At the Base of Big Mountians

20170311_145704

 

Once twins, I try to find inspiration from the severance. I’m ripping you out of my identity. Because I’m like that. Because I can’t be in your womb anymore. I’m fully formed now. Impossible hedges, a maze of never enough woven through our everything. And maybe that’s that. The consequences of soul calling, and a pact I made with the sea. You were like that, and I gave you lots of it, so much that I thought you’d get good and we could be good. But we didn’t. My adrenals are taxed with misunderstanding, my kidneys soaked in blood of our world, my eyes are dull stuffing holes with newspapers, as I sing choir songs and wonder how I will ever sing again, without you. That’s it though, you were insatiable, and I missed myself. I was the deep deep lover. I was mother. I was hunger and I was hungry. I admit stepping out of your journey is a cruel death and I soak myself in salt. I’m all ripped up, torn around resistance of loss.

Advertisements

Dogma Gone Viral

polyp_cartoon_dogmaThere is a duality happening in this current state of affairs. A kind of us against them sentiment that is reflected in our memes. Women are asking men to be accountable, men are frustrated because they would like women back off about feminism. There are women mad at women for being feminists because it alienates men. Then, there are the college educated who can’t believe that Trump would ever be a viable option for president and there are working class folks who hate Obama for his educated mumbo-jumbo. There are health nuts believing the need for hospitals stems from pesticides, while hospitals are feeding patients GMO iceberg lettuce. There are underweight militant vegans, overweight meat-eating McDonald’s heads, Buddhists on blankets in meditation not questioning the possibility that their truth is just that- their truth. There are Christians who believe Muslims are evil people who only want to subjugate women and Muslin’s who believe that the United States is a threat to their way of life and religion. Some folks want a wall because they want to protect American citizens from the perceived war-like state of affairs in Mexico. While, environmentalists believe that the wall will harm migration patterns of wildlife, activists leave water for the thousands of people crossing the border each year,  gun-obsessed militia shoot holes in their efforts. What the hell is going on? Should we cut off the tip of our son’s penis or stick forty-nine doses of vaccines into our babies by the age of two or what? Should we repent to Jesus and serve our men or destroy the rich to save the poor?

We are asked daily, do Black Lives Matter, all lives matter, white lives matter? Are we the 99%? Are we the victims of terror or are we perpetrating terror? I get fifty emails a day from people needing money to fight this or that fight. It’s a world wide web of people typing from soap boxes. Some of us think that words should be carefully considered so not to alienate specific groups of people, some of us defend the right to speak freely believing that putting limitations on words alienates these specific groups of people. There are people fighting oppression and people who have no idea what “fighting oppression” even means. Its almost as if there is so much passion being flung around that there is no more passion at all. Or perhaps the class disparity in this country is such that anti-intellectual tribes have formed and its evidence is represented in the memes posted on social media.

It borderlines psychotic. It’s staggering in its complexity. We are inundated with conflicting information. Part of the problem is, whatever your flavor, you can find a information source that not only backs up your opinion but justifies it as being the only right way to think. What once was a council fire, where our ancestors gathered to share story, is now a computer screen. Where we can click enough ideas into our heads to justify deep layers of information without having to face each other. When we do face each other it is usually with a drink or bible or yoga mat in tow, depending on the individuals perceived conception of salvation. Each group identifying so precisely with their own dogma that they often believe fully in what their identified group believes. Not only that, but there is a tendency to believe that their thing is the thing. The universal band-aid for the ailing world. The other day I saw a bumper sticker that said, “Liberalism is a mental illness.” On the internet artist make statues fat shaming trump. I see Bernie or Bust people raging on the unfairness of democracy. I see cops who lives have been ruined by their jobs and minorities whose lives have been ended with bullet holes and blood by cops. I see yoga teachers unwilling to connect with commoners and punks with ciggies in their hands scoffing at yogis.

We are angry. For sure. But we are also complacent in our confusion. And maybe we are fighting too much. Or not enough. I keep checking Facebook for answers, like maybe the collective discovery is in the scroll down. There are some good articles there to back up my thing. And I am nullified in knowing that my belief system in reflected in my personal council fire, my solo stare, my information highway. The computer tells me the world is scary out there and our media is sure to keep us all informed. Fear is what’s feeding this duality and as long as we are all convinced the other is the culprit then what matter is reconciliation?

I was taught what it means to love by a somewhat racist, republican, uneducated working-class grandfather, who believes the wall should come up, women should do what men say and Obama may just be the devil. My Grandfather loved me when I was a stripper, he washed vomit off my car when I was a junkie, he scraped me off the sidewalk of my disastrous choices more times than I can count. He wants what most of us want, peace, healthcare, television, pizza. I have learned that I can fight about equality with him till we are both pounding our fists on the table in a battle of dogma and wits, then at the end of the day when I leave, all that matters is that we love and respect each other. We just do. And I know he is a good person and he wants good in the world. And he believes the path to goodness is paved with Jesus, good ole boys and McDonald’s. He trusts. He trusts in the establishment. He is a good man. He raised his children, he worked his forty years and retired, he believed in the system and it worked (more or less) for him.

Belief, faith and hope are these intangible concepts that keep us unwavering in our personal brand of truth. Fact is a concept created by science that invalidates the unseen and unmeasured.  The First Amendment gives us all the basic freedom of tethered belief in whatever we damn well please. Science seems to think it’s more valid than faith. While faith discredits science. History was written by victorious men and just because it was invented doesn’t mean its better. I miss the council fire I never knew. The one that was hot and burning, the one where I was supported by my elders and we all had a shared reality not based in chronic individualism. Of course that fantasy is just that, nostalgia for a bygone era where I perceive peace. This present moment in which I live sometimes, this place where we are supposed to be so much more connected than ever in time, it’s often lonely and y’all know it. It’s a screen and it’s flat. I don’t have many answers so I write into this question. The quest for conversation, questioning this place, this viral intoxication.

