soundandmountains

"Who, if I cried, in the hierarchy of angels would hear me?" Rainier Maria Rilke


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Boys Will Be Boys/Horseplay

Upsetting to have to write this, in 2018, but here goes.
The year was 1970; I was in sixth grade at a local public school. Sixth grade was the last grade before graduating and going to a big, scary Junior High. In sixth grade, you were supposed to be at the top of the heap and beyond teasing and bullying, because there were no older kids. A false sense of security set in, I suppose.
Every morning, I walked half a block straight up a hill to stand at a busstop with ten or fifteen other kids. This was way before helicopter parenting days; our parents made sure we ate breakfast, were carrying lunch in a brown paper sack or lunchbox, or carrying lunch money. Books, homework; boots, gloves, hat, scarf in winter. Check. Out the door and on our own.

Some winters there was a lot of snow. All winters there was some snow. The township plowed it early in the morning so that unless it was really severe, snow never meant missing school. Still, we would glue ourselves to the radio, listening for our call number. “Schools 003, 005, are closed.” We were 301, I think. Rarely closed unless there were five inches or more of snow overnight and it hadn’t been plowed yet.
Every morning, we got to the bus stop five or ten or fifteen minutes ahead of the bus. Because the bus could be early, and if you missed the bus, you really didn’t want to deal with Mom having to drive you to school. Back then, most Moms in my neighborhood were home and could actually do that.
So we arrived 15 minutes early, and stood in the snow waiting on the big yellow school bus. Sometimes we had snowball fights. Those were mostly good natured, but there was one boy named Jerry Paris who liked to put a rock in the middle of his snowball, or make ice balls, which were much harder. He’d target girls or kids smaller than him. It wasn’t fun and it wasn’t safe.
I had the soul of a rescuer, even at that age. For some reason, I thought it was my responsibility and calling to protect the weaker. More than that, I couldn’t stand the smug satisfaction on his face of getting away with it, being top dog, knowing no one would challenge him.
I stooped, picked up some snow, packed it real tight, took aim. From twenty yards, I hit Jerry Paris right in the back with a snowball. A general gasp went up. Everyone else’s tactic had been to submit, ignore, avoid retaliation. None of them threw snowballs at Jerry. I heard “you’re gonna get it”, and realized no one was going to cover my back, lie for me, or neglect to tell him who did it.
I don’t remember what happened after that. There was a moment’s satisfaction of having “got” the bully. There was a wild flight of fantasy thinking he would mend his ways. Didn’t all those kids’ books say that if you stand up to a bully, he’ll stop doing it? Yeah, sure. That happens.
After that, the dread set in. What’s he going to do to me. It will be something. I think in that moment Jerry laughed it off, but as I write that, the memory of watching him load up a snowball and speed it back my way surfaces. I remember the fear, not the impact.

 

 

The year is still 1970. This standing up for the downtrodden hasn’t worked out the way I thought, but I’ve more or less chalked it up to experience and moved on. I don’t know if I threw more snowballs at Jerry Paris or not. I remember feeling like the lone outrider on a trail no one else even saw.
Except for my friend Nancy, who also defied every norm she could spot. We would meet up on the playground twice a day at recess. She was a year behind me, cute in a baby butch way, and infinitely fun.
I knew I was attracted to girls by then, but she and I had not discussed it. She went on many years later to be a picture on the front page of the NYTimes for one of the first gay marriages.
Back to 1970. Rows of desks with laminated wood tops and enamel chairs. Bright lights, boring subjects. New books. We were the spoiled ones of suburbia with pretty good curriculum and 30 in a class. Mostly well-behaved.
The bell rings recess. We are allowed outside in the snow. I push back my chair, stow my book in the metal shelf under my desktop, stand up, put on coat and knit cap and gloves, make my way to the door. Not ten yards from the door, as I’m walking fast past a jungle gym and scanning the snow covered field for my friend Nancy, I hear a noise behind me of several boys running and joking. “There she is, get her!” They push me from behind, hold me face down in the snow. One on each arm, as I struggle to raise my head and torso and get up. I can’t get up, they’re too strong and too many. One opens my coat in front, pulls my sweater out, and shoves cold snow down the front of my shirt. I scream. There’s the cold, and there’s having a boy shove his hand down my shirt. Both bad.
They laugh. They get up and leave before the teacher on playground duty says anything at all. Perhaps she’d blown a whistle at them, I don’t know. I get up. I find the playground monitor teacher, an older woman with platinum coiffed hair and a plaid coat. Probably the same woman who threatened to send me home earlier that year for wearing pants in six inches of snow. Understand, that in this shoving down in the snow, I was wearing a skirt.
I tell the playground teacher what happened. I am looking forward to her rounding up the boys and scolding them and sending them inside. I expect to be told that she’ll make sure it never happens again.
I’m wrong. She says, “well, boys will be boys. Horseplay. It’s not a big deal. Don’t play with them if you don’t want to get hurt.”
They came up behind me. I was just outside the door. I didn’t walk past them or provoke them; I have no idea why they chose me. Maybe for being the best student in the class?
Maybe just for being.
I don’t remember who those boys were. It was not Jerry Paris. I will never know why they picked me. It was random, it was an attack, and when I reported it, I was told immediately to disregard my own feelings and to reframe it as anything but an assault. In fact, I was blamed for being in the way of it. Told it was the price of recess, and I could stay inside if I wanted.
That is what I have to say to all the men who want to dismiss attempted rape as “mere horseplay.” First of all, no it fucking isn’t. And second, you don’t know what can of worms you’re opening with that. Horseplay isn’t as harmless as you think; it’s another word that’s been weaponized to cover up for all manner of assault and injury.

