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!

Friday, October 18, 2013

High times on the High Line

Kevin & I needed some time to be together.  He'd heard about the High Line & was curious to explore the planting in the park built on an old elevated railroad.  

It's awesome.

We ascended at 14th street and walked the entirety.  We absolutely want to visit in every season.  The planting seems mainly native species and perennial, though a lot of the plants were new to us.  Kevin picked up a plant guide & is busily studying.

In preparation for our late afternoon class at Jivamukti Yoga School, I practiced a bit of eka pada raja kapotasana in the sun.

Mint!  I'm usually a big advocate of putting mint in some type of container.  It loves to spread.  The planting was smart-- the surrounding grasses have deep root systems that contain the mint.  Nice neighbors!

Another plant befuddling Kevin.  He loves berries & blossoms!  (We discovered it's a chokeberry tree.  Delicious!)

& I love a day with him!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Free 'Em All

I am so freaking excited.

I certified to teach yoga so that I could offer relief & stress-management to fellow activists.  It's hard work & we have to care for one another.

Recently, fellow yoga instructors Jamila, Sheena, and Jazmyn approached me to collaborate on a series of yoga classes fundraising for political prisoner, Mumia Abu Jamal.  Another community member, the lovely Jackie, conceived of and designed the flyer/poster below:

So beautiful, right?  But what I'm truly thrilled about is connecting with these amazing women and offering something to my fellow activists.  I'm so happy that I get to support tireless fighters.  This feels like such an integration of everything I believe in.  Knowing when to stand up, knowing when to hold your own.

I hope to see you at these classes!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Claim me

The world reaches up around me
place limit
the dirt grabs my ankles
pulls me in
lift my feet, bend my knees
offer my fingers instead
I push seeds in soil
offer the dirt
fetal roots
ask for more time
leave my body in the air
for a bit

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Writing childhood scares me more than writing death

During the Power of Words conference, I took a wonderful workshop called "Self-Elegy" lead by the lovely & grounded, Joy Jacobson.  Joy offered a variety of pieces written by authors near death or directed towards their future dying selves.

I attended because I want to talk about death.  I've recently had an intense desire to craft a living will and a final will.  Death doesn't feel scary to me.  It's presence makes me feel more alive.  I appreciate boundaries and limits and I want to shed light on what feels dark.

Joy invited the participants to write from her prompt: "I see you child..."  From the first prompt, we took one line, and let that prompt more writing.  This process continued until we had four short pieces.  These are the lines I took from the exercise:

You'll discover that a tightness in your
heart will remind you to feel it beating.
Find asylum in the land of those who know.
You are an exile among exiles, drafting
a new covenant of how to hold
your own.
Diminish memory-- let it inhabit
smaller corners of your body.
Until you outgrow it.

Interestingly, I found myself becoming more frightened and triggered by writing about my childhood than writing about my potential death.  I guess it's exactly what I'm supposed to do!

The piece, unedited:

I see you child, looking to escape, and scared
of breaking free.  You will find the door.  You
will slam it shut.  And then you'll sit on the
other side, defiant and devastated.  It will
make your chest feel crumbled.  You'll
discover a tightness in your heart will remind
you to feel it beating.  You'll watch other
beating hearts.  You'll place your
hands on other shuddering chests.  You'll
find other refugees.  You'll find asylum in the land of
those who know to build themselves
out of pain.

Find asylum in the land of those who know.
You are an exile among exiles, drafting a
new covenant of how to hold your
own.  In your mind's eye, the door is
always closed.  And that is what scares
you the most-- to go back.  To open the door
and to say to those on the other side-- those
who hurt you, those who were hurt--
I love you.
It's terrifying.  How do you love yourself
and those who crushed you?  How are you
worthy of love when you are the blood & bone
of those who put hurt & oppression into the world?
How do you love the oppressor & escape the
oppression?  How do you ally with the
disposessed & love the thief?  How do you
straddle & not break?  That is the call that
scares you.

