Walking in Spirit

I’ve been thinking a lot about spirituality lately, especially after attending Ostara rites with Reclaiming LA a few weeks ago. Some folks have asked elsewhere what it means to identify as paganish-Quaker, and after my long years as a UU pagan, that’s a very good question.

I’ll just start here, today:


The Social Media Fast

This past week, I chose to spend 7 days off Twitter as part of a “reading deprivation” exercise.

Sounds a little silly and self-indulgent, does it not? Would avoiding social media and reading be difficult? CUE TINY VIOLINS OF PRIVILEGE

The reason: I’ve been parsing through Julie Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, which is ostensibly a 12-week course in spiritual creativity. I’ve essentially spent an average of three weeks per week in the course. Whatever my initial skepticism, Cameron’s approach has been incredibly helpful to my personal development (without really intending to, I have made 2014 my Year of Healing, between CBT and hard life changes, following fast upon 2013’s Year of Living Dangerously, quelle surprise). During week 4, Cameron suggests reading and media consumption fill one’s head with distracting noise serving as “tranquilizer” to the creative impulse and a “shield” against the outside world. “For most blocked creatives,” Cameron says, “reading is an addiction.” Cameron pushes her students to avoid the words of others for just one week.

I felt resistant to this idea, as you can imagine. I thrive on words for inspiration. Ideas of others inspire me, their triumphs and sorrows and artful expressions fill my creative well. But I tried anyway, and mostly stuck to it. Although I’m an avid reader, avoiding books was easier; the fact that Jeff VanderMeer’s Acceptance waits by my bedside is comforting. The rolling timeline of Twitter is a different story.

(TL;DR) What I learned from the Social Media Fast of 2014:

1. I sat in silence more. As a neo-Quaker, this part was disconcerting but appealing. I noticed how frequently I turned to my phone to fill space. This didn’t translate into more productivity or heaps of found time. I just noticed and sat with a sensation of emptiness, eating in silence or when waiting for appointments. I did more people-watching and felt more self-aware.

2. I dearly missed connection with people. I’m fortunate to be acquainted with creative folks all over the world, and since I’m not on Facebook, Twitter is the main way I keep up with what is important to those folks. Plus, they make me laugh. Missing their voices for an entire week felt lonely. I filled that need by writing letters to a few of my favorite people, and now I have a new creative way to connect and a list of people I plan to write to next.

3. I fell out of the loop on world events. I get most of my news from Twitter. I know this may sound ridiculous to some, but it’s completely true.

4. I realized how much I value Twitter as a tool of self-expression and creativity. I share, I give and receive support, I contextualize my life experiences. Even though I refrain from broadcasting the most private details, my online presence is, weirdly, a part of me. Tweets have replaced my more frequent blogging of the past as the journal of my life story.

I can’t say I recommend this strategy, but I’m glad I tried it.

Thanks for reading, and feel free to let me know your thoughts, here or on Twitter.


What I’m thinking now

The Thinker and Death, by Bel17b (Deviant Artist). Image used under Creative Commons.
The Thinker and Death by Bel17b (Deviant Artist). Image used under Creative Commons.

Drawing, which I’m not doing.

Writing, which I AM doing, no matter how gross or stolen (or sometimes perfect) those moments feel.

Heteropatriarchy and the damage it does every day.

Women Destroy Science -Fiction, which is practically the best thing ever.

My third, most recent Interzone sale, which I will say more about later.


Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

Ursula K. Le Guin and the hermeneutics of love.

Clarion West, which is four years ago for me and right around the corner for others.

The desert, Trickster mythology and motorcycles.

Changing my name.

Tell a Stranger They’re Beautiful Tuesday

One day a few weeks ago, the boredom of my day job (which I’ve since left) resulted in a singular moment of discovery: the people around me were beautiful, each in his or her own way, and I had the luxury of experiencing their beauty. My boss, my co-workers, customers. Each person there had been loved or is loved by someone (one hopes). I found myself looking through the eyes of love, and perhaps through my writer’s eyes, too, seeing each individual as a unique character with a story to tell.

I know this may sound pollyanna. And I know the title says “they” to refer to individual people (I want to use the generic plural pronoun here, even if the English teacher in me cringes at the mismatch). I’m putting aside both of those considerations. Joy and connection is to be found intentional moments, if we allow ourselves.

I felt compelled that day to tell at least one person that he/she is beautiful, to share my experience of the moment and to hopefully uplift a spirit.

I didn’t catch the name of this gentleman, but I told him he was beautiful and complimented his gorgeous beard. The exchange brought a broad smile to his face. He asked if I would be posting the photo on Facebook, and while I don’t use FB, the exchange moved me to begin a weekly post called Tell a Stranger They’re Beautiful. The posts may be about the individual, sometimes just a photo, or a few words about them depending on what I’m able to learn. I’m also interested to see how the act of approaching strangers will effect me.

Have you ever complimented a total stranger? It’s Tuesday, give it a try and tell me how it went.

What Else?

