Archive for the ‘early childhood’ Category

between, beyond, within

September 22, 2017

where you’re from  <——–>  who you are

between, beyond, within

allyship  <——–>  identity

between, beyond, within

being exclusive  <———>  feeling included

between, beyond, within

students teaching  <——–>  teachers learning

between, beyond, within

bird landing  <——–>  parent dying

between, beyond, within

never the right time  <——–>  it is time

between, beyond, within

neutrality supports oppressor  <——–>  equanimity enables action

between, beyond, within

celebrating diversity  <——–>  further objectifying

between, beyond, within

dancer sleeping  <——–>  coma patient dreams in dance

between, beyond, within

poverty  <——–>  privilege

between, beyond, within

ignorance of intelligence  <——–>  wisdom of heart

between, beyond, within

sun setting  <——–>  lamp lighting

.
“You have become undone, released, unmoored.
You are floating and will seek safe harbor.
This New Perspective will allow the insights to
pour out on us, seal us, reprove us, imprint on us,
teach us, reveal us, search us, speak to us,
instruct us, renew us, intercede for us, strengthen us,
quicken us, comfort us, lead us, sanctify us,
flatter us, humble us, right us, re-imagine us,
chastise us, and completely fall on us.
 .

“One who bears a bowl of water feels its weight,

but if you go right into the water it will be all over

you, and you will not notice the burden of it.

~ David Byrne, The New Sins, p. 93
(modified for gender neutral language)
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missives from the playground

March 14, 2017

a

adult playground – in photos

child’s playground – in words

both true.

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how to make chalk hand-prints (best results when 6 – 8-yrs-old):

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get a friend to trace around your body sprawled on the asphalt/ground with chalk

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spend long time deliberately skrushing in various solid colors with huge sidewalk chalks; for clothing, hair, accoutrements, and skin of your silhouetted image [could take 20-40 minutes]

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lightly pat your open palms onto chalk colored self-portrait a couple three times

c

place hands firmly in an unchalked spot on the asphalt

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leap up into a handstand – after a breath, plant feet again earthward one at a time and stand tall [takes 1-2 seconds]

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there they are. bright colored hand-prints clear and detectable for all passers-by

b

To Rosetta Lee, if i could…

August 21, 2016

To identify as transgender is not telling me anything about one’s sexuality.

The energy of my response is about invisibility and marginalization, to expose and heal.

I’m putting this out in the ether webby ness before any beloved editors can heal and help my wordings. I just wanna get this out there. Stumbling fumblings to be caught and wholed with your support…

I am keen to see how the meaning and use of the term transgender evolves over time. It just may come to reference one’s sexuality. I do not think it does so presently. Presently, I think it reveals one’s gender identity. Below I expound why I find this discernment relevant, in North Carolina, in 2016, no less.

Please engage and change me, relieve me from my confusion and suffering – I want to learn and understand.

Please call me out, or call me in, on any stuck, narrow, binary, right/wrong thinking I express herein. I am much more interested in etymology and the evolution of language, thought, and movement (all pun possibilities intended) than being right, narrow, stuck, etc.

The person I wish I could dialog with (Rosetta Eun Ryong Lee) speaks to her interest in action over too much quibble with words/labels/terminology. I respect that. That lands as workable progressive change process. Yum!

Alas, I quibble whole-heartedly, I question whole-self-edly, with some unknowns – with some experience I had in a session facilitated by her the other day. I wish that I could ask her directly how she came to understand transgender as a sexuality, and further explain a point she and I exchanged about publicly.

Key note: I use pronouns she/her/hers for this amazing leader and activist, as that is what I find online in her self-made website. I am going to trust she is in control of that pronoun usage so publicly; that she is self-identifying with these pronouns, which does not reveal to me her gender identity. We simply don’t have enough pronouns yet for all of us.

I avert social media, excepting email and this blog, so I will not sign up for twitter or LinkedIn, the only options she publicly provides for contact.

I’ve been drafting this letter I fantasize will find its way to her for 5+ days… Today, two articles appeared that wrangle me to post sooner than later. Links are at the bottom of this post. Or, for choose your own adventure, click here and/or here.

This is in large part about the use of a term that she and I disagree on – use of which I find dangerously confusing here in NC in 2016. There is a second part I publicly commented on with her, in the session last week, in front of my brand new unknown colleagues.

Here’s my letter I dream finds its way to her incredible social justice activist heartmindbody:

Hi Rosetta, amazing leader in change-making,

Thank you for journeying down here to the southeast USA so much! I am the genderqueer folk from __ who shared that I’d helped work to get you to ___, as co-clerk of the committee through which __ called for you specifically. As a new staffer at __, I was so delightfully eager to hear and learn from you.

There were two examples in the day, Wednesday, August 17, 2016, at __, when I struggled as the only self-identified and out trans staffer.

I wanted to discuss further with you. Alas, time-space has its limits. Here is a remote/digital form of my querying.

I was so uncomfortable standing for the up-downs exercise, I did not see if you raised your hand as other than cis-gendered. Online, the pronouns she/her are used towards you. I dared to stand up in any way I could, as a potential resource for students and staff. There was no sense of standing proudly for me, as you instructed. I am too new at this school to know… I’ve belatedly heard that you were seen to raise your hand for the up-downs of, “Neither male nor female work for you.” Of course, we could present the up-downs with 8 or 50 or… 200 options for folks, unpacking gender more fully the way race and ethnicity were. I know you know that. I only mention it because many many more people might have stood if the distinctions were furthered, regarding gender nonconforming, any expression other than male or female, and then on to clarities like transgender, genderqueer, agender, etc etc.

I appreciate your naming a couple of times that you are more interested in action than language. That’s good clean fun and actively progressively useful! And -as ever- a both/and situation. The poetics of naming -phew- matter in this season of trans visibility. The two examples regarding language (unpacked below) felt crucial, for me, especially in that they could have confused people regarding trans lives/experience/politics, in NC in 2016 no less.

1st example: transgender as a sexuality

I wish I’d had time to ask you to:

Please share more of how you come to understand and reinforce the term transgender as a sexuality.

