Tuesday, December 15, 2009

In Your Face, Portland

These last few days have been pretty heady for me. You see, I was born in Houston, Texas. Most folks who know me are quite flummoxed to learn that my natal city is in that great state. To them I say that this is the state of Molly Ivins and Ann Richards so you don’t have to act all surprised. I do not usually call myself a Texan having moved to the Great Left Coast when I was a mere kindergartener, but many Texans have assured me that I have well maintained my citizenship due to the fact that not only did I spend one month a year throughout my childhood in Texas, that one month was August. Also, my daddy taught me to make chili.

While being Texan used to carry a certain heady power over Europeans until George Bush screwed everything up - when I went to Europe in the 80’s, Americans were just as hated as they are now, but if you said you were from Texas, all doors opened for the small price of having to tell a few cowboy and injun stories… now, they will shoot you – being from Houston was always anti-climatic. Houston didn’t have the pop icon stature of Dallas or San Antonio, nor the hipster vibe of Austin. And although it has its megachurches, it lacks any FLDS ranches or Waco-cult style crazy. Say you’re from Texas and people ask if you own an oil rig. Say you’re from Houston and people just look at you funny.

But now, thanks to the election of Annise Parker, the first (openly) gay mayor of a top-ten city, I can finally get something other than vaguely pitying looks when I say where I’m from. I don’t have to describe the allure of 2.4 million square feet of blessedly air-conditioned shopping mall. Nor do I have to explain how Houston’s lack of zoning laws has enabled the city to have more than one skyline. And I don’t have to explain what an empanada is (although I still have to settle for just yearning for one.)

All I have to say is: In your face Portland. We are totally more major than you are.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Total Transformation

I instigated a total transformation over my Thanksgiving weekend. It started out simply with an idea to move some furniture in my apartment. I had one room that had lost all function and another that had taken on too many functions – so I ended up never do anything in it. I thought that if I switched a sofa and a big overstuffed chair – moving each to the room it currently wasn’t in - I could make the non-room into a living room and create more space in the other room for meditation, exercise and art. Seemed simple enough.

And my stepfather was kind enough to help out. The fact that I’d asked him for help was a miracle and a huge step for me. My stepfather is a generous, kind man who was more than happy to oblige, but I am nervous about putting my needs out there, always sure they will look ridiculous and unimportant once I give voice to them and this seemed so frivolous. Starving children, war, greed, and I want to redecorate.

But I am learning how to deal with those silly thoughts and carry on. Bits of me jump up and down saying, “Don’t ask, they’ll laugh! They won’t like you for bothering them.” And I say, “Shhhh, if they laugh, we’ll laugh too, then ask someone else.”

My silly bits say, “This won’t do any good. It’s such a little change.” And I say, “Shhh, if it’s a small change, it’ll be easy and if it doesn’t change anything, nothing is lost.”

They whisper, “It’ll hurt.”

And I take all my silly bits in my arms and say, “Shhhh, little silly bits, life hurts and life is wonderful. We will get through it all together.”


I used to think of goals as something to achieve. You decided what you wanted and then broke down the necessary steps, did them in order and voila! you achieved your goal. But that’s not how the cool goals work. The cool goals are goals you can’t imagine. I want to love living. But I don’t know what that’s like. I’ve never particularly wanted to live. But when things get bad, I pull myself up out of the muck with the determination to figure this puzzle out. How does one love to live? I can’t break down the steps to this goal. I can just keep remembering this is what I want and keep choosing to do things that have a chance in hell of moving me towards this thing I cannot yet comprehend. The cool goals like this are dreams.

So we moved the furniture. The big chair, which I thought would be the problem, moved so easily we got cocky. Now all we had was the sofa and that had gotten into the room, so we could get it back out, right? We pushed and turned, tried it this way, turned it over and tried again. Maybe this way, push it up and then to the left. Take the casters off, now the closet door. And don’t worry about the wall. I have to patch the hole made when we moved the sofa into the room… Oh yeah, it was rather difficult to do that, wasn’t it? Funny how you don’t remember those things years later.

