spring blossoms/COVID-19

The trees are blooming. Apple, cherry, plum… Petals are fluttering everywhere, over lawns, sidewalks, porches, tripping over themselves as they loop pinwheels across pavement with fickle springtime breezes.

It is a strange time to be alive. Bearing witness to such a glorious spring marks a divine touch. The beauty is grounding me; the flowers have been such a great comfort. Even little glimpses of tender pink and white buds sends a thrill through me as I go about my day, and I feel so grateful to live in a place where trees flourish. I don’t remember ever noticing a spring quite like this.

It’s been surprisingly warm so far this season as well, which has bode well for those of us locked in tight quarters during this pandemic. Every time I leave the house, I see a litany of folks walking dogs, out for runs or bike rides, playing with their children in the yard. I am beginning to wonder: are these sights which I’ve simply tuned out, or are they really that much more common, now that the world is “locked down”? Perspective has such a funny way of painting our memory.

Aside from gawking salaciously at the natural world around me, I’ve been spending a frankly silly amount of time on the New York Times’ cooking app, filling my days with dreaming of the coming night’s dinner. Some highlights from the week include ginger sesame halibut, perfect Swedish meatballs, and irresistible oatmeal cookie “whoopee pies.” I’m sure I’m not alone in this, but I am definitely gaining weight this quarantine.

And while I haven’t spent as much time as I’d like exercising, I have consistently been writing for the past few days. I’m hoping to channel pent up energy into art. I know I’m not alone there, either. I’ve seen a lot of really amazing content on social media feeds. I’m finding all kinds of inspiration in the folks I follow, and have been remembering (pretty well) to keep my head up.

My thoughts still swim in circles over the same dead moments, but infusions of apple blossom scent and seasonal rain have been sweet interruptions to the thoughts which are continuously trying to kill me.

I still snooze my alarm in the mornings, but I am paring down on the number of times I hit the button. Change is a day-by-day process. We will get through this. Look for beauty! It’s everywhere right now, battling against fear.

Sappho, Our Lady Of Longing

Love, that great deceiver

that great door-slammer, that great window-opener

that great-great-carpenter,

that great-great-great-oarsman,

honing rippling forearms and bulging

pectorals, straining

hard against the temptation

of violence, rowing

predator over water under

sky. blue

is the color of heartbreak, dead

is the shade of life sprouting

upwards out of shiny

shed snakeskin, two round

holes where the eyes once were.

the eyes once were so

wet, so dark, so

important

they saw nothing but Love

already growing fresh

under sloughed skin,

tender green fighting

for emergence under

weight of deadly

dark.

Love germinates, ruminates,

obfuscates itself into oblivion, lovingly

confounding those who love

to wonder, wondering why some

do not dare

?

Love the rototiller, Love the praying mantis,

Love the jungle cat just bored enough to kill–

Cupid, merciless slaughterer, deranged and

happy, triggering chaos in the name of highest

order, leaking doubts into the hourglass, feasting

every night on hot, young

flesh. fresh red meat hung

in the window of

Love The Butcher

every romantic’s worst

nightmare/daydream, sickest

fever at normal body temp, slowest

most painful hello-and-goodbye…

feelings are fleeting if not caught

just so. Love

reminds us not to remember too well,

or eyes will well and turn so wet,

dark, important

green fighting dark in Love’s most aliveness,

life and love fighting, ruthless, endless

hearty in murder, exquisite in torture, us conned

into the epicenter once more by

feathered display and a free first hit. Genes

have nothing to do with it, chemicals

don’t even come close:

it’s that damned little freak with the arrows

bringing mankind to its ruin

so we might at last

cry.

then pray

)violently(

to grow

two eyes bobbing

two eyes

bobbing

on the great salt sea,

the great salt sea

lapping

infinitely

out

to the end

of the horizon.

maybe there is a dock

with two little feet swinging,

a line cast, hopeful

into the blue

waiting to catch

an iris or two

then

cast back, free

to bob again,

lone lookers

quenched

in brine, eternal, looking

for something new

in the water

something new in the water

to look at,

deep.

maybe there is a line

International Women’s Day/Forgetting Your Genitals

What if Icarus had been a woman? What if Pandora had been a man? And what about Adam and Eve?

It’s International Women’s Day, so I’ve been doing a little thinking about “the Feminine.” Whatever that means.

