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


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.

Share #8: Homemade soup, artisan breads, sliced pear and kiwi, cheese and salami

Jean jean o thank you Jean. I haven't seen you in forever! You were busy. Sick. I was too. Me too. We broke bread, some of hers and some of mine. She toasted hers. I arranged the salami and cheese. She cut the kiwi and served two bowls of magnificent, memorable, creamy soup made with chicken and beef broth and root vegetables.

There was so much to say that the coughing got worse, so Jean talked and encouraged me to drink water. We talked about the work we are doing and Jean loaned me a book, Basic Self-Knowledge by Harry Benjamin. Benjamin believes Krishnamurti and Gurdjieff were saying the same thing in different ways. In his book he explains why. He begins with a quote: "This work is beautiful when you see why it exists and what it means. It is about Liberation. It is as beautiful as if, Zonked for years in a prison, you see a stranger entering who offers you a key. But you may refuse it because you have acquired prison-habits and have forgotten your origin, which is from the stars."Maurice Nicoll, 1952.

Jean says she gave up wanting recognition long ago. She just want this. Life. The dance. As I was leaving, Jean said her life was about gratitude. She's living a life of gratitude. "If we're lucky, we've got 30 summers left. Or maybe one? That puts things into perspective." She told me about a practice she does when she goes to bed. Five and five. She folds one hand over the other and laces her fingers together. On the first hand, she counts five things from her day she is grateful for. On the other, five people she is grateful for. Five and five. Simple. Easy. Leaves you with more positive than negative.

Share #7: Hot toddy, happy hour.

I'd hardly eaten. It was nearly dinner. I was getting really hungry, but still coughing, a series of short dry coughs every few seconds. Funny, the sorting one goes through when one needs something from someone, when one must ask of another. Who can I see? Who do I want to see? Who wants to see me? Who have I bothered too much already? Who lives near? I looked into community and church dinners. Maybe the Ballard Senior Center was having a dinner tonight? I looked to see where Community Dinner was having their meal this evening. I could go to Fremont at 5:30pm for a church dinner. Hmm.

Then I got a message from Mylinda, who was at a meeting in Ballard. Close by! She said she'd be out of her meeting soon and would me for a hot toddy. Might be good for my throat. I walked the dogs and drove to meet her. Salmon Bay Eagles Aerie Club is the 1st branch of the F.O.E. (Federation of Eagles) in history. I'd heard about the F.O.E. Blues nights, but wasn't a member. Now, after wanting to peer inside for so long, Mylinda is a member and can sponsor me. Horray!

Dark inside. Heavy wood door. Taxidermy eagle in a glass case. Carved cherry wood bar. Pull tabs. Wood tables and chairs. Pool table. Dim lights. Didn't take long before I knew everyone at the bar. Nora, Christy, Steve, Mark and Gerald. Lots of history in this place. Wonder if they have room for an artist here? I later read that this F.O.E. was started by six theatre owners, gathered around talking about a musician's strike in 1898.

I ordered a hot toddy with whiskey. I was coughing. They gave me another. Two drinks is a lot for me. Still coughing. After a thoroughly enjoyable time, Mylinda, Nora and I went across the street for happy hour. Food! We split everything--ribs, tots and a hamburger. Thought about going to one of the ritzy new spots. Found them to be glassy and cold. Agreed to go to the hat (Hattie's Hat). This is what I've been missing. Society! It was an altogether satisfying evening and we ended it with a street hug.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Share #6: A hot drink & an aperatif

Friend and artist, David Traylor, invited me on a tour of Union Street this morning. He picked me up at 9am and drove us deep into the city. David is a potter, a visual artist and an expert on Union Street in Seattle, having spent a year and a half making art there, with long time collaborator Susan Gans--drawing, photographing and lifting inspiration from this route across the city.