 

Dress Code Violation

I’ve been crafting this blog post for weeks. This blog is a look at feminism and male accountability. Then the day I was set to post it, the Orlando shootings happened in Florida. Which was one day after I did a ceremony at gates pass, under a double rainbow for all displaced people suffering from violence. I read today, that the woman married to the Orlando gunman was a woman who actually knew about the gunman’s plans and said nothing. So here I am, getting ready to speak at a TUSD school board meeting, where a measure is set to go to vote for comprehensive sexual education, in a state that has a law that forbids homosexuality to be taught as a positive life style choice. And I am lit up thinking about male violence and women who stand behind men, terrified to say anything, while men enact violence and abuses. I see this kind of silent agreement everyday with almost every woman I know. Women sitting by keeping “the peace” while their partners act out in abusive, sexist, bigoted, dogmatic ways and are not held accountable. In writing this blog and doing this work for social justice and positive reform, I pray that if nothing else, at least it starts a dialogue. There should be no taboo subjects. We need now more than ever to examine ourselves and work daily to shed light on why hatred, bigotry and abuse are thriving in our world. That said, here is the blog.

rainbow mountian

My girl-child Anastacia is becoming a woman. She’s in the magic in-between place where I am no longer her god. She’s calling me out, questioning me, deciding for herself how she wants to conduct her own life. I remember my twelve year old self well. It was when I still believed in my mother’s way, while simultaneously watching it become more and more transparent. I began to see through my mother, her religion, the lies she told herself, as well as the church which perpetuated these lies. Twelve was the last year of my childhood and the beginning of my personal journey to reclaim my power from an abusive step father, from patriarchy and from history.

In the car, Anastacia and Riley wear bathing suits and shorts on the way to the pool. But when we arrive the pool is closed.

“Do you want to go see a movie?”

“Sure, ” they respond in unison.

Riley says, ” but I don’t have a shirt to put on over my suit.”

“I’m sure it’s fine, it’s summer.” I say.

Riley says,“I would never be allowed to wear this to school. They would send me home and I would be suspended if I wore this.” She adjusts her straps on the suit and I can tell she’s nervous. Granted, it is a one piece bathing suit and cut off shorts but it isn’t that reveling or see through.

Anastacia says, “Why do they have a dress code anyway? Who cares, boys can wear whatever they want but girls can’t.”

We turn onto a busy road and I say,” The school rules are just trying to protect girls and boys from being inappropriate.” I try to sound reasonable as they banter back and forth about the injustices of being a girl in middle school.

“Boys can get away with so much more, who cares what girls wear, why should it even matter.” Riley says and I agree. Why should it even matter? We live in the desert and its a million degrees outside and every store in every mall sells clothes in styles that are backless, short, spaghetti strapped, and there are some definite mixed signals going on, with pop icons selling sexuality, at the same time as religious extremists are preaching abstinence only education.

20160531_175735-1-1-1

8 year old Brenna

I recognize this conversation as an opportune teaching moment, “I saw a meme on the internet, it said, Why is it we live in a society where we send girls home from getting an education for wearing something deemed inappropriate? Why don’t we teach boys to not sexualize girls for what they wear. ” I say, “I don’t agree with the strict dress code rules but I do understand why its an issue. You know, we have come a long way as women. It wasn’t that long ago it was legal for men to beat their wives and it was almost impossible for a woman to get a job. Women weren’t even allowed to wear pants.” Riley adjusts her straps again as I continue talking, “It really wasn’t that long ago. My grandma lived it. My mother lived it. I’ve dealt with sexism my whole life, it’s a long road to equality and you girls are going to have learn how to deal with sexism as well.”

I try to explain feminism to them and how it has been but a brief blink in history since women had any rights to their own bodies at all. I search for the words to help them understand this concept, to become little feminists themselves. I don’t have the right words. I barely have words at all and I get tongue-tied in the process of the telling. They didn’t teach feminism in school. As a college student, I attempted to sign up for a woman’s studies course but there are none at Pima Community College where I attend, no courses specifically about women and women’s issues. I don’t know how girls are supposed to learn when there are no teachers. I am working with planned parenthood to attempt to change this in part, to make comprehensive sexual education a standard for T.U.S.D schools. Currently, there is a policy of abstinence only education that does not cover or prepare young people for the choices they are soon to face in regards to their sexuality. Which is unacceptable, because being the daughter of a teenage mother, I know christian rhetoric is not effective birth control. 12516019_1773795706184982_1771676731_n

My mother was seventeen when she got pregnant with me. I was told as a twelve-year-old that it was my duty to be a ‘helpmate,’ subservient to my someday Mormon husband and that the ‘right way’ was to wait until marriage to have sex. There are whole nations that are convinced it’s God’s will for women to be servants to their husbands. Although, I believe the conception in America is that women are liberated, I question this assumption. I have spent a lifetime unraveling the indoctrination force-fed into my being and in doing so encountered the demons of fear that keep us all locked into the story of thousands of years of male domination.

My so-called radical outspoken ideas as a feminist, as a sex worker, and as a mother committed to social justice have stirred the pot in my life and I have encountered resistance, from my family, men I date, my ex-husband, his family, from schools, in churches, in the art and music scene, pretty much everywhere everyday. Because these ideas challenge the men’s club mentality that keeps female oppression alive. Feminism is a bad word. It’s somehow now uncool if women even talk about it, there are memes all over the internet where young girls are saying, I love my boyfriend, I’m not a feminist. No wonder, in a world created by men for men, women don’t even have the language to speak for our liberation.

