Random Things

Marianne tagged me earlier this month and I suspect by extension Ver also tagged me, so here's seventeen random things about me.

1. I love memes. I find them very addicting.

2. I try to avoid memes. They're very addicting.

3. I usually, eventually, do what I'm asked to do.

4. That comes from 10 years of Catholic school, I think.

5. Kindergarten at public school was pretty fun.

6. Middle public school was not very fun.

7. I've had hair down to my waist twice in my life.

8. I cut my hair about two months ago.

9. I'm on my second hairstyle.

10. I look like something out of an 80's hair band.

11. I can't decide whether to try another cut or call my current look my "growing out stage."

12. I thought Star Wars was the weirdest looking movie I'd ever seen a trailer for.

13. Star Wars is one of my favorite movies.

14. Return of the Jedi wasn't bad.

15. The rest of the franchise was obviously written by the few misinformed midichlorians flowing through Jar Jar Bink's slobber.

16. I am hoping to rent Clone Wars soon.

17. I think this makes me an optimist.


Seventeen. That wasn't hard at all. I think I could have gone on for quite a few more random things...cause I can talk Star Wars for /days/.

Since my stats show I only get about an average of 6 hits a day, I think I'm hard pressed to find 17 people to tag. So instead, look to your right, scroll down, and check out someone from my blogroll. They're all really cool people.

Next: Lynda Barry


Wisdom from the Margins

The thing about new routines is that they're like new plants - when the environment changes and becomes unstable, it's really hard to keep new things growing and deepening, and there's nothing more unstabling for me than 2 foot of snow over Christmas.

We've come through it all okay. We had a wonderful Christmas at home with new friends and did a bunch of house cleaning/sorting. We're all adjusting to the fact, though, that we weren't able to do the traveling that we wanted to and that for about 10 days we wondered "are we going to make it up/down the hill today or should we just stay put?" I feel like we've been in a holding pattern and just now landing and figuring out what can be done with the last few days of the year.

Spent most of the weekend dredging out my bookshelves which meant a lot of soul-searching. I realized that I have so many unread books on my shelf that even if I read a book a week for two years, I wouldn't finish them all. Yes, I'm a bookaholic. So then came the sorting, facing the fact that I wasn't going to be able to read all the books I had bought and setting new criteria for what I'd keep and what I'd pitch. It wasn't fun, but it wasn't as devestating as I thought it would be.

Ironically, it made me feel rather wealthy realizing I had more books than I could conceivably read, that life is quite abundant for me and that's a really nice feeling. I have more than enough resources to get done what I envision now, and those projects could take a few years to finish. It made it easier to let go of stuff.

It also allowed me a chance to group things together (exactly how many books on characterization does a writer need anyway?) and remember some texts I had started but not finished. Katrin DeGuia's Kapwa was among them and seeing it reminded me of the Four Agreements and a bunch of other books I've read over the years which talk about indigineous and traditional belief systems.

In all cases, it seems, there's this sense of 'going back,' of getting to the essential, the stuff that has been cluttered by modernity and politics and structuralism.

It always bothered me a bit, especially in the heigh-day of the New Age, where 'white folk' looked to 'colored folk' for wisdom. When did people of color become the keepers of wisdom tasked with teaching their 'masters' the error of their ways?

I realized recently that part of that search has to do with the lack of language in the dominant paradigm to adequately describe 'otherness' and 'difference.'

Here's the thing - if we need a system to address everybody's experience and everybody's longing and everybody's encounters with the sacred then that system is going to be pretty...generic. The system becomes complicated and convoluted because the system isn't designed to address difference - only sameness. The trouble comes from the fact that humans are all unique and that difference from sameness creates fear and fear mixed with power or lack of power creates conflict.

Trouble is, we forget that the system, the dominant paradigm isn't designed to handle difference. It's only able to handle sameness. So even if a person comes pretty close to having similiar attributes to the sameness established by the system, there will be times that person will feel outside and different. Could be a small thing, like a preference for cinnamon ice cream and the lack of that flavor at an ice cream shop, but still there's that shift to 'outside' and 'different.'

