01 February, 2016

Far Beyond the Blue

Cotton fabric, lollipop design, your color purple, my color blue, embroidery pins in air, a pin cushion skirt around my waist I want to show you. It is the 1st of February, it is sunny in Chicago, a winter day, Rogers Park, the aquamarine lake not far east from here. Lucinda Williams released a new album today, The Lost Ghosts of Highway 20, you appear in the second to last track: "If There's a Heaven."

It's been a long time. I am eating too many clementines, as if ascorbic acid could kill me. I am learning about sewing and sewing machines and I want to tell you about fabric shears and tracing chalk and measurements for my body, how I am proud of my hip size, how much joy I find in the work you lived.

Your birthday is in 28 days, there are 29 days this year, an extra one for memory, a day for ghosts, a pleasant surprise. I wish you could give me advice on the proper thread, on the best type of fabric, on a shorter cut, a better way. I forgive you for not teaching me.

I imagine the stitches mend old memories, black with grief, regret, and anger. I imagine they piece together a world that is whole and not wholly broken, the perfect time to embroider a heart in two pieces. I have so much of your fabric. I need to tailor the edges into placemats and cloth napkins. Wine purple and orange, lime green and dark blue with white stars. 

Maybe it's not a life that dictates eternity, but that of others, those who loved you and reorganize memory to honor your good qualities of character. You were such a strong, sassy woman. A feminist in the 80s, in the 90s, independent in the 00s, in the way you could be. A Pisces addict, in the most terrible way.

Darkness and trauma dig deep. They cloud the lens. Five years ago you plunged me into outer space. I am now beginning to find which center the sun resides. I am beginning to sew a garden, grow a compass, plant an heirloom. Tomatoes not quite ripe on my windowsill, the way you would. Wait for the sun to make them shine.

A PLACE WITHOUT A PERSON 
By Madeleine Barnes 

A star drawn in my mother’s 
dark blue planner 
reminds me — 
we need to be eased from place 
to place. We need to be 
eased from each other.


but when you go / let me know / if there's a heaven / out there 


14 July, 2015

On the Passage of Time, Friendship, and Marriage

Mountain Love
Rocky Mountain Sunset
Rocky Mountain Sunset[/caption] This past weekend I spent in the Rockies, celebrating the wedding of the beautiful, silly, dear, sassy, fabulous, Whatever Girl, formerly known as Miss Mayer! 

Waking up each morning at 9,000 feet, unable to breathe in the gorgeous mountain air, grateful every scale up and down the bunk bed ladder, through the lower hills of the upper mountains, a kaleidoscope and a thunderstorm dare, white jean jacket fance in case of weather, and a knot tied in laughter and love, the way the hands hold tightly to newly married faces when they kiss.

There is no better dance than the one you choose with your best friend, the one who also chooses you.

Through union, what transpires is a passage, a change in time, a bond that is fruitful, lifting, and if you're lucky, true. What I return home to, after travel, after Love's Oven ginger snaps on the mountain, so much joy in faces, is a heart that is bigger than it was before, refreshed and awakened by celebration, friendship, a dare not to get stuck in the places of daily life that sour, and an encouragement to honor the places that rejuvenate us most.

For all of my cynicism, marriage is a reminder that there is space to connect with the ground that makes a person home. That the life we work on building will someday be a life for others.

Through the union of friendship, the warmth and bond and silliness of old friends resurfaces, and places where conversations never skip a beat find their place again, and places where fondness once grew bitter, grow fond again, and safety with new friends begins anew.

The sun is nearly set in Chicago on this humid July evening, and it may be just climbing under the mountains in Colorado, but what I know, and what I take with me, is that the heart is always playful and always rejoices in its light.

To my two friends who were married this weekend. Thank you for sharing your light and thank you for the sun being so warm at high altitude that I have my first ever farmer's tan. I have photos, and I'll post them to the appropriate social mediums, but I didn't want to lose my words to pictures if I had them.

A small glimpse into the joy you bring others, may that joy follow you. 


Love.
Love.

11 June, 2014

In Which I Burn Down the Hideout

On a cold Chicago evening, in June, after a winter lasting longer than eight months, what warmth is sought through fire. The low dance of flame insulated by the description orange. It burns through circuits, rises beyond anxieties that disfigure the momentum of some dream. The ghost of an element that sears holes straight through the chest, destroying the casing of whatever we imagined protected our hearts from imaginary undoings. 

In an attempt to sweep away the ashes of my imaginary undoings, I will compete in favor of the literary construct BURN at Write Club: Literature as Blood Sport on Tuesday, June 17th at the Hideout Chicago

Show starts at 7:00 PM. $10 cover. If I win, a portion of the proceeds benefit the Chicago Women's Health Center

With Calcifer by my side, fire demon of folklore: May all your bacon burn. 

