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Probably won't be writing here...

I started a new journal in honour of the fall season. If you really want to read my new journal, just give me a call, and say Ekky-ekky-ekky-ekky-z'Bang, zoom-Boing, z'nourrrwringmm.

Sep. 9th, 2005

I'm having a great time in Michigan, though I do miss people back home! And Renee, I am really looking forward to spending time with you when I get back home!

I really had no idea what's been going on in Louisiana until Elizabeth clued me in 2 or 3 days ago. That was really depressing. Since then I learned that the sister of an old friend of mine, Sarah, who lives in New Orleans, lost everything. And a singer from a New Orleans band I really like, Fred LeBlanc of Cowboy Mouth, lost everything except what was on the tour bus. It's a real Tower experience, and we can be grateful for those who still have the most important thing -- their lives -- but of course prayers and energy are needed down there.

So, the short version of what's been going on in Michigan!

I'm working (well, playing!) at a magical thatched cottage, the Strawbale Studio, a real sacred space, a spiral engraved on one wall, a tree molded on another, made of natural materials -- cob (mud!) and strawbales -- and how great it feels to sink my feet in the mud! Want to have a naked mudding party like Sunray did. :)

Plans to build a Hobbit House!

I'm learning about herbs and native plants and all the amazing things you can do with the plants that grow right in your own backyard.

I'm sewing a renaissance style shirt, with these beautiful celtic knot buttons I found at the crafts store. Also planning on learning some leatherwork and natural dyes.

Fun and glamourbombing at the Michigan Renaissance Festival (Free tickets! It's always nice to know someone who works at faire!)

Meditation and Yoga classes coming up.

Making *tons* of connections with ecology/sustainability groups and people in SE Michigan... trips to Detroit, Ann Arbor, E. Lansing...

Lots of really cool paganish people. And lots of connecting. :)

Being encouraged to join a choir despite my horrendous singing voice. (I'm told that I sing fine when I'm singing along to music, and I just have to wean myself off of the CD to the point where I feel ok singing a capella!)

Went to Robin and Greg's and connected with an Indian saint! He says he has to laugh at least once every 15 minutes or something's not right! He's just totally accepting and makes me feel like I'm his best friend. Invited me to his house and to a Sangha in Westland... very much looking forward to seeing hime again.

Quixotic Dreams

My friend Missi and I seem to have uncannily similar minds. We always seem to springboard off each other's thoughts and inspirations, and we often seem to know what the other is feeling. A fellow INFP, she understands intuitively my acceptance of paradox, and that what I express, mostly, is not solid judgement, but fluid feeling. A few months ago she was going on a volunteering vacation, and I told her, the air smelled like she was going away. I got the same olfactory sensations I often get when I'm headed somewhere. I didn't think anyone else could understand that, but she said she knew exactly what I meant. If you're in a bad mood, you tend to look at the world differently than if you're in a good mood. When I'm about to embark on a journey, the world tends to smell differently than when I'm staying home (perhaps some sort of primal nomadic instinct?) In any case, we tend to understand each other, and comfort each other that we're not alone in our quixotic dreams. There are times when I'll be embarassed to share something with her, because I think it's too crazy, but she understands and it hits close to home. Sometimes she'll feel embarassed and apologise for sharing her own "inner freak" with me, and I have to tell her how closely I relate, how validating it is to me, how I long to hear others express exactly what she tries to express to me. It's such a tragedy that people hide their true nature, or even genuinely forget themselves, because they're tired of being different, of being misunderstood. I guess it's easier to just "get along." We all do it, it's just a matter of extent. It's a shame how many beautiful people I haven't really seen because they haven't allowed me to see them. And how often have I, when I notice someone looking into my eyes, abashedly looked away and pretended I didn't see it? How many connections have I not allowed to form? I guess it's for the best -- I never used to appreciate people or empathise with them as I do now, and I just might have ruined one great thing after another. But... we have no idea how beautiful we are, behind our banal facades of normalcy. We have no idea how valid our dreams really are.

