Finding the Deep Hum

Berkeley Mural

Berkeley Mural

 

When I was nine years old, a friend and I took scarves and “holy” objects down into the nearby woods to make a little altar on top of a rock canopied by the oldest oak tree in the woods. We called it “The Little Chapel in the Woods.”

In my first book, published in 2008, (Dancing the Deep Hum, One Woman’s Ideas About How to Live in a Dancing Singing Universe) I wrote, “… we felt something – a vibration, a hum – something still and so deep in pitch you couldn’t hear it.  Shintoism talks about the Kami, the ‘spirit [or god] of that place’, when talking about places that feel sacred.  We were children.  Adults thought we were playing, but deep, deep inside ourselves we were very serious.” (p. 7)

I learned about the “Kami” in a class on Religions of Southeast Asia and was very taken by the idea, but I now realize that the word “Kami” is really untranslatable, it’s meaning not quite the same as “the god or spirit of that place,” so rather than speaking of something I don’t fully understand, I will refer to this feeling as “places that hum.”

So often the places we seek for spiritual renewal – places where we feel the hum – are in the woods, in “nature.” We leave our urban homes to go seek these spiritual places.

But we humans are also a part of nature. Where we are can also be “places that hum.”

Perhaps it’s at coffee shops humming both with human interaction and people working quietly side by side. When I saw a group writing postcards to people in another state to urge them to vote, I could feel the hum. When I work on my writing, cocooned at my own table side by side with someone at the next table working on their doctoral thesis, we hum together, separately.

I feel it in the murals on the building walls, all over the City of Berkeley – murals often created by a local artist and a group of children.  mural makers

And at art shows, musical performances, and when moving together with others at InterPlayce.

Protest marches? Yes.

How about when you stop and look right at a homeless person and ask them how they are and they reply, “I be blessed,” and suddenly you feel connected to the whole universe.

Often the hum sounds in delighted laughter, like when the fire engines go off and all the dogs in the neighborhood howl together, or when you pass a school yard and hear all the young voices shouting and laughing, see the children running and leaping.

How about on Facebook as we all weep together over another mass murder. Is there not a fierce and righteous “hum” found in the community we form even in virtual space?

Alison Luterman tells of walking in her neighborhood after the horrendous shootings at Tree of Life Synagogue:

I have felt deeply comforted today just walking around my neighborhood saying hi to people and being polite and kind and experiencing other people’s – “stranger’s ” – politeness and kindness to me. Moving over on the bike path. Saying excuse me, or thank you, good morning or good afternoon or, in my neighborhood, buenos dias or buenos tardes or just hola. Smiling at beautiful little kids and their parents. Smiling at old people, and people walking dogs. Noticing that the vast majority of us want to be in good relationship with each other. That’s the real news. (https://www.alisonluterman.net/)

A neighborhood of people that “hum”.

As I write this I realize that the places in the city that hum for me are places where there are many people present – even if I’m standing alone in front of a mural, the many creators of that mural are present, and the people or creatures in that mural are present.

It’s a kind of “hive”ness, a group hum, like bees.  A connectedness.  In InterPlay (www.interplay.org) there is a form called “side by side.”  Sometimes it’s danced, sometimes it’s storytelling.  In both cases the individuals are doing their own thing, but because they are doing it together (but separately), because they are aware of each other even though they are not interacting, there is something that feels connected to the rest of the world, the universe. Something that “hums”.  Something that is the “spirit of that place.”

We must keep ourselves open to that hum, we must “arise” out of our self-centeredness and our despair and join the “hum”, the “Dance of Life.” (Arise, join the dance of life.)

 

In my novel, The Earth Woman Tree Woman Quartet, humans have lost the ability to join the Dance of Life, the Tsin Twei.  Perhaps this is akin to losing the ability to hear the “hum.” The protagonists, who have shape shifted to the form of one of their Tla Twein (see former post “Exploring Our Tla Twein”), are trying to bring humans back into the Tsin Twei.

You can order print versions from Powell’s Books or your local independent bookstore, or purchase print and ebook versions at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.


