2017 Scene and Story #10: Creature Town

I love the plants and wildlife where we live. So much diversity nests, crawls, hops, flutters, and soars through our space. When I spot something, I feel six years old again. "Look there's a butterfly!"

My favorite picture of September is definitely the cardinal side-eye, but I couldn't help but share other mini scenes to add to the story.






These roses sit just under the bird feeder, hosting spiders, thorns, and brilliant petals.




I love the little feathers being flipped up by the wind.





All my kids ran outside in the middle of homework when someone spotted a praying mantis on our front porch. He was very photogenic and patiently crawled around letting us admire him.






I like it when lots of birds crowd the feeder at once. It's like a bird-town reality show. Who will prevail? Who will be kicked off the tray?






These seed pods are in a tree whose leaves were just beginning to turn on the first day of Autumn.





A broad-winged hawk is cooling himself on the swingset. We usually see-red-tailed hawks in our yard, so this was a welcome surprise.






We have heirloom carrots in our garden this year. This Monarch is sitting atop and underneath the carrot flowers. Another favorite snapshot of the month.





One of the regular bird-town characters, this pretty bird is normally fluffier and has a pointy crest, but here he is crouched and ready.






My son is studying the lunar cycles in school. We've been taking lots of moon pictures. It has been more difficult than I expected, so this shot came as a pleasant surprise. I also kept it because it seemed to represent the whole month. Instead of just one night of full moon, the entire 30 days felt expectant, itchy, and wild.



For all of 2017, I'm joining Sarah from Paisley Rain Boots and Lee from Sea Blue Lens for a monthly Scene and Story Linkup. They are my photography inspiration!

The Names We Keep


I adore family tree research. Sometimes the photos and facts lack the heart that only stories can bring, so I piece together details and make my own. Here is one such story about my grandmother Justina. 


Justina was the daughter who baked bread.

She gathered the hem of her sack cloth dress out of the dewy grass as she stooped to collect straw and dried cow pies in her apron. On pleasant days, her favorite brother Bill ran along after her dropping almost as much as he picked up. They turned the dung patties they didn’t collect, to continue drying in the sun.

While she loved Bill’s cheerfulness, she couldn’t afford to lose time gathering fuel. Even on days where the sun highlighted every shaft of young wheat in the field, and the warm air chased the last bits of winter out of the prairie, Justina needed to feed the outdoor oven with care. It took hours to conjure the white heat that would suck the moisture from the dough, brown the crust, and form air pockets the perfect size for sopping up gravy.

Justina Fehr was the fifth of nine children living in a sod house in the village of Friedensrhu, Manitoba. Her father worked in the threshing business as most Mennonites did. They had brought their hearty wheat, famous work ethic, and conscientious objector-status from Russian colonies. That is why they were ideal farmers for hire. They were too poor to have substantial crops of their own, so they dug dwellings out of the hillocks and filled cracks in the earthen walls with cow dung plaster as if that would warn away the arctic winds.


Justina was the girl who wore a used flour sack for a dress.

Her mother Anna went to Winkler, six miles away, every fall to stock up on sugar, denim, and flour. Justina was in charge of rationing those items, and the potatoes and yeast cakes that she kept in a hole under the floor. Along with those supplies, she had one can of baking powder and a hundred pounds of flour a month to feed the family until the following fall.

Years later, she would say about her childhood that she was always “making stuff from nothing.” In the leanest years, Justina scraped the burnt loaves of bread to make a coffee-like drink. In better times, she roasted wheat mixed with a little molasses to make coffee. They’d know a month or two into each summer which kind of year it would be.

Her oldest sister Anna, named after their mother, was in charge of the sewing and mending. Anna made overalls for the boys from the denim each year, and she made the girls dresses from used flour sacks. Anna had dyed Justina’s dress dark green last fall, which flattered her eyes and hair, although Justina would never admit such a prideful, frivolous thing aloud.



Justina was the dreamer who skipped rope with the twine used to tie up wheat.

Only after the kneading boards had been brushed clean, the supper dishes had been cleared, and the oven had cooled could she steal a moment to herself. Since “bicycles weren’t for girls,” Justina played hopscotch, walked along the stream flanking the cow pasture picking the white clover blossoms, or braided twine to make a just-right jump rope. She enjoyed these activities, especially since they didn’t require standing near the bread oven, but her secret desire was always and forever to read.