But there's no language in the system to account for this, other than words and stories about 'outside' and 'different' that calls for adjustment, usually on the part of the individual.

Being able to celebrate difference, having the supporting stories for difference, and seeing other differences supported and celebrated - these are the things we look for when we try encounter artistic expressions and explorations that are indigenous by nature.

Where I get troubled, though, in finding teachers and books who work in these spaces, is the idea of 'authenticity.' What makes an authentic FilAm experience? What is authentic indigenous Filipino art? Is there authentic North Puget Sound culture present in 2008? Who are the keepers of authenticity? What claims of authenticity can I make about what I do and the path I follow?

I think authenticity goes back to that generic sensibility, the imposition of the same cultural rules and regulations as those placed on the dominant. "Authenticity mavens" create an 'other,' a binary by saying "this is authentic, this is not," with no regard for intention, respect, or community.

I'm coming into a space where 'indigenous' means 'inclusion' - everyone contributing to an experience of art, everyone's story being part of the whole. This is a challenging place to be, because I know I'll encounter folks and art that I don't think 'belongs' to me, but I guess I have to remember that nothing belongs to me. I am a participant or not a participant - that's my point of choice.

Anyway, language - when I read the work of Katrin or Leny or Barbara Jane or Gaiman or DeLint or Bach or the Chatelaine or any of the others I list on my blogroll, I'm looking for resonant language.

Resonance. Language. Inclusion. Choice.

These are the bits of wisdom I find at the margins.

Next: Random Things


Exercise is Not a Four-Letter Word

"Sit down as we relive our lives in what we tell you." - Genesis, Home by the Sea

Heard it on the way into work today. Haven't listened to the album in ages.

The lyric struck me - this is what happens when we gather oral history, get folks to sit down and tell stories on themselves, on each other.

This time of year is ripe for that sort of connection, that strengthening of kapwa-tao. Tao Po!/Tuloy! - I am a human being. Come share my world.

Can't say for sure what my ancestors from warmer islands gave for a reason to sit down this time of year, before the Spanish came, before the Muslim came, before the reckoning of a specific grouping of days as a cycle of life. I think it's rainy season in the Philippines - I was there once over Christmas/New Years, but I was six then and my memories are about green grass being pulled up as weeds and the fire that nearly leveled the town. I'm pretty sure, though, there would be times to do this, sit down and listen to each other tell the stories of our lives.

'Round here, cold times meant slowing down, bringing life from outdoors to indoors, gathering around a fire, doing the things to preserve life during winter, mend things that were broken, and most of all tell stories.

Reliving life, the time spent in the last few months, and reflecting.

Reflection isn't about /producing/ anything. It's not about /investigating/ or /questioning/ even. It's more about saying This is what happened. Look, we survived. I think I learned this. I think I want to do the same/different.

And most importantly, we /ask/ each other - How about you?

But it doesn't happen in a void, it happens in community - here's the thing you might not know about me, about this place, about how I'm connected to you and this patch of earth and this community and this memory/these memories.

An expansion/further meditation on Collaborative Storytelling, in a sense, but before, I'd only seen oral history as a one-way transmission, forgetting that in the act of Telling we have the opportunity to relive something lost/forgotten, to gain perspective and meaning from that. Giving and receiving all at once.

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So...this post was supposed to be on how Exercise is not a four-letter word.

It's a habit of mind, I realize, that the post above, the spontaneous meditation born of a significant moment (i.e. inspiration) is what I really love the most. Something strikes me, sends me to the keyboard, gives me a moment of panic that the feeling will slip away before I reach my computer, wait for it to fire up, and locate my blog. I write and think at the same time, no pausing, except to hear/listen to what the moment is doing to my brain, my body, changing my experience into something new. It's exhilarating.

As opposed to exercise.

I know it's really about the way I've approached exercise, in writing and in physical movement. It's not spontaneous - it has to be scheduled and planned in with everything else. It's usually rigorous so the body doesn't get lopsided and the mind stretches to new places without snapping back in painful brain cramps or emotional tailspins.