Quartet EbookCover

 

Some thoughts on Kelsey Blackwell’s post on A Marvelous Crumb

Some thoughts on Kelsey Blackwell’s post on A Marvelous Crumb, “Why People of Color Need Spaces Without White People”:

racisim handsRacism permeated our childhood,
A muddy stream constant through our lives,
Crying out to our innocence with its painfulness
Interfering with our friendships
Seen clearly in our child-eyes
as the wrong it was

Murdering the purity of our souls.
        by Connie Pwll Walck Tyler, December 1985

Kelsey Blackwell says, “People of color need their own spaces. Black people need their own spaces. We need places in which we can gather and be free from the mainstream stereotypes and marginalization that permeate every other societal space we occupy. We need spaces where we can be our authentic selves without white people’s judgment and insecurity muzzling that expression. We need spaces where we can simply be—where we can get off the treadmill of making white people comfortable and finally realize just how tired we are.”

She has faced criticism for saying this, even being accused of being a “racist” herself.

The first thing I felt when I read Kelsey’s article was sadness. A deep well of sadness – not hurt. I understand why Kelsey feels unsafe around white people. Racism is so embedded in our white culture that when we open our mouths and something comes popping out, we often can’t even see how racist it is. Why wouldn’t a person of color feel unsafe when, at any moment, something hurtful might pop out of the mouth of the white person next to them? Why wouldn’t they want some places in their lives where they don’t have to worry about being a person of color in a racist society?

We all of us have been in situations where someone says something general that zings like an arrow right into our most tender spot. Imagine this happening ten times, fifty times – I don’t know how many more times as much.

So, yes, I understand why Kelsey might feel the need for some “spaces without white people.” But when I read Kelsey’s article I was sad – not for Kelsey, but for me.

Years ago I wrote in my book Dancing the Deep Hum: “[Racist] things will pop into our minds, sometimes almost like another voice in our head – something I find astounding. Where did that come from? I think.”

I wrote that in 2007. I thought I knew a lot about the racism embedded in me. I thought I would always recognize it when it emerged into my consciousness. Now, eleven years later I know so much more about racism – and I know that there are racist concepts I still don’t see.

It’s hard knowing that I only recognize some racist things as racist. How much more is there for me to learn? Will I learn it all in my lifetime or will I die with my subconscious mind still enslaved by my racist culture?

Last year I had one of those momentary flashes of deep understanding. I was attending a White Awareness class in which all the people were white – by design. Not a bad thing but an attempt to keep people of color from being hurt by hearing again about the racism in our culture.

One Sunday, right before the class meeting, I went to a special event to memorialize the internment of the Japanese during World War II. The group was amazingly diverse. There were, of course, people of Japanese descent and European descent, but also Latinos and black people, and … who knows? There were children and elders, and people with different abilities. It was an InterPlay event so we danced, we sang, and we listened to the experiences of people who had been interned.

I felt so happy – sad and angry at what had happened to the Japanese, but happy to be in this group – and safe. I wanted to be there with those people forever.

As I drove to my White Awareness class I felt angry that I had to leave. I thought, “I don’t want to ever be in a room with only white people again.”

Most of my life I have been uncomfortable – really have felt unsafe – in groups of people. Most of my life the groups I’ve been in have been all white or white dominated. I’ve never felt like I fit into the white middle class culture I grew up in. I’ve always felt different. I wasn’t interested in the same things – clothes, make up, even the boys I had a crush on made my girl friends laugh and look at me strangely. I felt like I wasn’t “like” them.

I think a lot of people feel this way. Maybe we are individuated beings who are also part of a greater whole — the universe? or … And perhaps the very thing that makes us see ourselves as separate beings – is what also makes us feel lonely and like we are different from everyone else.

But white people might also consider the idea that by separating ourselves off as the dominant culture – the white culture – an elitist group – we are setting ourselves up to include only those who are like us in other ways so that the group divides again and again with one group “better” than the next one. Sororities and fraternities, exclusive clubs etc., or just an informal group that nevertheless includes and excludes others. And each time we do this the group becomes more homogeneous and more critical of those who are different, and therefore less safe.

Research has told us that this homogeneity is bad for us. The more diversity in a group, the more new, creative ways of looking at problems emerge. If we celebrate our diversity, welcome it, delight in our differences, we will feel safer – and as a bonus, we will be more creative, productive, and exciting.

But until our culture really embraces diversity, until there is no longer one dominant group with power over the rest, there will be a need for the “outcast” groups to find ‘space’, as Kelsey says, without members of the dominant culture – space where they can breathe freely and without fear of some hidden racist, ableist, misogynist, homophobic, etc. words popping out of someone’s mouth.