 

 

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I Have a New Vision

In my vision, hordes of people, not just me, walk into a QFC or a Safeway, and approach the management, and say with one voice, “We don’t want all this plastic. We don’t need all this plastic. We’re not buying another donut, another cake, another loaf of bread, another slice of cheesecake, or another sandwich here until you find a way to package it in something sustainable. Hemp cardboard, hemp plastic, butcher paper, we don’t care. But not plastic.” And they spin as one on their heels and walk out.

Because America believes in a free market more than in regulation, unless it’s to regulate the poor and the refugee and the asylum seeker and the uterus, in this vision the hordes of people walking into Safeway and Thriftway and QFC and yes Whole Foods and PCC and declaiming against plastic, then walking out without buying a thing-these hordes are heard. Up the corporate ladder runs the message: really, boss, they won’t buy anything until we stop. We’ve fooled them long enough. They care about the beach. They care about the whales and the dolphins. They care about eating fish which has eaten plastic. Go figure. We’re going to have to do something different.”

And in this vision, the corporations knuckle down and change their packaging. And while they’re at it, having been so knocked off center, they also cut down on sugar content and HFCS and all manner of additives. Because really, who wants a Twinkie in edible leaf wrapping, or a Ho Ho in hemp cardboard? No one!
And in this vision, the people who have found their hearts and their voice and their feet feel energized and empowered. And the animals in the sea and the birds in the air, those that crawl and walk and slither and swim and fly all hear about the choices these brave hordes are making. And they honor those choices, and lend their energy and their prayers to these American people. And because these animal allies feel they can work with humans, and honor them, these American people mysteriously find themselves being healed of their depression and anxiety. Which never was anything but a symptom of their violent daily disconnection from the natural world and all their relatives there.

And in this vision, circles flourish and drums and flute and all manner of music and art. And because there is less to make, because the people have finally stopped their headlong rush over a cliff to consume and consume more until they consumed themselves, because there is less to make, there are less hours to work. And people go to the beaches and the forests and the fields and clean up the mess they’ve made. And they sit and pray and sing and meditate. And they rise and play and worship. And they tell stories for the seventh generation, about coming back to a way of balance.

And the QFCs and the Safeways and the Thriftways and yes even the Whole Foods become, in time, museums and schools. Museums like Auschwitz and Treblinka are museums. Where children are brought and people make pilgrimage to see the ways that we used to kill each other and ourselves.
Some are converted to healthy markets and gardens. But more are used to teach the young ones and the old ones what lies down the path of “more”.

And in this vision, the sky over Seattle is again blue, not brown. The blue I remember, thirty years ago.
And there is peace, and there is hope. In this vision, the waters of Lake Washington are cold till July, and they are clear. In this vision, the longhouses rise again. And the shootings cease. And there is civility and dialogue because first there was justice. And none are homeless and all are fed.


