After touring the world with k.d. lang, the soulful 25-year-old is set to release her debut record on May 11.
All life seeks balance. Without an opposite—a contrary or complementary state—we cannot appreciate the cycles of nature and the way we move through life as people. All those negative and positive forces of change are illuminated on Shine A Light, the first full-length release from Moorea Masa & The Mood . . . Shine A Light is a collection of 10 songs reflecting a cycle of internal exploration and external conversations. It is equal parts personal and political. The album tackles the heavy topics of sexism, police violence and abuse, while balancing them with a profound sense of self, expectations, love and letting go. It is the essence of strength and vulnerability of a woman living in our very current and collective reality.
a piano in the woods
the milky way with a silhouette skirt of treeline
a blue satin ribbon holding the skull
of a ruby-throated hummingbird
a lone honeybee painted on a swatch
of Victorian floral wallpaper
vermilion, gold, periwinkle and jet
two orange and black tail feathers from a Northern Flicker
in a two-inch terracotta pot
three blue and green peacock feathers
in a wooden vase
snowflake obsidian and hematite
a small, coiled shell worn away to iridescent nacre
a pressed, beige, star-shaped flower
a grey stone with white spots shaped like a heart
a turtle carved in amber
a lichen branch
a tuft of dried seaweed
A miniature mahogany Buddha on a mirrored pedestal
a black pebble with a silver-winged dragonfly
signed, HANK on the bottom
gifted in apology for panhandling a dollar
a story about a crime lab for animals
legal and illegal global trade in wildlife
they are searching for evidence that will link human suspects
to animal victims
see: corporate farming, your dinner
“I’ve never drawn a chalk line around a butterfly,” he jokes
their paper wings ignite on headlamps
and metal filters
as we fly wingless,
day or night.
I sat waiting for my lunch to be ready. Closing my eyes, the sun warming me, honing in on nearby conversations.
“It was just awful!”
“Do you want to meet later?”
“We have to get back soon.”
“What are you hungry for?”
And then, “Think of a Chinese word you’d like to see written.”
Two young women, students conducting a written language experiment, held a small, dry-erase board and the woman in the steel-grey wool skirt looked sheepishly to the man-in-tow standing next to her, scanning his face for a word, for approval.
“Tomato,” she smiled and shrugged.
“What an uninteresting word,” I thought to myself. Clearly, hunger and condiments dominated her thoughts to choose such an oddly simple thing.
The student began to draw the two characters, then handed the board to steel-grey skirt and asked her to draw it, to copy the lines in her own hand.
“Like this?” She fumbled through and the student asked to take a picture of steel-grey skirt holding up the sign, which she obliged after being assured it wouldn’t end up on the web or Facebook.
Steel-grey skirt and man-in-tow collected their lunches and wandered off back to their meetings and spreadsheets and before the students could walk away, I volunteered, “I have a word I’d like to see.”
“Great! What’s the word?”
“Oh—I’ll have to look that one up, it might be kind of difficult, the Chinese don’t really have an expression for that. Well, depending on the context I guess.”
“I suppose weakness is not a good emotional or political stance,” I mused.
She typed it into her phone where there must’ve been a pinyin and symbology translator of sorts and she mumbled, “Ah, hmm, that’s really pretty.”
She sketched out what looked like two number 5s, curved, bent and spooning, little animals with two quick hatchmarks in the coils and crooks, something warm in their bellies perhaps. The second symbol, like a little house on stick legs, or a bird laying in a field of short reeds or soft, matted grass, or a boat on uneven waves jutting a mast with no sail attached.
She handed me the board and it was my turn to draw.
“Very good!” She encouraged. “You could do calligraphy.”
And I suddenly thought of my high school art class, how I attended my prom for free because I volunteered to hand write every student’s name in my graduating class and their respective date’s name on folded white cardstock for all the seating arrangements at the dinner tables. How I painstakingly wrote every letter with a copper pen tip, sinking the nib into a bottle of crow-black ink, scratching out letters and then with a glue gun, affixing a black bow-tied ribbon and burgundy rose in the corner of every one.
She took my picture holding up the board with “vulnerable” written twice and asked, “Why are you so interested in this word?”
I considered the tomato. Heart-shaped, red, plump, viscous inside, thin-skinned, vulnerable and thought perhaps, it wasn’t such a bad word after all and I said, “I think objects are fine, but I am more curious about concepts, especially emotional ones that are difficult to describe with one word. Like love or home or wonder.” I thought about how big ideas cannot, should not easily be boiled down, compartmentalized, or compressed into a single word or worse, an acronym. Americans are really fond of acronyms and especially mnemonics, trying to make big ideas memorable, and easier to digest, when really, what must be done is some digging, some spelunking, some serious unpacking followed by a gentle examination of all the parts.
I thought of other languages where speakers might have cultural differences and difficulties expressing emotion. For instance, one way of responding to the everyday greeting of “How are you?” in Russian is to say ” I am not unwell.” As if, already expressing in the negative was a way of conveying strength. Things could be worse. I’m not dead yet. My friend told a story where in high school, a Russian exchange student staying at his home was being chastised for taking her host family’s young son out to play in his school clothes on a rainy day. His mother wasn’t at all happy that they had returned so filthy, caked in mud and muck, but the Russian girl sweetly explained to the mother, “he is not unwashable.”
What does it mean to be vulnerable? To be “accessible, assailable, defenseless, exposed, liable, naked, on the line, on the spot, out on a limb, ready, sensitive, sitting duck, sucker, susceptible, tender, thin-skinned, unguarded, unprotected, unsafe, weak, wide open, open to attack.” Why is there no strength in vulnerability when it takes all the courage in the world to allow yourself to let something, some ideas, someone in? To yield with grace to the often terrifying, ever-shifting locus of love, of home, and of wonder.
All three of these ideas have changed greatly for me in the last several years. Losing a beloved pet to cancer, losing a home by being priced out of the neighborhood, losing a job and a marriage; and all of these losses and changes at nearly the same time. It was like witnessing all the love and home and wonder I nurtured suddenly evaporate out from under me. There was a serious unpacking. There was a gentle examination of all my parts. Especially the ones that went missing, where I identified myself.