Most women know some language about sexuality. Terrifying words, such as sexual predator, jealousy, control, blame, incest, rape, shame, abuse, slut, whore, sleazy, loose, bitch. I personally know them too well because I lived in a cloud of these experiences attempting to free myself from a rigid, Christian, brainwashed place. These words are not words I want to use to describe the glorious beauty and power behind true sexuality. You know the words I don’t hear much and barely know at all? Consent, empowerment, choice. I want the girls to be free not fear, I want for them empowerment not powerlessness, I want them to understand that their turf is their body and it is absolutely OK to consent to its truth. Whatever that is.

Personally, I believe in deconstructing modesty. 20160606_151601 Obviously I have lived my life as a nudist and half the world has seen me in various states of undress. I’m pretty certain all my boyfriends, husband, and mother have cringed a little (or a lot) in my open defiance of what is deemed appropriate. When I was thirteen I chose to destroy my boundaries. In fact I threw a grenade in the middle of myself and exploded the inner patriarch that was telling me to diminish myself to helpmate and in doing so I have made people uncomfortable as well as question their own boundaries. I made a choice to be a stripper for thirteen years, I did a trapeze act completely nude, I streaked down Congress street and proceeded to undress fully in every bar and dance on the tables. I am a breathing manifestation of feminism in action. A woman in her power. A legend in my own mind.

Now, I am a mother of two and gone are the days where I could get away with my debauchery dance. Not that it was good for me anyway. It was a tool in the process of my unfolding. It was a big middle finger to all the fuckers who told me I was in dress code violation. I now find myself changing, so not to embarrass my soon to be teen. Society expects mothers to be self-sacrificing, modest, examples of women. So I change a little, but I don’t like it. I don’t want to. I want to be naked. I want my beautiful muscular brown body shining in all its ALIVE glory. Despite what anyone thinks I should do or be. I am ALIVE dammit and that is truly a glorious thing. I don’t know how long my soul waited to get in this perfect beautiful incarnation but I tell you, I don’t take it lightly. My soul is dancing in here, dancing and dazzling so overwhelmed with JOY glittering just bursting with gratitude for it all. Women have been told for so long to dim their soul light and they have covered in shame, hiding for fear their men will get jealous and yield their power in abusive ways. Giving up their soul path to please and appease a judgmental, angry, male God.L1690268breenaincircle3

Feminism has come a long way and women are more empowered yet equally confused about what happens next. And yes, we have gained some rights, and in a way it looks like we have won. But they don’t like it, the right-wing Christian masses don’t like it and our services are under attack. Planned Parenthood, abortions, and comprehensive sexual education to simply name a few.

This is just one piece of the puzzle, the truth is women’s rights and issues are domestic issues and it begins in the home, within our partnerships and friendship circles, within the patriarchal construct of this ‘one man and one woman’ culture. It’s often subtle, underestimated and regarded as the “boys will be boys” attitude. I see it go unchecked and accepted. Sexually inappropriate remarks dismissed as jokes, with educated men who lack emotional maturity, within the larger communities in which we exist, in the rape culture we live in where rape goes minimally punished. Women are asked to remain silent as to keep the peace and we often do. As many men sit back with their larger paychecks, doors swinging wide open for them saying, what, I don’t see a problem, I don’t have a problem, you must have the problem, why are you so emotional? Are you on your period?

Maya Angelou said, “Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women.” I’ve had to stand up many times to male oppression, reclaiming my power. The problem is that men don’t even understand what they are doing entirely because it is systemically woven into the fabric of our culture. That is why, it’s important now more than ever that men and women align with the struggle and truly try to understand it.

It is not ours alone. Together we must fight. Gender inequality, discrimination, sexual harassment, unequal pay is all of our problem, as well as our work. We must educate ourselves, our men must educate themselves. Together, we have to find balance. We have to teach the children balance. We have to be accountable to the future and the past and work very hard to heal. I don’t pretend to know how but I’m trying very hard to learn. I have deep compassion for men’s issues as well, but like all oppression be it gender, race or class oppression, it is up to those in a position of power to acknowledge the injustice and educate themselves so to begin to right, (in the case of women’s issues), thousands of years of patriarchal injustice!

One thing I know for sure, I’m no longer a classic cliche.  I’m no longer,a high school drop out, an alcoholic, drug addicted stripper totally caught up in a death trap, telling myself the victim story. Through some real fucked up times, I’ve learned to be a woman. It was hard knocks that got me through, and my children that taught me compassion. Not only for others but also for myself. It’s not our fault but it is our responsibility to help it heal. We’re living under the historical truth, that a fear based culture dominates and oppresses  it’s people to advantage its own selfish ends. It has to shift. Because we will no longer accept it. And in that shift, personal responsibility for equality has to become the standard. Through this dialogue, we will rise and stand tall and proud, unashamed of our form, violating dress codes, and creating our own code and language for liberation.

2016-05-08 12.26.14

 

 

 

Oak Flat, Owl Song, Lost Ones

What happens to identity when land is stolen?  How does place shape who we are? How significant are places are to our experiences in this world?  This is an essay about what happens to individuals, communities and culture when place is destroyed for commerce. It is the story of dominant culture replacing ancient and sacred spaces to exploit the land to meet its own ends. It is a story of alcoholism and native people and their ongoing war for land rights. It is also a story of my family and how eminent domain and manifest destiny is shaping us. It is a call for truth to be heard, to be understood and acknowledged. This is a call to reclaim identity no matter how buried and an homage to the truth, that the past cannot be erased.