Justina had been forced to quit school after the fifth grade because she was needed at home. Since she wanted to be a teacher, this devastated her and fueled her passion for reading even more. For the last two years, her only education had been from reading the Bible or the books detailing the lives of Mennonite missionaries. 
But reading didn’t put bread on the table. 



Justina was the girl who forged faith and strength.

One spring, Justina became very sick. Her hair fell out and she was cold all the time. Her mother said she had typhoid fever. She was unable to gather fuel for the oven, knead the dough, or bake the loaves. 

She could only lay on the deacon's bench she used for a bed. Her sister Anna stuffed fresh hay into the bed sack so she might feel less pain while she looked up at the earthen ceiling in her tiny room. 


In a quiet moment, when she was all alone, I can imagine Justina wondering, "Where are You, God? I'm scared." She would have closed her eyes because even the effort to hold them open would have felt too much. 

The answer to her question might have come in a dream where she was walking along the stream at sunset. She would have heard the running water whisper, "I Am the baking of the bread. I Am the love you have for yourself. I Am the search for truth." 

Dear Teri,

Sometimes people do things for you, and you don't even realize what a gift they've given you. I was thinking back to a difficult time today and realized there was a person I wanted to publicly thank. She's not the kind of person who does things for recognition, and there are certainly other people who worked behind the scenes without me knowing. I just want her to know that she is amazing.





Dear Teri,

It has been almost 3 years since my brother died. When my mom, sister, and I arrived in your Texas town for the funeral, we hadn't heard from Paul in years. My family was fractured. 

When you arranged Paul's funeral, his burial, and made us feel welcome, we were grateful. We were dazed and swimming in loss and regret. Despite your own grief and pain, you saw to every detail. 

We were grateful because we had been disconnected for so long, and you were there for Paul in so many ways. You cared for him in life and death. You didn't hesitate to do what needed to be done. 

That's the kind of person you are.

We weren't whole, as a family, and each of us had been carrying hurt and resentment toward other family members, or toward life itself. Paul's death reunited us in strange ways. We looked at people who had hurt us and saw their grief was just as heavy as our own. We hugged them. It was crazy and beautiful.

If we had been asked to step in, I'm not sure who would have led the planning. Since you took on that burden, we were able to grieve, each of us, with grace. It was an enormous relief.

There are no words to explain my gratitude for the kind of heart you have, for the sweet, courageous, and loving mindset that guides your actions in daily life.

Thank you will have to suffice. Thank you for all that you did. You helped a family heal.

Much love to you and your family,

Rachel




My Favorite Characters


Today I'm highlighting characters from an untitled work. The female character's soundtrack is Johnny Cash's version of Hurt, and I use this Pinterest Board for inspiration when I write in her voice. I love her back story (which will be revealed later) and her fully incorporated shadow side.

The male character's name is a battle cry. Enough said.


Here's the scene in the book where we meet Faith and Michael:




Faith left the safety of her basement tattoo shop, pounded up the cement steps in her boots, fishnets, and flared mini-skirt. She shouldered open the metal door to one of a thousand Chicago alleys and hugged the brick wall since the sky looked like it was about open up any second. She walked several steps to where the old buildings met the sidewalk. It wasn't raining yet, but the air was never still this close to the lakeshore. She pulled her jacket tight around her to guard against the wind.

Faith slapped the pack of cigarettes on her gloved hand and pulled the first one out of a fresh pack. She didn’t often smoke, just when she needed inspiration or was bored. Gabby, the owner of the shop above hers, set a large tin vase full of assorted flowers just outside the front door a few yards from where Faith was standing. She smiled at Faith, and said, "Hey girl. I'm trying to brighten up this day." 

Faith smiled back. Gabby held a finger up and said, "Wait, I have something for you!" Gabby reappeared a moment later with a single flower in her hand. She ran down the sidewalk to Faith and tucked a blue anemone bloom behind Faith's ear. 

"It represents," she paused for dramatic effect, "anticipation." Gabby laughed and ran back to her shop. 