I thought of many loves lost in my youth, how some of the most tender pieces of me were carried off by wild wolf boys and buried like edible treasure to devour later. How sometimes there were wounds I ignored and over and over I had to revisit the same old traps that closed upon them to extract myself very carefully so as to not lose more pieces still. Sure, I came out licking my wounds, scathed and dirty. But I emerged whole.
Turns out, I am not unwahsable. I am not unwell. I am still hungry and I am getting reacquainted with wonder. I have redefined home. I still don’t fully understand the nature of love, but I am very much an eager student and believer of it in all of its necessary function and beautiful, new forms.
Last nite I dreamed a child was born. An angry, powerful girl child meant for battle. A child somehow prophesied and meant to act as a weapon, a tool for humanity. I did not give birth to this child, I simply kept my distance and observed as all the wise men and women sought to coax her and train her. They staged miniature bouts between the child and those who thought themselves strong enough to get within striking distance. No one could and those who tried were thrown back from the child’s fiery, protective field, a red bubble, a halo of light that would build and erupt and push the intruder away as the child sounded with an ear-piercing cry.
I watched the warriors come and go and paced and thought and drew close to the child and gently removed the clutch of her handler from her tiny shoulder. I was well within range to destroy the child meant for service and greatness or murder and annihilation but I gathered the child instead to my barren breast which suddenly gave milk and comfort. I looked to the handler who nodded and closed his eyes and took the child with me for a walk through a field, which led us down a dirt road where Iboarded a bus where a man sat beside me with open sea-green eyes and a gentle countenance. He put his arm about my shoulders and held us both and the child looked up at me and smiled.
No—it is not a longing for children. I am instead longing to soothe that angry, sad untempered part of me who has taken some damage lately and lashes out at all the wrong people, in all the wrong dimensions, and with wildly inordinate scales of heat.
I am listening to my dream language and I know what I must do. It involves some self-mothering. And some fussing and some nursing. To be sure.
“He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lampposts—
for support rather than for illumination.”
— Andrew Lang
“Equations are the devil’s sentences.” — Stephen Colbert
“Like other occult techniques of divination,
the statistical method has a private jargon
deliberately contrived to obscure
its methods from nonpractitioners.“
— Ashley-Perry Statistical Axioms quotes
::: ::: ::: ::: ::: ::: ::: :::
I hate statistics. I hate it so much I’ve re-named it “sadistics.” I hate it so much I’d rather blog about it than DO it for class. I loathe it so hard my husband had a good laugh at me. He came around the corner to find me with damp washcloth and spray bottle in hand, circling a kitchen table splayed out with books and erasers and graphing calculator and he cracked up. He noted that I was purposefully avoiding doing the homework by cleaning the kitchen chairs. That’s right, I’d rather wash wooden legs with Murphy’s oil and scrub food & dinner fart-laden seat upholstery than sit in front of numbers and formulas that after awhile, just start to look like an invasion of picnic ants marching across a description of Greek whoredom.
My eyes begin to gloss over, I let my cheek slump into my hand. Propped up on my elbow, I allow my mouth to go slack and open into a balloon-shaped maw, all in an effort to allow more oxygen to get into the situation. Anything to tease the possible formula i’m supposed to use out of the useless and impertinent question being asked in the longest series of lamest story problems of all time. On any standardized test. Ever. I could be in the same state if I drank 3 fingers of bourbon. And I’d be having way more fun.
I’ve begun creatively insulting the theorists and their theorems. Chebyshev’s theorem? Nope. Chubbynut’s Nonsense (it’s not my fault his first name is “Pafnuty”). No joke. It would take a Russian mad man with a crater on the moon named after him to make me do this crap. In order to get a BS Psychology. Emphasis on the BS.
I want to stab myself in the boxplot with an ogive. That, of course, being a joke that perhaps only someone subjected to statistics would be able to understand.
Which leads me to the only fun thing I learned so far . . .
Because I HAD to know the word origin for the ogivecurve, turns out Wikipedia has this to say:
“In statistics, an ogive is a graph showing the curve of a cumulative distribution function (which, for the normal distribution, resembles one side of an Arabesque or ogival arch.”
An ogival or pointed arch is one of the defining characteristics of Gothic architecture.
Ogives are also used descriptively in ballistics or aerodynamics where an ogive is a pointed, curved surface mainly used to form the approximately streamlined nose of a bullet or other projectile as well as the complex ogives in missiles and aircraft.
Ogives are used in applied physical science, engineering, architecture, woodworking, geology, and yes – even statistics.
That concludes this episode of nerd notes . . . and now, you may have a better insight to my bad attempt at a stats joke, which is like, a monstrous exercise in futility. It does it all on its own. Writes itself, honey.
But what are the postitives? Will I be a better Poker player? I prefer Cranium. I get to act, solve puzzles and play with clay. Better able to understand and plot risk-analysis? I only do dangerous stuff to myself, not to others. (most of the time.) More equipped to look at those numerous, tiresome graphs, dots, squiggles, pointed notation marks and fluffy numbers and make perfect sense of psychological research. I. fucking. doubt it, son.
In fact, if it weren’t for Joe holding my hand through some of these problems and talking me through it (and away from mathematical ledges) I’m certain I wouldn’t be getting any of it at all.
Now let me make something clear . . . I don’t consider myself a dumb bunny. And to his credit, the teacher is excellent, clear, procedural, by the book and full of examples. Why my tiny squirrel brain can’t wrap my head around it all is well, probably mostly due to my obstinance. (SEE above paragraphs)
Then there’s the pretty graph making program called MiniTab (MinorStab) which I have to use in order to complete my Math Labs. I’ve decided I don’t want to trek out to school, find and pay for parking, hang out in a computer lab for an indefinite amount of time, be hungry, cranky and confused and have no means of escape, so I “rented” the program for 6 months for $30. Which is about all I’ll need to get through two semesters of it. And I can drink wine while I load data sets. Yeah. You got my number.
So—I’ll slog my way through it. I feel a low grade B fever coming on.
She had horses who were bodies of sand.
