Sunday, December 6, 2015

Share #30: Bacon and eggs and kale


Angelina and I are sharing a breakfast today. Breakfast is coming back to me. I do love breakfast. I was beginning to wait for her at 10am when I hoped she would arrive. I felt hungry enough then, but she didn't arrive until later. I felt like a dog that knows about when meal time is and who gets perky and paces and reminds its owner it's time, it's time, to feed me, feed me. I should have gone to the paint store.

When Angelina arrived, she mixed up her yogurt. That was my cue to eat mine. It had been sitting out since 10. She started to cook bacon and kale and eggs and poured a glass of carrot orange juice for me. Wow!!!! Wake up, mouth!

In the midst of all this, we were dealing with a host of work issues. Trying to match colors, determining the strength of dye to be used. This work requires important and new decisions all along the way and everything is based on a a set of eyes or a few sets of eyes and the available light. We are dying long fir boards and beams, trying to match a sample. Not all the wood is reacting the same way. Some is lighter and some is darker. The thicknesses and grains are different. But it must all be matched. Our discussion delays breakfast. It's smelling so good in there. The dogs and I are tuned in.

After many photos and texts and phone calls and decisions, we at last sat down to dine. Colorful and fatty. Rich and abundant. I didn't begin to brush the 2nd coat of dye into the boards until 1pm. With the sun setting at 4, this means I'll work til after dark.

In my work, I want to know what I am doing and to be able do it. In my art, I want to not know what I am doing and do it and, by doing it, find out what I am doing. I want to listen to my work, hear what it says. I set up impossible or near impossible tasks. I set up situations in which to not know myself, and perhaps to never know myself, and then I investigate them. This is one of the differences between my life and my art.

Share #29: An upscale burger & upscale fries with a moderate wine


Breakfast with Alexis. I am grateful for this meal. A late morning, thoughtful, calming meal, informal and comfy. Alexis offers me ginger tea with warm milk and honey. It is her signature drink and is taken every day, at a specific time.

Scott is coming to help with a doggy so I can be with Alexis and focused on wood. Alexis is going to California tomorrow, to celebrate her mother's 90th birthday!

After the rain and the rain dogs, we shared a glass of happy hour wine and a kobe burger at a local bistro. Aioli dipping sauce. I cleaned my plate except for a hunk of meat, which will go to a good dog.

Tonight is my first night alone in an awfully agreeable house. A clean bright space. An airy, warm, woody home. I sat on the petting couch with the dogs petting them. I stared off into space. I fell asleep sitting up, waiting for the energy to get up and move. I still need to drive across town to let the cat in. I took a hot shower. I applied lotion. I laundered my clothes. I drank warm vanilla milk. Then I drove across town. The cat was in. I thought he had wanted out this morning. He did not want out now, but wanted love. I gave him some. I fed him and cleaned his water bowl and played some music and watered and fed the chicken. All is well. It is predicted to rain everyday this week. A good day to stay in.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Share #28: Sushi & world peace


I texted Aaron to see if he wanted to meet for sushi or tea. He's been asking to meet and I haven't been free. He said tonight he was open. We met at Musashi's, but first I took a little dog for a walk. There is always a line at Musashi's. That's because the fish is fresh and affordable and the restaurant tiny. Everyone orders the Chirachi or sashimi bowl ($14.95). It's a perfectly memorable dish.

It's rare for me to eat at restaurants and here I am doing it so much. I did not think MyShare would be like this. A celebration. An extravagance. But when I share, I want to offer something beautiful. I imagined picnics on park benches with strangers and invitations into tea house and bringing people off the streets. Romantic, yes, but possible. My life has changed since then. Again. And now I'm everywhere and nowhere again. I worked all spring and summer, day and night, and now fall is into winter and I haven't had any regular rent to pay for 10 months. This means a little money saved up. Feels like a lot. I'm saving for Mongolia.

Aaron shared his news with me. He and his partner are selling their house and moving to Skagit. Debt free in Skagit. And this year he moved his aging mother to Seattle. She brings in more SS than my mother and can afford her rent. He had her things shipped to Seattle and solicited friends to unpack her things and so she arrived to a decorated apartment. She was thrilled. Sounds very unlike what I did for my own mother. Alas.

When we got talking spirituality, he told me about his 10-day Vipassana meditation. Since then, he said, he sits an hour a day. That, as a practice, prepares him for his day. After the meal, we walked to Quan Yin Teahouse and ordered a pot of World Peace tea. They had to ask us to leave an hour after they closed

Aaron encouraged me to watch "A Thousand Clowns." In trying to find it that night, I inadvertently watched "Separate Tables." When the film was over, I realized it wasn't the movie I was meaning to see. I found that interesting as I'm struggling to continue my work on "The Clown" in France and Mongolia and am instead here in Seattle sharing meals.

I stayed up late. I cannot work. I cannot focus in a cluttered space, in a dirty space, in a dark or cold space. I must clean and order it before I can sit down to work in it. All I need is a corner, some free table space and a clean kitchen and bathroom. I did a fair amount of cleaning before I backed away. I gain nothing from this. At some point, when I saw I was not winning, I stopped and sat up on my computer watching a film.

There were two books next to each other on the bookshelf at the teashop. They were part of a set. One had the letter T on the spine. The other had the letters EA on the spine. They were arranged in the wrong order and instead of spelling TEA spelled EAT. The cosmic order is mixed up. I bought a bar of dark chocolate for us to share. Aaron had no difficulty receiving it. He simply said, "Thank you."

For 35 days, I have eaten in community. I have eaten nothing alone. All my meals are taken with others. Because of this, I have missed meals. I have missed breakfast most, but also dinners and lunches. There were no days when I ate nothing. I am considering continuing with this work. Why? Why not? Why? Because I have wanted to cheat? Many times I have thought, "What would a nut matter? I could just have this olive or that piece of fruit or... this whole project is silly! Who cares. And I want to eat." I have not cheated. I have wanted to. Many times there were nuts or chips or cheeses or crackers or fruits or chocolate lying around. I have smelled food cooking in restaurants, scents wafting from neighbor's houses. Mmmm. Food. The sacrament I do not freely take. Eating alone, one day, when I chose to end this work, will feel heightened and luscious and maybe even wrong.

Share #27: Chicken fried chicken & some jumper cables

Some friends invite me to dine with them to be sure I will eat. Others decline my invitations. Who am I responsible for? Who is responsible for me?

A Chicago artist I met through Vanessa contacted me recently. If I was still in Seattle, would I meet and welcome her friend Nate to the city? He is relocating here. Well I needed to eat and thought, yes, I must meet this Nate. We met at a dive bar, a place I'd never been. He had an I Heart Science pin on. The heart was anatomically correct. He was finishing his $2 tacos and beer when I arrived. I asked if he wouldn't have more. If it would help, he said, he would. Let's go somewhere. Too many TVs. We walked to Hattie's Hat. I order a meal and a drink. He ordered a spinach casserole and a beer. We celebrated his new job and his new apartment.

Nate's been living in his car since October. He came to Seattle to start a new life and get away from the harsh Chicago winters. His dream is to live on a boat and travel from the islands, where he lives, to the city to sell his cultivated mushrooms. He is working as a house cleaner. I asked why. It pays $17 plus benefits. During dinner he told me he doesn't kid himself. There are people out there who are more valuable to society, who should earn more money. I stepped into this line of fire to point out his singular perspective, material production. If he were to look into the values of kindness or humility, or were to consider his spirit of adventure, or his volunteerism, or his ability to draw people in and make them feel safe, he might be at a different place on the scale. Why should we live in a one scale world?

He told me about his bicycle trip across Mexico long ago and about his coffee shop in Chicago and about his father and his friends in Iowa. I told him about the books I'd been reading and about my search for the truth and the miraculous. He told me about an experience he had in his early teens. He sometimes saw in blue. Everything was blue to him. He shared this with one friend at the time who said he'd had a similar experience where everything went red. He and his friend invented an explanation for this. They were superheroes, of course.

Nate was raised an atheist and today he claims to loves science. He loves how science can explain everything. He said he'd read about the Tao growing up and his Dad had been into Buddhism, but that mostly he found life and spirituality didn't meet up in the world. Philosophy happens in books and science happens in the world. I scanned my recent history. When didn't I, for sure, feel this way? When I was walking last year. When I was walking in 2011. When I was working and lying down at Mt Pleasant Cemetery in 2012. I asked him if he felt this way on his bicycle trip. He paused. He wasn't sure. We are all agreeing to this, all the time. That's how I feel. This idea that what's real and deep and connective gets shoved into the cracks of our otherwise material lives. What else might we agree to? Or disagree to?