Read Kelsey’s blog post: http://themarvelouscrumb.com/people-color-need-spaces-without-white-people/#more-1016
Listen to Ade Anifowose interview Kelsey about her blog post: https://www.audioacrobat.com/email/EjtxSgHq5

In my book, The Earth Woman Tree Woman Quartet, the protagonists, who have shape shifted to the form of one of their Tla Twein (see former post “Exploring Our Tla Twein”), are trying to bring humans back into the sacred Dance of Life, the Tsin Twei.  The Tsin Twei is in danger from many directions, but they all lead back to one place — corporate malfeasance.

You can order print versions from Powell’s Books or your local independent bookstore, or purchase print and ebook versions at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

What part of the web will you weave?

spider-web-with-water-beads-network-dewdropJune 20, 2018

One of the comments on my last blog post, I Just Figured It Out, (talking about Disaster Capitalism) was “What do we do?” reflecting that feeling of despair we all face when contending with an unimaginable power way beyond our own.

It’s hard to think about what we can do. We want some one answer, a big one, that will stop all of the horror immediately. (As I’ve said before, I wouldn’t mind a few lightning bolts from heaven….), but we all know a higher power is not going to send down fire to stop the greedy.

At the time of the Vietnam War protests I was a draft counselor. With a lot of help from a lawyer, I informed young men (women weren’t drafted) of their rights under the law. If they wanted to be conscientious objectors, I listened and asked questions so they could figure out what they wanted to say. I also told them about the option to be Resisters, to refuse to follow the draft law, but some of the people in the Resistance groups were upset at me. They thought everyone should be Resisters, everyone should be ready to go to jail or Canada.

But not everyone was ready. What we needed was a billion different approaches to opposing the war. We needed the legal draft counseling and the Resistance. We needed the peaceful marches and the invasions of draft boards by priests, nuns, and lay members of the Catholic Workers who burned all the records of those with the rating A1 who were scheduled to be drafted. We needed letters and calls to congress members. We needed boycotts, sit ins. We needed all of it to finally get the war ended.

So much more do we need a billion approaches to end Disaster Capitalism and all the horrible things it brings all over the world. Choose a place. Choose an organization. Choose a cause you believe in and put your heart into it.

But, we also need to tell the truth. Don’t be afraid to tell it because you know there are people out there who will pooh-pooh you, who won’t believe, who will think you’re just some mixed up radical. I understand this fear because I have not told people about disaster capitalism so many times. But I know now I need to write about it and point out its relationship to whatever evil people are worrying about. To find out the relationship, just follow the money:

War? Sales of military equipment, acquisition of land, oil, resources, etc. Accumulation of money and power.

Global Warming? The chance to move in on devastated communities, privatize at great profit, acquire land, etc. Accumulation of money and power.

Racism? They’d like to return to slavery, and through unequal prosecution of laws, etc., are incarcerating more people than any other country in the world. See The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. Also pitting groups against each other keeps people from uniting and standing up to the powerful together. More Accumulation of Money and Power. (Let’s call it AMP)

Immigration? Private prisons are raking in the money and now for the children, private “child care”. AMP

Unequal wages for women, child labor, minimum wage? Profits and AMP.

Pharmaceutical misuse? Profits and….

Education? Privatization with great profits to the privatizers. Isolation of children with needs and no money to provide for their needs because capitalists believe in survival of the fittest and don’t want to spend any of their accumulated wealth on making life better for those with special needs.

Cancer? The lack of regulation of polluters means more money for the CEO’s of the companies (not their workers, of course) and again – survival of the fittest means we don’t care about the sick (and yes, for their own families, they have the financial means to avoid the pollution, pay for health care, etc.)

Health care costs? Big profits for the insurance companies… and see above.

Factory farms? When I received a small inheritance from my mother and went to an investment advisor for “socially responsible investing”, I was given a long list of concerns I did not want my investments to support – like racism, women’s equal pay, etc. I checked almost all of them but couldn’t find anything about animal rights.

The advisor’s eyebrows shot up. It was not a cool leftist thing to be concerned about. I heard it referred to recently as a “boutique” protest. But Factory farms are also part of the disaster capitalism problem. Not only from the point of view of the poor animals who are kept in horrendous conditions, but for those of you who eat them. Accumulation of Money and Power.

We share our planet with many different other species. We do not own them. We are not of greater worth to the earth than they are. Disaster capitalism would say they are not of worth to the “fittest” of the humans, so why worry about them. Destroy their habitat to extract oil and minerals. (Maybe set up special parks and wildlife preserves or places you can hunt them and mount their heads on your walls for the very rich, but only if there’s no profit to be made by exploiting the land ….)

I wonder if there’s a worthy cause out there that does not have some link back to Disaster Capitalism? If we choose to work on a cause that is close to our own hearts – and understand how Disaster Capitalism is an underlying problem for this cause – working together we can create a web of consciousness to catch the greed before it destroys us all.

