10/31/2005

Gone...

Gonna be gone the next month...

I've been inspired to participate in NaNoWriMo.

I heard about this last year, but too late to feel comfy doing it. This year...well, I'm going to just not focus on my worryworry and write.

See you in about 50,000 words.

Everything is held together with stories. That is all that is holding us together, stories and compassion. -- Barry Lopez, from an interview in Poets and Writers Vol. 22, issue 2 (March/April 1994)

10/27/2005

Upside Down

The upside(s) of the day include lunch with old friends (ghosts in the flesh. survivors of a great employment tragedy), poetry tonight with Rita Dove, and a bit of conversation time with ODLP.

The downside of the day is I feel like I was up most of last night...which I was, tending my children and nursing a cold. Feeling sleep deprived is but a pale description of the foggy-groggy I got goin' on.

I'm also feelin' narrative...but not in the usual sense. Nope, with the curvature into ghostly spaces, I'm reminded that I've been the subject of stories, actual written ones, and even one that was published as a comic book. In them, I've been an unfaithful lover, a widow still carrying a torch for her first love, a space pilot, a priestess. I've been rescued, shot and killed, guilt-ridden, and sacrifical lamb.

And if I stretch my memory a bit more, I realize that beyond this one writer, I've appeared in several other stories as enchantress, seductress, duchess, tailor, sailor, key character, minor character, and even occasionally villain with no hope of redemption.

Reading oneself in a story, though, has a doubling effect, blurring the perception of how I think the author relates to me and seeing how our relationship has affected/changed the author through the lens of story. Faults become enlarged and graces minimized for the sake of story pace. There's an uneasy sense of being controlled, of having to admit to mistakes, but having to watch the consequences unfold in grotesque, disproportionate ways without benefit of changing or apologizing. I imagine that it was cathartic for some authors to write me in certain ways, just as I imagine it was connective for others, another positive bond between us.

The risks are part and parcel of memoir writing - from the outset author and object know there will be story distortion, but to what effect is anybody's game. In fiction though, there seems to be an extra layer in that 'out' - it's just fiction, after all, why read more into than what's there on the page?

"Your so vain," Carly Simon once wrote/sang, "You probably think this song is about you." And she's right of course, all those stories I appeared in were more about what the author was working out in their own lives than it was about me.

We all take roles in life. A few of us are even conscious enough to recognize the default roles we carry and create new roles never seen before. Each day we're presented with new scenes, old patterns, and a cast of characters dizzyingly layered and colorful. It's easy to forget, perceive "we are the authors of our lives" as just cliche' but it's interesting sometimes to just glance at life with the eye of the storyteller, to see the intersection of stories-as-lives, find the metaphoric roles we play, then look back on ourselves as story object, rich in characterization and motivation.

We are an ever-evolving story, hero and villan both, and a wonderful mishmash of character parts that provide both depth and comic relief.

10/25/2005

Living in Translation

Whilst I install my new computer system, I saw the ping on Eileen's blog about KKP (kili-kili power)!

It's the newest craze in our house, now. Fist raised in the air, eyes fierce and challenging...Which in my crazy mind looks an awful lot like something from the '60s...

It's one of those moments of translation for me, from Eileen's husband, to her sisters, to her blog, to my cousins, to our gesture, to history, to empowerment, to ASTIG, to Pinoy Pride all wrapped up with a whole lot of laughter, innocence, and the pure irony of multiplicity.

Living in translation has it's perks - getting to see/experience all these different spaces from that sort of Derrida/Semiotics-nothing-is-what-it-seems
-cause-all-signs-are-arbitrary/but-arbitrary doesn't mean 'without meaning,' symbolic point of view. One minute it's fists in the air, another it's Spirits on the Wires, yet another, color blind painters making masterpieces.

But it's juggling too, standing on one side, next to my folks trying to see/hear what they're seeing/hearing from 'those crazy Americans' who keep putting up hoops they claim aren't racist, but are 'just the way things are.' Then standing on the other side, next to Joe Americano trying to figure out what hoops are just pure bureacracy, which ones can be ignored, and which ones have to be addressed.

Or maybe I'm on this side of the generation gap hearing the complaints from myself and my cousins about our 'rents, swappin' stories of being embarassed at public events as yet again Dahil Sayo is sung slighly off key by a chorus of 20 or so swathed in barongs and butterfly sleeves. Or on the other side, sitting on the edge of an old metal chair to one side of the majongg table, while hands mix tiles, lips mutter quiet curses, and tongues click between sighs carrying the weight of a lost generation.