Nate ran his battery down this week charging his tablet. He asked me about the service station on the corner, asked if they were reputable. They are swines, I said. I offered to give him a jump. There are cables in my car. I used to leave my lights on. After not having a car for 17 years, it was a hard habit to break. I used to lock my keys in the car. Breaking into and getting a jump from strangers, these were regular occurrences.

After dinner, we walked to his car. It was loaded with stuff. There was a bike on a rack on the back. Far more stuff than I own at present. It was drizzling. The street lights were hard to see by. Which was the positive and which the negative terminal? We attached what we thought were the right clamps to the right terminals, but then sparks flew out and smoke began to rise. Yiee! Science. The clamps and cable were hot to touch. Something's wrong with this science. I was getting nervous. I started to imagine all the movies I was in. Who'd really sent this man? What end I was coming to? After a few more tries, I located, for certain, the negative and positive symbols imprinted on the battery. We'd had it backwards. We switched the cables and his engine started up. Phew!

No Share


No breakfast. I've lost that meal. Lunch with Alexis then work. I'm working every day now, at Alexis' home studio—an open plan, warm, relaxed space with dogs. I didn't know I'd be working this job when I started MyShare. I've not been considering these pre-work, late breakfasts real shares since they weren't intended as shares, but are shares, shared out of necessity. Is this necessarily harmful thinking? Probably. It is the last day in November. MyShare goes on.

I brought a baguette from Le Fournil and sandwich meats and cheeses. Alexis doesn't eat bread. She didn't share what I offered. She has her own routine. She ate an egg and steamed greens. I left the piece of coconut cake she gave me yesterday in the car. It was gifted to me by her mother, who was already on a plane to California when I received it. I had no one to eat it with. It was cold and damp. I was going to a cold, dark, uncomfortable house. A cluttered space with stains on the carpet. I slept in my sleeping bag and woke and left.

No dinner again. Looking for calories in a hot chocolate. The milk in the frig is outdated and nearly turned. I must get more. Please cow. It was a last leg cocoa, though warm and warming. Then a jasmine tea. Then bed.

Share #26: Post-Thanksgiving Day Dinners


I was invited to a post Thanksgiving dinner with Laura and Clinton and Hugo on Saturday and Sunday. Whenever Clinton and Laura have an abundance of food, they ask me to come help them eat it. It is a ploy and one that works. I am always (often) hungry. While there, I listened to Hugo played his youth symphony orchestral compositions on his new French horn. Then, on the piano, his own compositions. His music lends me to mood and story. This new piece felt literary and stately.

And the meal food was warm and plentiful and lifting my heavy plate was exercise enough, but nobody really ate with me or planned to eat with me, they more fed than ate with me, which was plenty good enough for me. There was lots of talk and laughter and story telling. And that was our share.

On Sunday, I went back again to Laura and Clinton's for a second post-Thanksgiving Day Dinner! This time, Laura's brother Daniel was there. We all ate together then when the other dispersed, Daniel and I talked over dessert--three pieces of bread pudding, all different, with whipped cream. Mmm.

Like Laura, Daniel is committed to meditation and is deeply engaged in a spiritual search. He suggested a teacher to me, a woman in Oregon named Gangaji, who invites people to think about the question "Who Am I?" After dinner, I watched a few of her talks. Her eyes are half-mast, her mouth is firm and her smile is challenging, but when she said, "And then the word 'I' will fall back to its origin," she won me. Her teaching is simple. Letting go of "I" is the hardest thing we'll do, but all the nothing it offers is worth more than all we can achieve. Awareness existed before "I" was formed. Letting go of "I" allows us to reconnect to awareness. To me, it seems everyone is saying the same thing, but some are saying it better, saying it just for me to hear. Gangaji.

I've found Daniel, at times, in the past, to be cynical, short, off putting, out for a shock, flip. Tonight, he was a wise man, tolerant of the worst anyone could offer—negativity, complaints. "Bring it on," he said, "trigger me!" He wants to get all that out of the way so he can get onto what is real. What an invitation to the world! I'm amazed by his resistance-less-ness. Go Daniel! And a little jealous that he and his sister can talk so freely about their personal search. My brother and I used to be able to talk about anything, but mostly I listened and he talked, but back then that was enough. Then I think anger or criticism drifted in and the room started getting cold and eventually the door froze shut. Or is that just  what it seems like? It looks like we have more differences than similarities now, but I don't believe that. I believe he's holding up a world he doesn't really care about. I wonder if he thinks I'm hiding from a world I cannot face up to? I wonder if we'll meet again and where.

No Share



I have three dogs, two cats and one chicken at three houses. Two of these "jobs" are favors. I'm doing them because they need doing. I want to be helpful. My desire to be helpful is a shattering, scattering force. Where is my life? I tell myself I am still in recovery from summer, but then there's no room in this life for recovery, so I'm just holding on or coasting or floating out to sea. Everyday a bit of money, which isn't bad, but then a curbed sense of freedom and a fence between me and my artist. These jobs, all of them at once, require that I borrow a car. I feel alive when I'm walking and the car is the death of me.

Inside all of this, I have one job that is my dream, Mona and Maddie! I've been caring for these two maltipoos (Maltese + poodle) for 3 years now and they have my heartstrings. I'd take them in a heartbeat, anywhere, anytime. Get an apartment. Get a job. Move to the country. You name it. I should say no to all the other friends and just work for them. That would be true happiness. But, as is, coming and going from their house leaves me, or used to leave me, the freedom to write and hike and make art and be social. And they paid my meager bills. And their costs were covered.

Now I am just over committed and caring for too many houses and animals for it to be useful. It is unsettling because these jobs are at the most 20 days long and at the least 1 or 2 days long, which means I am always moving, but this moving has been urging me, more and more, to divest myself of things. Where I used to be Spartan, now I am mobile, or near mobile. I still have some unfinished projects in a bag and a hard-drive and a laptop. What does a pilgrim do with such things?

Did I eat today? What? With whom? It must have been at work again. I'm sure I missed another meal or two. I cannot say.

Share #25: Thanksgiving Day


It is Thursday 26 November, Thanksgiving day. I had plans to join a friend in West Seattle for her family dinner, but then I liked the idea of getting out of the city too and going for a walk in the woods. Scottie needs to spend time in spaces where the vibrations are high, in places that are aligned, in harmony, unjumbled. Old growth forest works. My body appreciates those places too, but I'm not yet crystallized and have such a soft center I can and try to find the sky and earth wherever I am. I love myself for being at sea. Thank you Thaddeus.

We took the doggies, Mona and Maddie, to Tiger Mountain. It was frosty and foggy and cold and damp, but then the sun came out and instant relief! We went up Adventure Trail and came down High School Trail, then drove to Renton for Thanksgiving dinner at his sister's. Scott's mother and her partner, his father and his father's wife, his two sisters and his niece were there. Mona Maddie were given free reign to wander the house and garnered turkey treats in the kitchen.

There were four pies, two kinds of gravy, ambrosia salad, stuffing and the most delicious turkey. It was a fabulous meal. After dinner, I did the dishes. The others cleaned up before the meal.

My own mother took the train from Philly to New York to be with my brother, who called me and left me a message. There are two in my immediate family. When one or more doesn't show, there is one or none. He said he wished I were there. My low vibrating self heard that as the right thing to say, but doubted it was true. My low vibrating self realizes they will have a more pleasant and enjoyable time without me. For that I must love myself. If Thanksgiving were Thankstaking, I would be better at taking what I need, forgiveness.

Share #24: Chicken soup with spinach & lemon


Scott and I are helping Alexis today. Alexis is a wood restoration expert. This means I'll be around people for much of the day. Easy meals. Straight away, when we arrived at Alexis' house, she fed us, elegant chicken soup with spinach and lemon. She knows about MyShare and wants to support me. She suspected I might be hungry. I was. I'd brought a pecan roll to split with Scott. The rest of the afternoon was spent outside setting up a very large event tent in the freezing cold. The directions say you want 8-12 people to assemble it. We were 2 and succeeded. This tent will cover the reclaimed fir beams Alexis is finishing next month.

Tuesday, fast upon the heels of Monday, in late November. Another day with Scottie and Alexis building a scaffolding to hold the wood. More easy food. Ahh. And sigh. Does this constitute a share? I am not counting it as a share.

Share #23: Another potluck



Day two of the retreat. No breakfast. No dinner last night. Though silent, I am still looking forward to it, another uncomfortable potluck. I am hungry and want to eat, though I know I could go without food if I needed to. I'm not ravenous. I've had one meal every day of this project. That's quite enough I am finding.

