8/26/2007

Lessons Experienced

Back on August 6, Bino related the story that during his recent trip to Brazil, he realized that he was rushing around trying to do everything in a place where there was nothing really to do. He found himself asking: "why are you rushing when you have absolutely nothing to do in this country?"

I took that realization with me to South Dakota/Nebraska last week, trying to keep time and space open, knowing that there would be certain family obligations to dance through. It mostly worked - I felt a certain ease about having no expectations of my time other than keeping my little nest all in order and making the correct appearances despite certain obstacles (like flights due to arrive at 6:45 pm, being waved off at 6:30 pm due to the evacuation of Rapid City's airport because of a tornado watch... then spending the next 4 hours in Cheyenne, WY...finally arriving in RC at about 11pm only to find that the kid's car seats were left... somewhere between Seattle and Salt Lake City...)

What I didn't count on, though, was that this little exercise in Zen Nothingness created a sense of emotional detachment... I, my identity, my sense of connection, my creativity were all on hold. I didn't realize it fully until reaching Fort Robinson where the ghosts of Buffalo Soldiers, frightened pioneers, Japanese POWs, captured/murdered Lakota Sioux, and self righteous cavalrymen, jostled dreams and slipped around darkened corners as we inhabited their spaces. My children slept fitfully, my oldest wandering the halls looking for her bed several times. My husband unconsciously shaved his beard in the fashion of the officers who had lived in the same adobe quarters we slept. My relatives spoke in hushed tones and generally felt a sense of unease about the layers and layers of history - there was no strong sense of right or wrong there at the Fort - pioneers needed the soldiers to create safe passage and secure their ability to make a living in a region where no one had farmed ever... the Sioux needed the land to rove, hunt, live as they always had, following the seasons and the land in ways that can only be learned through centuries of experience. The Buffalo Soldiers were there to prove their hearts as brave and as worthy as whites, while the Japanese POWs bided their time until the end of the war... I know little of their story, muffled as it was beneath the older, more painful tales...

These are the things I learned after I realized I was not really present while on vacation. There was the promised ease that came from being so detached, but I think I missed things... what did Mount Rushmore /feel/ like as I searched the landscape to see what Washington viewed and how it differed from what Roosevelt saw in the distance. How did the land cope with the tunneling created by the Needles Highway and what possessed the engineers of the pigtail bridges to move in circles instead of in straight lines as 'normal'? And then there were the Relations that visited - the sparkling hummingbird, the skittish antelope, and the curmudgeonly, flatulent skunk who 'greeted' us as we drove from the mountains to Custer in search of food or souvenirs - what were their messages I missed?

Once again, I was reminded that to not be myself, to not be that strange mix of jittering creative energy and anal-retentive focus, even if it means that I tire myself out easily, is to risk missing meeting the world fully, experiencing my life as my own life.

A 'teacher of the Secret' once expounded on the efficacy of the Curly Factor (Think Jack Palance in City Slickers and his 'one thing' philosophy). "Be a monomaniac" the teacher encourages "Pick one thing and stick to it like a first class postage stamp until you arrive" (okay...maybe I'm mixing my philosophers here a bit).

I get that - I've seen it in others. Being the expert in one thing means excellence. And it also means sacrificing the possibility of being an expert in a bunch of things (which really is pretty impossible for most, I think). But there's also a layered richness that's lost in being so focused. Focused in the sense of narrowly-viewing.

I like the periphery, the nearly seen, the almost heard. I like bringing those things together and finding the stories. Somehow I don't think monomania would bring me that richness.

But here, in this moment, I also realize that I've short changed the ideal of Zen, the Middle Path, of Balance. Yes, there will be moments of being really focused and then there will be moments of openness. And somewhere between no work and ohmigoshIvevolunteeredagain, there's honoring the work I've been given and living up to the responsibilities of being a mom, wife, and writer.

Kel Agodon writes a really good review of Mothertalk which sounds like it gets this concept down of juggling creativity and living. Looks like a good read, but even so, the review will have to suffice for now. I'm going to choose to honor the choices I've made this last year - ie. read the books I've already bought, write the papers and stories I've already sketched out, finish the chores I already have in mind, before taking on anything, Anything, ANYthing, new.

Really.

