Lady of “What Next?”

Here it is, January 9, 2020 and our world is even more terrifying and dangerous than it was before the beginning of the new year. All my friends and several family members are depressed, experience panic and despair, and/or a lack of motivation in even the small matters of life. And yet here in the U.S., we’re not even the ones being bombed (yet)! We have it so fucking easy compared to others, and yet, life is not easy at all. The unrelenting tyranny of our current federal administration makes many of us–disabled, poor or poor(er), elderly, trans, otherwise gender variant, sexually variant, pagan, ill, immigrant or refugee, homeless or houseless, native, POC, female, millennial with college debt, working class, animal, tree, river, ocean…the list goes on!–feel we’re in the crosshairs of a group of entitled sociopaths who really, truly want us dead. Our bodies strewn on the pavements will mean nothing to them.

But we’re going to outsmart them. Yes, we are. And we will survive and even thrive. Brilliant acts of resistance, such as the Mauna Kea Protectors (Kia’i) who are still standing strong at Pu’uhonua o Pu’uhuluhulu on Hawai’i Island since July 15th, show us how we can come together. We can choose to share resources and food, share caring for each other, plant trees, rescue animals from fires, and repurpose, repair, or share the objects that clutter our lives. We can cahoot with our ancestors, spirits, plants, animals and yes, even other humans who are not in our social media networks.

And it’s strange that I am more motivated than ever, in spite of my sense of peril. I’m 65 years old and I’m not going down without flinging my defiance out where everyone can see it (those who care to look and read, anyway).

It’s a liminal time, but small actions sustain me.

I’m petting and hugging my six cats more than ever. These dear ones look to me to enable them to survive whatever comes next. As I write, one of the newer cats is doing his best to insert himself between me and this keyboard. If he’d only settle down and let me pet him, instead of walking to and fro (his tale brushing my face), I could have finished this blog several minutes ago. But I’m happy for these moments of affection. They are the only kind I receive.

Other small actions:

I’m writing (as usual). I’m updating classes, teaching, doing client work, re-doing my websites.

I’m sorting end of the year/beginning of the year paperwork, putting things in order so that I can see them better.

I’m noticing the everyday beauties: wintering bird flocks–pelicans, egrets, so many that I don’t know or recognize. I’m noticing sunlight on water and the sound of the rain. I notice the comedies too, such as the flock of turkeys running down the road ahead of yesterday’s garbage truck, gobbling madly.

I’m bringing myself back to the daily spiritual practice I wobbled on the last couple of months. It’s not a time to neglect this kind of nourishment because I can’t do all of what I need to do on my own. I need my deities and ancestors with me.

Big tasks await me.

I’m strategizing for a major move, once again. No longer will I be a “Lady of the Lake” with the view of Mt. Konocti and Clearlake from my window. I plan to move as soon as I can this spring, to a small city in the north where a river flows.

And I am sadly preparing to de-commission the Lokabrenna Tiny Temple, hoping to re-establish it in my new home, wherever that may be. I suspect that Loki is okay with that, as he’s all for change. The next Tiny Temple might be even better.

Hope?

If there’s anything at all in “the stars” that can shift world conditions, perhaps tomorrow will be that time. The world expects a lunar eclipse in Cancer tomorrow, with Saturn and Pluto in opposition. Some say this is will spark changes for the better, the “real” Age of Aquarius and all that, and that would be welcome. I’m not holding my breath and waiting though–I want to get to a location where I can organize along with others, and make those substantial, necessary changes that will enable all of us to survive in spite of the moneyed mana-suckers who are striving for a fascist ascendancy over this planet.

Illustration_by_Kay_Nielsen_4 cropped

Hail Loki! Liminal spirit and untiring muse, a force for change and a change for force.

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No War, No War, No War

Our would-be emperor, the self-inflated heir to all things Caligula, already given the “little boot” of impeachment, deserves a far greater political and legal check to his reckless proclivities and warmongering than he’s had so far. The world does not welcome what he’s foisted on us this month, in a fit of pique. His enablers are no better–mad to think they can manipulate this peevish man-child to their own ends. He’s got a finger that can press a certain button, and the supposed “grown-ups” in the room are not so grown up after all. Cowards all.