As usual, I found a way to be last in line at the buffet. When someone gets in line behind me, I find excuses to get out and come back later. I was last again. Being last means I get what no one wants. And it means no one is crowding me from behind. And I won't feel compelled to leave some for the next person. I am the next person! I can take whatever I want, without trying to be selfless. This is how I find ways around being who I am.

Before getting into the line, I craftily visited the end of the banquet table where dessert was, where the bread and fruit and cheeses were. I prefer open spaces to crowds. I prefer to be where things are flowing and to avoid congestion. This happens where you start at the opposite end of things (opposite to the herds or conventions). I do this at airports too. I'd wait til everyone has boarded, then walk jauntily aboard myself, without waiting in any line. Why rush to stand in line when you can sit reading and writing til the end?

Before the retreat this morning I went in search of some bread. I had an hour to spare. I wanted to contribute some fresh local bread to the potluck. I went to two bakeries. Neither would have bread before 10 am. Really? I weighed my options and waited for baguette at Honore, which meant I'd be late. Fresh loaves were worth it. They arrived at 9:45am. I carried two warm baguettes into the retreat center, then slipped into the event room and listened to Robert again. A long preamble. I wished he'd arrive an hour earlier and get this out of the way. Then he would be ready for me, as I am ready for him. Hmph!

After an hour, he started to get into the meat of it. Then he was flowing and engaging and I was interested again. I appreciated some of what he had to say. I disagreed with a lot. At the end of the day, I felt suddenly alert and heard him say something directly to me. He was explaining my situation, without knowing my situation. He said, "At this juncture, is helpful to have a teacher." "Ah, but who?" He explained how our foundation will fall away when we fully let go of our self. "There will be a time when things fall away as soon as they arise. At this time there is a sense of confusion and terror." I do not feel terror. I feel passive. What is this about?

Share #22: Shhh!!! It's a potluck.

Today I am attending a meditation retreat with Robert Beatty, a member of the first wave of Theravada Buddhist teachers who brought the Dharma from Asia in the 1970’s. Robert founded the Portland Insight Meditation Community and is the guiding teacher there. His training began in India in 1972. He traces his lineage through Ruth Denison, founder of Dhamma Dena Retreat Center. She named him as Dharma successor and authorized him to teach.

The retreat is two days long and is at Nalanda West. Forty people are attending. The demographic is older, educated, white, middle to upper middle class. It is late morning. After much setting of the stage, we were led through an exercise, the same one we were led through last year. We were shown how to opt out by remaining seated with our hands crossed over our hearts, then instructed to stand, if we wished, and move about the room looking for bodies to greet. We were to approach another person with our eyes down, then slowly lift our eyes until the person came into view. We were asked to see them fully and then tell them so. "I see you." One by one, we greeted everyone in the room this way, left hand up, right hand down, hand-in-hand, "I see you." "I see you." "I see you." To a blind man, it might have sounded like a lover's game. It's a simple exercise, but powerful and intimate, a kind of soul gazing that compels one to compassion. At first I thought, "Come on. What is this? You've had a year to come up with a new exercise." Then I was glad of it. It gave me a chance to forgive my teacher and myself and everyone in the room.

Lunch was a potluck. I’d been looking forward to it, but then it came and went and was rather drab. Salads from the natural food store, packaged hummus, a few homemade salads, most everything cold. Robert invited us to observe noble silence at lunch. He'd ring the bell when we were least expecting it and, when we heard it, we were meant to stop mid-chew to notice ourselves, or something, what, our desire, that we were eating to fuel our meditation, that we were present and the food in our mouth was present too. I felt lonelier during this meal than during any meal in the last 20 days. Lonelier than the french fries at McDonald's. Lonelier than the cocktails at the bar. Averting my eyes from the 12 eyes at my table and finding every one's eyes averting mine, I felt disconnected.

In 2014, in the 15 days after my 15-day fast for the artwork "Hunger," I wanted to eat alone and in silence and I often did. Eating then felt like a sacrament. I spontaneously invented a prayer then, something I still say, something I had been trying to do in 2011 and couldn't. Eating in silence today did not help me meditate or enjoy my meal. It felt awkward, like forced a rejection of joy.

Seated at round tables in a banquet room, it takes some effort for 80 eyes not to meet. Most people gazed across the room with a glazed look, staring at the sides of silent faces seated at the other tables, at the photographs on the walls. Surely there is a way to invite a mature, committed group to share a meal respectfully and reflectively without denying the opportunity for community.

Share #21: A full breakfast



It is Sunday 15 November, a guaranteed breakfast day. I've been waiting for this. I purchased a package of top shelf, no nitrate, uncured bacon. I walked 3 miles for a loaf of Hominy bread from Tall Grass Bakery and saved the 6 eggs Mylinda gave me from her chicken, Henrietta. I purchased organic mushrooms at Green Market and goat cheese at Ballard Market. Scott is making me breakfast, a full breakfast, and I am thankful.

During the decadent times, I think about my brother, about how and where and what he eats. I don't know. I guess he eats out, with friends and colleagues and women. How often does he eat alone? How often does he cook at home? Where does his food come from? Can he get produce from local farmers? I don't know any of this. In recent years we haven't seen each other. Two days in four years, this April. We ate out every night. My mother was packing up her life. We were helping.

We were all becoming homeless at the same time, in the Spring of 2015. My mother's apartment building was being renovated and she was being out-priced. My brother was coming home from Hong Kong and looking for work. I'd given up my boat and office to help my mother (which in hindsight I did not and could not do). Here it is November. My mother's in a condo in PA, purchased by my brother. My brother is in a condo with our father's brother's ex-wife (my aunt) on the Lower East Side. And I am living no where, moving about, place to place, house-sitting. I'm not called yet to correct this and I don't know why. Am I preparing for something? A departure? A move? A shift? When will I receive those orders? When?

Monday, November 30, 2015

Share #20: The labor and the gifts of camp

Dutch walking artist, Monique Besten, suggested we try to find a way to share a meal before MyShare ends. With 5,000 miles between us, we're not going to sit down at a table together. Can we find some other way, some inroad, a way to beckon one another?

Monique is currently in process, walking from Spain to Paris, for a climate conference. She's walking alone, in the front and backcountry, through cities and towns and farms. Next week I'll be in a rustic camp on the Olympic Peninsula. I have a friend with a few acres there. He hired me to plant bulbs and chop wood. I said I'd do it because the land is good for me, because the air is good for me, because when I work on his land, as I've done before, I begin to feel vital and strong within minutes, within hours I feel super capable. There must be some elixir there. This friend, with the land, works in California, but this land, here, in Washington State, is his heart land. Developing this into a mountain oasis is his passion.

I told Monique I'd like to try to share with her while I was there in the mountains. For me, it will be a relief, someone to eat with. I'll be doing heavy labor and will need the fuel, but at this time of year there are no bodies on the mountain, there's no one to share with. Even in summer, it's rare to see a car up on that road. There are lots with cabins and chalets, but most are seasonal. When you're settled into camp, it feels very remote.

Monique asked if I'd be online. I didn't think I would be, but even if I were I'd prefer to meet in some other, more sensory, imaginative way. I imagined calling on her while I was working, listening for her call. I wanted to intuit her. Explore this distant share.

I was told I could bring in a can of gas and run a generator if I wanted, for electricity, for lights at night. I will use the gas lamp and the wood stove. There's a grocery store in Hoodsport 8 miles away and a general store before you leave the paved road. I won't come off the mountain once I'm there, but it's nice to know if something happens I could walk out and get help.

On Saturday afternoon I went to the Goodwill to look for suits. I had the idea that a suit might help me connect with Monique. In 2012, Monique Besten donned a 3-piece suit and began walking. As she walked, she stored memories in her suit, in images and bits of texts. She sewed something new into her suit each day. Since then, Monique has been on many distant and distinct walks and is always in a suit. It helps her reflect on how she experiences the world.

I found a few wool suits in smaller sizes and tried them on. They were large enough to pull over my clothes, but too expensive and really too big to consider buying. In the end, I decided against the idea. Then I thought about wearing my poet's dress and imaged chopping wood in that. It was a romantic notion with no grounding in the reality of the conditions this time of year. It's a rain forest after all and it's in the mountains and it's nearly winter and it's meant to be raining all week and my poet's dress is fitted and linen. I brought it anyway, just in case, but never put it on. Instead, I found a pair of over-sized vinyl rain pants with suspenders and a matching hooded jacket at camp. These were ideal for the conditions and, underneath, I wore many warm layers.

On Sunday night, I drove west from Seattle and spent five nights on a ridge between Hoodsport and Lake Cushman. I'd planned to go alone, but at the last minute my partner asked if he could join. I was still coughing and knew I could use help with the wood, so I said yes, even though I worried it would interfere with my share and knew I was needing time on my own. I suspected I'd have to fight for my share, then would be fighting myself and it would become impossible to connect, but in the end it required that I share with Monique on a deeper level.