Stories, so many stories, connections lost, connections regained, connections made for differing reasons, all coming through and around, like standing on stage, 'cept the audience is calling out scene changes as fast as the cast can make curtain calls. And the director? I haven't seen him since the casting couch...

Translation - moving one thing from it's original space to another space. A kind of diaspora then, except, instead of people, it's culture, cultural markers, objects. And in translation they pass through an empty sort of space leaving bits, perhaps loose threads that seem peripheral, not totally necessary, yet when the thing emerges from translation, the thing is no longer whole, no longer as it was previously.

A traditional recipe for sinigang, say, starts with the memory of a pot on a blackened hearth at the center of a nipa hut. From the garden come the vegetables, from the river some fish, from an earthen jar a spice. The teaching comes from hand to hand, measurements taken in comparison to the breadth between knuckles, the number of long beans grasped in the hand, the amount of spice pinched between thumb and forefinger. The child's hands grow to adulthood and in the new place the feet have taken the hands, adjustments have to be made. No longer the same greens, the same roots, the same fish. But still the hunger remains - new foods can only sustain the body for so long before the heart yearns for comfort that comes, aromatic and steamy, from old spaces.

The new recipe is like the old, yet different, bending to the available crops, the expense of what was once common and is now rare, yeilding to the relentless changes presented in the new space. Food in translated, familiar, yet not the same.

My grandmother's recipes are that way, but I didn't discover it until Goldilocks and Lutung Bahay opened up in nearby towns - who knew papaya was in sinigang or coconut milk in adobo? And who put grated cheese on my bibinka? My lola's hearth was a White Westinghouse enamel affair complete with four burners and an oven. The windows steamed and the scent of garlic and onion permeated the pink and white paint on the walls. Balikbayan for me is a place in Seattle that no longer exists, a mile marker along the I-90 tunnel.

But still, living in translation isn't about being lost in translation, but about simply Being. Moving, changing, growing - acknowledging the past, stepping to the future - but always the question - are we carrying baggage that's weighing us down or sustaining us throught the journey?

10/24/2005

Ghosts

Places aren't haunted. People are haunted.
- Melinda Gordon, Ghost Whisperer


Michelle wrote recently (Oct 22/23 postings) about the thinning of the veil that happens this time of year. Spirits walk among us, some on their way Home, others lost, yet others just hanging around waiting for something or staying to finish another thing. Most times we don't notice them much, 'cept those that have the Sight and can't turn away. It's a privacy thing, letting Spirits do what they need to do without interference from this world. Some have the good sense and manners to leave well enough alone, others prefer to meddle and say it's a Calling.

I find myself amidst ghosts of my past, most called up first in memory, then through email or on the phone. Past relationships drifted into gauziness, hooked on a finger, seen slantwise on the periphery, then brought forward for a touch, a glance, a smile. Most bring good memories, connections to a more rooted past, to communities formed and enjoyed. Others bring sadness for lost opportunities, pain brought by poor decision making and lack of faith.

What rituals shall we make to release these ghosts, still living, yet no longer central to our web? Do we welcome them back and invoke flesh and blood, building new ties, creating new memories? Or do we give offerings in the hope of forgiveness for past wrongs and wishes for healing?

Each ghost has his/her story, each memory a place in time, a space in the heart carved sometimes tenderly, sometimes with thorns. It's a time of honoring all those who have shared their lives with us, given us lessons sweet and bitter, illuminated our lives either in the presence or by their passing.

Like the last fruits of the harvest, I gather wisps and tendrils of rememberings, taking in what is still needful, giving the rest to the Hallows fire to be released back into the Cycle once more. Old Coyote sits near the fire, smoking his pipe with Old Juan Tamad, the first one telling stories about the Star Woman he once loved, the second one nodding, lips pouting slightly with memory of a woman with a silver comb in her hands. And somewhere the Coffee Gods grin with yellowed teeth and watch the moon rise high and wait for the owl to who-who Good Eve.

Kili Kili!

Eileen has written the funniest post EVAH! (See October 24th posting)

As we used to say when we were kids:

Kili Kili Power!

(pangtoot!)

10/23/2005

Authenticity

There's been some fab discussion out there, mostly among Barbara Jane, Ver, and Gladys, with even a bit thrown in by Bino, about Images of Beauty and femininity.