Something similar happened in Ancient Rome. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say (and yes, I know that Wikipedia is not the be-all and end-all of reliable historical sources):

“There are few surviving sources about the reign of Caligula, although he is described as a noble and moderate emperor during the first six months of his rule. After this, the sources focus upon his cruelty, sadism, extravagance, and sexual perversion, presenting him as an insane tyrant. While the reliability of these sources is questionable, it is known that during his brief reign, Caligula worked to increase the unconstrained personal power of the emperor, as opposed to countervailing powers within the principate. He directed much of his attention to ambitious construction projects and luxurious dwellings for himself, and initiated the construction of two aqueducts in Rome: the Aqua Claudia and the Anio Novus. During his reign, the empire annexed the client kingdom of Mauretania as a province.”

And here I note a physical resemblance. That’s Caligula on the left, with restored pigment on the marble. And that’s you know who on the right.

In one way, the Romans were luckier than we are. If the above is accurate, they had six months of reasonable leadership before their emperor went bonkers. But from January 2016 to present, we in the U.S. have never known a secure and untroubled moment. Like a child looking for a tower of blocks to smash and strew, 45 has wrecked, dismantled, and smugly destroyed a wide range of civil liberties, helpful government programs, our reasonable expectation of rational governance under our constitution, and has now embroiled us in a devasting war from the comfort of his golf game.

I am waiting for the day when an economic think tank takes stock of these years and issues a report on how much this man’s petulant reign of domestic and international terror has and will cost U.S. taxpayers–all of us, per citizen–and how much we’ll pay to undo the damage and reconstruct a civil society, over the span of our remaining lifetimes, and that of our children. The economic and human costs are already massive, and his failure to act on climate change is a tragedy of monumental proportions: “the biggest, the greatest” of his tawdry claims to undeserved fame.

I am writing this as a solitary person, an ordinary citizen, a mere blogger and writer of little note and very little influence. But I think it’s important for every single one of us speak out, to add our voices of opposition to a greater movement of resistance–especially on social media, which can amplify the smaller voices–to let the rest of the world know that the majority of people in this country did not vote for this maniac, that we do not agree with his policies of hate, and that we do not approve of his actions, but that we feel somewhat helpless to regain a semblance of democracy, as our votes are hijacked and our elections are rigged by a greedy oligarchy consisting irresponsible corporations, corrupt politicians, and religious extremists. But that even so, we oppose what is happening here: the rise of white supremacy, the jailing and mistreatment of immigrants and refugees, the jailing and mistreatment of children, the fact that many are now unaccounted for, the waste of the “wall” at the border, the lifting of regulations against pollution, rampant discrimination, and so no. And now, this war.

We do not want it. We can only take to the streets or post online to say we want it to stop, now. And we want the rest of the world to no longer dignify this man and his cronies with any credibility, with any recognition of “leadership.” He and his enablers are not worthy. We the people are hijacked. We know that our country’s disruptive actions in other nations did not begin with this administration, but this administration has made and is making our country’s impact a thousand times worse.

S.O.S. Help.

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X-mas in the “Marriage Bed”

They say you “can’t go home again,” and yet this last couple of days I’ve had the closest thing to a prodigal return, though I was staying in a place I have never and will never live. I came down to the SF Bay Area on X-mas eve to be with my youngest, flu-stricken kid: a millennial living in a household that includes his father, and in the apartment downstairs, his brother. But everyone was away traveling, and Paul was taking care of the upstairs dog and the downstairs cat. He’d tried to go to the doctor the day before I arrived, but a $135 co-pay was impossible and he left. It was only after I assured him I’d pay for the urgent care visit that he went back and got the requisite medications (another $60 plus). Yes, he’s feeling better now but he still feels like junk and will for another several days.

