Monday, December 30, 2013

We Are All Guilty

I have shop-lifted, lied, not fully declared, cut off, run, and knowingly.  At this moment in time and place, as a 30-something white woman with trappings of class, I'm not deemed criminal.  For no good reason.

I'm guilty.

Some of these offenses are considered legal, in certain times and places.  Some of these offenses are deemed illegal.  What constitutes crime shifts, continually.  Who is considered to be criminal shifts as well, although for at least two centuries, in North American, the overwhelming perception is that criminals are low-income brown people.

At various times, we've collectively decided that crimes are indicative of need.  Sometimes, we collectively decide to rehabilitate or aid the offender.  In recent centuries, we've decided to punish and isolate.  At times, there's an idea of redemption for an offender.  In other moments, that person is tortured and/or killed.

It's all rather arbitrary.  It all shifts and it all changes.  For these reasons, I don't think that incarceration has anything to do with guilt.  For those of us who work with incarcerated peoples, we should never feel like we're working with them despite.  "Despite their guilt, their offense."  We should never work with any individual or group and feel superior.

We're all guilty.

Prison guards are guilty of brutality against inmates.  Police are guilty of brutality against citizens.  Mayors, judges, teachers, and Presidents are guilty.  Soldiers kill civilians.  Presidents send drone strike attacks.  Governors order executions.  There is massive blood and brutality in their bureaucracy and yet those who work with them don't do so as a concession.

Work with inmates and better understand incarceration.  Understand its reality and its limitations.  Understand who is incarcerated and that it has everything to do with race and class and nothing to do with "crime."  Understand that crime is a nebulous concept at best.  Understand your own vision of justice and whether it is better served by rehabilitation or punishment.

Work with inmates to offer an under-served population resources.  Work with inmates to redistribute goods back to those who are denied what are considered rights to citizens.

We're all guilty.  If we hope to receive mercy and generosity from others, we need to offer it graciously.  We're all criminals, but only some of us are incarcerated.

My vision of justice is inclusion.  There are no longer prisons where some people are turned into guards and paid to brutalize those who are turned into prisoners.  There are no longer courts that penalize the poor and exonerate the rich.  There are no longer false premises of economic survival being deemed criminal while imperialism is considered innocent.  We're all recognized as guilty and we're all offered the possibility of redemption.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Time opens its arms for me and I sink in

She told me that being an elder felt like an extended sunset.  It was warm and soft
and slow.  You know that the curtain is drawing down, that shapes are flattening,
and there is space for you.  You soften for it.  You brighten and eat moths and
listen to bat wings.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Feeling freaked

Friday night, I exited my car and was splashed by a car racing through a puddle.  Annoyed, I gathered my coat and walked towards the yoga studio, where I would co-facilitate yoga teacher training.  It was chilly and wet.  I approached the cross-walk and looked for on-coming traffic.  Seeing none, I began to cross.  I saw lights, heard screeching, and then realized a car was barreling right for me.  There was nothing I could do to get out of it's path.  For a split second I thought: this is going to happen.  This car is going to hit me.

Somehow, the driver was able to stop in time.  There was screeching and a little fish-tailing given the damp conditions.  Both the driver and I were stunned.  I realized that I was still in the street, dazedly looked, and continued crossing to the safety of the other sidewalk.  The driver rolled down his window.  "What was that?" I shouted.  He shook his head, "I didn't see you."  I nodded and continued to the sidewalk.

I was wearing a dark coat.  He was driving too fast.  He hadn't come from either lane of traffic but from a side street.  In retrospect, he couldn't have paused long before turning, and he accelerated rapidly into the turn, which is why he came so close to hitting me.

I was annoyed at having been splashed, but wasn't too preoccupied.  I think I was fairly aware when I entered the cross-walk.

We both behaved fairly normally.  He certainly drove too fast.  Without intending, we almost altered one another's lives permanently.