I spent Sunday moving about the furniture I had left, the stuff I could move on my own. I tried this arrangement and that. I finally admitted I just had to get rid of the old, huge, color t.v. and the too low coffee table that was really a leftover from an old, cheaply made futon set. I discovered that the drop-leaf table worked better on the other side of the room than where I’d planned because now I can sit at my easel or turn a few degrees and have a large flat space. I discovered that the side tables from my grandmother’s bedroom set make perfect little altars with drawers for holding replacement candles, incense, matches. And I learned that my teak standing screen looks amazing with my dracaena and big chair in front of it. I mean like really amazing, like I’m going to take a picture and submit it to a design blog ‘cause this can’t be my house can it?

If you had told me last week, “Just switch the sofa and the big chair and you will create a space of beauty that can serve your quest for a life well loved,” I would have said, “Well, it’s something to do anyway,” but I would not have believed you.

On Monday, I sat in my new beautiful room, candles lit, checking in with myself, whispering to my old gods and holding my desire in my hand like a precious gem. I could not imagine when I started this little project that I would end up with this room. I realized that this is the small favor I asked of my stepdad. This was the plan that seemed so unformed, frivolous, and potentially disastrous. I could not have imagined this room, could not have set this room as a goal. In a million years or randomly setting and achieving goals I would sooner write a King Lear than aim for this room. And yet, here I am in a place of my own making, one step closer to my dream.

Winter Wishes

[The story behind the wish can be found here. Be warned. It'll take you *ages* to read because I write too much awesome.]

In the latest installment of Wishcasting Wednesday, Jaime Ridler asks, "What is your winter wish?"

I wish to keep dreaming.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

The Worst Moment

The worst moment for the caterpillar is when it's still munching leaves and is beginning to think, "Is this all there is? Do I really just want to crawl around all my life munching leaves? This sucks! This is a horrible life. I could be doing something else. I feel like I was meant for so much more than just this. But damnit! I can't imagine what I'd be. You know what? Frack this! I'm going to cocoon myself up and not have anything to do with this stinkin' world..."

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Bad Sleep.

Woke up at 2:30 – checked the clock because I suddenly needed to know how long I’d been sleeping. I’d heard something, a beep, a rustle, a collection of sounds that tried to wedge sense into my sleeping brain. And my brain - my ridiculous, anxiety-ridden brain - decided this situation required my immediate and conscious attention.

Running water? Outside? Someone running the garden tap at 2am. A homeless person has snuck into my yard to steal a bath. And he’d forgotten to charge his phone obviously because it kept beeping. He should use the patio outlet. He might need to make a call.

But I really couldn’t be woken up every night with this. I’ll have to install a lock on that gate. And then I’ll have to build up my fences because I could see the homeless people leaping over the fence to steal baths and have tea on my patio where they would play folk tunes on their guitars and laugh right outside my window.

All this work and distrust of humanity, and the horrible feeling that they would never let me sleep, only ridicule me for crashing their party. I’d fling open the window and yell obscenities in my half state of dreaming and all the homeless people would think I was such an asshole.

Then slowly, the sound of water rushing is resolved to be the wind in the trees. Just the wind. And the beeping becomes the random, rusty creak of something, like a hinge… I would figure out what it is, but the relief that I do not have to shame myself or go to the hardware store washes over me. All I need do now is fall back asleep.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Spider Mobile

Okay, so I don't wash my car a lot. I like it that way. I like that a spider of some kind has chosen my passenger side mirror as a home. I take care of my car, giving it the oil changes and decent gas that it likes. I make sure it runs well, but I don't care if it's a little sticky with tree juice. (I'm lookin' at you Ulnus glabra.) I feel my car makes a statement about how we need to worry about what's on the inside and less about appearances.

