Bee here

This is a pause to reflect on place.

On where I have been, or where I am at. On where you are at, dangling off the sentenced end like that. Being here in the moment, this moment, this moment, The moment. So we say, Still your mind. Still your body. Still my beating. Still the present. Still the present. Still life. Dying art. Incongruous match of try and do, letting be be, Be.

In the words of a wise woman,*

honey bee.

What you can do with space:

make, create, take, give, and need

(visceral learning how to grow, of not pouting in drizzle on wet moss bluffs, holding onto being left out in your mind, little one, creating reality, getting your negativity all over everyone, let it go and be in the moment here now, give me some space, give me some space)

shift into a new place

(I passed? I passed you? Looking back, at you in that old place, switching place, disease like a dancing ache in the cold damp, wet knees and old jeans), now you can:

occupy, organize, simplify, plan, open, empty, fill, protect, cramp, map, aim, and target

go back to the room

(did we not call it open area, to give the place that freedom and that spontaneity, for episodes of learning occurring each day, and today the story may feature you)

where praise came for sharing and respect, learning society step by step

(frond, lover, snow queen, potter)

(Little steps, like counting out loud to one hundred, exercising not memory but endurance. Like wearing underpants under your best red skirt, for somersaults.)

Step into the circle and plant your feet, facing new city buds emerging. Visualize, try and think. did you drop that babe right over her grave? now nurture, cultivate, make your urban collective ready with children returned from those landscapes, leave wilderness wilds to imagined trimmings of copper and smoke on an old Brit page. Wait, stop, look where you are, where you go. Focus. Concentrate. Look there, look there, little one:

(amanita muscaria? the name I remember, but not where I saw one)

blend and merge and breathe being, becoming within it, part with part with part,

spaced far away out there, are you stranded or wandering, mind, where you went? is there where somewhere, found, located? Raphael pointing, project projection including continuum, with borders or edges or pindrops and margins? and contours with weather and ages and ages of feathered survivors? can you revisit? can you explain it?

Now come back to the body, lie still and follow the breath. With what may I follow, dear liza, dear liza? With what may I follow, dear liza, with what?

I am making my way back to where I belong.

*Honey Bee, by Jane Siberry. From her 1995 album, Maria.

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When cooking with spices,

remember the times when you learned them. Garam Masala, pepper and powder, cinnamon, cardamum, clove bud, ginger, mustard, cumin, celery seed, saving sweet, icing sugar, vanilla beans triplewrapped, pressed into pages, hot tea in a glass jar taking bee sweet from corners, water for lunchtime, fresh from the well, lapped up from creek beds, naming halfwolved puppies, buckshot whimpering, cracked on the head, mouse babies killed, Douglas fir in midmorning, climbed for the romance, painted window panes, sagging door frames, a beach made from paper maps pushed against stones at a wood stove and peanut butter and honey for supper with breath damp voices above and the longness of dark, counting pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, hearing unlikelihoods about silver half-dollars and gold somewhere else, evidence of grandmothers and rich houses in New York, the state, not the city. When cooking with spices, remember to first heat the pan.

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Found poem: in which the police come inside to turn out the lights and open a window to watch our neighbour whose wife has just died and who has said to a friend that he might not make it through the night

Late last night while winding down after visiting with friends there was a loud knock on the door, or more like a rap.

n. 1 a quick, sharp knock or blow: there was a confident rap at the door.

It was the kind of loud that stands you up and recalls at once the other knocks you have had late at night, and one in the afternoon.

A confident rap at the door.

Recall, one woke us up at three or four in the morning and it had the feel of a warning against the door, to remain quiet and covered, knowing or believing that it was the sound of a friend whose status had changed, who changed, stolen or borrowed, clenching and unclenching for years.

n. 1 (also crystal meth) the drug methamphetamine.

One was a man who said It’s me and when I opened the door and did not know him at all the first thing I said was I am alone with my daughter, but that man had not knocked and so this does not really belong in the recall.

He climbed over the high fence,
in the morning out the window was a circle of bootprinted pond mud,
it had been a dark night and the whole yard fenced,
he would have had to climb another, wet

The one in the afternoon was two detectives wanting in who nodded and kneeled with balm for voices and other routines to soothe the fact of their sidearms. What I said before I stepped to let them in was I am alone.

When I stood up from the knock last night the first thing I said was I am not here. The lights were out when the police came in so they leaned in the kitchen dark by the sink to try for a view of our neighbour whose wife has just died. In the dark at the top of the stair with all the lights out and an ex-military man next door grieving himself into death my house is full.

tender and full and quiet and still with eyes and sights and raised rifles and blinds
and the quiet that follows and waits

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I’m super pretty and I don’t know why.