You are an exile among exiles, drafting a
covenant of how to hold your own.  You each know
passage.  There is a silent, shared knowledge of
dark, lonely nights and plotting to be
released.  There is the unspoken, known
truth that your life is worth living.  You will
be in the world, with pain in your eyes and a
quick laugh.  Your joy will be more satisfying.  It will
go deeper in your belly, because your body
remembers absence.  You will always be far
from home.  Re-define home.  The default is
home is where pain lives.  You broke out.  Accept
sanctuary as home.  Know that you belong.
Make every day a haven.  Diminish memory.  Let it inhabit
smaller corners of the body-- until you outgrow it.

Diminish memory-- let it inhabit smaller corners
of the body until you outgrow it.  Flex muscles
new with strength.  Open joints fresh with possibility.
This body sheds, renews, sheds.  It lives on firm
ground, toes unclenched, spread heels.  Unbind.
Let go.  Make room to write yourself into the
next story.  You know a gilded cage and a slowly
dug tunnel out.  Wash the dirt from your nails.  Blink
into the sun.  Roll your shoulders, sore from crawling &
climbing.  Believe.  Believe that you are on the other side.
You will not be caught.  You have proven that
you will always bring yourself into the day.
Stand with the light on your face.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Past My Nerve: 2013 Power of Words Conference

About a year ago I saw an ad for the Power of Words conference, sponsored by the Transformative Language Arts Network.  The conference's sub-themes were Narrative Medicine/Healing Stories, Right Livelihood, Social Activism, and Engaged Spirituality.


I promptly submitted a workshop proposal.  I had crafted "Awaken the Muse: Yoga to Unleash Creativity" a short time before.  I'd offered it at yoga studios, but never to writers, and never at a conference.  I felt like an absolute fraud, but I also feel like people will make opportunities for you if you express interest.

And they did.  My proposal was accepted.


I re-worked, re-developed, and fine-tuned the workshop.  I cut it down to fit the allotted 90 minutes.  In a moment of panic, I completely reworked the physical movement, when it was pointed out that there might be a huge range of mobility and people likely wouldn't wear yoga clothes.

And then I considered backing out.

Instead, last Friday I drove out to Pendle Hill and participated in the opening ceremonies.  My friend, Taina Asili and her partner, Gaetano Vaccaro, were there to perform.  I don't get to see those two frequently, so it was great to hang out and soak up their cherubic two-year old daughter.  I still felt nervous but I also felt resigned.  It will be what it will be.

Yesterday, I gave my workshop.  The participants were so present and warm and wonderful.  The response was overwhelmingly positive.  All of the sudden, I felt known but also close to all these dynamic people.  I learned about participants teaching poetry at Hunter College to nurses.  I met a woman who offers creative healing to veterans returning from war.  I met Poet Laureates and activists and writers.  And they were all so crazy vulnerable and humble.  We talked about how hard it is to do the work you feel drawn to and make a living.  I learned about letting everything I do be a story.

Today, I'm saturated.  But I'm also inspired.  I truly encourage you, reader, to attend next year's conference.  And to do something scary.  And to be vulnerable.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Sacrified & Clarified: Editing with Caits Meissner

Last night I participated in a free tele-class with acclaimed poet, Caits Meissner.  I came across Caits' writing through my beloved high school friend, Jen Mazer.    I'm loving Caits' work.  It's vibrant, bright, and juicy.  She's also an excellent instructor, as I learned last night.

The course focused on editing poetry-- a skill set where I'm in dire need of support!  I rarely edit and given this habit, I miss out on an opportunity to hone and sharpen my work.  Caits offered some great concrete tips to figure out the power of the poem & to shed anything that obscures its light.

In advance of this tele-class, I'd shared a poem that was recently published on Rebelle Society.  Caits used this piece & a few others that were submitted by various writers, to demonstrate some of these editing tips in action.