What part of the web will you weave?

 

In my book, The Earth Woman Tree Woman Quartet, the protagonists, who have shape shifted to the form of one of their Tla Twein (see former post “Exploring Our Tla Twein”), are trying to bring humans back into the sacred Dance of Life, the Tsin Twei.  The Tsin Twei is in danger from many directions, but they all lead back to one place — corporate malfeasance.

You can order print versions from Powell’s Books or your local independent bookstore, or purchase print and ebook versions at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Want to explore your own Tla Twein? In the fall I will be presenting a workshop in Oakland, CA where we will move and sing, write and create art work in search of the reason our particular Tla Twein call us. Contact me at connie@deephum.com for more information.  Put “Tla Twein Workshop” in the subject line.

I Just Figured It Out

global-warming-ppt-free-download-free-download-global-warming-powerpoint-presentation-with-slides-ideasI just figured it out. 

I always thought it was really weird that so many big business owners (and politicians dependent on big business owners for contributions) refuse to “believe” in climate change and the science that says humans are responsible. It’s so obvious. It’s been made abundantly clear by scientists all over the world. How could they be so stupid?

Stupid? Maybe not.

I was listening to a radio program about Puerto Rico where someone pointed out that after the hurricane Puerto Ricans are being pushed out of Puerto Rico (or dying) just as the people of New Orleans were pushed out after Hurricane Katrina. Big business is moving in.

I remembered the book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism by Naomi Klein.[i] She told about the teachings of Milton Friedman, an economist who wanted to “return” to pure capitalism, a place with no government regulations and no trade barriers. The only way we could get there was to “deliberately inflict painful shocks” (Klein, p.60).  You could move in on a country after a foreign invasion, or after a disaster, and privatize – basically take over the economy.

This is actually taught as good economics at many universities around the country.

This works great for the rich.

Not so much for the middle class and poor. Klein points out that, “some of the most infamous human rights violations of this era [50’s through maybe today?], which have tended to be viewed as sadistic acts carried out by antidemocratic regimes, were in fact either committed with the deliberate intent of terrorizing the public or actively harnessed to prepare the ground for the introduction of radical freemarket ‘reforms.’” (Klein, p.11)

And then the big corporations move in.

We’ve seen it in Nigeria. How about this Newsweek headline: Oil Spills in Nigeria Could Kill 16,000 Babies a Year.[ii] That was Shell Oil.

There’s the devastating war on Yemen. One million people with cholera. Who benefits? Saudi Arabian big corporations and their allies. Who are their allies?  Guess.[iii]

When Hurricane Katrina happened many people were shipped out of New Orleans and still haven’t been able to return. Wealthy business owners took advantage of the chaos and confusion to privatize the government services (many schools were closed and replaced with charter schools, often operated by private companies, for instance), to buy up the land from the devastated home owners, etc. – in other words, to rip the people of the area off.

Now it’s happening in Puerto Rico.

It’s called Disaster Capitalism.

How does that relate to not believing in Climate Change? Were both hurricanes a result of Climate Change?  Probably at least the greater size of them can be attributed to Climate Change, but that really doesn’t matter. We know that Climate Change is going to bring more extreme weather, more disasters all over the world.

What about the supposed stupidity of the big business men and politicians?
This is what I finally figured out.
It isn’t stupidity.  It’s duplicity.

Just as Exxon knew about – “believed in” – climate change forty years ago and hid that knowledge from the rest of us,[iv] I believe that all these corporate dudes and right-wing politicians understand that climate change is happening, and know that it’s a result of human behavior, but are lying to us about their “un-belief” so they don’t have to look like selfish cruel despots when they refuse to stop it from happening.

If we allow climate change to happen, there will be more and more opportunities to move in on people devastated by disaster, steal their homes, their land, their communities, and enrich the rich.  Bonus? Lots of poor people die and the rich don’t have to deal with them anymore.

Appalling isn’t it?
Disgusting, ugly, mean, and immoral.
Sinful – from the point of view of any of the major religions.

 

[i] Klein, Naomi, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, http://www.naomiklein.org/shock-doctrine

[ii] Gaffey, Conor, Newsweek, http://www.newsweek.com/nigeria-oil-oil-spills-neonatal-mortality-702506

[iii] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2017/12/21/one-million-people-have-caught-cholera-in-yemen-you-should-be-outraged/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.7eae815d3873

[iv] Schwartz, John, New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/23/climate/exxon-global-warming-science-study.html

“They found that Exxon’s climate change studies, published from 1977 to 2014, were in line with the scientific thinking of the time. Some 80 percent of the company’s research and internal communications acknowledged that climate change was real and was caused by humans. But 80 percent of Exxon’s statements to the broader public, which reached a much larger audience, expressed doubt about climate change.”

 

In my book, The Earth Woman Tree Woman Quartet, the protagonists, who have shape shifted to the form of one of their Tla Twein (see former post “Exploring Our Tla Twein”), are trying to bring humans back into the sacred Dance of Life, the Tsin Twei.  The Tsin Twei is in danger from many directions, but they all lead back to one place — corporate malfeasance.

You can order print versions from Powell’s Books or your local independent bookstore, or purchase print and ebook versions at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Want to explore your own Tla Twein? In the fall I will be presenting a workshop in Oakland, CA where we will move and sing, write and create art work in search of the reason our particular Tla Twein call us. Contact me at connie@deephum.com for more information.  Put “Tla Twein Workshop” in the subject line.

“Have a seat, young lady.”

May 28, 2018

Like millions of women, both old and young, I have been called, “young lady” a billion times and I’m heartily tired of it.

The other day I went in for a routine chest x-ray. The technician called me “young lady” and made not too funny jokes, thinking to put me at ease, I guess. I’ve had tons of chest x-rays over the years. There is nothing scary about them.

When I pointed out that I wasn’t young. He made jokes about my being 20 years younger in “Bob years.” His name was Bob (not really – of course I changed it.)

Do I want to be 20 years younger? Well, it would be nice if my body was 20 years younger, but I’ll keep my brain and my experiences at 75, thank you. If you think you’re flattering me by calling me young you obviously think there’s something wrong with my actual age. I must be “over the hill.” Well, I’m still “climbing” and expect to keep climbing until I die.

But I think “young lady” is always an insult regardless of its intent. Even when I was thirty I didn’t like it. I remember clearly thinking, “I’m not a lady, I’m a woman.” (Actually, I remember thinking, “I’m a grown woman.”)

What is the difference? “Lady” used to be term reserved for woman of middle or higher class – not for all women. “Ladies” were not really allowed to fully grow up. They were kept ignorant of many things that were not considered acceptable for “a lady’s ears.” They were not allowed to study certain subjects (architecture was reserved for men even after WWII), to enter in any profession except teaching (and then you had to quit if you got married), and even by the time I came along it was frowned upon if a “lady” worked as a waitress or a sales clerk in a department store.

For me when I’m called a “young lady” the implication is that I’m curtailed in what I’m allowed to do. I have to behave in a certain “lady-like” way, I have to cow-tow to the men in my life, I’m not allowed to go to certain neighborhoods, or have friends who are not in my “class.”

Well, phooey on that!

I’m a strong seventy-five-year-old woman. I have an exciting future in front of me and much of it, like my past, will not fit in the former “lady-like” requirements.

Just watch what happens the next time someone calls me “young lady.”

 

In my book, The Earth Woman Tree Woman Quartet, the protagonists, who have shape shifted to the form of one of their Tla Twein (see former post “Exploring Our Tla Twein”), are trying to bring humans back into the sacred Dance of Life, the Tsin Twei.  You can order print versions from Powell’s Books or your local independent bookstore, or purchase print and ebook versions at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Want to explore your own Tla Twein? In the fall I will be presenting a workshop in Oakland, CA where we will move and sing, write and create art work in search of the reason our particular Tla Twein call us. Contact me at connie@deephum.com for more information.  Put “Tla Twein Workshop” in the subject line.

But What About the Crow?

Jesus fold-out by altarnativearts.com

Jesus fold-out by altarnativearts.com

In my last post I had an imaginary conversation with the “deities” on my bedside altar: Durga, Kuan Yin, Jesus, a small Finnish witch, a crow and a turtle.

As I wrote this I was a little uncomfortable at the stance of the “deities”, and yet felt it to be real. “We can’t do anything to stop this,” they said when I raged at the rape of an eight-year-old girl.

We don’t want to believe that.

Daily I wish for a God who would act openly against the evil I see in the world (even wishing that certain people would find a lightning bolt landing in front of them jolting them off their feet, throwing them to the ground, and demanding that they change their ways! LOL).

But there are no lightning bolts.
We can’t sit back and count on “God” – whoever that god or goddess is to you – to do it.

That means…
Well, who’s left?
Me, you, us?

But then why do we have these “deities”? Why are these particular manifestations sitting on my altar?

Because they are some of my “Tla Twein.” I am drawn to them because they have something in their character that I want or need to acquire. Things I need in order to be the person I want to be.

From Durga I need the courage to stand up and fight – ferociously if need be – against the demon greed which is destroying our earth. From Kuan Yin I need to learn compassion – even for those who are the evil doers. I must not succumb to the hatred and contempt that perhaps the crow seems to express toward humans. From Jesus I need to remember that all I can do is throw my words out to the world and hope they are interpreted correctly…  And I remember (even if Jesus did not say it in our brief conversation in the last post) that Jesus was willing to die for his cause. He didn’t hide from his opponents.

I think he was afraid.
Why else that lament in the garden, “Let this cup pass from me,” (Matt 26:36). But he continued despite his fear. Sometimes I’m very afraid just to say something, much less do something.

From the little witch I need to remember that being different sometimes brings on the wrath of others, being small makes it hard to fight the giant demon greed, but I must persist.
From Jesus and the little witch I need to learn to act despite my fear.

But what about the crow? Was that a true interpretation of the feelings of crows? I like crows. Why was I drawn to them originally? I think what I need from the crow is some defiance, some brazenness, some willingness to stand my ground. Crows know that humans are part of the circle of life, not apart from it. They aren’t afraid of humans, nor do they worship them. They know if humans continue their destructive greedy path they will end up extinct (unfortunately, bringing other species with them), but earth will survive.
The crows will fight for the survival of crows.

And I will try to fight for the survival of humans.
And because Jesus said, “as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me,” (Matthew 25:40) I will fight, not just for the survival of the human species, but for the survival of the tiniest little Muslim girl, for the survival of the poor, and the survival of all living creatures. My Tla Twein wil help me.

In my book, The Earth Woman Tree Woman Quartet, the protagonists, who have shape shifted to the form of one of their Tla Twein, are trying to bring humans back into the sacred Dance of Life, the Tsin Twei.  You can order print versions from your local independent bookstore or purchase print and ebook versions at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Want to explore your own Tla Twein? In the fall I will be presenting a workshop in Oakland, CA where we will move and sing, write and create art work in search of the reason our particular Tla Twein call us. Contact me at connie@deephum.com for more information.  Put “Tla Twein Workshop” in the subject line.

They Tell Me Not to Write About Things Like This

My bedside altar

My bedside altar

Morning.
I’m aware.
Eyes not open.
No movement, body frozen,
but aware.
I am heavy. Not dead, but…
Remembering.
Why should I open my eyes on this world?
Why should I wake up, get up, do… anything,
but sleep.

I doze and then…
My eyelids flutter open.
An image, there, in my head
superimposed on my bedside altar.
(A paper pop-up Durga forms the background of my altar.
Kuan Yin , Jesus , the little Finnish Witch ,
the crow, and the beaded turtle
all sit in front to either side
where I can see them when I open my eyes.)
I close my eyes.
Still there.
There was no picture in the article,
but I can see her.
An eight-year-old Muslim girl.
Kidnapped. Raped. Bludgeoned to death by
two policemen and the caretaker of a Hindu temple.
Raped, beaten to death in the temple.

Why?
To try to scare her community off their land.
This innocent was tortured and killed for a piece of land.

“HOW COULD YOU ALLOW THIS?”
my head, my heart, my gut screams at Durga.

“I fight the demons,” she cried back.
“The men who did this see the people who get in the way of their greed
and call them demons.
They pray to me to fight them.
But their greed is the demon!
GREED IS THE DEMON!”

Kuan Yin, trapped in her tree trunk murmurs,
“I hear her cries. I listen, but I am bound here,
bound in the trunk of this tree
or in the helplessness of my womanhood.”
(Downstairs, Kuan Yin rides a dragon.
SURELY SOMEONE WHO RIDES A DRAGON CAN STOP THIS!)

I turn to Jesus.
“I’m bound, too,” he says.
“Bound in the convoluted misuse of my life –
and the things I said, and the things I didn’t say
that are written in my name.
I can’t protect this child.”

YOU SAID, “LET THE CHILDREN COME UNTO ME,”
I yell, but he just shakes his head.

And the Finnish witch?
“I’m small.
They’ll kill me, too.
After all, I’m a witch.”

Then the crow, front and center on the altar,
caws loudly and turns his beady eyes on me,
boring into me.

