Thursday, December 31, 2009

99 Things

I am so happy that Mon started this list of 99 Things. I love hearing others’ unique stories, and remembering that my life, too, is pretty amazing. It pulled me out of my doldrums (which is quite a feat). I mean, really, look at that face! Since all this joy was bubbling up, I decided to honor it and share it—my very personal list of 99 Things.

Things I’ve already done: bolded.
Things I want to do: italicized.

    1. I was born to an amazing mom.
    2. I’ve been loved by an amazing family.
    3. I’ve met wonder-full people.
    4. Walk across America.
    5. I had a summer job helping a photographer map Montana from a small Cessna.
    6. I gave birth to a daughter, who has taught me much.
    7. I witnessed death.
    8. I opened myself to love.
    9. I saw my teen idol in a café but had since found true love.
    10. Three words someone said to me that I’ll never forget, “Love takes time.”
    11. Commune with nature.
    12. I’ve paddled a canoe.
    13. I have snow-shoed.
    14. I helped build a snow fort.
    15. I’ve attended rendezvous and powwows.
    16. I stepped on and set off a series of poacher’s traps.
    17. I’ve watched salmon spawn.
    18. I’ve witnessed a decline in the salmon populations.
    19. I learned to love a place that used to make me cry.
    20. Advocate for nature.
    21. I have caught fish and crawdads (and ate them).
    22. Learn wilderness awareness skills.
    23. Been caught stealing (once when I was 10).
    24. Falsely arrested for stealing when I was 21 in a police training exercise.
    25. I kicked a posse of carjackers out of my car.
    26. Get to know my town on bike.
    27. I have hitchhiked in a group and alone.
    28. Travel with my family.
    29. Ride a train through Glacier National Park in the winter.
    30. Hike the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada.
    31. Visit the Pacific Northwest.
    32. Visit the American Southwest.
    33. I’ve slept on the beach and next to the river.
    34. Regularly swim in the river.
    35. Skinny dip.
    36. Cliff dive.
    37. I chose to be homeless.
    38. I refused to remove a nose ring for a job.
    39. I dyed my hair (purple, red, blue), but now watch it turn silver.
    40. I harbor two three un-amendable regrets.
    41. Choose awareness.
    42. Increase my capacity to sit with others' grief.
    43. Practice communicating better.
    44. Stop thinking you have people figured out.
    45. Be present.
    46. In high school, I won competitions for flute performance.
    47. I also ran 12 miles a day for cross-country.
    48. My knees turned to jelly during a piano recital.
    49. My knees turned to jelly when facing a bear in the mountains.
    50. I broke my collarbone skiing.
    51. I was sexually harassed as a teen.
    52. I stopped a light rail security guard from sexually harassing two teens.
    53. Take a model mugging class.
    54. I cheered as my husband fought in the Thunderdome.
    55. I protested wars.
    56. I wrestled my own dragons.
    57. I experienced sleep paralysis.
    58. I have experienced techno-paralysis and actively resist cell phones and Facebook.
    59. I learned to say no.
    60. Learn to say yes.
    61. Learn more about democracy, anarchy, and personal/social responsibility.
    62. Create community.
    63. Host parties with singing, dancing, costuming, and play.
    64. Explore creativity.
    65. I discovered Native American artifacts.
    66. I went on a night forest hike with friends.
    67. I experienced the supernatural.
    68. Go on a Vision Quest.
    69. I have felt completely empty.
    70. I have felt enlightened.
    71. I have splashed barefoot in rain puddles.
    72. Learn to love my body.
    73. Learn African drumming.
    74. Learn juggling.
    75. Learn fire poi.
    76. I sang in two operas (Bach Mass in b minor and The Carmina Burana).
    77. Find my voice.
    78. I carved a lyre.
    79. I hammered a copper bowl.
    80. I want to learn woodworking.
    81. I serendipitously encountered anthropology, linguistics, and Waldorf Education.
    82. Learn to take baby steps.
    83. Become self-employed.
    84. Become a journalist.
    85. Write and publish a book.
    86. Learn the art of oral storytelling.
    87. Become a librarian.
    88. Visit The Library of Congress.
    89. I studied herbalism and naturopathy.
    90. I smoked cigarettes for seven years.
    91. I was a vegetarian for seven years.
    92. I ate a chocolate-covered cricket.
    93. Grow my own food.
    94. Raise chickens, goats, and bees.
    95. Learn how to preserve foods.
    96. Let go of ‘scarcity’.
    97. Embrace possibility.
    98. Remember what is essential.
    99. Love.
Happy New Year, everyone!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Like Water for Chocolate Book Review

