Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Have shovel, will travel

Archetypes come in all shades: the good nurturing matriarch and the destroyer, the strong, protecting patriarch and the tyrant…the trickster, the fool, the rebel, the child. You get the idea. All these archetypes exist inside us in some measure.

In dreams, I work on the premise that each element of the dream is a fragment of myself.

So what I’m going to talk about here is personal. It is not about a man or men, or about my conscious views on the subject of the male of the species. I’d like to be clear about that.

“Your patriarch had a dream,” KD says, after I tell her about the nightmare.

The light is dim in the dream, a brooding near-dark. I am standing on the bank of a large flat-bottomed pit, about six or seven feet deep. It resembles, slightly, a skate board park but it has been built for the purpose of torturing women. In this dream, there are a group of nearly grown boys. They are wearing the uniform of an exclusive private school – shorts, white shirts, jackets and striped ties. I know that the uniforms mean they are the children of wealthy, powerful people. Above the law.

One of the boys is in the pit, mercilessly kicking a woman who is only half-conscious and curled into fetal position. He is doing this simply because he can, because he thinks she is less.

I am down on the floor of the pit suddenly and find a shovel nearby. Raging, I hit at his legs with the edge of it, over and over, as hard as I can. He continues, somehow, to kick the woman anyway and I keep swinging the shovel at him.

The dream shifts and I am at the far end of the pit, back on the bank, face to face with an older man wearing the same uniform. The boys have retreated to a kind of underground bunker behind him. “No one is going to get to those boys,” he says.

“I’m calling the police,” I tell him “and we are going down there.”

Another shift and I’m at the opposite bank. In my hand is a crumpled medical document in a wrinkled paper bag. My father’s wife is there and I’m telling her that it’s medical information about my father. I’m anxious that it might be important and might be lost. And then I realize that my father is never coming back.

I wake up crying.

Patriarchal power gone mad and corrupt. Right next to the beloved father.

All in my own little psyche.

Somehow, the job is to own all this. I feel like I’ve been in a hit and run. From the pavement, I look up and see that the driver is someone I love and trust. I know perhaps, that he couldn’t swerve in time. But what kills me is that instead of getting out of the car, he screams into reverse and gets away from the scene as fast as possible. That’s how it feels.

In my heart of hearts though, I know that at some level I’ve allowed it to happen. The same corrupt patriarch embedded in his psyche – the one that tells him he has the power and I don’t, that he is justified in his feelings but I am not – is embedded in my psyche, too. The same beloved and good protector in his psyche is in mine too.

I’ll tell you though. I’m damn proud that I didn’t back down to the boss of the bully-boys.

And maybe, I’m going to own it all a little more. And stop blaming myself – and him – a whole lot more.

I'm not foolish enough to think that this ends with one dream or realization. Or that I won't spend more days in tears. But right now, I'm upright. I'm walking and I have that shovel.

Bead Journal Page 1



Monday, May 21, 2007

I used to write

I wake up sane. At least, as something passing for sane. A sense of calm, a sense of something better, or at least different, approaching. There is always something new to learn.

In responding to a letter from a dear friend who has asked for my blog URL, I choose links to a few entries rather than subjecting him to the whole, sometimes badly written saga. I was cheered to think that once in a while, I actually say something that holds up over time - for me, anyway.

And because I'm not much in a writing mood right now, and some of you have started reading here recently, I'm going to post links to the pieces I'm not embarrassed to have written.

Of Sandals and Sealing Wax
You are what you (h)ate
Night of the Iguana
The Habit of Sorrow


Thanks for allowing me to rerun. And for sticking with me through the not-so-hot times and not-so-eloquent entries.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Weather report

Day three.
The pattern for the magazine submission is done. Seven pages of directions and diagrams, an alternate clasp arrangement enclosed at the last moment. New photos posted to the bead blog. Fewer tears.

Telling myself a door closing always means a door opening. You have to be patient to see how your story turns out. I am waiting in a deep silent place for the page to turn.

The self-portrait says it better.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Country and Western songs

The phone rings at 8:57 a.m. - but only once. It rings again at 10:00 a.m. and this time he doesn't hang up. By then, I assume, he's taken the requisite number of deep breaths and stiffened his resolve so that, after a long and almost entirely happy relationship of two and a half years, he can announce that we have not been very happy and now it's over.

He phoned it in. That's all I can think about. Two and a half years and he phoned it in.

It is, I think, the second time I have ever let him see me angry. Or more accurately, hear me angry. I don't argue or point out that we have one of these every six months and the rest of the time we are overjoyed to see each other.

