Tag Archives: storytelling

the soft song of the white beauty

Searching for the sacred in the midst of my second cancer diagnosis

“The sound we hear when it snows is the soft song of the white beauty!”
~ Mehmet Murat ildan

My mother, I think, realized that I was falling into a kind of despair. I professed that I had lost my faith, though I had not become someone who hates faith – it was just gone.  She had noticed my flailing to make sense of my world, again and suggested a trip up north. A trip that included good food at The Turquoise Room at La Posada in Winslow and drives up to Hopi.

I pondered her offer, and thoughts of how I always loved going up to Hopi as a child were recalled.

I grew up in a magical place, there is a reason it is the birthplace of magic realism. My move to the USA (because I refuse to call it America, because frankly there is North America and South America and the USA being called America has never sat well with me) was not an easy transition, the USA doesn’t understand that kind of magic. There are exceptions to that. One such place was on my regular visits to Hopi as a newly transplanted child. There were two Hopi women who brought me back that magic. One was Helen Sekaquaptewa and the other was Elsie James and interestingly enough I just learned that they were related.

Elsie was local, and I got to see her more often. knew my great-great grandfather from when they both were at the Indian School in Phoenix, as a matter of fact he apparently introduced her to her husband. Whenever I would see Elsie, she would smile and tell me how much she loved my grandfather. She taught me how to make fry bread, often sitting with me at festivals at the heard Museum – teaching me the right consistency of the dough and the best way to pat the balls into a good piece of fry-bread, poking your fingers just so in the middle to prevent it from getting too puffed up when put in the oil. I cried deeply when I went to her funeral, she was extremely special to me.

Helen was the person that showed me that the special kind of magic from my youth in the Andes was present in the USA. I was relatively new to the USA, when my family went up to Hopi for a snake dance (probably back before non-Hopi were banned from freely joining them). I remember sitting on the roof, watching the most amazing ceremony – if you ever get a chance to see a snake dance, you should – they are memorable. I remember being in her kitchen, helping her fix food, and then I remember her taking me outside with her great-grandchildren to forage for wild spinach. Pointing out things that she thought I would find interesting as we walked to the edges of the village on the mesa.

So it was with these two influential Hopi women in my life that gave me a tie to my ancestors and the ability to see the magic in the land that I said yes to my mother, regarding a trip to what I could call my most local sacred space. It was a pilgrimage.

The drive up to Winslow was nice, we took the route through Heber-Overgaard and Holbrook. The Hotel La Posada is a fabulous space, designed by Mary Colter. I have a friend who claims, and rightly so, that it is a space full of feminine power that one can draw upon. We dined at The Turquoise Room.

I struggle as I write the next parts, as I want to honor Hopi guidelines on etiquette and yet share my experience as it relates to coming to greater peace with my own mortality and my hopes that I am of a Pahana clan. I met a Hopi prophet once.

We drove up from Winslow through to Second Mesa and the Hopi Cultural Center (HCC), stopping at the Little Painted Desert (in Navajo) on the way.  One of the things I like about visiting the Hopi Cultural Center is that there are carvers at the edge of the park next door.  There is something special about meeting the person or their family when purchasing something from them. You can find baskets, teas, rattles, bows and arrows, sculptures and Kachinas. I was able to bring to my life, five Kachinas; Crow Mother, Grandmother & Long-Haired. and Snow Maiden & Warrior Maiden.

I didn’t bring Snow Maiden to me at first. We decided to drive to K-town and see what was going on. The story is that a bunch of MIT student drove through once and fixed up a bunch of their computers, promising to return only to not be seen again.  One of the people with me has a son that teaches there and so we went to take pictures to share with them and see if we could get some MIT students to return. The whole ride, the image of her was in my mind, she was beautiful. We drove back to the HCC and held in my heart that she was still there. She was. I talked to the artist and his friend (who made my Warrior Maiden). They shared that the dances were happening this week and that I might see the Snow Maiden if I visit the ones at Shungopovi.

