Simple

No ashram

except the kitchen sink

No temple

Save the toilet that needs cleaning

No guru

other than whomever is standing before you

No doctrine

other than the thoughts

you choose.

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Reflecting on the death of Charles Bowden

Ciudad Juarez is reality. American Ninja Warrior, while an entertaining show, and representative of many hours of working on ones core muscles, to compete well, is not reality. How do I know this? Because the TV show will fade into the past while the past, present and future of Juarez lives on and on, because poverty and violence stain the human mind and heart.

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Ciudad Juarez just across the border from El Paso

I lived in Juarez when I was four years old. My mother had made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for my lunch one day and I had the innocence to leave it, partially uneaten on the table, in full view of whomever might walk by the front window of our very modest home. Not one minute later a little girl, in a thin dress, with an old newspaper wrapped around her shoulders for warmth, came by and spied the crusts of bread. She knocked on the door and asked my mother for the crumbs. She gave them to her. A few minutes later the girl returned with her brothers and asked for food. My mother gave it. This continued for a number of days with the crowd growing like a cancer each time we opened the door. Very soon we learned to not open the door. The whole neighborhood must have gotten the word that the gringos living on the corner were rich and could give food away. We attracted a small entourage that followed us through town when we would walk to the local market. I know it broke my mother’s heart to shoo away all those kids like so many flies. To preserve our meager existence we had to turn our back on those less fortunate. Heartbreaking reality.

My experience of domestic violence in that house, and others, mirrors the violence that pervades that border town. Desperation, poverty, helplessness, all these things resided side to side with my knowledge that while we didn’t have much at all, we were the richest folks on the block. These experiences, and more, have shaped how I view reality. Hold tight to the small, real advantages – bread, running water – riches beyond comprehension. Affection from a loved on, unmarred by strings attached? Priceless. The audacity to continue living despite every sign pointing to a dead end.

Via Forbes Magazine:

“A longtime researcher of Ciudad Juarez, Bowden focused on the overlapping an intertwined effects of globalization, free trade, and drug cartel-related violence. Deeply critical of NAFTA and the 1990s era economic relationship between Mexico and the U.S., Bowden also offered clear headed analysis of an impossibly complicated city.

A few years ago when I went to Ciudad Juarez for the first time I brought a copy of Bowden’s 1998 photo book Juarez: the laboratory of our future.  Bowden was among the first researchers to delve into investigating the evolution of Ciudad Juarez at the outset of NAFTA. He introduced many readers to now common images of border fences, migrants crossing the Rio Grande on rafts and police investigators at homicide scenes. His prose is careful, analytical, thoughtful. He describes Juarez as “part of the Mexican gulag, the place for the people no one wants” but also writes “I’ve eaten in Juarez, drunk in Juarez, been happy in Juarez, and been sad in Juarez…I am not sightless. Juarez has a distinct quality. It is the city wherepeople may dream and f*** and drink and sing, but it is not the city where people hope.”


Meat Parade

The Sacred Dance
has no preordained steps toward abstraction
yet we imagine it does
The Sacred Dance includes unadulterated water, food, soil, and emotion, not emoticons

Image courtesy of http://thereikimuse.com

Image via: thereikimuse.com

This meat parade our souls participate in daily

pales in comparison to your first sweet,wet kiss

pales in comparison to the thrill of watching a hawk soar and swoop through the air

cubicle

This meat ballet
of digital
and fast
and now
and fuck tomorrow

doesn’t quench our soul’s thirst

nor our mouth

nor our belly

nor our heart

From the early days of our abstraction we thought we could
one-up reality, but

A puka shell isn’t a tuna

and $300,000 isn’t a home

So we push our meat to the next social networking watering hole
hoping to find nourishment

But, what is real and true inside ourselves?

Why is it so difficult to identify real and true in the line-up of our meat parade?

Why have we sunk so far down this empty well?

Where do we grab a foothold and heft ourselves back into the Land of the Living?