You stopped a teacher from interrupting you, after they’d asked why you included transgender as a sexuality. Their interruption was flowing towards something like that they had understood it as a term of gender identity. You explained that the gender identity of anyone can be mis-read or fluid… something to that effect (which is accurate!) You added, in different words, that someone gender nonconforming, depending if they are partnered or attracted to a man, woman or whathaveyou, allows the originally referenced person to be in a transgender sexually attracted dynamic? …I am not clear on your meaning/distinction by this point in the dialogue…

I delight and giggle at my own tightness around use of transgender as a sexuality. Any such condensing feeling marks a growing edge, a sensitive period, a zone of proximal development, something for me to pay attention to!

This encounter I describe was the only interruption in the day, with all staff together, when you held your hand up, palm out, at shoulder height – powerfully. This was the only time someone asked a question from a countering view and you held your ground – stopped them from interrupting you – hand up, palm out, in the air at face height, beautifully full-on Supremes style – thus your response landed as significant important correct?!?!

You got that theatrical performative intensification many script writers only dream of – and it was organic, on-the-spot, in real time, real life. Thus, the weightiness or gravity to your doubling down on your interpretation and use of transgender was amplified.

We were invited repeatedly to be more interested in our response to things, rather than getting hung-up on this or that terminology

I am so curious about your doubling down on your perception and use of transgender as a sexuality.

As you pointed to, there is power in naming “normative” gender as cis-, to counter a historical pattern of uniquely referencing more marginalized identities. Cis- is a way to call out/in mainstream genders.

The T in LGBT has been discerned as a gender and not a sexuality with such effort in media and academia etc. To confuse that in this era of (national and local and global) trans visibility is confounding.

I perceive that the T is about self-hood, not who you love.

As the only self-identified genderqueer person in the audience, it was discomfiting to witness this exchange.

One can identify as gender nonconforming and cisgender simultaneously. I dare suggest every single person, cis- or no, is gender nonconforming. That’s part of the wonderful freedom we transgender folks have to offer the world, just as soon as everybody realizes the usefulness and the emptiness of DNA or plumping based binaries!

I am not certain how you self-identify and do not want to unskillfully project. In case you do identify as a:

  • Woman / cis-woman (gender?)
  • Lesbian (sexuality?) Though this does imply homo/same. Thus the gender id of both parties is possibly revealed. Oh binary. A transwoman who chooses to pass could be within the lesbian territory and often is!
  • Or in case you do identify as gender nonconforming, but not as transgender or genderqueer,

…it may have been as it felt – that you flexed some cis-privilege?

As a (the!?) genderqueer and transgender person in the room, I disagree/d with your interpretation and defense of your use of the term transgender.

Alas, Hail to:

Bisexuals

Pansexuals

I’m sure I’m unaware of many other terms that could suffice…

These terms beautifully meet your meaning, I think.

They seem to meet your point regarding either the perceived and or inner gender identity for any attraction or sexual encounter… noh?! Bisexuality and pansexuality are sadly overly invisibilized too! We could use both terms oftener and educate even more preciously and lovingly about binary and nonbinary sexuality!? Yah?

Part of the energy of my response is about invisibility and marginalization – as all of your national touring work aims to expose and heal. To slide transgender identity into the sexuality realm can obscurate the struggles to simply use the bathroom we are fighting for here in NC.

Never mind the beatings, murders, and suicides that unfortunately increase, with the visibility we didn’t ask for from odd state legislation. (Though it is not odd at all, if we understand the history of state politics by design pushing against national and smaller/local governing fronts.)

One can identify as a transgender asexual.

In other words, to identify as transgender is not telling me anything about one’s sexuality.

One can be a genderqueer pansexual, a transmasculine bisexual, an agender pansexual, a gay trans man, a straight trans man, a lesbian trans woman, a straight trans woman, and on and on…

So, again, I am open to being re-educated about what the term transgender means.

This precious new article speaks from some middle school age folks today, these brilliant evolvers of language and gender – and they are in alignment still with my understanding of transgender. Curious. And I sure love to lean on pre-adolescents to keep up with what’s what any day. Link below as well.

2nd example: danger of trans-enough-ing qualifying

Later in a breakout session for pre-K – lower school staff, I did speak out, after you expressed that “really really really trans” folks tend to self-identify around 3-years-old, with insistence, persistence, and consistence.

You did ground your frames and models as tools only, not to be swallowed whole. Alas, you are in a power position in the role you serve schools across the nation. What you emphasize and speak illustratively to and make a slide for becomes “expert” data, swallowed more wholly maybe than you even ever intend…

You speak fast and identify as a scientist which translate into much intellectual privilege. Your presentation lands as expert info, whether you intend it or not, especially when your exposure to and life living with any topic at hand grossly outpaces the majority of the audience.

Good ol’ intention versus actions versus results. They are most often not in alignment for any of us.

This use of “really really really” plus the young age qualifier is inaccurate and potentially dangerous.

In many layers of gender and sexually diverse identities the “enough” ness – trans enough, bi enough, gay enough, lesbian enough ness is so so damaging.

I queried with my HT provider who is steeped in the medical field of providing healthcare for trans folks. They gasped at hearing of the reference to 3-yr-olds’ prevalence of identifying. There is no (ack, who cares) empirical scientific data to back up the claim regarding early childhood and “opposite” gender identifying.

A 3-year-old who can insistently, consistently, and persistently identify as “the opposite” gender from what they were labeled at birth only exposes that they have been brought up in a binary reinforcing culture – that there are only two clear choices.

Now, sadly, this is largely true for most of us still today. We’re working on it.

Nevertheless, touting such quantitative data in a qualitative field is, I think, dangerous for gender nonconforming, non binary, genderqueer children and olders getting further invisibilized – thus even continuingly further marginalized regarding physical, mental, and emotional health, and social/cultural equity.

 

Ahhh, breather here for humor at my tightness.

I sure do feel strongly about this stuff. Thanks for any laughing and reading along.

Breathing slow and deep is encouraged.

Rosetta, you seemed to graciously understand my point here about qualifying, quantifying, and binary reinforcing, as we spoke publicly. Thank you for that!

