Archive for January, 2008

I can’t stand loose, grubby hair on the bottom of my socks. I either go barefoot, or wear slippers around the house. But I rarely go barefoot (tender feet). So we’re back to the slippers. My slippers are (were) Minnetonka Moccasins I had for the last, oh, probably, 20 years. They finally wore through at the toe and there was a gaping hole.

But I loved them so much, I kept wearing them. Last time I was in Taos, I forgot them in my room at Mabel Dodge. I’m sure whoever visited my room after I left, went, “What?! Who would have worn these ratty old things!” and tossed them in the garbage. I wonder who found them? Embarrassing.

Now I have no slippers. I need to revisit the Minnetonka Moccasin website and see what they have. In the meantime, I wear an old pair of Ked’s penny loafers around the house. But they aren’t large and roomy like my slippers and won’t accommodate the bulky butter socks I’m wearing this frigid Minnesota January.

I’ve worn my hair short since I was about 19. Back then, the feathered look was in for short hair. Before that, my hair was long the way women wore their hair in the 70’s, hippie or not. I understand that style has come back. But I don’t pay attention to hairstyles anymore. I wear my hair the way I am most comfortable. That’s all there is to it.

I like blonde highlights, but not just highlights, more like a bleached-out tips look. It’s expensive to get the hair highlighted though. So since I’ve been focused more on my writing, I take fewer trips to the hairdresser.

My grandmother was a beautician. She really enjoyed the work, but it was hard to be on her feet so much. I remember sitting in the beauty salon with her in the early 60’s, drinking icy bottled Cokes out of the machine, and listening to women talk with each other while they sat under those robot like hair dryers that wheeled around. The dryers were bulky and heavy and loud.

I was so hot as a kid, sweating all the time in that Southern climate, that one day I begged my grandmother to cut my hair. She finally gave in. My mother was so upset with her that day. She liked my hair long. But I was happy as a clam with my new bob. Eventually, it grew back out again.

I love getting my hair cut. The pampering that goes along with having someone wash and cut my hair for me, that’s what I love. It’s not that often that we get to have someone else wash our hair. Maybe I’m strange, but I find it kind of nurturing.

Hair was a big deal in the 1960’s. Men wore their hair extremely long. Or else medium with those lambchop sideburns. I’ve come to discover that women have much more freedom around the way they wear their hair and the way that they dress. There are more choices for different occasions. Men seem so much more limited in style. But, at the same time, there can be freedom in that simplicity. So maybe it’s a toss up.

Back to the hair on the socks. I don’t know why that bothers me so much. But I really can’t stand to have dirty socks on the bottom. It grosses me out. Does anyone still say that – grosses me out? That’s what happens in writing practice, you show your flaws and weaknesses, you are exposed. Sometimes the writing is just plain bad. 8)

Body hair? I think Americans are obsessed with either having it or not having it. For women, if they have it, it’s a nightmare. They are stared at, laughed at, made to pluck, pull, yank, wax, and conform. If men don’t have it, perhaps they are athletes, or they might be gay and take off every centimeter of hair from their body. There are many gay men who like hairless bodies. I never asked about the particulars of this. I only know what a few friends have told me – every hair removed.

I like soft, fine hair. I tried to grow mine out a few times over the last ten years. I couldn’t stand it past the mid-stage, when it was driving me crazy, flailing in my face, falling limp and lifeless, where there was once short wild hair with lots of body. I’ve got a gray streak on the right front corner of my hair. It’s become kind of a signature. When I get my hair tipped, I never let them cover that up. I’ve grown fond of the original nature of the steak. It appeared sometime in my late 20’s, early 30’s. It doesn’t seem related to age.

When I was in 8th grade, I had hair like Patty Duke, curled under and wrapped to my head, tucked under my chin. It’s like that in my 8th grade school photo. Maybe I had a premonition of things to come. I traded the fake blonde for the authentic silver streak. And that’s what I know about hair.

Oh, one more thing. Last week, one of the popular local news anchors changed her hairstyle. We noticed right away. It made her look completely different and accentuated her already high cheekbones. She’s a beautiful woman no matter how she wears her hair. But the new cut had bangs and wasn’t as flattering as the old one.

Within, two days, she had swooped the bangs back under the longer hair and parted her hair on the side again. Back to the old hairstyle. I guess we weren’t the only ones that thought the new doo looked like a mushroom. Think of the pressure of being a news anchor, in the public eye every day, two or three times a day. No thanks. I’ll stick with writing every day, alone, from the comfort of my cave.

-posted on red Ravine, Thursday, January 31st, 2008

-related to Topic post, WRITING TOPIC – HAIR

Read Full Post »

By Sharon Sperry Bloom

QM and YB got me thinking about what my totem animal might be.

I’ve always had cats, my whole life, and I’m uncomfortable without one in the house right now. I think we probably have exchanged a few traits along the way, like a love of solitude and sleep.

I love dogs, especially the sweetheart who lives with us now. Two-Socks is a “rez” rescue and came to me via a friend at work who could no longer keep her. She is the most loving and obedient animal I’ve ever known.

I’m not big on fish; I feel they’re pretty but boring, but it’s likely just my lack of trying to find their personalities.

Same with turtles and rabbits. I never knew a gerbil or hamster.

I had a bat squeeze it’s way into my apartment once back in Michigan. I really liked having it there. We were peaceful with each other. I opened the front door and it eventually flew out.