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Soul Retrieval and Extraction

I am writing this on my phone because my computer won’t let me post new wordpress content for some reason . Today I got very excited about soul retrieval again . Watching it help someone to recover younger aspects of themself is thrilling. Watching the weight fall off of their shoulders when I remove stuck energy that isn’t even theirs- the despair of a father or the anger of a mother, for example-is also rewarding. More later, when I’ve sorted out the computer!


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Grown-Ass Man

Grown-Ass Man December 25, 2017

Today it is a quiet, snow-dusted Christmas in the Pacific Northwest. Last night a good friend came over and we sat in the hot tub as the snow fell on us, then ate a home-cooked meal and sat in front of the wood stove catching up and trading healing techniques and stories. Today I have off, so that’s good.
Yesterday, I went to an Alanon meeting because I like to fix people. I rarely want to leave them alone in their misery. Whether or not they ask for my help. So today I come to you with a problem I’ve never had before, although others have struggled with it for decades. There’s a man sitting ten feet away from me in the living room of this temporarily rented house , a grown man of six feet and probably 280 lbs with three kids and a can’t wait to be ex-wife, and he’s playing violent video games. Worse, he’s playing them out loud with a friend on the phone.
“Yeah, I’ve got an Uzi and a six-millimeter. Don’t worry, I had a few energy drinks.” When I tried to talk to him earlier, he chatted for a minute and then said, “I’m putting the headphones back on; I need to be able to listen for footsteps.”
Dude, your wife is leaving you, you’re unemployed and somewhat broke, and a good hundred pounds overweight. Is this really what you want to do with your time? Even if all of that is ok with you, the state of this country right now, and you can’t think of anything better to do than vape weed and play teenaged games of killing whoever you can? I walk over to that side of the room now and again and see the dead bodies laying on the screen, I see his avatar of the fit soldier standing over them. He looks nothing like that.
He is chuckling now about being killed. I guess that’s better than being upset. “Kill the fucker on the bike. “ The conversation is killing me. As a practicing reader and empath, I don’t really want to live with someone who is actively and for hours imagining himself mowing people down with Uzis. He is the textbook caricature of the man who eventually picks up an Uzi because he makes no money and the wife and kids are gone. Except that his wife lets him see the kids, in fact depends on him for childcare, so I feel confident I won’t be killed in my sleep between now and June. Still, the mental contructs of murder flying around the house are not entertaining. Nor am I amused that this is the most animated I’ve seen him.
Mind you, until recently, what I did for fun and escape was watch cop shows about murder and solving cases. I ask myself what’s different about that. Here’s my answer: I spend the hour of the show identifying with the District Attorney or the detective, who are ostensibly trying their very hardest to protect the innocent. Not with the fellow who is running around trying to kill everyone.
If your best response to the state the world or your life is in right now is to spend money you barely have to use electricity and take up spaced fantasizing about being a soldier when you couldn’t make a ten mile hike with 50 pounds on your back if your life depended on it, I have no respect for you. Get up out of the chair and do something befitting an adult, not a child, and maybe your wife will want you back.
Ok, off to Alanon where they will scold me in a properly oblique fashion about my judgementalness and detachment and minding my own business.
But I swear I’d be so happy if video games were just outlawed. I am old enough to remember when pinball machines were the ticket; I spent hours on them. For one thing, you had to stand. And there were physical little metal balls, we weren’t playing with widgets. I remember when Pong arrived; it was fun for a while and then I went back to pinball. I remember when Pac-Man arrived. I spent hours on it avoiding a crucial decision and crucial work in my life. As I recall, it taught me way less than the hours and years I spent avoiding that same work in the drug life of the streets. I am more ashamed of those hours on Pac-Man as being completely soul-deadening. Running the streets doing drugs at least has you interacting with actual people.


