Saturday, September 27, 2014

Hop And Skip!

The lovely Lauren of Crumbbums invited me to be a part of this blog hop on writing habits. I don't usually do challenges like these, but I adore Lauren and her writing and the honesty one encounters on her blog. Not only is Lauren a mother of three wild and free boys, she is a gardener, homemaker and a very stylish heart-breaker, a reader of books and an endless source of inspiration for me. Her big heart and sincerity win me over every time, whether it's about her clothes, or her parenting style.

Her invite came at a very good time for me, as the topic of writing and creativity is really close to my heart this fall, as I prepare to take on more writing duties and make more time for writing in my life.

What Am I Working On

What am I not working on?  Currently, I'm writing a series of articles on small home living for NEST mag, doing some freelance journalism and editing, working on my novel and thinking of ideas for how to realize some of the short films I've been wanting to make. I'm always working on a lot of different ideas at once. What I lack in singular focus, I more than make up with a variety of inspirations.

And then there's this blog. As much as I wanted to write longer pieces for it this year, the runaway horse has gotten the best of me, with the exception of a few select posts. I always have a lot of drafts on  ideas, what moves me, what I want to write about, but most often, I write, if not in the spur of the moment, then at least in a sort of inspired chaos.

I've actually been thinking about how I'd like this blog to be as a part of my creative self and have been working on the changes I want to make. I know it's almost nostalgic to my readers how little this space has changed in the last six years, but I'm starting to feel like it could use a little airing out.

How Does My Work Differ From Others In Its Genre

Writing in a language that is not native to me, can be both an asset and an obstacle. On the one hand, I feel like I'm much more curious, receptive and enamored with English than many of its native speakers, on the other, it can sometimes hinder my self-expression and make me doubt my creative process. Writing in what will always be essentially a foreign language, no matter how fluent I get adds a little extra layer to my work.

It's taken me a long time to realize that others don't' necessarily view the world as I do, think the same way, or make the same connections. Aquarians are apparently often forward thinking, ahead of their time, eccentric and on the margins, and that has often been the case for me with my creative process. I'm really good at putting things together, finding connections, seeing things from a variety of angles. I wish I could say it always works in my advantage, but that is not necessarily the case.

On this blog, I try to be honest and sincere even as I, like most bloggers, often focus on the positive and the beautiful. Sadly, I think that actually makes my writing here quite different from most blogs. There's not a lot of blogs out there that combine the two, as well as not having a particular agenda beyond the simple act of allowing a peek into another's life and connecting with folks interested in similar things.

Why Do I Create What I Do

I don't really know how else to make sense of the world. Writing is a very basic need for me, even though I don't feel like it comes easily to me. I have a very dichotomous relationship with this medium. I can't stop doing it, but I often wish I could.

How Does My Writing Process Work

I have lot of things on the back burner, endless ideas, snippets and characters in the pantry. Filing away information, associations, dialogue, polarities, is like second nature to me. The older I get, the more actual notes I take, but I'm always noting things, even when I don't realize it. I'm also always writing. It's almost an involuntary reflex; if I'm not thinking about something specific, or focusing on a task, I'm writing in my head. Over the years I've gotten better about it, being more mindful of the moment, not constantly revising imaginary events, or passively observing my surroundings, but it's still kind of my default mode.

When I finally sit down to my computer and write, it sometimes seems more fluent than it ought to, because parts of the work are already written out in my head. I revise as I go, something a lot of writing teachers and books about writing advice against, but it works for me. I usually start out by working on one piece and then editing a whole different one. There are chapters in my novel I have revised, or almost completely re-written dozens of times. Part of this comes from my dyslexia, but mostly it's simply a need to wring out the best possible book, story, chapter, paragraph, or sentence, my brains and bones can muster.

Writing is pretty much the only pursuit where my perfectionist tendencies come out. I hate mediocrity, half-baked ideas, or laziness around language. I'm constantly editing everything I read, and have insanely high standards when it comes to liking and loving books, articles and essays. While I'm pretty critical of the works of others, it only reflects how hard I am on my own work. In fact, I've almost never written anything I thought was good enough. Blogging has been really good for my compulsivity around writing, since it's all about letting less than perfect pieces escape into the world.