I know it's "good for me" which isn't really a good motivator for someone who tends to put themselves last on the list, who prefers signature hot chocolotes over say fruit-n-protein smoothies.

But I'm learning to exercise and finding that moving/writing for the sake of exercise is a good thing. Like reflection, exercise doesn't /produce/ anything, at least not right away, but it does /feel/ good (after the initial - ohmygoshIamsooutofshape). It's something to do just for myself.

So, I got a Wii last summer and I've been getting better about getting on the board and putting in the time. I signed up for a weekly writing exercise class -

- the last session, some weird stuff came out - everything from Aswangs talking with Silkies and other characters from nearly every Filipino folktale I know. It was a long sentence, kind of creepy in a Neil Gaiman-Coraline sort of way. But I also got a cool bead on a piece about my Lolo...still stalking that one carefully. Early work is so easily spooked.

The playshop/class (at Nancy Canyon Studios) is great for generating new material and that's what I think the next few months before I start into the MFA track again will be about - gathering as much new stuff as I can and practicing...sort of like the MFA is a marathon I'm training for. There's no instruction, per se, just three exercises - first, five minutes of short sentences; second, ten minutes of chained sentences; third, twenty minutes of a single, continuous sentence.

Anyway, been off the Wii for almost a week now due to sickishness, but maybe tonight I'll get on that board, just for today and that will be good.

Next: Wisdom from the Margins


The Miraculous Journey of BunBun the Bunny

T-minus 4 days to The Tale of Despereaux. I have great hopes for the movie, although from the trailers, I can already see that they've added scenes that weren't in the book (I think...darn, I'll have to read it again. :) What I loved best about this story is how Despereaux fell in love with books and became a better creature because of them.

Kate DiCamillo is one of those marvelous authors who not only knows how to tell a good story for children but knows how to tell a good story for the child-within-us. She believes in courage and hope and all the things we wish life could be like, but at the same time recognizes that sometimes, oftentimes, it takes struggle to attain those jewels. Adventure is part and parcel of her work and recent events coupled with the release of the movie, puts another book of hers, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane.

Edward Tulane was a china bunny who learned how to love and be loved, and I imagine BunBun was much the same. She left us one post-Easter a few years back, finding herself out of favor momentarily, sent to live with another family via Goodwill. Sadly, her owner regretted sending BunBun away bitterly and often cried herself to sleep wondering where BunBun could be. We discovered Edward Tulane's story about a year after BunBun left our house and we often comforted ourselves with the knowledge that somewhere, BunBun was having adventures of her own, perhaps as a tramp on a train or as a companion to a sick child.

But the loss of BunBun was heavy on the heart of her original owner and many tears were shed both in sadness and worry. Three years, she was gone, then miraculously, just like in the book, BunBun returned home, but thankfully before her first owner had grown too old to hold her close at night, never to shed a tear over her again. The tale ends with great joy as BunBun reveals to her first owner the many places she's gone - Paris, France; Wisconsin, South Dakota - to name a few.

And much rejoicing was had in our house.

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A mother's addendum - if you ever find yourself needing to find a special stuffy, seek the many eyes and warm hearts of Plush Memories Lost Toys Search Service. They also found a 'younger brother' of another beloved companion whose worn ears and never-quite-clean cloth are the badges of 11 years of loving and comfort.

Next: Exercise is Not a Four Letter Word


Ladders to the Moon

(* We pre-empt our regularly scheduled column for the following announcement. *)

Ladders to the Moon: Solstice Concert Series

What Does Compassion Sound Like

Through Music, Dance, and Stories from Around the World

December 21, 2008

4:30 to 6:00 Family Performance
7:00 to 9:00 General Performance

Firehouse Performing Arts Center
1314 Harris Avenue, Bellingham, WA

Suggested Donation $10.00 per Family Group: $5.00 per Individual Per performance at the Door

Featuring: Raven Dancer Gene Tagaban with

Cindy Minkler, Mockingbird, Bolor Smith, Rebecca Saxton,* Dudley and Dean Evenson, Gail and Becca Smeadley, Annilise Kamola, and Doug Banner

We will be creating the sense of the village coming together for the evening of storytelling. Bring your blankets and pillows as we will be sitting on the floor in a great circle around the performers.