I'm pretty ambivalent about the topic - torn, in a sense. I'm not a make-up type chica, donning the stuff only if I think the occasion warrants, which usually means times when heels and the perfect dress are required. Thankfully this is rare in my life, as demonstrated by how I usually have to buy makeup new each time I use it - the stuff ages, getting funky after a year or so, and yeah, that's really how often I wear makeup.

My mother is never seen without at least lipstick - her regimine has become more simple as she has grown older and her skin has grown more prone to allergic reactions to makeup. But lipstick remains her passion.

Getting "all dolled up" for me is just that, a practice in making myself into something of a doll, which is kind of fun every once in a while, but nothing to look forward to, really. *chuckle* I guess that's why, along with my lack of curves and short hair, I'm often mistaken for a guy.

The Debut was not part of my coming of age...in fact, very little marked my turn to womanhood, other than a wry smile from my mother that seemed a mix of wistfulness for my childhood and a projection of her own uncertainty about what it meant to be a woman in US society.

The minks, the makeup, the parties, the dresses...to my mother these were all signs of silly women unable to hold concepts of Chemistry, Physics and Medicine in their smallish brains. But at least they had rich husbands who could afford such luxuries - to her it was more pitiable to be a housewife, a woman without career or much ambition, who seemed more interested in the cleanliness of her bathroom than the History of the Pyramids.

Femininity was about being smart, in my family, smarter than other women and definitely smarter than men. And being smart meant being good at science and having little to do with preening.

But lipstick...that little tube of emollients and dye...she called it her one vanity, scowled at me for not holding her same passion, offered me samples she'd gotten free from the cosmetics counter (with $50 or more purchase).

I often wonder if she really wanted more, to have both the makeup and the science, but that our family economics could not manage the burden. Was it easier to say she didn't want the stuff rather than admit that her makeup budget had gone to clothes and tuition for her children?

*chuckle* This essay has gone in a direction unintended...

But back to authenticity - there's this undercurrent, an idea that to be Woman and therefore Feminine, then certain rituals have to be observed. Women's magazines and advertising are based on this concept, drilling the observer's mind with images of thinness, flawless skin, pearl white teeth...to create these images, the rituals are created - makeup, teeth whiteners, exercise and diet programs. The images are self perpetuating - to be the image, perform the ritual. Perform the ritual, create the image.

To question the cycle, either directly through discourse, or indirectly through non participation, is to be outside, and to be outside is to cast suspicion - is the questioner actually Feminine, actually Woman?

There's also this idea that to be Feminine is to be not-Masculine - identification by negation. A woman who dresses down (no makeup or dress) or agressively (no florals or bright colors) is accused of being too masculine, of trying to be too manly, and somehow less...which then brings up this whole set of codes about Men and Masculinity...And a woman who is not Feminine, like a man who is not Masculine, are folk not to be trusted, viewed as ones outside-the-norm. Inauthentic.

This also curves into my recent explorations into Babaylan - given my proximity to babaylan practitioners, it has been difficult to figure out what babaylan spirituality is all about. I've been trying to get to the core, to find the legends, to find the objects, to find the rituals...these are not easy to discover, and there is always the question of Source Material. Just looking through the 'net about Bathala, I've come across questions of whether Kali as a martial art is 'authentic' ie. PreHispanic.

The discussions seem to parallel those I've found regarding Reiki/Seichim/SKHM, a layered hands on healing system that I've recently discovered I have strong links to...my teacher was something of a rogue and there's question of whether his methods are 'authentic.'

The easiest method to prove "authenticity" seems to be to trace lineage, which student was taught by which teacher who was taught by which teacher and so on. There is a similar track when looking into Babaylan, and this can be extended to practices of femininity. Who taught you what? And was she really "feminine?"

Is it possible to deconstruct the process of authentication, to decolonize The Debut, to defang Femininity Mavens, to defrock the Keepers of the Truth?

There's also the question of the Authentic Voice of the Artist. How does she find this voice? How does she find the strength to sing it? How does she withstand the comparisons and judgments that come from public performance?

10/22/2005

Finding the Flow

The downside of not being able to keep up on my blog is that I get out of the flow of things and right now there's a really cool thread weaving around the blogs I read about images of beauty and femininity. Since I'm the last to the party, I figure y'all know already where to find such wisdom and treasure. I'll be adding to the mix, but I had to clear a few things off my own porch first...

Porch, you ask? I once wrote a story about a lola named Corazon who firmly believed that to keep luck at the door and keep away bad things, you have to keep your porch clean and well swept. Well, like an absent occupant, there are quite a few things that have built up on my porch since departing a few weeks ago...