It's also taught me a lot about inspiration, most importantly that you can coax it. That truly, if you just sit on your ass and keep typing, eventually the very mundane part of it usually falls away, allowing room for creativity.

As the rules of the hop mandate I've asked Inge if she would care to share the process behind her crisp, carefully crafted observations, which range from sweet to the dead-serious. As another non-native English speaker, I've enjoyed her pieces on creativity, nature and sustainable clothing tremendously and as someone who has a tendency to ramble on, I love her simpler, to-the-point-eloquent writing style.

However, I would love to hear from all of you writers and how your process works! Emmanuelle, Maria, Mary, Julie and all, it would be love to read your thoughts on the matter.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Home Owners

It feels like saying that it's been a whirlwind month, summer, year is an understatement of epic proportions. You've probably felt it too. Whether it's the Year Of The Horse, galloping away with us barely staying on the saddle, or some other cosmic confluence, it sure seems like things are moving along at a crazy pace.

There's a lot more that I want to write about our trip to the West Coast, The People's Climate march, making magic for the Equinox with my girl Demetria, but I ever since I got back the winds have continued to carry me at the same speeds as ever, so here's just a brief update on something ELSE that's pretty important that happened in the last month:

Charlie and I bought our first home! One sunny sunday, in fact the only day this last month without work, or travel, or any other madness, I went to milk the goats, we worked in the garden, found awesome scores at the dump and bought a thirty-foot diameter yurt from our friends who built their house inside it and no longer have a use for the tent part!

Home-owning! Debt-free! A bright future! A small home! We're not moving into it yet, or even in the foreseeable future, but now we have plan for wherever our next move takes us. It's the perfect year for starting the seeds of new plans.

How's the year of change treating you guys?

Sunday, September 21, 2014

This Changes Something

As some of you may know by now, I'm in New York City this weekend, participating in the People's Climate March. 

You may also know that this summer I went on a three-week-long kayaking trip off the West Coast of Vancouver Island, British Colombia. All told, we paddled some seventy miles, camping on islands, living on beaches, cooking over fires and drinking from streams. We saw whales, wolves, pods of sea otters lolling on their backs in the water. Our final destination was a beach on a peninsula distinct in two ways: First, unlike a lot of British Columbia, it has never been logged and second, the way it juts out of the main bulk of the island left it untouched by the last ice age.

I forgot many things out in the wilderness: that there are more than a handful of people in the world, that there are showers and dairy products and beef, that there were news, in which famous actors died from depression and war was once again being declared on terrorism.  In contrast, I could list the things I remembered again, or perhaps for the first time ever: the animal fear of the dark, of deep water, of impenetrable primordial forests, an intuition about waves, about my body's strengths and abilities, some hidden knowledge of how to move it, how to yield and how to be solid, the instinctive wonder at the warmth and movement of firelight, the milky-ways appearance after dusk, a falling meteorite like the moon coming down from the sky

Yet neither of these lists tells the full story. The whole time we were there, my mood, though buoyed by the natural beauty of our surroundings and being with a group of friends, was often also permeated by a sense of ennui. More often than not, an immersion in nature helps me overcome the everyday anxiety of living in a modern society, but this time, I was not able to entirely escape it.

Some time ago my friend Mary, who is an eco-psychologist, told me that this emotion is called Earth Grief, the fundamental sense that there is "something rotten in the state of Denmark", an unease that we either able, or more often not, to relate to the myriad of problems our planet and species faces in this current moment. It was one of the defining moments of my life, finding out that there was the perfect explanation for something I've felt, first intuitively and then consciously for as long as I can remember. It is the sorrow I experience when I see the clear-cuts of the West, videos of mountain top removal, or read about what is still happening in Fukushima-Daichi. The harrowing feeling in the pit of your stomach in those piercing moments when reality asserts itself and you realize that the planet is royally fucked. It's the sorrow of losing the Western Black Rhino to the oblivion of extinction, or reading, as I did on our trip, from The Sixth Extinction, about a blight that might obliterate most amphibian life on earth. It reminds me a little of those first heartbrakes of my teens and early twenties : love mixed with uncertainty, and grief and anger, all of the most powerful human emotions flooding your brain all at once. Except that time does nothing for this grief but magnify it. 

