Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Birthday Week Revels: The Day

Today is my birthday or at least it was when I made the notes for this post in my journal. That (along with my tenuous hold on reality) makes me feel fully vindicated in backdating this post and pretending it is still the second day of my glorious, but now completed vacation:

  • Another birthday. This year I decided that I really didn't want to do anything big to celebrate. It's enough to just have the week off, take some mini road trips, and relax. Despite my inclination to kick off the new year by sleeping in, I still found myself up by 8:30 a.m. It is okay, because even without official celebrations, there is much to do on a day such as this. First there I must develop a manifesto for the new year, then I must start filling out my AARP paperwork. If the age of which we shall not speak came this fast (I swear I was 26 yesterday..how can I be this age???), then I know I will wake up 65 tomorrow. I would have thought I'd have conquered the world, made my fortune, or at least amassed some minions by now. Frankly, I'm a little behind schedule and highly disappointed by the noticable lack of people doing my bidding.

    Nonetheless, even this minion free day still left me thankful for so many things:
  • Health (It's so nice not to feel so worried anymore! It's amazing how much stress such concerns can create)
  • An incredible family (aka mom) who buys me new bedding (how I love the feel of new sheets - I can't wait to go to bed), gives me birthday shopping money, and takes me for great lunches at Claim Jumper. Even more important than the gifts (that's right, I said it, MORE important than gifts), we have such a good time together and spend so much of it laughing. It's hard not to love someone who can quietly sit through a whole Introduction to Dianetics video interview with L. Ron Hubbard, looking like she's seriously listening, then turn to you at the end and say in her cute German accent "Man, that guy is boring. I think people must join just to get him shut up."
  • Friends who help me move large furniture and remove pesky, stuck sliding doors from my ginormously wide closet, thereby unearthing (or maybe just unuglypanneling) Al Capone's lost photo stalker gallery (thanks, Jen!) of Wigfest photos.
  • Other friends who come over after the hard labor is done, but still shower me with gifts and decorating ideas (go Bec - a gift-bearing visitor is a welcome visitor!)
  • Happiness. Things have changed a lot in the past year. There was a really rough patch this summer and fall, but it seems to be lifting. Six months ago, if you'd asked me if I was happy, I would have had to say no. At this point things are not perfect - there is much that still confuses me and maybe it's just that cuts have scabbed over and not really that they've totally healed, but at least I don't feel like a walking, exposed, raw nerve anymore. And I do feel happy more often than I don't. That is worth a lot.

So, in the spirit of change and new years, I pulled out my tarot cards for the first time in ages. Appropriately, the card in the Self position of the spread was Death. The Death card is always used as an ominous foreshadowing in the movies where someone gets murdered. Really, it's just a card about change, the end of a cycle and not an end in itself. Beginnings grow from endings, and I really do feel like I am in transition right now. I find myself questioning, wondering, reaching, trying to figure it all out - even things I thought I'd accepted.

The reading was also filled with aces and fiery wand creativity as well as warnings about self-undermining tendancies and fear. Overall, though, the mood of the reading was one of change, and that's good when you feel like you've been treading water, waiting. Maybe what I've been waiting for will come. Maybe it will never return. Sometimes life doesn't give us the neatly wrapped up answers and the happy resolutions we want, even when we want them badly. Sometimes it provides something new. Sometimes what we think we need and what the universe thinks are tragically (or is it comically?) at odds. Maybe I'll embark on a new adventure, leaving the old behind like a hazy dream. Whatever happens, I could embrace some changes about now. And that is, I think, as good start for a new year as any.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Birthday Week Revels: The Great Grey North

There is something about a good road trip that not only to cancels out pre-caffeine crankitude, but makes getting up at the crack a perfectly acceptable option even when I'm on vacation and should rightfully be catching up on much needed beauty sleep. Although it's only a three hour drive, the road doesn't often take me to Seattle. It's not that I don't like the city (I do!), but somehow when the road calls it seems like it's the beach and the Gorge win most of the shouting contests. So, when looking for a vehicular last hurrah to usher out the past year, Seattle seemed like a good choice.