When it comes to identity, I definitely fall into the Judith Butler camp of gender as performance. We make a myriad of choices every day about how we choose to present ourselves visually and how we choose to react to stimulus, including how we flirt. If we can trace back the majority of human decisions as coming from the biological desire to procreate, how we choose a mate has a huge influence on who we become and who we attract. A homogenous majority gives the appearance of dictating the cultural rules, while individuals with diverse phenotypes appear to be pushed to the periphery.

I remember going through puberty slowly, well behind my female-bodied peers. I literally prayed on the eve of my fifteenth birthday, begging God (for the first time in my memory) not to let me turn fifteen without starting my period, because I felt so far behind the curve. Wise women told me I’d be happy one day for my youthful disposition, that aging faster rather than slower had more of a short-term benefit than long term. I concede to the age-old wisdom of my body over a decade later, and to the wisdom of the women who’ve come before me.

“The Feminine” exists in the interplay between an older and a younger woman. It is a collaboration of belated understanding, embedded in dialogue disguised as casual, later to be mined for wisdom. It is the ultimate missed connection, which ultimately brings profound connection to something larger, deeper, more true, something which transcends both individuals.

If it is true that something only exists in the face of its opposite, what is “the Masculine”? If a woman is pregnant with a baby boy, does she transcend the binary?

I can’t begin to truly know. When I watch male-presenting individuals interact, I am confused. I often don’t understand what they are really saying to each other. But I am curious to learn…slowly…

Love is forgetting your genitals. Ironic, isn’t it?

Two Drowned Women Walk Into A Bar

one,still freshly

dripping.

salt cuts the lines

under eyes/over glued

lashes, now

drooping, now

laden with crystalline ending.

“that sucked,”

says the younger,

“what an awful way to die.”

“Could it be worse?” says the older

while taking a seat at the bar.

the tender wipes down

his glasses, looks

hard, indifferent —

the women are blue

the women are silky

rigor mortis molds

them right into his seat.

he says

“Thirsty?”

Tom Kha Dreams

I am a girl with humble requests, but specific taste.

When asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I wavered between wanting to be a hybrid of a prolific doctor and Mother Theresa, or a bus driver. I figured my bus driver was actually pretty happy. “Saving the world” sounds awfully serious.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve forgotten about my “inner bus driver,” who is completely content to cruise around and enjoy the energy that comes with growth. The side of me that wants to save the world is more dangerous than she knows, and she’s been running my life for over a decade. It’s time to put her to rest.

I’m starting the journey of reconnecting with my inner happy bus driver, one interaction at a time. Yesterday, I interacted with a very dear friend, and some “foreign” ingredients. Yesterday, my friend and I set out to tackle tom kha.

For those of you who don’t know, tom kha features a coconut milk-based broth which can house a litany of guests, from sliced chicken to mushrooms to tofu to seafood. It’s creamy and acidic, rich and refreshing, and so very flavorful; it’s one of my favorite ways to “judge” the quality of a Thai restaurant, because it just feels like the heart and soul of something deep and beautiful; if the soup is good, I will always go back.

My friend and I ventured into our local Asian market an hour before closing, peeking under rice bags laid out to preserve the freshness of the produce. Commendably not getting terribly side-tracked with all the eye-opening products in the store, we steered our white hands towards what we knew we needed, and asked for help when we knew we didn’t know what we needed. The cashier was very friendly, and something in his spirit made me want to bust out laughing. For some reason I didn’t, and for some reason I regret this. Was I afraid of making him laugh with me?

We purchased two flat-bottomed soup spoons and all the necessary ingredients, and prepared ourselves to Explore The Soup.

Back at A’s house, we chatted about feminism and witchcraft, balancing flavors and Dolly Parton. I minced the lemongrass stalks like a novice, enjoying the process of seeking the tender parts of a hearty stalk. I chopped ginger and galangal, and smelled the medicine inherent in the roots with each fresh cut. A. sautéed the shallot and baked the tofu, gently turning each cube over once its surface had browned. We threw the minced lemongrass, roots, and kefir lime leaves into the hot coconut oil, immediately drowning them in chicken stock and coconut milk. Left to simmer, an ethereal aroma of lime and coconut found its footing with hearty root vegetables and the bracing edge of chicken broth. In went the fish sauce, lime juice, mushrooms, Thai chilis and tofu. The soup bloomed effortlessly into existence.

Tom kha dreams were coming true before my very eyes. A. and I were necromancers, bringing some ancient force into the present with a few simple ingredients.