On Vancouver Island, this feeling manifested for me as a sense of fleetingness, that the wild landscape I was seeing was a mirage, a ghost, the afterimage of something that's already gone, but not yet entirely erased from memory. 

Is it morbid of me to think, moments after seeing a humpback whale emerge from the water, that I may be in the last generation of humans with even a chance of witnessing something like that? Maybe. But that's how my mind works. 

I have a long and traumatizing relationship with global climate change. It stretches back all the  way to the heady days before the Kyoto Summit, when climate change was still known as "The Greenhouse Effect" and my high school self was invited to be a part of a youth group that reviewed some of the ideas for those protocols from our national and regional point of view. I was around fifteen and considered the number of environmental issues I knew about completely surmountable, something that hard work and proper education could solve, so naturally, being part of such a panel, I figured that come Kyoto (which back then was still a few years away), climate negotiators would have this one in the bag. Except that they didn't. Not then and not in the intervening seventeen years. 

When the Kyoto accord failed to become an ironclad binding agreement I began to worry. I was around seventeen then and like any teenager approaching adulthood, deeply concerned about the future. No one else around me seemed to be though, at least when it came to global warming. In fact, most mainstream talk about the subject seized entirely in the years after the summit. But the nagging talk in my own head just grew louder with every newsletter and meeting and dispatch from the margins that still talked about it. Anxiety and grief over something no one else seems to care  about can make you feel crazy after a while, so to be totally honest, I more than a little relieved when two major things happened within six months of each other in the fall of 2005 and the following spring: first, hurricane Katrina and then, An Inconvenient Truth. All of a sudden it seemed like climate change (as it increasingly was called) was a real, tangible conversation topic again. 

It seemed inevitable that now that the richest and most carbon intensive nation on Earth (per capita) had felt the wrath of a warming planet something would happen. That either the politicians would understand the threat of instability that climate change presents, or the people who voted them in would make them see it and act accordingly. Instead, as you may know by now, nothing happened.

There's a lot of theories out there as to why it has been so impossible for us to act on the imminent threats that climate change presents.

As Naomi Klein writes in her new book This Changes Everything, which is out this week in conjunction with the Climate March, much of the inaction is the direct result of our economic system. I'm still only a hundred pages into it, so I don't know how much she talks about the emotional side of climate inaction, but she certainly spoke of grief and anger last night at the closing plenary of the NYC Climate Convergence.

Personally, I've come to believe that most ordinary people, are paralyzed by the fear and grief we feel even considering this situation. We don't just grieve for vanishing species, or disappearing habitats, or even the climates of our childhoods, or those our ancestors lived in, but for ourselves as a species. It seems pretty apparent that even people who in theory are informed of the facts and willing to act are terrified of the implications of what that might mean. Psychologically, it makes a lot of sense to just keep going as though nothing is happening. But it's also hard work to keep denying hard facts. As any survivor of traumatic events will tell you: no matter how hard you try suppress your trauma, it always ends up coming back up to the surface in the end.

We may still be in the denial state of the controversial "phases of grief", but many of us are also experiencing anger, depression and bargaining on our way to accepting the hard facts.

When discussing this trip people I came up against all of those emotions. Almost every person I spoke to save for a select few, made a point of jokingly mentioning how hypocritical it was to fly to a climate event, as though carbon emissions from airplanes were only the problem of those who believe in doing something about global warming. Often these were people who themselves fly recreationally, and these conversations made me realize how much of this grief is subconscious, that most likely these people were not trying to make feel guilty about flying, but rather were we projecting their own ambiguity over the paradigm where it's acceptable to jet around the globe for fun. A few people stated that they didn't believe in negative actions like protests, but were not able to even discuss the issue without becoming agitated and argumentative. Yet others stated that the simple act of living in the country, eating organic food and consuming less "than the average American" was action enough, as though my wanting to come here somehow affected their ability to do any of those things.