So I barreled down the freeway on X-mas eve, with only my computer and a toothbrush (mostly), and with a mixture of longing and dread, once again called into action as a useful parental person. But I was also aware that I was going to be spending a couple of days in a household where I am not exactly welcome. (My divorce, though outwardly civil, still holds deep trenches of sorrow, regret, and resentment on both sides).

It’s unusual for this particular kid to admit to vulnerability with me–even though I’ve never been one to shrink from that–but he did say he felt scared by being so sick and all alone. Having my children want me still forms the apex of my bliss and so, you can imagine…

The home of a person who is very ill will often not be “company ready” and so I spent a few hours doing dishes and cleaning the kitchen once I arrived. It was fine. I was there to do that, to do for my kid what he was too sick to do for himself (and to make numerous cups of Throat Coat tea). But what was one part amusing and two parts freaky was the realization that I was handling many humble household objects that are familiar to me and/or that I chose and bought myself.

I’ve lately begun to take photos of my objects, because I am planning a book which tells their stories, and when I do that, I can let many of them go. Here I am confronted with objects that I left behind: some records, books, cups, bowls, cutlery. The knives my brother gave me when I married. The champagne flutes bought early in the marriage. The wooden bowls I purchased in the Japan Center hardware store, in the days when my kids attended Waldorf School and wood and wool were social requirements. And if these things I was cleaning weren’t things I owned and left behind, there were others that I’ve washed, dusted, and arranged over the years. What is it like for him, I wonder, to make daily use of these objects? To see them in cupboards and on shelves?

Perhaps he performed exorcisms by dissociating them from me, but I am not that capable. Objects speak or scream at me, their stories and place in my life are always connected with their use. Our children, however, are living links and I suspect that some efforts of erasure have also come into play in the last four years, not about him, but about me.

Sleeping in my husband’s room was a challenge. That bed, that dresser, those paintings, that stuff, the odor of tobacco over all. The same mattress, pillow cases, bedspread. The first night, I couldn’t get to sleep for the longest time. I was buzzing with the physical rememberance and energies of past pleasures and past pains. The deepest sorrows, the pile of resentments soaked into the sheets and the stuffing, the sad memories of a once-great love sunk into a swamp of conflict avoidance.

The second night I was more at peace. I could bless the past, bless our mistakes, bless the beings we have each become–no longer having enough in common to even be friends except in the most casual exchanges. We went separate ways long ago.

What baffles me though is the tarnished metal and red-bead “bellydance” belt of mine (dating from my tantra days) that he’s hung on the curtain rod in his bedroom, next to his bed. What does it mean? He has been in haste, previously, to give me boxes of “my stuff” that I left behind. But the belt–does he even realize it was mine? Or does he think it belonged to another? I have no idea, but seeing it makes a deep mystery. I don’t know if I should feel touched or not. Is it a form of silent communication? Is it something like the hands we held during family mealtime grace–the only touch for many years?

Is that tarnished belt in its unpolished state a communication or a commentary like the two paintings of his that I keep in my bedroom: the “Shade Tree” and the blue butterfly? Is it like the way I always say “my husband” and then have to add the “ex?”

Or is it just an off-hand gesture, placed there and forgotten, like the towel thrown on the bedroom floor or like the “Christmas” plates that he insisted on using throughout the year, diminishing (for me) their ceremonial specialness at this time?

In any case, I have left the kitchen cleaner than I found it. And I hope he perceives that as a “thank you” and not as a rebuke.

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Learning to Be Human

Disclosure: I write from the perspective of someone who is quite socially isolated due to 30 years of living with multiple chemical sensitivities and environmental illnesses–finding most environments and many people harmful to my health due to use of consumer toxins. I am also isolated through geographical distance from my closest friends and family. Social isolation is the curse of my situation, but an outsider’s perspective is the gift. 

When my oldest child, Asher, was only three, he was overheard speaking to a dog: “Puppy, do you know what it’s like to be human? It’s kind of a job, being alive.” Three years old and already that perceptive. Yikes!