There's the family-of-origin stuff which made for great anxiety - everyone is okay now, but if I don't see the inside of a hospital for a while I'll be a happy camper. Life is too fragile, too complex for me sometimes, and keeping up hope while trying to be clear headed about the pros and cons of treatments, the aftercare necessary after procedures, the encouragment of lifestyle changes that will likely go unheeded, while trying to keep my parents psychologically in one piece...

Open ended - these sentences are open ended because I crave a certain closure to the last few weeks, but every time I think there is closure, something else breaks open. And often this opening is good, like with my writing, but at the same time, all these open doors and windows create a certain sense of vulnerability, exposure, that's a bit stressful right now.

I'm feeling terribly old and responsible today, perhaps even burdened, but that might just be a tiredness from running on adrenaline for over a week.

At the same time of wanting closure, I crave space, openess, looseness to my day. Everything seems connected to everything else and it's hard to keep track of it all.

The Fall is deepening though, and that's a hopeful thing. I love Fall for its colors, its slowing to stillness, its coolness. But there are things to do, always things to do - Halloween costumes, All Saints Day costumes, fundraisers, scouting events, birthdays, shopping for birthdays...and this Fall I start teaching online too, which for the pocketbook is a good thing, but from a coordination standpoint a bit crazy. Okay, a lot crazy.

I do have things to look forward to, though, like a spa weekend with my cousin, and maybe, just maybe enough courage to really dig into my writing. Hard to say, but my class is helping break some stuff open about performance anxiety and the proper use of Will. My mentors are right there with me too, although the cast has shifted slightly, so I'm learning new patterns through those relationships.

I'm really enjoying the letter writing Ver started, and other things from the community have come to me, bringing good opportunities for expanding my spiritual praxis.

I need to buy myself a Slinky too....how else to meditate on life as both circular in the moment and yet linear over time?

*chuckle* okee...feeling like the porch is a bit cleaner...thanks for dropping by.

10/18/2005

Been Busy Yes, But...

Serenity was all that I hoped for and more, or as more aptly put by Ex Nihilo

In Serenity, there can be no true belief without a love that covers the sins necessary to defend that belief.

...no one can stop the signal.

Ave Whedon!

10/17/2005

Quick Update

One thing that can be said about my blog here is that I tend to talk very little about my family here. It's intentional, a way to create a 'just me' space where I can really focus on topics I don't normally get to discuss with my family because they're in different spaces in their lives.

That said, it's pretty safe to assume that if I'm not writing here, there hasn't been much time for 'just me' space, and that, in fact, my family is taking up quite a bit of time...lots of time.

It's okay, just part of a cycle that I know will come around again. For now, though, I'm taking care of family things, worrisome, yes, but mostly manageable.

So, yeah...I'm just babbling a bit, but when I'm not here it doesn't mean I'm at the store, I've just got a bit more on my family plate than usual.

With affection - keep on keepin' all!

10/11/2005

Tonality

Ernesto noted in his blog

'No one,' Pascal once said, 'dies so poor that he does not leave something behind.' Surely it is the same with memories too - although these do not always find an heir. The novelist takes charge of this bequest, and seldom without profound melancholy.

-Walter Benjamin, The Storyteller

*****

It's been difficult of late to put into words the changes that have happened. Good changes, I'm fairly certain, but like many changes, ones that bear contemplation, which, despite what we are often lead to believe, actually takes quite a lot of energy.

But what Pascal says very much touches on the beginnings of my...motivation? Is that the word I'm looking for? The drive to write, to say something with words. An internal drive, an obsession. But an obsession without words themselves, only the compulsion to find and sew words together. I think perhaps, then, I want to create my legacy (oooo...what a big, important, ego word!), but something to be remembered by. Perhaps, then it is from being afraid to die unnoticed?

Anyway, to changes...connected with ODLP last week in classic style - classic for me, since I have this tendency to arrive places unannounced then demand/request notice. It's because I tend to seize opportunities when they present themselves, then bumble along, relying on the kindness of others. OLDP was terrifically kind with the sudden arrival of this woman he only briefly met five years ago, giving her a hug!

(Backstory - I had an afternoon appointment cancelled last minute, and rather than stay at work, I took myself to campus, drove around to find parking, parked at a meter with only 10 minutes left, walked around campus for 20 minutes trying to get change for the meter, realized ODLP's class was ending soon and didn't care about getting a ticket. And voila'!)

