Mag #227

Magpie Tales is a blog “dedicated to the enjoyment of poets and writers, for the purpose of honing their craft, sharing it with like-minded bloggers, and keeping their muses alive and well.” Each week, it offers an image as a writing prompt

Go here to read the pieces about the image that others have written.

tintype 1850s

tintype 1850s

Legacy

He was the one (she whispers,
her gaze time-shifting from the photo
caressed by fingers trembling
with fearless age and old desires).

I saw him by the shrine at the crossroads,
where he sprawled beneath the ancient willow
offering newly weaned kittens
to passersby by, like me,

strolling home from morning mass,
smelling of incense and warnings
against the lure of strangers offering
mysteries beyond our simple path.

His dark eyes burned, even through
the dark glasses he wore, turning my skin
liquid, my hands yearning for the silk
of his shirt, the brocade of his waistcoat,

his lips hinting of arrogance and sweet
submission. Instead, I took a kitten,
smelling of some other incense,
redolent of mythic midnight fires.

That was not the last of him in my life.
We were each other’s secret, and we shared
each other as we shared the cat, who loved
us both in her dark feline freedom.

I wrote this poem about him back then,
before he left to seek another destiny,
following the call of his blood
and the hypnotic drift of the Danube.

River Man

There are others I have wanted,
but you flow like the river
through my out-stretched hands.
I would not catch you if I could.
Instead, I ride the edges of your tide
and let the strength of your windswell
wash the stones from my hair.

Mag #218

Magpie Tales is a blog “dedicated to the enjoyment of poets and writers, for the purpose of honing their craft, sharing it with like-minded bloggers, and keeping their muses alive and well.” Each week, it offers an image as a writing prompt.

Mag 218. (Go there to read what others have written in response to this prompt.)

chair-with-the-wings-of-a-vulture 1960 salvador dali

(Chair With the Wings of a Vulture
1960, Salvador Dali)

Let’s hear it for our deities–
winged or haloed,
hanged or throned.
We want them to watch,
care, punish, save —
need them to blame
when tsunamis rise
and when bread doesn’t.

Sit, Walk, Write

According to Natalie Goldberg, writer and teacher, the order should be “Sit, Walk, Write,” but, as is my nature, I fudge things to fit my nature. Following directions is not one of my strong suits. I improvise.

When the temperature hit 50 degrees today, I went out for a stroll (again, my nature) under a clear and sunny sky. The cool breeze brought the non-scent. of a waning winter. There is still snow on the ground. Vague puddles cross my path.

I can barely hear my footfalls, although that can be more the effect of my diminished hearing rather than the soft tread of my measured heel-to-toe pace. I doesn’t matter.

Cracks in the asphalt form telling mandalas, and I wish I had brought my camera to capture the symmetries of these unexpected partnerships between man and nature.

A young woman jogs past me and turns up a hill that I always find too strenuous for my strolls. I am not going anywhere. Have no place I have to be. It is that time of my life when strolling is the way to go. (Unless, of course the Amtrak Writers Residency project picks me to “sit, ride, write.”)

The same young woman passes me again, this time going the other way. I wait for her to pass me yet again, because three is a magical number, but she doesn’t. Is there meaning in that?

A young boy, about seven years old, walks past me on the other side of the street. He is pushing what looks like a doll’s carriage; it’s too small for a baby. When he walks toward me later, coming the other way (it seems like everyone is coming and going, but I just keep going), I stop and look through the mesh into the stroller. It’s a big orange cat. He says the cat’s name is Oliver. I look down at the logo on the stroller. It’s a pet carrier. Why not.

When I sit, it’s on the sunny front steps with my daughter and grandson. We sip our teas and chat. I need that kind of company/togetherness, and they provide it. I feel lucky.

In a moment of silence, I wonder how my son’s goats are doing. It is the year of the goat. And of goat therapy. Sometimes magic happens.

The clouds finally drift in from the west, and the breeze picks up.

Now it’s time to write. And I am.

I never found my niche

I enjoy reading mystery novels. Even more if the main character is a female. Even more if the plot involves some kind of “headology” — that intriguing mish-mash of psychology and shamanism, magic and wishing. (Granny Weatherwax is what I consider to be the model for practicing headology, but I’ve posted about her before and that’s off the topic of this post.)

I am thinking about niches and headology (two rarely connected topics) because I just finished the novel Night Angel, which applies various kinds of headologies to the process solving a murder mystery that involves a group of former 1960 Haight-Ashbury roommates.