"I hoped we could be friends, " he says, "but you don't sound friendly, and I guess that's understandable right now...."

Friends. Does a friend dump you on the phone? Doesn't feel very friendly to me. Feels downright sleazy, in fact.

And now, onward and hopefully upward - pushing off on my three unbalanced wheels, I'll just be continuing with the diagram and directions from hell.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

I fall in a hole.


I'm steaming towards a goal. Right now, I have to write directions and draw diagrams for a bracelet pattern because, to my shock and surprise, a pitch I made to Unnamed Beading Magazine got to stage one - which is: send the bracelet and directions for consideration. I chose, in my infinite wisdom, to submit a bracelet design that I seriously doubt I can explain in under 100 pages. But that's not the pattern I'm referring to.

I'm steaming towards a goal. I need to focus intensely. At exactly the moment I get speed up, an important relationship in my life goes pothole (like going postal, only without weapons) I'm left trying to reach the goal of the moment, driving over the speed limit, on three wheels.


The phone rings. It's 10:00 a.m. and I'm having a good day at work. It's Man In My Life and he's calling to inform me that I've sent him a covert message. The covert message in question is that I'm having doubts about him and he's trying to decide if my life would be better without him in it. I have recently, casually mentioned getting email from a Man Who Is Not In My Life. This was the fatal mention containing top secret content understood by him, but not me.

I blithely assumed that I was telling him something about my life. You know, day to day news. I compounded the problem in a later conversation by explaining that I get too far into my maze-like brain as the result of choosing to spend days without human contact. I thought that I emphasized "choosing" as the operative word here but, according to him, I am sitting around alone and blaming him if I am lonely. I am, it would seem, a goldmine of secret messages. And crazy or stupid to boot because, really, I actually thought I meant what I said. I thought I was clear. I thought I knew what I felt.

*Pattern: Blindsided in a public place, deep in the pothole, I try to explain that I didn't mean to give covert messages. I consult my gut. Nope. No secret wish to have him out of my life there. Nope. No blaming him for my choices or general dilemmas.
But I have, I do, I am guilty on all counts, according to him.
Repeat from * over and over and over until I am trying to hide in a nearby storage cabinet with the phone while crying snottily and doubting my sanity. Maybe I'm not even on the phone. How would I know? Maybe I'm not even at the office. The general idea seems to be that I'm shaky on these kind of details.

I call KD, a Trained Professional and more importantly, a pretty smart cookie, for an objective opinion because I'm beginning to doubt whether it's really my hand dialing the phone.

According to the Trained Professional, Dr. Smart Cookie, what we have here is a mixed message which reads:

1. Be free! I have no claim on you. I am not jealous or possessive nor do I want you to be.
2. I am the alpha male and you have just mentioned another man. That upset me and now I am going to make you sorry.

I think that's pretty close. And what makes it bearable is that he has no idea that he's doing that. He gets pinned between his convictions and his conditioning, the testosterone floods in and maybe he's thinking, too, that what's the point of a girlfriend if she comes with issues and - voila! I'm a crazy woman, speaking in tongues, saying bad things. Covertly of course. Just like a bloody woman, don't you think?

Somebody shoot me?

No. Somebody shoot me if I do not a.) make a firm rule against conflict calls at work and b.) if you catch me apologizing for sending messages I definitely did not send.

No shooting him. I still love the big idiot. That's the other part of the pattern.

"Once had a love and it was a gas
Soon turned out it was a pain in the ass"
Heart of Glass - Blondie

Sunday, May 13, 2007


They did not kill it while it slept, the chainsaw executioners. They didn't do this a month ago, when buds were a dream and reality was bare and frozen.

Two days now, the escalating whine of blade meeting the resistance of a living tree, just blooming into leaf. The sickening crack of branches as they give way. The shouts and ecstatic whoops of men enjoying the sweaty labor of destruction.

They perch precarious, stories up in the maple's branches and silently I urge them to fall. I wish them dead and then pull back the wish. Curses are dangerous. Perhaps a broken bone or a missing finger would do. Limb for a limb.

A red maple three stories high. As tall as the building I live in. How old was it?

Branch by branch, they dismember it. In a neighbourhood, I think, where beauty is not the hallmark, what we really need is another squat, treeless bungalow surrounded by nothing but patchy grass and decorated with a prefab shed.

I plug my ears with silicone stoppers. I turn the music up. But now and then, sickened and anxious, I check.

There is a hole in the landscape. Through it, I see pavement, cars, bungalows. Where there was a hallelujah of red growth, there is now sky.