Faith shook her head, and couldn't help but smile at Gabby's endless attempts to turn Faith into a "normal girl" who chased after guys and was giddy about flowers.

She placed the cigarette between her lips with one hand and reached into her jacket pocket for her lighter with the other. Her face was turned down, and before she could reach it, she heard the flip of a zippo cap. Time slowed while her eyes focused on a small flame in front of her face.

Because it was second nature, she leaned into the flame until the tobacco and paper caught fire. She inhaled, watching the ember chase the paper up the cigarette. Only with the fire extinguished, did she see the intricate vines etched into the smoked copper lighter and the hand that had produced it.

She smoothed a dark lock of hair carefully along her face and behind her ear and lifted her chin to meet his gaze. Except he wasn’t looking at her. The man was looking down the street with narrowed eyes. He tucked the artful lighter into an inner pocket of his leather jacket and lifted the thick collar up around his neck to keep out the chill.

Faith took another drag off her cigarette and appraised this man. She noted longish wavy hair that was light brown, but a little red when the light changed. It was cut close on his neck but hung long enough that it started to fall loosely around his ears. He also had the kind of beard that made her want to run her hands along his jawline and pull down his bottom lip just a little bit.

She was intrigued enough to see what had his attention. She poked her head out from the alley and looked down the street to find a hulking motorcycle and a couple of kids standing nearby eyeing it.

It was no stock bike. The man and the machine fit together. They were both built with fire and tools, each a one-of-a-kind creation. The kids glanced in their direction and decided they should move along quickly.

She pulled her head back in and found that the man had been staring at her, arms crossed over his sizeable chest, patiently waiting for her attention.

He said, “I’m looking for Faith.”

“Why?”

“She’s a tattoo artist.”

She stubbed out her cigarette on the brick and tossed it into the trash can outside the flower shop entrance near the sidewalk. Then she started walking back toward the heavy metal door.

She stopped and turned her head back toward him. He had put his hands in his pockets and had been watching her walk away.

She waved him on and said, “I meant, why do you want me to do your tattoo?” 

He smiled with one side of his mouth and jogged to meet her, opening the door while she ducked in out of the cold rain that had just begun to fall.

She didn’t slow her pace as she went down the stairs into a dimly lit basement hallway. The man who had lit her flame only needed one step for every two of hers, so he had no trouble keeping up.

When they reached the door to her shop, she reached up along the frame to find the key with her fingertips. She sighed playfully as she unlocked the door, and added, “Now I have to find a new hiding spot,” tucking the key into one of her boots.

The man took off his jacket and hung it to dry on the coat rack. While his back was turned, Faith traced a line with her eyes from his large fingers up a thick arm braided with musculature that came from using wrenches, tools, and fire all day, every day. Her lips parted and pressed into a devious grin. She loved a tattoo virgin. The bare skin was begging to be pierced and marked. The white tee shirt just made his skin seem that much more pristine.

He reached into his pants pocket and turned on his cell phone. He turned his phone around to reveal a picture of a dragon tattoo. “This is yours right?”

She lifted her chin a little as if inspecting the photo more carefully, but she knew instantly whose back it was, and that she had marked him so.

Faith met his eyes, and nodded her head to confirm it, but then said, “No.”

The man raised his eyebrows.

She explained, “You can’t have that tattoo.”

“I want something a little different, but I’m looking for this talent.” He tapped his phone.

“What’s your name?”

“Michael.”

“I only take cash, Michael.”

Faith sat in the chair behind her table and turned on the lamp. “Have a seat.” She gestured to the old leather couch along the wall.

It had never occurred to Faith that the couch was too small, but Michael’s frame made it seem undersized.

She grabbed a stick of charcoal out of the tray, and said, “Talk to me.”

***

Michael understood that he was supposed to explain the idea for the art he wanted. He also knew Faith wouldn’t tolerate fluff. 

He eyed the chipped blood red nail polish set off by her pale white skin, and said, “I see an untamed dragon that stretches from my shoulder,” he pointed to the spot on his left arm where his shirt sleeve met his skin. Then he lifted his arm and put his hand behind his head, moving his hand down over his heart, his stomach, and just below the waistline of his jeans, “to here.” 


