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Saturday, March 30, 2013

Impossible Beauty: Meditating on the Art

What is the beautiful, if not the impossible.
Gustave Flaubert 

 San Marcos, Questhaven, California. 

Hills full of singing birds. A silence such as one almost never hears. Lizards, rabbits, beetles, moles and squirrels walking and hopping and slithering about as if people did not exist or in any case were no threat. Because we really are no threat there. A young Coyote walks out of a bush and stares at me. A raven bigger than the bird feeder perches for a I meditate 6 or 8 times a day- I lose count, stop counting, have no need to count. Whenever I am doing anything other than meditating I am thinking of meditating, am slipping into casual, accidental meditations,  or stopping, breaking to walk over to the temple... to meditate. Everything not a meditation becomes  a break from meditating. Stopping to eat my soup, stopping to write, stopping to consult the map in search of a hiking trail...

 And then the inevitable return to the Source. The return to the Connection. It happens, cannot help but happen.

As city-dwellers, we struggle so to find enough time and space in each day to connect. As country-dwellers, we cannot help but mediate on all the beauty all around us.

For how can the beauty not inspire us to rethink what we thought was impossible? Beauty overwhelms precisely because it is so improbable-the incredible conflux of colors and shapes, the proximate and juxtaposed narrative of spider legs, tree bark, pebbles, and birdsong harmonies cannot help but cause us to question our narrow rules and expectations for life.

If all of that is possible, then certainly so are we and our little dreams.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Questhaven Poetry

On the way down the mountain
Cool breezes sweep
Across my face
Evaporating sweat I earned
On the climb up

And it occurs to me
That life is just

A tiny flower manages
To grow out of a massive rock
The eagle cries ravenously
When the rabbit wriggles free and falls
Out of its fierce claws

Everyone feeds the stray cats
Nobody feeds the stray dog
Til one day the wretched pooch
Has a feline for its sup

I remember the 'Glades
Before land grabbers drained her
So do the snake fish
the sawgrass the crane the otter

100 years later
Whole houses and buildings
Disappear in a flash
When a sinkhole appears
And the land grabs back
Don't cry foul

When you find an alligator
Sunbathing in your swimming pool

Monday, March 18, 2013

Brown Girl legos and Whatnot...

Both my niece (Niko) and my nephew(Malik) are big fans of Lego building block sets. But unfortunately, Lego did not have these twins in mind when they designed their legos. What else could explain their decision to only create peach-colored mini figures?

Well, the 8-years olds decided to take matters into their own hands by writing letters of complaint to the company. First, Malik (the boy) wrote a letter asking them to please make some brown mini figures  and also to make more girl legos.

Next, Niko (the girl) wrote them a letter complaining about how few girls there were and also complaining that all the girl legos were disabled as they could not move and could not attach to or interact with regular lego sets like the boy legos. They only worked in the very girly "Lego Friends" sets. These sets do not include exciting adventures or spacecraft or any myriad of characters and scenarios offered in regular legos. "Lego friends" sets are all domestic, full of bunnies and flowers and swing sets and whatnot.
The brown-skinned girl lego

She also asked for more brown girl legos to be made as there was only one.

Lego responded to the boy's letter with a formal letter explaining that all legos were yellow and that this color was neutral. They did not respond to his concerns about girl legos nor did they respond to the girl's letter. The letter seemed to make it clear they did not see any problem with their mini figures .

The eight-year-old twins were pretty disappointed. But then, yesterday, we went to the store and lo and behold Malik found two different lego sets that had brown-faced legos in them. A miracle.

"You did it, Malik!" We exclaimed. "You made Lego change!" He beamed with pride (Malik just read this post and claimed he never beamed...oh brotha!) Of course, it is possible that the only reason Lego has a brown-skinned lego is because this particular character was played by Samuel Jackson in the movie...but lets suspend that possibility for the moment and assume that the words of an 8-year old actually had an impact on those Lego execs.

But what about the brown girl legos? asked Niko

Lego has some more work to do, it seems...Niko is writing another letter.

Its 2013, people. We should not  be having this discussion...

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Let us ALL March to Selma

The Supreme Court is considering a bill to reverse the Voting Rights Act of 1965, a bill passed in the wake of Bloody Sunday-the vicious beating of civil rights protestors by the Alabama National Guard on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma in March of that year.  

In Shelby County, Alabama, v. Holder, Shelby County attourneys are trying to argue that we live in a Post-racial society that no longer necessitates legislation to protect Black voters against discrimination. If only that were true...

