Monday, June 29, 2009

Get On the Bus


In my 20's I bowed down at the alter of higher education. It was a ticket out of where I came from into the world of adulthood. For years, education remained a hallmark of legitimacy and success amongst my contemporaries, an essential in the development of an adult persona worthy of admiration and praise. As it turns out, what it isn’t, for most people, is a direct path to either a viable vocation or a sense of self definition and fulfillment. As it turns out there is no intellectual or financial shortcut to happiness or the pursuit of an authentic life. There is no end point, just the journey. Now, with all my tangible success as defined by modern society, I find myself out of pace with my contemporaries. The fruits of my previous labors have satisfied my early ambitions, and the expectations of society at large, but no longer satisfy my soul. For all the middle class comforts I may have available to me based on age, career, education, and situation, I appear to be unable to settle, either down, in, or for something less than a true manifestation of myself. I find myself, so to speak, unable to get on the bus. Ironically, I am returning to the University as a place of refuge. No longer a means to an end, education is now a way to practice and hone my craft, to live a life that satisfies my soul. I am often asked, with regard to my returning to school to dance, “And what will you do with your degree?” As a geologist, I was asked this question often enough, and was quite keen to answer it, with all my professionalism and all the things that make me look good on paper, to prove that my choices would serve a greater purpose, push me ahead, in to a new tax bracket, into a new house, a job, stability. I was keen to prove that the fruits of my labor would justify my path, that I would, in fact, be on the bus. Now, my answer is far more simple. What will I do with it? I will dance. I will not wait for outside fulfillment or validation, I am not working towards some future goal of happiness, I am manifesting it, right here, now, as I walk my path. I will dance as though no one is watching, and as for the rest, I’m not particularly worried about it.

Monday, June 15, 2009

A Laying On of Hands

One of my favorite things to advocate for in terms of the promotion of a healthy environment and good nutrition is the formation of community. Or, put differently, the loss of community in the modern way of life appears to be intimately linked to the destruction of the environment and the deterioration of public health.
We began to lose community in the process of trying to create it. In building suburbs we created lifestyles based on long, isolating, gas-guzzling commutes that eroded our personal time making social interaction and exercise harder to come by. Beyond that, we designed our suburbs without sidewalks, town centers, or public play spaces, effectively isolating our children from one another and putting them and their caretakers back in the car in order to grocery shop or go to the park. Of course, once you’re in the car, the likelihood of each person on a particular street going to a different park or grocery store increases, decreasing the casual everyday interactions between neighbors that do so much to foster community. The time and energy required to prepare meals of whole foods from local sources was also squeezed out by the distribution of our lives across a greater geography and our increasing desire for “down time” and instant gratification.

And isolation breeds isolation. Once disconnected from our neighbors and surrounding community, we are more likely to tell ourselves that video tennis is a reasonable substitute for actually going to play tennis, forgetting that going to play tennis may involve taking a walk, running into the neighbors, getting substantively more exercise and valuable vitamin D, and interacting with our children and the environment.

And infrastructure breeds infrastructure. Once we are tied to our cars for all of our activities we need an increasingly large number of roads, increasing in size, to handle our increasing numbers and increasingly large cars. Retreating to our houses necessitates larger and larger houses, filled with more and more things, to fill the void left by the absence of regular social interaction and the necessary chores of a conscious lifestyle. Consumption itself becomes a hobby. Instead of community centers, our houses become show pieces, museums to ourselves with all the accoutrements of a modern lifestyle, televisions, stereos, Jacuzzi tubs, and little evidence of actual interaction with the world at large.

I suggest that the formation and fostering of community in and of itself is an act of subversion, or at least a tangible protest of the current status quo. I believe that community is one antidote to deteriorating pubic health, eroded social services, environmental decline and climate change, and the propagation of an unhealthy and unsustainable popular monoculture. And it’s easy. And it’s free.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Re-education of Little Miss


In the art of trapeze, during a release, there is a moment in which the performer has to let go of the bar behind them and reach out to the thing in front of them. They float, suspended for a moment, before reaching out to grasp their new anchor. It’s the moment that the audience comes to see, to witness someone put themselves into that space of vulnerability and risk to emerge, whole and strong, on the other side. It’s an art based on the concept of looking forward, fearless, and letting go of what’s behind you. This is the moment in which I find myself. I think, I hope, that it’s a moment that will be embraced by increasingly more of us, as we struggle to redefine ourselves in this new climate, economy, and global community.