His shirt had lifted along with his arm to reveal just a hint of his abdomen. Faith contemplated the map he had drawn on himself, maybe for a second longer than she should have. She swallowed and rested her chin on a fist and leaned in a little, “What do you mean by untamed?”

“The one I showed you is amazing, but it’s a little tame.” Michael knew he’d need to offer Faith a challenge, or she’d become bored and dismiss him. He fiddled with his pocket knife, not looking at Faith directly anymore.

She pressed her lips together and began making marks with charcoal on a large blank piece of paper.


Michael sat back against the tufted leather and withheld a satisfied smile. He was eager to see what kind of dragon she’d conjure for him.

As Faith continued sketching, Michael wondered how a tattoo artist got away with having no visible tattoos. Not that it mattered. He knew her work, and he wouldn't have gone to anyone else. 

He had heard that she didn't have business cards and didn't advertise. She was an underground artist whose work was so revered that she could turn away a dozen clients a day if she wanted. He figured she just didn't want the hassle, so she kept her operation small and only worked when she chose to.

Without looking up from her sketch, Faith said, "You don't need to wait here."

Michael didn't hesitate to give her space. "I'm from out of town, but I have people to see. I'll be back tomorrow." 


"Bring cash."


Faith looked up to see him nod and returned to her work. Michael left wondering if she'd tattoo him if she knew what kind of work he did. It didn't matter, though. He'd get the ink and leave as soon as it was done. He wouldn't risk getting involved with anyone, not even a beautiful artist named Faith.

***


2017 Scene and Story #9

I took a walk late on a Sunday afternoon hoping to find some interesting things growing wild in the ditch along my path. When the sun lit up a dragonfly's wings, it unwittingly posed for several seconds, letting me adjust my position and attain the perfect depth of field.





Just as being strong means 
simultaneously fighting for peace
and being able to accept it -


So too, a dragonfly hovers furiously in midair
just to light upon a tender stem.

The moment of rest
and perfect balance
was fleeting and precious.



I went home rejuvenated, but a piece of me was still on the path, searching.

After reflection, I realized that I had fallen prey to the belief that peace is something to be earned between long periods of struggle. I forgot that a person can keep her energy all pulled in, and be truly whole, anytime she wants.


More wild beauty from August:















For all of 2017, I'm joining Sarah from Paisley Rain Boots and Lee from Sea Blue Lens for a monthly Scene and Story Linkup. They are my photography inspiration!



2017 Scene and Story #8: A Self-Portrait

A dear friend who is now passed once explained that, in her opinion, beautiful things could magnify your essence. She felt it was important to surround yourself with carefully chosen colors, textures, and sounds. She had a powerful, resonant singing voice and wore bold glittery eye makeup every day. 

I started making art earlier this year because I realized that all the women I looked to (then and now) for inspiration had compelling style. The backdrop for their words was visually stunning and graceful. 

I wasn't fooled by the effortless appearance of their real-world or online presence. I understood that they had cultivated a sense of beauty and had honed it purposely to enhance who they were. 

In keeping with my word of the year: IGNITE, I have pushed myself outside the cozy boundaries of writing. Needing original photos for my blog, I dove into aperture, shutter speed, and stillness. Framing shots led to macro photography, patterns, visual storytelling, the golden ratio in nature, and playing with light. 




Wanting a mock-up for my first book cover, I began sketching, which led to charcoals, watercolors, and hand lettering. Each new skill I add to my repertoire has opened a dozen other doors for me artistically. I see tiny improvements in my efforts each day. 






The act of writing doesn't take up much physical space. Even so, devoting a third of my desk to art supplies is a big change. It's hard not to make art when the tools are right in front of you. 




Beyond creating expressive charcoal sketches, and delicate watercolor floral wreaths, I also started wearing mascara and shoes that are not flip-flops --another deceptively small change in my daily routine that makes a huge difference in the expectations I have for myself.  

In short, I've been igniting the fears that stop me from trying new things. 

For all of 2017, I'm joining Sarah from Paisley Rain Boots and Lee from Sea Blue Lens for a monthly Scene and Story Linkup. They are a couple of the women I look to for my photography and style inspiration!