I reached the yoga studio and began to tell the trainees and my co-facillitator what happened.  I started crying and couldn't stop.  I just wanted to get home to Kevin and Laz.  My friends at the studio made me wait until I was calmer.  Cautiously, I chose another cross-walk that's well lit and at a stoplight to return to the car.  Kevin received me with open arms and Laz came running to check on me.

The following morning, I decided that I should be OK.  I was a bit surprised and unnerved at how shook up I felt.  Nothing happened.  I wasn't hit.  I should be over it.

Towards the afternoon a friend checked on me.  She said that I did seem a bit weird.  I called Kevin and he said, sure, you'll be a little weird for a bit.

Last year, Kevin was held at gunpoint.  It took him some time to comfortably re-inhabit his own skin.  My experience didn't seem nearly as grave as what Kevin endured.  I felt a bit impatient with myself, or like I was milking sympathy from others.

This morning, I turned on NPR to hear Krista Tippet's On Being rebroadcast an interview with Brene Brown.  I'd heard some of the interview before, but am always grateful to be reminded of Brown's research on the power of vulnerability.  She's found that those of us who are able to be more transparent and human experience more powerful intimacy with others and a greater sense of well-being.  She shared about the gendered nature of vulnerability.  Even though many of us want the men in our lives to be more emotive, we still want to lean on them.  There's often inconsistency between a desire for them to communicate about an equal range of emotions as we allow for women and then the inability to hold space for men feeling afraid or powerless.  I remembered the process of Kevin and I working through his feelings after being held at gunpoint last year.  I remembered the time it took and that ultimately, both of us felt closer and more real.  Real in the sense that we were reminded of our own insignificance, as well as our importance to one another.

Brown spoke of courage being born from struggle.  Some dynamism, or tension, is necessary for growth.  If we always shield ourselves from adversity, we also stunt our abilities to grow.

Throughout her conversation with Tippet, she reinforced feeling.  Patiently.  I realized that I was trying to rush past the fear I experienced Friday night.  I wanted to will it away because, thankfully, I'm OK.  The conversation reminded me that I can feel what I need to without taking up too much space or wallowing.  I can just feel.

As soon as I realized that, I started feeling calmer, and more like myself.

I'm driving more cautiously.  I'm walking with more awareness.  I shared this during my yoga class this morning and after class, several students confessed almost being hit as pedestrians recently.  We hugged each other, grateful that we're all OK, and making space to feel.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Mandiba

Yesterday, I read on Facebook that Nelson Mandela had passed.  I worried that it was a rumor (why do folks start those threads?).  I had to leave to teach yoga, so I turned on NPR in the car.  South African President Zuma was confirming the loss and sharing his grief.  He thanked the world for letting Mandela's cause be all of our cause.

When I reached the studio, I began thinking about how Mandela's life and legacy potentially impacts the inward turn of a yoga practice.  I wanted to make a connection because Mandela was on my mind.  If I had to speak for the next 75 minutes, it would be hard to not make mention of his transition.

As I reflected, I began looking for his speeches.  I thought I'd let him speak for himself during the course of practice.  I pulled up a Youtube video from Mandela's public appearance after being released from 27 years of incarceration on Robben Island.  Let me confess something about myself here: my tolerance for Youtube is about 15 seconds.  I rarely open video files.  I strongly dislike Youtube (it's great that it exists, I just don't play there).  This clip is 15 minutes long.  I watched and waited for Mandela to speak.  He speaks for about three minutes towards the end.

Patiently, with awe and emotion, I watched the cheering, waving, and Black fists pumping the air.  That's when I began to cry.

Mandela didn't die in prison.  He wasn't assassinated.  A sniper's rifle didn't take him out.  He wasn't killed battling Apartheid police or other upholders of that state.  He died in bed, with his family, at age 95.  For all the complexity of his life, that is a victory!  Isn't that the death so many of us crave?  To experience the full arc of life and release it among those we love?

Too many of our Revolutionaries are struck down before their prime: Chairman Fred Hampton Jr, Malcolm X, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the eleven killed in the 1985 MOVE bombing.  Mandela lived!