Front and back of my Snow Maiden

There was some discussion about going, but I was given the ability to decide and I did, I chose to go. If you are unfamiliar with attending ceremonies, revisit my link  above for etiquette. We drove to Shungopovi and looked for people standing on a roof, and headed that direction. We found a place to park and walked toward the sound, following people who were headed toward it. W walked through half-finished houses, through water puddles and made our way to the ceremonies.    There were not many white people there, maybe four aside from the three of us.  We sat on a door step and watched the ceremony.  It was special, oh so very special. And it was more exciting that I actually did see the Snow Maiden.

One of the things I learned from my friends on Hopi is that in a ceremony, the Kachinas are the gods… so, being able to see the ceremonial Kachina of the one that called to me was extremely special.

I ended my trip with four female Kachinas and one male.

Another goal of the trip was to find my tumor rock. This is something that my boss entrusted upon me.  When she got cancer she was in Sedona and saw a colorful iguana-esque lizard on a rock.  This was a message to her and she kept that rock, it was a representative of the cancer experience she was going through.  She came back and told me about the experience. I was in a shop a few days later when I found a lizard that could be put on the rock, as a representative of the experience.  When I was diagnosed with my second cancer, many years after hers, she brought me the lizard and said it was time to entrust it to me, that I had to find my rock.  So, I looked for my rock. I actually found two, one just outside Winslow and the other near  Heber.

My tumor rock while Warrior Maiden and Crow Mother watch.

I feel more optimistic about everything now. Instead of saying, for example, “my appointment tomorrow will tell me if I have metastasis” I am thinking in terms of “tomorrow I will learn if we can rule out metastasis”.   A simple exchange of words, but they have so much power.

 

 

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The next start of the ongoing saga of the wounded Amazon

Nearly three years ago I was told that I had cancer, it was a fucking ridiculous experience and it was barely stage 1.  This planet does not do cancer well.

Anyway, I am a persona that brings in all senses to my experiences. The visual images that came to me as I was navigating that fucked up process were related to Norse mythology, and most specifically Huginn and Muninn, Odin’s crows.

odin2c_der_gc3b6ttervater
From here, in Portuguese

They were the guides for me during the process. Guides in that they became my eyes and ears, separate of my body, as I made choices and suffered through their consequences. and only in my thoughts and in my dreams.

I love crows and that whole lot of birds in the Corvus genus. I have one tattooed on my back (it is taken from my maternal family crest).

Their images were leaving me, slowly their image disappeared from my dreams. I missed them, but time was passing and I, as a full person, was healing.

Several weeks ago, before anything new was going down (and I will get to that in a moment), they appeared, perched on the shoulders of, what I then thought was, a Valkyrie.

I thought “hmmm” and continued on with life,

Then, shit started going down.  A routine mammogram resulted in suggested follow-up. Follow up resulted in suggested biopsy. Biopsy, a mean mother fucker, told me cancer.

again

My physician called me with the results. His first question being “where are you right now” as if that was not a clue that bad news was coming.

“Home” I reply.

“blah-blah-blah invasive carcinoma of the duct work blah-blah-blah” is all I recall from his end of the conversation… oh, except my response… which was “FUCK”.

I somehow hang up and call my oncologist and ask for an appointment.  I get one, I am told by a friend to get a second opinion, I get three. I am now one week later, waiting for my visit with Dr. Third Opinion and I really have no clue how I managed to get to here from that day.

However,  yesterday as I left my visit with Dr. First Opinion, I realized that my crows had appeared not on the shoulders of a Valkyrie, but on the shoulders of an Amazon warrior.  And, frankly, with the ways myths go they (Amazon’s and Valkyries) were probably based on the same group of bad ass women. Why do I think so, you may wonder? I have no clue, but it is my thoughts and it just felt right, but then it is probably some deep recollection about the rumor about them going around that they used to cut off one breast so that they could be better archers. Ha!

Some images of some bad ass Amazons through the centuries;

Source
Source

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little scraps of wisdom

Before I dig in – happy 11th anniversary to me on WordPress!

I started this blog because I needed one that provided password protection as I worked through something in which I as working with quite a few mean, rich, white, ladies. I never thought I would migrate my very first blog over here, but I did – because of my mom… which bring us to today.

The world, it just keeps spinning, doesn’t it?!?!?!

