December 10, 2011 § Leave a comment
My bedroom has these two amazing skylights, and before I moved here I imagined that I would be able to see the moon from my bed. I thought a lot about it, how great it would be to be able to look at the night sky every night before falling asleep, but somehow it didn’t work out that way. There were trees in the way, the moon never seemed to be right over my window, and also I wear glasses and without them even the most amazing star-laden full moon velvety night sky looks like just a blur.
But last night around midnight when I turned off my light, my room was still bright like someone was shining a floodlight in my window from across the street. And I looked up and it really was the moon, through my skylight, directly above my bed. When I put my glasses on I could see everything I was imagining I’d be able to see before I moved here – full disc of the moon, wispy clouds floating past, bare winter branches against the sky which was so textured and deep and just…shiny. Nothing that you can see in a picture, but still:
I kept my glasses on and watched the moon and the clouds from the dark of my bed until I got too sleepy to keep my eyes open anymore. There was a lunar eclipse last night/this morning, that I heard all about from Jess who watched it at 4am on the beach in California. It was too late in the morning on the east coast to see the eclipse, but I guess this is what we got instead, this floodlight moon.
Earlier in the evening, Becca came over and we made salves from herbs she grew – comfrey and st. john’s wort and cayenne and ginger – with essential oils and vitamin e and this hunk of beeswax she hauled over that was the size of a sheet cake. The colors were so beautiful in the herb-infused oils, like pouring blood or liquid stained glass into the double boiler.
There are things to do and notice that help people through the winter here, that I think will help me. Everyone here makes things, food and salve and tinctures and houses and clothes, butcher their own pigs, grow their own grains…it’s so different than winter in the city, here with the woodstoves and the animals and trees being tapped and the stars you can actually see clearly at night. I like watching the seasons change, and I don’t feel scared of winter anymore.
October 2, 2011 § Leave a comment
Right now, I’m sitting on the living room floor with my back to the warm fireplace, writing and drinking homemade kombucha and tending the fire. My mom and Margaret and their friend Susan are playing some complicated colorful card game, and Margaret’s cat is sprawled out on the floor purring because we’re all in the same room. It’s fall for real – we’ve been raking leaves and stacking firewood. It doesn’t feel like I should have been here through three seasons already, but all the seasons are short in Maine besides winter.
Last night we had a going away party for two of our friends who are leaving town for the winter. I try to describe to people what it’s like to have this multigenerational community of lesbians through my mom and Margaret, how amazing and rare and complicated and challenging and hilarious. It’s hard to imagine living here if it wasn’t this way, if my mom was straight and in some nuclear partnership with a man instead of in this interconnected, involved queer community. When I was fourteen and my mom came out (at the same time as I was coming out), she and her partner Nancy and their friends saved me from highschool loneliness and alienation. I loved them, and I loved hanging out with them. Nancy and a friend took me out to breakfast and answered all my questions about lesbian sex. I smoked pot for the first time with my mom and Nancy. We had parties and did rituals and made art together. Even as a kid, I knew how lucky I was to have adults in my life who I looked up to and respected, who respected me.
I still never take it for granted. I love having a queer family of origin in addition to a queer chosen family. I love that those families have intersections and overlap. I need queer elders, we all do. I even (mostly) love navigating the complexities – how I’m an outsider in some ways, as a “kid” and as a trans person. Mostly they try to get my pronoun right, but mostly they don’t understand it. (And some of them are even bothered by it.) And given our very different contexts and communities, I don’t really know how to explain it.