Seating is limited (only 90 seats)

This event is sponsored as a collaboration of The Bellingham Compassion Movement, The Sound Essence Project, The Bellingham Storytellers Guild, Allied Arts of Whatcom County, Compassion Action Network, and other sponsors.

For more information contact: bhamstoryguild@comcast.net or 360-820-9631

* I'll be performing at the 4:30 event, but likely will stay for both.


Doug writes:

In East Africa, it is said, there is a certain tribal people who, when commemorating events of collective and communal importance, call for ‘a night of storytelling.’ The traditional opening formula ought to be enough to alert one to be ready for a magical evening.

The occasion might be a birth, a marriage or a funeral or perhaps a harvest or some other calendar, seasonal, solar, lunar or stellar event. For the sake of this story, let’s say it is the Winter Solstice. The event will begin at sundown – and is to happen in a special place such as the Firehouse Performing Arts center. Already the story is counseling us that storytelling can have a ritual aspect as well as a casual aspect.

The storytelling has already begun: it began on the way there, in fact it may even have begun when the announcement of the event was made.

When everyone is foregathered in the special place, then, as the sun bleeds into the west, someone commanding respect comes forward and utters the equivalent of : Friends we are gathered here this day to celebrate peace and compassion...’ And so, as the stars begin to shine through the dark cloth of dreams, the formalised storytelling commences.

First the stories of the ‘dear departed friend’: anecdotes about the mischief he or she got up to, reminiscences of the bold and generous deeds they did. As the moon rises, perhaps the stories move to his or her ancestors, ‘He was so like his father’ and ‘Do you remember the time when...?’ But then someone says, ‘Old George here, he’d hate to have us all moping around his coffin. Do you remember that joke he used to tell about the bloke who goes into the pub and sees a tiny feller playing a miniature piano on the shelf behind the bar...?’ And so traditional narratives – passed on, collectively owned and shared – make their presence felt. Jokes turn and spin, perhaps eventually clustering around a culture hero such as Duncan Williamson’s ‘Donald Archie Dougal Douglas McLean’, or Nasreddin Hoja, or Brudda Nancy. These become the stories of the folk – we, you, many and I: the rich and the poor; the wise and the foolish; the old and the young; men and women; rural and urban; and all those vain, conceited, hopeless hypocrites who meet their reflection in the owl glass...

The moon is rising high, and someone says, ‘But there are more things on heaven and earth than are dreamed of in your philosophies’ (Horatio). Then stories of ‘the otherworld’ begin: stories of spirits and ‘My Life in the Bush of Ghosts’, etc. All are ‘legends’ that have a toehold in the landscape of here and now.

Then someone starts ‘Once upon a time’ signalling that the toehold has gone: the stories are now ultimately metaphorical, their world is an inner one - the land where we stand, where North, South, West and East meet; where the false-mothers, ogres, weak kings, beggar-guides and middle brothers are all aspects of ourselves as we journey through inner landscapes of swamp and desert, dark pit and high mountain. These ‘wonder tales’, beloved of Freud and Jung (and, after them, so many other mythopoetical thinkers) aim to make us wonder about the nature of the energy dancing unobserved in our inner, subconscious, passion play.

The moon is at its zenith. Someone says, ‘...but we owe the fact that we are free to assemble here on such a night, in peace, to our ancestors: they who first brought our people to this valley.’ And then the tales of the legendary ancestors begin, they who achieved great things – with help from higher forces – their faith, the spirit world and the deities. These stories begin to suggest a bridge between this world and the manifest forces of fate and destiny that govern it. Yet, perhaps the ancestors are barely mentioned as the stories move now to Epic, fully fledged episodes in which larger-than-life heroes and heroines collide with each other and with the Gods, all driven by the chaos of an emotional life painted eternally loud and clear - and all too familiar.