Do curses fall on small patches of ground? Not long ago, at the house adjacent, there lived a big yellow dog who was chained to a shed. No one ever walked him. I never saw anyone pet him or talk to him. My landlady asked the owners to have him put down if they wouldn't care for him. The man snorted, "It's her dog and I don't live here anymore." Neighbors fed him and brought water, but many days, ( he was sick and cold as well as forgotten) he keened and mourned aloud - a sound that stabbed my heart. One day the owners sold the cursed place and I can only suppose, grudgingly paid the money to have him killed. I was thankful to think he might be dead, might be free.

Now, right next door to where the yellow dog mourned, this.

And I keep thinking, just a finger, even a fingertip...just so you know how it feels.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Fifteen Minutes of Fame

I am the new poster girl for a charity event in which people (not me) are sponsored to rappel down the side of a thirty story building for money. This event takes place annually, diagonally across the intersection by my workplace.

At the corner of Hollis & Duke, in front of a Subway sandwich shop, I am standing, one clear blue-skied day last year, mesmerized by the proceedings. Wind gusts hard off the ocean and the victim/volunteers, many of whom are entirely inexperienced, dangle and swing like bells, tethered to life by a mere piece of rope. Many of them can't seem to connect toes to building except to push themselves out into midair again and again. Way up there. About a foot from the sky. Miniature people, from my vantage point. Below them, waiting, are reporters and TV crews.

I recall this with the clarity of absolute attention - my neck aches, my head is thrown back, my hair blows wildly. I don't move for a long time. I gulp down the hugeness of the sky, the sight of the flapping flags on the building top and the flapping humans-on-a-string. For me, the world has stopped its push and shove, it's anthill flow of street level activity. I could have stayed in that spot forever feeling the sky fill me up and the blood pound through my veins.

This past week, people keep announcing that they've seen me on TV. I don't watch TV so take their word for it. Apparently, the next rappelling event is being promoted - and there I am on flickering screens in their living rooms - locked to my spot outside the sandwich place, oblivious to everything else, thinking it's just me, the sky, and dangling people. Can they do that? I mean can they make you be the poster girl without asking?

Sometimes, my brushes with celebrity are less innocuous. For instance, I once agreed to be interviewed by Frank magazine - a muck-racking tabloid of little repute. A friend who had a friend who wrote for them asked me if I'd agree to meet them. They were sympathetic to prison issues, she said - and they said. They assured me they wanted to do something positive.

I asked around, "Should I do it?"
"What the hell, said one friend whose judgment I trusted, "why not? Who reads Frank anyway?" I couldn't argue with that. Certainly no one I knew.
Who reads Frank anyway?

Let me tell you. Every person who visits a corner store, grocery checkout, magazine stand. Every person, in other words, who doesn't live in a cave outside of town, saw the cover - with a hideous picture of me, under the screaming banner, "The Librarian and the Lifer."
And the story was even worse. Not mean. Just...cliche. I told Lamar, the "lifer" of the title, "I was Joan of Arc and you were the Baby Jesus."

Even farther back, practically in neolithic times, when I was receptionist for a local TV & Radio station and when the guest for an afternoon talk show didn't arrive, I was yanked from my receptionist chair and plunked down on the set to be interviewed (live) about the mystery of Tarot cards. Considering the five seconds notice, I did a damn good job. The station even thought about asking me to host a show. Until the calls came in about the godless witch on the afternoon show.

I wonder if that's my fifteen minutes? If so, I'm not looking for more. Not unless I see a cheque soon.

Thanks Evaard, for the inspiration for an entry. For paragraph two - and the rest as well.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

A mind is a terrible thing to waste

abstunt: to abstain from an activity thereby stunting growth

assclown: I just like this one. From KD

bioblabgraphry: talking about ones’ life on a blog (alternate: bioblographry)

biocide: unsound ecological practices (I haven’t heard this, but it might already be in use)

bubblegut: The result of drinking too much beer or bad elimination habits

coopernation: What politicians see as patriotism (these days)

drome: A self-employed person who works at home (fr: drone and home)

fantmare: A fantasy that turns into a nightmare (such as coopernation)

fembrane: the largely useless membrane that denotes virginity in women

Farch: Occurs in the month of March when it feels like February (Weedy’s word)

frage: fear followed by rage

frice: The price of friendship

friceless: Often mistaken for a typo (KD) meaning “without frice.”

sleaky: Slick and sneaky behavior; a charming sneaky person

tofood: Anything vegan trying to act like another non-vegan food

Undulush: Lush undulation

wisteria: transitional emotional state between wistfulness and hysteria (not to be confused with the flower)

worshop: To believe that prayers are currency to be redeemed for merchandise or other rewards

As usual, the f-words have it. Anyone else just dying to burn off a few brain cells in the pursuit of nothing? (It started with "wisteria" and I have no idea why.)