My most genuine longings remain sleepily subconscious, until perchance someone happens to express them, and proves they're not so fantastic or foolish as to defy the law of what can or may be imagined. And they must be imagined, just as a single grian of sand must be wished upon. Every once in a while I discover that, not only can they be imagined, but some brilliantly creative and practical people are actually putting them into practice. What was an impossible dream to me, for a few rarefied individuals, is their life's work. I wonder how I could have been so inconfident, could have ever doubted that castles can be built in the air? And so I dream. I am surrounded by objects that are, not mass produced or standardised, but crafted with patience, love, and care, and with the understanding that there are endless ways to make even a bowl or spoon beautiful. I slide out of my treehouse, and you out of your windmill, and we play Hook and Pan on our pirate ship till dawn. We stroll through our secret garden. Sometimes we make noises, say and do things that don't make sense, but there's no judgement, and we're just happy to be alive. Natural beauty surrounds us and everything else is a reminder of our own creativity and essence. A four person bicycle adorned as a regal chariot approaches. Ethereal music as from a harp emanates from the spokes as they turn. It becomes clear that these aren't 'objects' at all, for in the passion and soul we put into them, they have merged, and become part of us. Our friends disembark. We laugh and blow bubbles as we head leisurely off to work. We grow crops, make clothes, and keep ourselves warm. But we're alive, and we're grateful, and that makes it an economy of joy. We sing, and dance, and create, and relate. We do what we do because our souls require it. We are never alienated from our environment, our work, our actions, or our friends. They are all a part of us. Everything we do has a purpose, and that purpose is life.

I have another dream that involves bicycles. My personal goal, to get in good enough shape that the bicycle is a fun and feasible alternative to the automobile even if I need to be 600 miles from here and have a week to spare. I dream of a future in which human mobility isn't dependent on automobiles, in which Greyhound accepts unboxed bicycles, in which train stations encourage commuters arriving via bicycle, in which I can ride from here to New York City without leaving a bike path. Thankfully Massachusetts is already pretty good, and slowly getting better. Just about all state public transportation is bicycle friendly. I also learned a little known fact: though Greyhound itself doesn't accept unboxed bikes, PeterPan/Greyhound does, at the driver's consent and on a space available basis. (Just print out the company policy from the website, not all drivers are aware of the policy). And there are two big bike paths being constructed, one between Worcester and Providence, and even one between Northhampton and Boston, a sort of bike alternative to the Mass Pike. One of these days I'm going to have to take my bike on a train and find a nice place to ride. Maybe Salem/Marblehead and Cape Cod.

I had been going to the gym almost every day, doing upper body weight training, and riding the exercise bike. There's a man who comes into the gym who's always talking about his bike excursions, so I was inspired to take my bike out on a tour, to see what I'm capable of. Just a couple months ago, I complained that there was something wrong with my bike, because it took so much effort to pedal a half a mile. I was just hopelessly out of shape. Not so now. I took my bike on a 25 mile tour and it felt great. I found myself smiling at my bike thinking about what a great tool it is, and how grateful I am for its invention. It took a little while to get warmed up, but after a while I was unstoppable, gliding down hills, through natural scenery, the wind in my face, the endorphins, feeling a real sense of accomplishment at getting from here to there with my own raw power. I rode to my grandfather's house, and then back, via a different route. I overexerted myself a little bit, and started to feel some lower back pain towards the end of the ride, which unfortunately I'm still feeling. Also... my butt hurts... but I guess that's normal for someone who never rides. I think I'm going to fast for a couple days, since fasting always seems to do wonders for my back pain, and my digestive system's been telling me it needs a break anyway.

20 Ways to Love Me

How to Love Me

1.) Encourage, nurture, and love who I am, and the potential you see in me. Be gentle and understanding, rather than critical, and please don't ask me to live contrary to my heart.

2.) Appreciate me. Allow me to share with you, and bring you happiness, in the best way I know how.

3.) I have immense inner passion, which when ignited, can take me to far away places. Please do not tell me who to be, or ask me to live in a particular way, but fuel my passions, and inspire me, and I will reach my full potential. "A friend is a loved one who awakens your life in order to free the wild possibilites within you." -- John O'Donohue

4.) Make me something instead of buying me a present. Send me a letter. I treasure these things more than you know.

5.) Be open and honest with me. Be straightforward about what you expect of me. Try not to imply something and expect I'll take the hint. I probably won't.

6.) Offer to read with me. Take a walk with me. Play games with me. Learn with me: a language, a craft, a skill, an intellectual endeavour. Cook with me. Go to a festival with me. Travel with me. Just "be," in silence, with me.