David is curious about the errors, the places where city planning and reality meet up and fail to meet up, the things we experience on the ground as mistakes, as strange differences, as jogs in the road, roads that suddenly narrow or widen, cross streets that fails to match up. Union Street offers many such examples, where grids meet and seams stretch. The first is on Profanity Hill, where the grid that is oriented to the waterfront meets with the grid that is oriented to north. The buildings at Summit and Union are triangular and the streets vary in width. It is a transition zone.

David is trained in landscape architecture. His drawings hint at this. I saw, in his sketch book before we began walking, a series of graphite drawings, one per page. Each with a double image, on the top half, an aerial view of a city section, with Union Street and several cross streets and adjacent buildings and trees, in the lower half, an arrangement of dominoes. Each drawing highlighted a unique location on Union Street. The dominoes offered insights into many things, the forces at work on the landscape and in the community, what is happening, what has happened and what will happen, the course of the sun and hence time and all of its effects.

We began our walk where Union Street intersects with Alaskan Way, right The Great Wheel sits on the waterfront. Above the viaduct. Tunnel construction all around. We walked east across Western and Post Alley. We climbed the steep stairs to 1st Ave. There, between The Four Seasons and Pike Place Market, we looked back beyond the Steam Plant and ferris wheel to the harbor traffic and West Seattle and the islands. This cul-de-sac, where Union Street picks up, is a restful perch.

Continuing east, an array of cultural institutions, entertainment spots, schools, churches, commercial businesses and residential homes. Among them, SAM, Benaroya Hall, Seattle Symphony, The Triple Door, the post office, ACT Theatre, Washington Convention Center, The Northwest School, Seattle First Baptist Church, The Polyclinic, Gilda's Club, Seattle Academy, T T Minor, Temple De Hirsch Sinai, Central Cinema.

We went as far as 22nd Street and back. Later I looked at the second half of the walk, a walk we'll take in the future, and I see Union Street doesn't go all the way to the lake. It ends at 38th Ave. From there, a stair and several streets will take you to the water.

Many stretches of our walk were familiar to me. I've spent a lot of time getting to and from Capitol Hill on foot from Fremont and Ballard. A few of the segments were new to me. I was surprised by two of the stairs and by an office park entrance to the convention center.

David suggested we stop in the Convention Center for a hot drink. He took pity on my poor sore throat. I was glad for the warm salve. We sat in a glassy corner of the convention center above Union street drinking tea and coffee. I offered a little bag of mixed nuts and cheddar cheese. This time here, floating above Union Street, was at the heart of our share. When starting our walk I asked how much time he had spent on the street, in any one spot. Had he sat on the benches and eaten meals there? He said he and Susan had moved along slowly, changing focus, discussing their work, meeting various business and property owners.

David led me out of the convention center to Pike and down Hubble Place to a set of stairs surrounded by ivy that rose abruptly to Terry and Boren. I was delighted to find, east of Boren, a new SDOT pedestrian greenway in a street triangle. From a distance, the bluish-green on the pavement looks like a pool. Across the street we found a model spaceship in pieces.

We talked about the differences we experienced along the walk, the distinct segments and how we define them. We talked about the word gentrification and the ways in which it is both welcomed and fought against.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Share #5: Pot Roast with Some of My Extended Surrogate Family

Kathleen and Lee are housesitting 10 blocks from where I am house-sitting and invited Scott and me to dinner. Kathleen is a gourmand. I don't remember a dinner with her that wasn't particularly savory, hearty and plentiful, to the extent that it warranted photographs and some stomach rumbling and some long gazing before at last sitting down to eat. Luckily, Lee is a photographer so many of her meals have been captured for posterity. We accepted, of course.

Kathleen made a pot roast with potatoes, carrots, onions and foraged mushroom in her new crock pot. Perfectly cooked. There was gravy, a green salad and beer. I offered a half loaf of dark Desem bread from Tall Grass.

There were pleasant distractions during dinner. Lee told stories. Kathleen talked about the book she was reading. The doggies were there, scurrying through the house avoiding the new kitten intent on hunting them. And, though less pleasant, I struggled to breath without coughing. I have the cold that's going around. In spite of this, I did my best to be present for and savor the meal. Seconds. O yes!