No... really.

This is where I have to set aside my Filipino nature of social compatibility for a more American sense of individuality.

It'll be entertaining at least to try.

8/25/2007

Returning

Just back from our South Dakota/Nebraska-Family Reunion/Great American Adventure.

It's good to be home.

Hot back there, but not as hot as it could have been. In fact, we arrived during a storm and we left during a storm, so I guess that means we gifted the area with Washington hospitality (ie. rains... rains... more rains).

Saw Rushmore, Jewel Cave, Crazy Horse, Mammoth Dig, and Toadstool Park. Stayed at Sylvan Lake Lodge near Custer, SD and Fort Robinson, NB. Visited with 50 relatives on DL's side, two gravesites, and were visited by many Relations (Buffalo, Antelope, Owl, Chipmunk, Hummingbird....).

It was good to be away for a few days, even better to be back home. I'm feeling more focused and energized - inspired, really, to get projects organized and worked on fairly methodically. I have several overdue projects that I thought abandoned before vacation, but now I'm feeling the need to complete them, even if only for the sake of completing them.

Got a fair amount of insight into the novel and a few notes/sketches done for the chap - both good things.

Best, though, on that front was reading American Gods by Neil Gaiman - I highly recommend it! He takes that theme of What happened to the gods of the old world when the immigrants came to America and brings it around deftly. He laid a bunch of great threads out in the first half of the book and it was incredible to see him weave them all back together again by the end. Little things. Things that could have easily been left as just background material. But there are no wasted themes, characters, moments in Gaiman's book. Pretty cool to watch a master at his work. And his Acknowledgments were almost as interesting as the book - that's the kind of support system I hope to create for myself as time goes on.

Next, I'd like to pick up Anasazi Boys, but I have Peter and the Starcatchers to read first, then all the books I've picked up since the beginning of the year that I've not gotten to...

It was my birthday about a week ago, and I'm feeling very much like it's a New Year for me, resolutions and all.

All and all, though, I'm pretty happy about everything that's humming in my life.

8/15/2007

Dreaming

Gura mentions dreaming recently

I dreamed early this morning. A True Dream. One of those dreams you know happened someplace else, sometime else, but happened, because you don't have dream-memories, but real memories, that faint taste on the tongue, that sense of needing to be elsewhere to finish what was started.

It was a hero's dream, saving a group from a bad leader, taking the rap for sending the leader packing because it's the Rule and if you break the Rules then bad things happen - you cease being a good leader, a good hero. Then came the part where we faced off the Big Baddy who was hiding in the library. Me and my crew of Newbies, the scars of punishment still stinging, bleeding, healing. Didn't matter - the Big Bad had to go and we were the ones to do it. Just hope we didn't lose any one in the process.

I've been thinking Babaylan of late, having found Sayaw Bathala and other pointers to Babaylan work/magery. I connected with babaylan I hadn't in months, hope to connect with more. It's working it's way into the novel and it's working its way into healing old wounds I carry. All good things. Amazing, actually.

Tomorrow I head off to Seattle to catch a plane to South Dakota Friday for DH's family reunion/50th Anniversary celebration. It's swealtering hot there and yet again, I'm sure I'll be reminded that I might /look/ like an island girl, but I'm NW skin to bone.

8/12/2007

Honoring Lolo

I met Gregg last Spring at the National Conference of the Philippine Scouts Historic Society. There he told me that he had been working hard to bring recognition to his lolo's service in the US Army and he hoped that the contacts he had made at the conference would help. I'm glad to know things are turning out well for him as his family.

Filipino War Hero to be Remembered at Arlington National Cemetery…

After six years of sometimes frustrating effort, Gregg Baltazar Timbol received an important post card: “This is to inform you that the memorial marker has been received at Arlington National Cemetery.”

Sixty years ago Gregg’s Filipino grandfather, Corporal Fernando Baltazar, was killed in action fighting for the United States at the beginning of World War II. On January 23, 1942 Corporal Baltazar’s unit, the 45th Infantry Regiment, Philippine Scouts, was ordered into the front line on Luzon Island in the Philippines to attack a Japanese regiment that made an amphibious landing on the rocky cliffs of Bataan Peninsula in the dead of night.