Finding a day less rainy than the rest was the first order of business. As it turned out, the meteorological 8-ball deemed that day to be Monday. Sunday evening found me setting my first day of vacation alarm for an hour that is WAY earlier than even my non-vacation rising time. Car packed with maps, honey baked ham sandwiches, beverage, and an assortment of cd's, my mom and I were on the road and had already stopped for breakfast by the time I usually get out of bed for work. Like the army, we do more before breakfast than most people do in a day. There are, however, some significant differences between us and the army: 1) we have issues with authority and also the man; 2) the only things we invade are restaurants; 3) the only way we'd run up a hill was if there were free donuts at the top.

Our first stop was Castle Rock. Why Castle Rock, you ask? Because I had forgotten that it is not actually Castle Rock but Kalama that is home to what Cowlitz County boasts to be the world's largest totem pole, a totem pole that is far superior to Oklahoma's world's largest totem pole due the fact that Washington's is a genuine wood carving, whereas Oklahoma's is a totally jive concrete totem pole. This is not unlike the difference between the original Stonehenge and the one in Maryhill, Washington - except for that there is something charming and completely un-jive about Sam Hill's replica and the kind hearted, peace loving Quaker application of his misunderstanding of the original's pupose.

Because Castle Rock does not seem to have much going on due to being totally busy being the Gateway to Mt. St. Helens, our sojourn there was short. And that was okay, because Pike Place Market was waiting. Pike Place Market is a wonderful place full of sound, color, activity, and leering fish mongers who ask passing women if they want crabs. It is also a place my mother has never visited (at least I'm assuming so, since she does not have crabs), so I was excited for her to see it.

All in all, the three hour drive to Seattle went pretty quickly. While we were fortunate not to encounter too much traffic on the way, finding a parking spot once we'd arrived in the city was no small feat. Eventually, after many rounds through the park house directly across the street from the market, we did find a terrifically close spot, because we are apparently blessed with good parking spot mojo, if not speedy spot locating mojo.

By the time we finally got to the market, we both had to pee like Austin Powers in that scene where he is first awakened. This was when we discovered Pike Place Market's disturbingly low bathroom stall doors. They are so low that anyone walking by can totally see you doing your business, which does not make for the best in micturatory enjoyment. They reminded me very much of the little short stalls we had in grade school, except for that they didn't bother me back then, because I too was little and short. There is something disconcerting about peeing behind a door that only comes up to your shoulders when you are seated. Frankly, I don't know how men do the whole public viewing at the urinal thing. In retrospect, I can only say that I am supremely grateful that everyone in the bathroom observed what I hoped was an unwritten law about never looking stallward when passing.

Mission bladder relief accomplished, the next order of business was to find some lunch. After a quick round of entrance area, we settled on an out of the way lower level spot called Crêpe de France. Much to the delight of my mother, who would happily eat sweets for every meal, this meant that she could legitimately imbibe in strawberries and vanilla cream for lunch. Much to my delight, the crêpes with strawberries and vanilla cream were huge and deliciously fortifying for our invasion of Pike Place.

Hopped up on sugar and cream, we cheerfully toured the market, looking at the variety of art, jewelry, and flowers. Even on a grey Northwest day, the place has such a bright, bustling atmosphere. This atmosphere is only magnified by the stalls of fresh and dried flowers stretching in a rainbow of color as far as the eye can see. Everyone from the woman who made beautiful pressed flower collages to the crabs guy at the fish market was friendly. One jewelry peddlar even spoke German with us, lulling us into a false sense of security and leaving us ill prepared for our skirmish with The Surly Seattlite.

Full of crêpes and good will, we ended our business at the market by going out onto one of the balconies across from the park house to strategize our next stop. Powellhurst was on the march. As we were sitting on a bench, minding our own business, enjoying the fresh air, and looking at a city map, a man approached. As he closed in, he slowed his pace. I am assuming this was so we could reap the full benefit of his disdainful pronouncement of us as tourists before he crabbily clomped his way into the market.

What did he have against tourists? Did a tourist kill his mother? Did one try to bludgeon him with a Triptik? Has demand for "I HEART Seattle" t-shirts become so big that the prices have skyrocketed, rendering him unable to afford one? Or is it that he no longer gets propositioned by the crabs guy, because the vendor is too busy offering STDs to strangers?