In 2011, I lived alone in a canvas yurt for a month on this land. I've spent weekends there with large and small groups of climbers and friends, hauling gear, digging ditches, gathering brush, burning the cleared logs to thin out the 2nd growth forest and reduce fire danger, giving the rhododendrons rooms to breath and planting native trees.

I've never met Monique. A friend connected us online. He met Monique at an artist retreat and knowing my work and her, he said we needed to meet. Monique is a conceptual artist. She walks, sometimes for months at a time, in a 3-piece suit. At times, she has a pack on her back. She undertakes all kinds of journeys. Sometimes she wanders. Sometimes she explores. She's always searching for a thread. She walks to various destinations, to art and social and political events. As she walks, she composes mind maps, she organizes her aesthetic in threads inside shell.

She sews bits of her experiences, as images and text, inside her suit, hidden to the outsider. Each day she sews one image or line of text into her suit. Her suit then becomes a record of her journey. She has embroidered a QR code onto the back of her jacket. When you scan this, you can inside her suit, into her memory bank, her way of seeing.

This idea of collecting and hiding, of inviting intimate glimpses into our selves, makes me think of the ways in which we scan people with our eyes, with our fears, with our stereotypes and criticisms and hopes. How we show ourselves to one another. How the layers of people peel back as we look at them, closer and closer, as we linger, longer and longer.

Last year, my brother gave me his old i-phone. It's an i-phone 4. At first, it felt like a miracle. I didn't know I'd be able to use it as a phone. I thought I'd be able to use it as a camera. It's been six months and I still don't have any apps and it's always on silent and I don't get online and I don't use it to locate a location and I delete the images I take soon after I take them. It seems as if this object is corroborating with my general experience of rupture. I suppose, in failing to use this fancy phone in the way that it was meant to be used, for the purpose it was intended, I am undermining it, weakening its powers, dismantling its foundation, denying its ability to offer me ease or comfort or some kind of advanced or elite experience. This feels, in ways, similar to what I am experiencing in my own foundation.

Monique and I chat online at intervals and follow one another's work. I've read about her journeys on her blog A Soft Armour and have wondered about her resources and her fears. Does she have things in storage? Can she go home to live with a family member if she wants? Where does she leave her computer? Her bicycle? Her winter clothes? The suit she is not wearing?

Monique began her current walk before I began MyShare. She contacted me en route to ask if we could make a share. I was glad she did as I'd been wanting to. I suggested this week in the mountains and she agreed. We went away from that conversation not knowing how we would share, or at what time, or on what days exactly, but we were agreed we would do it and so we did.

I was off then to plant 2000 bulbs and chop one cord of wood and haul three water-logged, wood pallets 2/10th of a mile up from the dirt road to camp. It lashed cold rain sideways for a day. It snowed 4" the next day. Everything melted over night, then it was sunny and warm for two days! Not predicted. Then it froze again. I could have stayed on and on and on. I was happy and returning to health, but there was a retreat to attend and a friend's dog to care for and I had to be home for these things. I made reasons to have to be home for. But that place in the mountain on the ridge brings out something rare in me, something vital. Every time I am there I feel it, a shift to vigor. Within two days, my cough began to wane. My lungs began to stretch. My core began to strengthen. I don't know if it is the air or the work or the climb up to the camp or the combination of things, but I think it is still more than these. One day I will explain.

There were 1000 daffodils and 1000 crocuses to plant. I had first to prepare the soil. The soil on the ridge is orange and rocky and clay and incapable of nourishing these flowers. I dug and hauled a barrow of clay from the outdoor kitchen to the cleared hillside, then hauled a bag of compost up the garden path to the site, then mixed the dirt with the compost and dug little cups for the bulbs with a mini shovel and placed them in, 2" apart, then covered them with several inches of new soil. The results were ribbons and patches of dark, loamy, orange-flecked beds over the hillside. It took 2.5 days to plant this one box of bulbs from Holland Bulb Farms in Holland.

I spent all week planting Monique on the southwest slope of the ridge, in little pockets, heads up, roots down, blanketed in hand-mixed soil. A week later, when I returned, I read that daffodils are not native to Holland. They're from Spain and Portugal. And even though most of the world's bulbs are developed, produced, and exported from Holland, none are from there. Perhaps this is why Monique is in Spain. She's searching for the wild daffodil. Following her undevelopment to its wild roots and causes.

In the end, the ways in which I found Monique were simple and unexpected. I found her when I wasn't looking, when I wasn't pushing for a share. I was sometimes irked when my companion rose early. He never rises early! What was he doing rising now, when I was looking for some time alone, a little breakfast with Monique. I barely had time to light the fire and already in his company.

How could I find Monique if I was never left alone? But then my friend made the most amazing meals and we ate together, hungrily. And he carried bags of compost and split half the wood and I was grateful for him at every turn and we laughed together and he hummed and rang the triangle for dinner. And then, well fed, I found Monique on the slope, in my work, planting bulbs. That was all mine. I planted every bulb in the box. Monique and I shared not so much food as labor, not so much satisfaction as hunger. We found each other in expansive moments between spurts of labor, witnessing the galloping wind in the trees, the peek-a-boo view of the canal, in the way our fingernails hurt in the freezing dirt. We shared moments of rest and deep breaths and now Monique and I are together in that soil, planted and planning how and when to bloom.

When I got back from the mountains, I learned that Monique had been side-tracked and went to Germany for a time, then back to France. She was regrouping I think after the cancellation of the march. Protesters are marching for climate change, not only in Paris, but worldwide. After the recent attacks in Paris, however, demonstrators are banned from gathering there, so now the clashes and the guerilla art and the installation of thousands of shoes at the Place de la Republique.

And none of this is stopping Monique. Her journey goes on, her search is a wave on the beach, beating a steady pulse through this, her funnel, art. Walking. Art. Her participation is full. If we could all be so all in, so deeply committed, we'd be awake and connecting, I'm certain.

Thank you, Monique, for walking for me, for sharing with me. For your work and your words and  your passion, thank you.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Share #19: French fries

Today was a wash. I waited all day to eat. By 5pm, I had expectations. It doesn't help that I had only a bit of bread yesterday.

I walked to the bakery again today, in the rain, preparing for some future meal, then I cleaned a house and moved my things. These days, I move every few weeks or every few days. I've been house-sitting since February, in different houses, for friends with dogs and cats. This November, I will live in eight houses. How odd. It doesn't feel like a choice I made, but my yeses keep equaling up to this.

My name has been passed around and people have been contacting me and I have been saying yes. Now I'm booked through January and sometimes I'm double booked. These are friends and friends of friends and it's hard to say no and, well, I was meant to have been gone by now anyway--to Mongolia, to Northern Italy, to Paris--but I'm still here, and I don't know if I'm coming or going. Should I set myself up or divest myself entirely? I seem to be divesting myself. But what for? I don't know. I'm torn or I'm waiting to discover or I am trying to understand myself. In the meantime, I'm saying yes to everything and everyone and every house and every animal and every time and every day. I don't know if this is hindering me or helping me--abide.

I told Scott I'd be available to share a meal after 5 today. I thought that meant he'd arrive in Seattle at 5 and we'd eat soon after. Hunger thought that. He thought it meant we'd meet somehow, sometime, after 5, but not necessarily at 5 or close to 5. It was raining hard. I was cold and discontent and hungry.

I called Scott when the homeowners returned, at 5. Where was he? Was he on his way? No. He was at home. Abiding. He asked if it wouldn't be better for me to come to him. Arrg. My hunger expressed its expectations to him. He said, "Don't be mad at me." How could I be mad? It's true, we didn't have a definite plan. I said I'd drive to him.

Scott lives in Renton, 25 miles east of Seattle. I headed south from Ballard on I-5, slowly, past a stalled car. Traffic was backed up. There was construction on I-90 then and traffic was down to one lane from I-5 to the floating bridge. All in all, it took 3 hours to make the return trip. Under normal, non-rush hour conditions, it takes an hour to drive from Seattle to Renton and to Seattle again. By time I got to Scott's house and we drove to a gas station, I was in an unsettled state. I went in to pay for the gas and stood in the wrong line. Three other people got into the right line in front of me. The man in my line was checking a lottery ticket. I turned around and saw and smelled a fast food window. Ahh. French fries. There is an adjoining McDonalds. I turned towards this smell and ordered some fries.