We don’t agree about some things. It doesn’t all have to do with generation, but a lot of it does. When the subject of gender and trans stuff comes up, things can get dicey (by which I mean offensive) pretty fast – especially if we’re talking about trans women. We don’t always agree about what we want queer (“LGBT”) movements to look like. (Although last night I went on my usual rant about how marriage and DADT are terrible goals, and some people actually agreed with me.) Our contexts and histories are so different. It was a lot easier, safer, and more comfortable for me to come out as queer than for most of my mom’s friends. Trans people are visible in queer community in such a different way than 40 years ago. I have the values and principles and analysis that I do because I was shaped by the communities I came out and came of age in. It’s worth it to me to have these conversations, and I’m still figuring out how to do it – to be humble and respectful but to push and challenge too, to do it in a loving and long-term way.
Still, mostly when we have these conversations, they are good. Mostly they are even fascinating and hilarious. Last night was filled with raucous laughter, serious political conversation, and running dirty jokes about polyamory and testosterone gel that were not in any way initiated by me. Sometimes I wish I could document all of this stuff, especially in the moments that feel especially strange or rare or deep or funny or precious. There are a lot. Here is a snippet from last night:
August 12, 2011 § Leave a comment
So, one thing about living with my mom is that I’ve been reunited with a bunch of boxes of old journals and letters and pictures from my whole life. It is actually this amazing feeling of completion or wholeness or something – I’m so grateful to have chronicled things in such detail for so long, and looking back over that stuff helps me understand myself better, I think.
But in the midst of searching for an old writing project just now, I got caught up in reading one of my journals from high school, and oh my god it was brutal. BRUTAL. I had really forgotten what is was like to be a teenager and take everything incredibly seriously and be surrounded by complicated difficult adult things and be affected by them but not really understand them. I kept an agonizingly precise record of every confusing, angsty, shame-filled, epic feeling. Major themes included tragic gayness and all the girls I loved desperately and unrequitedly, a lot of kind-of-intense existential obsessing over what was “real” and what was “fake”, and about a million tempestuous relationships with other teenagers who were similarly filled with secrets, shame, insecurity, drama, and fear. I feel so grateful to have made it to adulthood.
In other news, everything is amazing. I love summer, I love houseguests, I love my family, I love nature. Here are some beautiful woods and some amazing rocks:
Also, the night before last I was lying on my bedroom floor reading a book and trying to decide whether I should go to sleep or not, and I realized I could hear music coming from downtown, which is very rare in Belfast at 11pm, so I put on some pants and went outside and followed the music down the street and found a huge block party with a live band and probably almost everyone who lives in Belfast dancing, hula hooping, and riding a mechanical bull. That was pretty good.
July 10, 2011 § Leave a comment
Accordingly, last weekend was spent engaged in pursuits such as sun laying, lobster eating, creek sitting, strolling, strawberry picking, badminton playing, and grilling various things in various backyards and driveways.
On Thursday, we went to a play on the waterfront, which got thunderstormed-out in a very dramatic way when dark clouds rolled over the park, a stagehand ran out from behind the set yelling, “Stop! Everyone stop!” and the actors suddenly broke character to help all the audience members fold up our chairs and cover them with tarps. We made it just as the rain and lightning started.
But before all that, I was watching the play and thinking, “I should audition for a play. A play would be so fun. How hard can acting be?” and having a series of fantasies about my new side career in small-town summer stock. But then I was like – wait, what gender would I play? And then I got stuck. Something to add to the list of potentially charming small-town activities I feel uncomfortable participating in because of gender. Also, contra dancing. I am collecting a handful of very dear queer friends here, but still, life outside the queer bubble is taking a little bit of getting used to.
My brother left last night, and I’m feeling a little tragic about it. He’s gone to Texas for an indeterminate amount of time, to fight for love or something.
He’s been gone less than 24 hours and I already feel so different. Suddenly there is no one around to play music with me, go kayaking with me, eat lobster with me, teach me about beer, walk to the co-op with me, or make fancy bacon-wrapped jalapeño poppers in the middle of the night. I miss him.
Despite these challenges, summer is amazing. To shake my sadness over my brother leaving, I went for a hike yesterday up my favorite mountain. I can’t even explain how incredible Maine weather can be. I think it is necessary for the summer to be excruciatingly gorgeous, to make up for nine grueling months of winter.
