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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

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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

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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

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