And did I mention the spider who has chosen my mirror as a home? I love that. I don't drive much so mostly it eats bugs around my house, but occasionally I take it out to eat.

Anyway, today I came out to find another spider had taken up residence. This one was an orbweaver, Arcaneus diadematus, otherwise known as the common garden spider. These guys are amazing. They build the really beautiful webs and eat annoying bugs all day. They are better than raid. I've run comparison tests. They don't bite and anyway, you always know where they are because they hang out in the very center of their enormous webs.

To make this web, the spider had to drop three anchor lines from the phone cable about 30 feet up. The rest of the anchor lines were on my car. Before I left my house, I carefully detached the web and moved it to a nearby camelia bush.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Wishing in the House of Yes

For this week, Jaimie Ridler's Wishcasting Wednesday is all about the Yes. What am I saying yes to? Is it something I want? Am I saying yes out of a habit of pleasing other people? Or am I getting to what I really, truly want?

I've started working with an amazing writing coach, Jane Anne Staw, and am finally saying yes to feeling good as I write. No more waiting to feel good if I get a good response! No more waiting to feel good once I master some trick of the craft! No more waiting to feel good!

Sorry cats! The door stays closed even with all the pathetic scratching. (Poor neglected babies, you'll have to wait to get your fancy treats and head rubs, oh dear!) The phone? Off. Email? Off. FB? Off. Any tweets I hear will be from actual, living birdies.

So a big, sloppy Yes! to writing as play!

Thursday, September 24, 2009


What the heck is Luxury anyway?

One of the issues I deal with as I continue to kick depression in the teeth grow into the wholeness of my being is reward. In depression, nothing is rewarding. Neurologically, nothing produces a nice shot of dopamine. Nothing resets the parasympathetic nervous system to healing mode. Nothing feels good. You keep aiming for your North Star but every achievement feels just as shitty as failure so why bother going to all the effort to keep steering when you can get the same mediocre buzz from a decent episode of True Blood?

I have to teach myself how to feel reward. I’m only just realizing how bad I am at rewarding myself. One of the reasons I don’t recognize reward is that I immediately describe it as a failure of my own moral fiber. The feeling of luxury becomes the feeling of selfish indulgence. I could be bettering myself! I could be achieving my goals! But instead I’m doing something that, gasp, just feels nice!

This has to stop. We need down time. We need to exhale in order to inhale. We need rest in order to thrive. Recently, I caught myself framing my experience negatively and chose to reframe it as reward. I just wanted to see what this might be like. The result was pretty cool.

Which would you rather live?

I haven’t been taking care of myself. Since I got back from Michigan, I haven’t cooked the food I know makes me feel better. I keep trying to write, but end up watching bad television on Hulu while constantly looking at Facebook and Twitter, checking email. And then last weekend, despite all my intentions to write, I ended up spending Sunday reading a fantasy novel.


I have been taking care of myself despite being under the weather since returning from Michigan. I haven’t been hungry at all, some kind of bug?, and this has presented certain challenges to getting enough protein. I haven’t been up to cooking hot meals, so instead I’ve worked to eat healthy snacks. I realized that after a week in Michigan, I’d jumped right back into work. No time off to reflect or recover, no time to adjust for jet-lag. This weekend was the first opportunity I have had to do nothing. Or mostly nothing. I still managed two loads of laundry, and I took out all the trash. But for the most part, all I did was blissfully read a fun novel, the first time I’ve done that in three years thanks to the reading glasses I bought in Michigan. How wonderful to have a beautiful Sunday afternoon just to read. Luxury.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Wishing to Stretch

Jaime Ridler's Wishcasting Wednesday for this week is: What do you wish to stretch?

I believe that we don't always know what all we might be. Right now each of us is huge and myriad and strange and wondrous, but we’ve been taught to be finite. We are constantly pressing our infinitely intricate and miraculous existences into a definition. And everything and everyone we meet is also more than we are willing to imagine. This can be a terrifying notion, but it can also be an exhilarating one. It can make us fearful so that we lash out at anything that might tear down the illusion of our certainty, or we can choose to be grateful that we never, ever need to be bored.