Last night I visited my Nana and Tata. They live by the Tortilita Mountains in Tucson Arizona in a house that was built by their own hands. The center beam of the house is a tree harvested from the tall mountains to the north and the mantle is made of lava stone from mountains in the west. My grandfather is a veteran and retired miner and my grandmother is a former political activist, housekeeper and woman of unwavering faith. But these days, my Nana is in a state of dementia and Alzheimer and she circles the house blanketed in a numbed sort of melancholy, her neck crooked and hanging and my Tata, the man who gave me my eyes, has taken to Valium as a defense for dealing with the slow deterioration of his life and the unrest of his alcoholic sons. The stress of the illness is weighing on the whole family and my uncles live there to care for them. They are Indians. We are Indians. We are Mexicans and we are Americans.El_Tiradito_early_2_cropped_AHS27597

My Nana is Yaqui and her story can be traced from Vicam Pueblo but mostly her ancestor story is lost in her. She no longer talks in English when she talks at all, all I can understand is “Que Bonita” when I bend to find her eyes. I have pieces of stories and I eat them up like a person starved for identity. When you are a people persecuted, stories get lost in lies of cultural identity. We are border people, desert people, people in between worlds.

What i have been told of Nana’s story is a tale of a woman on the frontier of generations and it is a story of a woman struggling in a pre feminist world. Her mother died in childbirth, her father, a handsome mariachi accused of sleeping with the police commissioner wife, murdered in the street. I hear these fragments of lineage, little whispers of stories. Nana’s cord is reaching back into the past connecting to my navel. I feel it and wonder what of the past? History books speak of deportations, battles, hiding in the Mexican identity to stay alive. In the questioning I find myself an accidental historian.

20160310_151819

The border wasn’t in stone back then. There was no wall, the border was symbolic, a made up line drawn by a fledgling country in an ancient land. The people knew this. The people in this region were many, the people here were ancient as Sonora herself. My grandfather’s mother Catalina knew this, she came from Mexico and slowly brought her whole family here, and they settled in La Calle, one of Tucson’s first barrios. La Calle, where my Nana and Tata met. It was in this barrio that my great-grandmother made tortillas and planted gardens, where my grandfather sold newspapers, and had his first kiss.

La Calle is now the Tucson Convention Center because urban renewal destroyed the barrio in 1965. Urban renewal, the racist underbelly of zoning regulations, became the cry of modernization and with the help of a biased media created the political climate in which to destroy a way of life and rewrite history to serve the business elite. Through eminent domain, the people and our history was scattered and driven underground. Literally under concrete. The government-funded concept of urban renewal  poured concrete on a whole entire neighborhood and decimated the beating heart of a Mexican/ Indian city center.

la placita

La placita empty as usual

The Tucson Convention Center and La Placita has always be a ghost place for me but it is even more of a ghost place for my ancestors. As a teen I would ride the bus an hour from the east side to sit in the summer on the concrete by the fountains and I had no idea. I had no idea that was where my ancestors loved, danced, fought, drank, birthed, lived. It was just a place I would go. I ran away from home when I was fourteen and spent days in the eerily empty convention center grounds. I have always carried a sorrow. The more I learn about urban renewal and the wound of history being paved over and replaced, the deeper the understanding, the sorrow, the anger. I think most marginalized people carry these feelings even if they don’t understand why. We were defiled by colonialism and sorrow is in our cellular memory and blood.

Last night at my grandparent’s house, my uncle got in another drunken fight with my great-uncle and who smashed him in the head with a chair. So for the rest of the evening as I played guitar and sang my songs, and attempted to ignore the element of danger and disease so thick and poisonous that was ready to erupt at any moment. I sang and didn’t look at my uncle’s smashed face blood dripping into his mouth as he sat there. “Hey, do you know Rocky Raccoon,” He slurred. So my boyfriend tried to remember the words and played the tune and my uncle sang along. Funny thing about alcohol, the drink that inspires good times and revelry is the same drink that paves over the people. In retrospect, I can see it was the pavement that did it. And the pain of being erased is not easily forgotten. This is a real story of this borderland identity.dad

My Father wasn’t at the house last night and my other Uncle assured me that he will be dead in a few months. We are all alcoholics. My dad arguably the worst. His obsession with the bottle taking him to death’s door more times than I can count. He has spent his life as a chef, cooking meals for privileged elite at world-class resorts. It may be safe to say he doesn’t recognize his skin color. In Arizona, even the brown people are racist against themselves.  That is the internalized self-hatred of under educated working class people. You think something must be wrong with you, not the other way around. You don’t understand why. You just know something is terribly wrong.

The last time my father was sick I got a call from him when I was living in Florida, they had sent him home to die. So I flew a thousand miles to sit by his bed side. He was yellow and he could barely formulate a sentence. I had to help him to the bathroom and make sure he didn’t fall over when he pissed. That was before Nana checked out completely, before dementia took its final toll. She kept praying to Jesus for her son to recover. I bought a shit ton of B vitamins, herbs and laid my hands on him performing reiki, and prayed for another chance. I played ukulele songs and talked to him about sobriety. Five days later when I left, I wasn’t sure if I was saying goodbye forever. He recovered. It was a miracle. The next time I spoke to him he assured me Jesus had saved him.

My Dad’s family are Yaqui and unknown Indian descent. Not that they always admit it. My grandmother birthed six children. The first four children are half Apache from her first marriage. My father and his younger brother are the only children from my Nana and Tata. I know almost nothing about our heritage. But neither do they. Back then you couldn’t say you were an Indian and not face deep discrimination or worse. It was better to forget, to lie, to say we are Mexican, to blend. The only one of them that will talk to me about the past is Jose, the passionate irreverent drunk who fought in Vietnam, paints and draws incredibly beautiful native images and has a hot-headed temper that gets him smashed in the head with chairs. Handsome Jose, is what they used to call him. He is half Apache, but he never met his Apache Father, not until he was twenty. Much like myself who had to seek out my father at twenty, meeting him for the first time at a bar in Colorado, my father looked at me and started speaking in Spanish. I just stared blankly at his eyes and he said, “You don’t know Spanish?”

