Categories
Autofiction

KiezKucker: House of beauty in Medellín

Learning a foreign language is like learning to speak for the first time. I was an exchange student in the Black Forest in southern Germany during my American Junior high school year. I had to learn speak German, but I also had to speak being a foreigner in a small town. Communication took many forms—visual, nonverbal, verbal, and written. I spent a lot of time just looking around and reading between lines, aka the boundaries where forms of language ebbed and flowed. It was then I realized the value of learning another language; we can actively construct who we are by curating communication through necessity and syntax.

The original piece below is an excerpt from a collection of stories about traveling in the Global South.

I am in the salon, the so-called house of beauty.

I keep looking over my shoulder for my bag. Should I move it off the couch? I can’t reach it in a pinch, that is, if I need to reach it in a pinch. Shit. I look down at the mani-pedi girl working on my hands: How long will this nail polish last? If the weather holds out to be sunny, many days. If it rains, fewer days. Would it rain today? If it did, the sidewalks would instantly turn into super slick walkways. When that happens, I never make it back to the apartment without scraping a toe. I hope the pedi I’m getting sticks at least through the afternoon. I mean, pedi chips would be tolerable, excusable, because what would kill me are unkept hands. I am convinced that people judge me by the number of uncut cuticles that I have on my fingertips; should they see that I have fingers that look like they’ve been run on graters, the disinterested party won’t think highly of me. In fact, the idea of mani chips itself kills my thought process. I’m thinking in English. What if—

“Anastasia, ¿tienes afán?” my mani–pedi girl asks.

I’m jerked out of my thoughts.

No,” I say. “No tengo prisa, Patricia.” I’m not in a rush. I consciously relax the hand that she is painting; the other hand grabs tightly to the arm of the chair that I sit in.

The mani-pedi girl’s eyes scan me up and down, faster than I can swallow a knot in my throat.  She is frozen in motion—her left hand holding a bottle of nail polish, her right hand the nail polish wand in mid-air—a look of confusion on her face. I realize that I’ve been tapping my foot frantically, rocking the other back and  forth on the edge of the small salon table and thereby causing it to shake.

I stop my maniac foot. I consciously place it flat on the ground.

She goes back to painting my finger nails.

I feel a sensation in my mouth, and I realize that I’m holding in a big breath of air. I slowly let it out through pursed lips. My head aches a little, and I realize I’m holding in a big ball of English thoughts, too. They are pressing against the inside of my skull, pressing, pushing, wanting to get out into my reality. I resolve to not let them— I focus in between my eyebrows, search for that space in which I disconnect from my thoughts, allow space to enter between my mind and the reality around me. The sensation of pressure starts to recede.

And then I remember why I am here in Medellin: to live in that space between my mind and the reality around me. I need space. A constant reflection of me in the English words that I write, haunts me, surprises me, scares me, confuses me. Giving myself space is a love language, so I leave English-speaking worlds so I might create someone else. Another version of me in a foreign language.

I look down at my feet, wiggle my toes. Those nails have already received their color: red.  Fully painted, shiny, beautiful: red. Good.

I flick my glance around the salon: I observe the people whom I have previously dubbed the mani–pedi girls (and even a mani-pedi man, trying to not look at me from his corner). They are all so constructed. They always are: the lipsticked, blushed, mascaraed, brushed, tweezed, and waxed people of the salon. They look like people in a magazine look.

I see a pile of other magazines on the chair next to an older woman. The magazine lying on top—I couldn’t make out the name because the mast head was torn, something in Spanish—features a picture of a pair of two blindingly-white-toothed, blond-Japanese-technique-straightened-haired, raccoon-like-dark-eye-makeup actresses. The caption reads: The beautiful life of Hollywood.

My stomach turns.

English dominates the world at large. Holding space for myself in another language, even when the ghost of natal language follows me, is a love language.

I return my gaze to themani-pedi girl—Patricia—: the concentrated look on her face calmed me a bit. I was comforted, actually, that the denim wash jeans she was wearing had a little pudge spilling over the waistband, her shirt with a few beads of lint and her brown face with a pimple at her hairline, the roots of her dark brown hair showing under box auburn, her own hands with unfiled nails in need of a pedi herself.