I couldn’t stand to be inside at all yesterday, so after I got back from my hike I promptly fell asleep on the gravel driveway in the last patch of late afternoon sunlight.
It is only 8am this morning and already the sun is filtering through the leaves into my room, a warm breeze is fluttering the papers on my desk, tiny cartoon birds are singing outside my window, etc. I’m about to get in my car and drive to Philadelphia for an AORTA retreat, and though I am so excited I wish I could close my eyes and be there instantly, I’m also kind of looking forward to that long, windblown, windows-down, loud music road trip feeling. It is a perfect day for it.
June 6, 2011 § 1 Comment
A couple weeks ago, I was here:
The pictures, they don’t do it justice really.
I spent a weekend camping in the Angeles National Forest at a skillshare put on by a collective of radical women and trans artist and organizers in L.A.
I have to be honest that I have been to a lot of skillshares put on by collectives of women and trans artists and activists, but this was different. It was better.
I want to say something about being holistic, about spirituality and connectedness, about making space for things that there is not space for. I want to write what Jess kept saying to me in the car as we drove down from San Francisco, and along the dirt paths as we walked past children’s spaces and tents with signs reading: “don’t have a place to sleep? sleep here!”, past the picnic tables of free food, the handmade altars and the groups of laughing, sweaty people tying bedsheets over geodesic domes: It doesn’t take so much, she said. It doesn’t have to be hard, to do these small things, to create space that is welcoming, that meets needs.
It helped that everything was free, that funds were raised to rent a campsite, tents were borrowed, food was dumpstered and donated, people volunteered to give workshops. It helped that the organizers and participants were mostly women of color, and queer – that intersectionality was a given, that indigenous knowledge was centered and reclaimed, not appropriated, that there were no last-minute meetings of guilty white folks trying to address why the space was so white.
I co-facilitated a workshop about mental and emotional healing in community (underneath that dome up there, with the bedsheets and the sky), something I have never given a workshop about before, and about which I have…well, not expertise so much as messy, aching longing. But preparing for the workshop, I didn’t feel worried or insecure – I felt safe and trusting. And open-hearted. And vulnerable in the amazing way that it is possible to feel vulnerable when you know that the people around you support you entirely. And I said exactly what I wanted to say, and everyone else shared beautiful strategies, and in the end we spontaneously made a zine together, with art and poetry and descriptions of ways to heal.
And I played my ukulele in front of everyone! And I sang! My first time publicly performing ever in my adult life, if you don’t count facilitation or political skits. It could be that it was my gateway to a new life of signing up for talent shows and open mics at collective gatherings? I just felt so happy and comfortable stumbling through “California Stars” while everybody earnestly cheered me on. I also fulfilled my dream of playing an instrument for a campfire singalong when I asked everyone to sing “Umbrella” by Rihanna while I played and they totally did! And it was awesome.
One night, I took a walk down the road with a dear new friend, ended up sitting on a rock together watching the sun set over these mountains, here:
As we watched the sky turn from blue to pink to orange, we talked about what we were grateful for – the beauty of the mist settling over the mountains, community and kindness, to have these glimpses of what is possible. I thought about how grateful I am that my life has evolved the way it has, so that I have these glimpses more and more often – often enough not to be satisfied with what I am offered by capitalism and the status quo, to see that there is so, so much more possibility. To have access to that possibility, to hope for and dream of even more.
After I got home, I read a post on Adrienne’s blog called wanted: the miraculous. I am thinking about how things feel more and more miraculous to me every day, and that is concurrent with another process I am in, one that has to do with dealing with some long-repressed trauma. And I am also thinking about how the more that I refuse to ignore suffering and violence in the world, the more things feel incredibly hard AND miraculous, both. Jess was saying: Lately it feels so impossible, to navigate the choices we are given in every moment, about resources and relationships and survival. The systems are so big, and when you really look at how they hurt us, corner us, give us so few options for sustainability and community – it starts to feel hopeless, sometimes.