Outside of the very few times I have followed a recipe and made a fancy meal or put efforts into a special event, cooking was never my thing. Some years ago, having been required to give it some thought by a disgruntled boyfriend, I came to realize the kitchen is, for me, a hostile, stressful place. For many it is, I think, a warm, safe place. I still enjoy providing for others and like cooking for myself, but when I cook in the company of others, I'm often occupied r unavailable and am easily upset. Realizing this has helped me avoid some stress in relationships, but I still get in trouble as was evidenced by my time in the kitchen with my mother this spring and summer. O I got a healthy dose.

How is it that I still love good food, am still a romantic about freshly baked bread, fruit off the tree, grapes from the vine? And why do I long for fresh produce from the farmer's market? I can easily taste the difference in value--physical, emotional and spiritual--between store bought food and farm fresh food, between frozen, packaged, processed foods and local, organic, real foods. Why then do I not make more of an effort to eat in a way that is nourishing?

Thirteen years ago, I met a man named Antonio who invited me to dinner every night for many days. Every night I accepted and we sat on his boat with a glass of boxed wine and a plate of aperitif (nuts, olives, sardines, crackers) followed by a meal of pasta with long simmered sauce or fresh caught tuna in a cold salad and then sat talking below or above decks, in community. Rarely have I had this, wanted this, been drawn into it, a meal with community, readily given, hungrily accepted, a living sense of family.

It's been a long time since I've had regular access to a kitchen, but that's not enough of an excuse. Kathleen has no more access to a kitchen than I and makes great efforts to plan and execute meals, and does. How much of an obstacle is my instability, my transience, my continual desire to purge? How is this purging any different from any other? Why is my mind so skinny?

I want to spend my efforts elsewhere. But then, I want to share the meal. I want the company. I want the deep connection, the nourishment community brings. I have the desire to offer this to others. I don't think it's a case of admiring those who make the effort. It's more of a fantasy about the time when I, myself, will (choose to) live this life, make this effort, prepare this meals, harvest this garden, spices in my drawers, condiments for every occasion, a system of heating, cooling and storing that works and a community to share it with. What kind of reconciliation will this take?

Perhaps this is just another version of the search for home--love, community, relationship? But perhaps community requires just a bit more stability than I currently have?

It is not only the homeless who lack community. There are many people, in little and large homes, without community. How does the nomad, the world traveler, fulfill her need for community? Last year I experienced a loose, but palpable sense of community on the Pacific Crest Trail and was all alone and covering many miles a day. What makes a person plan a meal with care? Approach another person? Sit with them? Open up? Are we not all born with a care-giving gene that sharpens sense of our connection between good food and mental health?

Why do I have the urge to make bread? To make soup? To make cream-based sauces? To use a pressure cooker? I don't do any of these things. I could learn to do them, but my focus has been elsewhere. What am I saying, that I wish I cared? That I wish my caregiver was more creative? I'm creative in other realms. Why not there, in the kitchen, where it counts? Or was my culinary creativity discouraged at a young age? Has it, because of this, over time, atrophied? Or is it just a dis-inclination of mine? Or not a big deal? It feels like a big deal. Food. Nourishment. Health. Home. It feels big.

I remember reading about the French paradox in an article one day. It called into question the link between a high fat diet and heart disease. It revealed a surprisingly lower incidence of heart disease correlating to a higher consumption of saturated fat across Europe. Why then, in the U.S., is there a higher incidence of heart disease with the same amount of fat? Is  lifestyle, they asked, a contributing factor? How we eat? When we eat? With whom? Under what stress? After what amount of sleep? The connection made perfect sense to me and is why I now begin every meal with a pause and gratitude.

I love butter. I love bacon. I love simple meals, where everything is separate one plate and cooked up whole. One, two, three ingredients. I cook and eat quickly so as to get back to work quickly. I work long hours. I have an erratic schedule. I get into food habits. I eat the same thing over and over. Hot cereal with butter and brown sugar is a current affair, but not since starting My Share. Who will eat breakfast with me? Now that I'm alone I am without this nourishment. Since beginning My Share, I have missed my hot cereal every day and that feels significant because it is my only current routine. This leaves me with no routine.