I can stare into the soulful faces of the sea otters and seals at an aquarium all day. Once on a family outing to the Albuquerque Zoo, my husband had to literally drag me out of there because one sea otter kept stopping to stare at me each time he took a lap around the tank. We were communicating I tell you!

I like most animals. Unlike many folks, I don’t mind mice or snakes. Even cockroaches don’t freak me out. I wish they’d stay out of my house, but they don’t give me the heebie-jeebies.

Bees and wasps leave me alone as I watch them in the flowers. Even scarabs can be nice. I once came home and found a huge jewel-green one just sitting on my front door! It was beautiful.

I really had to think about this totem animal issue. And what I came to realize is that I’ve been sharing my life quite comfortably with big spiders.

I’ve seen some big wolf spiders in my travels around the state of New Mexico. I’ve always liked tarantulas and daddy-long-legs. And every summer here in Albuquerque, I have lots of black widow friends.

Yes, friends. There are some that live behind the potted roses on my porch. After a particularly windy few days, if the dust and dirt piles up, I may sweep them into the flowerbeds while cleaning the porch, but otherwise, that is their home. They stay outside and don’t seem to mind when my husband and I sit out there.

And there are the ones in our garage. The building is more of a carpentry shop than a place to park anything, and I am frequently in and out getting tools or making a frame for a canvas.

This past summer and fall, there was a big black widow female who had a web near an area I frequent for gardening tools. Every time I went in the garage, I would talk with her and tell her what I was going to do and where I needed to be. She was very accommodating.

I also warned her to move her web when I knew my husband would be near her space. I suggested either down very low, since he’s a tall man, or up very high where the shelves are filled with things we don’t much use.

She tried low for a while, but her choice wasn’t great. She was too close to the car jacks and Bill uses those to change the oil. So she moved up high, near the overhead door. I would tell her I was coming in before I opened the door so she could scoot out of the way if she was too close. Usually she would just hang out and watch me when I was in the garage. I talked to her. If anyone else came along, she’d scamper to a shadowy spot and hide.

I miss her now that it’s winter.

Spider. Creator. Grandmother. Delicate and strong. Shy. Dream weaver.

Charlotte’s Web
Charlotte’s Web, image supplied by Sharon Sperry Bloom, who calls
this book one of her favorites.

Related Links:

      spider-web.jpg    spider-web.jpg    spider-web.jpg    spider-web.jpg    spider-web.jpg

Sharon Sperry Bloom is an artist living in New Mexico. She wrote this essay based on a writing practice inspired by red Ravine post, What Is Your Totem Animal?

You can see Sharon’s art and read about her creative process in the post Under Your Voodoo.

Read Full Post »

Hair, pen and pencil doodle © 2007 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

Maybe it’s the wind today. It’s a hair-raising wind. The kind of wind that would blow off a toupee or at the very least make the curly-headed among us look like we’ve been electrocuted.

Maybe it’s all the sickness around these days. Days spent in pajamas, stuffy head stuffed between pillows. Mega-bedhead.

Whatever it is, Hair is on my mind. Hair Brain. Hair Hair. Er, um. Hair we are.

Think about hair. It grows on your head, on your face, all over your body.

Or not.

How do you look at hair. Does it define you? Do you have curly hair or straight hair? Long, short, or a confused mullet? Do you wax your hair? Bleach it? Color it each month?

 It always seemed to me that men wore their beards like they wear their neckties, for show.  ~D.H. Lawrence

Violet will be a good color for hair at just about the same time that brunette becomes a good color for flowers.  ~Fran Lebowitz

They say we always want the hair we don’t have.

How about you? Do you hate your hair or love it? What are your earliest hair memories?

Set your sights on locks, beards, strands, tresses, cowlicks, fuzz, frizz, wisps, dredlocks, curls, whiskers, thatches, mops, split ends, fros, hairy backs, hairy arms, no hair. Hair and now. For 15 minutes. Everything you know about it or want to say about it.

Get hairy with it. Be bald. Bare your hair. Wig out.

Now go.

Read Full Post »

The Void - One, coloring mandalas, Minneapolis, Minnesota, January 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

The Void - One, coloring mandalas, Minneapolis, Minnesota, January 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

The Void - Three, coloring mandalas, Minneapolis, Minnesota, January 2008,photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Clear Light, coloring mandalas, Minneapolis, Minnesota, January 2008,photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

The Void - One, coloring mandalas, Minneapolis, Minnesota, January 2008,photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

The Void - Two, coloring mandalas, Minneapolis, Minnesota, January 2008,photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.   

We finished up our January mandalas for The Great Round: Stage One – The Void. We used Crayola markers and colored pencils with names like Tomato Red, Inchworm Green, Pinky Pink, Little Boy Blue, Small Potatoes, Sunwave Yellow, Green Sprout, Coral Orange, Gnarly Purple, Pipeline Green, Black Shades, Chocolate Chip, Blueberry, and Hang Ten Purple. We each chose two of the three templates to color.

FIRST PAIR:  The first two are the same template. What makes them appear different are our individual color choices. The patterns that emerge with color show up more when posted side by side.

SECOND PAIR:  The top mandala in this pair is another Stage 1 template. I was drawn to the organic shapes and bodies. The second in this pair is Stage 0 (zero) – Clear Light. Stage 0, the empty circle, represents wholeness. It is a place to focus, to meditate, before choosing colors and templates.