But that is where the miraculous comes in, I think. Because, when you are aware of all that impossibility, everything that people are doing to make connections and take care of each other and build outside of that becomes miraculous. Adrienne writes:
there are lots of things that are horrific, there are stories to carry, there are things that are unfair, violent, disgusting, unjustifiable. there is all of that, some of it close to my heart and some of it far.
but every single place I see suffering see days, I see better people, survivors, brilliant communities. i see and hear the rush as people tell the story of their suffering, once they learn to tell it. I see resilience within all of this suffering and oppression and experienced scarcity, transforming people from addictive individuality to sustainable communalism.
That is what I have been feeling, those stories and connections and glimpses of survival and building something bigger, imagining something brand new.
I lent Sarah my copy of Parable of the Sower while I was away, and today she finished it and came over, filled with thoughts, to discuss. We sat on my warm porch and talked about resistance versus building something new, when to work “in the system” and when “the system” is so desperately flawed that the only real option is to create an entirely new system. And how also, it is impossible to opt out of these systems entirely, that working outside the system is still, in some ways, a fantasy. And about building movements anyway, that will help us to build those things that the systems won’t let us imagine yet.
She asked what I thought about the role of queers in that, and I had a momentary outburst about gay marriage (after bottling it up through many petitions at the UU church and encouragement by Maine gays to get involved in the marriage equality campaign) – that gay marriage, to me, is so sad a struggle to choose, so limited. That it is not the fight I choose as a queer person, to demand rights on the basis of a state-sanctioned romantic relationship, to imply that the state’s refusal to validate our relationships is a primary struggle for all queers. I want us to dream SO much bigger than that, all of us.
Adrienne also wrote about this principle of the Allied Media Conference:
The most effective strategies for us are the ones that work in situations of scarce resources and intersecting systems of oppression because those solutions tend to be the most holistic and sustainable.
I thought about that when discussing Octavia Butler with Sarah, what it means to build something new, to keep building and trusting and moving forward even when things are at their most dire. I thought about it at the skillshare, as amazing abundance was created out of what could have been scarcity. And I thought about it later, back up north in Berkeley, sitting with Mia and Stacey in their sunny kitchen with glitter hearts hanging on strings from the ceiling and butcher paper listing the meanings of “home” taped to the wall, hearing about their group of queer disabled and non-disabled people of color working to create collective access in the bay area. I thought about that principle, and how those moments – when so many forms of oppression and violent systems are working against building new ways, collectively, to survive and take care of each other – that those are the hardest and the most important moments to do that work. Because those are the moments when we are forced to dream new worlds, new strategies beyond what we are told is possible.
(on the last day of the skillshare, a rainbow ring appeared around the sun! we were briefly concerned it was the apocalypse (or the rapture?), but someone said it is a normal thing that happens and is called an aureole! (of course.) it was best captured on film with my hand blocking the sun.)
And. And finally: we bought land for Homefulness.
I don’t even know how to write my joy about this.
When I write these things about imagining and creating new paradigms when things are at their most challenging, I feel very aware that for me, “things” are far from their most challenging. Resource scarcity, direct vulnerability to state violence, poverty, incarceration – these are not the things I’m dealing with, personally, on the daily. They impact me but they don’t target me. And it has been important for me to participate in struggle in a way that acknowledges differences around privilege and power, but also acknowledges the interconnectedness of people, the way these systems do violence to all of us, tie all of our safety and liberation into a messy knot. Homefulness has been that for me.