A. lit candles and we sat down to taste what we had created. Poured over a bed of rice, the balance of the broth was exquisite, the flavors clear, the tofu firm and the mushrooms perfectly cooked.

We agreed we’d done pretty well for having no clue what we were doing. We’d manifested the bones of a culinary idea: and now the world was open to how we would articulate and emphasize those bones.

We brainstormed ideas for new directions to take the soup. It called for some kind of base note flavor, perhaps something spicy or musky to give it more depth? The tom kha took up space in the room and became a canvas with infinite possibility. Could we take tom kha to India, and add garam marsala for a warming base note flavor? Could we bring it to the Mediterranean and add a bay leaf or two for a husky mid note? Could we change the ratio of coconut cream to chicken stock and therefore the fulcrum point of the flavor balance in the broth? Opportunities floated through the air. Tom kha became a creative collaborator, a benevolent force, a friendly clerk who will kindly tell you where to find the galangal and make you want to smile.

For dessert, A. uncovered a jar of black cardamom, freeing the pods from the shell and crushing them with a mortar and pestle. Inquisitively, we sprinkled some of the crushed spice on shards of dark chocolate and encountered a powerful piney, smoky taste. For “second course,” we ate salt on sour mango slices to open tastebuds to the possibility of sweetness.

The simple things can really change your perspective. It turns out, it doesn’t have to be all “saving the world;” sometimes wincing and laughing while eating a sour mango together is a transcendental experience. The pleasure of existence is a funny pursuit.

If you are interested in making tom kha, I recommend this recipe. My friend and I went a little rogue and added some chili oil and red curry paste for a touch of heat and color; but if you’re a sensitive to heat, you may want to leave that out. If you have the ability to make or buy a paste of the lemongrass, I recommend that for texture’s sake. Leave the skin on the galangal root for maximum flavor and benefit. And by all means, leave me a comment with any ideas you might have.

Enjoy the fuck out of it, connect with something ancient, lay curiosity in your lap like a napkin and examine your experience. And remember, a little black cardamom on a square of dark chocolate goes a long way.

What To Say To A Firefighter

…did that title draw you in?

Good. I’ve gathered you here today to ask for your perspective.

I went to drop off an application at a fire station this afternoon. I have been toying with the idea of becoming a firefighter. It is definitely a lifestyle–and for all its glory, it can be isolating, and emotionally and physically taxing. I’m not sure if I have what it takes, but dropping off a resume in person seemed like a logical step to take in order to find out.

The walls of the station were plastered with pictures of those currently serving their district. A hierarchy of photographs met my eyes as I nervously waited to talk to the fire chief, clutching the packet containing the summary of my life in front of my chest and resisting the urge to shrink into a “defensive” body posture.

By the time the chief made his way to me from the other end of the hall, every ounce of confidence I’d walked in the building with had seeped out the door. Emotionally, I was running down the road towards home, throwing answers to his questions like paper airplanes over my shoulder, hoping that they landed in capable hands.

The one that really had me tongue-tied, however, was this: “Why do you want to be a firefighter?”

In the span of 1.5 seconds, I overthought this question a hundred times around the sun and back. Instead of taking that time to pause, breathe, and collect myself like any self-possessed person would, I thought through the litany of honest-but-not-so-palatable-to-a-hiring-fire-chief reasons which had brought fire into my awareness.

Because I am an idealistic, romantic sort of person, and firefighters embody “helpfulness” and “goodness” by my measure? Too broad, too moralistic, too…embarrassingly honest of an answer to merit being honest about! Saying “I think you get paid to embody everything that’s right with humanity” would freak any decent person out.

Because the hum of the capitalist machine sounds menacing and I don’t think I’m cutthroat enough to hack it in the business world? What am I, some kind of coward?

Because saving lives and serving one’s community is the “most important” thing a person can spend their time doing? Who am I, Mother Theresa?

Because visibility matters and maybe some little girl will grow up thinking she can do anything, including fighting fires? Do I really want to play the “feminist card” fifteen seconds into getting to know someone?

All I managed to get out after the 1.5-second-long panic attack was a mumbled “it just makes sense.” Yes, “It Just Makes Sense” for president, 2020!

I did my best not to run out the door when the chief’s body language said he was done patiently questioning me, though he did give me some very encouraging signals in terms of getting a call back–but I am still thinking about his question and I am still not sure what I would have said differently.