And then, as the moon dips to the horizon and prepares to leave the skies, so the humans barely feature in the stories. The stories have become the exclusive domain of the gods: pure expressions of knowledge, passion, force and logos incarnate.

As the dawn breaks in the Eastern sky, the stories have become myths of creation, speaking of how-and-why the world was created, how-and-why humans were put into it, and how-and-why it is that we die. As the sun rises we find we have travelled during the night from stories detailing the incidents of our individual lives to vast stories that strive to understand the cosmic purpose of the humanity to which we belong. With the daybreak, we return to the quotidian, the everyday: a reality enhanced by imagined metaphors suggesting purpose, possibility and hope.

The Night of Stories makes a journey of ever increasing perspective. It is a little like those wonderful books of aerial photography that show someone sunbathing, and then someone sunbathing in a garden, and then a garden in a suburb, and then a suburb in a city and then a city in a county and then a county in a country, etc, until you are left drifting up there in a universe of tiny flecks of radiant and reflected light. Funnily enough such books are no more than the brilliant contemporary equivalent of the traditional cumulative form of a nursery tale such as, ‘The House that Jack Built’: ‘This is the sun that rose with the dawn, to call the cock to crow on the morn, to wake the master with horse, hound and horn, to summon the priest all shaven and shorn,’ etc. The individual perspective gradually yields to the cosmic perspective.


Collaborative Storytelling

As Swil Kanim has been known to say a time or two...

A looooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooong time ago...

...there was a Teller who decided she wanted to focus on her writing, to commit herself so fully to her art that she would reduce her life to three things only - writing, family, and work.

Now this Teller had heard tales that if you do what you love, the money would follow, and she dreamed that once she started her MFA, the need for a bread job would fall away. She knew that focusing on school would mean giving up things like TV watching, leisurely weekends with the family, and other 'smaller' stuff. She figured Telling fell into that 'smaller' stuff category too, so hung up her Teller vest (just for a couple of years) and set to reading and writing.

For six months, she tried to balance the Three, compromising family and work where she could to carve out time for writing, new writing, old writing, any writing, and lots of reading. At first it seemed to all come together...then work needed more and family needed more, and the Teller realized that she liked the stability her bread job offered and liked spending leisurely weekends with her family and that when these two other things didn't quite happen, not matter how much time she carved out for writing, the writing didn't happen. Coursework deadlines loomed and there was nothing on the screen. Or on the page. Or in the brain.

So, like any good Teller, she shook her bag of tales and spread them out on her bed, looking for clues to what ailed her. Because stories are medicine too. And she picked up the time for walking downtown and she picked up the time to bring work home to finish and she picked up time for, of all things, Telling.

Now this Teller is shy. Uncertain, really, and often only Tells when asked. So she wasn't expecting to Tell that First Friday in November - she'd gone to support another Teller breaking new ground with original work. But then One Crazy Raven came hopping over for a hug and asked. "Have you got a story tonight?" And she said "Yes."

Alitaptap is the housefly who becomes the firefly, and that night the Teller remembered the part of her story she'd set aside, the part she realized she needed in order to /be/ a writer. She lived a dream, a story told in shadows of a moment in the light, sharing the stage with two of her heroes. The moment had nothing and everything to do with writing, and like the Skyking, the Teller plucked a star from the sky and lit up the night, remembering what Telling meant to her.

So the Teller and the Telling came back, both on the stage and in gaming. She carved a new path and wonder of wonders, things shifted and moved into familiar but well-supported spaces where work and family and writing and Telling could all exist together.

The rest became toilet paper

(and if you didn't get that last, you've gotta see Swil Kanim tell his Tree Story)


Collaborative Storytelling

It's what we do everyday, the thing we live and experience without knowing it. We build stories with others at work, at home, at school, at play, even shopping. We tell ourselves stories, imagine other's stories, witness stories in progress, help stories move in new directions, hopefully better ones.