Patricia looks up at me. “Cómo  se llama esa cancion?” she asks. Then she turns her gaze down, picks up a bottle of clear polish, shakes it. She starts applying the top coat to my left hand.

Patricia, ha! Her coral lipstick was fresh. Nice. But—What is the name of that song? Oh, Patricia, there are so many. “Um,” I start to say. “Cuál?” Which?

She breaks out in a grin, takes her nail, digs it in to the side of my cuticle and removes some polish that dripped from the brush tip to my finger tip: “You know, ‘atrevéte-te-te—‘”

Aha! …I inhale softly, and we both look up—meet each other’s gaze, and I finish the chorus: “salte de closet, destapate, quitate el esmalte.”

“Sí, Anastasia! Eso!” She taps my thigh with the back of her hand. A warm gesture.  I appreciate that. We laugh.

                “La otra,” Patricia says. I place my right hand on the table, gently withdraw the left. Patricia continues her work.

Oct 2010

Categories
Autofiction

KiezKucker: Puerto Rico in New Jersey

KiezKucker is a constructed name, a penname for my persona who explores the simultaneity of identity through language. I write in English through my female-gendered, white American experience. But pieces of that dissolves sometimes. I’ve travelled enough to have honed a special ability to blend in, that learning foreign languages is a valuable skill, that blending in through language can make me seem like a resident when I’m a visitor. It stokes the connections that can emerge with anyone I meet.

***

I rode the Garden State Parkway in New Jersey, navigated the concrete river flowing with traffic—cars and trucks and motorcycles and cars and SUVs—four abreast, headed north.

I looked in the rearview mirror, a small rectangle mirror that cast a visual of the periphery GSP, the singular images of trees and cement walls and exit signs blurring together, individual images that didn’t move, and yet moved, a spinning reel, a window-view animation. The concrete river flowing with traffic—cars and trucks and motorcycles and cars and SUVs—four abreast, headed north.

I was surrounded, but I was alone. And in this physical isolation, I felt like no sound I could make would rise above the hissing and popping and zoom zoom zooming of other cars.

So I turned the volume way up.

I sang with iLe, a Puerto Rican singer, her album “ILevatable” cranked in the cab of my cruising F150.

Ile, she understood me and my pain, my need for connection, deliverance. I felt her pain, her needs, her love, her connection, her deliverance through song. Heavy shit, carried out on her breath and voice. And as I sang, and let these things go, I felt lighter.

I sang with my ghoulish lack of tone. I mimicked the sounds but I was no match. Ile sang, her beautifully orchestrated highs and lows and syrupy sour-sweet tones.

Then a sign came up on the horizon: toll booth ahead.

The flow of traffic ebbed. I slid into this part of the asphalt river. The toll booth island plaza ports filled and emptied with cars and trucks and motorcycles and trucks one behind each other (one ahead of each other) one behind each other.

The EZ Pass lanes had the rhythm that barely broke. But I navigated toward the slowest lane of all, the lane where the rhythm was very stop and go. I didn’t have the EZ Pass tag with me. I would have to pay cash. I had placed a crisp ten-dollar bill on the visor in my truck for this reason. My beach retreats were dreamy little dreams, full of quiet, and solitude, and the entry back to day-to-day was always a little rough. Little tricks like this helped to ease me back in, when I felt the crushing weight of insignificance on speed on the GSP.

So I waited my turn, and as I rolled up, rolled my window down, I held out the tenner for the attendant to take. It was automatic. I staid looking straight ahead. My heart was beating. I wanted to be back in my dreamy-singy-flow. But I eventually realized the dood wasn’t extending his arm with the change, so only then, I turned to look. He was mouthing something. I put the window down further, put the music lower, and said, “What?” I heard some words trailing off. I heard words switch from Spanish to English. I heard them lower in volume, get lost in the sounds of the road-river flow, then get loud:

Y tu familia?” and I thought, What’s he talking about?

Then he code-switched. He asked, in English: “Where are you from? La Isla?“

As I started to reply that no, I’m gringa, he cut me off, said, again in English: “Because you are listening to her.”

He nodded, chin jerking toward the dashboard.