Another note is how many folks’ personal histories expose how utterly unknowable and/or inaccessible alternate options were regarding gender identity in their youth. All sorts of privilege and random and profound life incidents play into how and when people self-identify as trans or gender variant.

As I mentioned Wednesday, in some soon years, maybe in this current generation, this particular note could become irrelevant. Attention and visibility for trans existence abounds, whether we are ready or not.

Note: the day after our workshop, NC court-battling legislative legalities doubled down on trying to scientifically dismantle the existence of transgender people. It is fun to live here right now, feels dandy, let me tell yuh.

For folks around my age and older, to be validated or invalided according to when they/we intrapersonally became convinced of their gender self-identity can be incredibly harmful, unskillful at minimum.

In some brevity, this is all about marginalization and invisibility.

The fight for gay marriage invisibilized the T in LGBTIQ for many years in recent history.

Now the T is loudly in the media.

And it will be many painful years before nonbinary genderqueer folks gain any traction of safety or social equity with any visibility.

For now, of course, the visibility for both binary and nonbinary transgender/gender nonconforming/genderqueer folks feels threatening, especially here in NC – which includes cis-gender identified, gender nonconforming, sexually queer folks!

I dare to take the time-space to express my thoughts, even as I see how wonderfully full your schedule is as you travel and lead in so many awesome inclusivity-diversity efforts.

I feel I must wield the many forms of voice and/or privilege I do have, to help make visible mine and so many others’ invisibility, and our presently painfully further marginalized existence as genderqueer, nonbinary, agender, gender nonconforming.

I understand you may absolutely include yourself in this experience, identity, and tenderness!

Please consider how you teach to the identity development of marginalized gender variant folks as happening more legitimately in early childhood. This may be a unique distinction from most other marginalized identities which are, as you say, unavoidably explored earlier in life than most privileged identities. This is only relevant or valuable in context of the external/environmental/societal/cultural/systemic binary.

How can we all present and explore this data with more breath for the spectra?

There were other interesting discrepancies noted between gender & sexual diversity and other forms of diversity… ever more growing and evolving, with the thinking and learning around this wonderful tender living experience. That people are beaten, murdered, and suicide over much of this identity territory calls me to action!

Love and peace and ease to Hande Kader’s chosen family, friends, and ALL!

with sp a c e,

elliott

p.s. There’s a hilarious twist interpretable here, where i could be seen to be cruelly pointing towards Rosetta as not trans enough! My query is more, really, what she means by transgender and is she trans identified or how is she trans identified. that bit could use some clearing, before i then went on into the second example…  Yah, I’m stepping in it! I wish I could communicate with Rosetta. Phew. I am open to dialog – to be called in. Please and Thank You.

A gay middle schooler relieved to meet a transgender girl on the first day of school.

A wonderful trans 101 primer from a self identified genderqueer transgender person – worth the read and thought provocation!

 

scissors without rulers

May 11, 2016

1st commissioned baby quiltDSCN4682

  • surprises, discoveries

a nine patch can be mussed with, and is not necessarily the weakest launch point for a design. however, i wanna push that building block beginning further off the map.

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  • satisfactions

scissor cutting with no mat underneath is risky but feels more embodied.

i like the backside more than the top; this is a tendency of mine.

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  • dissatisfactions

i had 2 fabric bleeds happen for the first time significantly. i love the possibility and examples i’ve seen of fabric bleeds. alas, mine are not attractive (satisfying) herein.

DSCN4667i went for the black patterned fabric to add that contrast new babe’s eyes can enjoy and benefit from. the fabric range looks better folded up and fresh, not so great once in the quilt itself. drat.

when buying fabrics from discount and scrap bins, it can suck to later need more of one or two that are unobtainable…

  • what’s next

playing rather more intentionally with accidental fabric bleeds! ha. intentional playing for more accidents… hmmm

noting, admitting, exploring the factual territory that manifesting a quilt for commission/income is a different beast – it feels different in my calendar, in my bones and breaths, in the process. it is in turns subtle and loud – this difference. i’ve another quilt due in the early fall. i’m curious to witness the process again, seeding in and sustaining the creative opportunity and constraints.

______________________________________________

gratitude quilt for loving lifesaving friend

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quilt top, center detail (i could only hang this sideways… the puckering is not actually that bad when flat…)

  • surprises, discoveriesDSCN4743

older bits and pieces came together with new patches attractively, at least for my eyes.

  • satisfactions

this was another supreme experience of improv for me. i built this from the center out, quite surprised with what i was finding myself choosing to put in where and when. that kind of creative happening is simply deeply satisfying.

  • dissatisfactions

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i fell again for the “comforter” technique of tying versus stitched “quilting.” and again, the idea seems simple and lovely, and then shreds my fingers and takes so long. oh, modernity… and practicing patience.

 

  • what’s next

…approaching a quilt top as if it were a quilt back! i’ll see if that shakes something loose in my mind space whilst breathing and creating…

being. genderqueer. today. in NC, USA.

April 13, 2016

phew. tears roll. with such political/systemic fear governing dehumanization… naturally, i am reading the word transgender oftener in the news media. more visibility, yay. that is tender izing. fumbling lower lip quaking under smooth exhales. the word and myself are more apparent. that is frightening and exhilarating. confusing. yeah.

and, yes, i know the legislation was not about bathrooms… or, but, i know the legislation was in drag as about bathrooms… and as of yesterday it is clearing and becoming rather about bathrooms. wow McCrory.

just this morning, in my state-of-origin, SC, a subcommittee hearing was allowed for a similar bill, S1203/bathroom bill, even though so many including the Governor are denouncing it.

the present [not permanent] results shape my breath all the same. the legislation shapes my urge and in/ability to shit and pee and think limited or free…

here’s what emerges as relevant, interesting:

  1. art + science embodied [~8minute vid]
  2. creative identity [~3.40 min vid, ~4 min vid, ~2hr full concert vid]
  3. relationship as spiritual crucible – i dialog with an article. worth the time! take it in small bits…

1.

2.

3.