When my youngest child turned three, on the evening of his birthday, he turned a gaze on me that was clearly the spirit of the “big” Paul looking through the eyes of a little boy. It was a gaze that shook me to my core for hours afterward. I have never in my life had such a look from any human being.

I am not saying my children are special (though of course I think they are) but that I was lucky enough to hear and perceive things that I might have easily missed. I believe all children provide such moments. Whether the adults heed them is another matter.

So what does it mean to be a human being? At the moment I write with a kitten in my arms. She has inserted herself between me and the keyboard and so I am leaning over her to type. It’s a perfect example of one kind of human role–as a mediator between tech and animal life. She dozes with her head on my left forearm. She trusts me. And yet I am a member of a species which has accomplished the most profound betrayal of all–the collective, burgeoning destruction of every ecosystem on this planet that we share. And so I love my cats in the way that I love my children–with deep regret and sorrow at my share in this betrayal of trust.

And yet I’ve lived for thirty years as a “canary in the coal mine,” an activist mom warning about the dangers of household and industrial chemicals. No one much has listened to me, or to others like me, so I now refer to us as “Cassandras in the coal mine” (because people at least paid attention to the warning songs of canaries). But I am still complicit. Every mouthful of food that I eat, the clothes on my back, and almost every item I own are the direct result of income or goods produced by someone working his/her/zir/their ass off in a toxic industry –from my ex-husband to workers I’ll never meet–and probably destined to suffer from health consequences as a result. (FYI–my own condition is also due to occupational exposure, years ago.)

Yesterday I wrote about the complicity of settler-colonist genealogy–of facing the almost certain fact of ancestors who perpetuated numerous incidents of brutality and cruelty against the first peoples of Turtle Island, and probably also against victims of American chattel slavery. And if there weren’t always direct actions on the part of my ancestors, there were/are the social, economic, political, system-wide benefits and privileges that came from being an oppressor, rather than one of the oppressed. I am struggling to recognize and disengage from the ongoing inclinations and assumptions that attend these genealogies while also trying to recognize and disengage–as much as possible–from my participation in malignant, toxic, consumer culture.

And yet, I reconize that in some essential way I lack the tools or skills or mindsets that could enable me to fully function with other people in a wholesome, collaborative, and productve way–a way that I identify (from afar) as being “fully human.” But it’s not just me. All around me are (mostly) white people who have good hearts, intelligence, creativity, compassion, some understanding of social justice issues and certainly the understanding of the urgency of our climate crisis, and yet we just can’t seem to function effectively together! There always seem to be egos and agendas, mean girl machinations and mansplaining obfuscation, and all kinds of other weird-ass territorial factors at play. Why is this?

And all around me are my cis-female friends of “a certain age,” who are also socially isolated, economically disadvantaged, and in other ways marginalized, who know we have entered the twilight zone of the socially disposable and thus need to band together to take care of each other, and yet we just can’t manage to plan and strategize on how to do this, how to pool our limited resources and join together to mutual advantage. We know the need, we might have some skills, but not the collective will? Why is this?

For several years now, I’ve come to understand that our settler-colonist, capitalist, consumer culture does not help us learn to Play Well With Others. I have watched other cultural communities, from the ally sidelines, do much much better in terms of coming together, organizing, and providing what is needful with a generosity of spirit that is–to me–miraculous. And yet I understand these capacities are what it takes to be “fully human.”

Earlier today I listened to the Democracy Now interview with Lakota historian, scholar, and activist Nick Estes, author of Our History Is the Future: Standing Rock Versus the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the Long Tradition of Indigenous Resistance. His description of the camp at Standing Rock parallels the conditions currently at the Kia’i (protector) encampment at Pu’uhonua o Pu’uhuluhulu in Hawai’i, at Mauna Kea.

Here are his words from the Democracy Now interview:


“And in the camps themselves you had sort of the primordial sort of beginnings of what a world premised on indigenous justice might look like. And in that world, you know, everyone got free food. There was a place for everyone. You know, the housing, obviously, was transient housing and teepees and things like that, but then also there was health clinics to provide healthcare, alternative forms of healthcare, to everyone. And so, if we look at that, it’s housing, education — all for free, right? — a strong sense of community. And for a short time, there was free education at the camps, right? Those are things that most poor communities in the United States don’t have access to, and especially reservation communities.