At first, there was a part of me that wanted to ask him what we had done to so affront him. But then I thought, "Whatever. Shine on, little man. You are obviously a sad shell of a fun human being, if you have nothing better to do than this." Besides, I didn't want to hold him up. I was sure there was more work waiting for him down the street at the Space Needle and those tourists weren't going to heckle themselves.

Now wise to Seattle's dark side, we made our way out of the market and across the street to the Seattle Aquarium, a land of frolicking otters and other assorted marine life. As aquariums go, Seattle's is a really nice one. It has a maze of outdoor exhibits leading to an underwater dome where visitors including tourists and other undesirables are treated to a 360 degree view into a 400,000 gallon tank filled with fish, sea stars and assorted plants. The dome has something for everyone. The benches lining the tank provide not only an excellent view, but are also a relaxing place, perfect for resting your feet as you take a break from wandering about the city. It is also shadowy enough to provide a good lurking area for any undesirables who are so inclined.

By the time we exited the aquarium, we were almost ready for the ride home. On the way out of town we did take a moment to drive past Seattle's peace rally and wave at the hippies before making a short jaunt past the Space Needle to ensure that the Surly Seattlite wasn't headed their way. Peacenicks left safely playing hackey sack and reeking of patchouli, we embarked on the long journey home.

In the odd way of road trips, the drive home seemed much longer than the drive to Seattle. We passed the time singing and playing the traditional Alphabet Game and as well as the Alphabet Game Powellhurst Style (don't ask, all you need to know is that it involves dirty words and that you'd lose all respect for us if you knew any further details). Then, because it was the night before my birthday, we stopped for ice cream for dinner, followed by a car picnic of honey baked ham sandwiches and diet soda for dessert. If whoever invented dinner had been thinking, this is how it would have been designed. If you eat dessert first, there's always room for it.

And so, we arrived home after a long day in Washington. The Phillip DePoy mystery I've been reading has a line in it that goes, "Her hand fit into mine the way a perfect word ended a poem." That's how our trip to Seattle was too. It all fit together, but perhaps instead of the way a perfect word ends a poem it was in the way the perfect phrase opens a story. It is, after all, the start of a new year in my world.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Are we done yet?

Stop the War!
Originally uploaded by Martina.
Four years ago around this time, I was in a Canadian hotel watching as my country shocked and awed its way into a quagmire of a war that has now squandered thousands upon thousands of lives and evaporated whatever good will existed toward this country after 9/11. I protested the war before it started and I've protested it every year since.

Every peace rally I have ever been to (and I'm sadly finding myself racking up too many of them) has had a character of its own. Today, as nine friends and I joined 10,000 Portlanders in calling for an end to the war, the mood seemed subdued. Maybe it was just the our area of the march or maybe my own mood is coloring my perception), but this was one of the quieter marches I've been to. I think people are just growing tired.

We're tired of wars fought based on manipulations of intelligence, tired of innocent people being killed in our names, tired of seeing our citizens come home with lost limbs, PTSD and any other number of physical and psychological problems, tired of an administration that feels it is above international law, just plain tired.

Speakers at the event included representatives from Military Families Speak Out, Iraq Veterans Against the War, American-Iranian Friendship Council, an Iraqi-Palestinian writer/activist Raed Jarrar) with Rev. Lynne Smouse López of Ainsworth UCC as the final speaker.

As Rev. López wrapped up her comments, the bells of First Congregational UCC began to toll, setting a solemn tone. For me, hearing those bells as people began to crowd out of the South Park Blocks was one of the most moving, beautiful moments of the event. I've said it many times before, but there is something incredible about being surrounded by 10,000 other people of like heart and mind. We may not all agree on the details, but we were one in our desire for the wasteful, needless war to end. It's encouraging, especially when the current situation can easily leave a person just feeling frustrated and helpless.

I don't want to see the U.S. on lists of the most hated countries. I don't want to feel like I have to apologize for our behavior as world citizens, yet I do. As my friend Julie said, "We're not even playing Big Brother anymore. It's gotten to the point where we're just Big Bully."

And, yet, there is something hopeful in the fact that somewhere around 90 different community groups joined together to plan this event in fairly short order and that the main rally and march were carried off peacefully without any major disruptions. There are so many dedicated activists in this city. This big rally each year is just one of many, many events that go on. It gets more press, because of the numbers involved, but there are people out there saying "No" and working steadily for an end to this craziness every day. Tonight as I sit, resting my sore feet, I am grateful for them and I am grateful for the thousands who turned out this afternoon. It inspires me; it makes me want to do more. Again, Portland, I can say that I am proud to call you home!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

WOO HOO!!!!!!!!!!