Retrieved date of NC GA special session for “Bathroom Bill” f-ing signed by Governor,

Wednesday, March 23, 2016 from:

http://www.lionsroar.com/intimate-relationship-as-a-spiritual-crucible/

my responses are italicized and indented with block quote format

John Welwood is one of my favorite authors I studied in my Naropa space-times.

Intimate Relationship as a Spiritual Crucible

by John Welwood – March 4, 2016

I’ll go ahead and interject a translation I often do as an asexual alien. Given this title’s first two words, I’m already thinking of parts of me in relationship with me – or my intimate relationship with true and false core beliefs I have – or identities I roll through in any given day to make it bearably to another day…

Living with someone we love, with all the joys and challenges, is one of the best ways to grow spiritually. But real awakening only happens, says renowned psychologist John Welwood, in the charnel ground where we acknowledge and work with our wounds, fears, and illusions…

While most people would like to have healthy, satisfying relationships in their lives, the truth is that everyone has a hard time with intimate partnerships. The poet Rilke understood just how challenging they could be when he penned his classic statement, “For one person to love another, this is the most difficult of all our tasks.”

Rilke isn’t suggesting it’s hard to love or to have loving-kindness. Rather, he is speaking about how hard it is to keep loving someone we live with, day by day, year after year. After numerous hardships and failures, many people have given up on intimate relationship, regarding the relational terrain as so fraught with romantic illusion and emotional hazards that it is no longer worth the energy.

Indeed, my inclinations towards not existing speak to this challenge betwixt my own differentiated inner body systems and disparate thought habits…

Also, I find it important to hope and read between the lines that Rilke nor Welwood are encouraging anyone to stay in abusive or unhealthy relationships!

Although modern relationships are particularly challenging, their very difficulty presents a special arena for personal and spiritual growth. To develop more conscious relationships requires becoming conversant with how three different dimensions of human existence play out within them: ego, person, and being.

Hha, yes! And solo time –self-study– has it’s medicines and terrors for the growing and being too. These can be very distinct salves and horrors, and they can be just the same ones that torment and heal partnered and familied folks: how to balance and be accountable to both loving, compassionate, skillful means of selfless serving in my world/community/home and loving, compassionate, skillful means of self-care so to be resourced –grounded and inspired. How to neither abandon deep outer space nor deep inner space as places for opportune wholing and healing all beings. I am of the all… too…

Every close relationship involves these three levels of interaction that two partners cycle through—ego to ego, person to person, and being to being. While one moment two people may be connecting being to being in pure openness, the next moment their two egos may fall into deadly combat. When our partners treat us nicely, we open—“Ah, you’re so great.” But when they say or do something threatening, it’s “How did I wind up with you?” Since it can be terribly confusing or devastating when the love of our life suddenly turns into our deadliest enemy, it’s important to hold a larger vision that allows us to understand what is happening here.

Ne’er forgetting the ol’ i am my own worst enemy and most understanding advocate…

Relationship as Alchemy

When we fall in love, this usually ushers in a special period, one with its own distinctive glow and magic. Glimpsing another person’s beauty and feeling, our heart opening in response provides a taste of absolute love, a pure blend of openness and warmth. This being-to-being connection reveals the pure gold at the heart of our nature, qualities like beauty, delight, awe, deep passion and kindness, generosity, tenderness, and joy.

Yet opening to another also flushes to the surface all kinds of conditioned patterns and obstacles that tend to shut this connection down: our deepest wounds, our grasping and desperation, our worst fears, our mistrust, our rawest emotional trigger points. As a relationship develops, we often find that we don’t have full access to the gold of our nature, for it remains embedded in the ore of our conditioned patterns. And so we continually fall from grace.

The words “raw” and “fall from grace” tug at my curiosity as to why our original nature is often perceived as so goodly and one sided. Beneath any pure gold or damning responses to woundings  (which are also perfectly natural) is maybe something even more whole and less dualistic…? Direct experiences in the womb, during birth, and cellular memory whilst hanging out in our gone-befores’ anatomies (explicitly the egg-bearing grandparent) condition embodiments of a full repertoire of emotional and thinking and feeling in response to life on earth – movement in gravity appearing in human form…

It’s important to recognize that all the emotional and psychological wounding we carry with us from the past is relational in nature: it has to do with not feeling fully loved. And it happened in our earliest relationships—with our caretakers—when our brain and body were totally soft and impressionable.

Yah, and the actual original egg bit of us was being with our blood line and informing our vibrational capacities a lifetime at least before said egg becomes fertilized – even if that blood line of humans has no direct hand in bringing us up in the world.

As a result, the ego’s relational patterns largely developed as protection schemes to insulate us from the vulnerable openness that love entails.

Seems wise original nature there, both/and eh, patterns responding to conditions in life-sustaining ways.

In relationship the ego acts as a survival mechanism for getting needs met while fending off the threat of being hurt, manipulated, controlled, rejected, or abandoned in ways we were as a child. This is normal and totally understandable. Yet if it’s the main tenor of a relationship, it keeps us locked in complex strategies of defensiveness and control that undermine the possibility of deeper connection.

I’m all in with this paragraph above!

Thus to gain greater access to the gold of our nature in relationship, a certain alchemy is required: the refining of our conditioned defensive patterns. The good news is that this alchemy generated between two people also furthers a larger alchemy within them. The opportunity here is to join and integrate the twin poles of human existence: heaven, the vast space of perfect, unconditional openness, and earth, our imperfect, limited human form, shaped by worldly causes and conditions. As the defensive/controlling ego cooks and melts down in the heat of love’s influence, a beautiful evolutionary development starts to emerge—the genuine person, who embodies a quality of very human relational presence that is transparent to open-hearted being, right in the midst of the dense confines of worldly conditioning.

Yeah, it is essential for an infant human to be in intimate relationship(s) to survive early childhood. Of course, the conditioning may be largely a result of abuse, as much as love – as indeed abandonment/neglect more likely results in death than abuse. Indeed, early relational imprints happen with other(s) – not in solitude.