The battle raged on in the dense jungle for more than a week and although the 45th was ultimately successful in driving the Japanese force back over the cliffs and into the sea, many men were killed. Corporal Baltazar’s body was never recovered. The Army posthumously awarded him the Bronze Star for his bravery in combat, and the Purple Heart for his fatal wounds.

Fernando’s three young daughters were left orphans and there was no one to arrange a memorial service for him.

Having heard the story of his grandfather’s bravery as he was growing up, Gregg Baltazar Timbol, decided to do something about it. He began in 2000 by applying for U.S. citizenship for his grandfather. Non-citizen soldiers killed in action in the U.S. Army are sometimes eligible for posthumous citizenship, a special honor which does not convey benefits but recognizes the soldier’s personal sacrifice.
The application was first delayed, then denied because a fire at the National Personnel Records Center in 1973 had destroyed Fernando Baltazar’s Army records. Gregg re-submitted the application through Senator Dianne Feinstein’s office and it has again been denied, but Gregg is submitting another appeal.

During this process Maxine McLean, a member of the Philippine Scouts Heritage Society whose father commanded Fernando Baltazar’s unit, urged Gregg to contact the National Battle Monuments Commission to see if his grandfather could be honored at Arlington National Cemetery.

Gregg submitted the application on April 30, and got a quick response. Just after the 4th of July, 2007 Arlington installed a marker commemorating Corporal Fernando Baltazar. On August 14 Gregg, his family, and any others who wish to join them will attend a U.S. Army memorial service at Arlington National Cemetery, Washington, D.C., honoring the bravery and sacrifice of Corporal Fernando Baltazar, more than sixty years ago.

8/08/2007

Thanatos and Aletheia

Been musing about Thanatos in the frame of Eros - it's proving to be a bit tougher to think about 'living outside the body.'

There've been convergences, though, of note... the novel came back from the freelance editor a couple of weeks ago and I got a chance to chat with her about it on the phone. There's alot of work to be done to get it through the next draft, but I knew that. Thankfully she had both good comments and good guidance on how to get through this next stage.

One of the niggling problems that I'm still working out is this idea of Redemption - how are deaths used in fiction to redeem a character or show how a character is truly irredeemable? I think of the deaths in Harry Potter 7, which characters died believing in their cause, which ones didn't, which ones realized at the last moment that they were on the wrong side of the battle and died nobly, how redemption and resurrection are tied in many myths and stories, not just in Christianity.

What makes a character redeemable? Why is redemption such a theme in our universal consciousness? Is the purpose of Thanatos to create that space where we can see the potential for and act accordingly toward redemption?

Thanatos is about perspective, I think, of being able to look back in totality, not just forward and guessing the future through the experiences of the past. From Thanatos, we can see what choices we've made and how those choices lead to other choices and how the choices of others molded our Eros experiences into what they became and later who we became as a result of those experiences.

***

Is retelling myths, then about taking that Thanatos perspective and bringing it forward? Thanatos is often linked with Lethe, a river of Styx and the opposite of 'lethe' in Greek is aletheia - unforgetfulness/unconcealment. Stealing from Thanatos, reversing Lethe, then is an act of remembering, of bringing forward that which has been concealed.

I can't think of a better way to describe the process of decolonization actually.

***

And thinking of the sound "aletheia" reminds me that I once had an RPG character named Althea Weaver. She was a tailor... and weaving always makes me think of the Fates and Arachne who was transformed into a spider for daring to portray the Greek gods unfavorably in her tapestries, of Penelope who wove and unwove her tapestry to keep suitors at bay and by extension, Odysseus alive.

***

And myths remind me of my recent searches for Sarimanok stories and finding the blog of Francis Tanglao-Aguas and wishing I could have seen his performance in Hawaii, seen him shake hands with Elizabeth II.

***

And Hawaii and Telling remind me of Grace's work and how Telling is healing and power-filled and affirming and world-changing.

***

And I have my own thoughts on how all this applies to sex and sexuality and reclamation of identity, but that's for a different essay, a different time.

***

Because the little sleep is upon me now and I need to rest.

Bebot Real

Controversy aside, this is my favorite vid of BEPs Bebot. Apl's dancing rocks and his mom is one cool Bebot herself.