THIRD PAIR:  The last two are the Stage 1 mandalas Liz chose, side by side. Mine are the second and third as you scroll down the page.

Color, color, color. We had a lot of fun with these exercises. The weekend is nearly over. Temperatures have warmed up. Day by day, spring is on the way.

-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, January 27th, 2008

-related to posts, Coloring Mandalas and WRITING TOPIC – CIRCLES

Read Full Post »

Mandala Coloring (Beginner's Mind), Minneapolis, Minnesota, January 2008, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Coloring Mandalas, Minneapolis, Minnesota, January 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.   Bliss, Minneapolis, Minnesota, January 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.    The Roundness Of Fire, Minnepolis, Minnesota, January 2008,photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved    The Void, Minneapolis, Minnesota, January 2008,photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.     Coloring Mandalas, Minneapolis, Minnesota, January 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Coloring Mandalas, A Few Snapshots, Minneapolis, Minnesota, January 2008, all photos © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Relaxing Saturday winter night. Liz and I are coloring mandalas and watching a documentary on Beat Generation poet, Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Liz bought a book on Coloring Mandalas by Susanne F. Fincher. It contains 48 sacred circle designs for a means of entering the Circle of Life.

There are many ways to approach mandalas. We’ve decided to follow the structure of the mandalas of The Great Round, as identified by American art therapist, Joan Kellogg. There are 12 mandala forms associated with each stage of The Great Round. We’re starting with Stage 1, the Void, in January. Stage 2, Bliss, in February. Stage 3, Labyrinth, in March. Well, you get the idea.

Here’s an excerpt from the book about creating mandalas:

Creating a mandala begins with drawing a circle. It can be as simple as the circle a child draws or as complex as the sacred images created by Tibetan monks. Mandalas arise from the compelling human need to know our own inner reality, to align this knowing with our body’s wisdom, and to awaken in ourselves a sense of being in harmony with the Universe.

As Lama Nubpa Chodak Gyatso has explained, mandalas are “manifestations of the lucid radiance of being.” The word mandala, from Sanskrit, the ancient language of India, translates as “sacred circle.” In Tibetan the term for mandala is kyil-kor, which means “center and circumference.” In the Eastern tradition mandalas also suggest a complete cycle, such as the rituals that comprise a liturgical year.

-from Coloring Mandalas, For Insight, Healing, and Self-Expression by Susanne F. Fincher, Shambhala Publications, Inc., 2000

The word mandala also translates as “cycle,” as in a prayer cycle or a song cycle built around a single theme. A Labyrinth is a mandala. So is a Medicine Wheel, the 12 hexagrams of the I Ching, and the Buddhist concept of emptiness. What does the circle mean to you. Is it openness? Emptiness? Is it inviting, full, safe? Or scary, as in the empty circle of the Void.

As the Full Wolf Moon fades and we head into the next New Moon, it is a good time to begin something new. The New Moon symbolizes new beginnings. At the New Moon, you plant the seeds of what you want to come to fruition at the Full Moon. And then, start all over again. The Ouroboros. Yes, the Ouroboros is a mandala, too.

It’s time for me to start coloring. The show on Ferlinghetti is over. We’ve moved on to a PBS show on cheetahs. It’s fitting to be meditating on mandalas while listening to Lawrence read at City Lights Bookstore. I’ll keep you posted as we progress with our mandalas. We’d love to hear anything you’d like to share about your own experiences with these sacred circles.

-posted on red Ravine, Saturday, January 26th, 2008

-related to post, WRITING TOPIC – CIRCLES

Read Full Post »

I don’t remember Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., not like Jim remembers. Jim was in 4th grade when Martin Luther King was assassinated. He says he remembers Walter Cronkite cackling over a black-and-white TV tube. I can picture the television, set in a blond wood console with long spindly legs. I can picture Jim’s dad with his tortoise-frame glasses and Jim’s mom with big dark eyes and a small round mouth.

I’m feverish now, not dangerously so but enough that my arms ache as they hold the notebook and pen upright on my stomach, against bent knees. I’m lying down, not wanting to get up again today, although I know I will, eventually. Feverish, which seems like a good state to be in, a non-remembering place. I have blurry vision, and all I can say is, I was young young and innocent.

I would have been in Mrs. Salisbury’s class, or wait, she was second grade. She was tall and black and wore shoes I associate with nurses. I bet she remembers Martin Luther King as if it were yesterday, MLK-the-time as well as MLK-the-man.

They say, these days, I hear it on the news almost every day, that Latinos and Blacks don’t get along well. They say it when talking about Barack Obama and whether he’ll get the Latino vote or whether Hillary Clinton will. I was thinking about that in the bathtub this morning, trying to steam the sick out of me. I thought of a guy I knew in Malaysia who told a joke about crabs in a bucket, how some crabs were Malays, some Indians, some Chinese. It was a politically incorrect joke, the punchline being something to the effect that one of the nationality of crabs pulled down the others while another nationality got out of the bucket by stepping on the others.

It’s auto-discriminación. Self-discrimination, this so-called feud between brown people. You get stepped on enough by white people, you start looking for somebody else to step on. It happens around the world among people who are marginalized.

I remember South Africa and how the neighborhoods ringing Johannesburg went out in concentric circles based on color. Whites in the middle. Indian-White next. India-India, Black-White, Black-India, Black-Black. We get closer to the core the lighter our skin is.