She had horses who were maps drawn of blood.
She had horses who were skins of ocean water.
She had horses who were the blue air of sky.
She had horses who were fur and teeth.
She had horses who were clay and would break.
She had horses who were splintered red cliff.
She had some horses.
She had horses with long, pointed breasts.
She had horses with full, brown thighs.
She had horses who laughed too much.
She had horses who threw rocks at glass houses.
She had horses who licked razor blades.
She had some horses.
She had horses who danced in their mothers’ arms.
She had horses who thought they were the sun and their bodies shone and burned like stars.
She had horses who waltzed nightly on the moon.
She had horses who were much too shy, and kept quiet in stalls of their own making.
She had some horses.
She had horses who liked Creek Stomp Dance songs.
She had horses who cried in their beer.
She had horses who spit at male queens who made them afraid of themselves.
She had horses who said they weren’t afraid.
She had horses who lied.
She had horses who told the truth, who were stripped bare of their tongues.
She had some horses.
She had horses who called themselves, “horse.”
She had horses who called themselves, “spirit.” and kept their voices secret and to themselves.
She had horses who had no names.
She had horses who had books of names.
She had some horses.
She had horses who whispered in the dark, who were afraid to speak.
She had horses who screamed out of fear of the silence, who carried knives to protect themselves from ghosts.
She had horses who waited for destruction.
She had horses who waited for resurrection.
She had some horses.
She had horses who got down on their knees for any savior.
She had horses who thought their high price had saved them.
She had horses who tried to save her, who climbed in her bed at night and prayed as they raped her.
She had some horses.
She had some horses she loved.
She had some horses she hated.
Panty shields up, Captain! We’re rebooting the Ovarian Operating System . . .
I know, the title of this blog alone makes you want to click fast and away. But I have to tell you a tale of consumer eco-angst removed from the simple and often expensive decision to buy local, organic products and food. But first, a little herstory . . .
There’s already been enough shame, secrecy, and taboo surrounding “that time of the month” and all the other fine euphemisms invented to be humourous or circumspect about the mystery of menstruation. There are countries where tampons weren’t and still aren’t sold because you’d have to “touch down there.” There are women who follow this practice willingly, even in forward thinking countries. They build huts and red tents and spas for this exact purpose. To wear pampers or to be pampered. Elsewhere.
But it’s moved beyond that to a place where we’re supposed to celebrate and “have a happy period,” a campaign from a company that stupidly chose their brand name to be “Always.” As in, “I’ll ALWAYS bleed, and I’ll ALWAYS wear these things.” At least Kotex, Tampex, and Playtex (all with –ex as a suffix to mean “out, from or away”) sound almost medical or medicinal. And it’s not ALL feminine hygiene, even wounded soldiers are prone to use a tampon (French for “plug” or “stopper”) to halt bullet wounds from weeping. “Always” doesn’t seem to imply medical or even chronic, instead, it implies a life sentence. Doesn’t your uterus protest? Well it should. War is hell and there’s a war in your drawers and the sick folks at Always were also responsible for aerodynamic pantyliners and pads. That’s right – they got your code red covered in homeland security and you can feel secure each month knowing there’s a little, white F-16 in your pants.
It’s not just a troubling war at home either . . . it’s covers many land masses and miles of ocean.
Your average lady uses 16,800 tampons in her lifetime, that’s 250 to 300 pounds of tampons and applicators. Tag on a few thousand pads and panty liners, and your ecological footprint is looking more like Sasquatch. Of particular offense are the plastic applicators some tampons are encased in. They are casually tossed into wastebaskets where they later escape the curb trash or landfill, trotted off by animals, resurfacing in parking lots and playgrounds and a host of other locations you’d rather not see them appear.
They come back from the watery depths to haunt you, too.
Plastic tampon applicators from sewage outfalls are one of the most common forms of trash on beaches. Yeah, you thought food wrappers and glass bottles and needles were the only gross & hazardous materials washing out to sea and coming back in with the tides. You flush them and that’s just the beginning. For building owners, pads and tampons that are flushed down the toilet are the most common cause of plumbing problems. Further down the flow, they end up the sewage treatment plants and surf into a lake or onto a river, and on into the ocean where they pool with the rest of the plastic detritus at the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. There it all sits and breaks down into ever smaller particles until they are the size and color of plankton or worse, are pelletized high-density polyethylene (HDPE) white “nurdles” that resemble fish eggs or food to sea creatures. Then the birds and fish ingest these hormone disrupters and concentrated toxins like PCB and DDE and the circle of life gets a big kick in the nurdles.
But it’s not just the animals somewhat removed from you, you’re an animal too, and guess what it’s doing to you by directly inserting it? Your conventional feminine hygiene products contain a mixture of rayon and cotton. Rayon is in your blouses, dresses, lingerie, linings, scarves, suits, ties, hats, socks, the filling in Zippo lighters, blankets, window treatments, upholstery, tire cord, yarn and diapers. It’s highly absorbent but no good at retaining shape and as far as biodegradability goes, it’s a real loser. Most importantly, synthetic materials like the Rayon used in tampons show an increased risk of toxic shock syndrome (TSS), particularly for superabsorbent tampons. So if you’re a bleeder, you’re a feeder.
And sweet, white cotton isn’t much better up in there. Cotton is highly pesticide-intensive; 25% of pesticides used globally are devoted to growing cotton. To achieve that lily-white look, pads and tampons are bleached with chlorine, a process which creates dioxins, a known carcinogen and those bad boys shouldn’t be placed anywhere near your reproductive organs. And you swear you never smoked a cigar in your life. Especially in a donkey show.
Think Outside the (Tampon) Box
It’s getting easier to select tampons, pads, and panty liners made from organic, unbleached cotton which is cultivated without the use of pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, sewage sludge, irradiation, petrochemicals, or genetic engineering. All of which we now have think about when looking at the towering isle of soothing, pastel colors, reminding us that yes – we’ll be back out there swimming, riding ponies, surfing at the beach and smiling while playing miniature golf in NO time.