7.) If you also enjoy physical affection, hug me, cuddle me, wrestle playfully with me. (Please don't do anything for me simply because you think it would make me happy, but only if it makes you happy too.)

8.) Have a stimulating intellectual discussion with me without attacking me or getting defensive. I seek to understand, not to convert.

9.) Please do not assume you already understand me well enough, but continually seek to know me better. Realise that I am constantly changing. "With attention, you will be able to discover many new and wonderful things: her joys, her hidden talents, her deepest aspirations. If you do not practice appropriate attention, how can you say you love her?" -- Thich Nhat Hanh

10.) Please gently make me aware of things I may not recognise about myself. However, I am very in-tune with my own needs, and I know what's best for me, though I may not always do those things. If I tell you I know what I am doing, please be assured that I do.

11.) Accept me, for what I am, and for what I am not.

12.) Don't neglect me, or leave me out of the discussion, or the fun. Consider me, and I will never fail to appreciate it.

13.) Surprises are wonderful, but not secrets. Please do not keep secrets from me, even if they're for my 'benefit.' Do not talk about me behind my back. Do not talk about others behind their backs. I will probably lose trust in you.

14.) Invite me.

15.) Spend an entire day watching Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, or Monty Python with me. (An entire day of Colin Firth movies, or anything that strikes your fancy, could also be arranged).

16.) Try not to make surface judgements about groups of people. Don't put people in boxes, and likewise, don't put me in a box, though I may belong to a particular 'group.'

17.) Respect my feelings and my intelligence. I am constantly questioning and reevaluating my own beliefs. My life experience, and my propensity for thinking through deeper issues, has led me to where I am now. Please don't assume my beliefs are illogical simply because my reasons are unclear to you. Allow me to be me.

18.) Try to love my stupid moments, too. I have on occasion forgotten how to operate a vending machine. I sometimes call red green, and green red, though I'm not red-green colour blind. The difference between 'leg,' 'thigh,' and 'calf' can sometimes still allude me. I may write 'allude' when I mean 'elude'. I recently thought a friend of mine would understand something because she studied psychology, somehow forgetting that she actually majored in theatre.

19.) Compliment me if you're sincere. If I feel inadequate about something -- my ability to dance like a human being, for example -- a little encouragement never hurts.

20.) Don't assume that, because you can't see it, it isn't part of me. (My passion is one of my most defining aspects, though I tend to keep it private, and it may not be readily visible to others on the surface).

This is just a general guide to loving the me. I understand that everyone expresses love in a different way, and I never want anyone to compromise who they are. So, the most important thing is, just love me the best you know how.

You put what in your food?!

I visited Jean Francois Menard a couple months ago at Mass Academy. What an incredible character he is, full of life and mirthfulness, and occasionally merde, but in a delightful way. He's the Richard Feynman of bald high school teachers with Ph.D.s in French Literature: such a fascinating combination of jest and seriousness. He's the man who, when someone confused him for the Jean Francois Menard who translated the French Harry Potter, was thrilled to play along and do a book signing. He's the one who fooled his students in Paris into believing he'd suddenly attained a 'proper English accent' after a weekend spent in London. He is an odeophile -- my coinage, from the Greek, for a "lover of theatre" -- and brings theatre into life and the classroom. He is a singer, perhaps a low baritone or high bass, and would probably play a wonderful Ciaphas. He is, the most genuine of language teachers, a true lover of communication. He takes a passionate and often playful pleasure in people, in communicating with them, in having fun with them, in learning what makes them tick. Why consult the tarot when you can consult Menard? He's highly observant and perceptive, and will sometimes intuit things about me, or about the problems I present him with, that I hadn't even considered. His perspective is always interesting and unique, yet practical, and despite his confident opinions, he retains a very open mind. Sometimes, when his responsibility feels threatened, he takes on a demeanor of intense, determined sternness. It's best to steer clear during these times, but when the storm clears, it's as though it never happened. Though I haven't been his student, or rather, haven't attended his classes in... wait, he'd probably agree that the true classroom is life. Start again. Though I haven't been a junior at the Academy in five years, he continues to take a keen interest in me. After our talks I always come home with a new perspective, and even, a new interest in life. He is an older person who gladly admits to valuing weirdness. He puts so much energy into life, and into his relationships with people, and I feel no choice but to be inspired. I rarely write character sketches. I rarely write about people. Menard's is a portrait that I've always wanted to paint, though I've never seriously tried, because I knew every attempt would be inadequate. Yet, perhaps my attempts at putting the spirits of such characters onto paper, though they fail, may help me hone the skills of observation and perception, and the enthusiasm for life that I so admire in my teacher.