“I spit on the humans,” he shrieks.
“They kill each other and kill each other some more,
murdering children everywhere…
What’s new about Hindus killing Muslims when in Yemen Muslims kill Muslims,
and Americans help them?
When Muslims kill Christians and Christians kill even more Muslims,
(just as they killed indigenous peoples all over the earth,)
when one tribal group kills the members of another tribal group…”

(“And all of them call the people they’re killing, Demons,” murmured Durga.)

“When Buddhists kill the Rohingya,” continued the crow,
his wings lifting menacingly.
“Nazi’s kill Jews, and Israeli’s kill Palestinians,
And men everywhere kill women…”

CAW, CAW, CAW! He screeches.

“But the worse,” he paces back and forth in front of me,
“the worse is how they increase and increase,
creeping out and out upon the land,
stealing the livelihood of the wild things, killing the wild things,
millions of wild things,
and nothing, nothing,
not even the killing of each other,
stops them.
NOTHING STOPS THEM!”

He pauses and preens his feathers…
Preening until his heart stops beating so fiercely in his chest.

Then, staring coldly into my eyes,
he continues

“But I survive.
I have learned to live among you,
and I will outlive you all.
I WILL OUTLIVE YOU ALL”

I sigh and grope my way out of bed.

The beaded turtle, just moves,
step by step,
slowly on.

Was that a hopeful ending? I think so. I did, after all, get out of bed. I wrote it down, and posted it in hopes that the message – Durga’s message – “Greed is the Demon” – would go somewhere. Like the turtle, I’m moving slowly, step by step…

Greed keeps humans from the Dance of Life. That’s the message in The Earth Woman Tree Woman Quartet as well. The end is hopeful, too, — more hopeful than just getting out of bed — albeit known to be temporary. Humanity can come back to the dance, and stay there if the activists don’t let their guard down. Well, that’s hopeful… if exhausting.

You can take a break and read an enticing suspenseful metaphysical fantasy! The Earth Woman Tree Woman Quartet can be ordered in paperback from any independent bookstore and bought online as either a paperback or an ebook at Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Howling in the Night, an Eerie Wonder

170px-HowlsnowWouldn’t you like to leap, and spin around and over your friends, and end up out of breath in a mush pile, a laughing heap of beings? That’s what wolf pups do. The wolf is one of the animals that call to me, one of my Tla Twein.  (see my earlier post on the Tla Twein) 

I notice that many people love wolves. For some of my piano students, the stickers of wolves that I receive in the mail from conservation organizations are the first choice to put on a finished song.

Two conflicting ideas about wolves are prevalent: One is of the “lone wolf”, solitary, strong, but alone; the other about the close warm ties between the members of a wolf pack, working together to gather their food and raise their babies. Different members of the pack help out by babysitting the cubs while the mother is out hunting.

But when we think of what draws us to the wolves, perhaps these two images are not so conflicting. Perhaps we yearn for the camaraderie, the playful closeness of the pack, and yet feel like the lone wolf who is seeking a pack. On the other hand, sometimes we need the solitary aloneness (but not lonely) of the “lone wolf”.  Sometimes we need to move away from the pull toward compliance of the pack. We need to find our own path.

The lone wolf doesn’t stay completely alone. Sometimes in the night the lone wolf howls. If others can hear them, they respond, and the song echoes back and forth across the miles. This howling in the night is an eerie wonder – wolves singing together reaching with their songs across long distances to lone wolves and other packs (and all the other species that can hear them). Strange dissonances send thrills up our spine, bring new ideas of harmony, new possibilities.

Solitary singing is good, but when we sing in a group there is something so powerful and breathtaking that happens that I, at least, can hardly contain the joy. And when a human composer brings in the forbidden dissonances we hear in the wolf songs, I tremble with some combination of fear and delight. It’s clear, when we watch videos of wolves howling, that this power of harmony and dissonance happens for the wolves, too.

I confess, when the husky down the street howls in her yard as my dogs and I go past, I cannot restrain myself from howling back. Sometimes if she isn’t howling, I’ll give a little howl and she joins me. What a thrill! I wish I dared throw my head back and howl with all my might. My little dogs don’t howl with the husky, only with the fire sirens. But when they howl, they sit up so straight, so earnest, so involved in the howl, that I know it’s a spiritual ritual, a solemn invocation of….?

What is it that I need to learn from the wolf as my Tla Twei? Perhaps it’s the cooperative bonding of the pack for the serious business of the hunt – in my case to take on the serious problems of the world – and the restful dance of playtime ending in the physical closeness of the mush pile.