Relationship as Charnel Ground

To clarify the workings of this alchemy, a more gritty metaphor is useful, one that comes from the tantric traditions of Buddhism and Hinduism: relationship as charnel ground. In many traditional Asian societies, the charnel ground was where people would bring dead bodies, to be eaten by vultures and jackals. From the tantric yogi’s perspective, this was an ideal place to practice, because it is right at the crossroads of life, where birth and death, fear and fearlessness, impermanence and awakening unfold right next to each other. Some things are dying and decaying, others are feeding and being fed, while others are being born out of the decay. The charnel ground is an ideal place to practice because it is right at the crossroads of life, where one cannot help but feel the rawness of human existence.

Yes! Yum. And here the full range of life encompassing death and birthings of new things is embraced.

Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche described the charnel ground as “that great graveyard, in which the complexities of samsara and nirvana lie buried.” Samsara is the conditioned mind that clouds our true nature, while nirvana is the direct seeing of this nature. As Trungpa Rinpoche describes this daunting crossroads in one of his early seminars:

It’s a place to die and be born, equally, at the same time, it’s simply our raw and rugged nature, the ground where we constantly puke and fall down, constantly make a mess. We are constantly dying, we are constantly giving birth. We are eating in the charnel ground, sitting in it, sleeping on it, having nightmares on it… Yet it does not try to hide its truth about reality. There are corpses lying all over the place, loose arms, loose hands, loose internal organs, and flowing hairs all over the place, jackals and vultures are roaming about, each one devising its own scheme for getting the best piece of flesh.

Ah, again, I get tangled in use of “rugged nature;” so that is some conditioning and not our “true nature.” A human cannot make it past infancy without conditioning, happenings, respondings. Even belief in the Four Noble Truths is a condition… so… I, uh,…

Many of us have a cartoon-like notion of relational bliss: that it should provide a steady state of security or solace that will save us from having to face the gritty, painful, difficult areas of life. We imagine that finding or marrying the right person will spare us from having to deal with such things as loneliness, disappointment, despair, terror, or disintegration. Yet anyone who has been married for a long time probably has some knowledge of the charnel ground quality of relationship—corpses all over the place, and jackals and vultures roaming about looking for the best piece of flesh. Trungpa Rinpoche suggests that if we can work with the “raw and rugged situation” of the charnel ground, “then some spark or sympathy or compassion, some giving in or opening can begin to take place. The chaos that takes place in your neurosis is the only home ground that you can build the mandala of awakening on.” This last sentence is a powerful one, for it suggests that awakening happens only through facing the chaos of our neurotic patterns. Yet this is often the last thing we want to deal with in relationships.

Yep, and, Buddhist worldview is not synonymous with psychology. And, but, yet, that overlap in the pre-trans fallacy is juicy illuminating useful helpful clarifying shit. (See what I did there.)

Sorry to include Ken Wilber’s privileged useful brilliance in here, stomach turning.

Trungpa Rinpoche suggests that our neurosis is built on the fact that:

…large areas of our life have been devoted to trying to avoid discovering our own experience. Now [in the charnel ground, in our relationships] we have a chance to explore that large area which exists in our being, which we’ve been trying to avoid. That seems to be the first message, which may be very grim, but also very exciting. We’re not trying to get away from the charnel ground, we don’t want to build a Hilton hotel in the middle of it. Building the mandala of awakening actually happens on the charnel ground. What is happening on the charnel ground is constant personal exploration, and beyond that, just giving, opening, extending yourself completely to the situation that’s available to you. Being fantastically exposed, and the sense that you could give birth to another world.

This also describes the spiritual potential of intimate involvement with another human being.

Another quote with a similar feeling comes from Swami Rudrananda (known as Rudy, a German teacher who was a student of the Indian saint Swami Nityananda), further describing how to work with neurosis in this way:

Don’t look for perfection in me. I want to acknowledge my own imperfection, I want to understand that that is part of the endlessness of my growth. It’s absolutely useless at this stage in your life, with all of the shit piled up in your closet, to walk around and try to kid yourself about your perfection. Out of the raw material you break down [here he is also speaking of the charnel ground] you grow and absorb the energy. You work yourself from inside out, tearing out, destroying, and finding a sense of nothingness. That nothingness allows God to come in. But this somethingness—ego and prejudices and limitations—is your raw material. If you process and refine it all, you can open consciously. Otherwise, you will never come to anything that represents yourself … The only thing that can create a oneness inside you is the ability to see more of yourself as you work every day to open deeper and say, fine, “I’m short-tempered,” or “Fine, I’m aggressive,” or, “Fine, I love to make money,” or, “I have no feeling for anybody else.” Once you recognize you’re all of these things, you’ll finally be able to take a breath and allow these things to open.

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Rudy suggests that we have to acknowledge and embrace our imperfections as spiritual path; therefore grand spiritual pretensions miss the point. In his words, “A man who thinks he has a spiritual life is really an idiot.” The same is true of relationships: beware of thinking you have a “spiritual relationship.” While loving connection provides a glimpse of the gold that lies within, we continually corrupt it by turning it into a commodity, a magical charm to make us feel okay. All the delusions of romantic love follow from there. Focusing on relationship as a spiritual or emotional “fix” actually destroys the possibility of finding deep joy, true ease, or honest connection with another.

Sooner or later relationship brings us to our knees, forcing us to confront the raw and rugged mess of our mental and emotional life. George Orwell points to this devastating quality of human love in a sentence that also has a charnel ground flavor to it: “The essence of being human is that one does not seek perfection, and that one is prepared, in the end, to be defeated, and broken up by life, which is the inevitable price of fastening one’s love upon other human individuals.”

This then is the meaning of the charnel ground: we have to be willing to come apart at the seams, to be dismantled, to let our old ego structures fall apart before we can begin to embody sparks of the essential perfection at the core of our nature. To evolve spiritually, we have to allow these unworked, hidden, messy parts of ourselves to come to the surface. It’s not that the strategic, controlling ego is something bad or some unnecessary, horrible mistake. Rather, it provides the indispensable grist that makes alchemical transformation possible.