100In my quest for lost cultures I sometimes choose to spend time at Oak Flat, a campsite north of Tucson, where for a year the Apache Stronghold have been camping defending their sacred site from total decimation from a foreign mining company with plans to take their ancestral land and blast a mile wide hole in it to extract copper. Recently was the anniversary of the occupation and few hundred people there supporting this effort. Navajos, Apaches, and Californian tribal people were there. There were also white folks there helping to organize this event and supporting the resistance. Oak Flat is a beautiful place. It is the ancestral lands of the Apache, of course it is no longer their land because after many years of battle and struggle all Apaches were forcibly removed to the San Carlos reservation. Spending time at Oak Flat, I could sense the past. It was like time washed away and in the songs and the drums was the sound of a lineage passed down for generations. It felt like a home I never knew but knew so well, the land the people, still alive, still striving to maintain their culture. It was powerful, so powerful and true that I could see why capitalism would want it to disappear.

There were a few hundred people at Oak Flat. I can’t help but wonder about the 15,000 or so people who live on the San Carlos reservation. I also wonder about my neighbors, friends, family, allies. I wonder where was everyone? Why we weren’t all there defending this place from another governmental onslaught on sacred freedom. They are about to bulldoze another culture and sever the memory of the ancestors again. So I look within to my own fragmented native family, and I see our truth. How do you fight for a culture you glimpse in dreams and visions but do not know?  They said assimilate so we assimilated, we worked in their mines, we fought in their wars, we believed in their gods and it severed our cords. We picked up the bottle to fill the mystery of a culture stolen and found it perpetually empty. We know we are native but we no longer know what that means. At least we don’t. My family. Some natives held on and those were the ones who were there at Oak Flat, singing the ancestor songs and for that I am so thankful. I listened from afar as the bonfire raged, to native people holding on for dear life, to their way of life while above them on the mountain, stationed and ready to plow were the machines of the mine waiting, ever present to destroy another mountain and with it a culture of a people.mining

The war is not over. They say the Indian wars ended in 1924, the year my Nana was born, but it is obvious it never did. It exists right now in the living rooms of sadness in front of televisions. It exists in my body. It exists in apathy, mines, poverty, displacement. It exists in the delusion that we can just walk away from the past. It exists within us and it is up to us to heal it within ourselves. Especially for native people, because so much was erased. I fight the war within myself daily to choose to listen to my ancestors, to not pick up the bottle, to fight the good fight even though my blood quantum ratio, merely makes me a half-breed and it’s hard because my people are dying and it’s safe to say perhaps they never found their way back. That the spirits ate them up. AIM activist John Trudell said, “Protect your spirit, because we are in a place where spirits get eaten.”

When I arrived at my Nana and Tata’s last night, before the fight and blood Jose called to me, “Do you want to see an owl?” So I went outside and stood by the old truck with Tata and Jose and on the fence sat a blinking great horned owl. Jose said, “This owl was hurt. It had a broken wing so I called the bird people to get it help and they said they would come but I needed to keep it in my sight so what did I do? I grabbed a six-pack and went out and drank it down out there with the bird and sang to it till they came. They took it to their bird rescue facility and I forgot about it. Well, a few months later I got a call from the bird people and they asked me if I wanted the bird back. That bird, he was as good as new and a few weeks later he got a girlfriend. They sat on the fence together and watched us. Then one day I came out here and looked over and there were three little baby owls on the fence.” As Jose finished his story I watched that big owl watching us. It opened it wings and flew away and from behind the tree, his girlfriend followed him and as the sound of flight took over my ears, I believed it was a good thing, these spirit creatures watching over my ancestors.Great-Horned-Owl-6319

The truth is, we cannot get back what has been lost but we stare into the future every time we look into our children’s eyes. The desert knows and has knowledge beyond us. We must untangle from the consumer world that consumes all cultures and come together to step into a path of healing. Our lives are scared. We are a living testament to our ancestors stories. The owls are guiding us to find the way home and the spirit of the past lives in our blood and bones. And it itches and claws at our insides to remember but we don’t, we don’t even know how and we try on the dominant culture like a glove that doesn’t fit, becoming more detached from meaning until nothing works not the bottle, not Jesus or money or mines and time keeps its drum beat. So I just sing and write my stories. And learn what I can from both worlds. The white world and the native world of both I do not belong and strive daily to keep my heart open and listen to the wind and not die too. Not while I am alive. It is the only victory I know. To not be destroyed by the lack of identity, or the bottle or any other soulless force. I am here, we exist, wounded and bleeding but not broken, never broken. Be the light. Even in the face of indescribable spirits. Even as you fill the holes with liquid poison and scream internally in anger for what was stolen. Even though the darkness claws at you. Pray and remember our ancestors. We are in a place where spirits get eaten.

 

So It Goes.. and goes…and goes… and then you die.

When I started this blog a year and a half ago I had just moved my family across country. We rid pathourselves of most of our earthly possessions and whittled it away to what could fit in a mini u-haul. We landed in the Pisquah National Forest in the middle of the North Carolinian expanse, on twenty acres of land, tucked into the side of a steep holler.