O.B. tampons: small box, no applicator. Compact, simple cellophane wrapper covering them, easy to use, and take up very little room in your purse. It is unfathomable, but some women simple aren’t down with getting that up close and personal with their own lady bits and maybe getting their finger a little spotty. Come on darlings – this is no time to be prim and squeamish. If you haven’t seen it in a mirror to understand how it goes together and pushed the buttons to see how it works, you don’t deserve to have sex and should just hang an “Out Of Order” sign over your girdle loop. Get over it. Get into it. It’s yours. Deal.
OG-style Tampax: wrapped in paper, cardboard applicator that breaks down relatively quickly if they happen to get loose in the environment. Preferable to the Pearl brand, which has an indestructible plastic applicator strong enough for shotgun shell casings and is then further wrapped in coated paper. Awesome. Go ahead. Try running them over with your car. You can’t destroy them. They’ll only get dirty . . . and more angry. That plastic rocket launcher is just one more wasteful obstacle between you and your nana. I don’t even want to go into the perfumed varieties. Now on top of your plastic fetish, you’re going to open a vapor-impermeable pouch and stick this vulcanized, alcohol soaked albino vampire into your hoo-ha where no one and nothing but your senseless cervix can smell it? Well it doesn’t work and now you smell of lightly talcumed meat. Fail. p.s. Talc is closely related to the potent carcinogen asbestos and talc particles have been shown to cause tumors in the ovaries and lungs of cancer victims. So hey – go easy on sprinkling the Johnson’s about your leaky basement. It’s a safety hazard. You’ll slip and fall. No need to announce “clean-up on aisle one.”
Natracare and Seventh Generation: chemical-free, non chlorine-bleached, simple packaging which means even less waste. Eco-conscious enough with all the key ingredient and disclaimers including no animal-testing and skin-tested only on fellow humans. You can sleep well in the knowledge that no bunnies had to hop about with a maxi pad strapped to their fluffy bums and instead, some nice lady in a lab got itchy a few times. This is still within the normal scope of your monthly cycle.
Jade and Pearl Sea Sponge: natural tampons inspired by the traditional use of sponges by menstruating women of ancient times. So if you want to bleed like Cleopatra, this is your bag. The Egyptians invented the tampon too – so you can thank them for that little wonder. Sea sponges are available in Teenie, Regular, and Large and you precision(?) fit to size by trimming the sea sponge and experimenting with insertion. Wow. Try not to think about doing dishes or wiping counters or a nice hot sponge bath because really, I can’t see how this is either sanitary OR relaxing. So Sally, if you’re worried about sullying up the seashore, (welcome to my new menstrual tongue twister) this is all the rage amongst mythological aquatic creatures. Apparently, sea sponges are what mermaids use.
Menstrual Cups – i.e.: Diva cup, Mooncup, Instead Softcup, Lunette, Keepercup, LadyCup, Femmecup, Miacup: Ok. Here’s where I drawn the line. This ain’t a Dixie Cup, or a Sippie Cup, a Tommee Tippee Cup or an Ice Cream Cup. This is none of those fun, sweet, childlike associations. But I trust you probably got over that the first time you sprung a leak and wrecked your favorite Underroos or your expensive lingerie for failing to count the days. Maybe I just haven’t been brave enough to go with a new, miserable experience, but let me get this straight . . . i fold a plastic, rubbery cup into a jelly roll, insert this, it pops open like a tulip, I “stir” it around to make sure the umbrella’s been fully deployed, which may take some coaxing and pushing and twisting, and then I pull it out by its dangling tail at intervals, wash it and reinsert it like tiny, portable Tupper Ware?!?!
Oh, hell no!
I am not about to wash my snatch basket in the sink (and carry special, mild, perfume-free, hypo-allergenic fem soap) in between classes or you know, when I take a restroom break to freshen up while out to dinner. I mean, how does one do this discreetly? Oh, and once a month, I get the distinct displeasure of a 5-minute boil for my little traveling jellyfish at the end of the cycle in some dedicated kitchen equipment that never sees food. Or, hey, I can use rubbing alcohol (and not hydrogen peroxide) to sterilize it. But I have to be extremely careful not to soak it too long and allow it to dry completely and not degrade the integrity of the plastic and rinse the residue so I don’t fuck up my vaginal pH.
O.B. tampons sounding better all the time, huh? Can you imagine wringing out your sea sponge? Wouldn’t you rather “touch it” now?
Go With The Flow
There was a time when i worked at a place so uptight, they wouldn’t allow the female staff to carry in a purse. Whether this was for security or to keep outside worldly distractions such as cell phones to a minimum was unclear, but the idea completely incensed my friend Nicole.
“What?” she snapped. “Where are you supposed to carry your tampons, up your ass?”
I explained to her how bad the work environment sucked and how tension and impossible precision reigned, thus, the topic of anal retention seemed a very fitting description. The job had me so upset, i couldn’t poop for a week. Then I quit.
And many light flow days from then, here I was on a Wednesday nite, standing there in the supermarket isle, paralyzed by too many choices and horrible, far-reaching consequences of those attempts at informed decision. There I was: hungry, cranky, wanting ice cream and a heating pad at the same time, thinking about plumbing, and ocean waters and marine life and cancer of the Yoni.
I turn to the woman next to me who is clicking and sucking at her teeth in audible consternation, just like me, and we both smile nervously, amazed at the mini internal crisis over what we’re going to buy. Neither of us will move first, both seem to be wondering how the other will select, looking for a brave trend to follow. Somehow, there’s a preposterous sense of worry over being judged, like bringing a film or a music cd or a book to the checkout clerk, the fear of choosing poorly, unwisely, without taste or sensibilities. “Hmmm,” she says. “Yeahhhhh,” I mutter slowly and drawn out. And we both start giggling.
My cup of joy is overflowing
I consider my internal flowchart for assessing absorbency needs:
junior – aww, isn’t that cute, you inked!
light – Miss Kitty has a nose bleed.
regular – oh, yay. my period’s back.
super – omg that’s a lot of blood.
super plus – jesus, maybe you should go to the hospital!
ultra – uhh, I think that blood clot just asked for a cigarette.