And then I saw him, into his face, how it was puffy and how the bags under his eyes were pronounced. I saw tears in the corners of his eyes. I instantly remembered the news, that Hurricane Maria had just hit La Isla, had knocked out power and water and had churned up sewage in the streets, leaving many, many people in Puerto Rico at a standstill: no water, food, utilities, communications. I realized that hearing this singer from his home might have been his message in a bottle in the anonymous sea.

He said, in English: “Mine, mine are OK. I got to contact them. But others I don’t know.“

It got quiet. Even the gurgle of the lanes of traffic seemed to quiet momentarily. I peeked in the rearview and saw the cars adding up behind me. I didn’t know what to say, except I knew in Latin culture, the presence of God dotted the language. I said, “Que Dios le bendiga.” God bless you.

He looked at me, put his hands up, and waved them down twice, saying with a raspy voice: “Amén amén.” He handed me my change.

October 2017

Categories
Planetary Culture

The Explorer’s Journey, language, and breakthroughs

One day, I sat at a library and re-read a hardcopy essay that I had been working on for a while. What I was trying to say wasn’t coming through.I had to open the conversation up—ask what the words wanted from me.

Visionary artist Allison Grey’s work, including her work that conveys her the origin of her worldview: chaos, language, and secret writing

The essay was about the Explorer’s Journey—extolling the virtues of personal evolution. “Explorer’s Journey” is what I name a search for “higher purpose.” But my essay was falling flat. Phrases like “finding myself,” “knowing myself,” “higher purpose” felt deflated. They lacked force. A reader could get a sense of what I was referring to, but couldn’t feel the electricity in my experiences, which is what gave me the enthusiasm to write about them. I couldn’t activate the experiences for the reader—which was what I was trying to do. I wanted the essay to convey a feeling of motion, transformation, which translates to excitement–this is what my Explorer’s Journey had given me. I wanted to convince the reader to embark on theirs.

I started play with the medium, the language, by going in and out–shifting my awareness of shape of the letters on the page, focusing and unfocusing my vision, moving from words to shapes words strung together made, and then back.

This became dharana—meditation—on the words. I was singularly focused on them. My field of vision started to blur. My peripheral vision blurred, too, and the library bookshelves turned into cases full of neon beams of light, and the books on them became crystals. The idea of the interconnectedness of all of the ideas, writers, and me to them became apparent. It registered in my mind as a felt sense registers in the body. And then I had a fleeting thought I was a medium, a part of this vast network who, through the act of writing, pulled ether into material and with that, create our world because information is our world. I felt a deep sense of satisfaction in the core of my being, then, and the vision vanished. The meditation was broken.

I left the library, touched by the experience, activated to another level, and fulfilled. I part of my higher purpose was being in dialogue, literally, creating words. I trusted that the words to share this experience would come to me. They did when I applied astrological insight.

I checked my natal chart for transits, which are contacts of placements (and noted through the shapes of the angles that the placements make). The universe is in constant motion. The celestial bodies are dynamic. The sun (creativity) was in Scorpio (transformation), making a contact to my Uranus in Scorpio. Uranus is the planet that represents higher consciousness and breakthroughs. The correlation doesn’t mean causation—the sun contacting Uranus didn’t “make” me have that momentary lapse in reality. But my awareness of the motion, the contact was power; the knowledge allowed me to engage with the cosmos in a meaningful way by starting a reflection (in my mind) on breakthrough and transformation, while noticing how the reality unfolded breakthrough and transformation around me.

Visionary artist Alex Grey’s work, a painting titled “Universal Mind Lattice”

The essay I had been working has since been broken up into many smaller pieces. Lines of it appear on my page about the energy work that I do. The essay became the creation, the practice through which I facilitate an individual’s exploration of their inner and outer lives, and ultimately, personal evolution. Conversations on these subjects open up worldviews and offer new ways to interpret reality.

I hope my excitement comes through here. I hope the power in my words reaches you.

As a I writer, I am a node on the network of words. Letters, words are power. My higher purpose—that which I seek so that I can offer to others—is to be a conduit for expansive conversations, ones in which words become a key to unlocking pathways toward transformation and breakthroughs that serve us on our individualized Explorer’s Journey.