I was a newly married woman with two children setting out to find my piece of peace in the great wild spaces of solitude. I worked very hard to get licensed as a massage therapist in North Carolina. I fought my way through a legal packet twenty pages long, which had to include five statements of moral character signed and notarized by licensed health care professionals, extensive tests and the pinky finger of my unborn child.

anastacia

I had literally been trying to grow up to be a hippie back-to-the-lander most of my life. It started when I was eighteen and I moved to Colorado and visited the mountain towns up there where I witnessed a stalk of foresters doing this mountain person music festival thing, done up with feathers, structures made of hide and sticks, and bows and arrows, and I thought in my naive city girl heart of hearts.

This is possible.

river teeth

So from then on I decided I was going to use my feminine wiles and strip my way into land ownership and by golly, I would own a tipi. I had been trying and failing in one way or another for over a decade, and it was killing me, had been killing me since the beginning, but I was too lazy, lost, high, traumatized, fake rich, idealistic, to really understand it fully. Stripping is a catch 22. You make so much money that you think you can do anything, except the hungry nature of the job has to be fed with something. Some women feed it with their souls, or we just stayed anesthetized in one way or another, or both. Or neither. Stripping is a whole world unto itself, a snake eating it’s tail. Marrying Russ and having that second baby was really what finally pulled me out of the delusion. The money, loss, money cycle. Like the pain spasm pain cycle except with green paper. I had been trying to ‘get out of it’ since ’98, but lack of skills, single parenting and lack of genuine self worth and desire for freedom kept had me stuck.

Joy and Bren, 14 and 16

Joy and Bren, 14 and 16

I had been under a spell since I was thirteen. The spell of hardcore. I got it into my head that was who I was and I didn’t need school or nothing, nobody except Joy. My best friend, sidekick, cohort, wife, partner in crime. You know, all that. We got into partying together and it was a domino theory situation. I don’t think we meant to go so far or deep but back then we just truly really felt repressed and nothing made it feel less so except alcohol, weed, acid and whatever. We were together all those teen years. Her, gettin me into trouble, me, gettin her arrested.

08

We broke up, got back together, stayed up endless nights laughing, danced to inside jokes and crushed hard and mad on boys who didn’t really love us. We lived at Cafe Quebec and haunted every alley, until she moved away and I dropped out of school to hang out with gangsters and drink 40’s. The thing is, its like no one is a gangster, until you start believing you are a gangster and then its true, like poof. But people started dying and I got sick of being around guns, so I got in a lesbian relationship and she turned me on to                                                                               stripping. Our teenage death cult movie.

17th birthday

17th birthday

I was seventeen. The clubs back then weren’t so bad, you could still only air hump in the 90’s. That shit was really regulated. Club owners paid for half the girls boob jobs and gangster rap and big hair were in. Joy came and danced with me for a month when she moved back. We got paid extra one night to do Hot Body Wrestling, all lathered in oil. I won. She wouldn’t want me to tell anyone that. She didn’t stay stripping long, back then she fought harder against the temptation of the darkness than I did. Me, I found it alluring.

brenna ghost

It was so alluring that I flirted with it in one way or another, until I was sick and tired and close to death more times than I can count. My intentions were always to get a tipi and land and to really get out of it. Not just the “it” of the club but also the “it” of the world, you know the one, Babylon. Call it one to many acid trips, call it white guilt, call it awareness, whatever you call it I had decided the “it” of the world was not for me. So finally at thirty-one, two kids in tow, a man with similar convictions, I had made it out. To the woods, up a steep holler, a garden larger than the house, pigs, chickens, two amazing jobs doing actual healing massage work, a man saving the environment with his work. Living the dream.
DSC_0019 I wasn’t happy though. Nope, not at much. I tired everything to be happy, yoga, gardening, playing guitar, hanging with the boy, hanging with the girl, long walks through the woods, long talks about our relationship, sex. We even started the process of buying a house. I was working six days a week to make it happen, finding the isolation to be unbearable, the mold an epidemic, the hiking up and down the holler intolerable, the winding road driving insane. The rain wouldn’t stop and I was drowning. Anastacia and Russ, two peas in a pod chattering at every farm to table meal, Alyosha sucking endlessly on my tits. Happy peas. Except me. Not happy. Lonely me.

IMG_3350

I guess my insight from that is, after a life of trauma, you just can’t pack it all up one day and say “I quit.” It takes years of unwinding and reforming a mind and body to simple be able to be. And I just wasn’t there yet. I could play house, but I couldn’t feel family. Like always, during this time Joy and I were corresponding, she was in Bali, fighting her addictions and actually winning for once and I was missing her. She sounded so much like…. her. Not the drunk Joy or the wild Joy, she just sounded like Joy. My best friend. She was going to stay in Bali and I was going to buy a house. We were adults finally. We we doing good. Or at least that’s we told each other in letters. We were on our way to better, striving to find what we were looking for.

04

Florida, Circa 2012

The house deal almost sealed, but between the bookends of conception, pregnancy, labor and hard time hangover, Russ and I gave up on each other. It wasn’t obvious at first until Anastacia got real sick. So sick that I held her quivering body at night to keep her breathing. Homeless in a tent with a deliriously sick kid, we decided to leave the rest of our worldly possessions up the holler and come back to Tucson. So I flew us back and didn’t wait for the house to finally clear. Just took our cards and folded.

Back in Tucson, health returned. Thanks to the dry air, loving family and friends, the sweat, Dr.Vance and Ahern, Tucson Acupuncture Co-op. Sure, I had to make a few guest appearances at Venom. The strip clubs in Tucson have changed since the 90’s. Maybe it was always that way and I’ve changed. Either way, it was weird. I couldn’t wait to get licensed back in AZ (another arduous process). A few things I know, health is wealth my friends, and Tucson just won’t let me go. For better or worse, Sonoran Desert. Russ and I rented a place together to lick our wounds and we looked for words to find us but what was lost could not be spoken. And we parted. Joy returned. After ten years my best friend finally decided to move back. But I could tell she had that look in her eye and I was overwhelmed myself and producing a play (for some weird reason), and Russ was moving out and the dog ran away and it was all sorts of fucked up still.