Tiny, in her article that I linked to above, writes a little of how the solidarity board came into being, how we came to raise over $100,000 to buy land for this small, radical, visionary poor people’s organization with no paid staff, no grants, and no experience with “capital campaigns” – mostly through talking to people about reparations. I have struggled to write my own story of that process – meeting Tiny and POOR, collectively conceiving the solidarity board, visioning beyond the exploitative fundraising practices we had all been taught – but it feels so big and all-encompassing that it is almost indescribable. (A little piece of it, though, is here.) Every part of the years-long journey to this land has been challenging, surprising, healing. It has pushed me and all of us. It has cracked me open in so many ways. At every juncture we have checked ourselves, reassessed, made certain that we were not selling out our vision, that the process was part of our work, more than a means to an end.
Standing on the land for the first time, that is what I felt. Jess and I pulled up and stared in awe at the concrete parking lot (soon to be torn up to make room for gardens), the giant tree bending over the house, the blooming flower bushes and windblown reeds. A calico cat led us through the side gate into the shady back patio. Jess said, amazed: There is designated land on the earth for Homefulness.
It felt like witnessing the manifestation of that brand new-ness. The creation of abundance where there could have been scarcity, the holistic, sustainable solution born out of intersecting oppressions and lack of resources. Not witnessing it – being part of it. It felt miraculous.
June 4, 2011 § Leave a comment
I don’t really understand how people who have blogs keep writing on them regularly and still do all their life things. Maybe this month has been unusually nuts – I was in Maine, Philly, D.C., San Francisco, and LA all in one week. Really I have been on the road for a month. I feel that already I have become a tender country person for whom cities feel incredibly loud and bright and expensive. I got home yesterday, and when I pulled up to our house I could see a big imaginary throbbing heart hanging over it with a banner that said HOME. Seriously.
I took a very visit-intensive road trip down to D.C. to give a workshop about the nonprofit industrial complex for a group of young people who work for nonprofits, and on the way I stopped in upstate New York to visit my friends’ amazing cohousing community that they recently founded after years of collective process and preparation. It has multiple apartments, a big circular garden in the shared yard, a fire pit, and kind and friendly neighbors who run a home business making raw kale chips that are incredibly delicious. It is so heartening to be there. At the same time as I know and feel that building community across difference – especially race and class and other kinds of differences that have to do with oppression – can be so hard and painful and challenging, it feels like probably the most important thing to me. These friends are grappling with the things that take up the most space in my brain – how to share resources collectively in intimate ways, how to build interdependent community, how to reinvent family and caregiving relationships, how to do these things in really diverse communities that require confronting racism and other violences and internalized oppressions in our relationships every day. I’ve been turning my visit there over and over in my head, coming back to this community and these friendships when I think about what I am wanting to create in my life now.
In D.C. I slept on the roof of a collective house in Takoma Park inhabited by some very sweet people who were so earnest that they asked me if we could have a facilitated dinner discussion about classism while I was there, and we totally did and it was totally deep. I slept on their roof looking up at the stars (or, at least, the night sky illuminated by the moon/ambient city lights), and had some very good conversations about collective living, anticapitalism, and facilitation.
And I stopped in Philly! And dear west Philadelphia, I love you so. I wasn’t sure how to do this visiting-Philly thing, but I think the protocol must be that I make no plans in advance, and just organically run into everyone I know by walking up and down Baltimore Avenue and going to the park and the co-op. It worked well this time, and I love west Philly for that. It was so sunny and warm and beautiful and heartbreakingly tender, and even though I am so happy that I moved to Maine I miss Philly so much. It’s bittersweet.
But even these things that I just wrote about feel like they happened so long ago, because since then I have been back home and left again, to L.A. and a southern California mountaintop and the bay area, and I will have to write about those things in my next post because they are so big I don’t even know how to start. I’m gonna do a little resting and recovering first. For now I am feeling tired and awestruck and so, so grateful.
May 1, 2011 § 5 Comments
Happy International Workers’ Day! And happy Beltane. Today I went to the UU service with my mom and Margaret to see the new minister give his first sermon, and it was about movement building in Tunisia and Egypt and Palestine! I have hardly ever been to church in my life, but I could kind of see what could be so amazing about it. There was this one part that they do every week, where anyone who wants to can share the joyful things and the sad things that are happening in their life, and then there’s a moment of silence and later there’s a potluck and everyone gives them support/congratulations/whatever. Do all churches do things like that? It was so moving what people shared.