I wish to stretch my ability to exist joyfully. I wish to stretch my perception of myself and in doing so give others space to stretch their own. I wish to stretch my ability to listen to others that I may better know this crazy, mixed-up universe I call home.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Wishing to Begin

Jamie Ridler throws a Wishcasting Wednesday every week on her creativity blog. This Wednesday her question for all of us is: What do you wish to begin?

Beginnings are such precipitous moments. They are changes of direction carrying all those unexpected thrills and risks. Too often, I zone out right at the beginning of things seeking somehow to escape responsibility for what may happen by pretending I'm "letting the universe decide my course." But abnegating my responsibility for my own life drains me of creativity - you need to own your choices to create - so first and foremost I wish to begin paying attention to beginnings!

I wish to begin a regular practice of creating art. In my family, my sister was always the artist and I was the intellectual. Well, I can be intellectual and create art so there! I can even do it at the same time if I wanna. Okay, that was so not an intellectual way to say that. See, I’m already beginning!!! (And just for the record, my sister can be a fabulous artist and an intellectual as well! Screw you, family boxes!)

And finally – for now – I wish to begin a journey of transforming the loneliness in my life into love and connection. I save the best for last. I grew up terribly lonely and alone. I used to be angry about this feeling that life and family had let me down. It’s good to be angry for a while about childhood things that scarred, but eventually we gotta move on. So I’ve learned some stuff about loneliness and I can use that knowledge to recognize loneliness in others. And because I have stood up for myself, because I’ve been angry at the way a little girl was left on her own too much with no mentoring or encouragement, I am moved to do what I can to alleviate that need in others.

So, what do you wish to begin?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

All Is Well

My Google Reader sometimes tells me "what's hot" in the blogs. I'm sure the blog entries are selected because of "trending" and various other Google determinates of meaning and relevance, but to me it's more a random sample. I often have to struggle to determine the context of the blog, what does it mean to the blogger, what meaning are they attempting to punt across the vastness on the internet to this reader they've never met?

One of the blog entries I got today seemed pretty boring at first. Just some blurry pictures of some folks on a hike. Nice view, but no discernable point except the tantalizing phrase "all is well". Why would that be in question for such a hike with friends?

But looking over the blog itself and the biography of the blogger, the reason for the blurry photos becomes clear as does the medical gloves covering the arm. The place of the hike is implied as is the reason for the large crowd and the small gesture, and in the end, I found myself touched to realize how happy I am for these people that yes, all is well.

Check it out.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Love for the Sea Turtles

Say what you will about the human species. I know we do horrible things on a scale other species can only dream of.

We're also the only species that would think of making a prosthetic flipper for a sea turtle.

Seriously. This kind of thing makes me feel good about being human.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Captain Kangaroo vs. Rorschach

There's a veritible firestorm brewing between psychologists all over the world and Wikipedia. In June, Dr. James Heilman* posted pictures of all 10 original inkblots along with the most common answers given for each. Psychologists are up in arms because they think that one of their beloved tests has been rendered completely useless. Now anyone can just memorize the "right" answers and fake being sane.

This is Rorschach Inkblot #4. To me, this looks like a giant mutant kangaroo jumping into battle with guns ablazing. I think he's adorable. His gruff but wisecracking exterior hides the inner pain he still feels from the loss of fellow mercenary, killed in battle saving Captain Kangaroo's life (the children's show was such a whitewash job.)

And hey! Turns out I am completely sane or at least totally normal because one of the most common responses to this ink blot is "massive animal." Whew. And here I've been worried about my mental health!