Wonder Women

A couple of years ago I noticed that I had trouble sleeping during nights of the full moon.

It was curious, standing in a moonbath at 1:00 in the morning that first time. It felt sneaky. I remember being surprised by the naughty smile on my face and then wondering why it felt so naughty.

The solitude, my bare feet, the peace, and the eerie glow on the greenery all felt very natural and wild.

I didn't consciously track the moon cycles for some time after that night, but an increasingly restless mind and body would tell me when a full moon was nearing. I simply began to pay more attention.

It eventually occurred to me that if I tracked these cycles, I could plan activities around them. I wouldn't be changing the path of the moon or holding back the ocean tides, but I could learn more about the cycles and plan for times of lower and higher energy. I began to act intentionally in harmony with nature.

Women always find a path back to their truth.

Yoginis
Witches
Mormons
Energy workers
Catholics
Pagans
Jewish Mystics
Gypsies

Within whatever limitations they are raised, women all seem to find their way back to the divine feminine. They might unearth it, listen to a whisper, see it in a dream, read it in a book, or conjure it during meditation. "It" might be crushing herbs between her palms, keeping a secret stash of oils, chanting a soothing mantra, dancing freely, or walking alone in the moonlight.

Yesterday I began reading Witch: Unleashed. Untamed. Unapologetic. by Lisa Lister. It's one woman's experience with ancestral traditions and modern-day rituals that women can use to heal themselves. My favorite line from the text is a mantra she suggests to her readers: "It is safe for me to be powerful." I liked it so much because it doesn't quite feel true for me yet. It's a prayer and a wish.



I loved discovering that I already do a lot of the things she mentions, yet never recognized the connection between those self-care practices and what some have called witchcraft. I also noticed that most of my yoga friends and religious friends do a lot of the things she discusses. 

They just call them different things. It was a light bulb moment to realize that we might package it differently and put different rules around it, but we're really all just re-discovering that things that women have known for centuries: that we are a source of life and healing.

Without fear of being labeled demonic or dangerous, women are free to be who they really are. They will gravitate toward purposeful, soulful acts meant to reconnect to their inner wisdom. They will fully embrace their light and dark parts and become healthier human beings. Wonder Women.

Love without Trust

I read back through some old posts today and found a Yogi Bhajan quote that I shared: "Love without trust is like a river without water."

There are people in my life whom I love, but whom I don't trust with my feelings. I don't share myself with them. I'm a human shell that provides carefully calculated reactions to their actions. So what is that relationship exactly?

Is that really love?

It takes all the tools in my spiritual shed to be around them. I reinforce my emotional boundaries before being in their presence. I have to repeat to myself, " I'm okay. I'm safe. The entire universe is within me," while they say racist, homophobic, or generally close-minded things.

I have to choke back the urge to say, "Where did you read that statistic?" or "Do you hear yourself dehumanizing other people right now?" Inevitably, it will boil down to faulty religious doctrine mixed with a desperate need to validate their own choices. 

And all at once, my roiling anger will be washed away when I recognize their deep untouched pain.


A few years ago, I might have blamed my visceral reactions on anxiety issues. (Because it's the annoying cousin of depression, of course.) I now realize that I cannot tolerate hatefulness or controlling behavior. 

I also understand that when someone has been hurt so profoundly, they might deny it to protect themselves and then turn their pain out onto everyone around them. They build up walls and define things in their minds with immovable SHOULDs and SHOULDN'Ts. They lie to themselves constantly. They actively choose blindness. They're scared.


But it IS love.

Because I'm still going to sit and look them in the eyes while they rant in the opposite direction of compassion. I'll follow them as far as I can and still hug them at the end. I'm going to do the work to uphold my boundaries to be in their presence because I love them.

I will refrain from trying to educate them or change their minds because any argument will fortify their fear and anger and push them farther away from the truth.

One of my favorite quotes from my favorite person in the world is:





It's the ultimate expression of love. I'm going to let you believe what you want to believe even if I know it hurts other people, and I'm going to believe what I believe without forcing it on everyone around me.

