Friday, March 26, 2010

Writer's Block and Health Care Reform...

My blog on their blog again!  Sorry you have to click the link this time, just trying to raise my voice.  :-)

Here's a sample:

It's real. People are afraid. Not of what exists, but of the possibility that we aren't actually sure what's in front of us. It might be worse than we thought; there might be some underlying problem. We worry that we have something - it's ours, it belongs to us! - and someone is going to take it away or ruin it. Danger, danger! Warning, warning! It is as if we are standing on the very edge of the cliff and are too afraid to step away in case we slip in the opposite direction and fall over.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Rushing things.  Trying to check my email while rescheduling my acupuncture appointment.  Not the worst thing in the world as long as I don’t press send.

I have tried to save my children from too much of this multi-tasking sound bite world too soon by trying to limit electronic games, television.  My older son still insists he finds it easier to concentrate on polynomials with Pandora playing in his earphones and perhaps Facebook open and lurking behind a sheaf of other open windows to be clicked on once I leave the room.

And I, who made up the rules to protect the present – the live-in-the-moment zen path to enlightenment – find myself dropping the telephone on a friend from Canada to hand another friend who was away from home for a week his mail. Unable to connect with either of them in that traverse across the house and back, no good to anyone, including myself.

Breathe.  Do one thing.  Do nothing.  Remember what it feels like when you can.

*a tribute to Bhanu Kapil.  Just the title, not the text.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Whose Coffin Would You Carry?

Friday night, I went to see Fela on Broadway.  It was, in turns, jubilant and heart wrenching – most notably when the projected mugshots that followed the storming of his compound reminded the audience that the bigger-than-life characters we were dancing with were based on life, and especially that the gorgeous female dancers we might have thought of as merely ‘backup’ each had a tragic spotlight of her own.

But the most resonant moment for me was not when the body of ‘truth’ broke the surface of the water, but when, back in the safety of the performance, the character of Fela decides to carry his mother’s coffin to the seat of government and place her on the stairs to show his country what a true leader looks like.  He turns to us and invites us to join him.  He asks, “Whose coffin would you carry?”

Whose coffin would you carry? 

Who do you love that much?  What do you stand for?

These are very important questions as we try to raise ourselves out of a prolonged period of fear:  fear of losing our jobs or having lost them, fear of losing homes, the market crashing; fear that our country is busy killing people in other countries, and that they are killing us.  The corruption of government that Fela spoke out against was rooted in the same greed and need to control and fear of lack that we all face: that every country, group and individual must face down in our own souls.

Whose coffin would you carry?

I invite you to answer.

Friday, March 12, 2010

This Train Takes Me Back to Hiroshima

Today's thoughts on memory and narrative have found a home on the Huffington Post.  You can read it here.

A sample:

"On September 11th, 2001, however, my keitai denwa (my little Japanese cellphone) rang, and a friend told me that a plane had just smashed into the World Trade Center. In the aftermath of those terrorist attacks, the survivors' stories changed radically. The shock of war, hostility, lives lost so tragically, opened them up. Their stories no longer began with the time (8:15 am), the blue sky, the faraway dot of the B-29 bomber. They told me about cremating their children, scraping maggots out of the raw swathes of skin on their spouses' bodies. How a child's lips came off on the spout of the water container when he tried to drink."

Monday, March 8, 2010


Seventy-eight new spirits have taken up residence in my house, or perhaps just one spirit with 78 voices.  They are the cards in Rachel Pollack’s Shining Tribe Tarot, and they seem quite pleased at the prospect of celebrating the sacred truth and spirit of the individual in the former Catholic seminary that is my home.

I have always loved the tarot, but never tried to read it on my own.  I bought this deck and its accompanying book, not because I thought I could be a tarot card reader, but because Rachel’s images, and her emphasis on joy and spirit, called to me.  It was quite a surprise, then, that every time I ask a question and pull a card, the meanings and ideas and thoughts that Rachel has set out in her book resonate perfectly.  The cards know.

Last night, my friend Jan was visiting and she pulled three cards for me and told me to tell a story.  “There once was a woman named Reiko who…” I tried to go to the book, but she wouldn’t let me.  I had to make up my own story from the puppet trees, the sacred ceremony, the spirits in the underworld.  The story came out of nowhere – it was truthful and scary and necessary, and later, when I went to the book, I found it was also very congruent with Rachel’s descriptions of the essence of the cards.

Where does the story come from?  It isn’t “the cards” that know.  The origin isn’t “nowhere.”  As a writer, I call the story, I do some magic, something alchemical in my body, to translate it into words and bring it onto the page.  Whether that alchemy is conveyed using cards, or whether it is happening, hidden, in the silent, solitary figure of a writer with paper and pen, I am only now, as I write my fourth book, realizing that we are magicians, and that the divine spirit is ours to call on.  It is out there, and inside us, waiting to be called.

From the “scary” card, the Five of Stones, which is where I am going:

“They emerge, they emerge,
the dark hidden healers,
power from secrets,
visions from stones.”

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


I have been thinking recently about how to enter a book.  The best way, I think, is just to step into it.  Wrap the pages around you like a favorite blanket.  Let the ink smudge your cheek, the words seep into your skin.