I remember making up a story about being Italian. Italians were Europeans. Caucasians. It was a way of saying, I’m just white like you, a way of stepping on someone else’s back to get a little bit higher. Except I’m not just like you.

I don’t remember Reverend King, don’t remember where I was when I was seven and he died. Probably formulating my story, revising myself so that by the time I got to high school I’d have an alibi when the kids called us spics and called our school Vato High. Mom says she remembers. Her voice gets thin (and forgive my feverishness now — I really should be sleeping not writing) when she says, Oh, I remember it. Those were sad times, she says.

-related to Topic post, WRITING TOPIC – MARTIN LUTHER KING

Read Full Post »

I don’t remember Martin Luther King in 1962 or ’63 when I was 8 or 9 or 10. I don’t remember him when I lived in the South. I must have been sheltered from all the strife and unrest that was going on during those years. I would not have understood.

I do remember him in the early years of being a teenager in Pennsylvania. I remember watching him give his speeches on television. He was on fire. I watched the unrest, the riots, the musicians of the time rallying around his cause. It was the 1960’s in America. And unless you lived through them, it’s hard to describe what it was like. No one was untouched. Everything was polarized.

There was the essence of pop culture, the Brady Bunch, the Jackson 5, the Partridge Family, living right along side Jimi Hendrix, Santana, Janis Joplin, and Crosby Stills Nash and Young. Burnt orange polyester bled into red and blue tie-dye. You had Gloria Steinem and Bella Abzug and Shirley Chisholm (first African American candidate from a major party for President of the United States); you had Phyllis Schlafly and Anita Bryant.

And TV news, it wasn’t spun the way it is spun today. I remember getting home from junior high and seeing black and white footage of Vietnam splattered all over the television. Gruesome images. We will never see a war the way we saw that one. Not the average person. Not someone like me.

I couldn’t watch. I wanted to cling to the things that gave me hope. I was caught in-between in the mid to late 1960’s: too young to be out there protesting, too old to not understand what was happening. And I was different, too. I never fit in to what it meant to be a mainstream American teenage girl.

It would take many years to grow into my own skin. When religion is telling you you’re a sin, and psychology sees a basic component of your identity as a sickness (as it did until the early 1970’s), you learn pretty quickly to fend for yourself. And live with big secrets.

It’s not like that anymore. At least, not for me. There are those who choose to remain closeted. But I have grown comfortable with who I am. There are many reasons for that. Lifestyles that are different have become strangely trendy. And my family is understanding, nurturing, and embrace me for the person I am (though back then, we just didn’t talk about it).

It was public support, paradigm shifts and movements, that taught me it was okay to question. And public figures who gave me hope. Leaders like Martin Luther King. For me, he was a humanitarian. Non-violent. Peace loving. Supportive of anyone who was different. He wasn’t afraid to ask the hard questions. He would no longer be silenced. And that’s what I remember.

When I listened to Enrique Rivera’s piece, I was moved to write about King. It opened me up to remembering that he stood for everyone, for the civil rights of all people. I cried the day he died. My parents probably cried, too. I’ve been thinking about those who lived by his side; many are still alive. They risked their lives, too. How many thousands of people did he inspire?

We had to read the John Lewis book, Walking with the Wind for one of Natalie’s retreats. He gave a riveting account of what it was like to meet Dr. King at such a young and impressionable age. I remember King was in a secret location, and Lewis walked through a dark hall into a small room to shake his hand. Later, as a Freedom Rider, Lewis would be beaten by a mob in Montgomery, and, finally, rise to the House of Representatives, representing Georgia.

I saw a documentary of an Iranian woman who worked in government under the Shah in the 1960’s, I can’t remember her name, but she recounted what it was like to run up to Martin Luther King on one of his marches and have him actually know who she was, to say her name, shake her hand, and know that she was fighting the good fight. She was on fire for human rights, too.

Last night I watched a PBS show about Temple Grandin, a 60-year-old woman with autism. When she was born, they blamed her mother, stating she was cold and unfeeling and that’s why Temple turned out the way she did. Turns out, it was Temple’s father who was cold and unfeeling, and her mother who kept her out of an institution.

Later, two scientists, working at different geographic places at the same time, unknown to each other, came up with the word autism. More research and they realized it was neurologically related, not anything to do with the mother, the family, or lack of intelligence.

Anyone who knows Temple’s story, knows that she’s now the rock star of the cattle industry. She went on to write books, to develop the squeeze machine, and to work on humane conditions and rights for cattle as they are led to the slaughter. If you can’t stop people from slaughtering and killing cows for food, you can at least create practical solutions that make the journey more humane. That was her thinking. I was glued to the TV. I couldn’t believe her story.

And that’s what Martin Luther King means to me.

When I think of him, I remember Katherine, the woman who ironed for my grandfather in 1963, and riding along to drive her home in the poorer part of town. I remember Shirley Chisholm’s 1972 Presidential Campaign. I remember John Lewis walking with the wind in his family’s shotgun shanty. I remember Temple, fighting for her cows. I remember the monk who set himself on fire during Vietnam. And in remembering all of them, I remember that part of me.

-posted on red Ravine, Friday, January 25th, 2008

-related to Topic post, WRITING TOPIC – MARTIN LUTHER KING

Read Full Post »

I didn’t notice the moon last night, too busy being sick, too busy eating coffee ice cream from Cold Stone Creamery, too busy looking on the internet for a chair.

