Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A long Tuesday in November

Ayyayyay. Tuesdays and Thursdays. Up at 6:30am, shower, dress, brush, eat. Remember to taste what I'm eating. I'm really not hungry at seven in the morning.
By this point in the Fall, the sun is not really rising until I'm already in my car on the way to school. (By this point in the Fall in Seattle, I can't very often see the sun anyway, regardless of whether it's rising :) I get to the E1 parking lot on Montlake, hike up five (or 62--it feels like 62) flights of stairs and make it to Music Building, room 216. 8:30am. My first section of the day. Suddenly I forget what time I woke up, what my breakfast did or didn't taste like, how many stairs I just climbed...I even forget to yawn. It's all forgotten because I'm so happy to be in this room. Not that 'it's Christmas and I'm four years old', kind of excitement...no, it's more like that, 'I'm having a good conversation that I don't want to end', kind of excitement. I'm teaching! Ok, well I'm a TA, which basically means I'm a discussion facilitator, but it still means that for 4 hours a week I'm leading a classroom of undergraduates through theories of politics, economics and religion from the year 1250 through 1914. yeah--exactly. Exciting. I LOVE this stuff. I love my students, love the discussions, love office hours--don't love grading, but still get so into it that I lose all track of the world, which in some way is a very good thing.
Another of the best parts? I'm learning too. Combine all that I'm realizing about politics, economics and religion over the span of 800 years and compare that with what I'm learning in my Religion core class, and almost daily I have some kind of new epiphany about the world. I've got all sorts of new thoughts brewing about the relation between science and religion and the general Existence of Everything. Obviously that is a big one. You'll have to ask me sometime what my epiphany is for that given day.
Between all these epiphanies and forgetting about time and smiling as my students try to convince me that the French and British are evil colonizers, life is insanely hectic and I get exhausted. But it's a rewarding kind of exhaustion.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

august closing

It's morning-time in Madrid. The sunlight and the blue skies are soft above the rooftops around me. The heat will be intense later today, but for now, it feels cool, and perfect.
I've taken this week off from class to make a sidetrip from San Sebastian to Valencia on the Mediterrenean coast. This last Wednesday, in a small town 35 minutes by train outside of Valencia, there was an obscure yet semi-infamous festival called the Tomatina. It started back in 1944--no one is exactly sure how--and has become a massive annual tomato fight. The town ships in 240,000 pounds of tomatoes and for one hour there is a free-for-all of tomato chucking. I had heard about the festival 6 years ago and wanted to experience the madness, so made plans to go this summer.
So the rundown...we made it to the town of Bunol at about 9am and were greeted right out of the train station with techno and a row of beer and sangria stands. Oh, and this is to follow the large group of Brazilians who were already cheering, dancing, drinking Sangria (?) and smoking joints on the train out there. Everyone, at 9am, is ready to party. We decided to head away from the madness for a bit and find some breakfast and coffee, so we wandered through the small streets and found a bar to serve us espresso and a little bakery. We sat talking and eating on a bench in the street as a stream of old spanish grandmas, tourist tomato-fighters, dirt bikes, 4x4s, and little kids on bicycles continued to wind its way past us. strange mix. We got up and walked more through the town, stopped in the church and talked with the Romanian man who paints and does its upkeep, checked out an olive grove, and then decided maybe we were ready to check out the festival we had come for. We started following all the other foriegners in their array of tomato-fighting costumes...men in pink speedos, fairy wings, belly dancing skirts, home-made t-shirts with tomato bulls-eyes, duct-taped shoes, plastic-wrapped bodies, wigs of all shapes and colors, and general randomness. We finally reach a bridge in the center of town where the crowd is getting thicker, the walls of the apartment buildings are covered with plastic and there are people on the balconies above throwing buckets of water onto the festivalers below. We hold back for awhile, not sure if we really WANT to be in the middle of 40,000 people throwing tomatoes, but then eventually head in.
There are so many people trying to push towards the center of the fight that we never really make it very far, but as each big truck passes by us with its remnants of tomatoes, we get stray bits of juice and peels flung at us. The crowds are yelling--tomate, tomate!! The guys in the trucks shrug their shoulders and point further into the mass of people, telling us they've left their load back there. We can see chunks of tomatoes flying up now and then, and red splattered all over the walls. After each truck passes, we push in further, until all movement stops--if we want to keep going, we're going to have to be militant about it. In the meantime, we're getting splashed every few minutes by the buckets of water still coming from the balconies above us and people who have had enough of the tomatoes are streaming out of the center past us, covered and matted with red. We hang for another few minutes and then move back out, checking out more outfits, walking past groups getting public showers from hoses in the streets and drink a glass of sangria.
A few hours later we were back inValencia, showered and resting. Walked through the old city, through big plazas with fountains, old churches and coliseums and arched stone entryways. We went to an amazing italian dinner that night, and the next day I was on a bus back to Madrid.
So, I'm here for another day before I make my way up to San Sebastian and have my last week of classes. All has been going well--meeting people in class (a lot of italians and germans) and getting to know Basque country. I found a couple of hikes to do along the coast up there--really beautiful, green hills, big crashing waves against the rocky coast and farms with wheat, grapes, sheep. The green-ness reminds me of Seattle, and the landscape is a bit what I imagine Ireland might be like. San Sebastian is full of people because it is summer-time--Italians, French, Spanish escaping from the center of the country. There was a week long festival called Semana Grande with fireworks every night, bull fights, concerts, parades, displays of typical basque culture...And after it finished, the festival moved to Bilbao, an hour away, to start all over again! They really, really do like festivals here.