Today Powellhurst is kicking it stream of consciousness "dear diary" personal journal (but not TOO personal, because that's what personal journals are for) style, since I don't have anything cohesive to post about, but haven't posted for a bit. Since I have fallen woefully short of January's writing something every day (do I have to get tough with myself again and make it a rule? I'm starting to think I'm not very trustworthy and need the structure of a post curfew...), it is clearly again time for a post.:

Let me begin by saying: HUZZAH! Spring vacation has officially begun! Just between you and me (you won't tell anyone, will you?), I've been a bit preoccupied with the waiting for test results (per recently rediscovered accidentally lost postcard from the doctor's office they came back NORMAL! I am so happy about said result that I can't even bring myself to be annoyed at the misplacer of said card, because I am too busy doing Numfar's patented dance of joy. Take that, abnormal cells of indeterminate significance! You're not so tough now, are you?), trying to keep clear of the internal politics of the peace movement (in the words of Rodney King "Why can't we all just get along?" [ego, that's why!]) by being far less involved in the official rally planning activities than I became last year, and (apparently unsuccessfully) trying to wean myself of an unnatural love for the parenthetical aside.

This week also brought the completion of my February collage (I'm a little behind, but in my defense, February did turn out very soft and sparkly [like stardust!] and I do at least have a concept for March along with some free time on my hands this next week), a new spring mix for my car, and a very sweet birthday party at work (even though it was not yet my birthday, like a dead President I have birthday and birthday, observed) that included almond rocha cake (so good!), lunch (Red Robin Bleu Ribbon Burger, how I love you despite your insistence on fraternizing with the onion straw, which itself even turns inexplicably good under the care of your roqueforty love), presents (a springy bouquet of daffodils, a miniature Zen garden, a pretty candle and holder specifically purchased for use on warm evenings spent on the back deck, and a gift certificate for a German restaurant in Multnomah Village), and a brightly decorated work area, all of which just contributed to what I hope is the longest sentence I have ever written. That is, I must say, the extent of the actual celebratory goings on at this point as I haven't found myself wildly interested in planning anything (but that may have been medical dread induced...Now that I have been distracted from planning my funeral, perhaps I can be bothered to celebrate the next year...perhpas).

What I have had time to think about are some fun short trips during my vacation. So far Seattle, the beach, and Pendleton are all on the list, but that is totally subject to change, because the coming week will be a time of following whims and perhaps even ill advised schemes. All I know for certain is that I am going to the peace rally in the South Park Blocks tomorrow and that there will be travelling and painting involved in my week. So, that is all for now, for I must away to the library before some other nerd gets all the good books.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

L. J.

If he hadn't died when I was in my mid-20's, today would have been my father's 78th birthday. It is a strange thought this idea of him being almost 80. Then again there are times when I can't get over the fact that the next few days will see me entering my late 30's. How did THAT happen? I am now almost the age he was when I was born.

My dad and I had an at times emotionally tumultuous relationship. When I was a girl, he seemed gruff and impatient to me. He was a tough guy with antiquated ideas about what it meant to be manly. He was also creative, sensitive, and trained to stifle those things by an abusive, cold, bigoted bitch of a mother (oh, grandmama) who once broke a flashlight over his head and a distant father, whose interests lied more heavily with the ladies than they did with parenting. When my grandfather did dispense fatherly advice, it was such gems as "Boy, don't come home crying because someone is picking on you. You either stay and fight him like a man or you can come home and fight me. Either way, you're going to get your ass kicked."

As is to be expected, this philosophy of child rearing contributed to producing a flawed human being - a beautiful one, who could be very noble and sweet, but flawed nonetheless. While my father was hard working, honest, and funny (when he wasn't stressed), his temper was not among his finer characteristics. As a kid, I was shy and always a little afraid of him. I don't think he knew quite what do to with a little girl, especially the kind of super sensitive girly girl I was. I think he might have connected better with a boy during those early years, but I have no doubt that he loved me and that he did his best.