Reminds me. Dad said his brother called with a story the other day. His brother, N., had wanted a new pair of Dockers but not tan like the ones he already had. He wanted gray Dockers. One day recently N. heads out on a walk, crosses a busy street, and there as he’s crossing looks down and finds a brand new pair of gray Dockers, just his size.

I prayed for the pants and I got them, was what N. told Dad. We all gathered around the living room at Mom and Dad’s. Could it be? we wondered.

Last night I prayed to find the chair I want. I pictured noticing it among all the tables and baskets and stuff that fills those indoor flea markets and vintage shops I’ve been prowling. Then I prayed to give up my intense desire for things.

Aooooooooo. That’s a wolf howl. We went to the Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary when Dee was in the 4th grade. A family field trip. We left early, had coffee and breakfast in an art gallery/cafe in Grants. Went to the Banderas volcano and ice cave, and Jim and Dee and Em climbed into a cave while I paced nervously above ground. We drove to Inscription Rock at El Morro, and I saw the writing of a soldier with my last name. He talked about war and God, signed in the 1600s, a reminder of conquest and reconquest.

Candy Kitchen was the last stop, down miles of dirt road on Navajo Country. We got out of the car at 3:30 or so to the sound of the wolves howling. We were the only people there, had two tour guides. When Jim met Raven, Jim walked along the fence and exchanged smells with Raven, who rubbed against him twice. Once one way, once the next.

The skinny guide with moppy hair got Raven to howl, and we all howled, a small herd. Except, are wolf groupings called “herds”?

The next day Jim went to Western Warehouse at the strip mall near our house. ‘Lo and behold, Raven was outside the front, ambassador day in Albuquerque. Raven’s handler couldn’t understand why Raven was straining against the leash, pulling to greet Jim, who was still too far away to see the wolf. When Jim finally saw Raven, the handler said, Does he know you? Jim smiled, Yes, we met yesterday.

Maybe it’s because the wolf moon is over. That’s why I didn’t write about moons. I wrote about wolves.

-related to posts, Practice – Wolf Moon – 10min and What Is Your Totem Animal?

Read Full Post »

The January Wolf Moon was wide and full, smeared across the morning sky the way an artist rubs a chalky finger across gray charcoal on paper. It was Liz that pointed it out to me, half asleep in the kitchen making coffee. By the time I got to the window, she was already out the door with her video camera, taking a long shot of the moon. She still had her pajamas on. It was -5.

January in Minnesota has lived up to its name this year. I become reclusive in cold. My dreams frozen and bending back on themselves like the ice folds on the back roof. Last Thursday, there was such a loud pop at the eaves, that it jolted me out of sleep. I woke Liz up and we both went and stared out the window into the black cold. Helpless. Humans have no recourse against the harshness of winter. If your car or furnace breaks down, or your pipes bust open, it is an instant time machine to the way things used to be.

When the roof jumped out of its skin, we did, too. Liz stuffed her hair under her hat, pulled on her boots, and walked out with a flashlight to inspect the roof. It was 3am. The crunch of her feet on top of the snow sounded like she was in the living room, right beside me. Sound travels quickly through frigid, thin air. I stayed behind, looking up ice dams on the Internet. Turns out, all of this creaking is normal for sub-zero temperatures. But, I tell you, it’s hard to fathom that the roof is not going to just cave in around us.

I have felt a lostness, is that a word, a directionless month. Trying to get on my feet, find my ground. I pulled a Medicine Card yesterday and it was Bat – reversed. The reversed cards are about lessons that need to be learned, an unwillingness to embrace the individual power rolling your way. Bat is about Rebirth. In the reversed stage, she is telling me to get going, to move on toward my dreams and goals. The Universe is supporting me. But if I can’t let it lift me, or push against it with resistance, all those dreams will come tumbling down.

At the extreme, the resistance of reversed Bat leads to a lifetime of saying, “I’m going to do that tomorrow” – and then I’m at the end of my life and the things I dreamed of have not been accomplished. If everything is laid out for you, why not take the bait? Usually, for me, it is fear. Or not having a solid practical plan. I am good at dreaming. For follow through, I have to make a structured plan.

I’ve been resisting. Because I know how much work it’s going to take to move forward. I have had the luxury of time to rest the last month and a half. I am deeply grateful for that gift. Now, I need to take action. I feel overwhelmed. I need to remember, day by day, one step at a time. I don’t have to do everything all at once. One step at a time. Never give up on your dreams.

So when the Full Wolf Moon slid a dewdrop of reflected sunlight through the slats in the blind, and Kiev was running around like a maniac last night, I tried to pay attention to my dreams. But I was so tired, all that came was sleep.

In the morning, French Roast helps a little. And thinking about the death of Heath Ledger. So young. It makes no sense. There is nothing like death to wake you up. I just took a swig out of the amber Taos Mountain Outfitters water bottle and thought about walking around Taos. Water and caffeine dehydrate; water and mountain drench. The cells have everything they need to climb. Now – take the next step.

-posted on red Ravine, Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008

-related to posts, winter haiku trilogy and What Is Your Totem Animal?