Over the past 20 years, I have eaten at McDonalds three times. On each occasion, my usual decision making process was undermined. Once I'd bicycled 15 miles in the snow and was early for a job and needed a place to stay warm. Once I was in a foreign town, headed north a 3-hour bus ride and had no food with me. The bus stop was in front of a McDonalds. This occasion was no different. I hadn't eaten in 12 hours. I knew I wouldn't eat anything substantial in the next hour. I needed something to tie me over and here was a wall of fat frying and I caved in. Scottie had no trouble sharing these fries with me. We stuffed them in our mouths in large handfuls. They were nothing special and I won't remember them later. That evening, we made a real meal with a salad and vegetables and sat down to a table and shared a share.

Share #18: Olive bread


I didn't eat. I spent the entire day writing and caring for dogs. Four dogs require a great many walks and meals and medicines and cleaning up after. And I'm still coughing. And I should be doing more to cure my cold. Steam. Baths. Lemon ginger tea. Yesterday I had juice and tea with honey and herbal remedy and Airborne. I am doing what I can.

I got a tip on a community dinner at the F.O.E. in Ballard tonight. If I went to this dinner, I would miss my 7pm class. I've been attending and facilitating Field sessions since 2008 and am attending this fall's session. The Field was started in 1986 by dancers in New York City as a place to show works-in-progress and get non-directorial feedback from peer artists. For me, it is a place to grow and experiment and listen and articulate my aesthetic and support others in growth. I was planning to show a share tonight. I didn't know exactly what this meant but these days I never know exactly what I will share until I begin sharing. As a precautionary measure, I walked to the bakery in the afternoon with two of my dogs and bought a loaf of olive bread. The olive loaf is made with green and black olives and is formed into a big pretzel that can be hooked on a peg on the wall. It is an awkward shape. I put it into my jacket and walked home with the dogs.

There were six artists at The Field tonight. As usual, we let bravery dictate order. I let hunger dictate mine. By the time I showed, second to last, I was very, very hungry, I hadn't eaten all day, but it felt good to wait. I pulled a table and two chairs into the center of the room, introduced myself and gave the title of my work. My Share. I invited those who wanted to share food with me to the table. Those who didn't want to share could witness from further away. Everyone came to the table. I spread out a cloth and placed the bread on the cloth and some olive oil in a bowl beside it and set out a package of English digestives. No one came prepared for this meal, neither hungry nor with food to share, but I asked anyway, "If anyone has anything to share, I welcome you to share it. It is not necessary, of course, by welcome." Amanda tore open an orange. Rebecca poured out a bag of Ghiradelli chocolate squares. The table felt very full.

I started by tearing the bread and handing pieces around and, of course, talked about Golas and my search for the truth. Carolynn said her life was one big search for the truth. She has a tattoo of the word truth on her throat. I hadn't seen it before, but there it is, very visible. "How and where do you look for the truth?" I asked. She said she looks for the truth in her work. Beth said she's found some truth in Don Miguel Ruiz's Four Agreements: Be impeccable with your word, Don’t take anything personally, Don’t make assumptions and Always do your best. Amanda said these same concepts were explained differently in the five yamas in Patanjali's Ashtanga Yoga, or Rāja yoga, the eightfold path, explained in a book she is reading called The Art and Science of Raja Yoga. The Yamas are restraints or ethical practices that lead to right living. They are: Ahimsa - non-violence, Satya - truthfulness, Brahmacharya - control of the senses and celibacy, Asteya - non-stealing, and Aparigraha - non-covetousness and non-acceptance of gifts. The mastery of each of these restraints is meant to imbue one with a different superpower, one of which is the ability to see the truth unveiled, or to know God.

Where do we find the truth? Where can we begin looking? Are we looking already? Do we know the truth? Does it reside inside of and, if so, how can it be concealed from us? Gurdjieff looked for the truth in ancient artifacts and in various learned people. Bas Jan Ader looked for it at sea. I am looking for it in books and in people and in myself.

Share #17: Double cheeseburger & onion rings

What a day! I was satisfied in enjoying everything I craved today--body, mind and spirit--from a hearty breakfast to a long walk, from a visit to the beach to a memorable dessert, from a double cheeseburger and order of onion rings to some enticing conversation.

When I placed my order at Red Mill, I gave the name "Wandering Cloud." It was nice to hear them call my order, "Wandering Cloud? Wandering Cloud?"

There is a Red Mill at the end of my street, at the end of the street on which I am staying. I have no street. I stay on other people's streets. It is 2 minutes by car and 15 minutes by foot to that Red Mill, but I cannot and do not go there for meals. I've asked several people to meet me there, to share a meal. No takers. Here now was the burger I'd been craving, in my hands. I took it in, visually and bodily, in large bites. I was glad my companion was hungry too.

I'd been putting this friend off. I'd been too busy all summer, with work and with my mother and looking for a place to live. I couldn't find the time to meet. Here I was now needing someone to share. I reached out and he was there. We met at the Red Mill on Phinney. I got there early and gobbled up some Thaddeus Golas, the author of The Lazy Man's Guide to Enlightenment. When my friend, Scott, arrived we slipped into a booth.

I forget how it began, but I of course brought up Thaddeus Golas and he told me about his experience of work and life, about his desires and frustrations in life. And he looks at me and thinks I have something figured out. I have something on him. I am living without fear. Oh no no no.

To me, it sounds like we're experiencing some very similar things and feelings, but then what is a feeling--a reaction to a reality, a perspective of reality? We both, I think, have the feeling that something is wrong. In fact, we might even know exactly what is wrong. But are we willing to change it? Do we know how to change it? Do we know where to begin? Is this a total systems failure or a simple perspective ?

Why do we do nothing to change our lives when we know what it is wrong? It's easy to loathe ourselves when we can see the damage we are reeking and do nothing to affect a change. When we neither have the energy nor the skill to apply the lessons we feel you must be learning or know deep down we contain. Is this apathy? It is not apathy, though it affects me as if it were. And makes me self-hating. Or at least weakens my confidence. Is it fear? Yes, in large part, it is fear. Is it confusion? It is confusion, and more. And more.

There is a lack of energy and of understanding about the situation. In this case, I believe the knowledge of what we think we need is making us unhappy. If we didn't know what we needed, to be whole, or that we needed, to be whole, we might be happy (read content, at ease, calm, confident). But we're usually so wrong about what we need, or this is one way of putting ourselves down. If we cannot love ourselves as we are, we will never raise our vibration level or achieve a sense of peace.

So we are unhappy where we are. We see where we want to be, but are unable to make the changes necessary to move to that place, the great changes we believe this shift would require. Maybe we think it means quitting our job. Maybe we think it means traveling the world. Maybe we think it means giving away our belongings. Whatever it is, it's 180 degrees from where we are at present and requires that we give up our ideas about ourselves and the world, which is basically everything we know and love and that's huge because that is our safety. It sounds clear and simple when we read it in a book, but in our lives, it is either terrifying or paralyzing or exhilarating, depending on our willingness to move into that state.

There are valid excuses for staying where we are. If we give up our job, we won't be able to afford our rent. We will lose our lives and maybe our health, but then we may gain these. If we give up our apartment and live on our boat, we might be breaking the agreement we made with our cat who lives in our apartment, or we may be freeing our cat to live with someone who stays at home and gives our cat a better home. If our cat comes to live on our boat, he might pee inside the cabin and then our boat would become worthless, or he might use the litter box as usual and have a different but happy existence. Such silly traps we set. We cannot win. Applying Golas here, we can say, "We are equal. What you can achieve, I can achieve. You are vibrating high and I am vibrating low. I love myself for vibrating low. I love myself as I am, for being afraid to let go, for loving my cat, for not being ready to change."

It seemed to me that Thaddeus had something to say to Scott, as he had something to say to me. When you know what is wrong and cannot change it, that is where you start. Love yourself where you are, for not being courageous enough to make the leap. Instead of praising those around us, the courageous ones, we just love ourselves where we are. This, in itself, raises our vibration. We don't debase those around us, but see ourselves as equal. What they can do, we can do. It is our choice, at this time, or any time, to do it, or not to.

Inhale, exhale. No resistance.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Share #16: Hot cereal & pecans & pomegranates

Breakfast

It is hot cereal with brown sugar and butter I crave, but I haven't had that since starting My Share on 30 October. Hot cereal is one of my only routines and it feels comforting to me, but who will share with me in the morning? Everyone is so busy with their routines, feeding themselves, getting ready, catching up, rushing off to work.

For two years, I've been in the habit of starting my day with a bowl of Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free 7 Grain Cereal. I usually have several bags on hand so I don't run out. When Love asked me what I was in the mood for yesterday, I told her about what I'd been missing. Walnut biscotti from Macrina and hot cereal from Uncle Bob. She offered to come back for breakfast the very next day! Big heart in that Love.