I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not ideal. As someone who tries to fly as little as possible, preferring when necessary, overland travel in mass-transit, trains and buses, the fact that flying was my only option for coming here, put me off it up until the last moment. But as the march drew closer I began regret my own stubbornness when it came to sticking to my principles. Back in the spring I told myself that there was no way I could attend; it would be too close on the tail of our return from the paddling trip, too expensive, I'd miss too much work, it was bed timing, I was needed at home

And then it occurred to me that this is exactly what most of us do when it comes to doing something concrete about that which we know now is inevitable if continue doing business as usual: making excuses. We are too busy, too harried, too bogged down by the very systems that profit from amplifying the effects of climate change to act. We don't want to think about depressing things, we just live our lives. 

As I was weighing the pros and cons of coming here it occurred to me that if I chose to, I had the means and the time to come here and be part of this.  That it would be difficult and inconvenient and expensive*, but not impossible. That if I did everything I could to line it up, I could make it work. 

For so long I've been waiting and hoping for someone, a world leader, a politician, a head of a global movement to start doing something about climate change, to make it a priority, to bring it to the forefront, to act. At this march I get to be that someone. It's not often that doing something that many of us do almost everyday can be construed as a political action, but here, and 161 other cities in the world, just being a face in the crowd, a warm body on the move is just that. The opening notes of a different tune. That is why I'm here. (And to get here I probably used the best 0.74 tons of carbon I could be putting into the atmosphere. )

Of course there's a chance, as the detractors are quick to point out, that this event is not the catalyzing moment I and many others have been waiting for. Most likely it won't change everything, but it will change some things. I have to believe  it will, because in the wake of the warmest summer on record something has to give.The march has already altered the lives of those who have been participating in the events leading up to it, in the teach-ins and panels and discussions and lectures. That's not enough of course, but they will take those ideas with them to their respective homes and seed their communities with the notion that maybe this can happen. If we fail to create the global movement that this march is trying to build, it won't matter either way how much money or carbon was spent on it by the handful of people who are able to be here in person. Is this a stunt? Asks Naomi Klein in her article and her answer is that of course on one level it is, as is every protest. But more than that, to those of us here, this    a chance to finally express our urgency and exasperation, to demand action not only of leaders, but of ourselves and of our countries, states, and communities. For so long many of us have been the man in a house on fire, where everyone else carries on as though the smoke is not pouring down the stairway and the drapes aren't burning. We're about to stop politely asking people to move to the proper fire-exits and start screaming instead. One of the tag lines  of this march is: "To change everything, we need everyone." Everyone may not be here tomorrow, but we are sounding an alarm like the opening signal of a race. This is just the clarion call, the fire alarm, the invite to the real event.

On a strictly personal level being here is a way for me to deal with my grief, to feel empowered, rather than paralyzed by it and talking to folks here it seems as though others feel the same way, not in so many words necessarily, but there is a sense that once one faces the facts and looks at the thing they fear straight on, that fear begins to dissipate and is replaced by a sense of urgency that demands action.

It's my hope that if you're not there yet yourself, you will get there soon. Because as always in a time of a great crisis, no one is expected to do more than they can, but we are required to do just that. Everything we can.

Thoughts? I'd love to hear them. Going to a march, or event today

Ps. I sorry for any and all inconsistencies and spelling mistakes. It's three in the morning here and I've spent the day riding the subway, sitting in hot classrooms and pounding  the pavement with the power of bad coffee and emergen-c. Also, there's much much more I'd like to say on this topic, but just putting together this post, in addition to my other writing duties and rushing around the city was all I could muster. 

*I had a small stroke of luck in this department. 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

A Home For Fall

September has always been my favorite month, no matter the country or continent. It's the month of cool, darkening nights, sunny days, hard rains, harvest, putting up produce, stacking firewood, finishing projects and starting new ones. It's the month of leisurely scurrying to ready oneself for the winter. ("Winter is coming.", you guys!)