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The Power of Fox News

The power of Fox News(sic) came home to me yesterday in a subtly disturbing way, at the gym, where I wish I could say I least expected it. But in fact where I see its reach every day, the at least two tvs tuned to it reminding me that even in liberal, Democratic Seattle, it has a stronghold and a following.
I was on the treadmill, watching CNN, when the manager of the LA Fitness approached me on my right to discuss an incident which had happened at the front desk. He had his best customer service face on, and seemed genuinely to want to make my experience more pleasant. He came right out and said, “I’m Josh, is there a problem? Can you tell me what’s the matter?”
I paused the treadmill and turned to look at him. “Well the problem is your front desk worker Armando is incredibly rude. I’ll tell you what happened. I thought all the TVs were set to sports or Fox News; it turns out I was mistaken about this one-it must have been on a commercial when I was looking-but I went downstairs to ask if they would change one of the TVs to CNN or MSNBC like there’d always been here before. Armando said they couldn’t do that and I would have to wait for the manager to arrive “later” because they didn’t have the controls at the front desk. I told him I didn’t believe that, that it wasn’t true, I was certain he could change the channels. He said you can talk to the manager when he gets here, without saying when that might be.
I asked him his name. He said, “Armando something, would you like me to write that down.” I said yes, please. He said,” too bad I don’t feel like writing it down, and I’m not going to. What’s your name.”
At this point the manager interrupted and said, “that’s way too far” and I said yes I agree, that was no way to talk to a customer no matter what they’d said. The manager said, “you can always go to the front desk and ask them to change the channel” and I said, “that’s where I was, at the front desk. He said he couldn’t.” The manager got a queasy look on his face and said “I’ll deal with him. And I’m sorry that happened to you. That’s just not true. And he shouldn’t have talked to you that way.”
Here’s the story, though. The above story might be about the invisibility of grey-haired women who aren’t wearing a lot of gold on their fingers. The real story is this: as soon as the manager walked off, the man on the treadmill next to me took his headphones off and said, “Excuse me, am I in danger? I see there’s an issue.” I said “why would you be in danger, I’m just talking to the manager about his staff member being rude. What could that possibly have to do with you?”
He said, “well, anytime I see a disturbance, I check to make sure it doesn’t represent a physical threat to my safety. “ I said ,”no physical threats, just customer service complaint. I was tired of the TVs all being on Fox News and wanted one changed back to MSNBC or CNN and the kid at the front desk couldn’t be bothered. I’m not going to punch him if that’s what you mean. We’re just talking.” The man interrupted me to say “I don’t want to nose into your business, I just thought I might be physically in danger.” Mind you, neither of us had looked at him. “And by the way, I have the opposite problem, I’m sick of being forced to watch CNN and MSNBC and I ask them to change it to Fox and they won’t do that either.”
I told him, “sir, rest assured, if your physical safety is in jeopardy standing right next to me, I will tell you” He said, “thank you, that’s very good to know. That makes me feel better”. Begging the question of why I would continue to putter along on the treadmill watching the news if there were a credible threat to safety.
It occurred to me fairly quickly that these two things were connected. Fox News. Threat to safety. Maybe he heard the Latin name “Armando” being earnestly discussed by two Caucasians and decided it must be a bomb threat, or a suspected anthrax attack on the towels or the water in the pool. Or worse, the water fountain. It occurred to me that this is the state Fox News watchers are constantly in; that Latino kid at the front counter might be part of a sleeper cell. He might be selling my daughter coke or laying in wait in the parking lot to abduct and rape her. What a way to live, and no wonder they make poor choices. The earmuff headphones he was wearing all of a sudden looked like a much more ominous representation of his blocking out the real world and only letting in select information which he only agreed with. Lest you think I do the same, I regularly do look at Fox News in short bursts to keep up with what lies they’re spreading.
His concern was bombs or terror. My concern was the perennial favorite: darn those young kids, don’t they know when I was their age you’d get fired for saying that, there’s no customer service in Seattle, ever since grunge, blah blah blah middle-aged disgruntled person feeling slighted. What different worlds we live in. Fox News, do you know what a world you’ve created, when a customer service complaint in an almost suburban gym(Shoreline) can look to one of your faithful like an orange alert possible terrorist incident?
There was no further communication between me and the gentleman on my left. He departed for the showers shortly after. I wonder if he reported this suspicious incident somewhere. Middle-aged Jewish woman in scruffy gym clothes talking animatedly to gym manager of unknown descent, possibly Caucasian, possibly mixed. There was no further communication between me and the rude kid at the desk-I say kid because I can’t call him a boy and I won’t call him a man. I did let his cohort who had stood silently through our exchange, except to introject “that’s right” about not changing channels, know on the way out that the manager told me they were both lying, that the channels could be changed. Armando was probably in a closed room being scolded when I left. Maybe being fired.
My wish is that this country will change channels. That somehow we could be transported back to a time when news had to bear some relation to the facts. Right now I’d rather watch the news as delivered by Kevin Ryerson or John Edwards channeling the spirit of Walter Cronkite or Haywood Hale Broun than any Fox News infonews commentator. But I will continue to turn Fox on in five minute intervals, so I have some clue what my neighbors at the gym might be thinking. Otherwise, I might not have had even a guess as to what he was talking about. Maybe next time I see him, I’ll play with that a bit. “Shhh, did you hear that?” Or , “do you smell anything, what’s that smell?” combined with a worried look might really wind that gentleman up. But no, I won’t do that. I want these people to calm down their paranoia about imagined threats, recover their actual patriotism from the depths of the gutters it has sunk to and recognize and respond to the actual attacks on our country which are currently being investigated or have already succeeded. Russia. American oligarchs. The looting of our public lands by those who need it the least. The decimation of our health care and education. The hostile takeover and dismantling of all of our regulatory agencies, especially the EPA and the Parks Service.  You know, real and present dangers.