We made plans to go to a cafe and write, then walk to the beach, but when the day came I got out the hot cereal and put two servings in two pots and suggested having some. Love was game and even offered some the toppings she'd brought for our afternoon treat--coconut toasted pecans and pomegranate seeds.

During breakfast, I read part of a letter to Love. It was a letter I wrote to an old friend three years ago, when I was already two years into limbo. It explained my condition, or circumstance, or experience. I kept a copy because it was, at the time, the clearest thing I'd written about it. Whenever I tried to tell anyone how I felt, it sounded like nothing and they just fought with what I said. It was a 4-page letter. I'd just come across it this morning while organizing my things and felt it might more clearly explain what I was trying to say yesterday. Upon hearing the letter, Love said she understood and no longer wanted to remedy me. She trusted me to find my way. And the clarity of the writer, once again, trumps the speaker!

Like anyone, I tend to slip into that role, the role of healer, when someone tells me about their struggle. How can I help? What can I suggest? Will my story shed light on theirs? It wasn't until Burden of Purpose that I practiced deep listening, for the first time maybe, and let my companion offer me their burden without answering them, just receiving it, and walking alongside them, trusting them to find their own way. Like anyone, I need reminders about this, that listening is a powerful gift.

I pulled out The Lazy Man's Guide to Enlightenment and pointed to page 44, to something I read last night. Thaddeus Golas talks about truth and self-love in his book. As she read, I saw how precisely it spelled out her life and mine. She seemed to scrunch up her nose and not be connecting, but then I thought that wouldn't be uncommon, for me to find relief in something that wasn't offering it to others. Perhaps it's just for me and what I need to hear?

Golas is saying there's no need to wait. I can, at this moment, expand into enlightenment. It is within my ability. Everything is available to me. When I hear, for the first time, what I already know, the same book in me opens and I experience equilibrium. Whether it's an author, a doctor, a politician or a friend. The news is the news that I know.

Golas says when we love ourselves, just as we are this moment, even if we are lost or bad or sad or hateful or broken, we raise our vibration level. That alone changes us, changes our lives. He says what I deny will manifest itself in my life. "No resistance." I must allow everything. I suppose this means saying yes a lot. Golas also says a few things about truth that I find helpful. "Facts are limited truths." "Facts have roots in truth." "Delusions are denials of truth." And "We don't need facts to be wise and loving."
The Cafe

Love was swathed, top to bottom, in shades and textures of purple, periwinkle, plum, eggplant and rose. A broad smile under a bright woolen hat. Long blonde hair streaming out over a loom knit shawl. Purple dress and striped leggings.

We walked to Cafe Fiore. I brought an article Marcia Wiley saved for me, about a poet who saves a forest. I'd been waiting to read it. We read it together, at the cafe, then did some writing. I wrote on my biscotti bag: "I am doing what I need to do, though it feels like nothing. This circumstance is my school. And I am its honor student. And its drop-out. And its teacher. And its founder and janitor too. I fund this school. And have a child who attend. It is a good school. Why do the teachers strike? Why don't the children learn? Why aren't their more backers? When will I graduate? I should have home schooled or tried the Carden Method and applied the arts more. O, I did. And, o, i didn't. And so well. And o well."

The article was a tear jerker. One Poem That Saved a Forest was written by Jacqueline Suskin and published in Yes! Magazine in Summer 2015. Above Marcia's studio door is a large painting with one word, "Yes!" It's not surprising to learn that Marcis subscribes to Yes! She practices it in her her life and is all about empowering others, especially children and women, to practice it. Yes!

Suskin's writing, in both prose and poetry, was clear and moving. She wrote, with compassion, about befriending a senior vice president of a timber harvesting company in California, a company with a nasty reputation for clear cutting and toxic herbicides. Her story, told in type-written notes, explains how she met this man, as a man, where he was, and through their meeting and eventual friendship, played a role in helping him save a large tract of old growth forest.

Her story invited me to accept that, if I am present to what is before me, at this moment, if I am able to love everything as it is, I may be doing the very thing necessary to raise my vibration and release me, and those around me, from suffering. Suskin reminded me to separate the human souls from the human actions. What I see in ugly garb may be the very thing that needs my love. And from those to whom I appear ugly, I can hope for and desire love.

To the Beach

From the cafe, we walked to Golden Gardens, down the great long stairs. A man with a dog passed us and pointed out we were both in purple. I'd noticed Love's purple, but not my own. Now I saw it. My pants were purple-blue, my shoes had purple trim, my powder blue rain coat over my raspberry thermal layer mixed to purple. We are equal beings.

We sat on the beach for a moment. The weather was dry, but windy and cold. Then we walked home via the marina. We saw various things that fascinated Love, a tree with handles, a window that went straight through a house and looked through another onto the sound. Then she told me about a creative action she once gave as a present. She photographed three doors, offered those images to her father and asked him to choose one. She said she'd knock on the door he chose and meet the person inside and relate the story of that meeting to her father.


Ice-cream Sundae

Love had but something into the freezer when she first arrive. Was it time for a treat? I brought out two bowls and she scooped up some Molly Moon's pumpkin ice cream and dressed it with warm chocolate sauce and coconut toasted pecans and pomegranate seeds. We sat down in the breakfast nook. It was enough just to look at it. To smell it. She said, "You deserve it." I flashed to yin/yang, the deserving facing the undeserving, a split world, but then I had to agree, I did deserve it.

It's a wonder how many things had to come together to make this miracle--the sun, the rain, the tree, the bean, the plant, the cow, the human head and heart. How did humans get to be so lucky? We both flashed to the very evident suffering of humans and knew, we paid and will continue to pay for our pleasures in pain. The one creates the other. So yes, I deserve it... but what if I didn't?

Monday, November 9, 2015

Share #15: Bread, butter, tea, salad, sliced pink grapefruit & a periscope

At last I shared a meal with Love. She offered weeks ago, but I was too sick to accept. She even offered to drop something off, something healing like soup, but I felt that wouldn't be a true share. I'd miss out on her company and all she has to offer. I begged her off when she wanted my community, but maybe I saved her from getting sick?

Love was on her way into Seattle and said she could meet me on Sunset Hill. What did I need? Nothing. I needed her. The meal was already laid out. It was after noon. I'd missed breakfast again and was hungry. We shared a green salad and warm bread and butter and fruit. I think I talked more than I ate. Since my accident, when I am eating with others I notice how my mouth is no good at the movements necessary to chew big bites of food. I feel a little self-conscious and spend energy focusing on the mechanics of chewing. I don't remember experiencing this alone.

Somewhere during the meal, we got to talking about our feelings about our lives. How are we feeling about where we are, not where are we, but how are we feeling about it,  where we perceive ourselves to be. Are our feelings a true indication of where we are? I think our feelings have less to do with our whereabouts than they do with our perception of our whereabouts.

Love began with the idea that we have eyes because we see and that we have bodies because we need to move in and sense the world. She'd just been with poet Wendy Mulhern and had been investigating this. I agreed, we manifest our world, and maybe even ourselves, in being called to this life, but when did this happen--at birth, at conception, or is it ongoing, with each passing moment?

What do we need to understand ourselves right now, to be whole? Healthy? As we move through life, as we wake up to certain truths, what do we need then to understand? When I say, "I am lost," I am saying I cannot match up my understanding with my experience. How do I know I am lost? Can I not trust myself to know? What am I loving? What am I avoiding? Are these good indicators?

Love offered a series of questions she'd learned from a teacher. I'll substitute my own current crisis for the situation at hand. "Am I in limbo?" "Am I sure I am in limbo?" "How do I feel when I believe I am in limbo?" "Who would I be, how would I feel or react to the same circumstances, without this belief?" Love answered about her own situation with a definitive yes. I answered with an "I don't know." I am not ruling out the idea that I might be misperceiving everything and that a little shift in thought might bring all the clarity I need to dissolve what I see as my problem into my path. It's happened before. The only clear answer I had was to the third question. "I feel powerless."

I believe what is shifting is my understanding, my perspective, not my circumstance, not my world. But then my perspective is my universe, so far as I know. All those same gifts, those same hindrances, are out there, in here. I'm sensing them differently, reacting to them differently now.

It's a good thing about me, for my own sake, that I can always rely on myself to react in body--move away from what is harmful, move towards what is good--even when I cannot understand or react in mind. I have good a flagging system. My body leads, and wisely. And so, I must investigate when my body talks, like now when it is saying, "You've been on the path. There is a whole you on the path. You must find it again. You cannot go on as before. But first, you need a  frame." This feels like a trap. I need the frame to find the path, but cannot find the frame because the frame is the path.

We talked about the use of love in realizing our truths. How we love ourselves, how we let go of our expectations. It is so easy, from my vantage, to see the lovable Love, to see how her on her path, but to see the lovable me, on my path, that is harder.

Share #14: Potluck turned potpie

Shanghai Stock Exchange revises trading suspension rules.
It is Sunday. It is the last day of Vanessa DeWolf's beloved Studio-Current on Capitol Hill. There is a potluck to mark this ending, this beginning, to discuss the future of these people and this space. I missed it! I'd been looking forward to it all week. But I'm still coughing and struggling to breathe. It would have been irresponsible of me to attend and compromise those who were there.

Alas, but I was relying on this community. And now I have none. So many of my plans--to commune, to share, to eat--fell through this week because of my cough. It's left me with holes in my schedule and holes in my stomach, but it's highlighted my shares, made me see how much I need the people in my life, made me hungrier, helped me understand, or is it remember, my own suffering and the suffering of my community.

I was glad when Kathleen called to ask if she could do laundry. Yes please. Perhaps she'll share a meal with me? I haven't forced a meal on anyone or made them take a bite of something so I could eat. I could have done that. Or cheated. But I didn't.

There have been several occasions when I was hungry and the person I was with wasn't hungry and so I went without. But tonight it was getting on to dinner time and I'd bought a potpie at the market and here was someone coming to my house who might get hungry just like me? Was she, getting hungry? She said she'd probably be hungry in about an hour or so. O good!!! There was that Snoqualmie Creamery coconut ice-cream pulsing in the freezer too.

Kathleen had agreed to dine with me and called Lee and he was coming too. He brought red wine and  offered two bars of chocolate and a bottle of Source Naturals Wellness Formula, an herbal defense complex for my cold. I made a green salad with goat cheese and heated up Deborah's Homemade Pies chicken pot pie. What a smell to fill the house! And everything was tasty and afterwards--ice-cream! And chocolate! And a movie!

Share #13: Ballard Farmer's Market

My Share is throwing me off and I'm not sure why. I'm not restricting my diet in any way, but my diet is certainly restricted. I can eat whatever I want, but only under certain circumstances. I can only eat with another human being, in relation, in community. Why would this cause confusion?

I've already sorted out what in relation means. I cannot eat with a dog or a cat. I cannot eat over the phone with someone or online or on Skype. I cannot eat something alone that someone gave me as a gift yesterday. I cannot eat in a public place where other are eating simply because there are others there. I must be in community. I must be sharing something with someone, least of all food.

Last week, I was sharing dinner with a friends. After dinner I ate my cream puff and suddenly felt guilty. What had I done?! I'd cheated. Wait wait, no, that wasn't cheating. That is allowed. My friend eaten a cream puff. We'd shared an experience. So why did I have this little panicky feeling? I used to get this feeling every so often when I was younger and worked three jobs and had, against all odds, a rare day off. In the middle of that carefree day I would suddenly panic. I'm supposed to be somewhere! Where? At one of my jobs? Which one? I would need to fish for things I knew every other day. Sort out what day it was. It was like I was suddenly unfamiliar with myself and my life. Then I would swim through it or in it and locate myself and the day too and my environs and reintegrate. No. I'm not supposed to be anywhere. Everything is ok. I am right here, where I am meant to be. Then a melting relief.

I wonder why, after eating a cream puff, I felt that way. Perhaps it's a conditioned sweet connection? I know from Hunger, the fasting/receiving work I did for NEPO 5k Walk Don't Run, in 2013, sugar grabs at a part of me, a part that will not be satisfied, that wants to cheat and steal away. Perhaps the sugar recalled that part of me? Whatever it was, I took some time to  review how I eat sugar, under what circumstances. I eat sugar at breakfast on hot cereal, in the form of biscotti. On rare occasions, I purchase package of cookies--my favorite are those dark chocolate topped digestives, McVittie's, from Great Britain. I like to eat them alone and to ration my intake. I pull out two cookies to have with my hot black milk tea. Then I pull out one more. Then one more, really, just one. Then I put them away a third time.

I have plenty of food where I am staying, but I cannot go into the kitchen and eat it, which is a different way of being. When I was fasting (Hunger, 2013), I did not have food around. I had a bolder line between me from food. Now I am carrying food around in a bag looking for circumstances to eat it.

What is this project about? What am I doing or supposed to be doing? I find myself wondering. Was I supposed to keep silent? Was I supposed to eat that? It's a lot looser that you'd think, but then there's a big obstacle, the inability to eat without a companion, which means I do not snack. I do not answer my hunger. Typically, I snack all day on nuts and yogurt and chocolate and bread.

I met Mylinda at 1pm at the Ballard Farmer's Market. I hadn't eaten since 2pm the day before. I was hungry. We shared a fresh quesadilla and a tamale. We sat in a doorway eating from our laps. People were streaming by. The rain let up. Later, I bought some things to take home, wild flower honey, 2 bunches of beets, 6 plums, a delicata squash and a chicken pot pie. Everything made fresh and organic, from products in season, grown locally. Splurge!!

When I lived in a studio on Old Ballard Avenue, last November, December and January, I'd walk out my door and right into the farmer's market on Sundays. I could hear them conversing in the early morning light as they set up their stands. The wood-fired oven pizza cart was the closet to me. Smoke from their fire wafted in through my window.

Some day, I will eat food purchased at the market, and only at the market, for one month, one season, one year. See what evolves. See how I change. See if I can connect my body with my landscape through my diet, live on food that lived in my region, on fish and meat raised on my land, on fruits and vegetables that are falling in season. Supermarkets make it hard to know. Where did this come from? How long ago was it picked? Was it ripe then or green? And isn't it strange I live in a culture where I must construct this reality?

I've lived on supermarket food most of my life, except for twice. Once, when I was in Poland and once when I was in the South Pacific. In Poland, I knew when strawberries were in season. For two weeks, you saw them and everyone ate them. Then they were gone. Same with sunflowers. And gooseberries. And plums. Unless you pickled it, that was the last you saw of it until the next year. Eating pickled pumpkin was a different story. Your labor was deep in that. In the South Pacific, I ate food plucked from the tree everyday, pulled out of the sea, hot from the oven. Coconuts, tuna, parrotfish, urchins.

There are several fresh, year-round, farmer's markets in Seattle. In the University District on Saturdays and in Ballard, Fremont, Capitol Hill and West Seattle on Sundays. In the summer, there are even more.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Share #12: Fruit juice in hand blown glasses and a goat cheese and salami sandwich

It was 2pm. I hadn't eaten. I made a salami, butter and goat cheese sandwich, cut it into three pieces and put each in a bag. I bagged some chips. I was putting together a lunch so I could find someone to share it with. So far as I knew, there was no hope of eating otherwise. I was headed for Ballard. I figured I'd find somebody in front of the Post Office or outside Ballard Market or Trader Joe's or under the bridge. We know where they are.

My morning plans feel through. I woke up late, missed my meditation. I felt worse than yesterday. Sore throat, sore head. I was late for my afternoon meeting. That friend was called away then and so it fell through too. I took a bath then realized how hungry I was.

On my way out the door, Marcia texted me. She was in her studio with friends. I was welcome to stop by. Ah to be taken in!!!! Marcia lives five blocks from where I am staying. I drove to the Green Market to supplement the supplies. I bought fruit juice, an avocado, a grapefruit and a brownie.

I arrived in the rain and walked down the magnolia leaf strewn drive to her garage studio. Siam Thai Restaurant, that's what the neon sign on her studio says. It's a real restaurant sign she bought at an auction.

Marcia was inside with Laura, a friend and neighbor. Laura found Marcia the same way I did. She saw a sign for a Glass Art Sale and followed it in. Rhonda, another friend, joined us. It was gray day with rain, but in here we were surrounded by brilliant purple and blue and orange glass. Marcia's studio draws in a lot of very strong, healthy, supportive, creative and globally active women.

I pulled out my goodies and opened the juice. Marcia offered four of her artisan glasses to drink from. She makes gorgeous drinking glasses called Wileyware. I've bought and given many glasses to family and to friends as wedding gifts. She sells her glasses at the Ballard Market and at craft fairs across the country. She also offers kids glass classes and makes glass jewelry and that's just the start. Her creativity stretches into the world in many ways. She's got an alter ego names Miss Direction who locates lone women at bus stops and offers them rides across town in exchange for their story. "Hello, my name is Miss Direction. I'm a public servant in the city of Seattle. My goal is to transform the mundane."

Our little group spent the next few hours encouraging one another, listening and talking about life and transitions, while Marcia reorganized her sewing supplies. I was so thankful for the brightness in there.
It often seems that bodies that need each other, are brought together. It especially seemed that way with Laura and Rhonda. Rhonda had so many insights to offer and who wouldn't take them from such a glowing, expanded being? Rhonda, Marcia explained to us, is the woman responsible for the stencils we see around town on street drains, "Drains to Sound / Dump no Trash (with a fish stencil)." I've often seen the brilliance in those signs, showing us, with one image, the connection between our actions and our living world.