He always has fascinating stories to share, and this time, the joke was on him. He told me he was in France, trying to explain why Americans are so fat. He gave an answer I quite agree with: Americans are fat because we put so many preservatives in our foods. Yet, when he gave his answer, everyone responded with outrageous laughter. They urged him to give the same explanation to another group of people, so he did, and once again, everyone burst out in uncontrollable laughter. Then he remembered. He had used the French word "preservatif," which doesn't mean "preservative at all. He had been telling them -- had repeated his story more than once with confidence -- that Americans are fat because we put so many condoms in our foods! Oh, the joy of languages. Something similar, though not nearly as funny, happened to me in Germany when, as an explanation of why I didn't want to eat anymore, I told them I was drunk. ("Ich bin voll," means I am drunk. "Ich bin satt," is the proper idiom for expressing lack of hunger.)

I have raved again and again about Menard's language teaching methods, which were immersion-based, and involved sitting around a table and having interesting discussions. Little did I know there is so much more to it than that. He explained to me today what he was trying to do: he would often make fun of us in the language, hoping to provoke an emotional response, hoping we'd get angry and try to insult him back, or in some way incite a reaction. He did this -- in a theatrical, fun way, of course -- because when we are driven to react... placed involuntarily into real world situations... when we feel the real need to express ourselves, especially in anger, our inhibitions and fear of making mistakes are lessened. I do remember when I was accused wrongfully of laziness in Frankleben, I practically slipped into a near fluent German, out of the necessity of defending myself. In Menard's class, it was theatre -- it may be one of the subtle reasons I love theatre so much today -- and I would often look up words in the dictionary, trying to think of silly or shocking things to say in order to provoke a reaction in him. "I wonder what he'd do if I said....," or "I wonder where the class discussion would lead if I said..." or "I wonder how crazy they'd think I am if I said..." were frequent thoughts in my mind. If I ever said something like, "We put too many condoms in our food," he would probably look shocked, and go on talking confusedly about "preservatifs," perhaps asking if I put them in my food before or after using them for the traditional purpose. We'd all be confused, wondering what he was getting at, and when we finally figured it out, we'd never again forget that "preservatif" means condom!

It's sad that so many students are taught through repetition, through sacred devotion to their grammars, and never really learn to love language. Menard's goal was to plant a seed, to make language something we were interested in, or even passionate about, and to teach us how we could learn in the real world. I have learned that, I think, more than most people, but what I'd give to have another teacher like Menard! How much easier it would be. In fact, what I'd give to have a job like his -- to teach like that! -- teaching languages with that kind of freedom would be paradise. He told me something I'm surprised he'd never told me before. His method, though quite his own, and though he's always learning, was very much influenced by a man he studied under, Dartmouth professor John Rassias. The description of Rassias' method, on his website, sounds so much like what Menard does. I'm a little disappointed that I only learned about this recently. Had I known there were other teachers and even university language departments out there that do what Menard did, I most definitely would have chosen a foreign language major, at one of those schools! Why didn't he tell me? I don't know. Maybe I didn't have enough perspective at the time to know how great that would be for me. Maybe I was too obsessed with physics. Is it too late, or too expensive, with my B.A. in philosophy, to get a B.A. in foreign languages? I want to... though I wonder if, after some real world practice in foreign countries (or Little Germany, Manhattan!), I might be able to get into a graduate program. A lot of people with majors in foreign languages graduate unable to carry on the most basic conversations. I should be able to get into a grad program -- I studied Kant, Hegel, Heiddeger, Nietzsche -- not exactly in German, but that counts, right?

