Monday, November 28, 2005

A Bit Cheesy, But I'll Take It

You are Form 1, Goddess: The Creator.

"And The Goddess planted the acorn of life.
She cried a single tear and shed a single drop
of blood upon the earth where she buried it.
From her blood and tear, the acorn grew into
the world."

Some examples of the Goddess Form are Gaia (Greek),
Jehova (Christian), and Brahma (Indian).
The Goddess is associated with the concept of
creation, the number 1, and the element of
Her sign is the dawn sun.

As a member of Form 1, you are a charismatic
individual and people are drawn to you.
Although sometimes you may seem emotionally
distant, you are deeply in tune with other
people's feelings and have tremendous empathy.
Sometimes you have a tendency to neglect your
own self. Goddesses are the best friends to
have because they're always willing to help.

Which Mythological Form Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Thanks to Gura for the link.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

My Anti-Family Thanksgiving

Well, not so much anti-Family with a capital 'F', but anti-MY family with a small 'f'. I don't normally air my dirty family laundry on my blog, but on this holiday I want to put my stuff out there because I know there are others out there who feel the same, whether they choose to boycott their family gatherings (as I have) or not. And I think it's important to validate what for many of us is a healthy, sane perspective: that being around our natural-born families around the holidays (especially around the holidays) can be downright depressing, dysfunctional and ill-advised.

H. and I have decided--for the first time ever, for me--to spend this Thanksgiving holiday alone, without either of our families. It's been a tough year for both of us in different ways, and lately my family is just triggering me in all kinds of ways that are just bad for my health. And it's not just triggering--I've done a lot of work on myself to keep my family from being able to trigger me, which has brought up a whole other set of questions and issues for me, such as: why do I choose to spend time with people who do not value me, who don't know me, and don't care to get to know me? If these folks weren't my family I wouldn't give them the time of day. And although in other times I can see the reasons for sticking around family anyway, this year I just can't see it, or stomach it. And who wants to spend this eating/glutton holiday around people that sometimes make your stomach turn?

I know that sounds harsh, and if you, dear reader, are someone I am fortunate enough to know personally, you may one day hear the whole sordid story behind why I have such disdain and low tolerance for my family. Suffice it to say here that I and my partner have made a healthy and exciting choice to steer clear of family dysfunction this year, to take care of ourselves, and to spend a nice, quiet holiday with each other.

Oh, and we are going to eat, although it won't be a turkey dinner. We're spending our Thanksgiving dinner at the famous and kitschy-opulent Empress of China restaurant in the City. Gourmet Chinese food overlook Chinatown and North Beach evening lights. Ah, I feel more relaxed just thinking about it. Sure beats watching football games I don't care about with people who don't know anything about who I am or what I do. And although at first the idea of eating OUT for Thanksgiving seemed anathema to me, I'm actually excited about it now. We're going to dress up and have a grand time.

Whatever you are doing on this hoilday of family and gratitude, I hope that you are happy and safe and healthy.

Be well,

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Writing Dreams

Been having lots of intense, vivid dreams lately--both pleasing and not so pleasing, which has led me to decide that the protagonist of my sci-fi novel is going to be a lucid, prophetic dreamer--she dreams of things that are going to happen, is able to interact with the future, etc. This will take place in a world very far from our own where dreams are not as common as they are here, where the human ability to dream will be rare and therefore cherished. Still working out all the details of this, but I think it'll come together nicely.

I realized that--aside from writing down my own dreams now and then (I actually did used to keep a dream journal next to my bed a few years ago and recorded almost all of my dreams there every morning), I've never written a fictionalized dream sequence. Sure, I've watched plenty of them in movies (most of them bad), but I haven't read many of them in books. So I decided to buy Chitra Divakaruni's newest book, Queen of Dreams as a starting place for this search for well-written dream sequences.

In other reading news, I'm still working on finishing another of Chitra's books (they're quite addictive), 'Vine of Desire', a sequel to Sister of My Heart, which was a real page-turner. I've put Delaney's Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand on hold for now, because I made the mistake of picking up Octavia Butler's Wild Seed' when I saw her read a couple weeks ago and I haven't been able to put it down since. I know now why everyone in the room applauded when she mentioned the book at the reading.

And I've enjoying reading, intermittently, when I need some soul-stirring poetry, I pick up In the Country of My Dreams' by Elmaz Abinader.

If anyone has any suggestions for books with good dream sequences in them, please do share. And maybe the fact that there's a full moon out tonite will give me some lunar inspiration.


