I suppose I should suck it up and become a writer after all.

So let’s say one had reason for a midsummer day’s trip to the library, because one had a couple of items on hold and one just finished another wonderful novel by the fabulous Marion Zimmer Bradley, and one is craving more fantasy.  Why did is that woman no longer alive, btw???  Amazing female fantasy writers who re-envision foundational mythologies should be immortal.

Digression aside, said individual, upon perusal of the fantasy/sci fi section of her local library, finds that not only are a mere 1/10 of the books in this already small section written by women, but NEARLY ALL of those 10% are something along the line of paranormal detective romances.  Yuck.  (no offense to those that like this genre; to each their own).  So our brave lover of literature to do?

1. She-hulk SMASH!

Image

2. Become the writer she’s always wanted to be and create the things she wants to read.  Not that there aren’t fantastic current and past female fantasy/sci fi writers out there, but the ratio is still HORRIBLE.

So lady friends and other wonderful, chronically underrepresented people: be critical of our culture and then CREATE THE WORLD YOU WANT TO SEE.

Right Now I’m Reading: Barbara Kingsolver

High Tide in Tucson cover

I historically never was one for essays.  I’m far too addicted to the drama of novels and the in depth intellectualism of well written nonfiction.  But recently I find myself drawn to short stories and collections of essays.  Perhaps it is a deficit in attention span, my brain unwilling to commit to follow through.  But perhaps it is also (or instead) an appreciate for the succinct, the simple, the ability of a writer to capture meaning in merely a few pages.  Barbara Kingsolver does just this in her essay collection from the mid 90s, High Tide in Tucson.

A marvelous collection of pieces that is at once academic and emotional, Barbara eloquently recreates moments in time, from wild pigs uprooting her Arizona garden to the silently horrifying experience of touring an old missile site outside Tucson.  The latter essay spoke to me in particular in its wild array of reactions and reflections, from calculated observation of statistics on nuclear spending in the United States to raw grief.

“Why did I not scream at the top of my lungs down in that hole?”

Barbara has held a high place for years in my list of favorite authors, particularly Prodigal Summer, and remains so despite many years of many marvelous tales, triumphs, and tragedies.  A key element of this standing is Barbara’s quiet encouragement of the reader (and, I would argue, an aspiring writer such as myself) to both think critically and feel deeply.  Far too many authors fall one one side or the other of this false dichotomy, either relishing in overwrought emotionality or denying the feeling brain in favor of the cerebral.  As a human being, an activist, and a creator of any number of things I value fellow creators that can hold both of these things as Barbara does, a precarious balance to be sure, but one that is critical to our humanity.

My Sacred Intention

Though I ravenously read Starhawk’s The Fifth Sacred Thing many months ago, it has taken me all this time to pick up any of her other books.  And the reason for doing so is silly, but deeply rooted: my upbringing has given me an illogical but very present aversion to anything Wiccan/Pagan.  Which is absurd because I find much more truth, both personal and universal, in the feminist spiritual system of energies and elements than in the sterile, separatist Judeo-Christian system of my heritage.

At long last I got Starhawk’s Earth Path: Grounding Your Spirit in the Rhythms of Nature from the library, and I am loving it.  It’s not the sort of book one necessarily needs to read front to back, but rather I am opening to sections spontaneously and appreciating the personal stories, universal insights, and practices that Starhawk shares.

This morning, while idly sipping my coffee and enjoying a breakfast of local eggs and a perfectly ripe nectarine in the long awaited cool breeze after last night’s storm, I was reading through the chapter entitled ‘The Sacred’.  Toward the end I arrived at an exercise to meditate and write on one’s sacred intention, and rather than read it and move on, I decided to take the time to ponder what my personal sacred intention might be.  It is far to easy to think ‘oh, I’ve already thought about those things’, but enormously beneficial when such habit energies are overcome in order to actually consider what and why I think what I do.  Following is my meditation- responses would be much appreciated, either on your own sacred intention or thoughts on mine.

Connectedness is sacred to me- as Tait said at the ED/CO retreat, it is the secular religion.  I believe in and want to support/create: connectedness of people to their own bodies and emotional experiences, people to each other and the larger human community, people to the vast multitudes of other beings, and people to the spirit, the sacred, the larger truth and beauty of the universe.