May all beings be happy and free // Om lokah samastah sukinoh bhavantu

Categories
Energy Work

Reflection Prompts: May 2021 Full Moon & Eclipse

Here’s an opportunity to acknowledge the interconnectedness of all things–how the living cosmos and our psyche are intertwined, that is, the astrological aspects & energy exchange between your human mind and the bodies in our solar system.

***

May 26, 2021: Gemini sun, Sagittarius moon; LUNAR ECLIPSE.

The life-giving force of the sun is activating a conversation about the way we communicate (Gemini) and the way we have been culturally torn apart (Sagittarius). Our emotional body, represented by the moon, is full, lit, and divulging a swirl of information from media (over)stimulation over the internet, our channel to community during the past year in lock down. Now, we’re reading that things are “getting back to normal.” We’re seeing pictures of mask-free get togethers. We are able to connect with each other IRL again. The pause of the pandemic is gone in the United States, and here comes everything ever again. Possible mental overload.

And then the question hiding in plain sight: Do we even want to get back out there?

Consider how we’ve treated each other in the past year. It seemed like it was a moral free-for-all.

The way that people (individually and collectively) reacted to the pandemic varied wildly. Some chose to adhere to scientific guidance in relation to minimizing the spread of the virus, changing their actions as the guidance evolved. Others straight up ignored, ridiculed, doubted any scientific guidance and turned their actions into politicized statements. Either way, real-time healthcare infrastructure was overwhelmed. Healthcare is a universal right, and yet, people some people decried methods of tending to public health as an infringement on their personal rights. Either way, the internet was electrified, with both sides wielding self-righteousness in their beliefs.

In sum: we weren’t listening to each other.

So if we just go back to “normal,” we go back to a pretty shitty way of living in society. We’re divided at the level of caring for and being accountable to each other. We know what we really think of each other through our actions and words. We don’t listen to each other. How is our community supposed to heal when the cultures within it aren’t hearing each other?

And that’s where the eclipse portal, which we’re in, can be an activation toward opening up more space to change the way we communicate, the bridge to creating community across different cultures.

I invite you to engage with the energy of the eclipse (through the archetypes of Gemini, the communicator, and Sagittarius, the cultural ambassador) by asking yourself the following: Do you value your personal rights over the rights collectively established for being in society? Do you value the health of individual over the health of the collective?

These questions are the genesis of the unresolved arguments from the past pandemic year. And maybe we don’t have time for them since we’re excited to get back out there. So I invite you to make this a reflection IRL. Go and see your friends. Head back to the office. Shop in a real store. And each time, listen.

Be in conversation with the people you encounter, but only to listen. Notice if you tend to be in conversation and while the other person is speaking, you’re already preparing an answer. Let the person speak and don’t respond—just listen.

So much of the reaction to the pandemic was based on fear—losing life, or losing perceived liberties. Healthcare is a universal right—the way to hold each other accountable to it, to give each other their due rights, is to apply ourselves. Listen. We are all different now—altered, changed somehow in ways we may or may not be willing to talk about yet. But first, let’s listen, and re-learn how to communicate.

Idam na mama. *** For the greater good of all.

***

If you would like more specific insight into the transits and your natal chart, please contact me. Micro-meetings are available so you can calibrate to the energy flow and find your transformative circuit.

Categories
Planetary Culture

Homa for the commons

Vandana Shiva, an Indian activist advocating for an ecological civilization, does work around organic farming and the food chain. She participated in the creation of the “Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth,” a manifesto to underscore the interconnectedness of all beings. She says that all beings have a right to life, and commons, the resources we share like food, air, and water, should not be poisoned or polluted. Disruption of the quality of the commons affect the sustainable exchanges among living systems. We are depleted by poisoned commons–and that includes human knowledge.

Vandana Shiva

I’m highlighting Shiva’s work because I find connection with it as part of the emergent planetary culture, the movement toward harmony among synergy and consideration of all living systems on the planet. There are others, too–think tanks, activists, and visionaries—who are creating the spaces and action around an ecological civilization, one that moves toward a symbiosis that supports all beings and systems on Earth.

Human knowledge is part of the commons. We share the resource of thoughts. What our minds consume influences what our bodies and states consume. Traditional and social media deplete our psychic energetic reserves when overconsumed. Mental imagery and the ability to think beyond ourselves can be distorted. There’s no easy way to participate in an ecological civilization without doing inner work—this is the entry point for self care into the conversation. A true planetary culture depends on psychological shifts and behavior changes.