I am looking for regular. Just something in between, just a few tampons, a starter pack, a holdover since i don’t see any of my normal go-tos. And all they have is “a mere scratch” or “Carrie – Prom Scene.”
So I think of the dolphins and the salmon and the seabirds and i grab the 10-pack with the small, recyclable cardboard box and no applicator with the green looking package and eco-claims to fame and the woman next to me does the same. Just enough to soldier on.
It’s all I can do, really. If I don’t want to leave with anymore acronyms. Say, add PTSD to my PMS. Christ Almighty in a hybrid – i can’t even BLEED with out feeling guilty about it in my new sustainable world concept! I leave with my chlorine-free, biodegradable, non-applicator, no plastic, rayon-free tampons and my razors (which are free from animal testing) and a pint of, yes, sorry, blood orange sorbet, and it’s a good thing. While I’m happily eating my cool treat, I don’t need to imagine poor, naked bunnies hopping around with razor burn and nicks with only a maxi-pad to keep them warm. And after all this guilt, I just want to sandwich a washcloth and tuck it in my drawers or just sit on a sock and call it good.
She is an egg and every shadowed glance,
every silent forest destroys her.
She is newborn and the shark-tooth grit
of the earth clings to her wet eyes.
She is in flames, the jeweled fire
that everyone remembers,
and then, what she had not foreseen,
She is burned and not consumed.
Burned. She feels her feathers
knit together. Burned. It hurts her
to heal. She is still.
She dreams of the next dawn,
a darkness, a nest of ash.
Tonight was the full moon. The 9th of April. The Pink Moon. The Egg Moon. Even the word April sounds like rain; it spittles from the mouth with the open promise, the gathering of air for the “A” and the plosive “pr” ending with the tongue lap of “l” at the back of the teeth. Water held back, pressed behind the dam. But that rain, as the rhyme goes, the April showers hold the promise of May flowers. Considering the wild rains Portland tends to get on the regular, I would wager that despite a couple of stellar 70 degree days that visited us early in the week, there is still a good bit of watery April left and that will require some patience. Next full moon—The Milk Moon. The Flower Moon.
Luckily, the flowers are already showing their pretty faces in the garden; purple and pink hyacinth carries on the air like a honeysuckle perfume, the camellia trees in my yard bloom bright red, some mottled with white stripes, the yellow, white and violet crocus and buttery daffodils are plenty, and the tulips have unfurled their emerald green bunny ears, though the buds are still closed tight as peapods, so many meditative eyelids, dreaming something deep and colorful. A flurry of cherry tree blossoms drift into the yard; heavy Spring wind casting a false snow, a white mimicry of Winter’s last stand.
While wandering the perimeter of the house, I found a lonely patch of trillium, a tri-fold of green heart leaves lifting up triangular white flowers, a basket of stars, everywhere in 3s.
But that’s the best part of Spring—everything coming back from Winter’s sleep, seemingly, from the dead: the flowers, the trees, the animals, the goddess Eostre, Jesus. Me.
I’ve been feeling better, I’m cooking more and enjoying all the smell and tastes and textures of food. Something happened last full moon, some strong anxietal force moved through me. Some part of me died a little, something, someone else resurrected. It was what i asked for, and lately, as I am sleeping more soundly, it is a common and powerful theme when i dream. Death, rebirth, fire, water, flying, wings, feathers, hands in the earth, digging and digging, biting and scratching my way through.
Two nights ago I dreamed I stood in a huge backyard, a large farmhouse behind me. It wasn’t quite an open field as it was fenced off. The grasses were tall in places and something straw-colored was moving through the area towards me. But all I could see were its dark eyes and furry antlers. It seemed to be part moose or reindeer and masculine—it was so large, but as it drew closer, it became softer, graceful, almost feminine despite the large antlers on its head to indicate male. It was more a Mule deer, a buck.
We both approached each other cautiously and as the deer stood still before me, it morphed into a woman. It occurred to me that i should invite her for dinner; a big party was being thrown by extended family, though it was no family I knew of and no occasion i could name. When I introduced my new friend to the men in the family, they leered a bit, patted at her long legs and lap asking why she was so quiet. I explained that she was foreign and didn’t speak the language, so the deer-woman just smiled softly at them and looked strangely at me. I grew anxious as we visited because I felt that at any moment, her glamour would break and she would morph back into the powerful, antlered creature that would bound through the room, kick over furniture and dishes and smash through the back door to escape. The thought plagued me so heavily, I pleaded with my eyes to the deer-woman, and indicated with my head that we should go back outside. She nodded and followed me.
Once we were outside, she became the buck again and wandered out into the forest where I followed her/him. A bright shock of sunlight stunned the deer and it turned on me, knocked me over, bleating, snorting and biting at my neck. It was part murder, part mating. The world went dark in a swirl of tree canopy, pearl grey sky and clouds of shattered eggshell.
When I woke, it was the woman again beside me, waiting for me to rise. My sense was that I was dead, but undead. Not quite vampire, but stony, pale and cold. I was able to move fast, to levitate, to fly and could bring someone with me, transferring the powerful ability to them, with them, so long as they linked hands or an arm with me.
The deer-woman had someone with her now, and I had a faceless someone with me. The four of us flew around until we came upon a memorial site. A grave with no body. A decorative brass commemorative plaque. With my name on it. But it was not my current married name. It was my maiden name: Andrea Jackman. I wiped dirt away from the plaque, collected cigarette butts and trash thoughtlessly discarded in the grass surrounding it and threw these things away. I felt sadness, but also, realized, it was not truly myself that was lost or dead, but a previous incarnation of self.
This lead me to seek out the mythology of the deer, the stag, ways to interpret the dream. Some of it I knew, but some of what I found amazed me in my own psyche’s ability to deliver the message.
It begins even in Neolithic Cave art where the depiction of people for hunting or shamanistic practice, dress in deer hide and wear antlers. In Classical times, the ‘Stag God’ was paramount to the Scythians and other peoples across the Eurasian steppes. To the Hungarians (my ethnic background) there is a great horned doe, which shone in multicolour lights and its antlers glittered from light.