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Nathaniel_Dance_-_The_Pybus_family_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg Nathaniel Dance - The Pybus family
Nathaniel Dance – The Pybus family

So, for today’s installment of “my mothers reality is just not my own, but I keep learning from her in ways she might probably resent” –

My mother, with a solid gold heart posted this to her social media;

Which is true, absolutely true – with one exception. She is living in a home belonging to someone else (other than her) home and I don’t feel like this applies right now – though in any other place where she has had a piece of the pie this is absolutely true, and I mean it is absolutely true.

And so in my failing wisdom in thinking that she could acknowledge this I commented something along the lines of “if you lived in your own house, it would be”. I will admit that I was probably guilty of being too strait a shooter in this case, I thought she would get that this was true – based on her own comments to me about where she is living.

Anywho…

With in minutes I got one of her texts (I am starting to think that she refuses to call and face shit because she loves the anonymity of texting – you can be as big an asshole as you want without having to visually or audibly deal with the reactions… and  I get it – I am a coward too).

I am the blue –

 

So yeah, I’m not innocent in the exchange.  But, I loved the idea behind the social media post (which is the primary way she talks to me, she really only emails my husband – and rarely calls anyone – which I get, I hate talking on the phone too)….

**blargh**

 

Mom’s – definitely can’t live without them… but (and it is a big BUT) it is what happens after that, which the real miracle… right?

 

 “I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren’t trying to teach us. We are formed by little scraps of wisdom.”
~ Umberto Eco, Foucault’s Pendulum

 

like certain portions of the anatomy – 302/366 (catch up)

What was the best conversation I had today in the last twenty-four hours?

I think it was with my son, about our experience listening to the audiobook; The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.

What a magnificent audiobook, it is a fabulous story. Science made real, and personal.. the way it should be. The book made me cry, it made me laugh, smile… it was profound, and light. It was family and academic.

I recommend the audiobook to anyone. I got mine through the library.

PS – I am now only twelve days behind in these posts!

 

“Conversation, like certain portions of the anatomy, always runs more smoothly when lubricated.”
~ Marquis de Sade

 

 

Dat’s done get done. 8/365

 

What did I get done? The prompt asks that, as it stares at me, from the screen shot on my phone like a duck-faced selfie ready to be giggled at like a twelve-year-old boy.

This is a crazy question.

I woke up today. I woke up feeling like crap.
I thought about calling in sick, then realized I had to take my son to school and just how much is on my personal schedule today.  Decided to take it slow, son and I could be late.  I worked on a grant, watched/listened to The Great Gatsby (audio-book during my solo commute, movie while I worked on the grant).

My day is not over yet. I have a logic model to finish, an event to attend, a child to pick up, some night-time cough and cold medicine to take and a bed to get in to. I think I will manage to finish this up, and thankfully tomorrow is another day!

(from here)

Whats for dinner 7/365

It is supposed to be about what I had for dinner, but that has not happened yet today… but, I do know what I will be having.

This

From this site.

Though I call it cochinita pibil.

I also pickled some onions.

from this page.

I did not really follow either recipe. I made the pork in a crock pot, because I thought it would make the house  smell awesome.  It did! I also improvised an achiote paste – and yes, I keep achiote in my pantry. I also used a blood orange.  Because of the slow-cooker and the improvised achiote paste, the meat is not as orange-brown as is traditional, but it tastes wonderful!

(from here)

Is there such a thing as an art based EULA?

“A good book deserves an active reading. The activity of reading does not stop with the work of understanding what a book says. It must be completed by the work of criticism, the work of judging. The undemanding reader fails to satisfy this requirement, probably even more than he fails to analyze and interpret. He not only makes no effort to understand; he also dismisses a book simply by putting it aside and forgetting it. Worse than faintly praising it, he damns it by giving it no critical consideration whatever.”
~ Mortimer J. Adler, How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading

One of the biggest arguments I ever got into when I was in college was about artist (and specifically to the discussion then, authors) responsibility.  It was one of those life changing conversations and it has played out in my mins for the last 25 years in varying forms and with multiple applications.