While the images are being kept up at Wikipedia, the inclusion of a list of most common answers is being deleted and re-entered in an edit battle. Here are the most common answers for each ink blot:

Plate 1 (bat, butterfly, moth)
Plate 2 (two humans)
Plate 3 (two humans)
Plate 4 (animal skin, massive animal)
Plate 5 (bat, butterfly, moth)
Plate 6 (animal hide, skin, rug)
Plate 7 (human heads, faces)
Plate 8 (pink: animal)
Plate 9 (orange: human)
Plate 10 (blue: crab, lobster, spider)

Now memorize these in case you are ever tested. And don't say I never did anything for you because I just saved you some time in the big house.

*Dr. Heilman is from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. That's just about the greatest thing about the whole situation. Ah, the power of these glorious tubes, that an emergency room doctor from Moose Jaw could single handedly bring down the greatest comic book psycho nutjob hero of all time.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Creative Distance

If you want that a-ha moment, where you suddenly see a completely different way of solving a problem, think first about someplace far, far away. It's more than a metaphor, distance can actually help you be more creative. Just thinking about a distant place will change how you think about whatever problems you are dealing with. Try it next time you're stuck.

For more, read the Scientific American article here.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009


I was trying to find an article I recently read in the New York Times describing Holland's tax system. I searched the NYT for "Holland" and got 10,000 hits. On page three I find the following article:

Holland, on the eve of her shipping being taken over by the United States and Great Britain, has given evidences of a readiness to make a voluntary agreement to that purpose, even agreeing that the ships shall be sent through the war zone.

I'm like, what the hell? Then I read the date:

March 17, 1918

Did you know you can search the ENTIRE New York Times?

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Ungainly Woman

There’s a woman who sometimes waits for the bus at my stop, going home from work. A while back, I watched her be humiliated by two other passengers: an older woman with white hair wearing a pale blue gingham dress, and a woman in her forties who got on a couple of stops after we did.

The bus was crowded and the second woman called out over the heads on the intervening passengers.

“Good afternoon to you grandmother! How are you getting on today,” said the younger woman. And yes, she spoke in this high falutin’ way, just like that, overly conscious of propriety.

“I’m doing fine except this fat ass sat down next to me without even saying excuse me,” said the older woman.

Then the younger one turned to the woman I wait with and scolded her in a loud voice. The woman she was sitting next to had been a nurse in a war, or a marine, or something. She deserved respect.

“Who do you think you are just sitting down next to her without saying excuse me. You tell her excuse me right now!”

And the older one is spewing out a string of “sat her fat ass right down” and “young people rude today”.

My bus-stop woman is quiet. She nods her head and tries to look invisible, but too late. They have put their gps on her and will now hound her for the sport of it. So pretty soon, before they have a chance to escalate this much further, she turns to the old lady muttering “fat ass,” and says, “excuse me” in a surprisingly sincere voice, like she really does believe them and thinks she should have been more polite, like she is already beginning to kick herself inside for not being more polite. She is remembering lectures in third grade about knocking other kids down on the playground and feels she should have known the passenger sitting next to her wouldn’t want her there. She should have said excuse me without being told and so she says it a second time just be sure.

And I fell in love with her then, just to watch her and understand her, with her ungainly ways, her lumbering walk, and the way her large, honey-colored eyes bulge out and make her look belligerent and about to say mother-fucker, the way her whole face has a slapped together look like it's made out of clay that is beginning to slide off, and how when anyone talks to her, she answers in a rough, low-pitched voice that apologizes and laughs at herself all at once.

So today, I left work and saw the bus already coming, and I ran, trying to be careful crossing the two streets at the intersection, all in my new shoes with the tiny heels. And when I got to the stop, there she is. I look back and see a second bus a block further and a distance I wouldn’t have had to run for.

I say, “Oh, I run for the bus and there’s two coming! But at least the first one is empty!” and turn to her smiling.

She laughs and barks out, “Oh yeah, I hate getting the full ones.”