Read Full Post »

winter moon, lightpainting series, January 2008, Minneapolis,Minnesota,photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

no room for the moon
when the crunch beneath a boot
sweeps the heart away

winter moon III, lightpainting series, January 2008, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

snow shovel cracks hard
sky blows 16mph
flashes of white sun

winter moon II, lightpainting series, January 2008, Minneapolis, Minnesota,photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

watchful brittle leaves
stone firepit silent, depressed
ten shadows of snow

-photographs, winter moon trilogy, part of the Lightpainting Series, January 2008, all photos © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

-posted on red Ravine, Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008

-related to post, haiku (one-a-day)

Read Full Post »

Planting The Seed, stained glass, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Planting The Seed, Lightpainting Series, stained glass window, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


When I walked out into the sub-zero temperatures yesterday to warm up my car, a piece by NPR’s Enrique Rivera poured out of the Alpine radio speakers. Rubbing my hands together, and pulling the end of a wool cap down over my neck, I stared off into the distance at a couple of squirrels playing tag on an old growth oak, and listened to Enrique Rivera.

His family is from El Salvador, and in his research he had stumbled on a yellowed piece of paper, a poem about red spring lilies that his grandmother had written for Martin Luther King. The discovery led him to contemplate King’s influence on the Latino community. As I listened, I thought about what Martin Luther King means to me.

I’m old enough to remember his speeches on TV, graphic black and white photographs in Life magazine, and the sad day in 1968 at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis (now the National Civil Rights Museum) when King was assassinated. Regardless of where you lived in this country, who you were, or what you believed, the way Martin Luther King lived his life, impacted your own.

I honor Martin Luther King Day by remembering the past, and pulling it into the present as a reminder. Not only the power of the March on Washington in August 1963, and King’s I Have a Dream address, but the efforts of others to bring to light injustices in the history of my own state of Minnesota (Clayton Jackson McGhie in Duluth in 1920 or the Mankato 38 in 1862). I remember my tumultuous teenage years in the late 60’s and early 70’s, the Women’s MovementStonewall and Harvey Milk. Or the efforts of women like Emma Lazarus. 

Martin Luther King brought awareness to all of our civil rights. That’s what great leaders do. He spoke for all of us. And reminded us that it is our silence that we should fear:

In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.

-Martin Luther King, Jr.

No one wants to be silenced. As writers and artists, we work to find our voices every day. Many who have spoken out or taken action against what they see as unjust, have paid a high price. Martin Luther King was one such man.


Planting The Seed, Lightpainting Series, stained glass, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2007,photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.       Planting The Seed, Lightpainting Series, stained glass, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2007,photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.       Planting The Seed, Lightpainting Series, stained glass, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2007,photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.       Planting The Seed, Lightpainting Series, stained glass, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2007,photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.      


For the Writing Topic this week, write everything you know about Martin Luther King. How old were you when he died, or were you even born? How does your family speak of his legacy; how did they see him in the 1950’s and 60’s. Is there any way that Martin Luther King has changed your life? How has he broken open stereotypes or paved the way for acceptance of your own differences.


Do a 15 minute Writing Practice that begins:

I Remember Martin Luther King…

Reverse it. Do another 15 minute Practice:

I Don’t Remember Martin Luther King….

If you get stuck, go to one of the links in this piece. Listen to Enrique Rivera’s commentary on his grandmother who was a writer and artist. Check out the links for Emma Lazarus, Stonewall, Duluth, or Mankato.

Think of conversations/controversies about civil or human rights in your own hometown. Your own family. What about those close to you, people you love, who live a different lifestyle and have opened your mind (and your heart) to a new definition of human rights.

Write everything you know about Martin Luther King.

-posted on red Ravine, Martin Luther King Day, Monday, January 21st, 2008

Read Full Post »

Mr. StripeyPants bolted off of his gentle resting spot, purring and catching some z-z-z-z’s on Liz’s side this morning. I knew he’d heard a noise. With the frigid, stony, -24 degree skies, and all the creaking and popping ice on the roof this weekend, I got up to see what the fuss was. The kitchen cabinet was propped open, contents splayed all over on the kitchen floor, Pants’ butt sticking out, tail wagging with a fury.

After further investigation, there is was: a Bigelow Mint Medley herb teabag with chew holes, ant pile of tea leaves stashed in the corner, and a trail of mouse droppings under the sink. If you followed the droppings, they created a pebbly map, cairns along a super highway to the garbage can. And when Liz peeled back the plastic, there it was: the chewed ear off the fire red top of a Wendy’s chili order. Yes, our mice love Wendy’s chili!

There’s a mouse in the house! We’ve got the contents of the cabinet laid out on the floor as I write. And now we’re trying to decide how to plug the hole around the PVC pipe where they are making their grand entrance.

We hate to use traps. Any other ideas?

In the meantime, I’m off to go deal with the mice. And Liz just piped up from the kitchen, “Isn’t it comforting to know that Mr. StripeyPants’ totem animal is Mr. Mouse?!”

-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, January 20th, 2008

Read Full Post »

The search term

orangutan without hair on butt

led someone to our website.

Read Full Post »

Baby Back, Baby the Snake active one day in mid-November 2007, photo © 2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

Last night at a friend’s birthday dinner, after we’d finished off the Nuts & Birds, curry chicken, wasabi shrimp, and several scoops of green tea ice cream, the question came up. What is your totem animal?

One person’s was the gentle giant, elephant. I said immediately, “Mountain lion.” We looked at Jim — his must be the hummingbird.

One person said a snake, although he didn’t mean it. Two of us thought that the snake as totem animal would be pretty cool.


The idea of the totem animal comes from Native American cultures and traditions. These animals, it is believed, accompany us in both physical and spiritual worlds.