Why are we afraid to reside in the Land of the Living?

What has such a fierce hold on our collective Joy?

The meat parade can be beautiful but the Sacred Dance always is -

Even when it’s terrifying.

Better to be real and broken

than abstractly whole.

{When searching for an image to accompany this post I came across a group of I haven’t heard of in some time.  The Cacophony Society of San Francisco apparently had a meat parade – who knew?  You can read about it here. }

I also found this.


Abandoned Chair

Shelley couldn’t believe Tracy had just left the chair in the back alley like that. That chair that had been her mother’s. She had sat upon that very chair for six years of college degree completion. The chair that after it’s first messy repair job had stayed out on the front porch and became Shelley’s smoking chair, until she quit when Brandy passed away. Shelley mourned the loss of the chair, and her only daughter, from her life three years ago when she put it out next to the trash can in a rage. She hadn’t really wanted to get rid of it but was purging everything from her life that had come to her before her daughter passed away. She only wanted to be surrounded by new things, not ones with countless stories tied up in the fabric and the wood.

Tracy, her neighbor until yesterday, had snatched up the chair before the trash truck arrived. Shelley saw her take it in through her back door. She felt relieved and betrayed at the same time. Relieved the chair wouldn’t rot in a landfill as soon as she had thought it might, and betrayed because the release she was seeking wouldn’t happen with the roar of the garbage truck condensing the chair into little bits like she imagined.

For three years she had watched from her kitchen window as Tracy was courted by David and then married. Tracy had given birth to their son, Cyrus, in their bathtub a little over a year ago. Shelley always was a polite neighbor, but harbored deep jealousy of the seemingly perfect life being lived next door.

One day Tracy had brought the chair to the back porch to sit in the sun. Shelley decided to pay it a clandestine visit.

“Hi, Tracy” said Shelley, “It’s so great to see the sun after all that rain, huh”?

“Oh Man, is it ever! I couldn’t keep Cyrus from jumping off the walls after the third of fourth day. He actually took a tumble off of this chair pretending to be a helicopter, and we nailed it back together just last night”

Shelley didn’t let on that the chair had been hers – that it was laden with so many memories.

“He didn’t hurt himself, I hope”?

“Nope, just a couple of little bruises. I swear that kid must be made of teflon”

Tracy cocked her head when Shelley said, “You know, household accidents are one of the leading causes of death of children. You’d better keep a close eye on that little whirlwind of a boy you got” She stretched her arms above her head and turned to walk inside.

“Uh…..yeah…..thanks for the warning”

 

Six months later Shelley began to hear Tracy and David fighting a lot. Every time it was something different – money, lack of sex, how to raise a toddler – all the usual stuff. Her kitchen window was placed strategically in such a way that if their windows were cracked even a little, she heard everything from their living room, kitchen and master bedroom. She took a tiny amount of pleasure in the fact that their perfect life wasn’t so perfect after all. She felt a little guilty about that, but it didn’t stop her.

Then yesterday, she saw the Uhaul trailer parked in front of their flat. She went out to investigate. Tracy said she and David were separating, and started to cry. Shelley knew this had been coming but, of course, didn’t say anything.

The next day the chair was out in the alley, nowhere near the trash cans. Seeing that chair, alone, sitting in the alley, next to the overgrown grass, and the beer bottle shards, Shelley couldn’t help but tear up at the thoughts of all the hours that chair had been useful to someone. She contemplated taking it back, making new memories with it, but decided against it. This time, someone she doesn’t know will take it and she won’t be bothered by the sadness. She could let it go now.

Abandoned Wooden Chair on Bull Island, Dublin


Frozen Lake

Calcification had been building here for aeons. Stalactites and stalagmites, and dripping pools of limpid water that never seemed to evaporate. I continued exploring the caverns and rooms, always wondering what I would see around the next bend. What I saw was slowly breathtaking – I actually did hold my breath when I realized what I was looking at. I wound around the tunnels and caverns, seeing that the calcification slowly had begun to crack away from what was apparently the massive body of a living thing.