And in the night, the ritual of singing in strange harmonies, reaching joyfully to my fellow humans on the other side of the valley or the world.

 

In my book, The Earth Woman Tree Woman Quartet, the Tla Twein are trying to bring humans back into the sacred Dance of Life, the Tsin Twei.  You can purchase print and ebook versions at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and order print versions from your local independent bookstore.

Want to explore your own Tla Twein? If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area you can attend a three hour workshop on April 28th in Oakland where we will move and sing, write and create art work in search of the reason our particular Tla Twein call us. The fee is “pay what you can”. Contact me at connie@deephum.com for more information.  Put Tla Twein Workshop in the subject line.

Exploring Our Tla Twein (What’s that??)

Quartet EbookCoverDo you find yourself drawn to a particular animal – a spirit animal – or to certain mythological characters, a hero from a folk tale, or a real-life hero whose journey seems to call to you? A saint or a diety? Even a tree or flower? A tarot card?In my fantasy novel, The Earth Woman Tree Woman Quartet your Tla Twei is one of these – a mythological character whose form you must take in order to travel to Ninas Twei where the Tsin Twei, the Dance of Life takes place. Where all the species on earth dance together to ensure the continuance of life on earth.

Except humans.

Humans have lost their ability to join the dance.  But some humans can observe the dance by taking the form of their Tla Twei.  They are the ones working to bring humanity back to the Dance.

In thinking about the Tla Twein outside of their role in the novel I realized that we have many of these characters in our lives.  We even have cards and books designed to help us find which ones we are “like”.

But I want to take a different approach to the exploration of our Tla Twei.  Instead of pulling a card that tells me about my animal (or character from mythology, etc), I want to notice the animals and heroes, the characters that I’m drawn to, and find out why.

440px-Harriet_Tubman_by_Squyer,_NPG,_c1885I stumbled on this approach one day as I danced in an InterPlay class and wondered why I’m so drawn to Harriet Tubman, a real-life hero.

Her courage frightens me.

How could she go alone down into the woods of the south, singing her spirituals so that the slaves would hear her, know she was there, and would gather their courage and follow her to freedom?  Alone.

How could she risk her life, risk being caught, being tortured, being returned to slavery? Alone.

There is bravery in numbers. Most of the time I’ve been brave I’ve been with others. But venturing out alone?

I came to an understanding.

I was drawn to Harriet Tubman because she had a quality I want.  She had the courage to strike out alone to do what is right. It still frightens me. I haven’t acquired this quality yet, but it sits there waiting for me.

And then there’s the other Tla Twein in my life. Why did I spend my childhood playing Robin Hood? What is it about wolves that draws me in – and so many others?  (I find wolf lovers everywhere I turn, including among my very young piano students.) Why do I feel that the oak trees of my childhood home were my mothers? Why am I so drawn to Kuan Yin? Is there a growing point for me behind my infatuation with each of these beings?

I am presenting a workshop where we can explore our Tla Twein using InterPlay forms and other arts to dig beneath the surface of our selves and find new growing points.  Are you interested? Let me know at connie@deephum.com.

The Earth Woman Tree Woman Quartet is now available in a paperback print version. You can order it at many independent bookstores or buy it at Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

On attending an Art Response to Japanese Internment:

cranes on branch
The dancing, the poems carried the message,
Viscerally.
In our muscles, our bones.

Words,
letters from the interned.
A connection –
tenuous but important
to those left behind.

A thousand tiny red origami cranes
moving with the hands of the dancers,
forming shapes,
a heart.

The presence of people
black, brown, white
so warm and right.
All one
together.

Japanese Internment.
Immigrant Detention.
Incarceration of minor drug offenders.
Genocide of Jews, of Armenians,
Indigenous Peoples,
Africans on slave ships.
Apartheid.
Segregation.

The pain of separation
one group from the rest
is a ripping pain,
ripping
our Selves
apart.
No longer whole.

For the oppressed side
immediate,
horrendous
pain,
their very lives threatened.

The oppressors
hide,
numb themselves
to the pain
eating them
from the inside out,
killing them, too,
soul dead.

We cannot be whole without all of us present.
When I left the Art Response I carried with me a desire to never again be in a gathering without everyone there, every race, religion, culture, age, gender.

All the living and non-living things in the Universe are One Being emerging from one singularity. All pain belongs to all of us. When we hide ourselves from the ugliness of the pain we have caused, deny the pain, it becomes a disease eating us from the inside.

We are oblivious to it and it will destroy us all.

Never again.  Never again.  NEVER AGAIN!