We smile together and find our seats, on either side of the aisle, each with our own little row of space in the otherwise empty bus.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Xena is still awesome

The real difference and prop 8:

Friday, May 22, 2009

Secret Seahorse Wishes

Seahorses are so strange and wonderful. Personally, I think they look more like dragons than horses. They are best known for the fact that the female deposits her eggs in the male to be gestated, but my favorite thing about them is their eyes, which move independently of each other. Seahorses possess two of my secret desires: the ability to breathe underwater and prehensile tails.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Musings of a Hard Polytheist

We are like cats to them.
Sometimes they euthenize us,
sometimes they just pick us up
and move us to the next room.
If you think a god is likely
to do the former,
try to escape the apartment
and find one that will pet you
and feed you the good food.
If you pee on their furniture,
they will get angry.
Don't assume you know
what their furniture looks like.
If you find a god that really tries
to understand things from your
limited point of view and helps
you be generally happy in this life,
love them with all your heart.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

101 Roto Monkeys

Marcel Duchamp was a very cool artist. He created these fun "rotoreliefs" [click on the spinning wheel to see all twelve]. As they spin, the eye sees the images in 3-d.

There's something hundred monkey about the whole thing because Duchamp discovered this effect through art at the same time that scientists were discovering it using scientific method.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Penguin Sci-Fi

If you love speculative fiction as much as I do, check out Penguin Books' page on the history of their science fiction publications. The site opens with a wonderful collection of old covers. Click on one for more information about the book. Once inside, you can click on "Contents" to get to the beginning of the narrative.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

At The Tea Shell

Kim was there with the old mermaids
sipping from a cup at the tea shell

From the Church of the Old Mermaids.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


I’ve stumbled across the word “landscape” three times in the last 24 hours. Being a synchronicity expert, I immediately noticed the red flag this trifold occurrence had planted in my awareness.

1) In this review of The Secret Life of Words by Henry Hitchings, Ben Yagoda mentions in passing that the word “landscape” was one of a number of words borrowed in the 17th century from the Dutch by English admirers of artists such as Brueghel and Rembrandt. (One can also reasonably infer that “etch-a-sketch” is ultimately traceable to this very same period.)

2) I ran across an online copy of Mary Oliver’s Wild Geese and found that it had not been overplayed. It made me cry again. One of the lines that caught my eye this time was:

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes

The use of the plural made me think that a landscape is really the conjunction of a natural (or not) place and a viewer. Any place (and for some reason when I get to this point in Wild Geese I always imagine the badlands of South Dakota ) can hold within itself an infinity of landscapes. And because a landscape includes a particular vantage point, it necessarily separates us. We each see a slightly different landscape even though we are standing right next to each other. Landscapes exist because we are separate and sharing a world at the same time.

3) And finally, I found the word (landscape) in a John Ashbery poem, The Bungalows, in the provocative line:

the presumed landscape and the dream of home

Since I’ve only just read this Ashbery poem (and his poems require several readings for you to fully realize how much you don’t know what they mean) I’ll only point to the imagery of architecture in the landscape and the repeated juxtaposition of past and future, young and old, and the meaninglessness of staying still. The movement necessary for meaning also makes meaning impossible. To view a landscape, one must remain still, freeze the point of view in a frame. When you move (live) you become part of the landscape viewed by someone else (g*d?).

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Edward Heron-Allen

Edward Heron-Allen


Interests include: Violins, Palmistry, Persian Texts, Selsey, Esoteric Fiction, Asparagus, Barnacles

Tuesday, March 03, 2009


I'm really interested in Twitter. I don't know how to make it work for me, but I'm not giving up. I just subscribed to Downing Street's (British Prime Minster's residence) and got this:

"At the Embassy Residence, Rabbi Schneier gives PM a silver honey pot in the shape of an apple in thanks for work tackling poverty."

Yes. Praise a leader for helping the hungry by giving the guy a useless piece of shiny silver shaped like food. That's either diplomatic studity or a magical working.