Chunks of off-white, crusty layers that smelled astringent and desiccated were everywhere in piles now, and the walls had begun to breathe. That’s right, I said breathe.

What looked like limestone walls were, upon touch, pliable, smooth and expanding and contracting rhythmically. Slow expansion and slow decrease, I wouldn’t have noticed had I continued exploring the way I usually do, looking forever for the next turn in the road to satisfy my wanderlust. How to wrap my head around this stunning find? What WAS this body? What was breathing and slowly dropping hunks of what kept it firmly in place for so long, like shedding a dry, constraining skin?

It had been hours now, and I knew that I had to choose to stay here overnight or turn around and head out into the waning twilight. I chose to stay. 

I went another fifty yards or so and found a large pool in a large room. Here, most of the encasement was already dropped to the ground and I could faintly hear a slow swooshing of air being brought in and expelled, from where I didn’t know. I decided to light a small fire and make a meal then try to sleep in this miracle of a place.  

As I moved toward the water to put some through my water filter, I was surprised to see that the liquid was frozen. Perfectly glass-like on the surface and hard as rock to the touch. I chipped some out of the pool, hoping that there were no contaminates or radioactivity that I needed to worry about. As I put my small hammer to the work, the rhythm of the breathing walls all around me start to accelerate.

I put the chunks of frozen water in a small pan and waited for it to melt. The rhythm seemed to maintain the faster pace. In five minutes the ice in the pan had fully melted, I dropped in the freeze-dried food and waited. As the fire crackled I thought I could hear a cracking noise. I wondered if the last of the calcified skin was going to come down around me, but the cracking was coming from the pool of frozen water. I turned to see cracks lengthening and pings of sound now moving all through the large cavern. I wondered if my fire had caused this thaw.

By the time I was finished with my meal, the pool was completely liquid. The breathing of the walls was continuous, steady, and I was lulled into a deep sleep I hadn’t known in many years. 

When I awoke I was clearly in a different place. None of the calcification remained on the walls of this big room. There was only the rhythm of breath in synch with my own breath. I felt as if the walls were a bellows, causing my lungs to open and close through no effort of my own. I sat quietly in this entrainment for a long while, not really wanting to move, much less begin my journey back to the outside.

The walk back out of the caverns was a sad one. I realized no one would believe what I had witnessed. I would keep this place and this experience a secret, a moment out of time, for my own contemplation and the sanctity of the large body who’s breath caused my own to be so effortless.

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Do I need/want a job? I don’t know, but I need an income

 

  • Who will hire me to spout off and organize things?
  • To create events and convene gatherings of like minded folks?
  • Who will pay me to be a wordsmith?
  • Who will pay me to herd their cats? What kind of cats do you have? I’m allergic. Got any big dogs?
  • What big ideas do you want me to synthesize and put on a bumper sticker for you?
  • Will you pay me to be brutally honest – so much so that you’ll thank me later?
  • I need a flex-time schedule.
  • Sometimes I’ll bring my kids.
  • I will always think of ways to expand an audience, or create a systemic win-win – especially as it relates to using the Earth’s resources.
  • I will not sell insurance, processed food, or rotten ideas.
  • Actually, I don’t want to do any selling – I find it an abstraction. But I will communicate the value of a thing or idea for you.
  • I work best from 8am – 12pm. It’s amazing what I can get done within those four hours, if I’m focussed and well caffeinated.
  • Dirty little secret ((I enjoy meetings – I really do))
  • I wholeheartedly embrace being a team player, recognizing that no woman is an island and if I were, I would be lonely and ineffective, and who wants that?
  • I am not competitive. I am motivated by doing my personal best. If competitive is what you want I suggest looking to the realm of sports.
  • I am loyal, flexible, and down and dirty hard working.

When can I start?


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