Real change, whether we seek it out or have it thrust upon us, requires us to embrace this moment of release, with all its fear, uncertainty, and aloneness, trust that we will be alright, and reach out for the things that make us whole.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Eyes Wide Shut


I am an idealist. Still. Not because I maintain naivet√© regarding the nature of the world or ignorance of its evils and seeming inevitabilities, but because it’s in my nature and, well, someone has to be. Idealism gives us cause to fight the good fight. Idealism gives us hope. However one of the complications of being an idealist is the ever-present and looming threat of disillusionment. To combat this I have had to create a paradigm of hope and faith in certain over-arching values, love, compassion, charity, through which to see the world in order to reconcile the evening news with my vision of a peaceful society. The extension of my idealism to my personal life and relationships creates a peculiar and piercing vulnerability, particularly in terms of trust. And trust, as with idealism, is both important and dangerous. Trust is the thing that binds me to the people to whom I am the closest, it lets me be my true self, free from fear of judgment, allows for the exchange of confidences, and combats loneliness. Betrayal of trust is the fastest route to a loss of self respect and a profound sense of abandonment that I have ever experienced. It is easy in the face of betrayal to want to put up barriers and refuse to trust again. But we can’t afford to do that. I think my willingness to trust other people is directly tied to my idealism, my hope. And I choose not to live a life devoid of hope. So I take a breath, gather myself, and begin to trust again.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Gag Order


I want to talk about torture and I don’t want to talk about torture. I am at a loss to understand how any group of people can possibly endorse, legalize, or justify the brutal and vivid mistreatment of anyone, regardless of perceived threat or political climate. Let me be clear, I am not entering into a discussion or debate regarding this issue. I am not entertaining the possibility of sleep deprivation, the withholding of food, temperature extremes, stress positions or water boarding being acceptable behavior. Ever. There are no grey areas. There are no excuses. Every one of us knows cruelty when we see it. We are taught as children that violence is neither a solution to conflict nor a means to our desired ends. It is unacceptable for us to forget or fail to heed this lesson as adults.

Our detainees, prisoners, whatever we are calling them are people. They have souls. And they are in our care. We can make no real progress towards the formation of a peaceful, compassionate, and sustainable society while we, through our complacency and silence, endorse torture. We have to stop this, and we have to stop it now.

Write to a member of congress, the president, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, let them know that Americans believe in compassionate justice, that this is not how we choose to be represented in the world.

For a Congressional Directory:

To Email Barack Obama:

I tried to find an email address or contact information for Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, but couldn’t. Go Figure.

Photograph Courtesy of :

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A Walk In The Woods


A long weekend and the beginning of summer do a lot to remind us to go outside, breath the fresh air, listen to the birds, stretch our legs, and experience wildness. I think it’s important, amid the beer, fireworks, weenie roasts, and recreational vehicles that mark the American camping experience, to make sure that we do just that, stretch our legs and experience wildness. It’s not often anymore that the majority of us find ourselves away from the crush of noise, information, and development that comes with “civilized society”, and I think our distance from the wild plays a key role in our health and well-being, and our decision making as a people. Distancing ourselves from the wild is part of why we are able to devalue the environment, and that devaluation reveals itself in our politics, policies, and way of life. It allows us to waste resources, diminish habitat, allow entire species to go extinct, and engineer our bodies and our food.

I feel at my most engaged in the environment when walking through it. A walk in the wilderness does more to ease my mind, body, and soul than almost anything else. And it reminds me, in a tangible and profound way, that I am connected to this place, this world, this land, that it sustains me. Thoreau, in his 1862 essay, Walking, had this to say about the value of a walk in the woods, “I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life who understood the art of Walking, that is, of taking walks, who had a genius, so to speak, for sauntering; which word is beautifully derived "from idle people who roved about the country, in the middle ages, and asked charity, under pretence of going √† la sainte terre" — to the holy land… They who never go to the holy land in their walks, as they pretend, are indeed mere idlers and vagabonds, but they who do go there are saunterers in the good sense, such as I mean. Some, however, would derive the word from sans terre, without land or a home, which, therefore, in the good sense, will mean, having no particular home, but equally at home everywhere. For this is the secret of successful sauntering.”

We can make no progress in the improvement of our daily lives, in the fostering of health, community, sustainability, or peace, until we acknowledge and embrace our connection to the wilderness. Take a first step, take a walk.

To read the full text of Thoreau’s Walking:

To Read Emerson’s Nature:

Photo courtesy of:

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Playing For Change


Playing for Change is an organization dedicated to the creation and propagation of peace through shared humanity and aesthetics, the playing of music. More specifically, Playing for Change is an international collective of musicians that play benefit concerts for and build music and art schools in impoverished communities. The project is rooted in the belief that music is an equalizer, a common thread that allows people to transcend distance and boundaries, be they political, economic, cultural, or ideological, that music is a path to peace. They illustrate this by producing mosaic videos of musicians from around the world playing the same song, somehow together, as a one-world choir, despite the distance. And they seem to play straight up into heaven, and right through to your soul.

They have a point. Music unites.

Watch and Listen:


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Let Them Eat Cake


There are a lot of great, albeit traditionally left-winged reasons to eat locally. Eating locally supports small family owned farms and food producers, decreases the carbon footprint of your meals, discourages industrialization of farming practices and therefore the prevalence of pesticides and herbicides, supports your local economy, increases community sustainability, decreases dependence on the migrant workforce and foreign energy sources, and generally results in healthier meals and fresher/tastier food on your table. And we wonder why more conservatives haven’t hopped onto this bandwagon.