I watched the video and saw people, worldwide, reaching towards freedom.  Therein lies my connection between Mandela's passing and yoga.  I am moved by Mandela's life.  On the surface, why should I be?  I'm of a different generation, from a different plot of the earth.  I'm a middle-class white woman who doesn't know the heel of colonialism nor the brutality of racism.  There are wide gaps between my experience and those who fought apartheid.  Yet, something in me longs for freedom (whatever it may be).  Something in me breaks open and reaches when I hear those cheering voices, crying for Mandela, so happy that he was released from prison, and so moved that their collective action made it so.

It was important that Mandela was released from prison.  And yet, it wasn't only about him as an individual.  His release represented a huge shift in possibility.  Mandela's incarceration was legal and at times it looked as though he would die in jail.  It seemed like apartheid might never fall, at least not in his lifetime.  Global outrage, international action, and boots on the ground made freedom real and tangible.  When people rushed to shake Mandela's hand, they touched a sense of liberation.

We practice yoga for the same reasons.  We meditate and stretch to touch freedom.  There's increasingly a thought that liberation will only be realized collectively.  We're supposed to practice and teach one another to strengthen our capacity for authentic connection despite experiential gaps.  Not to negate these gaps, but to reach into that primal draw to know what is limitless.  We sit in meditation and feel for space.  It's said that all beings exist in that meditated space-- those who committed apartheid, those who suffered it, those who transcend.  It's possible for us to all clarify and merge in that true consciousness.

Mandela was many men during the course of his life.  Aren't we all many people during the course of our own?  This isn't to exonerate questionable choices he made, but rather to reflect on each of our inevitable evolution.  Another reason why we're encouraged to be held accountable by our own community-- so that we grow in ways that will continue to mutually uplift.

Mandela was one of the most public political prisoners.  This is part of why he's always interested me (to the extent that I wrote book reports on him as an 8-year-old).  Many of you know that I've always paid attention to incarceration.  At various points in history and across the globe, humans have conceived differently of what constitutes crime, who is a criminal, and how we want to handle those who we perceive as having crossed a line.  At some moments, we've been interested in integrating these individuals deeper into the fold.  At other moments, we've wanted "criminals" to receive treatment.  Right now, there's a tendency towards punishment.  Our ideas of what constitutes crime continue to change.  At some points, we've found drugs to be OK.  Today, we think pharmaceutical drugs are fine but that certain drugs should be illegal.  Those who market in the ones we determined to be illegal, we consider criminal.  Those who market in the pills we determine to be legal are upheld.

Similarly, I don't think that incarceration has much to do with guilt nor innocence.  Truly, we're all guilty.  We all commit crime at various moments.  I shop-lifted as a teenager.  I don't always declare everything at customs.  As a middle-class white woman from the U.S. I'm not currently the common profile of a criminal.  Others, who commit the same actions as I have, might have long been incarcerated.  Incarceration tends to say more about who we deem threatening and in need of control than about who is guilty of crime.  (It also has everything to do with race and class.)

Mandela was considered a terrorist.  He was terrorizing apartheid and the state wanted him silenced.  His incarceration was legal and seemingly unshakable.  And yet, not because the state realized justice, but because people, internationally realized that there is a morality beyond law, he was released.  A ground-swell of public pressure, outrage, and belief in our own right to freedom brought him home.

I think of his case often as a reminder that we never know when the impossible can become possible.

In yoga, we're told to act but release the fruits of our labors.  In The Bhagavad Gita, Krishna counsels warrior Arjuna in acting in his purpose, his dharma, without expectation for the outcome.  He didn't get to act because he knew that he would survive, or win, or achieve whatever he might have hoped for.  He acted rightly because it was his duty.  He had no claim to the results.

Mandela stayed his course.  He served 27 years and inspired people around the world.  I'm sure he felt terribly isolated at times during his incarceration.  I'm sure he felt forgotten in moments.  And yet, as the video link above demonstrates, when he walked out a free man the whole world felt free.