Why does anyone want to be a firefighter? Why does anyone want to be anything? I’m willing to bet the reason Chief B became a firefighter is not the reason he continues to hang in there every day and do the good work. What I wanted to ask him was, “Why are you still a firefighter?” Would I want to know the truth anyway? What good is the truth, when the truth is messy?

Of course, I would never advise anyone to lie during an interview, no matter how informal. And though I berated myself for settling on “it just makes sense” as my answer to The Number One Question an employer can ask an applicant, I am slowly starting to stand behind it. I could have told him my whole life story: why getting strong in my body was an act of reclamation after being raped, why fighting fire was the most radical act of feminism I could think of, how fundamentally important it is to me that a culture of strong “masculine” energy is balanced by the “feminine,” how much I hope to learn from a resilient group of folks dedicated to real, tangible service. I could have told him all of that.

But at the end of the day, what would that change? What good are words to a man who’s seen some shit? Words aside, what good is honesty?

Before me stood an honest man, waiting to be lied to. I have no choice, now, but to look deeper at my own motives, so that I might lie as honestly as I can in the future.

I hope to have a “real” interview so I can sit and hold space in receptive silence, rather than rushing to answer as a means of pacifying a question. That’s not what real questions are for. And besides, that’s not what community service is about. It’s the process; the connection. Not the punch line.

I am learning, slowly, where to hold my ideals within my mouth so that they do not swallow the person in front of me. I took a big step today. Growth is slow, but everything worthwhile takes time.

Student of Love Talks Butterfly Effect

If it is true that reality must exist somewhere along the spectrum of two binary opposites, is it not, by existing as a point somewhere along that axis, acting as a sort of reflection of both extremes simultaneously? A point along a line is indicative of the line’s full expression, of the fact that a line reaches through it in two directions, touching an infinity of other points along the way.

I’ve been thinking a lot about personal power lately, feminism, and how we each cultivate a unique love language as we move through the world. For every “good” action we do, the opposite of the “good” action we take (or a “bad” action) is created as the “dark matter” to the energy put in motion once the action is taken. Even as we think we are acting as altruistic human beings, nurturing all others in our path and choosing light and love with every step we take, our shadow grows longer and longer behind us. And in choosing what’s “good,” it can be argued that making that choice stems from a place of deep-seated vanity, of wanting to be perceived as and feel like a “good” human being.

“Good” and “bad” are two words which represent ridiculous concepts. Obviously, certain events can be more favorable than others to the individual’s perception of reality at any given time, but zooming out to the larger picture, aren’t events simply an occurrence, an expression of reality which sets new energy in motion? Who has the authority to claim whether they are good or bad in the moment of their fruition without being able to see the future or read every potential consequence?

So ultimately, it comes down to consequences which iterate like ripples from an action, causing us to tip the scale one way or another and call an event “good” or “bad.” But how long would it take to really tally every single consequence of something? I cite the “butterfly effect” as an example. We would be immobilized with counting, afraid of taking another step for fear of setting off another chain of consequences which we would then need to keep track of in order to give things a label. The fact we’ve even established certain things as “good” or “bad” at all is somewhat astonishing, when you think of things this way. Our collective perception of reality really is an outrageous trip. That might be the understatement of 2020.

If every “good” action we take creates a “bad” sub-reality, how can anything ever fall in one camp or the other? I suppose the truth is, it can’t. The only truth is that expressions of reality are both “good” and “bad,” and therefore we must embody both in order to be authentic, integrated human beings as we move through the world.

So what does this have to do with love, and what does this have to do with feminism?

If we cultivate a unique “love blueprint” as we move through the world, growing into a certain paradigm of giving and receiving love, are we not creating a “dark matter” equivalent of fear (assuming fear and love are opposites) which tends toward the opposite direction of reality? Is it possible to hold this knowledge as we pursue love and connection and find it not only ok, but desirable to know that we are deepening the shadow with every step into the light, molding reality into new directions with every action?

One could spend a lifetime pondering the nature of love. I have spent many years of my life wondering how best to do it and only seem to encounter more questions than answers as I continue to pursue it, perhaps an indication that I have in fact fallen in love with Love. If it is the core essence of what it means to be human, why is it so damned confusing and painful? If you express your love wildly and flamboyantly, it hurts. If you give your love in quiet, prudent spoonfuls, it hurts. If you do nothing to outwardly express your love at all, it hurts terribly. So Love can even wound us in inaction.