But there are a couple of reasons for eating locally that the conservative right can get behind. Eating locally is the best protection against food-related outbreaks of illness and diesease and eating locally is the best way to combat agroterrorism. That’s right, agroterrorism, the malicious use of plant or animal pathogens to cause devastating disease in the food supply.

In 2006 Michael Pollan wrote an article for the New York Times discussing the role of industrialization in the prevalence of food-related outbreaks. While his article was written in the context of a spinach-related E coli outbreak, the recent problems with the peanut industry and the worldwide outbreak of swine flu have brought the issue back into focus. In his article, Pollan argues that the centralization of food processing and distribution centers leads to more frequent and widespread issues of infection and contamination, whereas food grown, processed, and distributed locally decreases the reach of food-related outbreaks and allows for faster and more efficient identification of sources and solutions to food-based illnesses. Pollan further goes on to note that when Tommy Thompson retired from the Department of Health and Human Services in 2004, he said “For the life of me, I cannot understand why the terrorists have not attacked our food supply, because it is so easy to do.” This sentiment was reiterated by the G.AO. in its 2003 Bioterrorism report to Congress, “The high concentration of our livestock industry and the centralized nature of our food-processing industry make them vulnerable to attack.” And they’re right, in 2006 eighty percent of beef in the United States was slaughtered by four companies and seventy-five percent of all precut salads were processed by only two companies. The implications of these numbers when viewed in the context of the spread of disease and our current healthcare crisis is terrifying. And the proof, at least lately, is in the peanut butter.

What this means is that food consciousness is no longer the proprietary holding of the liberal left, but a necessary and immediate change that must be made in the daily lives of ordinary citizens for the protection of public health and safety. Take back your health from the hands of industry, eat locally, and with compassion.

To read Michael Pollans article:

For more information on farmers markets, eating locally, and CSA food shares:

Thursday, May 7, 2009

A Gay Affair


Yesterday Maine became the fifth state, following Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, and Massachusetts, to legalize same sex marriage. This decision followed in the footsteps of several other brave and groundbreaking states that are legalizing same sex marriage and providing civil rights protections for homosexuals based on voter mandates, Supreme Court decisions, and legislative bills. As one of the last groups to be recognized as human beings and therefore deserving of the same basic rights provided to the rest of us, the gay community must be overjoyed. As should the rest of us, since the withholding or erosion of civil rights in any form threatens the rights of us all. This is cause for great celebration, and I take it as a significant indicator that we as a country are beginning to remember that we value things like freedom and equality, not for some, but for everyone.

Philosophically, in my mind the issue comes down to this, are you pro-love or anti-love? In a pro-love world, the kind I optimistically believe I live in, we are all allowed to bond ourselves to whomever we choose. If we are brave enough to commit our lives to that person, then more power to us, as most people can attest, relationships, in any form, but particularly long-term, loving, life-sharing relationships are hard work. I like to think that we are all capable of recognizing that the choice of who we share our lives with has less to do with sex than with compatibility, mutual respect, and friendship. Good things come from people sharing their lives with one another, and we should encourage and celebrate it, even if it doesn’t fit our own image of a life union. Be a part of the revolution and ask someone today, are you pro-love?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Risky Business


I am not a businessman. I’m not playing with gender here, because I’m not a businesswoman either, and even if I were, the last six months have proven to me that it’s being a businessman that really counts. I have never claimed to be a businessman, nor do I have any desire to be so, but in my line of work, being as tied as it is to the construction industry, there is an essential and growing need to “do business”. In fact, I, as I am nearly daily reminded by my boss, have no degree or advanced coursework in business. Aside from being reasonably good at what I do and able to write an articulate sentence and perform elementary math functions, I am almost wholly unqualified for business. However, being a geologist, this is not something that has typically been a problem. Until recently.

The recent economic crisis has left my place of work a barren wasteland of empty cubicles and lost bids. The men that remain are largely shells of their former selves, clearly having spent most or all of their adult lives defining themselves by their jobs and paychecks, they are now leading obvious lives of quiet desperation. What remains, before we’ve even seen signs of recovery, are desperate men clinging to the tenants of “business” and convinced that if they proceed exactly as they have in the past, using the same business models, something will change. By necessity, my education in “business” has been rapid.

What I’ve largely learned is this, honesty is not important, not to clients, but particularly not to staff. Neither is humanity nor compassion, employee loyalty is only valued in good times, in bad times, just cut them loose. Preserve, above all else, the profit margin for the owners and the inflated salaries of management. Claiming to be right is more important than actually being right, and the only people who are every really right are the ones with the least actual knowledge of the subject. Salaried and exempt employment in hard times is license to take over the lives of your employees, how about say, going to Texas, unexpectedly, with the flu, for many weeks, to work 90 hours a week and only be paid for forty? Hey, you don’t want to do it we’ll find someone more desperate than you who will.