I never lived that hippie life except in occasional free-flowing fantasies that I knew would probably not be as satisfying if played out in reality. But that didn’t stop me from fantasizing.

In the 1960s, I was married with children and living in a rural suburbia; I believed that had I not been living the responsible life, I might have been on some Magical Mystery Tour of my own, taking the Electric Kool Aid Acid Test. But I never even had a puff of pot back then. (Oh wait, yes, once, when a cousin who was married to a prison guard gave me a joint to try. Never having even learned how to smoke a cigarette, it was a failed secret experiment for me.)

If housewifery was not my niche, neither was hippiedom. Decades went by without the feeling that I had finally found where I was supposed to be in the world. I simply made the best of wherever I found myself. I guess that I am still doing that.

I look back and see myself as sort of a wife, sort of a mother, sort of a poet, sort of an activist, sort of a bureaucrat, sort of a dancer …. so many sorts, but no real niche, no place of grounding.

Maybe I found this Night Angel novel intriguing because each character seemed to have his or her own consistent niche.

My late once-husband had a very definite niche: He was a writer. He once said to me that everything else was just sawdust. He lived to write. He had found his niche.

Alongside my new La-Z-boy recliner is a box with 700+ pages of a typewritten novel of his that our son is self-publishing for him posthumously. It will be available soon to the public.

I want to read it because he often wrote with a strong sense of the power of headology, and his female characters were always forces of nature. But at the moment there is something in me that is envious of his niche — resentful, even. His niche has manifested into legacies that will go on without him.

You need a niche to leave a legacy.

I never found my niche.

Unless it’s late night blogging.

inspired by Wonder Woman and Wonder Women

I discovered Wonder Woman when I was about 7 years old in 1947, and I have blogged about her several times, including this:

We females need Wonder Woman as the awesome myth she originally was intended to be — connected to other mythic females on Paradise Island more than she is to the mundane human world in which she has to find a place. Her struggle is to fulfill her destiny while still finding a way to make and enjoy her place in the everyday world.

Because isn’t that what so many of us still feel is our psychological destiny — to feel the power of our mythic history and to use that power to make the world a better place for others and for ourselves?

So, when I found out about plans to make this movie, I got inspired.

WONDER WOMEN! THE UNTOLD STORY OF AMERICAN SUPERHEROINES traces the fascinating evolution and legacy of Wonder Woman. From the birth of the comic book superheroine in the 1940s to the blockbusters of today, WONDER WOMEN! looks at how popular representations of powerful women often reflect society’s anxieties about women’s liberation.

The movie is being shown around the world at various film festival, but as one of the early Kickstarter supporters, I was sent a free DVD copy.


Today I finished making what I decided to make when I first heard about the movie. I don’t make art; I make “stuff” — stuff to wear or use somehow (and I’ve blogged about that before as well).


And here it is: a tote/purse pieced with fabric and downloaded old Wonder Woman comic images that I printed out on special fabric. The two sides are different, as I played with the images and the fabric. The inside has a separate zippered middle compartment so that I can actually us it as a purse.

Well, OK. Walking around with a purse in honor of that 1940s superheroine is not going to make the world better for women, especially these days, when superheroines in comics are portrayed by their male creators so very differently than my idol was. Now they seem to be all boobs and butts and oddly proportioned and posed.

Happily, there are women in the comics industry who keep battling the misogyny that permeates today’s comic world — the fantasy world that informs so much of the attitudes of pubescent males toward females (and also the attitudes of those males who seem to be stuck in that phase of their lives). I can’t help wondering if that’s where all of those idiot GOPers got their ideas about what “rape” is.

It’s a syndrome, all right, and comic creator Gail Simone began to lay it all out more than a dozen years ago when she coined “Women in Refrigerators.”

If you’re at all interested in how strong women heroes are portrayed in our culture, check out “Ink-Stained Amazons and Cinematic Warriors.”

And in the meanwhile, I’m going to have fun explaining to people why I’m walking around with a Wonder Woman purse.

celebrating the power of myth
at Christmas

While my Catholic upbringing did not manage to keep my faith alive, it did, however, instill in me a connection to the power of myth. Well, in truth, Joseph Campbell was a bigger influence in that arena, but the point is that I am enamored of myths of all kinds. Hence, this little altar that I have always set up in one form or another.

This one features a porcelain statue of Our Lady of Lourdes that originated in Lourdes, France, sometime in the 1920s and was passed down from my grandmother, to my mother, to me; my mother’s statue of St. Anthony that I keep around to focus on when I can’t find something I know I put somewhere but can’t find; a reproduction of the ancient Venus of Willendorf statue; a traveling Buddha given to me by my former/late husband; and a miniature Kwan Yin cameo. Off to the right, hanging on the wall is a representation of African goddess Acua’ba given to me one Christmas by my son.