There is no deep mystery to identifying your totem animal. Simply think about different animals. Which do you feel most connected to? What animal has always interested you, or what animal have you seen in unusual places? Your totem animal is that which you feel closest to through interest, dreams, physical proximity, or any other way.

I understood my totem animal to be a mountain lion via two guided exercises, one being a past-life regression. The last close encounter I had with a mountain lion was in the Pecos Mountains of New Mexico, on a hike with Jim. We didn’t see her, but we smelled her and felt her nearby.

If you can’t figure out your totem animal by meditating on the question, you can always take this test (because, of course, on the internet there is a test for everything).

Once you know what your animal totem is, there are a host of resources regarding the traits of different animals. Here’s one, and here’s another. According to this one, my totem represents power of feminine energy.

You know what? I always knew what my totem animal was yet I never looked up what it meant. Now that I know, I realize it fits.

So, what animal are you? I want to know.

Baby Box, Baby showing off her entire body one day in mid-November 2007, photo © 2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

By Carolee (aka The Polka-Dot Witch)

Do you remember the Karate Kid (Ralph Macchio & Pat Morita) when Mr. Miyagi had Daniel wax the car? Wax on. Wax off. Inward circles. Outward circles. Discipline the mind. Train the mind by moving the body.

I’m unsure if any circles are in my life at all. Only because I’m trying to think of some. My son’s third grade teacher is trying to get the kids to avoid circular logic: explaining a thing by using only the thing itself. The same words.

The circles in this room: the hoop at the top and bottom of the lampshade. The terra cotta-colored plate on the table with crumbs from a hard roll. Each loop in the spiral binding of my journal. The 0-0 in the all-caps caption of a photo of Eleanor Roosevelt. The eyes looking at me from her name. How she saw the world. How we see the world. Two circular sensors working together to take in information independently and the brain sews it all together so it makes sense, so the world works. The tiny holes in the tops of the salt and pepper shakers. How does anything come out of holes that small? I don’t see any other circles. Circles. The sign for this café is a yellow circle. If I lean over, I see it through the window.

Circle. Circle. Circle the wagons. Rhinoceroses do that. Put the baby in the middle of a circle and turn to face the danger and snort and show their horns. What is it with me and rhinos lately? I’m seeing them all over the place but I live in the cold, snowy Northeast. Rhinos don’t live here. But they’re in my brain lately. Doesn’t make sense at all.

Sense at all. Sense at all. Sense at all. If you had any sense at all, you’d know/see _______. If you had any sense at all, you wouldn’t ________. That might make a fun list poem. If you had any sense at all, you’d leave him. Wear practical shoes. Dry your hair before going outside. Save your money instead of spending so much. Take better care of yourself. Change the oil in your car more often. Stop banging your head against the wall with whatever it is you’re doing over and over again even though it’s not working. Stop for a minute and figure out what you want. Take water with you on a hike. And a compass. Plan ahead for a change. Not put your head between the stair railings in the first place. Wear gloves when you pull weeds. Leave the wasps nest alone. STOP.

Note: When I packed up my stuff to leave, I saw on the wall behind me a poster for an old movie, Vertigo:

Photo of Vertigo movie poster, photo © 2007 by Carolee. All rights reserved.

Look at all those circles! I can’t even count them all. I wasn’t looking hard enough! I wasn’t being thorough! I wasn’t seeing everything. Isn’t it funny how a free write ends, sometimes, at its true beginning?

Carolee (a.k.a. The Polka-Dot Witch) is a painter, mixed media artist, and poet. She blogs about the creative process — sharing free writes, draft poems, exercises and ramblings — in a life crowded with children and cluttered by moods. Her poetry has been published online at qarrtsiluni and in local publications, and her poem “How to let wild birds out” is forthcoming in print in the winter issue of Ballard Street Poetry Journal.

She co-manages the blogs “poem” (a virtual poetry group) and “fertile ground” (a publishing and critique-focused blog), and she is a contributor to the poetry site read write poem.

About writing practice, Carolee says: I start everything with a free write. Everything. I know no other way. Even if I already have an idea, I free write. Even if I have a poem or an essay that’s 90% finished, I free write through the weak spots to give it more life. It really helps me explore its levels and discover images and concepts that I never could have found without free association.

It’s fun for me. So much that we do is choreographed or purpose-driven. It’s enjoyable to allow anything and everything to come out of me without censorship. I usually have to go longer than the 15 or 20 minutes to go as deep as I like to go, but shorter periods exercise the creative muscles that prevent writers block. With free write practice, I can (and do ) start writing whenever I want to. It’s training. I don’t have to wait for a muse. (Although when he shows up, it’s especially nice.)

Behind the scenes is messy. I like messy. I am absolutely OK about writing for an hour and ending up with ‘nothing’ or ending up with something that’s incomplete or something that doesn’t come close to representing me well. I do not consider it time wasted.

I am really good about keeping my free writes (they’re usually in my journals) and reviewing them months after I put them on the page. Sometimes when I go back, I see I’d overlooked an interesting phrase, I see an image in a different way or I see new meaning in a concept I’d previously considered ordinary.

-related to Topic post, WRITING TOPIC – CIRCLES

Read Full Post »

Our house is just about as old as me. The blueprints are dated 1958 and ’59; the house was completed in 1961.

It harkens back to the advent of the great room, The Brady Bunch, green (or orange) shag carpeting, sunken dens, and bean bag chairs.

