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Archive for March 18th, 2007

leading two lives…half dog-half cat…cat-dog…dog-cat…meow-woof…woof-meow…cat dog and dog cat

Inspired by this post, and this one, and this one.

Doodling dog cat

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I remember in my twenties feeling there were two me’s. The true me and the false me. I can’t describe now the difference except to say when I was in the “true” mode I felt as though nothing else were with me. No material concerns, no jealousy, no desire. Just me.

I don’t have that feeling now, twenty-some years later, of being two people. I write. I work. I mother. I love. I do many things but each thing informs every other. Some of my vocations I love more that others. But if, for example, I am in the heat of a meaty project at work, something that takes me to an exotic country, I can be happy. And sad, for the week or so away from my girls. And sick, for the long trip overseas squashed in economy class. And exhausted and overwhelmed and awed. Nowadays I bear the flood of every emotion that comes with doing what I do and being who I am.

When I was in third grade I went to a new school. My first friend was Kim Bay. She looked like her name sounded, short and cute with freckles, a button nose, and reddish brown hair she wore in pigtails. We were on the playground at recess when a group of six boys came to us and said they wanted to play chase.

Kim and I started out together, two little running bundles, screaming with mouths open. Such fun and glory! Boys had never chased me in my life, never at my old school, and here we were. It was great having the attention of six boys. And then Kim veered right, I veered left, and as if I were up in the sky looking down upon the scene I see all six boys move like a cloud of bees after Kim.

My screams disappear into the empty air around me, my little legs come to a slow stop. Why run? Where am I going? My fun game is over almost as soon as it started. At that moment I suddenly have this thought: I am Kim and Kim is me, we are the same person.

That scene sticks with me like an out-of-body experience of sorts, a realization that the molecules that formed to create me are the same as molecules that create every other thing. All through my twenties I searched for myself, and now I wonder if it’s because I saw the truth once but couldn’t find it again no matter how hard I tried. Do I know it now?

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Labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral, from Alice Walker’s, The Same River Twice

The Labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral, from Alice Walker’s book, “The Same River Twice, Honoring the Difficult”

 

I walked the labyrinth many times last year as part of my practice. In the year-long writing Intensive the two of us attended in Taos with Natalie Goldberg, we were encouraged to keep and log our practice. Every day – as part of the structure of our writing.

Practice included anything that anchored, grounded, or sustained us. It could be writing, slow walking, drawing, photographing, swimming, or sitting. I chose to continue my daily writing practice. And walk the grass labyrinth at The Sisters of Saint Joseph of Carondelet in St. Paul.

I walked in every season. I carried a pocket notebook and Space Pen and sometimes as I walked I’d jot down haiku, page after page after page. It poured out of me. I can’t explain why. Except to say that the labyrinth is an archetype. It is not unique to any one person or culture.

What makes the labyrinth so powerful is that many have walked it before me. And many will walk it to come. We all walk together. The QuoinMonkey avatar is an image of The Labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral. But not just any image.

Many years ago, before I ever set foot on a labyrinth, I was drawn to the symbol and scanned it from the front of one of Alice Walker’s books – The Same River Twice, Honoring the Difficult. The book is about the challenging journey of turning her book, The Color Purple, into a blockbuster movie. It is a book about process. I recommend reading it.

I saw Alice Walker at Borders in 2004. Now Is the Time to Open Your Heart had been released. She came to speak at Block E on Hennepin Avenue in the small first floor café of the bookstore where I worked. The place was packed. I sat on the floor at her feet. I could not believe my good fortune. She is one of my mentors.

I don’t know her personally, except to shake her hand when she signed my book. But I’ve read everything she’s ever written. For over 25 years, she’s inspired me through her work. Her books were my mentors. I even had the chance to tell her that. But that’s another story.

Inside the front cover of The Same River Twice, Alice quotes another writer, Jungian psychologist, Jean Shinoda Bolen. As fate would have it, I saw Jean speak at Amazon Women’s Bookstore in Minneapolis a few weeks before I attended the last Taos Intensive in February 2007.

I told Jean I was thinking about teaching writing but I was scared. She said if it is meaningful to me, fun, and motivated from a place of love, I should do it; it would energize me and give far more than it would take. Then she smiled and signed my book. When I turned to the back cover, there was a quote from Alice Walker.

If you’re a writer, I don’t have to tell you that everything is connected. You already know.

Practice. And keep walking.

 

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Labyrinth excerpt from Alice Walker’s book, The Same River Twice, Honoring the Difficult, 1996

 

Once we enter the labyrinth, ordinary time and distance are immaterial, we are in the midst of a ritual and a journey where transformation is possible; we do not know how far away or close we are to the center where meaning can be found until we are there; the way back is not obvious and we have no way of knowing as we emerge how or when we will take the experience back into the world until we do. There are no blind ends in a labyrinth, the path often doubles back on itself, the direction toward which we are facing is continually changing, and if we do not turn back or give up we will reach the center to find the rose, the Goddess, the Grail, a symbol representing the sacred feminine. To return to ordinary life, we must again travel the labyrinth to get out, which is also a complex journey for it involves integrating the experience into consciousness, which is what changes us.

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Journal excerpt from The Same River Twice, Honoring the Difficult, 1996

 

It is a blustery partly sunny day in the country. It rained all night, which should be good for the trees. I’ve still got a dozen trees and shrubs to plant. But I spent four hours weeding the garden yesterday; after feeling depressed and as if I had no support. But really, I have the support of the Universe. And if I meditated more, I would feel less alone.

-from Alice Walker journal entry, March/April 1984, a “strong” period

 

Saturday, March 17th, 2007

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