travels resume

well I´m back on the road again...surprise, of course ;)
For those of you who don´t know, I´m spending 8 weeks in Europe this summer. The *purpose* is to practice spanish, so I will be taking language classes for 5 weeks in San Sebastian. Beyond that, there will be some traveling, visiting friends, eating rididulous amounts of ice cream and ´festivaling´ in Spain.
I started out in Paris--just flew in 4 days ago. I thought I´d actually beat the jet-lag because the first day I managed to keep a normal schedule. but no, i´m still suffering random sleeping--awake from 3am to 7am every day and then sleep til noon. yep, random. But I made the most of those awake hours..walked through paris til i thought my legs would buckle and i would fall into the Seine. I decided to try as hard as possible not to be a tourist in Paris, so instead I just wandered...through the latin quartier, along the Seine, out behind the Louvre. Actually i´m not sure where i ended up most days, which made it somewhat difficult to find my way home :) but made for good sightseeing. For one month in the summer the mayor in Paris (who happens to be gay--i heard many, many times...) has been running a big river party called Paris Plage--basically they´ve set up a beach along the Seine, with sprinklers, sand, beach chairs and scarily tanned 70 year old men and women. I walked along there my first day--86 degrees and humid--and then my last night as well. It´s actually wonderful--during the day lots of families with kids and at night people come with their guitars, bottles of beer and laugh, sing, roll around and generally be happy :)
Every morning I would wake up (bear in mind--morning for me meant 1 in the afternoon) ramble through the streets until I found a patisserie and awkwardly order a pain au chocolat and cafe espresso. I still--after 562 times pronouncing it under my breath--cannot say pain au chocolat. someday--I will conquer it. for now, the french will chuckle at the foreign girl and repeat it to me correctly at least 3 times. At night I went bike-riding with some new-found friends. We would rent bikes through the city´s new public bike system, called Velib. It´s something like 29 euro a year to have a membership and there are bike caches all over the city to pick up and drop off a bike. Everywhere you go you see the grey Velib bicycles with the occasional tourist getting dangerously in the way of oncoming Smart cars and mopeds--amusing, and then afterwards you worry a bit that they might actually get hit (especially when YOU are the occasional tourist...).
Lemme see...what else? The Eifel Tower is lit up blue right now--for the next 6 months it will be this way, to honor France´s role as the current head of the EU. Then at night, every hour on the hour, it sparkles for a few minutes like a big firework. No matter how many times I see this, I can´t get over it. It´s beautiful.
The rest of my time was spent wandering down side streets, taking photos of sushi restaurants, fruit and seafood markets, posters for gospel music concerts--you know, the normal parisian things. Actually, I was trying as hard as possible to see the most non-typical paris possible. I still walked along the river every day--and loved it--and ate baguette sandwiches and went shopping in little boutiques. And then checked out french comic shops, watched salsa dancing in a plaza along the Seine, and heard a pop remix of one of my favorite musicians (Sean Hayes--for anyone who knows, this guy is NOT someone I would expect to hear in paris...i´ve never heard him on the radio in seattle!)
And so went Paris...I left this morning via train for northern Spain. luckily I was early (for the 7th time in my life) to the train station because it actually did take the hour those early-type people recommend to sort out my ticket. Then 5 1/2 hours of french countryside...white stone houses, red tiled roofs, cows, sheep, bycyclists, gardens, hay rolls, and--the best. my favorite--field after field of sunflowers. Much like the eifel tower sparkling at night, i cannot get over fields of sunflowers. I love the way they bow their heads at night, and then lift them slowly but boldly as the sun passes through the sky each day. I love knowing that they are planted not to harvest, and not because they make one ridiulously happy to see them, but because in the process of growing and decaying they enrich the soil, filling the field with nutrients for the next crop that will be planted. yes--a magical plant.
So, here I am in northern Spain--Basque country, San Sebastian, Donostia--many names. Basically I´m on the north coast, 15 minutes from France and in the midst of thousands of summering spaniards. I moved into my apartment today--I live with a Spanish girl and a german girl, both living here--and spent the afternoon walking around town and remembering this town from my visit 6 years ago. It´s pretty incredible how familiar it all still feels--the old town with its churches and narrow streets filled with bars, slabs of cured ham hanging from the tavern ceilings, and the harbor full of fishing boats with big green hills beyond.