I want to take a stand for connectedness, feel the need to do so deep in my bones and spirit, but am often not sure how to do so because it is such a vague thing to explain while also being deeply personal and experiential to me.

A world where connectedness was cherished would be glorious and sustainable.  Leaders and politicians would feel truly accountable to those they speak on behalf of.  The disparity of wealth would essential disappear because individuals would recognize and know how to enact the fact that the health and wealth of one is dependent on the health and wealth of the community.  People would be intentional about their choices in everything from what they consume to what they choose as their vocation to how they educate themselves, and such intentionality wouldn’t be overwhelming, but rather seen as an opportunity to better understand the vast web we live in.

I desperately and wholeheartedly want to help bring this world into being, and I long for guidance as to how to do so.  My current work, both as community organizer and urban community house organizer, does not feel in conflict with creating a world where connectedness is sacred, but neither does it feel like the best use of my energies.

I feel blocked in doing this work by the enormity of the systems that are in opposition to a world that cherishes connectedness, by apathy of so many around me, and by my own pessimism/cynicism regarding the future of humanity.  I’m not entirely sure what will help me remove these blocks.  Courage would be good.  Educatedly optimistic mentors and friends would help too.  And a way to process and move beyond the despair that creeps in now and again.  From the universe, I need continued moments of reverence and awe.  I don’t mind crying, and in the moments I feel so much a part of everything I could burst my physical bounds and join the spirit stuff, I know in every cell that something and everything matters.

Right Now I’m Reading: Sacred Economics

Sacred EconomicsAnother brief interlude from my Internal Audit posts, but a necessary one because this book is deeply changing my worldview, my ideas on what is possible.  Charles Eisenstein, author of Sacred Economics, writes of the story of money, the mythology we’ve created over time of value, growth, and currency, and how we can move into a more positive, sustainable, and loving future with a renewed idea of money.  And he has the book under a Creative Commons license to boot!

I should say that I generally despise money.  Words like financial, stock, market, currency, make me queasy.  My life and path and purpose have always seemed to be in nearly direct opposition to money as a force of change and decision, to unchecked growth as a dominant paradigm.  But Charles’ vision for a world of sacred money- a return to the idea of gift, to eliminating externalities and the disconnect of corporations and businesses from cultural and ecological realities and a false sense of scarcity- is truly helping me view money in a new way.

“Part of a sacred money supply will be ‘backed’ by those things of which we are collective stewards.  Here is one way it could work: first, we reach a collective, politically mediated agreement on the right amount of nature to turn toward human purposes: how much of the produce of the sea, how much of the soil, the water; how much of the capacity of the atmosphere to absorb and transform waste; how much of the land’s ability to recover from the scars of mineral extraction; how much of the gift of fossil fuels, metal ores, and other wealth; how much of nature’s quiet to give over to machine noises; how much of the dark night sky to give to city lights.  These decisions often require scientific understanding, but just as often they embody value judgments.  Both contribute to our collective agreement on how much natural capital to consume.”

Not since Starhawk’s The Fifth Sacred Thing have I been this inspired by a vision that both accurately diagnoses the problems of the present and creates a plausible path for the future.  I want to share this book with my father, a bank examiner for the FDIC, with my college friends, with my grandparents who grew up on farms in the rural Midwest, with cynical colleagues and visionary comrades.  It is so empowering to know there are others out there, changemakers, writers, economists, who can see a way forward.

So what do we do?

It is entirely possible to spend an inordinate amount of time completely in the abstract, preaching to the choir about one’s perspective without ever really coming down to find some answer, any answer, to the ultimate question that plagues every social, cultural, and environmental issue:
So what do we do?

This past weekend began with a marvelous gathering of friends around tea and the ideas of Wendell Berry, one of my all time favorite authors, largely due to his unique blend of utter practicality and deeply rooted philosophy.  The group managed to stay somewhere near the topic nearly all of the evening, only minorly distracted by the lavender shortbread and homebrew brought by attendees.  We shared favorite Wendell quotes (“Only by restoring the broken connections can we be healed.  Connection is health.”), passionately articulated our frustrations with innumerable systems and cultural norms (ie. garage culture, financial viability as an end all be all), and felt pleasantly challenged yet validated all around.  But the question continually surfaced:
So what do we do?