Mandela should be humanized.  I agree that he was flawed, as are we all.  His image has absolutely been white-washed and co-opted by the current powers that be.  But we can know the truth.  We can know that he started a Revolutionary, a terrorist, an inmate, who kept reaching towards something collective, primal, and real.  And we can know that we too can draw towards our purpose, and maybe even truly be free.



Rest in power.

From El Jones:

Don't let them take Mandela
No no don't let them steal Mandela
Make no mistake they're going to fake erase and lie about Mandela
They can't wait for him to die so they can plasticize Mandela
Appropriate Mandela
Don't you know they hate Mandela?
We can't have the free Mandela
And they'll never let us know that we all can be Mandela
They won't let us feel Mandela
We can't have the real Mandela
Just like Che Guevara shirts they're going to buy and sell Mandela
Now that he cannot speak himself they're going to corporatize Mandela
And we shouldn't be surprised when we don't recognize Mandela
And they will whiten up Mandela and they'll hide the truth about Mandela
Because the last thing they want to do is end apartheid like Mandela
So they'll divide and rule and govern through a colonized Mandela
And this capitalistic system will consume the true Mandela
And we won't like the new Mandela cause he's not for me and you
And they will take him from the ghetto and the township and favela
Oh yeah they're gonna use Mandela
So we have to tell about Mandela
Don't forget the freedom charter when we yell about Mandela
But they cast a big umbrella
Full of brainwashing and error
It's got skeletons inside they already tried to get Fidel
And they will stick to their vendetta
Cause their clique goes on forever
They'll shove Obama down our throats
While they hide speeches songs and letters
You can bet that they will twist him to whatever serves them better
They're going to write their own novella
Because they can't control Mandela
So we have to hold Mandela
Know the goals that drove Mandela
Spear of the Nation old Mandela
And truth and reconciliation sold Mandela so we have to get to know Mandela
Not the diamond mines Mandela
Or the compromised Mandela
Not the World Cup or Invictus or the canonized Mandela
The ride or die Mandela
Viva la revolution socialized Mandela
Cuito Carnavale and militarized Mandela
Castro and Mandela raising fists to the oppressor
Oh but they'll give us safe Mandela
Nobel peace prize great Mandela
And let's forget about the state and institutions that brutalized Mandela
And are still in place world wide together
They'll say oh he forgave, remember?
So there's no need for the poor to ever rise up like Mandela.
We'll get quarter of Mandela
A watered down Mandela
A kindergarten cartoon for your sons and daughters
Just a shell of our Mandela
Just like with Gandhi and with King they'll sound the death knell for Mandela
And before his body's cold they'll cast their spell upon Mandela
We'll get have a dream Mandela and love your enemies Mandela
And power to the people will be buried with Mandela
So we can't let them steal Mandela
Because they can't feel Mandela
It's the spirit of the revolution can't conceal Mandela
It's a 500 year connection sharing ideals with Mandela
From the slave ships to Haiti, Cuba and Soweto
Thats what reveals Mandela
And that's why they can't keep Mandela
But we can't sleep on Mandela
Because the truth is there never was just one complete Mandela
It's the people made Mandela
The movement create Mandela
The youth in streets while he was still behind prison gates propelled it
And it went on whatever measures they attempted to suppress it
And so the people can remember
Solidarity forever
Because as long as our hearts beat then they can never take Mandela.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Here. Wherever that is.

Thanksgiving means a six hour drive along the Eastern Shore and a requisite stop for greasy fare at a diner.  It means time for Kevin and I to have a "State of our Union"-- a bigger, longer, uninterrupted talk about what's been occupying our thoughts and lives.  It's easy to live with another person, hug them, have brief check-ins, but not fully know the other's inner content.  These car trips offer an opportunity to have those winding conversations of greater depth.

Often, I'll toss out questions like Kevin's top three wish list destinations.  Honestly, there's nowhere in the world that I don't have some interest in experiencing.  Knowing what's whetting his whistle helps me narrow down my own desires.  Inevitably, these questions will reflect back to previous adventures we've shared and how they may be coloring our current impulses.