I read a mind-bending article this week called "We're Going to Need More than Empathy." Rather than empathizing with people via our commonalities, I will reach beyond that to empathize with their otherness. 

If I can reach the beating heart in the other, a connection will have been made. That's the best I can do.

It's the biggest kind of love.

2017 Scene and Story #7


June was hectic. Not on the outside, but inside my mind. It was a time for waiting, processing, and patience. Instead of creating, I wished I was creating. I kinda hate those times, but I'm learning that they are part of the natural cycle. It's not always the harvest. Likewise, I'm not always writing the next great novel.

I stayed close to home and took lots of pictures in my backyard. 

Here is my favorite because Aaaawww:






Here he was a moment later because peaches are sticky:





This squirrel hopped up onto the railing letting me capture another private investigator-type shot:





A young bird had been cheeping for its mama for quite some time, but I couldn't quite see where he was hiding. Then I spotted him with a treasure in its beak:






Here is a ninja I spotted hopping down from the slide:





For all of 2017, I'm joining Sarah from Paisley Rain Boots and Lee from Sea Blue Lens for a monthly Scene and Story Linkup. They are my photography inspiration!

What is THE Patriarchy?

Patriarchy means males are in charge. They make decisions for everyone, have the only voices in the community, and are recognized as leaders. If their goals and tactics happen to align with everyone else's, the status quo prevails. If people disagree with their goals and tactics, male leaders can force others to submit to their will, or they can be benevolent and share the governing peaceably with others, thus enforcing the status quo. 

We don't live in caves, hunt, forage for nuts and berries to survive, or migrate as a clan for safety and warmth anymore, but we still have patriarchy.


Here's my definition of THE Patriarchy:

These are the more insidious parts of our modern society that promote men over women. They're the parts that we grew up with and that people forget to question. They are ingrained in our media, families, religions, schools, and workplaces. Anyone, regardless of gender or understanding, who participates in that kind of "might makes right" society is part of The Patriarchy. 


For example:

1. Christian girls grow up hearing about a Heavenly Father and his son who was the only one capable and worthy of paying for our sins. 

They learn to be chaste and modest for this is pleasing. On top of lessons about conditional love, they begin to understand their sexual nature as inherently bad. There is no mention of a Heavenly Mother. Most Christians even learn that Eve caused the downfall of humanity because she was disobedient and wanted to eat the fruit from the tree and gain wisdom.

It takes years of de-programming, and a woman's willingness to redefine divinity to heal the wounds believing in an angry Old Testament God can cause. It's the ultimate story of ruling by fear, and the ultimate validation of "Might Makes Right" for boys and girls.

2. Here is an example of a less obvious consequence of having a male-focused society. Most of the studies that have been done about heart attack symptoms focused on men. When women have heart attacks, they are more likely to die because their symptoms are "atypical."  Since women can have different warning signs than men, they may not know they're having a heart attack until it's too late. In this case, not being a man is "atypical." 

I don't think there's a nefarious group sitting around a table somewhere plotting the death of women, purposely giving out misinformation about heart attacks. It's just that everything is naturally male-centric in a patriarchal society until someone recognizes it and works to reshape it. In this example, it would take enough people getting angry by the skewed state of affairs, to raise funds for women's heart attack research and education campaigns.


Here are links to more examples of women's unique vulnerabilities in 2017:

Poverty

Lack of Affordable Education for Women Who Need it the Most

The Purity Myth


RapeKit Backlog


I normally only share my thoughts about feminism with like-minded friends, but if I never reach out to others and explain my beliefs, I'm part of the problem.

This is a follow-up to a post about healthy anger from last week. By the stats, it was one of the most widely read things I've written to date. It was also suggested that I remove the "aggressive" part at the end to make it suitable for a wider audience.

I was grateful for the reader feedback, and also did a face-palm, because oh my goodness a woman says she's going to work on not denying her anger, and it's labeled "aggressive." 

That is the Point I was trying to make. We are taught to keep quiet. Stay still. Stay ashamed. Don't question. Don't even breathe. Just take it. Round out your hard edges. Conform to the ideal of passive womanhood. Be nice. Be sweet. Don't offend. Ssshhhh.