No wonder I feel so comfortable here.

Until I moved into this house and started doing research, I didn’t know what to call it. All I knew was Jim and I fell in love with the place the moment we walked in.

The walls were dingy and the oak and quarry tile floors dark from decades of Mop-N-Glo’ build-up. Yet underneath we saw clean, horizontal lines and untouched red brick and honey-stained birch.

Even though the house was built for function — with cabinet and closet space galore and a big laundry room — we recognized a whole aesthetic. 

“It reminds me of Frank Lloyd Wright.” That’s what I said to Jim over and over the first day we walked through the house. Dutch doors that open wholly or just the top. Symmetrical ceiling joists. Neat little pocket doors. Built-in accordian room dividers.

Built-in everything, for that matter — built-in desks, built-in shelves, a central vacuum system, a central radio/intercom. All of it intact. Nothing ripped out or painted over or broken. The house even had its original stainless steel double ovens and cooktop range.


We’ve moved in slowly. What I mean is, we’ve taken our time getting to know the place. Well, I take that back. Jim’s domain is the outside, and he’s had to jump in to do the work required for each season.

But I’m in charge of how the home feels inside. What stays and what goes. What to add to the mix. Here’s what I know so far:

Colors & Textures

A cross between sage and celery green, light and soothing.

Blue, also gentle.

And remember the velvets from the 1950s? Mrs. Tabet had a formal living room with blue plates hanging on the walls and in her china cabinet, and blue velvet pillows with buttons. I like that blue and I like that fabric; I skipped the formality.

Black and white. Pillows and a slipper chair that was Jim’s grandmother’s. Accents, which, strange how they anchor.

And because it all seems to match (or maybe because I’m Gemini) I’m throwing in bright orange. Not in the furniture or the rugs or anything like that. But ceramics. It’s gorgeous.



OK, it’s taken me this long to say, the house is a Mid-Century Modern. There are no definitive web resources on this style, as far as I could find (I’ll add a link once I find one that satisfies me) but already I have several favorite sites for Mid-Century Modern furniture. Such as:

This is barely scratching the surface. These stores have top-of-the-line vintage pieces, as does ebay, and my goal at this point is simply to look, see, learn.

I’ve started scouring more affordable sources, like craigslists in various cities. I found a 4-foot-diameter Danish teak circular coffee table to go with the vintage contemporary couch we got from Jim’s parents, at a fraction of the price I could find anything similar in the specialty shops.

New Mexico doesn’t do Mid-Century Modern, not in any huge way, but so far I’ve found great deals on two lamps, four simple teak chairs, and a bizarre enamel chair. The trick is to find things that are affordable and real. And to figure out how to mix it with some of the interesting pieces we already have.

   Santa Dolorosa, gesso and oil painting by Susanna Chavez

I’ll be writing a series of posts about the place and our attempts to make it something special. If you have any ideas on where to go and what to do, please share them. Or, just stay tuned. I’ll let you know how it’s coming along.

And as I find out more about this style and aesthetic, I’ll share what I know. One thing that’s already clear: there are people who make their whole lives about Mid-Century Modern (kind of like how some of us make our lives about Writing). I can definitely see the attraction.

Read Full Post »

A part of me wants to draw this topic, doodle it in big loops and spirals. One of my favorite doodling games as a kid was to draw an organic shape, like an amoeba or a paramecium. Then I’d scoot my notebook to Carmen Chavez and she’d have to draw a face inside my shape. What part was the nose? The mouth? Possibly a body. We laughed the most at the banana-nosed creatures.

Circles for nostrils, circles for eyes. A person’s mouth forms a circle around certain notes when singing. Thinking now of a pie hole for a mouth, a description I’ve heard when talking about old, toothless mouths. I realize now I have no idea what it means. What is a pie hole anyhow? Don’t pie crusts have slits?

I slow-walked, for once following the instructions just as they’re laid out in the post. Here’s what happens when I walk. I notice that the rug I pass over doesn’t have circles on it. Wonder, since the rug is from India, whether the circle is too sacred to put onto a rug. Which would mean, if you did, that feet would walk all over the circles.

Once I took a bus ride from Delhi to Agra, the time I bought the rug, and I took off my pink shoes, folded my legs and made myself as comfortable as I could. I rode in the cab of a luxury tour bus with four other travelers, plus the bus driver, plus the bus driver’s helper. It was a big bus, a wide cab. I got the very frontmost spot, right up against the windshield. Had the bus crashed, I would have died instantly, like an insect.

But what I want to say is that when I crossed my legs, sitting like Buddha, the bus driver and his assistant yelled at me. They motioned, NO!, the shrine!! I was showing the bottoms of my feet to the shrine, who was an exotic part-elephant-part-woman statue that sat on the dashboard of the bus, just beside me, with fresh marigolds all around her. I immediately uncrossed my legs and placed them awkwardly to the side, as if I were riding sidesaddle.

Circles. What kind of circle would I be? I remember hula hoops, my waist zipping round and round, arms out to the side, mouth open in concentration (although not like a pie hole) and the hoop going going going going until I lost my mojo and it withered slowly down my legs.

Now I see my handwriting has gotten loopy, the o’s big. I could draw little smiley faces inside them. The 1960s and 70s seemed like circle times in life. Today, the first decade of the 21st century, strikes me as angular, an edge wanting to get its circle back.

-related to Topic post, WRITING TOPIC – CIRCLES

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »