Friday, January 23, 2009

Sleepless in the Colestin

Cigar factory, late 1920s

Another late night, campers, and no sleep in sight. No rest for the wicked. Are any of you chronic insomniacs like me? I come from a long line. After my mother died, I found some old letters in her trunk written by my grandmother Nellie, who died when my mother was nine. Nellie’s letters describe her days as one long ordeal after another: laundry (hauling the clothes to the spring house to be soaped in lye, ,scrubbed on a washboard and rinsed in a tin tub), gardening (digging, planting, weeding, hoeing, harvesting), preparing food (canning every day in the summer, making molasses, slaughtering hogs) tending poultry (almost every letter mentions her “chix”) in addition to the daily chores of cooking, cleaning, and tending 10 children. Apparently, after working like a field hand, putting the children to bed and tending to my notoriously grouchy grandfather, she was still awake, writing letters to her brother by the light of a kerosene lamp. Insomnia must run in the family.

I’ve been watching cockfighting videos on YouTube while researching Santeria, which isn’t as notorious as it sounds. I’m directing the play Anna in the Tropics at the college, and both subjects apply. I can only imagine the grilling I’d get if Homeland Security got ahold of my web browser history. In your travels on the internet, if any of you ever stumble across information about the Cuban dance forms son, rumba or danzon, especially examples from the 1920s and 30s, please forward them along. I’d be particularly interested to find silent films from the 20s that feature Cuban dance, landscapes or actors. I also need to learn how to roll a cigar.

It’s true campers: I’m a woman of eclectic tastes and short attention span.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Here I Come to Save the Day

I’m beginning to think that perhaps I have a superhero complex; that, or I crave attention in ways that aren’t entirely healthy.

I got a call from my pal Chris Sackett, chairman of the Theatre Department at Southern Oregon University. His director for the winter term production of Nilo Cruz’s play Anna in the Tropics had dropped out and rehearsals were scheduled to start in less than a week. Would I be interested in stepping in?

Understand, I read the play once 5 years ago, and it deals with a culture and community about which I know nothing. Understand that the production is already cast, the set and costume designs are complete and already being built.

On top of all that, I’m segueing from my job in the publications department to a job as a grant writer at OSF, and January is the busiest month in both worlds. For the next two weeks, I’ll be working two full-time jobs while being paid for one half-time job. Plus, the band is playing our biggest gig ever in January and we desperately need to rehearse. Plus I’m house/dog sitting in town, which is lovely, but requires me to invest a fair amount of love, attention and time in a cranky old dog.

A sane person would look at all this and decide that her life was full and complete. A sane person wouldn’t even consider taking on another project.

Clearly, I’m insane; I signed on to direct the play. Sweet suffering Georgia Brown, why do I DO this to myself? I think it’s a bad case of the Mighty Mouse complex; here I come to save the day. But, who is going to save me from myself?

Sunday, January 4, 2009


I’ve been reading about Hecate lately, the goddess of the crossroads, she of the three faces. We love her as the maiden and the mother, fear her as the crone. But, the crone is the healer. The crone is the truth speaker. The crone is the willing sacrifice. When our time comes, she takes our pain away and lays us down to sleep. Why do we fear the old crone, the witch, the hag?

Etymologically, the word “hag” comes from the same root as “hedge.” In the middle ages, many single, self-sustaining women, often widows, were dispossessed by the forced enclosure of the commons. They had to leave the land they had lived on all their lives, the land that provided their sustenance, and move out beyond the hedges into the wild lands; thus “hags.” Only the smartest, wiliest, the most capable survived out there beyond the hedges. They were the ones who learned how to walk in two worlds, the visible, predictable, mutually accepted delusion known as human society and the mysterious, solitary paths beyond the bonds of community. They were the wise women, the powerful ones, and they transcended pity and fear. Who wouldn’t want to be one of them? Not surprisingly, the insecure, terrified male hierarchy brought down upon them a holocaust of burnings and hangings that wiped out untold generations.

It may seem odd to use this dark corner of a forum to mark a milestone; I did very little to acknowledge it in the “real” world, but here goes: I turned 50 today. That looks about as frightening in print as I thought it would. Really, I have never in my life been someone who had the slightest qualm about her age, but I guess I’ve never been 50 before, have I? And yes, it’s significant, it’s wonderful, I’m damn glad to have made it this far. If any birthday rates a celebration, this one does, but for many reasons I chose not to mark the day with a party. My birthday falls in an awkward spot on the calendar. Everybody, including me, has been partying for a month and nobody, including me, has the energy or inclination for one more. The days are short, the nights are dark, and energetically, it has always felt like a time better suited for contemplation than for celebration.

But, turning 50 is not something I want to deny or avoid. I’m no kid any more and never will be again. That’s OK; that’s better than OK, it’s fantastic. I’m officially an elder now, with all that entails, the good, the bad, the ugly.

To mark the passage, I took myself to Stewart Mineral Springs and did three rounds of mineral bath, followed by sauna, followed by a dunk in the creek. Three times I climbed down the stairs to the bankside, disrobed, clambered naked down the ice slick rocks to the dipping pool, pushed away the ice that crusted the surface and fully immersed myself in the freezing water. Once for the maiden, once for the mother, once for the crone.

Not bad for an old broad, wouldn’t you say?

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Ode to Ikea

Here where the Ohlone once foraged the mud flats for provender,
And fed like kings on abalone and oysters,
Stands this gleaming monument to modernity and mass production.

Drinking imported coffee from an imported cup
I gaze out plate glass windows at the bay,
Stripped of mud flats,
Ringed by freeways,

Women combed through the cattails,
Filling their baskets with unimaginable bounty.
I hear their chiming laughter as I deposit my tray in the waiting receptacle
And start shopping.