Each of these icons has a personal meaning for me, and, while I do not make sacrifices on this “altar,” (as the definition indicates it is used for), I do on occasion stop in front of it and let those deep memories and meanings move through me. It’s the closest to prayer that I come, being an atheist.

Each year about this time, I seem inclined to post something somewhere that refers to the ancient pagan origins of Christmas. Inevitably, someone from my Catholic past feels inclined to take issue with my insistence on the difference between fact and myth.

Like Carl Sagan, I can feel awe without having any kind of faith. Like Joseph Campbell, I can feel empowered by myth without needing to believe. I guess that’s hard for some people to understand.

Contrary to what I have been called, I am not a “hater;” I am tolerant of all faiths that have humane values. I just don’t subscribe to any faith-based system myself.

And, at this time of year, I am reminded of the myths surrounding the birth of Jesus, in addition to always being surprised at how little critical thought “believers” give to what they believe.

But I guess that’s what “faith” is: belief without factual evidence.

And so I remain faithless but awed and empowered nevertheless.

there’s a woodchuck in my chakra

My woodchuck totem is a metaphor, a symbol, a visual representation some part of me that is “woodchuck-like.” (See earlier post.) She arrived as my totem animal for my third chakra, offering to be my metaphorical guide along my current meandering path. Whether the woodchuck chose me or I chose the woodchuck is irrelevant to how the metaphor might empower my thinking and feeling. That’s how these things work.

The third chakra

is located in the region of the navel, and is represented by the element of fire . The form is ….. triangular, the seed syllable is ram. It is a ten-petaled lotus. This is the chakra of digestion[emphasis mine], manifestation and power. The ego can manifest itself for good or harm through the power of the navel chakra. It is the one that gives us the sense of generosity, complete satisfaction and contentment.

Whether such a chakra physiologically exists or not is irrelevant, although….

Regardless of whether you believe in chakras, and whether you’re convinced by the ideas in the pages that follow, the journey offers its own reward, introducing a perspective sometimes lacking in our collective conversation.

Since the dawn of the 20th century, science has expanded in startling and important new directions. Chaos theory, quantum mechanics, genetics, cosmology, emergence, consciousness studies… All these disciplines have moved science forward, but they also hearken back to concepts and principles from the earliest days of recorded history.

The i-Ching’s 64 hexagrams correspond to the 64 informational sequences encoded into human DNA.iii The significance of this correspondence is subjective, but its existence is not. Spiral structures are embedded in the universe of physics, but they are also omnipresent in spiritual art and sacred geometry.iv Chaos theory provides a scientific framework for how everything is interconnected, a recurring theme in Eastern spiritual systems. The Eternal Tao is now considered relevant to everything from physics to corporate management… even Winnie the Pooh.v

You can vigorously debate the importance of these correspondences. You can endlessly argue about how specific principles play out in the real world, or how they don’t. But regardless of your world view, these parallel structures are important because they demonstrate that both sides of the divide are concerned with the same mysteries.

The article from which the above quote was taken is part of an unfinished book but is worth reading to get some idea of the connections between science and old spiritualities, between what we know as fact and how various spiritual traditions echo these facts in myth and metaphor.

For purposes of my current journey to get off generic Nexium and stabilize my digestive system, the third chakra becomes the mythic landscape though which I will metaphorically travel toward physical health, with my metaphorical woodchuck as my guide.

Thus is the mind/body connection. At least for someone like me for whom poetry and symbolism and metaphor and meditations have been known to work psychological magic.

An interesting aside I found out about charkras (on the site linked above) is about “The Void.”

Surrounding the second and the third chakra is the Void which stands for the principle of mastery (guru principle) within us. In many spiritual traditions, this area is the “ocean of illusions” that needs to be crossed with the help of a spiritual guide. When the Kundalini is awakened and passes through the Void, this principle of mastery is established within us. Thus, you become your own guru, your own spiritual guide since you can feel on your fingertips all your subtle problems and have the power to cure them using your own Kundalini. Moreover, establishing this center helps us get rid of all our habits, laziness, gross attachments, and everything that enslaves us in a way or another: we become our own master. Following false “gurus” who are more interested in power tricks or your purse can damage very much the Void area.

Finally, as I was searching aroundthe interwebs for information on woodchucks, googling for “woodchuck dance,” I found this post that is just delightful! (Makes me wonder what meaning that woodchuck metaphor might have had for that guy.)

kick-assing at age 71

It’s hard to kick-ass at age 71. And there really aren’t many role models out there for someone my age.