I am remembering seeing signs for Community Dinners when I was living in Fremont. Though curious, I never got around to attending one. I remember seeing those same signs in different parts of the city. Who put the dinner on? Who attended them? Now that I've done a little bit of research, I see that Community Dinners hosts one dinner every night in a different part of the city. They are described online as "dinner churches, modeled after the Agape Feasts of the first century." Now that I need this service, a place and people with whom to share, I may, at last, be taking part.

Ah, but tonight I am blessed with Scott's mother, Kathleen, and her partner, Lee, who came to my aid this summer. When everything was falling apart (the apartment I'd been working on for months with Scottie and had brought my mother across the country to live with me in), they were my safety net and helped me fill in the gaps, though it wasn't particularly easy for anyone involved. For that, I am eternally grateful.

It was they who I called when I got into my bike accident. They were living close to where I'd crashed and I thought maybe, with their help, I could avoid the ambulance ride, but the bystanders and firefighters and police convinced me to take the ambulance ride, which didn't seem to matter in the end. After being triaged, I was wheeled into the waiting room and sat there for hours swelling in the face and lip and neck. I didn't mean for them to, but they came to the ER anyway to be my advocates, to sit with me til Scottie came to relieve them for the next 9 hours until I was released.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Share #4: Bacon & Eggs & Brown Bread, Chicken Soup, Chicken Sausage & Steamed Vegetables

I have a head cold. I'm coughing ad sneezing and my throat is stinging and my head is aching. I'm lucky enough, in this condition, to have a dear friend who will visit me and share meals with me. I met Scottie on the Wonderland Trail in 2011 when I was performing Tahoma Kora. Since then, we've climbed and worked together and, last year, biked to Mexico together. Scottie lives in a suburb of Seattle so I only see him every few weeks for a few days before he's off again to work and I'm back in the art world or the work world. I'll count our short run of meals as one share, because I feel it constitutes one concerted effort and I want there to be more and more shares to draw me out. All weekend, while I was sick, Scottie provided me with an opportunity to eat and I provided him with food. We shared the cooking and cleaning and watched a scary movie for Halloween. I am grateful for Scottie's generosity and sincerely and for his openness and ever pre-forgiveness.

At first, for now, My Share seems easy, constant. I don't think it will continue this way, but I'm delighted to take it in, this wave of friendship and food. I let it wash over me and am grateful.

Share #3: Fresh Fried Wilapa Oysters, French Bread, Red & Green Pepper Salad, Baked Pears, White Wine

I was invited by two dear friends to watch a meditation talk on health attachments and the Buddhist teachings of non-self given by Larry Thornton Jones and Robert Beatty, founder of Portland Insight Meditation Community. It was streaming live from Portland. I sometimes sit with Laura in the kalyāṇa-mittatā or sangha group she organized from attendees of Robert's first retreat in Seattle. Laura and Clinton are generous, creative people with a passion for life and a skill for living that few possess.

Clinton had brought fresh Willapa Bay oysters back from the coast and Laura had brandied pears. Her brother brought gravy fries and I offered fresh baguette. We sat on the couch, eating from our laps, watching and discussing the talk. Afterwards, I read a few pages from the book Christian loaned me, The Lazy Man's Guide to Enlightenment. I'd found it to be both light and useful, so I wanted to share. It got us into a discussion about language and how our language, or lack of language, hinders or aids our ability to talk about spirituality. Then we shared our experiences of expanding.

Clinton and his son Hugo have been friends for years. I watched Hugo grow up, from age 5 to age 13. They are an amazing duo. Now they, together with Laura, seem like family. They are non-stop people, always creating, surrounded by clutter, but open and engaging and alive in so many ways. My time with them never feels anything less than enriching and stimulating. I am so grateful for them and was glad to have them as an early share. Deep bow.