It was an incredibly insightful, encouraging meeting where OLDP gently pointed out that I may be an editor at a scientific non-profit, but that I wasn't really making a living; that my lament of finding very few FilAm memorists was my own call to write; that writing in fragments was the place to start writing - case in point The Book of Embraces by Eduardo Galeano (which I ordered and am now devouring, slowly, but earnestly, for it is like rich, dark chocolate - addictive but only edible in small bites). At the end of our conversation I blurted out something about needing community and a swift kick in the pants to keep writing, and he said he would be willing to give me assignments.

(It was in all a good meeting and when I returned to my car, there was no ticket, even though I was over an hour overdue. I took it as a good sign that I was where I needed to be.)

Then on Saturday I started a spiritual autobiography class with Philip Damon, a retired UH creative writing prof. I had heard about the class last Spring and was drawn to it, mostly because the notice of the class was given to me and because of Damon's ties to Hawaii. When I went to the class, though, I was blown away. On a sheet of paper at the front of the class was a grid which made parallels between the chakra system and the elements of narrative. I had never seen anything like it! Damon then went on to lecture about 2 hours on the ties between our spiritual journey and the narrative form. He tied so many loose ends for me, things I thought were disparate in my thinking/approach to spirituality and writing.

This week we work on description, and I find myself going back 9 years to that Fall when we entertained the idea of moving to Hawaii, of having our first child, of me being a full time writer. I want to write about my love of the Palouse and contrast it to how harsh I found Hawaii. How dreams somes work out well but not without great cost.

*shakes head* Tonality is that ability to hear one note and follow that note through the convolutions of a musical piece. I'm having trouble finding that one note within me today.

10/06/2005

Sacred Secrets

I wasn't sure if I would write about my penpal, my lucky star plucked out of Ver's jolleebee cap. If you look hard enough you will find my penpal's identity, but I'd rather leave the illusion for myself that my penpal is a secret pal, a mix of fairy ink and seeded paper, traveling on the winds to my mailbox.

In the blogcircle I've found myself in, we have talked about the vulnerability of writing on paper, with ink and stamps and everything. How the page, unlike the screen and keyboard seems more permanent, more definite, more real, and how our words take on weight and meaning that is sometimes skimmed past in the speed of clicking keys.

What I didn't realize, though, is that in the reciprocation, the receiving of the letter, I feel as if I have been given a treasure, a secret, something sacred, because I know there is vulnerability, hope, joy, and trepidation with each stroke of that purple pen. And I want to hold that close to my heart and keep it safe from what I guess I perceive as a somewhat hostile place called the 'net.

Odd, really, since I write mostly online. Why should these words, this sheet of heavy paper become so fragile and precious as to stir protectiveness?

My penpal writes of reading me, of what my words mean to his/her life, of how we have share spaces online and how what she does and who s/he is related to connects somehow to me. A conjoinment, a deepening that was not there before his/her letter arrived.

It is a good thing, a treasured thing, a letter I will read again and again, turning it over in my hands like a talisman against the anxiety that has gripped me recently.

It is also a call to respond, something I am happy to do, but not at this moment.

Now is the moment of gratitude for a gift finely given.

Thank you, penpal, thank you.

Headlights in the Fog...

...illuminating the gloom...

"I only put in the stuff that had an impact on me," (Alan Alda) says (about his memoir) in an interview from his New York office.

He tells a story about "The Apple Tree," a mid-'60s Broadway play directed by Mike Nichols, which resulted in a Tony nomination for Alda. But what he recalls in the book is wondering where his career was going.

"The story I tell about standing under the silk shroud in 'The Apple Tree' and my career had come to nothing so far, and then realizing that I was looking at it wrong -- instead of thinking about what I ought to be doing, I should be thinking about what I'm doing," he says, "and make the most of what I have in front of me. ... And that was what was important about 'The Apple Tree' to me."


(Emphasis mine)

Places I'd Like To Be

In 2006 I’d like to attend:

The Voices Sumer Writing Workshops (Throughout June/July - California)

The FANHS biennial conference (last weekend in June – Hawaii)

The Kundiman Asian American Poetry Retreat (Mid-July -Virginia)

What an /awesome/ summer /that/ would be.

New Entries

...in my library blog

10/04/2005

It's Da Bo(e)mb!

Congratulations to Paolo Javier for the forthcoming release of 60 lv bo(e)ms!

I first saw Paolo at AWP this year and found his work energetic and intriguing. I can't wait to get his book!