Sunday, November 13, 2005

Making / Finding Sangha

Been feeling kinda lonely for a while--kinda existentially lonely, kinda lonely because I just don't like hanging out with as many people as I used to, because life gets complex and people often don't live up to your expectations of them (while still expecting you to live up to their expectations, and there's often little room for compromise or communication, which is sad.

So I'm happy to report that this weekend I got a good dose of healthy, soul-sustaining sangha, a Pali word that Buddhists use to describe 'community'. As far as I've seen, the word is used very loosely, which is cool: sangha can be used to refer to a small group of people coming together to meditate regularly, or it can go the opposite extreme and be used to talk about everyone who follows a certain Buddhist tradition, as in the whole spiritual community of Thich Nhat Hanh's United Buddhist Church. I like that the term can be used to describe community in all its different forms, from the intimate to the universal. This word usage of the term sangha reflects why I am drawn to Buddhism, which is all about relativity and the interconnectedness of things, of how small patterns in our lives mirror the larger forces that flow around and through us.

Yesterday, I went to a daylong people of color retreat at Spirit Rock Meditation Center. Angel Kyodo Williams and Charlie Johnson led the retreat, which was diverse in a way that can only happen in the Bay Area. Call me crazy but I do my own informal censuses (censii?) at events like this, and it seemed to be about 1/3 African-American, 1/3 Asian-American, and the rest Latino, Middle Eastern and Native American. It was rejuvenating and healing to have a whole day during which to meditate; we did sitting, walking and eating meditation, as well as a little yoga and qigong for some movement meditation.

But the best thing about the retreat yesterday was the sense of community I felt both during and afterwards. There were so many little connections, so many 'small world' a-ha's that I felt like I had finally stumbled, after months if not years of searching, a loose but very real spiritual community upon which I could rely for sustenance and support. It helped that my friend J. decided at the last minute to come with me, so we got to sit together and chat here and there when we weren't supposed to be observing 'noble silence' about how we were liking the retreat. He really enjoyed it and so I hope I get to sit with him again sometime soon. I also met V., who was friends with J., and knew another friend of mine and my boyfriend's (H. went to high school with her).

After the retreat, one of the other participants, Z., whom I had met at a different people of color sangha at the San Francisco Buddhist Center, was headed to the same art exhibit/ web site launch party that I was--it was for Sylvia La, an amazingly fresh and talented painter, and I'm not just saying that because my partner designed her web site (really)! I enjoy her work immensely and wish I had the dough to buy her 'Cousins' Picnic' painting, with its surprising use of color (blue kids' faces! But it works!). I got to hang out with Z. and a few other friends in the Mission beforehand, which was a lot of fun.

At the launch party, I also found out that Sylvia's another meditator, and I ran into another J., whom I've met at more than a couple SF Buddhist Center POC sanghas. She told me she was also involved in an Asian-American political group that I've supported in the past. This was starting to get ridiculous! But I was enjoying seeing the connections between my creative, political and spiritual worlds, which made me understand that they're not that different after all. And usually this might make me feel a little claustrophobic, as if my world was so insular that the same people from all my different networks all go to the same events, retreats, etc. But it didn't. Quite the opposite. These interweavings of relationships and acquaintances and friends made me feel quite expansive and blessed. I'm sure it had something to do with being at a meditation retreat all day, but isn't that the point of meditation? To help us appreciate what we have and realize that things aren't as bad as we make them to be?

And today, I had another big dose of sangha in the form of a Voices of Our Nations (VONA) "writing camp", hosted by the generous and charming Elmaz Abinader, where about 30 writers of color got together to just write, together, for a full day. The sound of laptop keys clicking and notebook pages flipping was music to my ears today, and helped me write twenty-four (24), yup, twenty-four pages for my sci-fi novel. And I ran into so many folks from so many parts of my life---political, literary, academic, spiritual---that I'm not even going to list them here. It was so healing to be in a room of productive, supportive writers of color, quietly helping each other be the writers we were meant to be.

Suffice it to say that this weekend was all about making and finding sangha, and realizing that it's been all around me this entire time, waiting for me to rediscover it.


Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Whuppin' Ass is Tiring Work

I am SO HAPPY that we--and by 'we' I mean the nurses, teacher, firefighters, abortion providers, doctors, health clinic workers, progressive activists and of course the YOUTH that worked the phones and precincts to defeat Prop 73 and Arnold's initiatives--WON!! It isn't often that progressives can celebrate real victories like this (yes, even in California, where we have been blasted by racist and xenophobic ballot initiatives for the past 10-plus years). And although our margin of victory was slim (just a few points in many cases), we did an AMAZING job pulling together and turning out the winning vote despite the tens of milions of dollars that Arnold and his cronies spent trying to fool Californians into buying into some wrongheaded 'reform agenda'.