Share #2: A Roger's Pilsner

On Friday night I joined Kevin and Ann and their shepherd/greyhound mix Lily (who happens to be pub dog of the year) at Sully's Snow Goose Pub in Greenwood. I've taken care of Lily twice while they were on vacation. Lily is a lean, lovely, sweet dog with a sense of humor, but shy. She hid under the table most of the night while there were several other large dogs cycling through the place, looking for affection and treats.

Kevin and Ann go to Sully's on Fridays after work. If I wanted their company, they wouldn't be hard to find. I used to be in that space, in one place, where people could find me. Now I move around too much, every week or two. I should keep that in mind. If you want to be found, you've got to get on the map.

I ordered a Roger's Pilsner, a local beer brewed in Georgetown from Yakima grown Czech style hops. A very good beer. Ann offered me a piece of halloween candy. I don't care for candy, but here I was being offered a holiday share and I thought I should take it so I did.

I learned a few things from my time at the pub: (1) I could watch the final game of the Rugby World Cup between New Zealand and Australia at The Market Arms in Ballard the next morning. (2) There's a sell-out event every February at the Boeing Museum of Flight called Hops & Props, celebrating craft brews with open admission, beer tasting and buffet food, but unless you have a connection it's unlikely you'll get a ticket. They sell out in November. (3) Election day, next Tuesday, is also election day at Sully's, for the new pub dog of the year. Each beer you buy awards you one vote. The place is packed with dogs on election night. Dog owners bring their friends to drink and to sway the vote away. Sounds a bit rigged, but then you can only be dog of the year once, so I suppose it works out.

15 years ago, when I lived in Boston. I hung out at pubs with friends and was a regular at a wine bar in Cambridge. I had work friends, college friends, roommates and Irish friends from Nantucket. We'd all go out dancing or drinking or to a house party Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. There was live music many nights and I knew people in garage bands.There seemed to be a lot of overlap between worlds--climbers, entrepreneurs, musicians, artists, publishers, doctors, engineers.

Seattle's never been like that, for me. No overlap. Climbers hang with climbers. Artists hang with artists. Every world seems separate. When I came to Seattle in 1999, I was a climber, then I was a sailor, then an artist. The only group I ever drank with, a bit, were the sailors. The climbing world and the art world never offered me the time or money for that kind of socializing. As a climber, I worked a day job all week, stayed up 'til midnight Friday, packed for the weekend, got up at 4am on Saturday and drove north or east to the mountains where a small party of us would hit the trailhead at 9am, climb all day, sleep in a tent, climb again the next day, up and off the mountain, then fight traffic home on Sunday night. Mondays I'd recover at work. Later, as an artist, I was just too poor to drink and I worked all the time anyway so there wasn't the time. Seattle sounds awful in ways, but maybe it's my choices, my change in focus. Over the past 10 years, I've spent most of my time making endurance work, or in a cafes fleshing out proposals, or in a little office documenting my work or writing grants.

My Share is bringing me out again. Forcing me into relationship. I need it, which is why I'm making it. There are times, sometimes, when I feel real. When I feel alive. Times when I've got a task to do, I'm standing in a work of art, I'm researching or reading, writing or in dialog with an artist about something that seems important, I'm moving outside in the world, exploring, walking, journeying. I know what it feels like, yet I sometimes evade it. Why? Am I just contracting as Thaddeus Golas suggests in The Lazy Man's Guide to Enlightenment? It's nice to know, if I am, I may, whenever I want, expand again, just by letting go, by wanting to. That's a releasing thought. I'm not out of air, or lost forever. I'm just contracting.

I've come up with reasons, over the years, for why I am avoiding life. It's a hiatus. A hibernation. Every dream I ever had, every faith system, everything I ever devoted my life to, fell through, dissolved when I got close. Have I been wrong to put my focus outside of myself? Should I look for that faith inside me, that kernal within? I feel I've been searching within and without. Being an artist, or being the artist I am, I find I'm lost between works. I make works to live and then I live in them. Then they end and I struggle to find other ways to live.