Toward an Alphabet Memoir

My friend Rachel mentioned Amy Krouse Rosenthal's new book Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life recently, taking on the form in her own blog.

I thought, cool idea! So I've started my own Alphabet Memoir and will begin drafting it here .


Two Stories

I came across two stories today that have stuck with me. The first I found through a Fairytale Meme:

The Enchanted Horse appears to be part of 101 Arabian Nights and is one I hadn't read yet (note to self - get a copy of 101 Arabian Nights). This posted version has a classic British feel, as if the writer spoke British English as a second language. The charming characterization of the nobility in the story reminds me of some of the translations of love stories from the Philippines.

I'm not sure how the Knight of Cups relates to the story and I've unfortunately lost the additional text from the meme that might explain the connection. The only thing I can figure out is that Cups is about Emotions and Knights are about the masculine, giving us the masculine side of emotion, which if I recall from the Voyager deck is termed The Surfer, ie. the ability to surf above difficult emotion and still keep moving. This is the opposite of the Queen of Cups who would deeply feel emotion to understand it.

The other story I came across on Margaret Cho's blog:

A Reminder of What We're Up Against - Our Tragic Loss is a more difficult story to navigate. I want to approach it with compassion, like the author ultimately comes to by the end of the piece, but it means surfing over hard emotions. It's difficult to witness the shortsightedness of my extended faith community in the face of Nathan's death, and the great lengths to which they have erased part of his identity in order to manage their own deep beliefs. It would be too easy to walk away, clucking about 'those kind of Christians' who cling to their homophobia.

The gap between the author and Nathan's parents is vast, and turning again to the idea of God being in the Gaps, I realize that both 'sides' were/are trying to make sense of an apparently senseless death with Love. Nathan's parents loved their son so much as to create an elaborate vision of his final moments, a deep narrative anchored in a complex set of beliefs which could not be shaken by the reality of Nathan's activism. I mourn their half-understanding of their son and blindness to the opportunity in his death to see him as something more. That they believed in the end that Nathan had gone to God is a testament to their love for him, misguided as their actions were.

My heart goes out to the author of the piece, though, as she struggled to find out the truth of Nathan's death, experiencing first hand the type of oppression he had endured. And I admire that she did not move to acting on her anger in a destructive way, instead choosing to continue to act in love, to be of hope that things can change, that understanding can happen between such disparate groups. That's faith in action.

I'm left then, with these two stories in my hands and I try to rest in the changes they are making in me, letting their strength and hope seep in. That's the best part of story for me. I am challenged to keep bringing it all together, weaving it all, into a compassionate activism I can call my own.


Much of the last few months, my focus has been shifting away from traditional literary writing into explorations into older spiritual practices - older, meaning ones I explored and practiced in my late twenties and early thirties. It has meant tapping into my Catholic heritage and seeing if things like energy work/healing and meditation can work into my Catholic spiritual practice.

It's a shift that's found me rearranging pieces of my experience into new spaces. I've been startled to realize that things like Reiki can be part of being Catholic - I've come across quite a few Sisters who are Reiki and Tai Chi Masters, feminist women deeply rooted in social change whom I would like to meet and talk with one day.

It's something, though, I've found awkward to speak of here - this was supposed to be my writing journal and I've written very little, either here or elsewhere. In fact, I'm not really sure what shape my writing is going to take in 2006. It seems to be shifting from literature or even pop/Sci Fi to something more like scripts for presentations. A sort of teaching without a set, academic space.

I feel as if I am in a hallway, some doors shut, some doors open, some locked, some not. At each door, I hesitate wondering if the door is shut, should I try and open it? If it's locked, should I try to unlock it? If the door is open, should I walk in and stay, or how will I know I shouldn't just peek in, say hello, then move on?

I envy the focus and determination others have in knowing what they do well and their single minded pursuit of opening door after door to reach...not so much a goal, but an excellence in their art. I admire Olympic skaters, Cirque de Soliel acrobats, actors and performers with long careers, knowing their dedication to their art has made the practicing, falls, and even failures are part of the joy, beauty and complexity that is their continuing art.

Although I'm sure there is a common thread to all my explorations and expressions, the weaving is vast, and perhaps on the thin side. It can be hard for me to keep up with myself - this aggressive searching is sometimes just those two things - aggressive and searching - with little peace in between.