IMG_3437

Piamedea Digitography

Joy got all wild eyed for a while and I tried and then didn’t try anymore. I thought her boyfriend broke my window when they stayed the night. I yelled.I unleashed something at her like fury of twenty years and anger at running away at fourteen and having to rescue her from a drunken escapade that almost cost her her virginity. For bunk acid and being selfish. I yelled at bi-polar. I yelled at demons and alcohol and cigarettes and Russ and Sinful Moon Saloon and everyone that had ever fucking wronged me. I wasn’t really yelling at Joy. But it was through a cell phone, at the top of my lungs for a long time. She kept saying, “dude I wasn’t even there.” I broke up with her, for real like one final time, after twenty years of love and fights, jealousy and passion, after poetry and shared reality.

IMG_3338

Piamedea Digitography

Never saw her again. She died three days died before my 34th birthday. I got a lot her stuff, you know helped her family process the life of Joy. That dress she would never let me wear cause she knew I’d rip it for sure, the jewelry she took all those radiant photos in, her sewing machine she sewed that skirt on, the one I stole from her and wore until it was threadbare. All her Grill photos, many of them  ripped in half because I have the other two. That girl kept every damn letter I ever wrote her. Postcards, photos of my kids. I even got that green army backpack she used all of high school. I now have everything that made Joy, Joy. Except Joy. That I lost. She left this incarnation.

Grill

Grill

We spoke on the phone once before she left Earth. She said she’d forgive me because I was the most forgiving person she ever knew.  She always said that. It was a thing she said about me. It’s been really hard forgiving myself though. I know it’s not my fault but I’m selfish. I want to call her and tell her about all my problems and I want to play my new song for her and drink wine by candlelight and laugh at all the jokes only we know. I want to process her death with her like we processed everything else in life.

Life is hard and I don’t got much figured out ‘cept I have to write poetry and sing my heart out and dance or I will die. I have to keep writing and doing and believing. I got a true love in Mik, who has stood by me in my overwhelming grief, who plays songs with me and gets me through the incredible fear of the night. I have to keep loving and remembering and forgiving.

Joy was my wife and she died so soon. I’m a widow now. A black haired widow.

Die die die, my darling.

So It Goes.

IMG_3415

Photo Credit: Piamedea Digitography

the sun sunk sisters

The end of this life story for her is her death. Cessation, light, curtains, darkness.

Joy is dead is the first thought I have when I wake up and the last thought that sticks with me when I retire to sleep. In between the bookend of those thoughts, a million scattered memories filter in. The secret handshake fellowship of a friendship since adolescence. And the radio somehow knows to play every song that was “ours.” The montage of memory. We have so many.

I’m wearing her pants and it doesn’t feel the same as it did the twenty years we spent sharing pants. But I need pants and I think, well she would want me to have pants. I feel guilty wearing her clothes because her physical form has dissolved, become ashes. Become dust. And I am still flesh.

How many paisley nights we spent hurled into the space of true connection. The great merging of minds on this sphere. One of my life partners has left earth in form. I have many. But none will know me like her in the years of discovery and platitudes, of party and mystery.Dancing_Flame_by_darksky86

Within us existed tempered truth. We fought the allure of darkness and we diminished darkness daily with dancing, and music and  writing and everything.

Women descendants, we were from arid places, from cornerstone florescent places, from suburbia and bursting out of patriarchy. We were espied upon preyed upon witchery. Hatching into new light. We came from darkness and we walk it in Venus glory. We celebrate our madness and revel in the beauty too.

We are not we anymore but just me and everyone else left here before death takes us to the flowing river of immensity. Exhale upon the spirit of always. I miss you.

I feel you and hear your vibrant laughter. The last time I saw you you were in your Volvo at a stoplight, sun glasses on and I was in my Ford. You turned up your tunes and started dancing. I turned up mine and we danced behind our wheels. When the light turned green I turned left. You sped off laughing. Sister, in my mind your still driving somewhere all wild and shit, music up. Laughing.

IMG_0040

Joy and Bren

You Roam and Roam and Roam

You think to yourself.

The harder something is the more beautiful it is. Or at least that’s what your experience with beauty has been. The wealth of it astounds you but at what a cost is this beautiful life. Its hard to say which incarnation has been most difficult. Which incarnation the most beautiful.

You fall in love again and again and again. Leaving or getting left. Lovers. Late 1800’s haunted bordellos. Seeing spirits. Patsy Cline and peaches. Drugs, raves, extravagant parties, dancing, motorcycles, bicycles, warehouses, art. Mistakes. Brokenheartedness. The poems you write about him and him and him. Single mothering on a strippers income, the ball and chain feeling like you would never get out of it. (But you do someday.) A beautiful daughter companion who shares wisdom as you protect and support. And nurture the best you know how. You move. So many moves no where feels like home or everywhere does.

Baby bean

Baby bean

You get addicted to leaving, break up with your lover to move to Taos, New Mexico in a school bus you bought, put bamboo floors in and attempted to convert to veggie oil. You drive it all the way there even though you don’t know how to drive it. Almost wreck but don’t. You park on the dusty barren waterless Mesa with your kid and live there. Its lonely and the thunder rolls in with the storms and pass you by or don’t. Rootin’ tootin’ cowboys with guns and meth problems, clowns and punks become your sage brush neighbors. The stars are pretty. You go crazy. You leave. Leave your bus and massage textbooks from the college you just graduated, the only thing you had ever finished. Textbooks and journals and paintings you just leave it all there. You sell the bus to a white Indian who tells you his father needs it. You regret it.