There is the Spring renewal, the chase after the stag is a hunt for the return of the sun, searching for its light and heat which during Winter is taken away by the stag. The girls of the legend are the does, the daughters of light (Leukepius in Greek), who return the light and fertility of the sun. For that reason they have names which indicate “light, white, burning” Dula=Gyula,Gyul…, Sar=gold, light, stag. Bular or Bugur=stag in Turkic.
Ancient Norse mythology tells how 4 stags run in the branches of the ash and browse the foliage of the world-tree Yggdrasil, eating away the buds (hours), blossoms (days) and branches (seasons). Their names are: Dain, Dvalin, Duneyr, Durathor and are thought to represent the four winds.
In Greek mythology, it is the Keryneian stag, a fantastic beast with golden horns and brass hooves sacred to the huntress-goddess Artemis who turned herself into a white hind (female deer) to avoid being violated by two giants.
The deer is also a central religious image for Buddhism. Buddha is often pictured with a deer, and legend tells how he first preached in a deer park. The deer image itself representing innocence and a return to the wilderness.
In Celtic mythology, the deer is a magical creature, able to move between the worlds and many tales have humans transformed into deer. For example, St. Patrick was said to have transformed himself and his companions into deer in order to escape a trap laid by a pagan king. Cernunnos, the Celtic Horned God, was depicted with the antlers of a stag; he is said to be a god of fertility and plenty, and to be the Lord of the Beasts. According to some, his antlers symbolize a radiation of heavenly light. Images of stags were supposedly used to symbolize Cernunnos in non-human form. In the Welsh tale of Culhwch and Olwen, the stag is one of the oldest animals in the world, along with the blackbird, the owl, the eagle and the salmon.
In some parts of Asia, deer are considered to be conductors of soul and thus the robes of shamans are usually made out of deerskin. Likewise, many Native Americans believed deer and other animals with forked horns and antlers represented forked or double nature. When the Cherokee traveled during harsh winter weather, they rubbed their feet in warm ashes and sang a song to acquire powers for the four animals whose feet never were frost bitten—opossum, wolf, fox and deer. To the Pawnee, the deer is a guide to the light of the Sun. The Panche Indians of Colombia believe that human souls pass into the bodies of deer after death and therefore eating the flesh of deer is forbidden to them. In ancient Mexico, deer were sometimes depicted carrying the Sun (similar to the ancient Steppe myth and the Scythians).
The antlers of the stag are compared to tree-branches (the world-tree Yggdrasil) and since they are shed and re-grown every year represent fertility, rejuvenation and rebirth. Carl Jung noted that “the stag is an allegory of Christ because legend attributes to it the capacity for self-renewal … In alchemy, Mercurius is allegorized as the stag because the stag can renew itself.”
This close to Easter, my mind is swirling with birth, bunnies, blossoms, eggs, animals, the moon, the sun, Christology, oh and sure, I’ve some room for chocolate in there, too. After all, it is the sweet delectables, the luscious plenty, the little gifts, and the small rewards that make such great love and transformation possible. But was my dream telling me to lay off the Twilight series by conjuring a vampire deer? Was I truly dead? Rutting? No—I’d like to think it’s the change on the horizon, the promise of sun, a great white fire I am still chasing after in the woods. Some promise borne out of rain, softening the edges, washing away the ashes, waiting for me to rise from a bed of flowers and turn my head up to the clouds of shattered eggshell to see the robin blue sky.
My favorite plum
hangs so far from me
See how it sleeps
and hear how it calls to me
See how the flesh
presses the skin,
It must be bursting
with secrets within,
I’ve seen the rest, yes
and that is the one for me
See how it shines
it will be so sweet
I’ve been so dry
it would make my heart complete
See how it lays
languid and slow
me here below
I’ve seen the best, yes
and that is the one for me
~ Suzanne Vega
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He said, “I have seen a very strange sight. As I was coming hither, I saw two girls walking. Trees grew on their heads the boughs were covered with plums and the roots which came through their hair were fastened about their necks. They were beautiful and seemed to be very happy.”
“We will go and see them!” cried the women. They had not gone far before they saw one of the girls lying on the ground while the other pulled at the tree on her head. The roots gave way and the tree came out but all the hair came with it also. Then the other lay down and her friend in turn pulled the tree from her head. They were very angry and said, “If we meet with the man who played us this trick we will punish him.”
~ from The Algonquin legends of New England, or, Myths and folk lore of the Micmac, Passamaquoddy, and Penobscot tribesBy Charles Godfrey Leland
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The soft, white gardener’s gloves are coming off. i have been tending faithfully to my recovery. But two days before the full moon on the 11th, something moved in. Something came to a head, some terrible creeping vine got snarled in the works, slid through the garden, curled up around my ankles, tripped me up, sent me inside, put me in bed with cookies and tea and a warm cat and pulled from me a sobbing, frustrating confession that i laid out, soaking the cheek of my poor husband as i looked at him for consolation and answers.
i found myself frustrated, feeling ravaged, angry and sorrowful. It was all underneath there when the moon, a monstrous lever, became a shimmering coin wedged under me, a tightly capped bottle, and opened a geyser. The far away moon, a silver spade of light shot down a deep well, struck the ground and water erupted. i cried on and off for three days, mostly to myself, to a few patient and listening on the phone, and to my Joe.
For three days, i allowed myself to unravel, and found my heart weary and wrung out, resigned to being heavy and wet as a sodden sponge. My brain, a rabbit running circles in a electrified cage looking for an inch of wire that doesn’t shock. My insides, a calliope of dark, oceanic sound, guttural bagpipes under a taut waterbed. You think a waterbed is a good idea until you try sleeping on one, or moving it. Both are disappointing and painful endeavors and Buddha help you if you spring a leak somewhere. It will take all your effort to track down and fix it, if you don’t grow wildly impatient in the process. And my bum, well, it’s an occasionally unpredictable vending machine; every food an unmarked denomination that drops a bauble, a sticker, a spider, an unrecognizable & mysterious something or other and yes, we can end the metaphor right there without getting too indelicate.