They say in hard times you see peoples true colors, but in truth, with business there’s only two colors, red, and black. And as far as I can tell, real “businessmen” will do whatever it takes to stay in the black, as long as it poses no threat to their egos, salaries, or established operating procedures. And we wonder how we arrived to the place in which we find ourselves.

I invite everyone to take a moment to inventory your value system, and look hard at what really motivates your decisions and the way you treat the people that you work with and those that work for you. If it’s your mortgage, your car payment, the lifestyle to which you’ve grown accustomed, or professional ego, then the current economic crisis offers you an opportunity to tap out of the fight, implement a new business model, live under a new paradigm. It’s the only path we have to a sustainable economy.

Photograph courtesy of :

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Bad Medicine


In the midst of the growing national debate on health care reform, I have been a patient. I participate in two diametrically opposed health care systems. Traditional western medicine, where my appointment is cancelled and I'm charged a fee if I'm late while I frequently wait up to two hours to be seen for my appointment, and non-traditional/naturopathic healing, where I usually can just call and talk to my health care professional in person, and I often don't even need to be seen in person. I understand that both sides bring things of value to medicine. But only one of them allows me to retain my humanity.

I can't even bring myself to summarize the statistics I have in front of me regarding the state of medical care in the United States. But we all know, without the numbers or references, we all know that we pay more for a less efficient or effective system than almost any industrialized nation in the world. We also know that we're fat and getting fatter, and suffering the health repercussions. We know that our health care system is entrenched in the treatment of symptoms rather than causes, and that we are more likely to demand a prescription than suck it up and make a lifestyle change. We know that the current system values the prolonging of life far beyond the preservation of quality of life. And we all know, that even giving its failings, it's the only system we have fiscally available to us. And we still can't afford it.

So we need to go off the grid. All of us. Before our collective health and well-being goes the way of climate change, way too little, way too late. There's too much money invested in the "western system" to expect tangible and substantive changes, the ones that will make us happier and healthier, in our lifetimes. So, make the lifestyle changes you need to make to be a healthier person. Eat whole foods, that you prepare yourself. Exercise. Get massages instead of muscle relaxants, eat garlic instead of taking antibiotics. Meditate. Get a naturopath, they are true healers. Laugh. Take care of your body, it's the only vessel you're given.

Monday, April 6, 2009

A Nice Ride

For the last few months there has been ongoing debate over a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decision to neither designate critical habitat nor develop a recovery plan for the endangered jaguar. A recent ruling by U.S. District Judge John Roll said the agency did not use the best scientific evidence available in deciding that critical habitat for the jaguar was "not prudent" because Fish and Wildlife contended that its main threat in the United States was from being hunted, not from lack of habitat.

Jaguars once roamed from the southern tip of South America north to the region surrounding the U.S.-Mexico border. Today significant numbers of jaguars are found only in remote regions of South and Central America—particularly in the Amazon basin. In fact, of the three to five jaguars believed to still spend any portion of their time within the United States, only one is considered to have the majority of its habitat in the U.S.

That cat, known as Macho B, may have been the oldest know jaguar in the world.

On March 2, the Arizona Game and Fish Department resolved the issue independent of the legal system. Macho B was captured on Feb. 18 in a snare placed by the Arizona Game and Fish Department in an area outside Tuscon. The cat, which was described in field reports as healthy and robust, was tranquilized, equipped with a radio-tracking collar, and released.

Macho B was recaptured on March 2 after wildlife personnel reportedly feared that it might be in poor health. It was transported to the Phoenix Zoo, where a veterinarian said it had irreversible kidney failure and was euthanized the same day.

The federal government has opened a criminal investigation into the capture and death of Macho B amid accusations that a biologist working for the state illegally baited a trap to attract the cat.
The tragedy in this is that we will now spend more in legal fees, press coverage, and public outrage and debate far more resources than would have been allocated to the protection of critical habitat in the first place. And all the noise and outrage in the world will do nothing to help the few remaining jaguars whose range extends into the United States. Lets hope that what we learn from this is that we can’t afford to wait, or rather, the species with whom we share our home cannot afford for us to wait. Habitat protection, hunting restrictions, and recovery plans are crucial to maintaining biodiversity and our own quality of life. Do something.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Now I See


I spend a lot of time chasing grace. I find the physical manifestation of grace, grace of the body, comes far more easily to me than its less tangible partner, grace of the soul. To have a graceful soul requires the exercise of love, kindness, mercy, and forgiveness to the benefit of others. It requires an uncommon generosity that often lies just outside my grasp. I am becoming increasingly convinced that our current modern way of life discourages, if not renders completely hopeless, the exercise of grace in our day to day lives. Until, that is, I'm proven wrong, most often in the small and simple gestures of good and common people. This week I am acutely aware of the grace in those around me, and the largeness of their souls. And I am thankful.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Something Called Weather Forecasting


Last month, the Louisiana Governor, Bobby Jindal, in a sad and pathetic attempt to find something tangibly wrong with the stimulus package lambasted congressional democrats for trying to fund “something called volcano monitoring,”. Yesterday, Mt. Redoubt, near the Kenai Penisula in Alaska did a beautiful job of explaining to the poor fool exactly what volcano monitoring is and why it's needed. Even in its remote location the eruption of Redoubt, anticipated, tracked, and foretold by the geologists at the Alaska volcano observatory, has disrupted domestic and international air traffic, both rerouting and canceling flights. Had the prevailing wind direction been different, significant amounts of ash may have disrupted the communities on the peninsula, and if it were closer to a larger population center, the threat of serious damage and loss of life from mud flows would be real. Jindal's attitude is even more distressing when taken in the context of the presumed support that he and everyone else in his state has for continued funding for the National Weather Service. Even with the economy the way it is, we can't actually afford to be ignorant or knee-jerk in our allocation of funds, because, well, shit still happens.
photograph courtesy of the USGS, 2009

Sunday, March 8, 2009

A Portrait of the Artist

The art of self portraiture has a long and varied history. It's practice is well documented primarily as a technical tool and lesser form of realism from early Chinese history before it was revitalized by the likes of Van Gogh and Frida Kahlo. Samuel Fosso, the Cameroon-born photographer, takes it a step further. Fosso creates portraits of other, often famous, people from the context of his own self portrait. To put it another way, he takes pictures of other people by taking pictures of himself. He presents himself as Nelson Mandela, Malcom X, Angela Davis. It's uncanny. A beautiful manipulation. His art takes on renewed potency when viewed in light of the current socioeconomic situation. A lot of people, by choice or not, are scrutinizing themselves and looking for a way to be reinvented as someone altogether new. Fosso's work presents us with a tangible representation of this metamorphosis and begs the question, who might you become?
New York Times

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Friday Night Fish Fry


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in conjunction with the Bonneville Power Administration and several other federal and state agencies announced last week that they will resume "Sea Lion removal" along the Columbia River this week. To be clear, "Sea Lion removal" is not the transportation of Sea Lions to alternative habitats without dwindling sources of food or radioactive water, its just killing Sea Lions, either with a rifle if you're a good shot, or by lethal injection (if you're not). Why, you might ask, are we killing Sea Lions? The official story is because they have migrated upriver in search of food, depleting the increasingly fragile salmon population. But really, its not how much salmon they eat, it's that they won't pay $10 a pound for it. So you see, the Sea Lions have to go.

Don't get me wrong, the decreasing salmon population is distressing, both for the salmon and as an indication of the overall health of our waterways. After constructing 25 dams on the Columbia and an additional 250 more throughout the watershed, the wild salmon population has dropped from 10 million to 300,000. The last thing the salmon should have to deal with on their long and treacherous life journey is a natural predator. Besides, this policy clearly reflects an acknowledgment of the impacts of human consumption and energy generation on natural systems while restoring balance between species and promoting biodiversity.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out


This week, the Nielsen media-trackers announced that the average American now watches an all-time high of 151 hours of television a month. Five hours a day. This number is up from last year, when we only watched 145 hours of television a month. This number, of course, does not include movies, anything on-line, video phones, or the eight hours a day most of us spend in front of a computer at work. This number, as frightening as it is, does not tell us the more important piece of information, total screen time. But if you work a desk job and watch your five hours a day of tv, you're already spending more than half your day, and ultimately your life, staring into a screen. As something of an understatement, we need to consider the connections between our 25% rate of obesity nationwide, the rising occurrence of diabetes, and the estimated 10 percent of the population suffering from depression at any given moment and how much screen time we get. But more than anything, we need to get up. Stand up, walk around, do your dishes, some tai chi, taxes, whatever. Life is short, participate.


Monday, February 16, 2009

Three Monkeys


In case you have, in these heady post-inauguration days, forgotten that Dick Cheney is still alive and evil, allow me to jog your memory. For the five years prior to becoming vice president, Dick Cheney was the CEO of Halliburton, an oil, engineering and warmongering company. During that time, while he wasn't busy establishing the geopolitical ties that would eventually result in the issuing of several open ended and profit-guaranteed federal contracts in Iraq and sundry other countries being ravaged by American foreign policy, he occupied himself violating human rights and international business law.

A dichotomy. In 2003, Cheney was quoted on NBC saying that since becoming vice president he had, "severed all my ties with the company, gotten rid of all my financial interest. I have no financial interest in Halliburton of any kind and haven't had, now, for over three years." According to Harper's Magazine, the Bush campaign paid Enron and Halliburton $15,400 for the use of corporate jets during the election recount.

And another. Cheney's office ordered an electric company to restore power to two oil pipelines one day after Hurricane Katrina. It took the administration four days to authorize sending federal troops into New Orleans.

And an aside. Cheney's Energy Task Force investigated Iraq's oil resources six months before September 11, 2001.

I could go on. I could rant and rage and curse and wail...or I could simply say, this is not a man to be forgotten. And he is still a man of power. We can't afford to turn a blind eye to Cheney and anyone that profits from his association, we can't stop listening to the cautionary voices, and we can't afford to remain silent.

The image above may be subject to copywrite.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Red Shoe Diaries

Right now, between work, dance, and life, this is how I feel. Up against the wall, pushing. Pushing to meet deadlines, maintain relationships, and meet obligations. Pushing to be stronger, faster, better, legs higher, more graceful, we'd like to see that be a double, can you get a beat in there before you land? And always, always, my feet hurt. There's a unique form of exhaustion related to being a dancer. At best, it leaves you fatigued, just on the edge of truly aching through your whole body, at worst, it leaves you sore to the touch, stiff, shin-splinted, bruised and bleeding. I think that one of the driving forces in dance is the concept of "never enough". There will always be someone in the room doing it better than you, there will always be room for improvement. And in time, you learn that your body will, in fact, always give you a little more. But it means you have to push. Always.
Complacency in dance, as in most things in life, breeds inaction and mediocrity, the all too familiar dangerous and unfulfilling tenants of our modern society. Right now, I struggle to find my point of balance, that place between the push and pulls of life that allows me to manifest the things I work for.
"I get up. I walk. I fall down. Meanwhile, I keep dancing."~ Hillel

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

I'm Sorry Baby


Domestic violence and emotional abuse are closely linked, emotional abuse often being a "gateway drug" to full blown physical violence. Emotional abuse includes verbal abuse such as yelling, screaming, ridicule and name-calling. Constant criticism, threats, social isolation, exploitation, intimidation and stalking are also forms of emotional abuse. Statistics on emotional abuse are hard to come by, but most experts agree that the numbers far outreach those for physical abuse.
The numbers: Nationally, one in four women, regardless of class or race, is expected to experience domestic violence in her lifetime. 75% of women reporting rape stated their attacker was an intimate partner of some kind. Three women a day are murdered a day by their intimate partners.

But it doesn't take fists to to traumatize or victimize a partner. Yelling, insults, emotional blackmail, unjustified accusations, and behavioral punishment can be just as hurtful and damaging as physical violence. And emotional abuse is much harder to identify.

On average, only 21% of victims are thought to seek outside help.

Abuse victims are generally ashamed of it, in part because they have been manipulated to believe that they deserve it, but also because abusers are often good at hiding their behaviors, reserving them for home. So they don't tell anyone. But its real, and scary, and sad. And entirely preventable. Perhaps there should be a place in all our discussions of change for those changes that must begin at home. Perhaps our greater humanity is more closely tied to our treatment of those closest to us, the ones we claim to love, the ones we share our lives with, than we are willing to admit. We cry out against the treatment of our detainees, but let our friends, family members, neighbors, coworkers suffer in silence.

We will not achieve compassion on the global stage if we do not address our treatment of one another in the simple goings on of everyday life.

If you need help:
National Domestic Violence Hotline1-800-799-SAFE (7233)1-800-787-3224 (TDD)

Statistics Courtesy of :
Domestic Violence Resource Center P.O. Box 494 Hillsboro, OR 97123 p 503.640.5352 f 503.648.6905

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Economy: On the Dole

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the number of unemployed persons in the U.S. has increased by 4.1 million in the last twelve months. That's half the population of New York City, or forty times the population of Eugene, Oregon. It's entire towns, graduating classes, families. And we haven't begun to see the beginning of the worst. There is still savings to burn, pension plans to liquidate, homes to sell, unemployment benefits to be had. But soon, there won't be. A time will come, perhaps quite soon, that Americans will have to do something they haven't done in a very long time, rely on the kindness, generosity, and ingenuity of their communities.
I would feel better about this prospect if we, as a nation, had shown some kind of aptitude for either community building or compassion, but we haven't. This is evidenced by our continued support of faith systems and policy makers that divide us based on arbitrary and often harmful stereotypes, greed, and outdated value systems and paradigms.
But we voted for change, and it will not come passively. It is time to fight the good fight.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Our Boys and Girls


The US Army announced last week that 24 soldiers are thought to have committed suicide in January. That's six times the number of suicides in January of 2008. More than 30% of service men and women seek out psychological help after deployment, in spite of existing stigmas. For comparison, 16 Army personnel were lost in combat in Afghanistan and Iraq this January. A senior Army official reporting these numbers characterized them as "terrifying".

And it is. And it's our young people. And we are ruining them to preserve and protect a status quo, a bygone value system, and an imaginary economic dominance. Do any of us even know anymore if they are supposed to be protecting us or we are supposed to be protecting them?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

F*ck That Giant Rodent


I grew up in Oregon and I profess to love the rain, but my true feelings were revealed in the sunshine of the last two days. It was glorious. We forget, in the grey days and long nights of winter how great it feels to stand in the sunlight. We forget that we need it. The sun regulates our melatonin and gives us vitamin D. It makes the plants grow and the birds sing. An emergent winter sun is a tangible reminder of hope. So go, out, into the sun, soak it up, and hang on for six more weeks.