See you there!


24 April, 2014

Magic

Bridge in Paris by Orange Umbrella
It is Poem in Your Pocket Day. I will be carrying this with me: 

MAGIC
By Rita Dove

Practice makes perfect, the old folks said.
So she rehearsed deception
until ice cubes 
dangled willingly
from a plain white string 
and she could change
an egg into her last nickel.
Sent to the yard to sharpen,

she bent so long over the wheel the knives
grew thin. When she stood up,
her brow shorn clean
as a wheatfield and
stippled with blood,
she felt nothing, even
when Mama screamed. 

She fed sauerkraut to the apple tree;
the apples bloomed tarter
every year. Like all art
useless and beautiful, like
sailing in air,

things happened
to her. One night she awoke
and on the lawn blazed
a scaffolding strung in lights.
Next morning the Sunday paper
showed the Eiffel Tower
soaring through clouds.
It was a sign

She would make it to Paris someday. 

(from THOMAS AND BEULAH, Carnegie-Mellon University Press, 1986)



09 March, 2014

How the Sharing Economy Doesn't Need Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

John Joseph Moakley Courthouse, Boston, MA
The current generation of 20-somethings, 30-somethings, and 40-somethings—Millennials into Gen X—are stuck in the rotation of an old model of corporatism and systemic hierarchies that are progressively outdated.

In April 2013, just around tax season, James Surowiecki published in The New Yorker’s Financial Page that $2 trillion dollars is missing from the U.S. economy. In the article, he states that money represents a grey economy of under the table jobs: “nannies, barbers, Web-site designers, and construction workers….Ordinary Americans…”—ordinary Americans in a workforce that is both creatively and actively afloat. A grey economy that represents an act of creative ingenuity for the 10.5 million Americans who are currently unemployed, underemployed, or who have been laid off in the United States since 2008.

There would be an expectation that these lay off numbers would generate a mass cultural state of depression and despair—and in some demographics, it has—but what I think it has created also, more genuinely, is a shared economy. Because Americans have been told that the cubicle boxes they so snuggly fit into for years no longer need them (or want them), the American public have been forced to discover how to fit snuggly into an economy that they themselves had to create.

The executive head of a small nonprofit organization (NPO) in Massachusetts once referenced Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to demonstrate where certain employees stood in that particular office environment (an office that had barely 8 full-time staff at the time). That sounds like trying force a square into circle and demanding output and efficiency. That model is not going to work for a generation who perpetually expects to be laid off. Because stability is no longer found in those structures, most employees find, or are working toward, innovate economic escape routes. Perhaps survival of the fittest is a more accurate indicator, but I’m too much of an optimist for that. And that’s my point.

Whether or not the economy is sure-footed, the nebulous nature of its recovery is making a certain demographic of the population sure-footed, and it’s not the 1%.

Maslow’s Needs do not reflect the current nature of productivity and integration of people in the United States, or if it does, it is the middle section: “Love/belonging”. Maslow’s pyramid structure no longer exists, not really. His hierarchy, an outdated patriarchal paradigm, pushes against cooperative feminist structures of sustainability, compassion, humanity, and cultural collaboration. The idea that there are people—helpers and connectors—who will give a person a chance over and over again (for no apparent economic, corporate, or social gain) is a progressive, but by no means new, model to keep the economy moving and to keep the populace engaged with its community and world.

I have been reading Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point and had the brief privilege of working under the direction of Lois Weisberg, former Commissioner for the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs, before the office was shuttered in 2012. In that brief moment in gleaming Chicago history, I understood what it meant to be one of Gladwell’s connectors.

And since, more and more, women make up a significant portion of the workforce (and in honor of International Women's Day), perhaps an act of feminism, then, would be to proactively work in opposition to those structures of hierarchy? To act with greater connectedness, love/belonging, compassion
even healing?

Systemic office culture under Maslow’s hierarchy is classism. And in the current state of U.S. affairs and privatization, too many workers are still marching and climbing and racing to the top of a ladder toward some dream of corporate success, yet somehow never got the memo that there is no longer a top to get to.

And that’s the American dream.


Doing it Ourselves: What the Economic Crisis Really Means and What We Can Do About It



22 December, 2013

Songbirds in Winter

Hearth. Woodland. A round of robins. A mythical Alpine Christmas creature resurrected. Wendigo. Gifts from my father. Faith. The snow as it melts from too much rain on the solstice. Prayers for so much blizzard.