This year, hopping straight from summer to early fall, via West Coast of Vancouver Island, has been a little challenging, but at the same time, having a clear focus has been good for my ungrounded self. I thought I'd share with you few of my favorite things from the week we've been home.

Favorite Harvest

Leaving in the beginning of the harvest season and water issues this summer have curbed the harvest I've gotten from my garden, but I'm rich in sunflowers, potatoes and eggs. So many eggs. Apparently in elementary math 11 chickens= 11 eggs a day= 77 eggs a week! I need to build an egg box to sell them from pretty badly...

Apple sauce is one of my staple canned goods and while an all day canning session can be fun, I love my single jar canner, which ables me to make sauces and jams in small batches manageable in the evenings, or on lunch brakes, or even while working on something else.

Favorite Craft

It may not be the best use of seed potatoes (have to remember to buy a crappy potato or two from the store) but potato-stamping stars and super moons on butcher paper for gift-wrap and embellishing with inkwell-pen has been an all-consuming obsession for me for the last couple of days. Holiday season, beware, I'm getting ready for you!

Favorite Outfit
I'm all about the blues right now. I love my blue 90s sunflower dress as a top and have been living in this little 70s chambray sailor jacket my friend Keri gave me this past summer. It's funny how things sit in my closet and then all of sudden migrate to the forefront. I've also been loving this brown felt-hat that Charlie deemed too small for him. The amount of complements I got on it was actually a little overwhelming (it's hard to work when people keep talking about your outfit;).

Speaking of favorites, I cut myself some more bangs, now that this year's mullet has grown out a little bit,  have been rocking a messy, gibson-girl-inspired curly, messy, very forward (like, on your forehead) bun.

Favorite Books
#readwomen2014 rocks on! If anyone hasn't read Julie Orringer's How To Breath Underwater please get on it, if only so that you can continue to The Invisible Bridge, her first novel. Set in Paris on the eve of the Second World War, it's the story of a Hungarian Jewish architectural student, Andras, and stuff so classic in period novels that it doesn't even matter, but because Orringer is an amazing writer, you won't even care. Trust me. This novel is engrossing, touching, and exquisitely crafted, and that my friends, is not in the sense of the usual publisher's marketing drivel.

I'll post more about the other two books in the coming weeks, but for now, seriously: Julie Orringer!!! The little book on top is my new journal notebook, from Brenna who's website you should check out once you've put your Julie Orringer on hold at the library.

Favorite Pastimes

Organizing our treasures from the trip and being re-united with my tarot cards count as pastimes? I got a rather interesting reading right when I got home, indicating a sudden change, or travel. Travel? Really? Yep.

Favorite Health And Beauty 

I finally strained and bottled my St. John's Wort oil and have been so excited to use it.

The moon earrings are my favorite thrift-store score in a long time and the beaded ones, made by my friend Alaya, get a lot of use. The perfume oil in the beautiful jar, makes a nice change to three weeks of dirt, grime and woodsmoke and was made another crafty friend.

Coming back from the trip I've been indulging in turmeric water, as well as putting it in my juices and smoothies. The store is all out of fresh turmeric, but even the powder tastes really good to me, indicating that I need it in my system right now.

And soap? You don't really know how much you miss it before you go without for a while. Ayurvedic soap for my dosha, with, you guessed it, turmeric in it.

Some camping habits though, die hard, I'm trying to kick coffee, but am pretty unsuccessful. I am, however, really excited about this coffee cone our potter friend created and I swear the stuff tastes a lot better from ceramic than plastic.

Anyway, that's my week at home in a nutshell, minus the boring parts. It seems like it's been pretty heavy on local goods, because man, it really is so good to be home. Anyone interested in sharing their favorite things with the rest of us, please do.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

No Sleep 'Till ?

Ever since we got home from our trip, I haven't been able to sleep. I can go to bed normally, well before midnight, but once in bed I'm either wide awake, or if I do fall asleep, I wake to some small sound, a cat going through the door, an owl in the tree outside, or a car parting for the early ferry, sometime around sunrise. Sometimes I wake up multiple times a night, not quite knowing where I am.