I have to say I was too exhausted last night after an almost fourteen-hour day election day to watch the results trickle in, but I was ecstatic when I saw the Oakland Tribune headline on the way to the bus stop: "Arnold's Reforms Terminated". Take that, Arnie!

Californians for Justice, where I have the privilege to work, and some of our ally orgs turned out literally hundreds of youth to talk to voters, make phone calls, and get out the vote this past weekend. Here are some pics of one of our recent precinct walks in Oakland. One young CFJ leader even convinced a jaded voter not to turn away from the polls this November. "I'm sick of these elections," the woman complained. "They voted in Bush; I'm not going to vote." To which our youth leader replied, "Well, you can make a difference in an initiative vote, and if you're not going to vote for you, then do it for me, because I can't vote and these issues are still going to affect me." What can even the toughest cynic say to that?

This election gives me real hope that people of color, immigrants, young people and other marginalized folks in California can win real progressive change. We've still got a lot of work to do, though, as evidenced by this map, which shows how different counties voted on Proposition 73, which would have required parental notification for young girls seeking an abortion as well as change the legal definition of abortion to 'the killing of an unborn child'. This isn't going to be the last time the right tries to challenge a woman's right to choose, however, so we need to stay vigilant.

But in the meantime, we need to revel in this victory. Pat yourselves on the back, folks!


Monday, November 07, 2005

Live in Cali? Don't Forget to Vote

1. Find your polling place here.
2. Vote NO on Props 73 (the EVIL abortion notification initiative that also changes the California constitution to allow invasion of teens' privacy AND changes the legal definition of abortion to be 'killing of an unborn child'), 74, 75, 76, 77, 78
3. Vote YES on Props 79 and 80.
4. Pat yourself on the back for helping to whup Arnold's ass at the polls.

I'll be out from very early in the morning 'til late tomorrow night getting out the vote and celebrating a big victory over Arnold!

In Peace and Justice,

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Master At Work

I went to see Octavia Butler, the bestsetlling Black science fiction author, 'read' at Marcus Bookstore in Oakland on Friday night. What a treat. She's promoting her new book--her first novel since Parable of the Talents was released several years ago--which is entitled "Fledgling", and is about a Black vampire.

I write 'read' in quotes because she didn't actually read from her work, but instead talked for about fifteen minutes about her writing process for the novel, which initiated from a severe case of writer's block. It's always refreshing to hear accomplished, even famous professional writers talk about their struggles with their craft. It makes me realize they are human, too, and that they struggle with the same issues of discipline, practice, craft, etc. that I and my other aspiring writer-comrades struggle with.

It was a very inspiring place to be, because I ran into tons of folks from my activist/organizing world. I hung out with E. there, a fellow VONA alum, who told me about the event in the first place. And I saw Patty and Jinky, whom I've met before once or twice, as well as Daisy Hernandez, who edits Colorlines magazine. There are so many activists who read Octavia Butler, who draw strength and validation from her work. She 'predicted' a catastrophic flood in New Orleans in one of her books--although she herself decried it as a 'prediction' at the reading: "Anyone who was paying attention could have 'predicted' that" she observed--and in the 'Parable' series she gave us an apocalyptic vision of California in the mid-21st century, complete with global warming-induced migration north to escape the sweltering heat of Southern California, roaming gangs of slaving thugs forcing orphaned girls into prostitution, and a hopeful dreamer-protagonist who leads a band of ordinary people to form a new community and religion called Earthseed.

I bought Wild Seed, Kindred and Fledgling at the reading, and got them signed by the Woman herself. It's only at author readings that I get googly-eyed and celebrity/star-struck--what a nerd! Kanye West is the only other celebrity who might've been able to grab my attention on Friday night once Ms. Butler got on the mic.

Go out and get yo'self from Octavia Butler. It's good, toothsome stuff.

My New Pet

I can't have a pet in my apartment because of the landlord's rules (pah!) but I can have a pet on my blog. Actually, I probably do have a pet spider or two in my apartment. They seem to follow me around. At my last apartment building in SF there was a spider that lived in a beautiful web on our front door frame for at least a month. She was still there when we left, come to think of it.

my pet!

Thanks to Efren for the link.