As much as I'm curious about all the world, I've also truly enjoyed all of the trips I've taken.  Given that we have a limited amount of time for each trip and that we've mandated annual travel, there's always another trip on the horizon.

We always reflect on Vietnam.  I remember being so overwhelmed, in the best possible way, by the intensity of sight, scent, and sound.  All of my senses were triggered and I was so aware.

There have been periods of my life that were remarkable and unfortunately, I didn't realize it until I had the benefit of hindsight.  Maybe because of the punctuation surrounding these international adventures, I always know in that moment that this life is truly remarkable.

That keen sense of being alive reminds me to cultivate that same wonder and appreciation in my day-to-day life.  It can be mundane, sure, but it can also be a treasure.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Abuelita's Voice & the bird in my belly

It's here!

I've written about the bad-ass writing course I participated in last month.  Now, you can read the fruits of our labor.  The words are vulnerable, bold, and so bright.

Check it!

http://issuu.com/caitsmeissner/docs/diggingdeepanthologyoctober2013

Thursday, November 21, 2013

F**k it, Dragons

My friend, Monserrate, cracks me up.  In recent months, as he describes it, a window opened to this world.  He's been gazing in, enchanted, and transcribing the journey.  Recently, he wrote, "In nine months of writing, I've exercised self-restraint in my storytelling.  Today I said, F*** it.  Dragons."

That's the mantra.  I can't get enough!

Whenever I'm feeling timid or doubtful, "F*** it.  Dragons."

I keep over-explaining my life, usually to myself.  The self-critique is that it's too much, I'm too all over the place, chasing a passion for writing, a yen to be digging in soil, my love of yoga.

F*** it.  Dragons.

Kevin & I were talking about the versatility people cultivated in themselves even two generations ago.  We weren't quite so stove-piped, so specialized.  A doctor still played baseball on the weekends.  A mechanic wrote poetry.  Farmers were (I say are) philosophers.  Certainly, people today are multidimensional, but I think too many of us are apologetic.

Certainly, our efforts much have depth and sustenance.  Cultivating a sampler platter of passions leaves us superficial.  I'm allowing myself to be a Renaissance Woman, or as Kevin prefers, a Jack of all Trades.  I want to clean my home with gusto and some salsa in my steps.  I'm planting a farm in my backyard.  I plan to publish my poetry.  I teach and practice yoga to stay apart of an ancient lineage.

F*** it.  Dragons.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Creative charge

This has been a seriously creatively charged fall.


I've written here that life got rough this past summer.  Maybe beginning in July and never really ending, things felt intense and sometimes out of control.  There were a series of events with family and funds-- all right at the root of our sense of stability in the world.

I'm a control freak.  I don't take kindly.

I really worked to be open, vulnerable, and keep moving.  There were real affects-- usually I run my behind off in the fall (last year completing a Half Marathon).  Haven't done a lick of that.  My yoga practice really suffered.  My time was stretched thin as I worked more to refill our coffers.  As a result of working in new venues I kept finding more and more work.  Now my time is a bit imbalanced and I'm working to realign.

In early October, I gulped and offered a Yoga to Unleash Creativity workshop at a conference full of accomplished creatives.  The workshop was well-received and gave me access to this dynamic event full of mutual support and ingenuity.  Right on the heels I began Caits Meissner's Digging Deep, Facing Self online poetry class.  I'd never done anything like that before either-- and it rocked, hard.  Every day I woke up to detailed, inspiring prompts that coaxed completely unexpected stories onto page after page.  I wrote my buns off.  I communed with other dynamic female artists, mutually supported, edited, and celebrated.

Last night it ended.

Whimper.

It has to.  Those experiences are so rich because they're finite.  From that experience, the conference that preceeded, and all the damn living I've been doing, I have a lot to say and new ways to say it.  My poetry is becoming more visually rich and emotionally evocative-- all thanks to these fantastic teachers (with Caits at the helm!).