It’s all well and good to philosophize and commiserate, and I would argue the latter in particular is entirely necessary to both blow off steam and continually flesh out what it is one is truly passionate about and concerned with.  But until practical solutions for building a world different and dare I say greatly improved upon the one we so readily criticize, we are merely venting to one another.

So now what do we do?

I in no way claim to have any all inclusive answer to this all important query.  But here’s what I did with the remainder of my weekend that I think at least begins to create a world that is more holistic, more community-minded, more sustainable, and filled with more of the things that my circles and I are craving.

Ben and I spent all of Saturday riding around to various social gatherings on our tandem.  We built wheels while enjoying homebrew, stopped by our favorite local microbrewery, visited his previous community house to take part in their potluck, and then spent a couple of hours at a folk sing along before heading home, chilly and sleepy with full hearts and heads.

Today I read several more chapters of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle while cooking up homemade wheat tortillas for vegan enchiladas (above), the ingredients of which were nearly all local, aside from salt, spices, olive oil, and kale.  I walked down to our nearby park in the slowly fading sun, stopping en route to jot down a poem of noticings.

So what do we do?

Move more.  Consume less.  Sing.  Cook.  Bike and walk.  Pay attention.

There are days and moments when I feel as though I succeed at this almost extravagantly, and the ensuing connection to my friends, my food, my world is gorgeous.  And there are many more moments and days when I lose sight, get stressed, grasp so tightly to a desire for control that I cannot for the life of me remember that my soul wants simplicity, wants connection, needs the now and here and not the constructions that I fabricate.  So what do we do?  Question, live, and love.

In January I Read…

Scarlett – Alexandra Ripley
I alternately loved and absolutely abhorred the heroine, respecting her spunk and tenacity one minute and despising her weakness for Southern high society the next.  I also pictured Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable the. entire. time.

Catching Fire – Suzanne Collins
The second book in the Hunger Games trilogy was a one sitting read to be sure, briefly broken only for mock duck pad thai, medium spiciness of course.

Farm City – Novella Carpenter
This fantastic book makes every aspect of urban farming seem utterly approachable and delightful (albeit almost certainly messy).  I want backyard chickens and raised beds brimming with vegetables immediately.

Mockingjay – Suzanne Collins
I couldn’t resist the final installation of the Hunger Games trilogy.  These books are like candy; addictive yet easily forgotten once consumed.  Worth reading for the sheer adrenaline thrill, but as with many series I wasn’t really satisfied with the ending.

Mathilda Savitch – Victor Lodato
Fabulous and utterly disarming.  Novels written from the voice of an adolescent can be quite awful or spot on, and this was certainly the latter.
“I want something else, but the words for it haven’t been invented yet.”

Plenty – Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon
This was my second read of this delightful account of a year of local eating (something I don’t often do because there are JUST SO MANY wonderful books in the world, so why return to the same ones all the time?) in British Columbia, a place I hope to visit that is so near and dear to my other heart home, the Puget Sound area.
“Making jam had taken all afternoon and evening, but the last thing I’d call it was work.  It was living.”

A fun postscript: one of the Freshly Pressed posts of today is also about books read in January!  And the author and I not only have two books in common, but another of her reviews is of a book that’s in my library queue.  What a small, beautiful world…

November, where have you gone?

I’m finally nearing the end of two months of constant busyness (I hope), and my December calendar is beautifully clear (in comparison), which hopefully will mean more frequent blog posts and writing in general.  All of my journals have been feeling empty these days…

In the meantime, a brief update on a number of things I’ve written about before:

  • I did not do NaNoWriMo.  This was a good decision.  I still want to write a book though, at some point in the future.  It will likely be about the home search, or something like it.
  • I am enormously thankful for many things, among them: wonderful friends that will both attend my crazy parties and entertain my wild musings, access to delicious local food and a system that supports its continued expansion, the health that comes from the latter as well as bicycling every day, and my wonderful Benjamin– we really do balance each other beautifully.
  • Yesterday was a glorious and much needed relaxation day.  Apart from shopping at the co-op for tons of fruits and veggies- I’m doing a cleanse between Thanksgiving and Christmas, sort of a combination of this and this– I napped, went on a walk, finished The Heretics of Dune (the marvelous fifth book in the Dune series) and watched Pirate Radio, now my most recent favorite movie.

Be good to yourselves this holiday season, friends.  Drink tea, visit with friends, and relax into the naturally slower rhythms that winter brings.