And I went on this amazing hike! Up a mountain by Megunticook Lake, and then I sat in the woods leaning against a boulder and read a book. At one point this group of young people came by and started trying to fling themselves on top of the boulder by backing way up and then running hilariously up the side of it. They were very nice. It was so incredibly pleasant to sit in the woods on this perfectly warm day and not have anywhere else to be. It smelled all earthy early-spring forest floor-y and the sunlight was dappled in this perfect way and my book was really good and I still kind of can’t believe how beautiful it is here. I love finding all the amazing nature places, so that I can go there all the time and take people there when they visit. Maybe you?
I went with some friends last week to see Annie Sprinkle perform at a theater in Ellsworth. I haven’t thought about Annie Sprinkle in a while but I have to say that she really changed my life when I was a young burgeoning queer kinky eighteen-year-old dealing with the sex industry, and I love that she is still performing and doing art. She and her partner have been making work about being ecosexual and having sex with the earth, which I thought was really cheesy/hot/beautiful, and which also involves things like protesting mountaintop removal in the place where her partner is from. And they did this project years ago when Annie had breast cancer where they made a lot of art about her surgery and chemo that was really brave and fun and life-affirming.
In other news, I had a ukulele lesson! My very first. Really my first time trying to learn any instrument since I was ten years old and in piano lessons, except for one time at Passover five years or so ago when I learned how to play “Stand By Me” on the clarinet and almost started a clarinet band that never really matched the triumphant drama of that first night on the porch of my friend’s house after Seder. The clarinet is one of those instruments that you have to put a lot of effort into just to make a sound that isn’t horrible come out of it. The ukulele, on the other hand, is tiny and precious and only has four strings which sound very good when you strum them and unlike the clarinet is not at all dependent on holding your mouth in a strange and mysterious shape. Your mouth is free to sing pop songs! Although I haven’t quite gotten the hang of singing and strumming at the same time, which is surprisingly hard. I came home and practiced for SIX hours after my first lesson, and woke up the next morning with these monstrous blisters on my fingers which I was worried would prevent me from practicing, but I just put scotch tape on them like someone completely hard core and kept going. Now they have transformed into these satisfying calluses that leave my fingertips completely numb – it sort of feels like when you dip your fingers in melted wax, and then it hardens into a shell, except the shell is my actual skin. I think this is what’s supposed to happen?
I like watching my fingers get better at what they’re doing, figuring out new patterns and putting them into my muscle memory. I told my brother, who also can’t really play any instrument except a little bit of guitar, that we should start a band, so we’ve both been practicing. So far we can kind of play “Ring of Fire”, and I think we are well on our way to being able to at least hum along. Keep an eye out for when we get really good and our adorable family resemblance makes our band a smash hit youtube sensation.
April 25, 2011 § 2 Comments
Last night my Mom and her partner Margaret went to a friend’s 50th birthday party and I stayed home to read, and then around 9pm I got a call from them telling me I better come because the dancing was getting really good. The party was at this art center a few blocks from our house, and by the time I got there things were starting to wind down but my mom was single-handedly keeping the party alive by getting down to “I’m So Excited” by the Pointer Sisters with a small group of charming lesbians and Unitarian Universalists. I danced with them for half an hour or so, and then I was like, Ok, time for bed, and my mom was like, Time to keep this party GOING! She went out to the bar til late with the the party stragglers, and I went home and fell asleep because even in comparison to my 65-year-old mother I am a homebody nerd. Look how awesome they are:
Also while I was at the art center I saw this exhibit of tiny fairies made of things like tin foil and dog hair and clothespins by an artist who is four years old!
My favorite one is the key with pants!