That’s the lyric cycling in my head right now, shaming, blaming, containing, restraining, reframing, and draining me into my drink.

And then the key tumbling the front door lock echoing down the hall. The whole front cover’s an ad for Windows Eight, he steps in with. I guess I do know what he means when I was going to say that I didn’t, but a girlfriend is a girlfriend after all who picks up the conversation where you left it last time, and I did try to buy a sign at the parcel place today to hang on the box saying no flyers please, but there was none to buy so I just took my parcel politely and left, which I do, and do sudden and well. So I know it’s a flyer he means, that’s the point.

I’m super pretty and I don’t know why.

Copyright infringement can and may include remembering that movie you saw and that song in your head, and you will likely be mowed down on the crosswalk even wearing reflectors on your arms and head, by a copy of you in a truck or a bus or a car in the sub-rainy dusk on your way to the place of importance that is the definition of meaning in life, what you currently do to prove you’re alive in a truck or a walk or a bus or a dance on the way to your life in the sub-rainy dark.

*note: the real lyric goes, “I’m sitting pretty,” but that’s even harder to discern than it is to admit, and anyway I do know why.

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Food grows all over this city. (In three parts.)

Part One. Polite.

All this time on my hands is turning into an inrushing of ideas and long list of projects.

This summer on the coast has had the warmest weather of the last several years, maybe even the best since I moved back to the coast more than a decade ago. Out front of our house is a black walnut tree that grows on the property next door and largely overhangs our driveway, providing a beautiful limey canopy under constant bounce and sway from the squirrels in charge of this year’s harvest, which appears to be the best. harvest. ever.

It has been bugging me for a while, this tree–not because of the squirrel spit coating the sidewalk, the driveway, the car, and anyone standing still, along with chewed green hull bits, broken branches, sub par nut bundles, and dirt in general thrown sometimes violently down by the fatting grey squirrels who chuckle at us low-slung humans and our maladroit addictions to whatever purchased ease obediently follows the trajectory of credit card to mouth–but because the tree is full of food every year and nobody bothers with it except for the ruthless and presumably parasite-free squirrels.

So, add to my list of things to do this Fall: harvest what is left of the nuts once they are ripe, and do good things with them.

Among the items I will need in order to proceed fruitfully, are these:

one hammer or vise grips
wire snips
heavy duty rubber gloves
one bottle of cheap vodka

Sounds like some . . . industrial fun?

Here is the video.

And here is Sacred Earth’s charming ethnobotany page on walnuts. The pristine nut images shown represent English walnuts, not black walnuts, but its archaic recipes of course apply to either.

This wikihow article includes remarks about boiling green walnut hulls for an antiparisitic treatment, as well as links to related articles, including the recipe for cheap vodka black walnut tincture. I have quite a few books on herbal preparations to shore up ones like these, but I find it heartening that such information is more and more available online.

There really is a lot of food growing in the city, once you start to see it. One night I plan to do a little guerrilla foraging. There are the usual volunteers of indigenous berries and herbaceous plants, lots of kinnickinnick, comfrey, dandelion, salal, etc. But I have a couple of places in mind that I plan to visit with a little stealth . . . including a sidewalk-bordering garden with a beautiful spineless blackberry we discovered during one epic urban walkabout. Surely a little cutting, respectfully snipped, would not be missed . . .

Part Two. Impolite.

The first thing I looked into while I was casually considering the walnuts was how to get the squirrels to help with the harvest. I heard about the idea from the permaculture community.

Even though it raised a couple of issues for me, I do not link to the discussion thread that I found on this topic, for two reasons: the first is that I reject the choice of the word “using,” as in, “using squirrels to harvest nuts.” Especially in the context of permaculture, I find this attitude base and unimaginative. Why not think of “working with” non-human species, as opposed to “using” them? Or, since it is as good a guess as any that the squirrels may not consent to cooperation with humans, why not think of “tricking” them? Shows a little more respect.

My so far brand-new, inexperienced, untried understanding of permaculture is that it observes what comprises and what affects the (natural) world, and one’s own locale, with the aim of working with the elements and sectors, rather than against them. A sign of imbalance–such as an overpopulation of squirrels (or deer, or rats, or mice, or mosquitos, or bunnies on campus, or broom, or blackberry, or whatever else thrives in a disturbed environment)–reflects an imbalance in the big picture, a lack of biodiversity. In this sense, the attitude implied by “using” comes off as a domineering and self-congratulatory power trip, instead of a generative, participatory sense of informed respect–not to mention an attitude rich with creative thinking.