I emailed him to explain how passionate I'd be about finding such an opportunity -- or somehow taking advantage of this passion I have -- but he's just not very good at responding to his email, so I'll probably have to wait till I see him again. I wish he were my personal counselor.
I have a problem I'd really like to get to the bottom of, because it does nothing but make things hard and complicated, for me and those I care about. It feels like such a natural problem that there should be books written about it. I feel (or seem to feel) other people's emotions as much or more than they do, and I'm unable to keep to myself that I'm feeling really bad. This tends to make that person feel even worse, and guilty about feeling their own emotions (feeling bad for feeling bad, etc.), and you can see how it turns into a mess really fast. I could be so happy, immediately, if they were happy, but I find it difficult to be happy around people who are stressed or upset, especially if I feel close to them. I want to cheer them up, but everything about my body language says I'm really being affected by this, and I just make things worse. My sense of humour ceases to function. Since I feel powerless at this point to make things better, I tend to walk away and feel bad and confused all alone. And at this point I probably want a hug. I'm sure there's a better way to handle it than walking away. I actually think I'm better about this than I used to be, but it's such an annoying problem. It's hard enough being upset or stressed when I'm upset or stressed -- why do I have to feel that way when others do!

Elizabeth told me how difficult it was for her after the rape when everyone else seemed so affected by it. You obviously care when something bad happens to someone you love, but why do we humans make these things so complicated? Why do we tell ourselves we have to feel bad because someone else does even though we full well know that will make them feel even worse?

I'm not sure this is totally related, but I was just thinking about it, so I thought I'd mention it. I don't deal with personal stress very well because I used to put up with so much of it. There were a couple times when I nearly broke down from school-related stress and perfectionstic expectations I demanded of myself. I realised I was a lot happier when I let go, and I realised the things I was striving for weren't that important anyway. Living life to the fullest was a lot more important than getting a 100 in every class, or in fact, ridiculously more important than any grade at all. I actually cried about getting a 97 in a class. I sort of came to resent that stress. I hated that I could make myself feel so much of it about something that was really so meaningless in the scheme of things. Now it's really hard for me to see people dealing with that kind of stress. Just thinking about stress stresses me out!

I think I'll go pick up Even Cowgirls Get the Blues for a little while and get to sleep.

"Nonetheless, the oyster, could it fancy, should fancy its excremental equipment a hot item, for what other among Creation's crapping creatures can convert its bodily wastes into treasure?"

Creation's crapping creatures, what alliteration.

Reflections

I've given myself many reasons not to write about the confusion and mixed feelings I have about Crystal. I might hurt someone with my words. What right do I have to say these things; hypocrite! I'm biased, and probably rather unsympathetic, because I've grown tired of guilting myself. I've done way too much of that. Those who know me hopefully know that I am fully of compassion and understanding, but since those things aren't very useful for venting, I think less of that will be apparent here. I don't want others to judge me, to tell me how I should feel, or "how it really is," but maybe I have no right to feel this way, and maybe I'm really messed up for feeling it. Also there's the problem of putting into words exactly what it is that I've wanted to write about. I have feelings, but I don't know what they mean. I'm going to have a heck of a time coming up with a title for this entry!
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Minkis

A few months ago my beloved cat, Minkis, passed away. I have had two cats over the course of my life that I would call a "wise old soul," the sort of cat who, when you dream about him, talks to you in English, and is the most understanding of friends. Minkis, still not an old cat at 10, was becoming that for me. He was my sleeping mate. I felt cozier and more secure with him lying peacefully at the foot of my bed every night. He could always sense when I was upset, and especially at those times, but also just randomly, he would come spend a few minutes lying on my chest, sometimes drooling, but always compassionate, just saying hello. I regret that sometimes, when I was sad or upset, I was also impatient, and sometimes gently picked him up off my chest as though I had no time for him. As though his kindness weren't good enough, or as though I didn't deserve it.

He enjoyed when I pushed my hand hard against his nose. He shoved his nose into my hand likewise and my hand slid up his face. Often he would lie with his tongue sticking lazily out of his mouth. He was incredibly flexible, and could look comfortable in any position, often on his back with his arms (legs) stretched out wide exposing his fluffy belly. I used to lie on my back and in strange positions and watch him imitate me. He responded to me, seemed to understand me. We would have long sessions just gazing into each other's eyes. Sometimes he would roll trustingly onto his back, or urge me to pet him when we'd gazed for a while, but often we would just gently stare, acknowledging each other, loving each other, and I knew he was expressing love... or something like that... because you can't look so into someone's eyes without them just knowing. That's what we shared in those moments of gazing: a knowing. I don't know what kind of knowing it was, but we both knew it. We saw each other. I think he knew I loved him too. He was a blessing, even though I called him part of the "cursed litter," because I got in really big trouble at school the day he was born. When a kitten, we watched Jesus Christ Superstar together, I reinacting the part of choice (which invariably depended on which song parts were most fun to perform), and he and his brother and sisters represented everyone else.