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Reflecting on the last post...

And what of “the suitcase it came in?”

I wear my body. I inhabit it - with a kind of smothered resentment when it aches and with joy on other days. Often, and this explains being accident prone, I barely inhabit it at all. Ordinarily, I occupy a space somewhere a few feet above, a little distant from it. Or perhaps I could say, I “preoccupy” a space a few feet above. I’m nearly famous for my ability to pass within two feet of someone I know without seeing them.

As a child, I was told I was pretty and took the lesson that being pretty was a valued commodity. It was unearned though, an accident and therefore not to be trusted and I knew it. Sure enough, just at puberty, when we all hit that gawky stage in-between childhood and adulthood and our bodies seem undecided about which way to go, pretty slipped away. I was too tall, too skinny. My knees were knobby and my arms and legs extended forever like willow branches. My hair was blonde, thick, coarse and unruly in the era of the glossy smooth Breck Shampoo girl. I was flat chested and my feet were long and thin. “Olive Oil” one kid called me. It was the era of Marilyn Munroe.

I slept with my hair in wire brush rollers every night. I perched on the edge of telephone books and steps, raising up and down on my toes, praying to the god of shapely calves to give me muscles. I hunched my shoulders forward and tucked my head down hoping to take up less skyward space. I squeezed into shoes a size too small and had constantly bandaged spots where the leather had cut into my heels and toes. I wore padded bras and frantically exercised, pressing the palms of my hands together and releasing in sets of 50, in a futile effort to build something to occupy the bras. I imprisoned my non-existent, flat white-girl butt in panty girdles because Ann Landers said “Ladies don’t jiggle.”

My Aunt Dorothy, who hit the measuring tape at 5’10” tall was a symbol of abject horror to me. Never mind that people said, “You should be a model.” They also said, “You should play basketball,” never thinking that being tall was not the only prerequisite for either. I was awkward, I photographed horribly. I felt genetically cursed. I actually prayed, “Please don’t let me be as tall as Aunt Dorothy.” I was 5’7” at the time. I towered over boys my age and that was a matter of extreme concern when, in high school, the boys began to date my shorter sisters. The ones who cared about their cars and looked cute in knee socks.

Pitiful. All adolescents are pitiful and painful aren’t they? This story is so old it’s as if it doesn’t belong to me anymore. The sixties arrived bringing hippy colors and then feminism and a boycott of makeup, bras and all the wily arts of disguise. I noticed that my politically inclined “feminist” boyfriend of the time was staring at the babe wearing Cleopatra eyeliner and a micro-mini, while critiquing my feminism if I combed my hair or wore lip gloss.

Somewhere in bouncing from one stage to another I realized that how you look is a genuine kind of currency. It’s a shitty realization, really – but there you go – we live in a world that pays lip service to inner beauty but not much else. A kinder realization, and equally true, is that I view my physical self the same way I view clothes - sometimes strictly utilitarian, sometimes as a form of artistic expression. I am a bit of a shape-shifter and I’ve learned how to cast a glamour. It’s done with makeup and mirrors, with angles and light. Anyone short of the Elephant Man can look good in photographs.

Don’t let image fool you. I don’t let it fool me. It's a little skill and a little of what's left of a particular kind of currency.

And soon, soon, I think with anticipation, I shall be an old woman and...

".....I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn't go and doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter..."

-Jenny Joseph

Right choice?

I've just done three self-portraits trying to get something better for an avatar. I needed an image that showed my bead work in a striking way because this avatar appears also on Born Under A Bead Sign. I liked the last avatar because I looked a bit like a mad women, which, of course, I am but this hardly the image you'd like to leave with a potential customer.

In these the blender, kitchen counter and other domestic lovelies have been removed and replaced by solid blue-violet - and I've bumped the color in places, and brightened the light.

It is my hope to look approachable. I chose the bottom one, even though it cuts the cuffs off a little. The middle picture looks like I am about to shape-shift into Munch's "The Scream". Or like I'm demonstrating what "too much" is to a plastic surgeon about to do a face lift. The top one looks a bit deer-in-the-headlights, or like I'm a wise-ass. I am a wise-ass, but it isn't the image you want to sell in this case. This would have been my second choice though - I've softened my face and sharpened the cuffs. Hmmmm.

Whatcha think?