Monday, February 2, 2009

If a Tree Falls


Barack and Michelle Obama entering the inaugural ball on January 20, 2009. What strikes me about this image is that everyone in the audience is viewing the moment via their cell phones and cameras. Not just the press corps, but the attendees, everyone.

This is a phenomenon that I struggle with. Which is more important, participating in the moment, or documenting it? This was an easier question when our technology was still cumbersome and unfamiliar (picture the annoying Dad carrying an eight pound video recorder through an entire family vacation). But now, it's not as easy to draw a line between participation and documentation.

Which is more important, experiencing the moment fully, or being able to share it almost instantaneously with your family, friends, or blog followers? Is the experience somehow enhanced by being able to share it in nearly real time? Is the experience somehow diminished if it's not recorded? That seems to be the modern consensus if the picture above carries any significance. But then, there was a press corps present, a member of which took the picture, so the moment above was, in fact, being recorded. What's astounding is how many people felt the need to record it themselves.

I worry that we are entering an era in which our identities are somehow so tied to other people, that we will all become trees in the forest, afraid that our experiences, our lives, ourselves, will be lost, or perhaps not exist at all, if no one is around to witness it.

Friday, January 30, 2009

It's a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

I want to be grumpy about public broadcasting fund drives. But I can’t. And it’s all because of Sesame Street.

I started contributing to public broadcasting the morning I heard the woman on the pledge drive say that Sesame Street had been on the air for 30 years. I remember stopping in my kitchen in the midst of a busy morning trying, and failing, to picture a world without Sesame Street.

Now, Sesame Street is almost 40 years old, having premiered on November 10, 1969. It’s watched in over 120 countries and has won 109 Emmy’s. It remains a pioneer of interactive, multicultural, educational programming that emphasizes both academics and the arts. And, it’s still really frigging cool. Mister Rogers, not to be outdone, was in production from 1968 to 2001 and is still aired daily.

So, before you get pissed listening to the next public broadcasting fund drive think about this; if we didn’t fund public broadcasting in the past, we wouldn’t have had the Muppets, Big Bird, or Snuffleupagus, and we wouldn’t know about the Land of Make-Believe or how paper bags are made. And face it, Sesame Street is just good for you, look at Maria and Luis, who have both been on the show since 1971, and neither of them has aged a day.

Fountain of youth or not, and regardless of the state of the economy, now is not the time to stop supporting public broadcasting.

To donate to public broadcasting:

For the not faint of heart: a tribute to Mister Rogers:

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Dancer: II


Every pair of pointe shoes is handmade, and, like snowflakes, inherently unique. Ballet dancers began rising en pointe in the late 1700's in an effort to appear weightless and ephemeral. It takes years of training to be able to do even the most basic of steps in pointe shoes, and it never becomes either easy or painless. It is impossible to fully grasp the art and athleticism of ballet without holding a pair of pointe shoes in your hands.

Dancers are supposed to rotate through a couple of pairs rather than wearing one pair all the time. It's partly to make sure that we always have shoes that are broken in, partly to let them dry properly, and partly to give our feet a rest from breaking in newer pairs. My feet look like this because I switched pointe shoes last night, and ended up taking the skin off three of my toes. The ones I didn't bother to tape. I felt it happen, during a long combination of turns across the floor. I turned to the girl next to me and said as much, "I think I just lost the skin off my toes." But here's the thing, I was dancing well last night and pushing to get it right, so I kept dancing.

By the time I took off my pointe shoes I had bled through my tights and part of the toes of my shoes. This is not an uncommon occurrence, and makes you no tougher than anyone else in the studio, but it does provide you with the ballet equivalent of "street cred", not because of the minor injury, but because of dancing through it. Which I will have to do for some time. I have two days to heal up, tape up, and put my pointe shoes back on. I will not have new skin in that time. But I'll still dance.

"Now now ladies, no huffing and puffing. No one wants to see a ballerina looking like it requires effort..." Miss Christina, one of my instructors

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

This Little Piggy

Its been 16 years since I've had a piece of bacon. For more than half my life and to varying degrees, I have eliminated meat and dairy from my diet. When I was younger it was a choice based on the loosely formulated ethics of myself and my peers. And then it became about nutrition. Now if I'm asked for a reason for not eating meat I say that it's some combination of ethics, health, and habit. A lazy answer at best. But the real reason to not eat meat or dairy, or at least not very much and certainly locally raised, the reason that most accurately encompasses all of the repercussions of this aspect of modern diet, is really very simple.
Not eating meat may just result in world peace.
Meat production and consumption is tied to global hunger, deforestation, soil loss, water quality, class wars, and global warming. As just one example, 70% of U.S. grain and 80% of corn goes to feed cattle, not people, and the World Watch Institute tells us that "Continued growth in meat output is dependent on feeding grain to animals, creating competition between affluent meat eaters and the world's poor."
Not to mention the distressing karmic consequences of our collective and ongoing abuse of the very animals we depend upon for sustenance.
In his essay "The Only Diet for a Peacemaker is a Vegetarian Diet" Fr. John Dear discusses both the tangible and ethical connections between peace and food consumption and ties his discussion to the Christian directive to pursue and propagate peace. He notes that Mahatma Gandhi, Albert Schweitzer, Thich Nhat Hanh, Tolstoy and St. Francis of Assisi all agree, vegetarianism is a keystone to humanity, compassion, and peace.
To read Dear's entire essay:
To watch the veggie world's response to Paris Hilton's Carl's Junior Ad:
PETA's banned Superbowl Ad
Photo Courtesy of:
The Only Diet for a Peacemaker is a Vegetarian Diet, John Dear, Published on Thursday, July 10, 2008 by the National Catholic Reporter