Very large bus

Very large bus

You take the money and you and your lover and child go deep into Mexico in August, the heat getting hotter every mile on a bus and you don’t know Spanish because even though your brown and your dad’s bilingual you never met him and no one taught you Spanish and its as embarrassing as hell. So you don’t even try. Your lover does crack with your other lover who you brought with you cause he knows Spanish and Saluitia and don’t you want to be a surf instructor. You drink a bottle of tequila and hang off a roof cause your trying to scare him or you cant take it anymore. The mosquitoes bite your ass. You don’t die. You crawl back in the tent. In the morning you hate yourself and don’t dangle off any more roofs. Until you do.

Black Sand Beach Puna Big Island

Black Sand Beach Puna Big Island

You fly to Hawaii with a backpack. Cause you have to change your life and live in the most remote woods on the most remote island in the world in a tent foraging for food. Cracking whole macadamia nuts on Christmas by your self, aware of centipedes that crawl around in bags and tents, cant get the fire lit. Dancing, flying from island to island, avocado trees, coconuts. Living off the grid with your daughter. You learn to pray together. Ecstatic dance and hitchhike. 30 miles to get your 5 gallon water jug filled. Your liver starts to hurt. You worry your sick sick. You save up power on your one solar panel for one CD listen at night or half of a movie, you write by candlelight. Showering in cold water. Champagne ponds, spirit bonds, aloha. Dancing with 300 shirtless freedom seekers. Lava flows. Lava flows sometimes near your town. Near your house. It rains for 3 months strait. Black sand beaches. Your daughter gets staff infection in her eye. Drums and rambatans.

16Ft. Tall Pole at Parasol Project.

16Ft. Tall Pole at Parasol Project.

You open a 2000sq ft. wharehouse and are forced to throw parties to help make the rent. But you never do, make the rent, so you massage and massage and perform in whiskey shows and win pole dancing competitions and have the most fun and sorrow at the bottom of a bottle. Your liver hurts. You quit drinking. You buy a van and live in Key West in the van. You read poetry. You pick up guitar. You teach your daughter to ride a damn bike. You tattoo your hands as a political statement. As if its not hard enough to get a normal job. Pick up a guitar You build a sandbag roundhouse/room for 9 months and only live in it for 3. You break your back and brain everyday fighting back sand, erosion, and desperation, hauling sandbags, liming sandbags, sewing sandbags, all while dancing and living in a tent in the back yard of a house in the Florida summer mosquito’s and all. Your liver hurts. Your lover is up in a tree with a banner that says Defend this Forest.

Tree Sit to Protest Biotech Corporation SCRIPPS.

Tree Sit to Protest Biotech Corporation SCRIPPS.

Your proud of him. The phones are tapped. Your daughter flunks kindergarten.

 

 

sandbag world the finished houselimeing

Lived in this tent for 9 months.

Lived in this tent for 9 months.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

During that time you buy a boat to sail the seas and be free free free. But you were building the house or taking a break and it was summer. So you sailed though you didn’t know how in the Bermuda triangle. Chintzy dinghy’s, losing oars, tide pulling you out, getting rescued, tow boat USyea! A million boat malfunctions, drifting, no wind, losing radio signal, dropping anchor, the oh shit moment when you dinghy out to sea and “oh shit, where the fuck is the boat.” Your lover almost dies sailing the boat back when he hits a rubble pile in the middle of the ocean during a storm. They have just enough time to call you before they lose signal. Its all your fault for buying the boat. You call tow boat USA.  They don’t die. You sell the boat. You move to Costa Rica with a backpack. You think aliens are sucking your life force. The desert calls.

The sunrise drifting with no engine in deep water no land in sight.

The sunrise drifting with no engine in deep water no land in sight.

You grew up in the same neighborhood most of your childhood. You had the same best friend, you did gymnastics, you like to swim, you made balloon animals and threw circuses. You loved your little sisters. Your room had 4 white walls. There were patterns on the ceiling. The sky was very clear from that yard. You could smell the creosote good. Jackrabbits would run in the morning. You were forced to be a Mormon and sometimes you wanted to be Mormon. Sometimes you did not. Your liver didn’t hurt then. You had allergies. Your step father had something against you. You left at 15.

You settled down finally. Started eating meat again. You got pregnant, they came for your gall bladder not your liver. The pain was dramatic. You kept your organ. You had another baby. After the pain of natural glorious childbirth the pain went away. The motha fucking sock it to you pain melted away. You kept your organ got married threw your own wedding  2 months after natural no drugs no nothing child birth and your vagina barely healed. Your daughter cant read, but she is learning. She’s a mariachi. You live next door to the school and hear trumpets and the train whistle. You are shaken 50 times a day. You get a mouse family. Your garden won’t grow. You plant a tree with your placenta.

7 months pregnant

7 months pregnant

Natural childbirth   You want a garden, not just want need a garden. So you pack you and your family in a car and move to the middle of the Pisgah national forest in the million acre woods and write. You have to hike. Not want to hike have to hike. Up up up a mountain anytime you want to leave or return. It sucks but your ass looks better than it ever has. At the bottom of the hill you always think, baby in your arms full of groceries, this is the hardest thing I ever ever had to do. But when you get to the top you realize, no actually it isn’t. It’s beautiful and glorious and you eat wild raspberries all the way and listen to the sound of the creek and fall asleep to frogs. But its the hardest life you’ve lived. And the most beautiful.

Anastacia in her power

Anastacia in her power