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This is not a pessimistic view, because some kind of breakdown is usually necessary before any significant breakthrough into new ways of living not so encumbered by past conditioning. Charnel ground, then, is a metaphor for this breakdown/breakthrough process that is an essential part of human growth and evolution, and one of the gifts of a deep, intimate connection is that it naturally sets this process in motion. Yet no one wants to be dismantled. So there are two main ways that people try to abort this process: running away and spiritual bypassing.

The problem with running away when a relationship becomes difficult is that we are also turning away from ourselves and our potential breakthroughs. Fleeing the raw, wounded places in ourselves because we don’t think we can handle them is a form of self-rejection and self-abandonment that turns our feeling body into an abandoned, haunted house. The more we flee our shadowy places, the more they fester in the dark and the more haunted this house becomes. And the more haunted it becomes, the more it terrifies us. This is a vicious circle that keeps us cut off from and afraid of ourselves.

One of the scariest places we encounter in relationship is a deep inner sense of unlove, where we don’t know that we’re truly lovable just for being who we are, where we feel deficient and don’t know our value. This is the raw wound of the heart, where we’re disconnected from our true nature, our inner perfection. Naturally we want to do everything we can to avoid this place, fix it, or neutralize it, so we’ll never have to experience such pain again.

Again, the above two paragraphs are not, I believe, an endorsement to stay in relationship no matter what. Sometimes, you gotta go, for incredibly sane survivable reasons!

A second way to flee from the challenges of relationship is through spiritual bypassing—using spiritual ideas or practices to avoid or prematurely transcend relative human needs, feelings, personal issues, and developmental tasks. For example, a certain segment of the contemporary spiritual scene has become infected with a facile brand of “advaita-speak,” a one-sided transcendentalism that uses nondual terms and ideas to bypass the challenging work of personal transformation.

Advaita-speak can be very tricky, for it uses absolute truth to disparage relative truth, emptiness to devalue form, and oneness to belittle individuality. The following quotes from two popular contemporary teachers illustrate this tendency: “Know that what appears to be love for another is really love of Self, because other doesn’t exist,” and “The other’s ‘otherness’ stands revealed as an illusion pertaining to the purely human realm, the realm of form.” Notice the devaluation of form and the human realm in the latter statement. By suggesting that only absolute love or being-to-being union is real, these teachers equate the person-to-person element necessary for a transformative love bond with mere ego or illusion.

Yeh, and it is sadly easy to catch this odor in political realms of “we are one” – what I want is what everybody wants, so elect me because I’m so progressive sounding. Gagging…

Yet personal intimacy is a spark flashing out across the divide between self and other. It depends on strong individuals making warm, personal contact, mutually sparking and enriching each other with complementary qualities and energies. This is the meeting of I and Thou, which Martin Buber understood not as an impersonal spiritual union but as a personal communion rooted in deep appreciation of the other’s otherness.

A deep, intimate connection inevitably brings up all our love wounds from the past. This is why many spiritual practitioners try to remain above the fray and impersonal in their relationships—so as not to face and deal with their own unhealed relational wounds. But this keeps the wounding unconscious, causing it to emerge as compulsive shadowy behavior or to dry up passion and juice. Intimate personal connecting cannot evolve unless the old love wounds that block it are faced, acknowledged, and freed up.

For my part, I’m always churning/charneling with some conscious awarenesses of unhealed/healing relational wounds. I am no well-developed practitioner, just on the path, developing… And I do have quite intimate relationships with beloved chosen family and friends and students. So, we can play with defining what “intimate relationship” technically refers to, as self-growth can happen in varying proximities with other(s).

As wonderful as moments of being-to-being union can be, the alchemical play of joining heaven and earth in a relationship involves a more subtle and beautiful dance: not losing our twoness in the oneness, while not losing our oneness in the twoness. Personal intimacy evolves out of the dancing-ground of dualities: personal and trans-personal, known and unknown, death and birth, openness and karmic limitation, clarity and chaos, hellish clashes and heavenly bliss. The clash and interplay of these polarities, with all its shocks and surprises, provides a ferment that allows for deep transformation through forcing us to keep waking up, dropping preconceptions, expanding our sense of who we are, and learning to work with all the different elements of our humanity.

More “yup.” And, I am one of those sensitive ones that find such intimate mirrors and existential fodder in the darn daily news, social justice efforts, and even often energetic over stimulation from walking amongst the rivers and trees I love so painfully deeply. All the things of this worldly beingness are nourishments to support my unpacking, undoing, revealing of and contemplation of my identity and wounds and false judgments and lies I tell myself that have tuned into governing beliefs for my wei-wu-ways, etc…

When we’re in the midst of this ferment, it may seem like some kind of fiendish plot. We finally find someone we really love and then the most difficult things start emerging: fear, distrust, unlove, disillusion, resentment, blame, confusion. Yet this is a form of love’s grace—that it brings our wounds and defenses forward into the light. For love can only heal what presents itself to be healed. If our woundedness remains hidden, it cannot be healed; the best in us cannot come out unless the worst comes out as well.

bowing. This again stirs my curiosity of my perception of Buddha-nature, original sin/blessing, or true nature as confused Advaita-speak or some pre-trans fallacy…? How to not lose the twoness of love and disillusion in some oneness of either love or unlove… how not to lose the oneness of breathing or being in some twoness of non-being and being…?!

So instead of constructing a fancy hotel in the charnel ground, we must be willing to come down and relate to the mess on the ground. We need to regard the wounded heart as a place of spiritual practice. This kind of practice means engaging with our relational fears and vulnerabilities in a deliberate, conscious way, like the yogis of old who faced down the goblins and demons of the charnel grounds.

The only way to be free of our conditioned patterns is through a full, conscious experience of them. This might be called “ripening our karma,” what the Indian teacher Swami Prajnanpad described as bhoga, meaning “deliberate, conscious experience.” He said, “You can only dissolve karma through the bhoga of this karma.” We become free of what we’re stuck in only through meeting and experiencing it directly. Having the bhoga of your karma allows you to digest unresolved, undigested elements of your emotional experience from the past that are still affecting you: how you were hurt or overwhelmed, how you defended yourself against that by shutting down, how you constructed walls to keep people out.

