a soft, fierce animal

It’s been nearly two years since the small wild thing began to visit again. At first, he was crafty. He snuck in without my noticing, drawn to residual warmth from being close to loved ones; he crept into a grey-blue dewy mornings next to my coffee and fried eggs; he materialized with tiny sharp fangs behind bracing wind, the kind that makes you suck in sharply and feel alive. He was skittish at first, came and went as he pleased. But over time, the little animal (call him Love or Affection or Yearning) started to linger.

The feeling is familiar, like something I lost and learned to get by without, but haven’t forgotten. At first I didn’t think I wanted to remember what it felt like to love that way, but something in me decided I did, and I (weak soul I am) put up little protest. So when this wild feeling came around, instead of turning towards Business At Hand, I started to feed him a little daydream or sweet memory and he grew bolder.

The warm, growly fellow is now a regular guest, barging in at inopportune moments, associating himself with people and situations where he doesn’t (yet) belong. Last Saturday morning, out of the blue, he nestled up inside me, filled my belly then chest so he couldn’t be ignored. By the time I got home, he’d dug his claws into my throat til it was hard to breathe and my eyes got wet. I curled up in bed for the afternoon and placated him with poems and nostalgia.

It worked, but it’s clear this soft, fierce little orphan creature needs more to thrive.

For now, we’ll make do with brisk mornings, writing, the ocean, more red wine than is typical, listening to good music (gongs!) with our eyes closed, and lavishing attention on people and things who make us feel deeply. When the going gets especially rough, we’ll feed ourselves on busyness.

November 25, 2012   2 Comments

Writing to Learn

When I look at the list of months in my blog archive, it strikes me just how little I’ve written over the past 2 years and a bit, especially compared to my time in Cambodia and on the farm in 2008 and 9. I suppose writing varies inversely to the amount of stuff filling my days.

I’ve noticed, though, that I need write (and talk) to learn. Life over the past couple of years has been so so full of experiences, people, places. I’ve been on the move, constantly changing to the point where it’s hard to describe to people (or sometimes even know myself) who it is that I am and what exactly it is that I do.

Thankfully, I have incredible friends in my life who humor me and listen and help me untangle the sometimes frenetic thinking and doing into something that’s more comprehensible and sometimes even beautiful. They make sure I don’t take myself too seriously (it’s a flaw!) and that I pay attention to the things (usually people) that matter the most.

Even so, with all that reflection in real time, sometimes I feel like I could retreat somewhere and simmer in the sum of life til now… like I could keep myself occupied and become wiser just by being quieter. I’m hoping a 10-day silent retreat in May gives me a little piece of this, and I’m planning something longer — maybe three months — sometime in the next four or five years. A time for silence and ripening.

In the meantime, for the summer, I’m going to hold myself to a stricter schedule of writing. I’ve been trying to maintain a radical openness since coming to Detroit, but recently I’ve been thinking I need to focus in more and process things I’ve heard and overheard, passing thoughts, feelings, into something more coherent (not static or final, but connected… like a mind map, a network of connections).

I guess this is a reminder that this particular blog space isn’t a place where I intend to preach, influence or educate, but to have a conversation with myself and people who care about me who happen to be far away and others who resonate with the questions I’m asking about food and equity and relationships and change in the world.

Making space to actually write things down won’t always be easy, but I think it’s worth it if I can learn something new.

Some things I’d like to take on…

  • Social justice and entrepreneurship — tensions between the individual and the collective. Does the fact that a tension is unresolvable mean that the mechanism is flawed, or perhaps even more important?
  • Brokering roles & the role of social structure in unlocking creativity
  • Arne Naess and the ecological self — is this possible? desirable? true altruism?
  • Does creativity require limiting someone else’s capacity to create?
  • How do we remind ourselves that every story is incomplete? Is there a prayer? A song?
  • Emergence  versus scale?
  • Does financial sustainability in a “social enterprise” have to be based on markets as they exist today? (Must we achieve “profits”? What about grants? Unpacking the financials of that biodynamic farm on Lopez Island)

And some more mundane things about day-to-day life and cooking and some creative projects that I’m working on.

I’m getting more excited as I write about it. That’s a good sign :)

April 20, 2012   1 Comment

Do you feel the urge?

I read this article the other day that suggested that the recession might provide an opportunity for folks to pursue personal dreams that they might otherwise put on hold. The author makes a clear distinction between things that we’re kinda interested in, and

“real creative urges, those we are meant to express, [which] don’t go away. If ignored, they bother us, affect our health, fester and eventually turn us into the living dead.”

Is this true? Do we all get these urges? I didn’t think so. I know very few people that have these undeniable passions. I’ve always tended to think that this pervasive, and not-necessarily-so-helpful sentiment — that most people have a passion that they just need to follow to be happy — that has always bothered me and made me feel like I’m missing something, like I’m incomplete and inferior.

But now I am a month deep into this farming thing and I love it. I love being outside and being so, so tired at the end of the day; I love the smell of soil, and the way the knees of my jeans get caked in dirt. Plus, it excites me to think of eventually handling the business side of things, handling my own operation, searching out a market, getting into value-added food production, making business decisions, constantly improving and innovating…

I’ve had some rough days here on the island. I haven’t found too many kindred spirits; there’s a closed-mindedness about certain things and a religious zealotry to the love-of-small-towns and cerain ways of life that makes me feel uncomfortable and unwilling to open up to people, but that said, farming itself — the work — is probably the closest I’ve been to this “real creative urge.”

But am I a fickle lover? How long will my passion last? Summer will be hot. I will sweat and get weird tans and 40 hours a week of work when the sun is shining and the swimming holes beckon is going to be tough.

For now, though, I am going to quash my pessimistic tendencies and see if these seeds I’m planting germinate into something good.

May 9, 2009   7 Comments

Reflections: Neither in nor out

In Cambodia I was an insider-outsider. As a half-asian person with dark-ish skin, I was often mistaken for part-Cambodian. I was both “on the inside,” but also always the “other.” People assumed I would know how to eat certain foods (at least more likely to “take” to things that my whitey-white counterparts), people were receptive and encouraging of my attempts at Khmer. They tried to listen because I looked like I might be able to speak.

It’s funny how being “ethnic” can help you avoid some of the idolization of westerners. Well… you’re barang, but not realllllllly. I still remember when a student at the local business university would not believe I was American — “no, you can’t be! you’re chinese!”

January 2, 2009   No Comments

New Toilet Feelings

It’s 4:50 am on December 12. I’m in a lovely hotel room at the oh-so-trendy Blue Lime in Phnom Penh and I can’t sleep because I’m too hyped up about flying home today.

My mum calls me “new toilet girl” after a Chinese saying about the type of person who has to be the first to use the new latrine hole once it’s been dug. As much as I want to be sad about leaving, my predominant feeling is excitement. Not excitement to leave, but a deep thrill thinking about moving on to WHAT’S NEXT.

December 11, 2008   No Comments