bumper sticker smile today:
"Republicans for Voldemort"

Friday, November 05, 2004

I was thinking about what I wrote last night as I drove in today.
I don't like to say this but I am fighting the same feelings of hate and the desire to stereotype that I find so scary in "the other". I sit at a traffic light behind a car with a Bush Cheney Sticker, or one of the local anti-gay marriage stickers, and I want to slash their tires, scream profanities, ask them why it is ok to sacrifice my children's future to their greed. I recognize this makes me guilty of the very polarization I am so fearful of. I guess part of what I am working on internally, this week, is how to stay open while I acknowledge the real feelings of betrayal and mistrust, how to avoid lumping people into "stupid" and "selfish" and "bigoted" and "mean" and the sorts of labels which create walls. I wonder if the "figuring out what went wrong" is eroding into an exercise in judging other people's values, and if that is not exactly the thing we are accusing "them" of.

See, I am sitting next to a person I have tremendous respect for as I write. He is one of the fifty nine million. He is someone it would be tempting for me to suddenly dismiss now on the basis of a vote in an election. I know this is wrong, I know he is thoughtful, caring, open, intelligent, in fact, not anything like the "Bush supporter" monster I create when I see the sticker on a stranger's car. This is why I am struggling with myself. I need to talk to him. I need to see what his thinking was. I need to ask questions instead of assuming he is irrational or bad.

I'm not looking to find reasons why I should agree with their vote - don't get me wrong. I'm not unsure of my moral stand. I do want to reconnect with the humanity of those who don't believe as I do. It doesn't matter if they are compassionate or caring to me, if I want to get across the gulf I may have to do all the bridge building. I don't like it, but I don't always have a choice. And so far when I reach out and ask with some real desire to understand I am treated with compassion and respect by Bush supporters. So I need to stop demonizing them as a group and start to view each as a full faceted individual again.

(with the exception of a certain California governor who has proven to be a lost cause)

Thursday, November 04, 2004

The urge to classify

Is so strong.

Box it up neatly, and maybe I can
Call "Brown", pick up at 10,
Deliver it to USA Self Storage
Lock it in and wait for the next election.

There are fiftyninemillionseventeenthousandthreehundredeightytwo
People I'd like to condense down into one box,
Down into some three ingredient recipe some
Simple formula for this vote that separates me
From you
From bad
Make it small enough to describe, control, dismiss
Language of a sixth grader, language of an election
Language of a soundbite.
As if a page of words can explain the feelings, motives
Histories, beliefs of fiftyninemillionseventeenthousandthreehundredeightytwo
Individuals who are not me.

But what are the chances that one of the fiftyninemillionseventeenthousandthreehundredeightytwo
Is more like me than I dare to believe?

Division. There is page after page of problems in the homework packet
He spends hours putting one number into another, finding remainders
Subtracting until there is nothing left, neatly solved.
We say division is the wake of this election
But this is nothing like the methodical effort of
Dividing one hundred into fiftyone percent and fortynine percent,
Dividing the map into twohundredseventynine red and twohundredfiftytwo blue
Dividing my neighborhood into Bush signs or Kerry signs
The signs no one has taken down because
This is who "I AM" this is who "YOU ARE" this is how we disagree
This is the gulf we have to cross
This is both artificial and real
This is the conversation we don't want to have
These are the assumptions we refuse to give up
Why you said Bush Why I said Kerry
This is an equation of irrational numbers
We will write it in its simplest form
We will round down and round up and still
We will find an inequality in the problem
And we will round it down again until
There is no common denominator left to identify
Why I can talk to you
Why you can talk to me
This is the gulf we have to cross

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

"(Bush's religious language)...is code language meant to reassure a base, to tell them he's one of them and that they understand each other."
Interview with Jim Wallis from 11/03 describing the meaning of evangelism, Bush, and the way Bush has used religion to communicate.

I respectfully submit, that the next step is to understand the opposition because surely 51% of this country cannot be so different from me as this election would seem to indicate.

Monday, November 01, 2004

It might be this simple.

Are we willing, with a vote, to admit that the decisions this country has made might have been wrong?

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?