Like Water for Chocolate: A Novel in Monthly Installments with Recipes, Romances, and Home Remedies Like Water for Chocolate: A Novel in Monthly Installments with Recipes, Romances, and Home Remedies by Laura Esquivel

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Like Water for Chocolate is the coming of age tale of Tita, a young Mexican girl cursed by tradition to serve her mother until her death. Out of her many duties, she finds a love of cooking. In the kitchen she learns the family history and culture. Every dish she makes is biographical and has a supernatural effect upon those who eat it. If she is bitter—so is her food. If she is lusty—so pairs of guests find reasons to excuse themselves. Tita, herself, falls in love with a boy named Pedro, but is bound to serve her mother and never marry. It is only through food that she can express her own coming of age and sensuality.

I first heard this tale as a movie—near my own coming of age. My roommates and I went and saw it five times! The story is very sensual and rich in metaphor. I loved it! I still do. However, reading the book as an adult, I am not as moved. Was the movie better? I don’t know. Am I just different now? Maybe. I was put off by the ending, because I think the passion Tita was feeling for Pedro was lust—not enduring love. What substance was there? What character? The ending was too abrupt. Ah, well. It was an enjoyable quick read. I did not mind passing a day in youthful romance.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Dancing Your Joy

When my sister started college in September, I told her I’d take a class with her. Unfortunately, most of her classes were in the daytime, while I was busy home-schooling my daughter. So, she suggested an African Dance class on Friday nights. At first I said no. I’ve got a pretty funky rhythm, one that doesn’t conform to any recognizable dance patterns. Oh, there was a trail of reasons. But, in the end, none of them really made sense. So, before I could think about it any further, I said yes. Every Friday we walked to class together and danced together for three hours. I needed it. Darkness was swallowing me. I needed to bring some light into my body. It was great fun. Our dance group was wonderful, the teacher was fantastic, and there were live drummers! The only thing I didn’t like was when we had to lead a dance move—and the mounting dread about the final performance. Since the final wasn’t required, I decided that I wouldn’t do it. No, uh-uh, no way. My sister, as usual, was very understanding. She would do it whether I did it or not. After wrestling with this No Monster that lives in me, I said yes. The Monster was still there backstage, subdued, but not without great force. It was scary. But I did it and am thankful. I’m thankful for my sister. I am inspired by her willing and open spirit. Thank you for dancing your joy, sis. And HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Red Tent Book Review

The Red Tent: A Novel: Tenth-Anniversary Edition The Red Tent: A Novel: Tenth-Anniversary Edition by Anita Diamant

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A year ago I read Anita Diamant’s The Red Tent, but when it came up on my women’s book group last month, I didn’t hesitate to read it again. The story resonated with me. Upon finishing it last year, I ran to the only private place in the house—the bathroom. I closed the door behind me and sat on the toilet in the darkness and cried and cried and cried. It felt like I was crying for all the women since the beginning of time. I cried tears of joy for their awakened desires, their possibilities and passion. I cried bitter tears for their thwarted desires, their suffering. I cried for my mom. I cried for my daughter. I cried for me.

Although our culture doesn’t celebrate women’s cycles, they are such a powerful part of who we are. Our cycles connect us to the cycles of nature, to pain and its release, and to each other. And in that way, Anita Diamant revealed the hearts of the women of The Old Testament. Diamant does a beautiful job of setting the scene so that we are there with the wives of Jacob, spinning, weaving, gardening, cooking. Although they end up sharing a husband and children (not always willingly), they are unified in their womanhood. They come together monthly in the red tent to celebrate their cycle and nurture each other.

Beyond the red tent, they are bound by their duties. They have to stay together to survive. This is what I got from my second reading. Their togetherness, their shared histories, their trials and tribulations, their rituals and celebrations, awakens in me—centuries later—not so much a desire to return to their way of life, but a yearning for community. While independence is so highly valued, perhaps we need to come together to survive, as well.