Our birthdays a little over a week apart, I was his belated blue-eyed birthday present. Everyone said that I looked just like him. He said that I look like my mother. I am told that on the day I was born, he scrawled "Yabba dabba doo" on the calendar in big, red letters. No, there's no doubt that he loved me.

Our relationship improved a lot as I got older. We seemed to do better once I was old enough to really talk to him. One of my favorite memories of him was the night before I left home to move to California. I was excited, scared, worried, and unable to sleep. So, we spent the evening sitting quietly on the front porch, talking until late into the night about all the places he'd lived and drinking bourbon under the stars.

The other one that stands out in my mind was one spring when I was about seven, and he decided to remodel my bedroom for my birthday. Great mystery surrounded this early "roomening". For what seemed like forever, but was in reality probably only a couple days, I was relocated to the guest room with the excuse that he was doing some sort of vague repairs that necessitated my staying out of my room, so I wouldn't get hurt. Being a really obedient (and lily livered) kid, I never questioned it.

Then, on the day of the big unveiling, my mom took me out for the afternoon. When we got home, he was in the kitchen frying hamburger for tacos. He'd cut himself and was wearing a bandaid on his finger. I remember asking him about it and him teasing me about it being nothing, but that if I happened to find the rest of his finger to be sure to return it. Then, he asked me to go into my room to retrieve something or other that he'd accidentally left there.

When I opened the door, I found it carpeted in my favorite color (blue) and filled with a Holly Hobbie bedecked canopy bed and cream colored bedroom set with gold trim. Looking back as an adult, I think he was as excited about the surprise as I was. He put so much care and attention into creating a space a little girl would love.

On these anniversaries that is how I like to think of him. Even after all these years, it's difficult to think about him after he got sick. He became so weak and frail after his stroke. Being helpless left not only his body, but also his pride and ultimately his spirit wounded. His illness brought us closer, but I prefer to think of him as the guy with sparkling blue eyes who remodeled my bedroom, taught me to drink Southern Comfort, and took me fishing, swearing me to secrecy when we stopped at Troy's fish market on the way home to make up for having only caught a boot and a rock. I think that's probably how he'd want to be remembered - with love.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

With spring busting out all over, it's pretty easy to buy into the concept of Pronoia (aka the sneaking suspicion that the universe is actually conspiring FOR you). Somehow, much more than the new year, springtime always feels to me like a time for new hope and change. Maybe it's because it is my own personal new year or maybe it is just watching nature's cycle as the earth begins to reawaken, but even the rainy March days don't bring me down like the rainy days of say November or January.

It's been a busy month, but the part that stands out most for me about its early days was worrying about going to the doctor for follow up on some abnormal test results from back in the fall. I have the annoying habit of thinking that I can just push things that I don't want to think about out of my mind with no ill effects beyond forgetting. So, from about September - late February, I lived happily on the banks of the river Denial. Then, came the reminder and suddenly I was thinking about it again. A LOT.

By last Sunday, I was an utter mess of pendulous emotion that must have rendered me a truly delightful company. My poor mother got the brunt of it. Even I had to admit there was a problem when I started getting surly about not wanting to go to church. A low point was reached when I proclaimed "Fine! I'll just drop you off, but don't expect me to go in!" before commencing with the copious weeping.

It was at that point that I finally put two and two together and realized that I was a wee bit stressed about going to the doctor. There are times when it's really difficult to just say "I'm afraid", even though it would be so much easier for everyone concerned. Once she knew my crazy was a targeted crazy and not just garden variety high strung, my mom (who is awesome) suggested that we go for a drive out into the forest. Getting away definitely helped for a while, but by the day of my appointment, I was having again having weird dreams, had been on the verge of tears for a good 72 hours, and had myself so worked up that my blood pressure was hovering up around 160.