When I sleep, I dream of water, consecutive waves crashing on the beach as rhythmic as a metronome, standing in the surf, or dipping my hand in its glassy surface, I dream of fires and great ships in a lagoon, caves full of bones and glass floats, of something, someone outside my tent, intimidating and inviting all at once; wolves, cougars, a great bird, old friends, unnamed people...

Upon waking, I feel untethered and ungrounded. It took days just for the ground to stop rocking under my feel when I first got up. Even though I was walking, I still felt like I was traveling in a small boat, feet bound, tethered to moving with just a simple motion of my arms.

Be it the Super Moon in Pisces, or just the after effects of a prolonged, profound exposure to wild nature, but the last five days have been a little unsettling in the best of possible ways. Suddenly it's easy to make decisions, both big and small, to separate that which we don't want from the things we'll take, to make what needs to happen, happen.

It's not hard for me to make quick decisions under any circumstances, but it takes me long time to process things, especially huge shifts. It took me about six months to finally internalize that we had moved, about a year to come to the fact that I was now living in America and married. Sometimes, I continue working on ideas I've had years ago, having them bubble to the surface at regular intervals, but not coming to a boil, until a long time has passed. I'm overly cautious with the implications of things, making sure I've covered every angle of decisions and opinions, mulling over meanings until they turn colorless from too much exposure.

Even when I'm not traveling, often takes my mind a long time to catch up with my body, for things that are happening around me to manifest in my head. Like I've said before, I'm not a very grounded person even under the best of circumstances, let alone when experience and scene-change after another rolls over my head like so many ocean waves.

So, even as I'm trying to write about our trip, the three weeks of paddling in the absolute Canadian wilderness, the whales, wolves, falling meteorites, peaks untouched by the Ice Age, I'm actually also still figuring out what those experiences mean, trying to put them in a wider context; both within myself and in what I know about the world.

I want to share them with you, the agony and joy of moving yourself miles and miles across open water, the inconvenience and delight of living in a tent for weeks on end, the utter dirt your body gathers, the magic of doing all this with other people, but my attempts fall flat, seem trite; their meanings not quite transferable, translated by some inept speaker.

Every journey we take into the unknown, whether it be a new town, a new person, an emotional, or a physical trial, changes us. The more we venture there, the more we change and the more comfortable we become with change. It's something I've never been that good at until push comes to shove. The unknown terrifies me for reasons very deeply imbedded in my psyche. I'm not good at pushing my own limits, or getting out of my comfort zone, yet at the same time I've always been able to make big personal decisions and take on things, almost at the drop of a hat. When absolutely necessary, I can stride into the new with the best of them, head held high and absolutely certain.

It's the aftermath of those decisions, integrating them into my reality, that I have a hard time with.

I guess I knew this trip would be a little bit of big deal for me: paddling a great distance without much sea-kayaking experience, in an unfamiliar and remote place in the elements, being part of a group of people constantly for three weeks…but I didn't, of course know, in what way it would be a big deal.

That's what I'm still trying to figure out. Night after night, apparently.

I know it might sound a bit cryptic, but it's really not. I'm not about to announce some huge life change, or anything like that, but I am brimming with internal shifts that I can't quite put into words yet and this trip was a big part of it for me. I look forward to sharing those ideas, and even the particulars, the miles and wonders and images of our journey to the wildest of the West.

So good Morning! I hope you had a goodnight's sleep. Any life changing journeys/ events/ decisions happening around there? 

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Lost And Found At Sea

One of the hardest things about writing, is that there are countless, endless ways of explaining, recounting, telling, measuring and quantifying experiences. That, most of the time, the right words don't just leap at you and fall into their rightful place with any grace at all. Instead, they grind against each other like so many glacial flats, or tectonic plates, in utter chaos and disaster, sometimes for what seem like several millennia; and the landscapes are only exposed later.

Then there are experiences so clearly beyond words, that the words can really only graze at their surface, or gaze wistfully at them in the horizon. I feel like we just came back from the deeps, so it might take a little while to tell about it.

But as always, it's good to be home.