The inner narrative recently has been, "Bye bye 2013.  Don't let the door hit you on the way out!"  As I think back on what got stirred up in Shiva's big destructive dance, I think I may have to redefine 2013.  It was a hard year.  It was big and smacked me around a bit.

But it gave me a lot to say.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Seeking asylum in Cuba

Not legal,
with visa I stepped on
forbidden ground and big ups
to you, each of you, sitting
on over-turned milk crates
playing dominoes, floating
salsa and bachata through
the streets, chewing on
cigars, and tapping sandals
on pavement.  Big ups.  No shyness,
you called me on packing my
things and stepping into
your hood feeling entitled
to big plates of plantains
and a dose of Revolution.


Not that
you didn’t make space for
me, not that there wasn’t
a seat for me in those history
lectures.  No, you were happy
to have access to the “Little
Imperialists,” as you called me
and my classmates.  But
you wanted to be clear.  I
could walk down your sagging
streets and listen to the folk songs
bouncing against pastel
walls.  I could drink mojitos
and sweat late into the night.
I could pause at Che murals and
escape the huracanes.  I
could.


She wrote of leaving
rich parents to create molotov
cocktails.  She told me about when
the hotels were taken over to
become housing for sex
workers while they learned
new trades.  Her reward was
half a diplomat’s house.  The
hotels now are for
Italian tourists who still manage
to find
sex workers.


She wrote of visiting
Chicago (somehow?) and
feeling invisible.  No “Oye,
nena!”  No hiss hiss.  Those
sounds plagued me. I wanted
the privacy of averted glances,
the space to take in this
place without accountability
and big ups,
y’all didn’t give it to me.  I
hid on the rooftop, put on my
headphones and merged
Caribbean breezes with
the hip hop of home.
She said those hisses, those
quick friendships didn’t mean what
I thought.  She didn’t
feel danger in the  male gaze.


Not yet legal to
drink in my home
I dropped back aguafuego,
big-eyed, gulping at
your laughter hearing
stories of Mariel, rough waters,
small rafts,
big will to live, to survive
to find Revolutions
on islands

at sea.


At Parque Lenin, Havana, Cuba, as a 20 year old exchange student in 2001.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Bones of Thanksgiving

I've got a bone to pick.

On Thanksgiving, my thoughts are with the Indigenous of the Americas.  I think of reservations on barren land, systemic poverty, and rampant racism.  Many folks in the U.S., especially white folks, love to romanticize an idea of an Indigenous person who shared food with shivering pilgrims.  There's nowhere near enough education about the genocide of the Indigenous and the current conditions for survivors.

I think of Leonard Peltier, a Lakota political prisoner, who has spent the majority of his life incarcerated, despite a multitude of evidence that points towards innocence.

I think of the mass slaughter of turkeys and the larger meat industry.  Apart from the unbearable brutality towards animals, this industry is among the most environmentally devastating.

You totally want to invite me to your Thanksgiving, right?

Yeah, I know.  Activists are often accused of being kill joys.  Get it.  Duly noted.  And I also understand that for many, Thanksgiving is a moment of warmth with family.  It's tradition in an often culturally-starved, or consumption-diluted U.S.  We need ritual.  We need culture.  Yes, yes.

Here's my bone: what is it that makes us uncomfortable in sitting with both tradition and reality?

In yoga, we constantly increase our capacity.  We find more room in our body for strength and flexibility.  We find space in our mind for greater awareness.  I wonder if we aren't capable of the same in these moments where our desire for tradition knocks up against inconvenient truths.  Can we have the capacity to hold space, and maybe even supportive action, with Indigenous people and causes?  Can we love our families, our time with them, and not suppress these larger realities?

I hope so.  Granted, I'm not generally so sentimental.  I'm not the nostalgic in my household (that title goes unequivocally to Kevin).  Holidays don't twinkle in my eye.  I think I might draw a bit closer to that flame if I felt light was being equally shed to the whole.