I'm still waiting for the results, but am feeling so much better now that the appointment is at least over. It was on Tuesday, and there's been no news yet, so I'm really hoping I'm getting a "everything's ok, see you in 6 months" card instead of the dreaded call. Realistically, if there's something wrong, at least it's been caught early, but I'm hoping that my pronoid fancies carry over to bad cells too. How did they go bad any way? Were they born bad or pushed to it? Did they get high on diet coke chemicals and mutate? Fall in with the wrong crowd? Succumb to peer pressure? Do they curse, wear little leather jackets and chain smoke? (I like to think so.) Whatever happened, it's making me think a lot more about what I put into my body and I'm back on my walking schedule, both of which seem very rebirthy new patterns to develop for spring and beyond.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

An astounding, lucid confusion

It was in late fall of 1244 that Jelaluddin Rumi met met the wandering dervish Shams of Tabriz, under whose mentorship Rumi would become one of the great spiritual masters and poets. Rumi is one of those individuals whose work transcends culture and time. Although it is Coleman Barks' translations of Rumi that have rendered the philosopher the most read poet in the U.S., Rumi's writings influenced Persian, Turkish and Urdu literature long before he was discovered by the West and he is still widely read today in what was once Persia. When you say "Rumi" everyone knows who you mean. No one asks "Do you mean Rumi the poet/philosopher or Shahpur Rumi, the orthodontist?" People just know you meant the guy who observed that language is a proof that we're separated and have a nostalgia for union, the guy who wrote:

Listen to the story told by the reed,
of being separated.

"Since I was cut from the reedbed,
I have made this crying sound.

Anyone apart from someone he loves
understands what I say.

Anyone pulled from a source
longs to go back.

At any gathering I am there,
mingling in the laughing and grieving,

a friend to each, but few
will hear the secrets hidden

within the notes. No ears for that.
Body flowing out of spirit,

spirit up from body: no concealing
that mixing. But it's not given us

to see the soul. The reed flute
is fire, not wind. Be that empty."

Hear the love fire tangled
in the reed notes, as bewilderment

melts into wine. The reed is a friend
to all who want the fabric torn

and drawn away. The reed is hurt
and salve combining. Intimacy

and longing for intimacy, one
song. A disastrous surrender

and a fine love, together. The one
who secretly hears this is senseless.

A tongue has one customer, the ear.
A sugarcane flute has such effect

because it was able to make sugar
in the reedbed. The sound it makes

is for everyone. Days full of wanting,
let them go by without worrying that they do.

Stay where you are
inside such a pure, hollow note.

Every thirst gets satisfied except
that of these fish, the mystics,

who swim a vast ocean of grace
still somehow longing for it!

No one lives in that without
being nourished every day.

But if someone doesn't want to hear
the song of the reed flute,

it's best to cut conversation short,
say good-bye, and leave.

(Translation by Coleman Barks)

As the story goes, when Shams disappeared under mysterious circumstances, Rumi's grief was so great that it overflowed into a poetic outpouring. Shams was not only Rumi's mentor, but also his friend, even beloved. Tradition also has it that the Sufic whirling dervishes were born of Rumi's own habit of circling a column, touching it with one hand, as his students recorded the inspirations that poured forth from his lips.

Wednesday night, I had the opportunity to attend a program on Rumi that was offered by the Institute for Christian-Muslim Understanding (ICMU). Dr. Harry Moody was to have presented a multi-media workshop entitled "Rumi ~ Journey through the Life Course". I say was to, because fate intervened to call Dr. Moody away to attend to an illness in the family before he could ever even board his plane for Oregon. Instead, workshop attendees were left with a potluck, a portion of a DVD and some ad hoc presentation and discussion.

Work regrettably prevented me from arriving early enough for the potluck. The organizers had set ground rules for the shared meal to ensure that there was a mix of people at each table. It would have been interesting to have the chance to speak with some of the Muslims there, one of whom had a couple of impassioned outbursts about the war after everything had ended. It saddened me to see this man, who was so hurt and angry and to know that my country's foreign policy is largely responsible for his unrest.

This man was not a terrorist or fundamentalist nutjob, he just wanted for people to understand how culturally and ethnically diverse his region is and for us not to lump all Afghanis, Iraqis, Iranians, etc. together as though they were not people, human beings with individual differences. In such moments, I am ashamed for us. But that was, in part, the purpose of the event - not shame and anger, but the opening of a dialogue that allows us to see each other for the "astounding lucid confusions" we all are as human beings. Rumi was the vehicle, but the point was greater understanding.