A few short years ago (2004) the State of Alabama voted  to keep 'separate schools for white and Colored children' as part of their constitution. Sound post-racial?

In 2011, Alabama the Beautiful passed the anti-immigrant, anti-Hispanic law HB56 which not only gives the police, school administrators and others the right to ask anyone they think "looks like an immigrant" for citizen documentation, but it also criminalizes (as in you will go to jail) anyone who associates or does business with undocumented people- whether one gives a ride to a hitchhiker who is undocumented, rents an apartment without checking citizenship papers, allows a child to enroll in a school, or signs any contract with such a person. All of these acts are supposed to be based on deciding that someone looks  suspicious  so we should not expect any deportations of Germans, white Canadians, or any of the other numerous undocumented but white-skinned people in Alabama

And lets see, in the wake of the reelection of our first Black president, where do you think the highest number of the racist tweets hailed from? Yes, you guessed it: Alabama.

Given the enlightened, post-racial state of this lovely place, I cannot imagine why there is any reason to keep the Voting Acts bill on the books. There really is no need since in Alabama Blacks, Whites, and Latinos are treated oh so equally...

Of course, the real reason that Alabama wants to repeal Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act may have little to do with the new "post-racial" climate of modern-day Alabama and a whole lot to do with the fact that the Obama administration successfully employed Section 5 to
prevent Southern Republican-backed voter-identification laws from going into effect before last year's election. 

Poll tax? Voter ID? Whatever it takes...

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Some Highlights of the Tour Thusfar...(in no particular order)

1. Getting to simultaneously be the MC AND the main act at the Mallinalli Artist Residency Reading in Oakland, CA (thanks, Mica!)

Nazbah Tom

Michaela Bunny

2. Meeting up by chance with fellow poets Russell Raza Gonzaga (who I had not seen in a decade) and Ben Pistacio at an open mic at Harbin Hot Springs, CA

3. Recording a video of my story, "Big Being, Big Me, and Little Being" in front of a waterfall at Harbin

4. Reuniting with my bunny, Michaela (who flew in on United from Providence and whose arrival caused numerous people to mistakenly assume I had a new girlfriend named Bunny- lol)

5. Perching on the South rim of the Grand Canyon (with Tina Fernandes Botts) and shooting a video of my poem, "Some Wounds" (soon to be released)

6. Four hawks doing a dance in formation above me when I stopped at a scenic overlook halfway between Harbin and the Bay Area

7. Having a delicious home-cooked meal prepared by my sister, Jilchristina, in Oakland

8.  Wild deer, turkeys, rabbits, bluejays, squirrels, and hawks crossing my path

9. Writing in numerous cafes in an around Berkeley with my old friend Ariko Ikehara

10. Meditating with life coach and friend Donald Gerard in Oakland

11. Hangin at the Can't Fail cafe at 2 AM with Valerie and Donald after my dismal loss at the Berkeley Slam, talking about gender identity and life paths

12. Walking with Michele Remy and Remy's daughter through the beautiful streets of Lake Merritt performing poetry and  talking about life

13. Long chats with old friend Kara Frame about the joys and struggles of being a full-time artist

14. My own personal Pad Thai comparathon at a gazillion different Thai restaurants in Oakland, Berkeley, and San Francisco

15. Singing with some old and new  friends at the  after-gathering following the  Idle No More event in SF was over

16. Eating hot Japanese soup on a cold day and reconnecting with Sabrena Taylor at the Ferry Building in San Francisco

17. Laying on the couch with Bernadette Zambrosa at a party reminiscing about our early International Indian Treaty Council activism in the late 80s

18. Spending a whole day with fellow philosopher/old friend John DuFour, eating New Mexican food (Green Chile Stew) in Albuquerque, acting afool at the Pueblo Indian Center Museum, and debating the merits of Native American philosophy, while laughing copiously

19. Finding the indoor ax in the hogan (in Oaksprings, AZ) and being able to finally chop the wood small enough to get my fire really hot

20. Late night chatting about spiritual whatnots with Carrie House in Albuquerque

21. Dinner and breakfast with my dad in Phoenix, AZ

22. Swapping near-death stories with old friend/classmate Kieu Linh while her adorable children crawl all over us, play, scream and remind us why life matters
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23. Being able to write for hours and hours every day uninterrupted in the Stonefront room at Harbin

24. Meeting new friends like Natalie (Sausalito) and Amanda (Albuquerque)

25. Lotus seed Mooncakes in Chinatown

26. Endless miles (more like 2400 in 4 weeks, actually) of open road- just me and my car. Pure bliss.