It's what good Tellers do when they perform together - That First Friday with Gene, we told stories about being different and celebrating our differences. We were still high from Obama's win and believed (still believe) that Yes We Can make change, change for the good, while knowing it will take work. Lots of work.

Two Friday's later at the Fireside doing our Tellebration Gig, we mixed personal stories with old tales, some true folktales, some true original stories. Didn't matter - with the drums and the dancing and the wild gestures - we were all making stories, drinking stories to make our lives richer and remind us what forgiveness and courage can do.

It's what on-line Role-Players do, gaming on MUSHs and MU's, creating and living as characters in made up worlds, using pixels and their imaginations to advance themes and tell stories to one another. We bring out the best in each other while we play and when we play well, the story grows and shifts as if there were only one narrator. We're all heroes and hero-makers.

The coolest, bestest thing about Telling these ways is that there's no rehearsal, no script, no set way that things have to be done. You know a story, you know a character, you gauge the audience, you assess your strength, you reach for what you think you need from the story (which invariably is the thing the audience needs from the story) and you go.

You unreel it, slowly at first, building momentum, getting feedback from the listeners, shifting the story, dropping a new gag here, covering a fumble there, and it comes out - maybe not perfect - but exactly what it needs to be. That's magic touching reality. Nothing more, nothing less.

Collaborative Storytelling

What story are you telling yourself today? Does it serve you or make you suffer? Does is bring the best out in others or oppress them? What story are you being told today? How can you change that story for the better, create the changes you dream, find the support you need? What story are you making with others? What theme are you all bringing forward, reinforcing, growing, bringing to light?

As Grandmother of One Crazy Raven once said -

Your life is a story, make it a good one.

Next: The Miraculous Journey of BunBun the Bunny


Happy New Year!

A few days late, but things always get a bit busier this time of year, eh?

Sunday was the first day of Advent and technically the first day of the new liturgical year. In all my days at Catholic school plus the last few my gals have attended, I've not felt like Advent was the start of a new year. This year though, I really felt it, the Beginnings as the first child of the new year was baptised and the first purple candle of the wreath was lit.

Perhaps I needed to start over a bit earlier than the Gregorian reckoning. It's been a rough 6+ weeks with the rearrangement of a great many plans, not the least of which was/is my MFA.

I'm still pursuing my MFA, but I'm switching programs to one more local that has residencies only once a year instead of twice. Most of the last few weeks have been mourning and grieving (and gnashing of teeth early on, saying goodbye overly late), but I'm now looking forward as one usually does at the beginning of a year. The change will mean de-emphasizing some projects and dusting off others, but mostly creating *new* material.

I'm rolling around the idea of "writing for myself," something I've been encouraged to do by more than one mentor recently. I'm remaking the story behind that phrase - the old story has stuff like "write for yourself - cause no one else really cares" or "write for yourself - cause you'll never make a living off something so obscure/common-place" or "write for yourself - cause who else will listen to what you have to say?"

I picked up a copy of Lynda Barry's What It Is. Lynda is a hapa-pinay...I found her because of a post on one of my FilAm forums. I don't clearly remember the post, but what stuck was her name, her drawing, and her book. She questions a lot, questions, questions, questions, and I love that because it opens up rather than narrowing into a specific 'writer's intent.' By the time I got to the section "Writing the Unthinkable," I began to remember that "writing for myself" was what I used to do - I wrote to tell myself stories.

Fear and Doubt, they're always asking questions too, but ones that close down rather than open up, and Barry reveals the only answer that stops their questions:

I Don't Know.

I don't know if this is any good, or if the plot is all messed up, or if the character should be gay or straight, or if a theme is over-wrought even before it's finished.

But I want to find out - what happens, who are they, why do I care, what do they become?

I'm interested in failures and redemption, how communities heal and harm, where magic and reality meet and blur. I'm interested in telling my story, the stories I've heard, the stories I need to hear.

So this year, I'll be writing for myself, cause I don't know, but I want to find out what the stories are and where they go.

Next: Collaborative Storytelling