Monday, January 26, 2009

Reality Check

Today, I made it through my entire work day without speaking to another woman. I talked to contractors, local regulators, and project managers, not one of them a woman. This is not unusual for me. When I do talk to another woman at work she's usually someones secretary. Or a receptionist.
I am neither imagining nor exaggerating this. Of the 1228 professional geologists currently licensed by Oregon, 156 are women.
I'm not sure what I think about this. Generally, the guys are bigger than me, which means they carry heavy things more easily, lift things higher, have more leverage, and don't seem to get as cold as I do. But I get the job job done, as do the other 12.7% of the workforce made up of women. As far as I can tell, the only reason being a girl impedes my ability to do my job is because of the way I'm perceived, and consequently treated, by the men I work with.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Do or Do Not.

In post-WWII Poland the communist authority officially sanctioned only one artistic movement, Socialist Realism, a style of realism intended to further propagandize socialism and communism. By the 1970's a new communist Poland had emerged in response to social unrest and a failing economy. Citizens were granted limited freedom of speech and access to western media. In isolation, a new Polish aesthetic developed. As some consequence of this new modernity, western movies were imported, but released with new poster art, as demonstrated above in the official movie poster for the Polish release of Star Wars.

Star Wars - gwiezdne wojny Limited edition art poster with the film subject. 400 copies printed Original Polish poster designer: Michal Ksiazek

Friday, January 23, 2009

A Good Meal.


In the 1940's Northern Ireland created a "Grow More Food" program, which included ploughing, planting, and harvesting the land in front of the Parliament building. This leads me to wonder how many community garden plots, tomato plants, stalks of corn, zucchinis, summer salads, loaves of bread, might we cull from the White House lawn or the Washington Mall?

World hunger statistics in real time:

Photo by M McNeill18 Mar 1940

The Dancer: I

One of the distinguishing features of dance as an artform is the masochism inherent in its participants. As company members, our lives and bodies are not our own, but offered up, sacrificed for the greater good, for someone else's vision. My knees look like this because of a piece choreographed by a good friend that we've been working on for a number of weeks. A piece of hip hop that is proving to be beyond the grasp of his dancers, classically trained ballet dancers. Its not just that the movement is unfamiliar, which it is, but we lack vocabulary to put to the steps, which means we can't say the choreography to ourselves as we dance, and we have to learn it by muscle memory, a tedious and repetitive process. But mostly, the piece is actually painful, and at times frightening, with its knee turns and handstands with splits, particulary in the practice studio with its hard floors and low ceilings. But we love this man, and he's a true artist, so we dance, knowing that it isn't good enough and that we're running out of time. Pull it together. Do the artist justice. Collect the bruises to show you worked for it.
"If you dance, you dance because you have to. Every dancer hurts, you know."~ Katherine Dunham

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Mexico City Policy

Today is the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. My entire life experience is from within the context of the rights provided by this decision. I am probably not capable of correctly picturing the ways in which the lives of myself and my friends would be different had we lacked reproductive rights. But here are a few things I do know:
Worldwide, there are more than 200 million women who wish to avoid or delay pregnancy and who do not have access to modern contraception.
Every minute of every day, a woman dies from a pregnancy-related cause.

More than 33 million people are living with HIV/AIDS worldwide.

Worldwide, approximately 19 million unsafe abortions are performed annually.

The number of people, primarily women, living in extreme poverty worldwide is 1.3 billion.
Improved access to birth control, women's health services, and HIV prevention can improve gender equality, maternal health, and child survival; and reduce poverty worldwide.
For more information or to take action contact Planned Parenthood:
For a brief history of reproductive rights in the United States:
(statistics courtesy of Planned Parenthood, 2008)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Raise Your Hand

A moment of prayer, joy, and hope, captured at the inaguration. A good reminder that now is the time for us to stand up and be counted. A reminder that we are all one voice, one helping hand, one foot soldier pushing towards a new way of being in the world. It is the actions of individuals that will steer the path of the masses.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

On This Day


I sat today in a common lunch room with men and women in muddy work boots and safety vests and watched Barack Obama become the 44th president of the United States. We sat in silence, let the sound of Yo-Yo Ma’s cello drift over us, and believed him when he told us that those who seek to misuse power, who lack compassion, charity, and responsibility stand on the wrong side of history.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Introducing...Little Miss Sio

(or, things you end up doing instead of breaking up and ruining your vacation)