That said, Diamant does not idealize the women and men in her retelling. There is bestiality, racism, sexism, murder, rape…. This is the story of Dinah, the only daughter of Jacob, a mere footnote in The Old Testament. It is her view of the red tent. It is her journey away from the red tent, from her pastoral life, from her brothers’ destinies. She must leave her family to find her tribe, herself. Although her journey is not without suffering, I found a few of the situations in her path to be a little too serendipitous, uncharacteristically easy. However, that was easy for me to overlook in part, I think, because, before she left her homeland, the oracle foresaw something—something big?—something else for Dinah—a path her own. You can’t argue with destiny, can you now?

Diamant breathes life into ancient biblical figures and gives voice to those who had no voice—audacious, this godlike act. Is it blasphemous? Historically inaccurate? A feminist’s diatribe? You’ll have to decide that for yourself. But read it. Read it if you are a young woman or an old woman. Read it with your mom or your sisters or women friends. Read it if you are religious or not. It’s a damn good tale.

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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Tenderness of Wolves Book Review

The Tenderness of Wolves: A Novel The Tenderness of Wolves: A Novel by Stef Penney

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Considering how much I love books, it's odd that I never joined a book club--until last month. Perhaps Chewing a Leaf attracted me because of the feminine themes, but it may just be the awesome community of women that are part of it. I can't wait to talk with them about it! Our first book was The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney.

The first chapter didn’t grab me. The sentences and thoughts seemed stilted. I didn’t feel the rhythm or lyricism of the style. I didn’t know much of anything about the character (his? her?) perspective.

As I continued, I realized that the stiltedness, commas littered like boulders, reflect the way that many of us think—the way the main character was thinking—the way a story is revealed…. The commas were not boulders but lightning flashes in the night.

The story revealed is of Mrs. Ross, an immigrant to Canada in the mid-1800s. She and her husband live in a colony that backs up to dense forests, and she finds herself afraid of those wilds. Although Mrs. Ross seems strong of spirit, we find that she takes some sort of sedative to calm her inner wilds. And, when a murder occurs in her community, we find that the line between savagery and civility becomes blurred.

What I initially thought was a lack of rhythm or lyricism, was what made the story interesting. This is not a fast-moving book, but the pace is justified so as to illuminate the complex plot. Stef Penney has a poetic style, creating well-developed characters who harbor enough secrets and veiled longings to keep you unsure and interested in the resolution. All came together in the end, leaving you with just enough answers to be satisfied…and just enough unresolved longing to feel the humanity of it all.

I had a Saturday to devote to this book and thoroughly enjoyed it.

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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Corner View California...where you go to just be

Solitude. I have some spectacular natural places that I feel particularly meditative in, but they're not just out my back door. And when I need solitude, I need it right then and there. I call it "space." When I need some space, I head for my bed, curl up, and let my mind spiral out.

I've been needing quite a bit of space lately. My mom passed away in March, and in a couple days we are journeying to where she wanted to return.

I could describe for you how beautiful this place is, how beautiful my mom, my thoughts on death and spirit.... The words arise but quickly dissolve, like a mirage, and I find myself, toes dangling, at the edge of the universe.

As cathartic as writing, friendship, and keeping busy have been, I am at a singularity. I can only be present. Thoughts, like tendrils of the Milky Way...the inessential loosening orbit.... Solitude is calling.

Today's theme was "places of reflection...where you go to just be." For other reflective places, check out my sidebar.

Next week is "the unveiling, showing your true self." Wow. I wish I wasn't disappearing for a couple weeks. Maybe I'll have my unveiling when I get back. See you then....

To play along and share your corner view, contact Jane at Spain Daily.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Corner View California...staple foods

PIZZA!!! Okay, now that I'm done with my food frenzy, I can rationally say that pizza is not really a staple food in the normal sense of the word. I would love to show pictures of delicious, seasonal, and local produce. Things like tomatoes, onions, garlic, artisanal cheeses and breads, honey.... But, truth be told, I love pizza. There's just no substitute when you don't want to cook. You know what I'm having for breakfast tomorrow!

To see staple foods in other parts of the world, check out the participants in my sidebar.

And, if you'd like to participate, contact Jane at Spain Daily. Next week's theme is "places of reflection...where you go to just be..."