Yet (and I’m confident I’m not breaking new ground here) it is the only force that makes life worth living, that brings joy and connection and unity. So we put ourselves on the line again, wondering what ripples will follow with each Love Action, whether we will feel connection or fear, pleasure or pain, “good” or “bad”…hoping, naively, but also beautifully, to reach a new reality of communion.

So, what does this mean for feminism? Coming from a girl who has a very hard time surrendering to “masculine” energies, I am learning every day how best to love. How every “righteous” feminist action I take carries with it a dark underbelly of misperception, antagonism, and disconnect. One must stand for what they believe in, but where are the true costs measured, and where are the true gains? By accepting what is, can I actually be changing what is? Is it possible to fight reality and actually change it? Or is that a seductive facade, an endless energy drain, an ego-based journey away from “real” love?

I have no answers, which means I must keep chipping away at these concepts. But I am prepared to humbly present my findings as a dedicated student of love, and a lover of and believer in humans.

Life/Apathy and Living With Bipolar Disorder

It’s been some time since I created a post! I’ve been down and out between the holidays, the end of the school quarter, and growing deliriously ill. I am happy to report I’m writing from a somewhat clearer perspective today than, say, half a month ago.

We continue to discuss dichotomies in class, and I am fascinated with the apparent opposition of science/magic, or witchcraft. It’s intriguing considering these two identities as fringe cultures from the main society in which they would have historically existed. It is strange indeed how the micro communities interact with the macro. The exchange between the two seems to be as “alive” as we get.

They say love and hate are two very related emotions. If we consider these two halves of the same coin, I’d say the opposite of this “coin” is apathy…and “apathy” is the opposite of the “life/death” coin as well. I guess it is the black hole in the galaxy of life. How can we combat apathy? I would argue it is the most toxic entity on earth. 

I think a lot of people play “apathetic” in order to appear coy or charming, or to sidestep a heavy feeling. I have done this myself at times which is why I write so bold a claim so confidently. How much of an act is based on truth, though? What is a lie, anyway? I have so many deep, large questions and am enjoying the mysteriousness of them.

As a person diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I find tremendous liberation in the idea of the “reality” of life as existing between two bifurcations. It makes me feel as though, as a creator, anything is possible inside my brain. This different take on my diagnosis is quite empowering, rather than hindersome, and I am tremendously grateful for this perspective.

When I found out I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, for some reason my first instinct was to write to Stephen Fry about it…I suppose because he guided me through the hell of high school via the internet and books, has always been a beacon of truth and wisdom in my eyes, and is also an experiencer of bipolar disorder. I somehow had no doubts upon writing my short letter that he would respond—and, lo and behold, he did! And, he “encourage[d] [me] not to feel defined by [my] diagnosis,” advice which took me over a year to process and appreciate. Absurd as he is wise, Stephen Fry transcended the space-time-continuum in order to deliver me a purple-inked message of support, for which I truly am enormously grateful. 

“Empathy” doesn’t mean much if you don’t know where you stand and/or don’t have healthy boundaries. Every day, I work a little more on reeling in my energies, giving my love out in smaller, more intentional doses, making myself into the “badass lone ranger” of my own fantasies. “Connection” is an illusion anyway, y’know? But, like, such a lovely, admirable pursuit all at once. “Illusion is the first of all pleasures,” to quote Oscar Wilde for the fourteen hundredth time. 

Medication frightens me, because it brings me that much closer to apathy. I would rather feel the extremes of life in all its insanity than transform myself into a pliable, dull-witted husk. Perhaps even typing that has tempted some mad furies to bat down my defenses and leave me shaking my fist at the sky…I suppose only time will tell. Until then, I will be tripping along, endeavoring not to lose my mind and doing my best to avoid any descent into apathy.

Got a Cold

I’ve fallen ill. This cold is atrocious. I’ve been knocked on my butt for the whole day, going in and out of sleep. 

Between walks with this little dog I’m taking care of, I’ve been rabbitholing on Ani Difranco interviews and live performances. 

I’ve been thinking about my energy a lot lately…how energy is composed of spectrums, and how I need to reconcile the other, darker sides of my soul. 

I’m tired of thinking, rethinking, overthinking…I’m tired of building my own reality to hide inside of. I could just be sick today, but I’m terribly tired…

“Fortune favors the bold,” but what is wealth? 

That being said, I do know somewhere that it’s all going to be ok. As long as I focus on love, it’s all going to be ok.