That is not to say that Rumi was not discussed. One of the treats of the evening was the opportunity to hear Rumi's poetry read in Persian, which is a lovely sounding language. Even not understanding the words, it was easy to hear the repetition of sound and internal rhyme in each line. As an added bonus, it was evident that the gentleman who read the poetry (I've sadly forgotten his name, but I do know that he was a professor from somewhere in the area) was enthusiastic about Rumi and loved his poetry. His childhood stories of sitting in his father's lap in the evenings, listening to him read poetry reminded me very much of my own experiences growing up with Goethe, Eichendorff and other German poets.

I haved to admit that although I had already purchased the requisite copy of Coleman Barks' The Essential Rumi at New Renaissance (back before my now going on 5 year boycott of them) years before attending this workshop, I never really read it that closely. Every few years I would thumb through it and read a few of the shorter poems, but I never really looked at them. Although the workshop did not turn out quite as the organizers had planned, it has given me a whole new appreciation for Rumi that has me looking forward to discovering more.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Public Enemy #1

Hi, my name is Rudiger and I am a complete and utter bastard. Any time my people want to go somewhere, I seize the opportunity to run out the door and hide in the neighbor's yard. The trick is to stay just out of reach, occasionally taunting them by rubbing up against the fence and sweetly meowing. Then you just sit back and watch their blood pressure rise. It is AWESOME. Indoor cat, my hairy black ass! You may take my life, but you'll never take my freedom!

When I'm not plotting my escape, I enjoy shedding, knocking things off the table and stealing people's warm seats any time they get up. Well, I'd better go now. I think someone's coming. More later. Power to the felines!

In the name of freedom,

Saturday, March 03, 2007


Shosholoza is a Zulu word meaning "go forward" or "make way for the next man". It is also the title of my new spine tingling, favorite, good mood inspiring song to listen to (specifically the Ladysmith Black Mambazo version featuring Lucky Dube, Bhekumuzi Luthuli, Hugh Masekela, Vusi Mahlasela, Nokukhanya, Phuzekhemisi, and Thandiswa, a too short sample of which can be heard here). Mambazo's version really is beautiful, onomatopoeically layering sounds so that the music really does sound like the train about which they're singing.

With spring and the new year (Powellhurstian calendar) coming soon, shosholoza seems a good word of the month, especially when the word of about 2/3 of the past year felt like it was uphill. The prospect of making room for the new becomes a very welcome one indeed. So, as the crocuses poke their heads up through the soil, preparing for spring, I too am looking forward to what this new year of my life will bring. I hope cake will be involved...

Thursday, March 01, 2007

The Crappiest Haiku

The other night in my Companions class, we were asked to write a haiku about how grudges, desires and anxieties affect our spiritual growth. While I love to words, writing under pressure for public consumption gives my stomach a flurry of Mothra sized butterflies. Neurotic about just about anything I write, I have a whole set of anxieties reserved especially for poetry. Even haikus, which always seem to turn up as fun stabs at poetry for the unpoetic (which is unfair, because it's just as difficult to write a good haiku as any other form of poetry), make me anxious. Chalk it up to my super-sized need for approval.

So, when pressed to write, all I could come up with was:

Thinking up haikus
Fills me with anxiety
I do not love them

Once that concept had infiltrated my head, that was it. No more room at the inn. By the end of our short writing time, my mind was filled with haiku inspired resistance and my paper blank. So I was forced to scrawl my My Grudge Against Haikus haiku down on it, put it in the basket from which we were all going to select each others work to read aloud, and sit there looking squirrely until mine was up. It got a laugh, which appeased the approval need, but left me feeling a bit like a cheater in terms of authenticity.

When I got home I started thinking. My experience with the poem is actually emblematic of the blindness that seizes us any time we become too focused on any fear, idea, want or expectation. Fear of becoming the author of the crappiest haiku (note to self: title of the stirring, triumphant memoir I will write in my golden years - The Crappiest Haiku: The Martina of Powellhurst Story) left me unable to treat the question as much more than a joke. Jokes are safe. If people laugh, it's okay. They were supposed to.

It's a lot easier to go for the laugh, focus on our fears than it is to own up to the negative parts of our belief systems. Sometimes we focus so much on what we feel, believe, want etc. that we don't see all of the possibilities that are out there. So, my self-assigned homework for the week is to be more aware of the times when I succumb to tunnel vision and to make an authentic attempt at trying something I'm not good at. Maybe I will surprise myself. Either way, it will be more memoir fodder.