Be youthful and pure. Don't paint your face like a whore. Don't be shallow. Don't sully yourself, but be kitten-like and attractive to men. Save it. Smile more. Pluck your eyebrows. Now give it away with no reservations. And stop, because now you're too old.

It's no wonder that women forget to listen to their bodies. We're used to everyone else telling us how to use our bodies, and judging every decision against impossible standards.

Some people are happy with the way things work and don't want the kind of changes that would promote women. I think that when a patriarch -who brags about crotch-grabbing- is the President, it's time to do something different.


THE Patriarchy, in its most oppressive form, just got a huge fist bump in the locker room.


That is the patriarchal crap I want to roast in the metaphorical flames from my last post. 



My question to people who found this aggressive: 


What are you afraid of? 


  • People around us gaining respect and being treated as equally important as the next human

  • Learning how people want to be addressed when you speak to them

  • Listening to people's stories to expand your perceptions of oppression and freedom


How do those things take away from you? Do you recognize my definition of The Patriarchy? Are you okay with it? Are you complicit?

I suspect that the answer has to do with a flawed mindset based on lack. Believing there is only enough power, love, or respect for so many people would lead a person to guard his/her power. In reality, if everyone felt empowered, whole, and supported, the world would be full of art, and overflowing with genius. 

The men in my life are unquestionably loving and compassionate. They're progressive enough to understand that they benefit from the patriarchy and call it what it is. It doesn't take anything away from them for the women in their lives to fully realize their worth and power. We are all stronger for it, in fact.

My point is that feminists aren't usually anti-man. They're anti-oppression and pro-woman. Feminism is for everybody, after all. 



Here's what I'm afraid of:

If mostly white men remain in charge, and we continue to vote them into office, no other voices will be represented. With no other views in the mix, patriarchal domination gives us policies that favor the status quo, at best. At worst, they will begin to chip away at protections for women (and anything else that can be labeled as "other") because they've lived with the benefits of identifying as males their entire lives. 

It's probably because I'm 40 now, but I care a lot less about seeming "nice" than I did 20 years ago. I stand by my original post. 


The Importance of Anger


My word for the year is Ignite.

Burning shit down this year.


And it feels incredible.


A dear friend shared an article with me several weeks ago from The Book of Life. It was about how depression may not simply be profound sadness. The author suggested that depression "is a kind of anger that has been unable to find expression, that has turned in on itself...”



I skimmed it, nodding my head, and thought, That makes sense.


I read it again much more slowly and felt a deep stirring. I sat silently with this new perspective for a few weeks.

“…we have been taught, probably since earliest childhood, that it isn’t very nice to be angry. Anger violates our image of ourselves as kindly and sympathetic people. It can be too painful and guilt-inducing to acknowledge that we may feel furious and vengeful, not least towards people whom we otherwise still love and who might have made many sacrifices on our behalves.”



I have anger.

It scares me.

People might be afraid of me.

I might be afraid of me. 

I might burn my bridges and turn to ash if I express my anger.



“…we might be bad at getting angry because we haven’t seen examples of successful expressions of anger around us. We might associate the word with volcanic crazed destruction, as dangerous as it is counter-productive. Or else we might have lived for too long surrounded by people who never dared to raise their voices and bitterly swallowed every hurt instead. We have not learnt the art of a controlled and cathartic conversation.”



Anger doesn't have to be crazed.

Anger is real.

Denying it will breed sickness and dis-empowerment.

Misplaced anger can be turned out onto people who don't deserve it.




“The way out of this sort of depression is to realise that its alternative isn’t cheerfulness, but mourning. Mourning is a useful word for it indicates a focused kind of grief over an identifiable kind of loss.” 


I wasn't sure what to make of this "mourning." Was I supposed to cry about my stuff? I was annoyed by this solution. Crying is great, but it wasn't time for that anymore. 

In the same stretch of weeks, I participated in imagery as part of an unrelated creative exercise. Imagery is a relaxation tool I use regularly. Another person reads a script and guides you into a dreamscape of your own creation. You breathe deeply, relax your body and follow along to a recorded voice. You don't talk back. It's all in your mind. 