Homa, the fire ceremony that I offer on a regular basis, clears subtle energies across dimensions. There have been studies done on the effect of homa on farming. Homa also works to clear the psychic plane, too, although those effects are harder to measure. Individuals have conveyed a mental clarity, a lightness in the mind perceived after sitting for homa. Homa is a link between self care, mental wellbeing, and our ability to make the perspective shifts and behavior changes that support action in line with planetary culture. This is why I offer homa through online and real-time ceremonies on a regular basis.

Homa fire in a kund

The Bhagavad Gita, Hindu scripture, says that all beings depend on food. We feed the fire our thoughts with offerings of cow dung, ghee, rice, and herbs. The dung and ghee are from cows, who eat grass, which grows in the soil, which is fed by rain and wind that moves clouds through the air—analogous to the regenerative cycle of life, and how each part has a place in it. The offerings are a yagya: an oblation, service, a purification, in which the offering of material on the mental plane becomes a selfless act to the fire. The fire, in a spiritual sense, the core of consciousness. Fire is the infinite divine energy.

Consider how you can gaze upon a tree and find beauty in that form of nature. Similarly, we can gaze upon the fire and allow an encounter with the divine—the light of the flame in the fire is the light of divinity within us. It is the impulse for a transpersonal connection, the feeling of a relationship to beings beyond ourselves. So, by working on the individual level, we are supporting the work to clear the mental plane, purify the commons of human knowledge, find rejuvenation in infinite divine energy, and through those connections, cultivate a relationship to society and planet that honors the interconnectedness of all beings.

Idam na mama * For the greater good of all

Categories
Autofiction

Autofiction: SevenThirteen

The theme of SevenThirteen is reality language–the way that language is creates reality. Reality is a composite of memories, sensory impressions, imagination, and levels of awareness; an axis appears along which we oscillate between an inner reality and an outer reality, woven over threads of language, and worn by the individuals who receive us. My goal was to create an surreal work so that I could point out the absurdity of agreeing on a common reality. I self published SevenThirteen in 2002.

The journey starts with GirlOne, an recruit for a mysterious cult that parties their way into self transformation. She goes clubbing, releases energy, breaks free, and loves deeply. GirlOne is me and not me. She is an avatar, a slipstream character that emerges out of the hologram of my memories, sensory impressions, and imagination.

SevenThirteen is anti-literary establishment and anti-common reality. The work is a meant to confuse the reader so that the reader is forced to ask “What is going on?”–an engagement with the reading experience, an opening to confusion–and then question everything. I came to terms with an adverse relationship with shared reality by creating this book. The catharsis wasn’t in the character’s (or my) change, but my performance as a writer who crafted words into something completely illogical that is activated by the reader.

I needed a place to inject chaos to order to emulate the messy nature of our engagement with reality, and the world of SevenThirteen is that place.

There are first editions floating around the internet. If you’re meant to have this book, you’ll find it.

Categories
Autofiction

Autofiction: Meta Work

I’m a writer who acknowledges the interconnectedness of all things. A dynamic circuit exists between the inner world and outer worlds. Here is some creative writing that I hope encourages reflection on how you tend to your mental health.

I am challenged by conflicting identities. A part of me wants to remain in an untamed state, behavior and thoughts not judged by cultural norms and expectations placed on my personhood by nature of a social contract. I don’t want to spend time working. And a part of me needs to be tamed, behavior and thoughts skillfully carved into a that can fit into the mechanisms of society. That’s my own work. This dynamic tension fuels my creative expression; I explore the questions “Who am I as I exist for me?” and “Who am I as I exist for other people?” on a daily basis.

I pour myself into autofiction because it is the container that can hold the result of my explorations. This form of creative writing, in which I get to be the narrator and a character in a surreal version of reality, is cathartic. The form isn’t limited by traditional narrative techniques and objective truth-telling that are at the core of  memoir or essay. This is important to me. I’ve found that my subjective truth isn’t the same from day to day, but the sum of such exploration is: through creative writing, I work on my mental health and move toward psycho-spiritual wellness.

Meta Work will be released summer 2021.