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Thoughts on Facebook(on leaving Facebook)

Last night I deactivated my facebook account after five years of being fairly active there. I slept well! Today I have had several meaningful and long conversations in real time with live people, and I received a few ebullient texts from people who wanted to say “atta girl” and check in with me about how life after facebook is treating me.

I discovered a few things, so far. One, that the world didn’t end. Two, that people who really want to reach me actually do it quicker and with less fuss. Three, that it is so much easier to tell who actually wants to reach me and have meaningful interaction rather than bragging, fronting, selling me a product, concept or cause. Four, that anyone at all who is empathic or psychically sensitive might just face sensory overwhelm on facebook.

I also had time to ponder what the addictive ingredient is in facecrack. One idea that surfaced is that we have become a nation of grown children whose parents both worked entirely too many hours. We feel we never got enough mirroring and approval as kids, so we love, even well into our fifties, signing on somewhere we can post pics of ourselves, our pets, our projects, our meals, our yards, our cars, and get told that people “like” it/them/us. We can get that instant approval. We can vie for fabulousness and popularity and visibility in the way that used to be reserved for high school girls. What 10th grader in the 80s didn’t want a “friend count” to prove how cool she was?  We get to cut people off in that same way junior high school students used to : “Oh her? She used to be my friend but now I’m not talking to her.” It is a big junior high where people get to act out and brag and bully and backbite. That’s my feeling today, and I feel relieved to be out of it.
There were many positive moments; early morning chats with friends on the east coast or in England; quick question and answer sessions about recipes; check-ins with neighbors and relatives I’ve not seen in decades; heartwarming story posts. But so much of it baffled me. Today I felt as if I have been playing naked in the street, and only now thought to go inside and put on some clothes. It is quiet and peaceful here. I do not need to share everything with everyone. I do not need to comment on anyone else’s day/beliefs/politics/religion/thoughts. I do not need to wish someone I’ve not seen in years a happy birthday and be asked to buy them a gift card.

Perhaps I’ll sell my facebook stock. More later.


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What is Healing? Radical and Mostly Useless Thoughts.

This is a funny question for me to pose. I work in the healing arts, both as a massage therapist and as an energy worker. One of the questions that we were asked in massage school has never left me: “What is your vision of what you do and how it fits into society as a whole? Are you healing people who can afford it as a luxury service, or are you part of a larger picture of creating a healthier community and making massage available to all?” Most of us answered this question practically for ourselves by sheepishly allowing that we would mostly work on those who could afford us, and appease our consciences by doing some pro bono work for the less fortunate. We bemoaned the system which made it so, that the people who most need massage often have least access to it, but we did not fight that system as it paid our bills. A lingering discomfort with these stark realities informs our work for many of us.
Many of us give away a fair amount of work to those who cannot afford it at all, but more often we simply shrug our shoulders and give up.
My question about healing is this: Does it really constitute healing if it only treats the privileged few, and does not address larger societal ills? Are anyone’s illnesses really in a vacuum and particular to them? Can I help with caretaking the many people I am suddenly hearing have cancer without also becoming active in working against the poisoning of our water and air and food? Who has time for all this holistic, systemic thinking and action?
Is it healing to alleviate symptoms, or only if you address causes? Is it in fact my job to patch people back up from tendonitis and carpal tunnel so that they might go back to mindless 12 hour days of keyboarding in the service of industries which are destroying the planet?
These are the things I wonder when I drive by people camping in tents in winter under a freeway underpass on my way to do massage on executives and highly paid IT workers. They have not changed over the years, but my faith that by doing my small part I move society towards a healthier place has taken a beating.