The word deliberate has always held a leading spot in my egomindheartbodyenergy’s wei-wu-way of practicing life contemplatively.

Another term for directly engaging our karma might be “conscious suffering.” This involves saying “yes” to our pain, opening ourselves to it, as it is. This kind of yes doesn’t mean, “I like it, I’m glad it’s like this.” It just means, “Yes, this is what’s happening.” Whatever comes up, you are willing to meet it and have a direct experience of it. For example, if you’re hard-hearted, you have a full experience of that. Then you see how acknowledging this affects you and what comes from doing that.

Bhoga involves learning to ride the waves of our feelings rather than becoming submerged in them. This requires mindfulness of where we are in the cycle of emotional experience. A skilled surfer is aware of exactly where he is on a wave, whereas an unskilled surfer winds up getting creamed. By their very nature, waves are rising fifty percent of the time and falling the other fifty percent. Instead of fighting the down cycles of our emotional life, we need to learn to keep our seat on the surfboard and have a full, conscious experience of going down. Especially in a culture that is addicted to “up,” we especially need our “yes” when the down cycles unfold—to be willing to fall apart, retreat, slow down, be patient, let go. For it’s often at the bottom of a down cycle, when everything looks totally bleak and miserable, that we finally receive a flash of insight that lets us see the hidden contours of some huge ego fixation in which we’ve been stuck all our life. Having a full, conscious experience of the down cycle as it’s occurring, instead of fighting or transcending it, lets us be available for these moments of illumination.

While the highlands of absolute love are most beautiful, few but the saints can spend all their time there. Relative human love is not a peak experience nor a steady state. It wavers, fluctuates, waxes and wanes, changes shape and intensity, soars and crashes. “This is the exalted melancholy of our fate,” writes Buber, describing how moments of I/Thou communion cannot last too very long. Yet though relationships participate fully in the law of impermanence, the good news is that this allows new surprises and revelations to keep arising endlessly.

bowing

Relationship as Koan

Relating to the full spectrum of our experience in the relational charnel ground leads to a self-acceptance that expands our capacity to embrace and accept others as well. Usually our view of our partners is colored by what they do for us—how they make us look or feel good, or not—and shaped by our internal movie about what we want them to be. This of course makes it hard to see them for who they are in their own right.

Beyond our movie of the other is a much larger field of personal and spiritual possibilities, what Walt Whitman referred to when he said, “I contain multitudes.” These “multitudes” are what keep a relationship fresh and interesting, but they can only do that if we can accept the ways that those we love are different from us—in their background, values, perspectives, qualities, sensitivities, preferences, ways of doing things, and, finally, their destiny. In the words of Swami Prajnanpad, standing advaita-speak on its head: “To see fully that the other is not you is the way to realizing oneness … Nothing is separate, everything is different … Love is the appreciation of difference.”

bowing.

And wondering on the potential concretizing/conditioning of the wave imagery as applicable to all equally. It is not. (And it is!) Space breaths easier around and within my struggles with depression and suicide ideation when I allow that my wave patterns’ lengths, amplitudes, and heights are not the same as anyone else’s.

Two partners not holding themselves separate, while remaining totally distinct—“not two, not one”—may seem like an impossible challenge in a relationship. Bernard Phillips, an early student of East/West psychology, likens this impossibility of relationship to a Zen koan, a riddle that cannot be solved with the conceptual mind. After continually trying and failing to figure out the answer, Zen students arrive at a genuine solution only in the moment of finally giving up and giving in. In Phillips’ words:

Every human being with whom we seek relatedness is a koan, that is to say, an impossibility. There is no formula for getting along with a human being. No technique will achieve relatedness. I am impossible to get along with; so is each one of you; all our friends are impossible; the members of our families are impossible. How then shall we get along with them? … If you are seeking a real encounter, then you must confront the koan represented by the other person. The koan is an invitation to enter into reality.

In the end, to love another requires dropping all our narcissistic agendas, movies, hopes, and fears, so that we may look freshly and see “the raw other, the sacred other,” just as he or she is. This involves a surrender, or perhaps defeat, as in George Orwell’s words about being “defeated and broken up by life.” What is defeated here, of course, is the ego and its strategies, clearing the way for the genuine person to emerge, the person who is capable of real, full-spectrum contact. The nobility of this kind of defeat is portrayed by Rilke in four powerful lines describing Jacob’s wrestling match with the angel:

Winning does not tempt that man
For this is how he grows:
By being defeated, decisively,
By constantly greater beings.

In relationship, it is two partners’ greater beings, gradually freeing themselves from the prison of conditioned patterns, that bring about this decisive defeat. And as this starts reverberating through their relationship, old expectations finally give way, old movies stop running, and a much larger acceptance than they believed possible can start opening up between them. As they become willing to face and embrace whatever stands between them—old relational wounds from the past, personal pathologies, difficulties hearing and understanding each other, different values and sensitivities—all in the name of loving and letting be, they are invited to “enter into reality.” Then it becomes possible to start encountering each other nakedly, in the open field of nowness, fresh and unfabricated, the field of love forever vibrating with unimagined possibilities.

 Phew, bowing.

This essay is adapted from a talk given at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco. Copyright 2008 by John Welwood. All rights reserved.

ABOUT JOHN WELWOOD

John Welwood, Ph.D. is a psychotherapist who has been a student of Tibetan Buddhism for more than thirty-five years. His books include Perfect Love, Imperfect Relationships: Healing the Wound of the Heart.

stitching brushstrokes

March 28, 2016

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first attempt at free-motion machine quilting with no foot at all around the needle:

bottom thread tension is too tight, and

the movement in egomindbodyenergy is wholing and wonderful

DSCN4610DSCN4594i made a layered blanket for a brand new human’s tummy time and lolling outdoor spring time. simply two pieces of cloth stitched together. the inner practice was akin to brushstroke, which is one of the most profound, spontaneous, simple forms of contemplative practice that aligns me in ease between sky and earth…