The second reason I chose not to post that thread is that its comments devolve almost immediately into a discussion of using nuts to harvest squirrels, which is not the point of the topic, and is a totally unoriginal proposal when it comes to cohabiting the planet with creatures who live alongside us and have the same fundamental need/wish to eat.

These days I feel perpetually grossed out by how the one response you can absolutely count on to the “problem” of “animal” “pests” is to kill them. It seems to me that underlying this reaction is a creeping discomfort about “animals” that are not under our control. In the urban setting, the populations of deer, raccoons, squirrels, bunnies (or whatever) are so upsetting to the status quo that I am reminded of the rhetoric around the homeless, the drug addicted, the elderly, the ill–all the icky embarrassments that warp the veneer of deserving affluence and civilized order, revealing ugly entropy and death. And yes, I am reminded of the same kind of rhetoric that exists, very muffled, around the damn, drunken . . . er, ah, hmm. You know, they who pop up all over town, in our neatly gardened neighbourhoods, our empty green healing spaces, and our universities? off the reservation? refusing welfare? refusing social services? just doing god only knows what they are doing, and upsetting the tourists? without the decency to at least wear loincloths and headdresses while standing silently ready to polish our rose-coloured Pradas and heal our troubled souls?

Part Three. Unpolite.

What is this wildness. It makes me nervous and itchy and afraid. It makes me want to burn my house down. It makes me want to binge and purge and why am I not always screaming with all this violence in my soul? Those damn ticky tacky deer ate my thousand dollars and then looked at me with those eyes like a chocolate pool in the brown sun forest at the end of the world on the eighth perfect day. Why does it not need me. I deserve a massage. It is my right to go to the spa. I need a painkiller, a movie, a gun, an umbrella, a hobby, a helper to take off my mind. This restless skin ripples around me, unsettled, this skin waits to flee me, unpinned. It is my right to want to go to sleep at night. I do not like this wildness. I have a membership. I am on the inside committee. I have a voice. I have a right to have a voice. I have a right to prove I have a voice. I have a right to vote my right to prove myself and my day at the spa and a sleepless night in this rippling skin. I deserve to be earplugged against the wind, rolled over, ignoring the ones who move in-between houses outside, the rabid wolves, the undressed youth, the insane lost, the perverts in bushes, the eyeball hungry, those spectres of death, the angry god, the vanity fair, unstopped desire, unthumbed dam, bacchanalian hordes, remembered touch, unhoused spirit, brilliant nothing, moment submerged, complete, underwater, grown dim, in the green before now, with too much silence when I am off guard, trying to sleep off my vote, my proof, my right, the voice of my rippling skin.

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Moving through utopian space

Yesterday, I came across this post, “What relativism means to me,” by Christopher Powell. It brought to my mind what I have been thinking of as utopian space: the elusive and unfixed space between the perceived and the perceiver.

(I want to avoid relying on the term “the Other” to signify what is perceived, in an effort to establish and rework more language possibilities for thinking about encountering the Other, and the kinds of relationship/s that can exist with it.)

Powell’s description of relativism as “relational” is what caught my attention. Relationality is about the connections between things, and the energy created by relationship, response. The act of responding is fundamentally personal; whether initiated by craving or aversion, or by intention (as much as one can seem to muster), the self is responsible for the act.

Consider the anarchist principle of decentralized governance, which also means personal sovereignty, self-governance, personal responsibility. For me, this is where the idea of utopian space comes in, as the space of relationship between the self and the actualities of the experience of existence–all of that which is perceived/encountered.

Abstracting the idea of space as a relational energy exchange, full of possible responses between things (let’s save for now discussions of the implications of ethics, justice, and irrationality, and all the chaos of the spark) exposes the assumption of space as something that just exists as a very limiting assumption, one that suggests you or I personally have nothing to do with it.

From the relational perspective, the very idea of space IS the good place that is no place: utopia. And the impulse to desire, dream, map, and build utopia is the creative energy of relationship.* To witness the self as, well, always already in relationship with existence, and to execute the anarchist move of personal sovereignty within that relationship, deepens what it means to take responsibility for what is in front of me. It means that what is in front of me is always already creating the condition of the relationship I am having with it, and confronting my ability to respond.

If the choice inherent in response is somewhere between craving, aversion, and intention, and if I am always already responding within the space of relationship, and if my response is an ongoing generative force that sustains and creates the space of relationship, then my utopian impulse can begin to take shape.

Why not fly?

Utopian flying machines, France, 1890-1900 (ch...

Some of this is influenced by recent reading I have done on Levinas. But the phenomenological encounter and the sword of personal responsibility are ideas that were introduced to me as long ago as I can remember.**

*notwithstanding the problem of totalizing regimes, and the tendency of utopia to canker dystopianly–the point here is the impulse, despite the nagging recurrence of sorry remains
**counterculture childhood

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I had a massive bun . . .

. . . but I chopped it in order to lighten my head. All that hair was a frenzied mad mass of paradoxical anxieties, half-baked hypotheses, edited-but-not-gone ramblings, and the ghosts of essays past. As one friend said: That is where your paper lives, when you are not writing. Yes.

Not going to lie, some days I miss the beautiful mad bun, and I could put it to good use in new ways now.* But it was time for a change that signified clearing, space-making, clarity, to focus on the last stretch leading to my MA defense.

A strangely long journey, the revision process. And then it was over, with mixed results. The final draft felt too short, too undeveloped, and too full of content at the same time. It felt like three papers, like an outline, or a starting place. I overthought all the thoughts, did too much, reworked the paper nearly out of existence. Like my entire MA, the paper was process-oriented more than it was outcome-oriented.

I went into the defense with relief that it was suddenly happening, with confidence and lightheartedness due to a nice connection with my (glowing) supervisor the day before, and with a lot of energy.

Energy: nervous, buzzy, hilarious, freaky, excited. I have this feeling that some people, academic-like, find it uncool or immature to feel this way before something like a defense. Irony, after all, is the daily gruel. But nervous energy is the same as stage fright–it is excitement, anticipation. With music, I had that feeling before each show. With yoga, I have it before teaching each class. I love to be in front of an audience–whether stage, podium, or classroom. Sensitivity, nervous energy, over-analysis, obsessiveness, perfectionism, thin skin, emotion–all of that is what makes it good. Sure, I want to impress you. I want you to like me and approve, and be comfortable, and be proud. And I want to entertain you and involve you, and to do something with the visceral quality of the proximity between you and I; when there are many of you, that quality is even more vibrant, lively, intimate, and exciting. I will take it all personally.

Two things happened the day before the defense. The first was that I met with my supervisor, and while wrapping up, I asked in general what makes a successful defense. She rephrased the question as a statement about what makes a joyful defense. The shift from “successful” to “joyful” repositioned me from my head to my heart, and joyful became the operative word.

The second thing was that newcat Ziggy, our recently adopted thirdcat, brought home a snake. I heard a great commotion upstairs as I was fussing with putting images onto PowerPoint slides. This was a truly great commotion. Loud, rapid, staccato. I was on the edge of my seat and about to go look for at least an hour. But aspect ratios, borders, centering, saving, ordering, repositioning, and all the rest kept my focus while all the racket went on. Eventually the thuds and slides and toppling attacks above subsided, and I kept working. Later I got up to call a friend for her birthday. I talked on the phone, walked around, went up and down the hall. Newcat was crashed on the bed with her chin out, faceplant pooped and extra floofy. I murmured at her self-satisfied beauty, went back through the hall to the kitchen for whatever it was, and doubled back to go down the stairs when in the corner of my eye I saw a shoelace on the hallway floor, which was odd because it had not been there a few seconds before. Shoelace? Nope.

Whether you are partial to the fun fact that there is a post called, “FAQ: The “Snake Fight” Portion of Your Thesis Defense” on McSweeney’s, or to symbolic interpretations of snakes such as transmutation, creative energy, rebirth, or healing, the main thing for me about finding a snake in my hallway was THE FACT THAT IT HAPPENED.

(One morning maybe a couple of months ago, while not entirely awake, I had a sudden vision of thirdcat coming in through the bedroom deck door, the way the cats come and go, with a snake in her mouth. It woke me up quite completely all at once, and I could not shake the feeling.)

(The snake’s tail looked chewed, but my neighbour reassured me that it was alive, after he moved it from my hallway to a faraway edge of his backyard, while I obediently sat in the sun drinking the glass of red that he had put in my hand. That evening was the first time I have practiced hot yoga after a drinking a glass of wine.)

My phobia and I have agreed to perceive the event as a facing of fear; whatever else it means, including nothing, is also welcome.

In the end it all contributes to the joyful feeling I have about completion, about the defense, and about the opportunity I have now to start something new. All this nostalgia I have felt over summer for music, past loves, former friends, old houses, my guitar, my old songs, backward bending, freedom, free expression, free movement–all is desire to connect with these things now. The past DOES matter when memories and dreams thud your heart, and wake you up suddenly. Vision, phobia, fear, excitement, the un-ironic nerdy joy of exposing my mind that is both wise and wishful, all of it is waking me up, calling me into being.

(*Though I may look a little less like a mad ballerina now, in alignment with creating some mental space and concentrating on creative expression with my body, next week I am starting dance, including ballet.)

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