Let's illuminate.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

It Is Big

In the last few days, I've been asked several times, in various venues, by different people, what I want for my life and what I would change.

I want what I'm living.

What would I change?  More money.  Just enough to feel more stable.  More time.  Just enough to feel more balanced.

I wouldn't change where.  This spot is too rich with soil that knows my footprint and plants that surprise me with their blossoms, patterns, and response to wind.  This place is too filled with people who inspire me and fill my days.  There's too much work to do here; to support the community that exists and continue collaborating towards more growth.  And it's the best place to return to after having run around the globe a bit.

I wouldn't change who.  If anything, I'm working on changing myself, to be more open, available, and vulnerable.  I'm learning how to FEEL more.  I've gotten good at boundaries.  Now I have to get good at having the judgment to use them and the wisdom to sometimes let go.

My people.  Big time joy in my backyard.

I wouldn't change what.  I have a nagging doubt that I spread too thin, that my passions are too distant from one another, that there isn't sufficient cohesion.  As I wrote to my artist's community: Shit.  This is my life.  It is big.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Dirt & Muscle

I've been tasked with being vulnerable.  Today, I'm supposed to publicly show my soft underbelly.  I'm currently in a (fantastic!) writing course, Digging Deep, Facing Self with Caits Meissner.  It's a big part of why I've been so quiet on this platform-- I haven't been reading (unheard of for me) nor listening to NPR (equally strange) because I've been delving into memory & imagination.  Part of this process is gaining a little experience with being exposed.  Hence, a piece from the course to share with you.  I would greatly appreciate your feedback in the comments below.  Interacting with creative work helps me grow-- & I'm happy to offer the same to you.

Dirt & Muscle

I.

We hid in late night lamp light
stories gathered in our eyes.
Generations of women
with their fingers out of the covers
clutching a book.

Shuffling at the church pew,
holding a hymnal
the words dusty.  
Catch tight breath.  Chewing
clunky waiting to
speak spirit.

The barn relaxes into
Tennessee hills, where
my grandmother hid
to read.  The tired
boards creaked with
teenagers leaning against
one another hearing the piano
sing what hymns forbade.

The beams held when
my great-grandmother
tied her noose, hanging
limp against light.

II.

I keep a jar of Georgia clay by
my bed.  My grandfather scooped
it bare-handed from the earth.
Fertile enough to
grow peanuts, suspend water,
absorb blood.  

Dig in clay and muscle
to sweat off your sins.  Press
thumbs together, earth distills
to silk.  I’ll paint you with soil.  
Heal your skin.  
I plant to purge.  

I hide and watch the
sand separate, watch the
clay turn to dust.  
Southern earth
that spit me out
won’t let me
back in.


Friday, November 1, 2013

The veils are thin


Warm, bright, happy, & Feliz Dia de los Muertos, Samhain, All Saints Day, Halloween, & Diwali to each of you. I'm tripping over all of these people scattered throughout the world & throughout the ages who felt that this was an auspicious time to commune with the ancestors-- to Dig Deep.

"'This is the night when the veil is thin between the worlds, the seen and the unseen, the day-to-day and the mysteries!' Happy Halloween, and blessed, Samhain to you all. With the ending of summer and the gathering of the harvest we celebrate endings that lead to new beginnings, mourn our beloved dead and celebrate life's resilience. Light a candle, tell a story, remember someone you've loved, and listen for the wisdom of the ancestors." -Starhawk

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Veganing Around Hawaii-- reprint from the VeganAsana!

My bud, the VeganAsana, recently took an anniversary trip to Hawaii!  She has some excellent recommendations on how to happily eat vegan while island-hopping.  Check out her blog & read on!

Veganing Around Maui



Mr. Asana and I spent last week in Maui. It was even more beautiful and amazing than I had imagined, and I had imagined it being pretty amazing.  Before we went, I already knew that it was not, in terms of restaurants, a vegan mecca. There is a heavy focus on meat and seafood in restaurant food there. So, I was ready to mostly have one choice on the menu, and maybe not even that.