One of the concepts that was brought up minimally then, but seems much more relevant now is that of the artists spectator. The actors viewer, the artists watcher, the authors reader.  I would argue that art is a social process, there is an end-user and a silently understood agreement (a EULA, if you will) between the artist and the one who “experiences” the art. I am not saying that a painter paints for a specific audience, I am saying the artist paints for an audience. This plays out in many ways.  I am not speaking to message of the art form, nor am I speaking to interpretation of the art form. I am speaking about the end-user. The watcher, reader, listener, or viewer.

I think we readers, watchers, viewers have gotten piss spoor about this part of the social contact. I know of only a very few people who consistently do these things actively, and even they slip up. We have gotten lazy, we react before fully reading, watching, listening or viewing. It may be that artists have stopped giving a shit about that their audience thinks or responds to their work, but on some level they have to want the people who experience their works to not pass by it in ignorance? I don’t know.

I, personally, write in the hope that the person reading my works thinks about something.  While I may be working through something deeply personal, having a reader respond often offers me greater insight. If they misunderstand, it helps me learn how to be clearer.

 

 

I have a friend that writes. They have an incredible vocabulary, though it is sometimes a bit archaic. They are pretty good at giving the reader what they want them to react to. I would say it is a mark of a good writer.  The interesting thing with my friend though, is that there is a general laziness with interpersonal conversation. That is frustrating. I imagine that the marvels and instant gratification of social media play out in these things.  Based on how I see communication working out now a-days, people seem to like to get their panties in bunch. They read a post, or see a picture and form these hard-line reactions.

I am no saint in this regard. I caught myself doing it all the time. it was to the point where it became personally embarrassing. Thankfully I have some friends who loved me enough to tell me to go back, read it again.  So, I would pull my panties out and go back. And 99% of the time, I had reacted rather than read.

So, what are some things that I do that help me know I am doing this?

If something pisses me off, I go back and read or look at it again. Occasionally I will read it out loud, or view it in a different place.  I pinpoint the words/images that I am reacting to. I ask myself what are they trying to communicate? If I am still unclear, I ask questions.  Am I reacting very strongly, then take a break and go back to it later (in instant gratification land, this can feel tough). In the case of written work, write it out. Look up words that you may not be sure about how they are being used (this one has been fun, for my friend with the archaic vocabulary, I sent them a list of all the words I had looked up when I had read their work… I thought it a fun conversation).

In the world where texting, email, posts, and comments have become a regular form of communication, it might behoove us all to become better at what I might call active appreciation.  Actually, you do whatever you want… but as for me, I am going to try to listen, watch, read, and view  with more attention.

whose boat is on the running stream…

“What should I possibly have to tell you, oh venerable one? Perhaps that you’re searching far too much? That in all that searching, you don’t find the time for finding?”
~ Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha

ecbracletred22-020

We are cleaning house to host Christmas. And as is often the case on such endeavors (at least in my life) things have been found that elicit powerful and profound reactions.

I was tidying up our mantle and found a stone jar with a fossil lid. Curious, and willing to delay the tidying up to explore, I opened it up only to discover something I probably needed to find.

It was a 5 foot long string of red beads.

as i pulled the strand out, I thought back on when I must have bought it. 17 years ago, when I was in Quito and roaming one of the many folks selling things in the parks.  I remember picking this one out because it had two “gold” beads in it.  I twisted the string of beads onto my wrist, feeling a simple pleasure as I felt them wrap around.

It is a simple standard of beauty that has carried with me. Many of the indigenous women, of varying tribes, in Ecuador wear them. It is said to ward of evil and to protect the wearer. One will see these wrapped in various widths and on various ages of the women in Ecuador. Red bracelets are actually something pretty widespread and come in a variety of materials.  It is a familiar one to me, and I have worn it on my wrists for these past few days, a certain level of comfort in seeing its length wrapped around my wrist. I touch them, roll them against my skin, admiring the variety of sizes the beads come in.

Last night, I was in the bath tub and wondered if the string would suffer from getting wet. I rolled and untangled my bracelet and gently laid it out to dry.  This morning I picked it up and twisted it back on my wrist.  There was such a comfort in that ritual. I wondered how many other women had gone about starting their day by twisting these beads around their wrist, in a mix of superstition, habit, and because of the gentleness of it.

 

red beads
This is my red bead bracelet.

“For such is the way of it: to find and lose, as it seems to those whose boat is on the running stream.”
~ J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring