Gaps and Spaces

Ernesto recently wrote:

If you are going to have a blog, commit to it. Blogging, in my view, implies a responsibility. The blog makes me write. The blog, the new "papel máquina", opens up the previously-private process of writing."

Ernesto's rant was, well, ranty, but really well taken. I think he's talking about writing-as-praxis and the blogsphere as yet one more place to practice. Yet, like him, I find blogs that are sometimes just daily diaries of events and happenings, a way to connect to others, usually friends, too far away for a phone call (or perhaps too numerous?) Other times they are elaborate near-zines, daily columns critiquing the often maddening world we live in. Still yet, there are fan blogs and rant blogs. The focus is entirely author-based tinged with a sense of marketing, answering the questions -what do I want to say and how can I say it so others will read and perhaps even respond to it?

At least, that's what I think the gap is pointing to...gaps and spaces - these are the topics of my brainpan of late.

I'm a slow writer. I type really, really fast, but I write, really really slow. I once met a successful SF novelist who had the same affliction. Her whole day was about writing and she needed several pads of paper and numerous pencils around her house to be sure to jot down bits and pieces of story that would meander her way throughout the day. To sit down and write for hours like Stephen King and such was not so much antithetical to her as it was incomprehensible.

I find that I'm the same...I write throughout the day, even when I'm not actually typing or even jotting down words. Themes and stories run around in my head. Angles of essays, implications of social theories, applicability of assumptions/beliefs all just dance around, and I wait for them to congeal into something that might resemble a readable thing.

Gaps and spaces. Yeah, so gaps...gaps are the things we see or sense or experience that don't fit the 'norm,' the expected flow of things. Gaps can be small, like a misunderstanding between lovers about the proper way to put a roll of toilet paper on the spindle. Gaps can spur invention, like the problem of transporting thing A to point B, and we have a thing called a wheel which becomes a wagon which becomes a truck which becomes a plane. Gaps can be violent, like this social disease we call racism and it's cousin poverty.

When emotion is added, tough emotions like anger and fear, the gaps become huge and unmanageable, but they can also spur on the energy for change - couples learn to communicate better, new tools are manufactured, and underrepresented/invisible groups band together and become a voice to be reckoned with. Gaps, then, become spaces.

Space, as a word, is roomy, to me, and lacking the sense of loss 'gap' carries. Space for critique, space for understanding, space for equity, space for compassion. Space acknowledges that what can be viewed as a disconnection can be seen as an opportunity instead, a place for positive change, a place for healing.

Blogs are spaces that often point to/reveal gaps in our social/economic/spiritual/
intellectual/political/etc systems. And as such provide places to practice methods to address the gaps.

I don't know that I agree that bloggers have a responsiblity to regularly practice their craft in the blogsphere, but I suspect that bloggers do take their vocation, the ability to identify gaps and create space, seriously.

It just may take some of us longer than others to finally get that all down on the page.

Addendum: More discussion is also happening at Okir Thanks for hosting, Jean, and thanks to all who've responded.


New Post

My library blog has been updated.

Mission Accomplished

The beauty of having a mostly flexible schedule is that even if I had planned on only taking a half hour lunch to make up for being at the dentist yesterday, I can take a full hour anyway, and do a half hour lunch tomorrow.

Which means that I was able to write BJ as per Ver's letter writing thingy!

And clean out my purse (it now closes).

*happy sigh*

So letter writing...it's slow going - I type at 80+ wpm - and I found myself wanting to rush, to write faster, which meant my handwriting got more illegible as time went on. BJ and I had talked about the intimacy of writing before, how committing oneself to writing on the page, the physical weight of the pen, the resistance of the paper, the deliberate action of writing, arouses levels of vulnerability and risktaking perhaps unchanneled with a keyboard and screen.

It was, in a word, luxurious, and like luxury, something unfamiliar, having apparently hidden rules and conventions that made the experience new and a bit like being in the first day of school - what will she think? will she like it? is the stationery pretty enough? is my handwriting too small/too big? is my word choice too archaic, too difficult to access? is the text too revealing/not revealing enough? what are the boundaries? what impression am I making?

But like a spell, it was also a moment of binding, of coming together on the page with intent, a connection between two people who have never met. That's magic.

Thank you Ver!

Getting a Reading

You can get a pretty good reading of what my life is like if you take a look at my purse.

Under normal circumstances, my purse is a small black fanny bag containing a small wallet, a credit card holder, a calendar, checkbook, a small stack of 3x5 cards (for jotting notes), 2-3 pens, a packet of gum, and a few packets of lactaid. In a separate holster on the fanny pack belt is a cell phone. On good days, this is all I need.Everything is in its place, and all the closures are, well, closed

On more active days, this fanny pack may reside in a larger bookbag merrily covered in pink, green and blue hearts. The fanny pack may share the space with a cosmetics bag that doesn't carry any makeup, but instead holds an eyeglass repair kit, calculator, a packet of Alevert, more lactaid, a mirror and comb, and a pair of seabands. There's also a small moleskin of prayers/bible passages, but there is ample room for a lunch of, say, an apple, carrots, and a sandwich. Even full, the bag neatly zips closed.

Today, though, the fanny pack gapes open, spilling its contents plus miscellaneous receipts, lottery tickets and coupons, into the cavernous Heart Bag. Somewhere in the depths is my cel phone, likely near the bottle of nearly consumed Lactaid. Heaven help me if I'm to find say my checkbook. My journal is in there too, as is my nifty 50th Anniversary pen from work (a heft thing, but it writes beautifully).

From my vantage point, a safe distance from the nearly exploding mass that is the Heart Bag, I can see:

-said cosmetics bag trying to escape the chaos;
-one plastic bag from the dentist containing a toothbrush, a tube of toothpaste, and two containers of floss (yeah, okay, I get it - I need to floss more);
-one bottle of antibiotics (for above mentioned dental appointment);
-one empty plastic grocery sack (which recently held leftover treats from last night's School Stakeholder's Meeting;
-one smaller empty plastic grocery sack, leftover from yesterday's lunch;
-one eyeglass case with cleaner;
-one overfull plastic sleeve containing: two sets of insurance reimbursement documents, one flyer for a new Hawaiiana memoir book, one flyer for a Spiritual Autobiography class, one bill for childcare plus required calendar, all paperwork from the meeting (see above), phone numbers of folks I've asked references from, HR paperwork for an online teaching position, a recent student loan bill, order forms for the latest fundraising activity, two parent surveys (one for school, one for scouts), a sticky with a desired book title scrawled on its face, and stationery all ready to be made into a letter to BJR.

I think there's more in the HB-o-doom...but I can't tell from here...there is no way the top will zip closed, but even so, I think there's more lurking in the depths...

In a nutshell - look at my purse and you'll know why I've been busy lately...


Many Beautiful Things

The wounds of Katrina may have stolen my energy in the past few days, but even as I have begun to wake up again, many wonderful things have taken place, things I want to bear witness to, celebrate, and be joyful about.

First came news of Bino A. Realuyo's new and first book of poetry The Gods We Worship Love Next Door winner of the 2005 Agha Shahid Ali Prize in Poetry . His book releases February 2006, a particularly auspicious date given Realuyo's passion for language, story, and poetry.

Then came news of Marsh Hawk Press book launch featuring Eileen Tabios' I Take Thee, English, for My Beloved, affectionately known as The Brick. I wish I could be in NYC for the launch in a few days, but I have possession of her book and that makes me very happy.

And if idle hands make the devil's work, then Eileen is truly an angel, for hot on the heels of her book launch, she announced the publication of Post Bling Bling an eBook free for the download, but also available in hardcopy. Choices...choices...

Dino Manrique, then, announced the launch of FilipinoWriter.com a space for Filipino writers of all stripes to come together, swap stories, provide mentorship, share triumphs and challenges, and in general create an even stronger community and increasing the visibility of Filipino writers.

And later Bino A. Realuyo's welcomed John Labella Fulbright Scholar from the Philippines now located at Princeton University. I'm especially excited by Labella's appearance since he is not only interested in poetics and aesthetics, but also in phenomenology and ritual - two of my current research interests!

I was very pleased to hear that Oscar Penaranda had been named Educator of the Year by PASE/East Bay Oakland Chapter FAEAC. I met Oscar last March when he gave a reading at an AWP event in Vancouver. I remember most his voice, his deep storytelling voice, and I was glad to hear that his tireless work to bring Philippine American history and culture into the consciousness of his students was being recognized.

The editors of the much anticipated book Pinay Power will be having a panel discussion theorizing the Filipina/American experience at UC Berkeley on Oct. 15. So many wonderful things happen in CA! This book is definitely on my Must Read list.

The most exciting news by far, though, was the announcement that Barbara Jane Reyes had won the prestigious James Laughlin Award for her new collection Poeta en San Francisco forthcoming from TinFish Press. Barb has been very generous with her time, providing me with mentorship and encouragement as I tried my hand at poetry last Spring. I'm incredibly happy that her work has been recognized and I know that this is only the beginning of a long, illustrious career.

The timing could not have been more perfect either, as two interviews with Barbara released at about the same time as the award announcement. Eileen's interview appears on e-x-c-h-a-n-g-e-v-a-l-u-e-s while Rochita Clonen Ruiz' interview appears on The Sword Review.

I am part of an incredibly vibrant community and I am so grateful!


Hurricane Katrina-- How Writers Can Help

*Originally distributed by Poets and Writer's magazine*

Dear Friends,

In addition to the important work being done by the American Red Cross and other relief agencies, there are a number of special efforts we thought writers might be particularly interested in:

* The Katrina Literary Collective has been created to collect and distribute books to victims of the hurricane. For more information, contact the Amber Communications Group at amberbk@aol.com.

* A Louisiana Disaster Relief Fund has been established to receive monetary donations to assist libraries in Southeastern Louisiana. For more info, visit the American Library Association.

* The American Booksellers Association has created a Bookseller Relief Fund to assist independent booksellers affected by Hurricane Katrina.

* The Southern Arts Federation has set up an Emergency Relief Fund to assist arts organizations and artists in those Gulf Communities most devastated by Katrina.

* Also, don't forget to check out the efforts Eileen and Meritage Press to bring poetry back to the bayou.

Thank you for whatever help you're able to provide.


Pinoy Ako!

Nothing focuses intent better than action.

Do what you can. Support a relief organization that aligns with your passion: Instapundit.com


Riffin' on my earlier post Astig, another phrase that's caught my attention in these hiphop songs I'm listenin' to is Pinoy Ako.

I am Filipino.

Pinoy Ako.

For my parents and acquaintances, this is a sort of no brainer. My parents are both Filipino. They were born in the Philippines and immigrated in the late 50's. I'm not adopted. I look mostly Filipino (when I'm not looking say, Hawaiian or Native American).

If only cultural heritage were as easy as looking at ones genes and skin color!

But as people get to know me, they realize that my ties to my Filipino heritage are for the most part unconscious, or at least subconscious. I'm told I have a slight accent when I get tired. I tend to sway when I walk. I know a bit more than the average person about Filipino-US history. But as a US-born pinay, I often don't feel I identify well with being Filipino.

My folks came to the US to live the American dream. Dad didn't want to be a Bureau of Lands agent like my grandfather who didn't want to be a farmer like my great grandfather. My mother admired all things USA because my grandfather was a Philippine Scout in the US Army, and the American's saved her from the invading Japanese. Post-colonial discourse is not high on their agenda.

They've been really successful in living their American dream. They've got a house in the suburbs, a good retirement, strong ties to their parish. When they go back home, they are heroes, the ones who made it, the ones with wisdom from the West and money to help out. They made it out of the Philippines before Marcos' Martial Law and we didn't visit as a family until well into the Ramos Administration.

Growing up, keeping ties to the Filipino community wasn't a high priority for my mother who saw such groups as a bunch of gossipers and egoists trying to out do each other with their wealth. I think my dad would have liked to have had stronger ties with the local diasporic community, but since socializing wasn't one of my mother's strong points, his opportunities were rare. It was only after the death of my mother's parents and our visit in 1995 that my mother began to see the real value in making friendships with Filipinos in our area.

It was a weird thing growing up...a lot of mixed messages. My parents never taught me any of their dialects because they were told that do so would stunt my mastery the English language. At the same time, they spoke their secrets in Tagalog, often speaking about me as I stood there, having a conversation about me that I could not understand. My keenest memories of separation come from those moments.

Being US born is to be outside. Outside of the Filipino community. Outside of the white community of the US. For a long time I just existed as if being Filipino was a happenstance of genes, nothing more.

This is changing. Old wounds are healing. Connections are being made. An internal awakening is happening.

Finally, though, after 40 years, I can own Pinoy Ako and not deny any other part of myself.

And that's a really, really good thing.



Give what you can, to the relief organizations you believe in. Help heal Katrina's wounds.

Find a relief organization: Instapundit.com


I've been listening to some Pinoy hiphop my hubby found on SoundClick recently and I've been slowly reacquainting myself to Tagalog. At least, what little tagalog I absorbed as a child.

My new favorite word: astig

Astig ako!

The song I heard is A.S.T.I.G and the artist says he wrote it for a group called Awareness in Spiritual Things to Institute Godliness. I think it's a group associated with the Methodist's Bible Reader's Society, but I also sense diwa within its energy.

A few years back I got into LOTR TCG a trading card game based on the Lord of the Rings. Like many games designed to keep collectors and gamers happy (and buying product) for as long as possible, there have been many expansions on the original game and one expansion included a card called Fierce - it made any big, bad monster, bigger, badder and harder to get rid of. Fierce was a good thing. They even gave out temporary tattoos with the Fierce logo. I have several.

I want a tattoo now that says ASTIG.

Unpacking all the 'stuff' I have about being pinay and embracing my heritage has been a winding journey of discovery. How does one balance all the aspects of being a US born Filipino while recognizing the inherent difficulties of possessing the myths and mindsets of colonized and colonizer?

Part of the answer has come from reading Leny Strobel's Book of Her Own and allowing my mind to embrace the difficult task of decolonization. Part has been exploring and expressing my new found understanding of babaylan, a path that has no ending, no destination, but more an engrainment and engagement of what I have already experienced. Part has come from trying to understand John Paul II's take on phenomenology. Part has been my own approach to decolonizing Christianity, as well as learning about bonding and boundary making.

The changes this process has created have been difficult to manage and I've often thought I'd give it all up just to have a bit of peace. But the draw is too strong, the diwata, the Spirit, the Red Path, all encompassing that I cannot turn away for long.


:To be drawn by change
:To embrace heritage
:To move with intent
:To live diwa
:To be the created Self
:To bond with others
:To establish health boundaries

The mosaic is becoming strong with intent.


Healing Katrina's Wounds

The last few weeks have been difficult as I find myself bombarded by reminders that I live in a world where racism not only exists but is apparently making a roaring comeback. During this incredibly tragic time with the devestation of Katrina, we have this sort of crap going on.

I want to ask the same questions as Amardeep Singh . I want to be as articulate as Margaret Cho and as politically/socially aware/active as Lorna Dee Cervantes. But most of all, I just want people to get on with lending a hand.

I know it's all overwhelming. I'm so overwhelmed by the layers, the bright shiny healing ones as well as the seedy malevolent ones, this storm has revealed. I am often frozen just /feeling/ the small ripples that have made their way to my part of the US, across an entire continent. I cannot conceive of what is happening there at ground zero, LA, FL, Carribbean/Gulf.

But nothing focuses intent better than action.

Do what you can. Collect what you love like poetry books and help Eileen give poets in the region hope. If you live close enough, collect school supplies or donate shelter to homeless animals like CaroCrow suggests.

Give what you can, to the relief organizations you believe in.

Go direct: America's Second Harvest

Go shopping/selling: eBay Giving Works

Participate: Blog Relief Day

Find a relief organization: Instapundit.com

Catholic Relief Services and her sister organizations is a charity I support because it brings together my faith and my activism. They are groups with an extensive network of support and volunteer resources that can and do mobilize at a moment's notice. They do not check religious affiliation at the door - anyone and everyone can come to CRS/CCUSA for help, no questions, no prostelization. They have the experience to get done what needs to be done. It's all about getting people what they need when they need it most.

Their blurb: Catholic Charities' niche in disaster relief is to provide long-term recovery work. Based on past disasters, possible long-term services that Catholic Charities may provide include temporary and permanent housing, direct assistance beyond food and water to get people back into their homes, job placement counseling, and medical and prescription drug assistance. To help communities recover from the damage brought on by Hurricane Katrina, Catholic Charities USA is collecting financial donations that will fund agencies' emergency and long-term disaster recovery efforts.

If you decide to participate, you can log that you heard about it from me here , but mostly I'm adding this line in because that's what the Blog Relief folk need us to do. I'm also tagging Technorati.com's flood aid page and Hurricane Katrina page,

This is a chance to make your beliefs concrete, to make a difference because you have acted according to your beliefs.

And I just gotta believe that the people who still read my blog are people who believe that relieving suffering of others is their concern too.