My acupuncturist has said that i am very aware of my body’s innerworkings. Mmmhmm. i probably pay more attention to what i know is “me.” In fact, the biggest obstacle is likely “me” getting out of my own damn way and up from the circular pool that is my head, swimming with worry, diagnoses, concoctions, medications, and self-perpetuated misery which i think, despite the goodness of yoga and meditation has been affecting my sense of healing.
Still, i should not have to wake already dizzy and exhausted, twinged with fear; i still feel fatigued sometimes, even after decent sleep and for no good reason. i think i am in some sort of mourning stage and trying very hard to make peace with this major change and upheaval in my body. This good little machine which i feel has betrayed me somehow, or more, been betrayed by the path of care not clearly employed by my doctors and better researched, hacked at, tried and carried out by my own overwhelming desire to heal. i turn the whole puzzle with pointed questions around and around in my head: Why did my gallbladder go bad? Have i been unnecessarily harvested and robbed of a small but important piece of the original factory model? Will the rest of my body recover and compensate? Will i lead some compromised digestive and internal version of my former life? Will i ever truly heal?
how long how long how long was my teary mantra. i’m so impatient, i just want to smack myself out of it! i keep wondering “how long until i am completely well?” “how long until i have a day where i wake and feel mostly normal?” (aside from normal wear and tear or self-deprived rest). i keep asking the outside, the place without me, how long how long how long instead of delivering the directive be well be well be well to the place within me. i am not being as kind to myself as i should, i know.
What i noticed lately is this lump in my throat that appears and dissipates some. i felt it once the first week and apparently, it’s not uncommon after surgery as i’ve read other people complain about it. It’s also associated with GI disturbances and is mostly seen in the realm of anxiety and stress. My acupuncturist said it was know as Plum Pit Qi. Here’s where the explanation gets ancient, interesting and illuminating:
“The feeling of an obstruction in the throat (when there’s not an actual physical obstruction) is called Plum Pit Qi and is associated with Qi Stagnation (Liver Qi in particular). There is actually an emotional cause to this manifestation, Chinese Medicine diagnoses it as Qi and Phlegm knotted in the throat. Emotions such as sadness or frustration can produce a lump in the throat or Plum Pit Qi. The root pattern is a binding depression of Liver Qi with a concurrent inability to deal with an overwhelming emotional situation in which symbolically the patient cannot swallow. The Liver Qi attacks the Stomach causing Qi counterflow and thus interferes with the Qi transformation producing Phlegm and Dampness. The Lung and Stomach Qi counterflow causing Phlegm to become stuck in the throat so that the patient cannot expel it. Due to the severe depression of the Liver Qi there may also be rib-side pain and stuffiness in the chest.
Plum Pit Qi is first mentioned in Chinese literature in the Jin Gui Yao Lue, a treatise composed at the end of the Han Dynasty (ca. 220 A.D.). The text addresses miscellaneous disorders, mostly those suffered by women. In Chinese medicine, Plum Pit Qi corresponds to globus hystericus or neurotic esophageal stenosis in Western medicine. Sometimes, it’s even diagnosed as cricopharyngeal spasm. It refers to a sensation as if something were stuck in the back of the throat which can neither be spit up nor swallowed down. In the Chinese medical literature, this feeling is likened to a plum pit stuck in the throat or a piece of roasted meat. As its Western names suggest, this is a psychiatric diagnosis associated with anxiety, depression, and stress.”
:: sigh:: Great. In Eastern terms, i have blocked energy, stagnant blood, dampened, gummed up insides which lead my organs to attack, invade and otherwise kung fu the hell out of each other’s energy flow. In Western terms, succinctly, i am officially, a nutter. But if nothing else, and after all that fascinating text, i can put a name to it. i can actually visualize it all in terms of energy or in somewhat physically impossible metaphors. i KNEW it’s been my angry liver kicking the ass of my spleen and stomach.
i suppose you could categorize my private, internal emotional state as mildly depressed if not weathered by the experience of going from merrily eating and drinking up food, wine and life to this cautious balancing act with my body. So, my acupuncturist and i, through open discussion, have been concentrating on those points dealing with the liver and depression or mood. i DO feel better after yoga and meditation, but it’s been rather like an episodic bandage over an unclosed gash. i realize that the change for the better is going to be incremental, but what i’m really wishing for is for that big, red panic button in my brain to become the reset button or to be shot through with sudden, glorious, radiant, healing light.
This plum pit of mine is also thought to be associated with GERD & the like, though all i can say is the Pepcid i was prescribed for nausea from suspected reflux gave me headaches on top of it all and didn’t seem to affect anything dramatically over time or from withdrawal. On it, off it, nothing really changed.
i was never instructed how long to take them, never followed up with and i NEVER had acid reflux before, so why now? If i have to campaign aggressively for my own health, i’d rather do an ERCP, a barium swallow or MRI studies to determine the actual likelihood & amount of acid reflux if any. Then, at least there would be reason to have any given medication prescribed. The whole, “I have this symptom, so give me that med” without any physical diagnostic tool can’t be very accurate. That’s how the meds pile up. It becomes a Jenga game of stacking up pills that mask the inital symptom with a new, undesired symptom that requires counter-measures by way of new drugs further inducing another crop of symptoms until it’s about livable through layered pain management. By then, you are taking the first through fourth medication, you’ve built a wall around the actual foundation, the original underlying cause which, if pulled out gently and addressed is just like pulling the crucial block from the bottom that’s fucking up the whole balance, thereby, finally – bringing the unhealthy, leaning tower down.
As you’d expect, it’s also recommended from the Western side of things to try soothing the plum pit with anti-anxiety meds & anti-depressants (globus hystericus or neurotic esophageal stenosis) and/or to see if Valium or a similar muscle relaxant stops it (cricopharyngeal spasm). Now, i’m not worried about the stigma of anti-i-can’t-deal-anymore meds. They are a familiar friend in my family and we didn’t ask to be crazy or to live in such an occasionally mucked-up world. Trust me, when things got bad, i have used them to straighten out, click the serotonin up a notch and get back in the game.