I spend much of my time writing about the women in my life. This year, this season, I dedicate to my father. As the winter solstice wanes and the days grow lighter again, my meditation focuses on his steadfast nature, his resilience, his never-ending attention to light. If my mother is the civil dawn, my father is the moment just before.

The heaviness and weariness he wears on his face from hard work, how joy lurks in every crack of newly beginning wrinkles regardless of history. How I take my good humor from him, how we go to the turkey shoots every December. How the winter I discover Krampus (from the German "to claw" or "to seize") is the same year my father's impeccable aim shoots a 156 lb. buck in the woods of my childhood. When the animal hit the ground, its eight point antlers shot straight off its skull into the Massachusetts snow. A gruesome victory for a practice unrelenting.

How my father loves those forests, how his diligence shadows mine, his punctuality an earmark, his jest that of a master trickster well-intentioned. How his sadness sobers me because his resilience never exhausts. His excitement to show me new things never wavers and his stoicism listens every time I am angry, every time I am happy. I have seen my father's small dreams manifest into reality with patience, even though I believe my sense of urgency comes from him.


He is the rural compass I never lost, the hummingbird feeder stationed outside every windowsill no matter how many times I lose direction. He is the reason the songbirds sing before sunrise. He is quick on his feet to greet them.

He is a round of robins in winter well prepared for the frost, awaiting good news.




"my father, who had no faith, but loved
how the long, ascending syllable of wild
echoed from the walls in celebration..."
 from "Aubade in Autumn" by Peter Everwine


12 October, 2013

The Belle of Belfast City

Arms wrapped around fall, a tumultuous summer, the wounds of travel, transition, death, grief. Grim worlds of wakes in Irish settings, Irish flags in fresh ground, the foundation of a family strong and crumpling and molding together beds of grass and my grandmother's marble funeral urn turquoise, a color she chose, so beautiful on an August morning. 

Her gift to me a clock that always keeps time, royal purple of a queen who knew best the last year of her life, histories before. In a community hall, in an apartment she called her own, coffee sipped every day, all day black and there was still never enough time. Never enough time for sleepovers under quilted blankets, conversations over breakfast and so many hard candies, baskets full. 

My heart broke the hardest six days after my 31st birthday. A woman who kept tabs on obituaries, of elder people in town dying off as if it were just another thing, as if she would never be next. That blue house on the hill, a place where love lives, the wood stove, the fire place, the dogs around our feet. 

What I wouldn't give for all of those hours watching the snow fall. Warmth is a place that lives in the heart of the people we lose. When they laugh, we can hear them for generations. Listen. 

From Here to Belfast

19 July, 2013

Azul in Summertime

Photo courtesy: summer57
The color of my grandparents' house. Azul or blue in summertime. The back of the house painted a few different shades each summer because my grandfather would climb the paint ladder each day to maintain structure. One hand unable to move, frozen from a stroke years earlier. But he painted anyway. The yard full of blueberries and gardens and greens and freshly hung laundry in the sunshine. This is the New England I smell when I return. The deep black soil stretching into roots of earth only defined by this land.

That land contrasted by the land I cultivated eight years in the Midwest. The golden smell of the prairie, grasses soft brown and soil sand, the minerals less glimmering, but warm. I live an intentional artist community. Three years prior I healed from the loss of my mother in the Solarium. I chose no clothes and stepped into a community of no one I knew and my naked body painted an apple tree. Roots growing down around my hips, the trunk my tummy, and my breasts two large beautiful red apples. My heart broken and open in the August sun.

Communication and navigation structure to understand my ally-ship, directly addressing and connecting a deep hurt I can only see from afar, or up close if I ask. Given breath, space, held. There are few New England blues in the Solarium, lots of reds and yellows, the color of Arizona clay or the deep embers of the earth's star.
I've never understood
round things, why would leaving come back
to itself? 
-Bob Hicok
In the heat of the Chicago summer, the reason for return more forward than the icy New England winter. Medgar Evers returns to Florida exactly 50-years later in Trayvon Martin's gated community in a false post-race period and every fight cast from the embers awakens a history and when I am shocked on an airline on a Sunday afternoon, my heart aching, racing, curious, hopeful, naive, wistful, helpful, fully aware that when I move faster in time, time steps back. 

Through the doors of the unknown over and over I ask questions that are difficult to leap off my tongue, break silences starving for understanding, starving for energy to speak and light the way with every new revolution. How silent we can be, how our orbits are not navigational, how we bind in spite of our fears. How we hold onto our history like a light we hope it will be, dawning every horror in our makeshift bed lamp of country. When I arise each morning, I seek blue water that will fully diffuse this fury, hoping it will not rise faster after dampening each time.

Each time, grateful, it does.