People use it to relieve anxiety, get answers to questions, and connect with their intuition. I love it because it gives me the chance to find the truth that wouldn't otherwise reveal itself. In this instance, I was using it to explore my creativity.

Without my everyday thoughts getting in the way, I was led on a journey to meet the Queen of Fire. I was asked to walk toward a door in a landscape of my own imagining. Mine was a non-descript door on a blank canvas of pure white, almost fake-looking. The facilitator's voice whispered, "Now open the door. What does your queen look like?"

In my mind's eye, the door blew apart in a fiery blast. I looked down at my scaly dragon body. I had willed the door to be gone, and in its place, there was charred earth split by glowing molten rock as far as the eye could see in every direction.

The awakening took my breath away. Watching the churning cycle of earth being heated and cooled was cathartic. It was clear that I had been boxing up anger in an attempt to be neat and polite. I wanted to be together and stable, not ranty and riled-up. 

But am I riled up, and there's no need to be apologetic about it.

My word of the year, the article, and the guided meditation all pointed to a more complete me. One who acknowledges anger and transmutes it into raw power and informed decisions.

Rather than keeping my dragon chained up in the dark, I'll fly on her back, running my hand over the spot between her ears while she roasts patriarchal bullshit in her flames. 


My Great-Grandfather Was a Blogger

I'm a family history nut. Name a period of history and I'll tell you where each of my ancestors was at the time and how they might have been involved.

I don't have many pictures or physical documents, but after visiting an aunt who treasures those things as much as I do, I was able to touch old songbook pages, look at handwriting, and hear stories about those ancestors.

One of them is my great-grandfather, John. His mother (featured in this blog post) was a God-fearing woman who had three husbands and thirteen children. Every photo I have of her contains a Bible. John was born and raised in the South. I've been told he was a formidable man with a photographic memory. He taught at a singing school and published his own songs of worship.


My great-grandfather with his first wife and daughter


More interesting than the songs he wrote, were the pamphlets he published and distributed. He was the blogger-type of his day. He wanted his voice to be heard, so he recorded the things that weighed on his heart and mind, and then shared them with anyone who cared to read it.






It's surprising that I can find commonalities between my guiding philosophy and his. I'm decidedly irreligious because the damaging judgmental parts of the doctrine and culture outweigh the inspiring parts for me. I am deeply in love with divinity, goodness, light, and even gospel, though.

We both used our voices to educate. We just came at it from different places.


It was touching to find that fiery passion drove him and a lot of my ancestors to use their voices this way. I had claimed that for myself. Now I have gratitude for all the people who came before me, too. I see that I've built my truth on their foundations. I'm even happier to have left a record of my voice for posterity, as well.


In contrast to the "Damning the Wicked" messages of my forefathers, if I published a pamphlet, it would be called:



You Are Worthy of Joy

My modern-day interpretation of hell is believing that you're irredeemable. It's letting the uninformed opinions of the masses stamp out the embers of joy, hope, and delight that still glow.

Instead of worrying about burning in the fires of that hell, light a match and throw it over your shoulder every day if you have to. Heap love and kindness onto the flames until you are the violet flame of transmutation. 







It takes a while to overwrite false programming. One of my mantras is:  Joy isn't something you have to earn. Your worth isn't tied to your actions. 

One of the women I follow online Christie Inge says, "Worthiness is intrinsic. It can't be proven or earned." The more I seek, the more I find modern-day teachers like me who are working to spread a different message.

If I listen to the voice that feeds my discontent and reminds me of my purpose, it says, "You don't have to stand there trying to hold back that river.  You are every little drop in that river. You are the river. You are all the water."

2017 Scene and Story #6

I love this picture because:

1. The progression from left to right shows the decay, the full bloom, the tender petals about to open, and the potential marigold all in one shot. 

2. I felt proud of how still I needed to be to take a clear shot. It was a special moment for a caffeine-junkie with anxiety.

3. The rich fiery colors against the cool gray planter make me smile.



I took dozens of pictures this month. I count that as another win for my developing love for photography. 

Here are a few more buds and blooms: 
















For all of 2017, I'm joining Sarah from Paisley Rain Boots and Lee from Sea Blue Lens for a monthly Scene and Story Linkup. They are my photography inspiration!