He died suddenly on August 4th around 11:00 in the morning. He was sleeping in his favourite spot on the end of my bed. I almost wasn't there when it happened. I had been sleeping downstairs that morning, and perhaps around 10:00 am, I decided to slip into my bed. Or perhaps, he waited for me, and wanted me there. He woke me up by reaching out his paw, rubbing it against my leg. There was something about him, almost intimate, but I couldn't tell. Then he started moaning and making horrible choking sounds as though he were coughing up a fur-ball. Something like that had happened before, but I had comforted him, and showed him that I would always be there for him. He screamed a few times, not particularly loud, but painfully. He stopped breathing a couple times, then coughing, came back to himself. A moment later, I saw his eyes change, his body relax, and I could tell he was no longer there.

Thirty seconds earlier he was lying peacefully on my bed, and then he was gone. It all happened so fast. Too quickly for emotion. I was shocked. It was almost easier to give up hope, or to pretend it wasn't happening, than to try to revive him. I guess I realised that I wouldn't forgive myself if I didn't try. I waited a few seconds, to make sure he wasn't coming back, and then I did CPR the best I knew how. I squeezed him about six times, and his body started vibrating. I kept squeezing, and his body vibrated again. I kept trying, but nothing. I might have kept trying, but at that point it was really too horrifying to me, and I wasn't sure I was doing it right, anyway. It was easier to just accept it and go tell someone what happened. Even for those few seconds, it was so difficult keeping it to myself.

I don't know how he died. It sounds like a heart attack or something. Sometimes I wonder if he didn't die from absorbing so much of my pain.

My mom tells me she's glad I was there with him. That he wanted me to be with him when he died. Maybe that's why he waited until I went back to bed. Maybe that was a coincidence. I don't know. He did reach out his paw to me. I hear about cats being embarassed to die, but he woke me up, called out to me. Maybe he expected me to do something, thought I was more powerful than I am, and I let him down. But his death was another really intimate moment together. One I cherish, as horrifying as it was, and as difficult as it is to remember those eyes emptying of soul. I don't know if it's true, but she says cats normally defecate when they die. She thinks he contained his bowels, there on my bed, to show respect for me.

Those moments flashed through my mind obsessively over the next few days, and I don't think I've totally gotten over it. Even though I saw him pass, I still sometimes doubt the reality of it, still have to remind myself that he's not here. What's more, when I hear someone grunt, or moan, or even sigh, my heart often leaps, expecting the worst. Sometimes even if it's just an ordinary sound someone would make getting dressed or going to the bathroom, my heart pounds, and I'm so scared. If someone moans in their sleep I have to look closely to make sure they're still breathing.
I *will* write more often, and keep up with diaries, as soon as I have some time. Right now, I am in North Carolina with Elizabeth and having an incredible time. I love it around here and in the Blue Ridge Mountains. We've been back and forth between Asheville and her school (Lenoir-Rhyne) in Hickory. We've gotten every kind of weather lately, including rainbowy sunshowers and, a few days ago (this is late April), even snow cover! We've done fun things, like cuddling and huggling, huggling and cuddling. Even outside in a thunderstorm. I took her whitewater rafting in the freezing cold, we ate at some delicious vegetarian restaurants (Artichoke dip is my new favourite), and we've had a horrible time finding our way around downtown Asheville. "Screw Patton," Asheville's main street, as we've come to say. I love being in a hippy town, though, where people wear tie-dye and hair longer than mine! Most of all, I love Elizabeth, and since she is sleeping right now, I thought I could sneak a few pictures and show her off to you all. (She actually doesn't mind, but she may blush! If you think so, tell her she is beautiful, because she doesn't believe it.) I will write more about Asheville and our excursions when I have more time. Now for some pictures. Some of the good bodice pictures (*sniffle*) aren't uploading properly.

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