In Death, I place you in the dirt and ask you to Live

Memories in plant shape, I can't
call you so I tend.  Water your
roots or watch your growth.  Now, we 
commune under the sun, as we did.  You've
shape-shifted & haven't I too?  In every 
moment and breath becoming a evolving
version of myself, unraveling from the 
tapestry of what is, trying to define from
the whole.  Me, holding watering can, a version
of woman, place, time, context, story, passions,
and vice.  You, no longer responding in voice, now 
leaves, greenery, stems, and roots as place-holder--
no, as life, drinking in sun, waving in wind-- a reconfiguring
of the what is.  

It would be a loss if you were simply the void.  But
I seek the void.  I ask to be swallowed whole.  I meditate
to loose my name, my tongue, the obsessions and doubts that haunt.  
I seek gurus and teachers who tell me to let go, release my
grip on my name, on me.  

You were flesh and known.  You were named and held.  You
were in conversation, in flow, in life.  You ceased.  The void 
opened and offered you dispersal.  And I don't know what you chose.
I chose to find you again, in a cutting of a tree.  Rooting, planting near me.  
I say you are matter, shaped in green and texture.  Your stem is firm and lined, 
your leaves are bright, serrated, sun-sucking.  I say you have roots footing deeper 
and wider into soil.  Soil that may have claimed your skin, muscle, bone.
Claimed the physical of what I knew.

This could be a game I play with myself, to bind you to prakriti 
when you are purusha.  Maybe one day I will recite mantra, close eyes,
see everything.  Maybe I will find the universe in the mouth of a child and follow
it, follow everything.  On my wall, as a child, "Where did you come from
baby dear?  Out of the everything and into the here."  Embroidered, hung
as manifesto and written behind my eyelids like endless sheep on a slow slide to sleep.  
So one day, as taught, as instructed, I follow the way back.  Body,
relinquished.  Name, hushed.  Aversions, tendencies, wants, renounced.  Hovering
in the place near sleep, like twilight, and absorbed.

Dispersed.  Into the everything.  Mingled with you again.  The roots ripped
up, the leaves blown, matter diffuse.  No more memory.  No more.  Just
light and air.  No shape to shift.  

Is that where it ends?  Where it begins.  That is where the seeking
stops.  The mourning ends.  No more sadness, loneliness.  No
more memories of childhood mantra.  No more me without you.  Just
energy.  Sunlight, illuminating us as particles on a beam
through an open window.

While wholly encouraging, Caits offered me the constructive feedback I need.  Her main concern was the wordiness.  She felt excess words weighed down the message, feel, and imagery of the poem.  It's not the first time I've heard this!  I remember in college, my best friend, Annie, took her scissors to everything I wrote.  The end result was stronger, clearer writing.

With Caits' edits:

In Death, I place you in the dirt and ask you to Live

Memories in plant shape, I can't
call you so I tend.  Water your
roots or watch your growth.  Now, we 
commune under the sun, as we did.  You've
shape-shifted & haven't I too?  In every 
moment and breath becoming.  Me, holding 
watering can, you, now 
leaves, greenery, stems, and roots.

It would be a loss but
I seek the void.  I ask to be swallowed 
whole to loose my name.

I chose to find you again in the cutting of a tree.  Your stem is 
firm and lined, your leaves are serrated 
and sun-sucking.  Roots footing deeper 
and wider into soil that claimed your muscle and bone.

This could be a game I play with myself, to bind you to
prakriti when you are purusha.  Maybe one 
day I will recite mantra, close eyes,
see everything.  Maybe I will find the universe in 
the mouth of a child and follow

Dispersed.  Into the everything.  Mingled with you again.  The roots ripped
up, the leaves blown.  

Is that where it ends?  Where it begins.  That is where the seeking
stops.  Sunlight, illuminating us as particles on a beam
through an open window.

Caits, your keen eye sharpened my work.  Thank you for blowing off the dust, clarifying my vision.