But now, i seem to want less pharmaceuticals in me, less things for my liver to clear out and cough up and more vitamins and supplements for my body to take in. i added digestive enzymes which includes acidophilus, and that seems to help with meals and the end-product of, so to speak. They are also reputed to help with the supposed reflux problem i may or may not have. So, buh-bye Pepcid. This next visit to the acupuncturist will include new liver points and a specially formulated Chinese medicine specific to my symptoms, weight and constitution. Again, i have to ask, why doesn’t Western medicine do MORE of this special, individualized care better?
The time of the liver on the Chinese circadian clock is between 1 and 3 a.m. Guess what time i wake up to write and pace the house? Yeah. Even now, it’s 1:49 am as i type this bit of the story. Go to sleep liver, you’re wearing me out.
For those three days i argued with myself, maybe i SHOULD get on some anti-something-or-anothers to straighten out a chemical imbalance and let the rest of the healthy activities take their course & full effect. It’s so strange . . . i don’t really feel depressed, i interact normally and cheerfully enough with people, i’m still productive (albeit in personal endeavors alone since i am STILL unemployed) but people close to me have noticed i am not as light and confident as i used to be, that something in me is stifled. And it’s true, in my private moments, i DO have those dark blue thoughts, feel discouraged and notice the tension and discomfort move through my body in unpredictable cycles and in new, sometimes unpleasant sensations. So, perhaps there are these organic after effects i’m not consciously aware of, clouding things up in there. i am producing plum pits that rise and fall and when it falls to the bottom, what will grow then?
i am trying to count blessings; i am not battling cancer, i am loved by family, friends and completely supported by Joe in every manner as any woman could want for. i have all that i need to survive and well beyond basic necessities. But simply stated, eating to live is necessary and enjoying eating is difficult, thus life has become more difficult. Some days i am just throwing belly timber in. Food and vitamins and supplements to keep the fire stoked and the machine working. Good days, i actually enjoy the food. Bad days, i get it past my lips and worry if the enemy has crossed over and smuggled in a tank of gasoline to set the place on fire and shut the engine room down. But it appears the engine room is missing a particularly important cog. And in keeping with my current interest of interpreting maladies through Chinese medicine . . .
The functions of the Gallbladder are:
– Store and excrete bile
– Govern decision making
– Control sinews
– Affect dreams
– Close relation with the Liver
There is a reason i cannot sleep – my liver is angry, i feel indecisive and weakened besides the actual trauma of surgery. It is explained that “the Gallbladder affects the quality and length of sleep, if it is deficient a person will wake very early and not be able to return to sleep. When the Gallbladder is deficient, one dreams of fights, trials, and suicide.” (Spiritual Axis). Further, “the Liver is considered to be responsible for the ability to plan life, the Heart oversees all mental functions, the Small Intestine gives clarity and wisdom to decision making, and the Gallbladder gives the courage and capacity to make decisions. All these functions must be harmonized to plan and lead a harmonized life. If the Gallbladder is weak a person will be timid and lack initiative and courage. The Gallbladder gives us drive and the passion to excel and the action potential necessary for these to come to fruition. Dealing with adversity also comes under the role of the Gallbladder. It is often necessary to tonify the Gallbladder to support the Heart’s function.”
I wonder what Chinese Medicine says about cholecystectomy. About carrying on with missing, integral parts. Well – let’s deal with the big part that’s left . . .
i’ve begun to imagine my Liver as a powerful, insightful, well-educated, well-informed and well-manicured woman dressed to the nines, and someone stole her favorite little purse with all her money, identity and mojo. My liver was a vibrant lady and i though i gave her plenty to do, i never taxed her too hard. But without a place to store and concentrate on who she is inside and where she’s going, she currently finds herself rather lost in cortisol-laced, moonfaced dreams.
If i could paint the image of how i feel inside it would look like this:
A red-haired girl in the lotus position sitting below a Weeping Plum Tree, reaching up with both hands at the top of squared elbows, her fingers in Gyan Mudra, her index fingers and thumbs signaling ‘ok’ with her palms upturned to catch what may fall from the tree. She looks up, her chin lifted slightly, reaching more with one hand to draw down the perfect plum, dangling just out of reach. Scattered around her in the grass below, the flesh of half-eaten plums are lit upon by ladybugs, butterflies and pushed about in the mandibles of stag beetles, glossy as patent leather, trundling in circles like dark little bulldozers. The plum tree is unusual and split in half between two seasons of growth. Half of the weeping tendrils are covered in wintry, Valentine blossoms of red, pink and white with bare, black bark twisting though in burls and spirals; witchy, clawed fingers stretching down and pointed out as if to touch. On this side, orange-amber prescription bottles hang, some without caps, raining white pills like the petals of Ume flowers. The other half is covered in Spring & Summer leaves, drooping under the weight of fat, glimmering, thick-skinned, purple plums.
The Ume flowers on plum trees are celebrated and adored in both China and Japan. In China, the blossoms symbolize struggle and endurance of winter’s hardship; they embody resilience and perseverance in the face of adversity because it is in the winter snow they bloom most vibrantly. Conversely, Japanese see the Ume blossoms as a harbinger of Spring and tradition holds they function as a protective charm against evil.
That moon pulled on me as it does the tides, drawing the water down, out and away. In all those tears, the plum-pit in my throat has softened, but there are still these knots inside. Plum pits swallowed, waiting to surface, to be spat. There is an approaching midpoint; the fear of dying off, the relinquishing of control, the surrender in letting go and the promise of rebirth. Of something allowed to die in order to come back in a new form. The last fury of Winter Solstice. The first whisper of Vernal Equinox.
i am that girl, in seated meditation, grounded and split between two seasons, with both hands reaching for protection, for nourishment, for my favorite plum and for the small things tending the garden to carry away and bury the pit.
memory is paper . . .
a thin veil against light
scribbled on colored in
(sk)etched out painstakingly
noted between thin
blue and thick red dashes
indications of lines to cut,
lines to stay within.
copy / paste.
circular rings starting
then stopping time with
catching daily glimpses
greasy finger smudges
chocolate sundae fudges
addresses atlases figures
ramen noodles and
holes in happenstance
swimming circling surfacing
smiling sobbing stopping.
trailing off to an ellipses . . .