As I was leaving, Marcia offered me some of her mushroom tonic. She filled a little glass bottle with some homemade shiitake mushroom tonic. I should take two droppers full twice a day, in water, until I am well. It is strong immune tonic. Talk about healing!

Share #11: Vegetable soup, garlic tea, an aura reading

Not only did Sarah offer homemade vegetable soup, she offered to read my aura and to give me a healing! An aura reading involves looking at a person's current growth period and giving insights. Sounds about right and yes, please.

I think she's worried about me, not because I'm sick, but because I'm lost. I think she's been where I am, and recognizes it as a place of suffering, which it is. She said she'd found some relief through Vipassana meditation, long retreats, travels, pilgrimages to places of wonder. Perhaps it's time for Mongolia. How long can I wait for the right frame to present itself. Whenever I try to explain my problem, my situation, my trouble in life, the inability to see things right, it seems like nothing, inconsequence, but it cannot be, it's too persistent.

Where did I meet Sarah? At Green Lake and later through Fremont Arts Council. She was looking for a boat for Luminata, to turn into a sculpture. I offered mine. I had a fiberglass over ply rowboat at the time. For two years, she turned my little pram into a lighted, floating swan and let it glide across Green Lake to mark the autumnal equinox. This year, Luminata happened on 19 September. I missed it. I missed everything this year.

Sarah is house-sitting right now, in a house I know, for a person I know. In fact, she's staying in the very house I brought my mother to when we first arrived from Pennsylvania in April. It was our first house-sitting job, the beginning of what became a very challenging and overly-eventful non-transition. I was both surprised and delighted to learn about this new connection and to be offered a healing session right here, in this house, this very same house, seems a cosmic righting of an overturned vessel. May be the first skin on this summer's trauma.

We started with the meal and ate a simple chicken stock and kale and vegetable soup with homemade oat scones and goat cheese. I offered Sarah a set of my 108 beads from February. After dinner, we washed the dishes and went into the living room. It was time for my reading. I knew Sarah did dream work from our discussions online, but I didn't know about her psychic abilities. She's been taking classes and is learning how to use and channel what she perhaps cannot filter out. Thankfully, I was able to control my coughing. I only had two cough drops left.

I sat on the couch. Sarah sat opposite in a chair. She asked me to ground myself. She said to keep my eyes open, she'd have hers closed. She would go into a trance, which really means entering into her own self. There, she would be be able to see me and my energy.

She looked at me, layer by layer. She began with my 1st layer or base or root chakra. She saw this as light pink, faded. Its paleness was concerning. She said it was shaped like a pole, a pink pole. After a while, she saw a dark spot there, just a little one, like a bat, or a half a bat, flitting about, spinning around the pole. She said it involved the fear of someone bipolar, but that it wasn't harmful. It was holding on though and attracted to me. I was providing it something to catch on and could release it or send it away when I wanted to, into the earth, give it some space, some place else to go. Like aversion, dismissing this would only make it stronger. I would do better to see it, address it, tell it I have some fears. Then I could fill that space out with a deep red ball. With work, she dissolved the bat into little flecks, but still those flecks encircled the pole. She brushed them away gently with her hands and moved on.

My 2nd layer and sacral chakra were shaped like an upward flute. My 3rd chakra was also pink. She saw a girl in a pink dress, on a tricycle, or was it a motorcycle, or a farmer's tractor? It was a changing image. It's as if I were looking for the right vehicle for my work. All through her reading, I recognized myself. There wasn't anything off base. I recognized the symbols and colors and dynamics in me. Sarah offered a beautiful and sweet view of my condition and situation. It gave me compassion for myself, made me want to care about my heart. This summer, I'd found a pink baby dress at a garage sale. I used it in my Yellowfish performance, "Tract," with my mother, at the Hedreen. Last January, I was invited to join a motorcycle rally across Mongolia, then was disinvited to go. I was heartbroken, but took a motorcycle class anyway, then found a cheap motorcycle so I could start learning to ride. Lately, I've been thinking about a work I once proposed for Vashon Island but was rejected for. It's called Haystack and would involve moving a haystack across the city by hand. These could be my vehicles. My goal, to realize my way back onto the path.

My 4th layer or heart chakra was a bluegreen orb with rings, like the planet Saturn. It was emitting positive energy in waves, but the orb itself was a hard, blueish shell with a little bird inside, struggling to get up over the lip, slipping and sliding down its sides. This layer is love for self and love for others. The hardness of the shape was concerning, but it was strong with rings like radar waves pulsing out.

My 5th layer or throat chakra, the center of communication, was shaped like a satellite dish. It was very strong, a deep golden yellow, an oval. She kept seeing images of vinyl records with various tracks and suggested maybe I needed to make some recordings.

My 6th layer, the third eye, the one that sees, the analytic center, the center of psychic abilities, was a golden bowl, but there was a dark spot there too. Pernicious. She asked me to fill the bowl with the sun or with a candle that grows into a sun. She said she'd bring some gold in there to heal it. She waved her hand inward towards her body.

My 7th layer or crown chakra was also shaped like a satellite. It was completely open, totally receptive, perhaps too receptive. There's too much information coming in. It's confusing. This shape maybe needs to be drawn in, into an antenna that will pick up only what is useful. This center also came with an image of a black bird diving down, like the holy spirit, a dove, but dark. The nativity image also came up, but with a vulture where Mary should be, looking at the baby. It was dark and scary. She suggested I might be holding onto some confusing, negative images surrounding Christianity from when I was young. A spirit guide appeared, was invited in, a native in buffalo robe, someone like Chief Joseph. Asiatic. This is a spirit guide. It's time to let go of the confusing, fearful images that don't work and allow the peaceful guides, the healthy images in. This layer was the color of wealth. I have the ability to attain it, but struggle with certain aspects of wealth. I associate negatively with it, or with certain kinds. I have something here to offer here, with this view. I have work to do.

There was so much detailed description. I cannot remember everything. Somewhere in there was fear. And ability. And a great deal of energy emanating from the throat, being drawn up from below and down from above. It made sense my heart needed protecting. All that openness was leaving it vulnerable.

This share was indeed a great gift of presence and of healing and I am so very, very grateful. Thank you.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Share #10: Meditation, jasmine tea, yogurt, toast

I haven't seen Lyn Coffin and her sweet dog Charlie in a long time. It was nice to touch base. We used to sit meditation together. Lyn is an extraordinary poet, translator and playwright. She had new work to share, two translations, including "The Knight in the Panther Skin" by Shota Rustaveli, an epic, Georgian, medieval poem. What a beautiful book, three years in the making!

Lyn told me about her world tour to London, Georgia, Iceland, Mexico and New York and about her upcoming reading at the Seattle Public Library later this month. She'll be reading from her new poems, stories and a play called "Lutefisk." It took a while to catch up, which we did over breakfast. Then we sat for 30 minutes, which felt good and grounding, and planned to sit again tomorrow.

Namo Buddhaya Namo Dharmaya Namo Sanghaya.

My Share is calling me to do the things I have been avoiding, things I want to do. It's calling me into relationship with, what Thaddeus Golas calls, the universe. "We are equal beings and the universe is our relations with each other."


Share #9: Pho

Funny how you see a friend and you want to see her again. A door hardly opened is hard door to open, but a door on a swing, swung frequently, gives effortless!

But Mylinda's bus was late and my tiresome cough was still hanging around, so we decided against First Thursday Art Walk and went for pho instead. We met at Than Brothers on Aurora, where the pho flies out of the kitchen. When ours arrived, we threw in the condiments--basil, sprouts, jalapeño, brown sauce, hot sauce--and got to work. I made it through the meal, despite numerous coughing attacks.

I met Mylinda in 2006 at Green Lake, at my poetry desk. I later worked with her at The Phinney Center. At her urging, I founded a reading series there. She was the Phinney Center Gallery Curator. Now she's at Sound Transit and sits on numerous art panels. She's currently working with Oddfellows in Ballard to bring new artists into their gallery.

We talked about the F.O.E. and Oddfellows and other art spaces in Ballard and about art walks here and there. She told me about her recent classes and about a psychic fair, then she showed me her dollar store finds. Four bags of googly eyes, a pack of glue gun glitter sticks and a strand of battery operated lights. I suggested adding eyes to our cream puffs. Before parting, we read a paragraph from the book Jean loaned me, "Basic Self-Knowledge" by Harry Benjamin. I argued with every few sentences. We'd have a little discussion then Mylinda would hold the book up again and continue reading. This is how it went.