DSCN4593surprises/discoveries? i didn’t expect my rattly machine to abet quilting this way nor for this project to aid in my continuing healing wholing life-living processes

satisfactions? contrasting textures feel delicious and will help innervate the babe’s sense-gate of touch,

and i love the squiggly line forms

DSCN4597dissatisfactions? i have tried and cannot get the bottom thread tension to coordinate with the top thread in this machine

what’s next? more quirky combining of fabric textures and more footless free-motion quilting attempts…

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here’s a quilt for a soon-to-emerge human

floating squares score otra vez, with ever deepening improv experiences

external reasons this quilt is of the most improv yet for me: DSCN4545

i’m not all settled/unpacked in this new dwelling, so no iron thus no ironing whatsoever, no cutting board thus no rotary cutting whatsoever – scissors only. i also never measured a thing, not against another cut edge and certainly not with any (packed away) rulers… nowhere in sight…

internal reasons this quilt is the most improv for me so far: 

i snipped squares and pieced patches randomly and stacked ’em up. (before, i tended to build the top right along as i amade the patches…) i enjoyed a whole other time/session to layout the patches numerous ways without any intention of settling on a final version to go forward with. then, i returned another time/session to sew the patches into a quilt top. beven then, i tried a few new layouts before sewing the top. next thing, i was moving to gather the batting and backing and pins… and spontaneously i saw some more pieces that wanted to be included. i added them in. i’ve never had such happen after i completed a top. the footless free-motion machine quilting was nearly one long-lasting brushstroke! i think there are actually only three separate brushstrokes. i just floated and flowed and pulled and pushed and reached and breathed this ways and thats. it was a blast – free-motion indeed.
gsurprises/discoveries? even with mixed fibers and textures, with no iron, there was not uncanny buckling or bubbling or bunching of seams and such. it can be done – a quilt can be made decently with minimal simple tools, yah.

satisfactions? again, the thorough-going joy at contemplative/improv creative practice. the process experience was rich and open in space-time.

dissatisfactions? my aesthetic results are still wanting. i don’t have any magic touch, noh, for satiating design appearances. i wonder about some brilliant combos of improv and traditional patchwork patterns i’ve seen in the fb page for “The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters”

what’s next? i wanna learn more about and try various needle sizes and thread weights…

a week before Joaquin’s saliva/urine projectile

October 7, 2015

weird to not go back home, like ever, and find myself walking by the river 1 week to the day before the washout

these photos (from sun.27.sept.2015) are from around south of the bend of the Saluda River at the Congaree River – which are all braided together downtown with the Broad River too

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under Gervais St. bridge

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nearly that same image that's all over the nat'l news

nearly that same image that’s all over the nat’l news – again, weird. nauseated feeling in my guts for days now. and now it kinda looks like this again apparently. but not beloveds’ hearts inside them seeping out the achy waters for years to come.

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so South Carolina… with it’s emblematic abducted trees

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this blue heron stood staunch for the duration of my father’s and my hike… unlike the flighty egret below…

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oh, what unromantic romantic solo wisp of Spanish moss

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this snowy egret's wingspan was breathtaking

this snowy egret’s wingspan was breathtaking

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sweet simple seat at end of Blossom St. bridge - my grandfather engineered it - the one i'm named after... transgressing yeah. bridging. trans-ing things at least :)

sweet simple seat at end of Blossom St. bridge – my grandfather engineered it – the one i’m named after… transgressing yeah. bridging. trans-ing things at least 🙂

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curvy lines

June 19, 2015

per the previous post:

1. What surprised me? What did I discover or learn?

2. What was satisfying about the process or outcome?

3. What was dissatisfying? If dissatisfied, what can I do differently next time to be more satisfied?

4. Where do I want to go from here?

I’m gonna mush the questions / answers, and just ramble a bit.

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Bias strip curves are hard and best not to try first time when one is just not well in a few ways. They are hard but lovely. Some are flat. I began with the petal shapes. At first, I thought I’d just curve strips out from the petals until I ended with an atypical shape for the quilt overall. You can see above, I started cramming triangles in there to get me to some straight lines just as fast as I could!

But by then, even strips became too tiresome. I ripped out the crammed in scraps and appliqued the dern thing.

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There was plan for some certain colors to emphasize and shapes to emerge, which couldn’t once I changed course. I gestured toward those aspects in the form that the quilting took – silhouetting mostly underneath, then tendrils reaching up from the planty-petal thing.

After the patchwork, once I shifted to the quilting, I experienced pleasure. I just like the feel of fabrics and the weighty nesty ness of making a quilt. It feels good to my finger tips and on my lap as I torque and twist and dance it through the machine.

For a friend’s 1st babe, symbol of 2 becoming 3, new growth green kinda thing.

This was one of 2 baby quilts I wanted to make rather quickly. Trying the curved strips helped me realize that I need an unintended project – a truly improvisational attempt – to see what we see… That’ll have to wait a while. I have a list of folks I want to make quilts for, and I like making functional art. I always hope folks will use and abuse, wash and stain and live on, under, and with these fabric sandwiches. (baby belly time, picnics, naps, furniture moving, pet bedding, whathaveyha…)

DSCN3584So, yeah, I readily welcomed the 2nd baby quilt to involve simple strips and clearer stripes (which was something I mentioned moving toward in my previous post). Here we are with curvy lines, yum. I did not let myself go as much as I envisioned. I really enjoyed resting in to the simplicity, the straight edges, the no-thinking. All I prefrontal-cortexed was eking out the rainbow order using only scraps from older projects.

DSCN3590While I was at it with simple straight edges, I made it a square instead of a rectangle.

DSCN3589Again, the quilting was a no-mind kind of happening. Raw fun. I didn’t plan it out or ahead whatsoever. Just started that maniacal exchange with the machine and voila.

DSCN3593There are 3 primary spirals (didn’t plan that), so there’s the 2 adults : 1 baby thing again.

This rapid time for manifesting these 2 quilts was in part due to my leaving home/familiar anythings/access to technology for a while. Because of some happenings and current conditions, I can see that I am far from my performance artist ways and days… maybe some of that avenue of creativity will remerge in the future. I am curious for it to…

benediction

May 4, 2015

 

“…the regular small complaint and recover of the porch swing.”

~p. 21, Kent Haruf

travel space-time

April 19, 2015

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