But given the opportunity to create a new world in that camp, centered on indigenous justice and treaty rights, society organized itself according to need and not to profit. And so, where there was, you know, the world of settlers, settler colonialism, that surrounded us, there was the world of indigenous justice that existed for a brief moment in time. And in that world, instead of doing to settler society what they did to us — genociding, removing, excluding — there’s a capaciousness to indigenous resistance movements that welcomes in nonindigenous peoples into our struggle, because that’s our primary strength, is one of relationality, one of making kin, right?”


Now there’s a danger in romanticizing this as something “those others” do–which can come close to the old “noble savage” crap of yore–and I am aware of that. I’m also grumpy about white people saying that indigenous people are going to save us all now from climate catastrophe (i.e. clean up a mess that was never theirs)–even though they often have little in the way of power or resources. This mindset sidesteps the need for settler-colonists and their corporations and political representatives to drastically change everything about the systems that are running dangerously amok.

In order to avoid that dangerous and ultimately unproductive mindset, we who are settler-colonists have to continue to swing back to a recognition of where we ourselves are now and with that recognition of our deficits and their origins, work double time to develop capactities and understandings necessary for “relationality,” as Professor Estes says above. Doing this is going to take a helluva lot of humility. I’m sixty-five now, and I’m willing to go back to human “kindergarten” (as long as it’s in a fragrance free zone).

What follows is a speculative question. Is it possible that the epigenetic expression of European-originating people was triggered toward self-centeredness, violence, conquest, and greed due to long histories of violent subjugation by Romans (as one example) and others, and by exposures to such things as wars and continent-wide plagues, where bodies piled in mass graves could have fostered a sort of despair and then an unconcern about the preciousness of life? An even bigger speculative question: can we willfully trigger another kind of epigenetic expression in real time, to call back the capacties our ancestors must surely have had in the long ago? The kind that enabled us to live in villages, farm or forage for food, and provide care and sustenance for all? The kind that enabled us to see other creatures in this world–plant, animal, and spirit–as worthy of respect and kinship?

And can this be done in record time, to meet the climate and environmental/political catastrophes that are no longer a train wreck in slow motion?

Personally, it is hard to reach out toward others in real life, to work on my skills for “relationality,” when my condition requires this degree of isolation in lieu of disability accommodation. My activist efforts in the past have seldom been met with understanding–because this whole environmental illness request for fragrance-free accommodation thing can look like a “special snowflake” or “white lady” way to, I dunno, derail or disrupt others and the work that is being done. It can look and feel like a request for more privilege and special treatment from a white settler-colonist who is already inherently privileged by other aspects of my circumstances. And so my blogs are the only way I can reach out. Writing about what I see and feel is all I can do at this point.

I wish it were otherwise. I truly do wish to be of use in creating a better world. Like everyone else, I have the future of cats and children–and all living beings and our only planet–to consider.

“It’s kind of a job–being alive.” And right now our biggest job is to keep everything else alive too. It’s really down to that.

Fractal Flame, Made with Gimp
Fractal Flames, Linear. Author: Nevit Dilmen. 2000. GNU Free Documentation License.

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Thanks Mr. Lokibot! Again!

And why shouldn’t an AI program be a conduit for Loki’s profound transmissions to the Muppets of Midgard? Here’s what he has to say today, in “Mindfulness Mode.”

Entropy screenshotA little harsh, dude. But I am sure this sage wisdom will help me finish the second draft of my novel.


Small intestine

Loki, I get that you want to challenge me to overcome the limitations of certain health conditions. My only question is, do I have to bend it back?


Menstrual cycleAdvice obviously meant for a younger me. If I knew then what I know now…


HIggs BosonLike you, my beloved deity of trickster witchery and chaos, my cognition refuses to acknowledge the limits of the Higgs boson. Happy now?


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