My family and friends must be getting tired of hearing about my writing life because someone recently asked, “So, what else are you doing? What have you been up to?”

What I’m up to is bouldering and buildering, veganing and watching roller derby (but not all at the same time).

About bouldering:

I discovered this with the help of a friend and freaked over it, a little. Who knew climbing around on walls could be so awesome? And it builds muscle like crazy. The crummy thing is, the nearest gym is an hour away.

So, just for fun sometimes I gotta builder. In other words, climbing around in places I probably shouldn’t like a monkey. Mind you, I’m a novice at both of these activities, but this one is particularly appealing to the juvenile delinquent (by which, of course, I mean “free spirit”) that lives in the corner of my heart. A good friend is an influence in this regard.

So here I am climbing around on stuff behind the post office. Postal people might not appreciate this activity in the same way I do, so I’m buildering after hours. My son thought it was a hoot and joined right in. Is this a negative thing?

This silliness is abetted by the fact that I just acquired a pair of Vibram Sprints, five-fingered toe shoes that garner weird looks everywhere they go because, frankly, they are odd-looking. But they give you all kinds of grip, and they’re comfy. I walked a couple of miles in them today, rode a bike and then set a bad example at the post office after dark. Good times.

Tomorrow: veganing and roller derby. Those need their own posts, methinks.

Home Again

Wow. I just had my life radically altered by Clarion West Writers Workshop. I wish someone had told me coming home would be like ripping my heart out.

It was lovely. It was terrifying. It was complex and full of joy and discovery. It was everything I ever wanted and then some, including things I didn’t even know I needed and a bunch of new best friends.

I didn’t blog about it during because it’s just too damn hard. Some folks did in the past, and I really appreciated their efforts, for giving me a window into that life-changing event before I attended the workshop. I learned that every workshop class has a different experience, that the time we’re given is shaped by us, the participants, but there are lots of commonalities, too. Read and compare, if you are a future hopeful.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll attempt to reconstruct some of the narrative of my experience there. But it’ll be mostly for me, I think. The last six weeks have been so intense and important to my life as a person and as a writer, and I need to decompress and process some of that data, if you know what I mean.

In the meantime, here’s photo #1, arrival and unpacking.

Tickle, tickle

Five whole weeks without a post! No excuse really. I wasn’t too busy or any of that. I just didn’t feel like it. The break between semesters was very relaxing, and I’ve been reading a lot, which feels something like getting to eat your fill when you’re hungry (I would think). I finally felt a tiny tickle in the back of my mind this morning that said, “psst! Yer blog is fallow, you know.”

The new term is off and running, and I’ve found some kind of groove that is making the classes easy and satisfying. My students are raptly attentive, and I’m feeling a little perplexed and extremely grateful. In spite of that, I’ve given notice concerning my desire to take the next two terms off; I want to focus on writing, Mr. B, and community service. Writing, of course, is the one that’s getting the least attention.
The only big news is that my sister had her baby; I can’t wait until spring break so I can go up to NY to see them.
I’ve stopped watching news about Haiti because it makes me cry; I’ve lost myself in Children of God by Mary Doria Russell, which puts a sci-fi spin on the old “why-God-makes-bad-things-happen” theme.

For Fans of the Office and Religious Open-mindedness

I recently stumbled upon some interesting perspective on religion and the Baha’i faith from Rainn Wilson of The Office, who is apparently a pretty deep individual.

He appeared on Oprah’s Sirius Radio show to talk about his brainchild, called SoulPancake.

While not big on Oprah, I am certainly a big fan of The Office, and of The Schrute, and now I like him even better.

Of course, I’m one of the “hippy-dippy” ones Rainn is not keen on.

Just For Once

Instead of feeling overwhelmed by too many choices, I’d like to feel bored.

So why start a blog? It’s one more choice, one I can settle down with for a few moments and not feel guilty. I chose it.

Today, I should have been doing specific things (a list was even made). These activities benefited other people, generally, not me. I am a chronic volunteer; it’s damn near pathological. It must be the validation I receive from being needed that convinces me to volunteer in the first place, but later I experience ongoing sensations of being trapped from which there’s only momentary relief.

I chose to avoid those activities and spontaneously built a sad-looking compost bin out of old bricks I had in my garage. They were old and painted yellow: one split when I chucked it out of the garage into the yard. I stacked the bricks in a Red Rider wagon and hauled them around to the other side of the house. I pushed a row of them down into the wet earth and then stacked more on top, the result is something like the ruin of a burial cairn. Sweat ran down my stomach and soaked into my shirt, and I had dark, dirty bits under my fingernails. I raked up leaves and filled the space I’d built, then rushed inside to retrieve the plastic bowl full of kitchen waste to make my first deposit.

It was weirdly satisfying. About an hour was spent on that little project, an hour that I wasn’t being “productive.” No one helped me, and it’s unlikely I’ll be validated or praised for it in any way. Why’d I do it? I’m not going to dwell on the why and wherefore, just the satisfaction. Whatcha think about that?