Oh, I don’t mean people who jump out of planes at age 100 or scuba dive at age 94. All of that is all well and good, but risking my life for fun has never been one of my turn-ons. My risks tend to be sendentary and verbal. (Like, that’s a surprise.) I guess that’s why I’m such a fan of contemporary television’s Harry’s Law. Now, there’s a role model for me (even though she’s youngER.)

Aside from good ol’ Granny Weatherwax, however, there are really no older fantasy kick-ass females, probably because older women are not considered sexy. Hell, we’re usually not even considered attractive by standard standards. And young, attractive, and sexy is what kick-ass females are “supposed” to be — or at least that’s what the fantasy sub-culture artists believe.

There’s a complex and intelligent online discussion about “sexy geek girls” going on among members of the fandom subcuture — the ones into who love fantasy writings, go to fantasy and comic conventions, and find it empowering to “cosplay.” (I’ll bet few of my readers know what that word means.) The worthwhile discussion is spinning off from a panel discussion at the recent San Diego Comic-Con called “Oh You Sexy Geek!”

The only reason I know about the convention or the panel is because I follow my son’s tweets, and he was a photographer there. And I’ve been tooling around the web leaving my comments here and there about my take — not on whether girl geeks are/can be/should be sexy, but rather what priority should (IMHO) flamboyant “sexiness” be for young women, geeks or not, fantasy or real.

Anyway, here’s what I said in one of those comments:

I’m speaking/writing as a somewhat marginalized geeky female (71 years old) who has been a fan of powerful kick-ass, attractive (notice that I didn’t say “sexy”) female characters since I discovered the original Wonder Woman back in the 1940s. Halloween was my favorite holiday long before there was such a thing as cosplay because I could dress up as Barbaraella or Xena or a vampire (depending on the decade) and not be considered a fruitcake (now, there’s a dated word!) This whole discussion has drawn me in because I also fought in the feminist wave back in the 60s and learned much from the struggle of us females to balance the power of our sexuality with the power and respect that we deserve to have in the realms of social , political, and personal relationships. It’s a little too easy for us females to confuse limited sexual power with the other kinds, and, for whatever reasons, unenlightened males too often get off on all of the sexist implications of the Slave Leia kind of sexiness. And while being sexy is not a bad thing, it needs to be kept in perspective. An it’s not all all the same as “attractiveness,” although the two can overlap. I understand why male comic artists pander to the adolescent fantasies of pubescent males, but I nonetheless urge all of you attractive geek chicks to keep pushing for less emphasis on the visual sexiness of female comic book heroes and more on their strength, independence, and overall attractiveness. (At least more realistically proportioned and less exposed boobs and butts!) I look forward to watching the evolution of the geekgirl con, especially the panel on how to raise geeky kids. (Since I already seem to somehow have done that – both male and female. And they are both feminists as well.)

Anyway, to satisfy my curiosity, I did a search for “unattractive kick-ass female characters.” I found this one on this site:

Now, to me that’s a female fantasy hero!!!

Or this

Or this.

I wonder what they would look like at age 71 or older. (More like Granny Weatherwax, I suppose.)

I also suppose that I was spoiled by having the early Wonder Woman as my fantasy. There was only one like her, and she was a life-long positive inspiration for lots of the comic-addicted females of my generation. She inspired us to become the strong-voiced women we are today. I wonder if the sexy young geeks of this generation will feel that way about their current fantasy females 40 or 50 years from now.

I mean REALLY???!!

woodchuck meditation

Groundhog medicine urges us to clear away destructive thought patterns and habits, so that we may be able to delve into the deepest mysteries of life and the Universe. Groundhog energy is about as deep as you can go without actually dying.

A chubby woodchuck
in the middle of an empty parking lot
stops to watch me walk in circles
around a June afternoon
awash in dandelion seeds
and gently dappled sky.

He twitches his nose,
ambles a few more steps
sits on his haunches,
rests his paws on his full belly –
a curious and patient and satisfied
Buddha.

“The soul needs its burrow,”
the woodchuck says,
“a warren to wend a way
through the solitary earth,
some private ground to hog,
a place safe to spend
that deep season of wonder.”

And, with a fanciful last twitch,
Buddha leaves the spotlight,
his coat a slow and sensuous shimmer
along the grave pavement.
Without looking back,
he disappears into the grasses
between the shadowy sumac,
leaving me to wander
toward my own way
in.

c elf 2003