So, some interesting spaces I've been exploring:

Wise Choices is a blog by a Reiki Master who is currently hosting a 21 day Reiki retreat I'm involved in.

My wonderful cousin gave me a Force FX Replica Luke Skywalker EPI VI lightsaber for Christmas which lead me to an interesting set of searches on the Jedi leading to this article on the Jedi Faith . The author of the article sounds interesting too: Jon Sweeney is an author and editor living in Vermont. His new book is The Lure of the Saints: A Protestent experience of Catholic tradition.

Eventually I hope that this will all bend back to incorporate the FilAm and GBLT social justice/heritage issues I feel are also important, but it's difficult given my location. I'm hopeful, though, that the WSU FilAm women's conference scheduled for March (that I also hope to speak at) will provide me the linkage I feel is missing.



The Adoration of the Magi

It was the arrival of the Kings
that caught us unawares;
we'd looked on the woman in the barn,
curiosity you could call it,
something to do on a cold winters night;
we'd wished her well -
that was the best we could do, she was in pain,
and the next thing we knew
she was lying on the straw
- the little there was of it -
and there was a baby in her arms.

It was as I say the Kings
that caught us unawares….
Women have babies every other day,
not that we are there -
lets call it a common occurrence though,
giving birth. But Kings
appearing in a stable with a
'Is this the place?' and kneeling,
each with his gift held out towards the child!

They didn't even notice us.
Their robes trailed on the floor,
rich, lined robes that money couldn't buy.
What must this child be
to bring Kings from distant lands
with costly incense and gold?
What could a tiny baby make of that?
And what were we to make of it
was it angels falling through the air,
entwined and falling as if from the rafters
to where the gaze of the Kings met the child's
- assuming the child could see?

What would the mother do with the gift?
What would become of the child?
And we'll never admit there are angels
or that between one man's eye and another's
is a holy place, a space where a king could be
at one with a naked child,
at one with an astonished soldier.

--- Christopher Pilling
(from the Oxford book of Christmas Poems. Oxford University Press)


I heard this poem for the first time last night at a concert of Winter Harp, an ensemble group of harpists accompanied by a storyteller, a percussionist, a flautist, and musician who played various medieval instruments such as a bass psaltry, a nyckelharpa, and an organistrum.

These were the words that struck me most:

And we'll never admit there are angels
or that between one man's eye and another's
is a holy place, a space where a king could be
at one with a naked child,
at one with an astonished soldier.

I often think about Gaps. They're the places, I think, where we fall short as a society, a people, a race, a religion, an economy. This is where the forgotten are born, shunned because of some perceived 'difference,' deemed unacceptable by a sometimes complex but most times chillingly simple set of rigid rules.

I try to fill gaps, mostly in communication between cultures. I'm a Cultural Translator of sorts, they tell me. I never want anyone to feel left behind for lack of a simple explanation or an adjustment of the rules to compensate for an original lack of compassion or vision. Finding and addressing these gaps is my passion and has lead me to understand my own sense of missing-ness and isolation both self and society imposed.

Over time, I think I have come to believe that Gaps are a bad thing - Oh sure it's good to have one's own space to exist in, move around, shuffle a bit, maybe dance. I've felt crowded before by motherhood, wifehood, editorhood, but that's a different sort of Gap, a Space, more like, that recognizes my own unique viewpoint. But I think, before last night, that Gaps in general were things to be filled in, smoothed over, changed, and perhaps even avoided altogether. Wars have come from Gaps. Prejudice is built on Gaps. Hatred, poverty, and oppression all come from Gaps we create for whatever, shortsignted reasons.

"a space where a king could be/at one with a naked child/at one with an astonished soldier."

It's a lot to claim that God is in the Gaps, connecting what is broken, creating community where one had not existed before, focusing our attention to a place unlooked for and granting Grace.

But yes, that's what I'm claiming, that's what I believe about that moment centuries ago. It's not so much that God /filled/ the Gap, but that He showed us there /is/ no Gap to begin with. That even with all the peaks and valleys of our existence, the vastness of the oceans that separate our thoughts and feelings from one another, like the air around us, He is between us and others, between us and Him, surrounding us, filling us, touching /us/.

That we are never, ever without Love.

"between one man's eye and another's/is a holy place..."

And if God is in the Gaps, then He is there to help us see those Gaps and to help us understand what the Gaps we create do to others, that we might recognize not just our uniqueness but also in gazing upon the Sacred, we are not so different. And the hope is, that in that space of "not so different" can come the promised Peace that comes of understanding and compassion. The Peace that comes of Love.


Snow Globe

Watch the little people for a while before you shake.

Snow Globe


Season Without Fruit

When winter's chill finally released the land and the warmth of spring returned. When pink blooms blushed on cherry trees and crocus burst white and purple from the deep earth. When green moss and greentipped treelimbs and new green grass shifted the eye from grey to celadon. Then. Then. Then they Disappeared. All of them, to a one. The lesbians and gays. The feminists and liberals. The freethinkers and philosophers. The tatooed and the pierced. The painters and the sculptors and the illustrators. The playwrights, the poets, the novelists. The designers, the architects, the stonemasons. The gardeners, cooks, homemakers. The massage therapists, accupuncturists, energy workers. The musicians, sound engineers, foleys and grips. The forgotten poor, the exploited immigrant, the white slave.

All of them, gone, in a moment of surprise and recognition. Gone. Disappeared.

And all that were left on the Earth were the straight men and subservient women who laid no claim to be anything else. There were far more than first thought, but still the straight men outnumbered the subservient women, and after all of them were married or taken as mistress or second wife or third wife, there were Bachelors left and Bachelor Clubs formed. And they rejoiced, for This Was How It Should Be.

It took many days before anyone noticed that the sun did not set and the night did not come and the moon did not rise, but still they rejoiced, these straight men and their subservient women who were nothing more, for this meant they could work and work and work for hours on end, never needing to rest because of a reading on a clock, and rid the earth of any trace of the Disappeared.

And it took many months before anyone noticed that the blooms on the trees never fell and the branches never greened to Summer, nor the grass grow tall and go to seed. And though they hesitated, wondering if there would be fresh apples to eat or cool berries to pick soon, they looked instead to the Costco Warehouses and the WalMarts and SaveOnFoods and they rejoiced for there was food to be had in cans and boxes and frozen packets.

And it may have been a year and a day or a day and two years after the Disappeared departed (it was hard to keep track of time where even Time did not seem to matter) when there were no more cans of peaches or bags of sugar or boxes of macaroni and cheese. The water tasted stale for no rains had fallen and the air stifled for no winds had disappated the pollution. And no matter how hard the men tried and how often women were plied, there were no children born.

The Season went on unceasing for Those Left Behind. Change had taken her people Home.


Slow Pace

It's been slow getting back into pace with my blog here. Just finished purusing all the wonderful writers' posts I missed while on hiatus. So many good, good things to read. I really feel blessed for having this way to connect with other writers and thinkers.

A few essay ideas are bubbling in the background waiting for a bit of screen time. Hard to say which one will bubble over first. Things have shifted a bit for me, on the inner realm and I'm uncertain where it will lead me next.

I'm sure it will be a grand adventure, though. It always is.


Call for Speakers

The Association of Pacific and Asian Women (APAW) at Washington State University (Pullman, WA) is looking for speakers for their CAPTIVATE Conference, March 25, 2006. The CAPTIVATE Conference is an annual student conference coordinated by APAW at the WSU Pullman campus. CAPTIVATE stands for Community, Activism, and Pride Today….to build Identity, Vision, and Achievements Tomorrow. Our goal is to celebrate these messages and to affirm our commitments to the EMPOWERMENT of AAPI women.

Tentatively, the conference will focus on Moving Inner Knowledge Into Action and looking at how an understanding of colonization and internalized racism can create a platform for personal action in the world. The conference itself is free – attendees will only need to cover lodging and travel. Presenters will be provided with transportation and lodging costs as well as a small stipend.

If you are interested in being considered as a presenter, please contact Debi Robinson-Smith (drosmith [at] wsu [dot] edu).



December 1st and the winners of NaNoWriMo are announced...

Congrats to Chie and Lorna for all their hard work!

As for me, no, I'm afraid I didn't make it past the finish line, but I learned alot about myself, my writing, and my life this last month. And that's a good thing too!

Now back to our regularly (mostly) scheduled blogging.

Thanks again for all the good wishes sent my way!