What follows is a brief review of my experiences there, with some thoughts and recommendations on places to eat, and not to eat.

We stayed at the Westin Ka’anapali Ocean Villas in Ka’anapali. They have three restaurants on site and we dined at two of them. Pailolo Bar and Grill is a sports bar right of f of the beach. There are an insane amount of big screen TVs and they serve sports bar food. There is a veggie burger on the menu that the waiter stated was vegan, but I’m honestly not sure he was correct, so I would recommend double checking that. It was perfectly edible, but not at all amazing. The other restaurant we ate at was Palehu, which serves Italian food.  There, I had a delicious eggplant dish with a chickpea cake that was out of this world. Their salads are also delicious. It’s good that the food is yummy, as it is not inexpensive (food on Maui, pricey, we spent $200 on 4 small bags of snacks and breakfast food).

We ate four times in Lahaina, an adorable little city just south of Ka’anapali. Three times were on front street, right by the ocean, and the f ourth was a bit away. The restaurants we ate at were Maui Brewing Company (veggie burger, good), Lahaina Fish Company (sesame crusted tofu rice bowl, excellent), and Cheeseburger in Paradise (black bean burger minus cheese and may, good). For all of these restaurants, there was basically one vegan or veganizable dish, and then sides. I would not ref use to go back to any of them, but I wouldn’t feel like I had to go, either. The Maui Brewing Company did have a great beer selection, so I might go back for that if my beer allergy issues resolve. And if I was in Lahaina and wanted to have lunch on the beach, the tofu dish at the Fish Company was quite tasty. The fourth meal (well, it actually was first temporally) was the Old Lahaina Luau. The luau is a buffet. There aren’t a lot of vegan choices, but since it’s a buffet, you can fill up on salad and sides.

In addition to our meals in Lahaina and at the resort, as we wandered around the island, we also ate at Hula Grill in Whaler’s Village, Ka’anapali (miso tofu, quinoa, and veggies, excellent), Flatbread Pizza Company in Paia (chain, veganized pizza, good), and Beach Bum’s in Wailuku (veggie wrap, fine). Again, the choices for each were limited. I don’t think I would pick to go back to Beach Bums, but the Mr. probably would (I can’t discuss his nachos here). I would elect to go back to Hula Grill, and Flatbread was eh.

Now, about treats! While we were on the road to Hana, we passed by Coconut Glenn’s. I had read about it previously, and when we started to drive by, I saw the sign that said vegan ice cream and screamed “Stop HERE!” Seriously, if you are in Maui and are driving on this road, vegan or not, stop here. I mean it. The coconut ice cream was delicious, and the were also selling fresh coconuts that they would slice open for you right there. The owner, who I hear is from Jersey, is a character.

Twice on the trip, I got to have Hawaiian shave ice at Ululani’s. They have locations around Maui. This stuff is so good that it’s nonsense. If you have never had Hawaiian shaved ice in Hawaii, you may think you know what it is because you’ve had a snow cone, or Italian ice, or something in Indiana called Hawaiian shaved ice. That’s not true. You don’t know. It’s AhMayZing. When you put a bite in your mouth it melts away instantly. The texture is so soft. The flavors are delicious (the coconut is actual coconut blended into coconut milk and the mango is pureed mango) and they have some flavors you might not expect, like pickled mango and li hing mui. I want one right now. You do too, even if you don’t know it.

We also stopped and got some vegan cheesecake and a slice of vegan pie at a very vegan friendly little health food store in Kahului, called Down to Earth. We didn’t get back there until too late in the week to do real grocery shopping there, but if we go back, we’ll stop on the way from the airport to the resort and stock up.

So, all in all, it was not a wild exploration of vegan delights, though we ate plenty of fresh pineapple (the Maui Pineapple Tour was fun and had all you can eat freshly picked pineapple!), but that’s not why we went to Maui.

The beach, volcano, foliage, and sunset views made up f or any shortage of great vegan restaurants, and I can barely wait to go back.

If you made it this far, mahalo!