I wrote all that a couple of days ago...here´s from my journal that night:

I walked home tonight and stopped along the bridge which separates the old city from the new--the last bridge on the canal before all of San Sebastian opens itself to the Cantabrian Sea. The tide rushed out beneath me, flowing swiftly over concrete pilings and making ripples with its exit. The gentle, salty wind came up around me, rolling along the skin on my arms and ruffling the curls around my face. My stroll continued home, along the boardwalk, until I couldn´t resist the mix of sand, waves and night-time that called me in...I kicked off my sandals and was soon ankle deep in warm ocean--stars above me, green hills flanking both sides. I closed my eyes, smiled and said a prayer of thanks for all of it.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

the most sensual poem i've ever read

If I were a cinnamon peeler
I would ride your bed
and leave the yellow bark dust
on your pillow.

Your breasts and shoulders would reek
you could never walk through markets
without the profession of my fingers
floating over you. The blind would
stumble certain of whom they approached
though you might bathe
under rain gutters, monsoon.

Here on the upper thigh
at this smooth pasture
neighbor to your hair
or the crease
that cuts your back. This ankle.
You will be known among strangers
as the cinnamon peeler's wife.

I could hardly glance at you
before marriage
never touch you
-- your keen nosed mother, your rough brothers.
I buried my hands
in saffron, disguised them
over smoking tar,
helped the honey gatherers...

When we swam once
I touched you in water
and our bodies remained free,
you could hold me and be blind of smell.
You climbed the bank and said

this is how you touch other women
the grasscutter's wife, the lime burner's daughter.
And you searched your arms
for the missing perfume.
and knew
what good is it
to be the lime burner's daughter
left with no trace
as if not spoken to in an act of love
as if wounded without the pleasure of scar.

You touched
your belly to my hands
in the dry air and said
I am the cinnamon
peeler's wife. Smell me.

Michael Ondaatje

of a volcano

Rivers run through me
mountains bore into my body
and the geography of this country
begins forming in me
turning me into lakes, chasms, ravines,
earth for sowing love
opening like a furrow
filling me with a longing to live
to see it free, beautiful,
full of smiles,

I want to explode with love...

Gioconda Belli
(Nicaraguan Sandinista guerrilla)

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Pacific standard

the sun and the wind roll equally along my skin. the shiver of early autumn would settle but for the rays that still descend. I know this is my ocean. Though 5000 miles distant, it laps these shores with the same rough tongue. Stories of the Pacific. my life is just one. but. held in the many. this ocean is our access to the far from here place that lets us see, first and again, what has always been true of our origin.
for a day indescribable what do you say? hours spent without needing to understand, to imagine. everything was present. was whole. was One. as were we.
and somehow this ocean holds a language. tells a story. and reveals...to Ansel, Neruda, Helprin, me. the mariner is carried and promises remain. at any point we stay at the center of the compass. 5000 miles distant, yet the poem is the same.

Monday, March 17, 2008

the yellow tree

I will never be paid for this. Poetry is my refuge. I was made to be a channel. And so I release. Because it is what makes sense. Because it is how I breathe.
Nature never asked us whether we liked the Spring. Without the experience, how could we know? But it was in her to give, and so she breathed. And love was born in a thousand shades of green. Ecstasy. Yet even in my admiration, adulation, is she praised? No. my explosion rolls forward, but it was she who ignited my flame. And my light will inspire another though to me they go unnamed.
Create. Because nothing else so completes you. Because it is the water of these words that moves with faith. As each new fire unfolds and flowers, receive her secret, her soul, her song. And through your words be singing.

sun dancer

I love to think of life
as fertile
each of us an oak
being called forward

or an orchid
the exotic, erotic
lapping at our senses

January is cold and dormant
quiet in its growing
trace like brail
the subtle stimulation

the wind on my cheeks
leaves them red and throbbing
my furnace is lit
and settles to a slow smolder

I can wait
imbibe the Divine
knowing, what I'm Knowing

I trace your shape with my desire
not in fear
in the oak, the orchid
I am coming

her poem

water welling and connecting
tracing the veins within me
Belli born of a volcano
and I, came forth of a river

I drip and shimmer
in summer's light
like liquid silver

but the turning comes slowly
and I wait
for the tilting
that brings my unfolding

symbol into physical
in this moment
the water runs slowly

I'm the slow, hidden river
I am in the waiting
for release and swelling
the exuberant explosion

born of a river
I am the river
I move still, yet slowly
and wait for the tilting
the Comes

the side I don't let you see

November, 2007

I feel dead and empty
I barely have tears for my failures
my knees can't bear kneeling.
clamoring for the sacred

from myself, my life
my God
I have no faith to ask
asking has hurt me in the past

needing an answer
but without a question

my day is stale
does not sustain
hard, flat light on a night bus ride
this is what I see

Sunday, March 09, 2008

in a coffee shop with an orange

can I make you see the whole world in an orange?
hold it slowly
find ecstasy in its form.

let the juice run through your fingers
the scent a strong perfume
bite and taste it
even the bitter peel on your tongue

be consumed

imagine every moment an orange.
holding your attention
quickening your senses
spicing your fingers
with thick, sweet residue

let it all enchant you.
the moment
the orange
the ecstasy of everything

in it
you're alive
you've found perfection