Sunday, May 13, 2018

Writing All the Blog Posts, Without the Paper

Generally on my slow way home from Market and as I unload my trailer, I write blog posts in my mind about my I have so many deep appreciations for what we do there all day every week. Sometimes I'm chewing on some situation that needs resolution, sometimes I'm feeling that I should shut up and crawl back into my cave. Most times I am singing. I do the same walking home from meetings. Walking to meetings I am usually going over my mental lists of what I have to do, or say, but going home I just let the reflections flow while I enjoy the flowers and trees of my wonderful neighborhood.

This week I ran around Market on adrenaline getting set up for the Founder's Day display, buying flowers, excited about a photo shoot for a future RG article, full of anticipation about a wonderful surprise that is going to hit the news on Monday, and a little bit worried that something random would spoil these golden moments that are going to be such important parts of our history.

I spent a lot of time in the office this week, and last. It is not my habit to dump big projects on our staff. I am more used to having an idea, and then putting my whole heart and soul into making it happen, with the attendant hours of labor involved. I do the work happily, take on whatever isn't really in someone's job description, and have no problem spending my time and money on something that has fed me so richly for so many years of my life. I do it because I love it. This week I found out a lot about Vanessa as we worked on making easel backs for those posters, and I found out that our staff is a group of singers. They just break into song all the time! What's not to love about that?

It was fun and I could have done more of it. Our staff, all of them, get my undying gratitude for running with this honoring Lotte concept, and for saying yes so many times all throughout. It's one of those types of promotions that might not show direct effects...though we had a nice Weekly mention. I didn't get to spend a lot of time on the deck myself, but once I was surrounded by Lotte's daughters, her best friends, and some of the artisans who were built at Market as I was, and another time three former managers and Vanessa were up there laughing and talking shop. Every moment I got to be on the deck was golden. Bill Goldsmith patiently sat there ALL day and also took home parts of the archives to scan, as we need a digital archive as one of the first steps toward keeping our history accessible and complete for all of us. I hope many more people than I am aware of took home something valuable from Market yesterday.

I have decided that Archivist is my next role for the market...way beyond the Secretary role, which I will at some point gladly mentor another member into. I was very nearly voted out of that officer position this January  after ten years...for whatever reasons, I got the message that some are ready for me to shut up and get into that cave. Carrying the historical legacy better suits me anyway, so I won't question the ondas (kind of a silent wave) or care about who or why, just acknowledge that change is good and I have plenty of ways to use my time that might actually result in more important and more personal gratification than just selfless service.

The 50th Anniversary of Market and OCF is the force of nature that will maybe catapult me into a new phase of my life. I need more time to write. I have several books nearly written in my mind and in my many journals...I also want to make sure that Market history is set into permanent and useful form. I plan to study and acquire techniques for the physical parts, preservation of the artifacts, and hope to use and develop some personal skills for interviewing and networking with people in person, something I do rather badly and can improve by being less tied to the day to day overseeing of our legality and proper Board actions and also to whether or not I have approval from the membership for the many actions and decisions in which I am involved. Maintaining the approval of others is wearying and I dislike both examining it and being re-assured, caring about it and thinking about it. I'd like to unhook from it completely and just do what I want to do. Maybe not realistic, but I do seek ways to diminish that anxiety and do less of what brings me criticism and more of what brings me simple joy.

The ways our membership organization, and Country Fair's as well, fail us all, is when we descend into our pettiness and resentments and forget how we are all on the same team working for the same goals. If someone has a great idea, ideally we all get behind it and help push it through! Ideally we don't pick it apart, especially afterward, or bring up how one of us gets more than our share of whatever quantity or perceived benefit, while others are unfairly deprived. I get that this comes from deprivation and insecurity, but it serves no one when this dominates our work. I have heard many times now how us old people need to get out of the way for change and for the young and how the new members are the future and so on. Who invented this duality where if one gets, there is an "other" who loses?

If one of our master craftspeople is still successful after a lifetime of effort, not only have they earned it, but we are so lucky to get to share their gifts! They know things we will never know starting today...our history is rich with ways we have adapted and struggled and overcome. They are our precious treasure. New is fantastic and change is essential, but it isn't a choice of one or the other. We have everything in the Market. The more of everything we have, the better. We don't have scarcity. We have abundance. When someone brings their success, we all gain.

We're going to be in the civic spotlight tomorrow and for the next while. We are in a golden moment for our organization and we are so poised to make the most of it. We've always had stellar and hard-working staff, and right now we have a marketing expertise that is unmatched in any time of our history. Goodbye to our inferiority complex about whether or not the city loves us (actually it has been mostly the county that has made us wonder.) I had a meeting with the City Councilor for my ward this week, and she got us so thoroughly I laughed in relief. She said all the right things.

So often it has been our self-sabotaging perceptions as humans that have gotten in our way, more than any external force. Take a look at "internal and external locus of control" readings. When we operate from an internal locus, our confidence rises and we are freed from a lot of doubt and hesitation that can cripple us. With our crafter population, one of my problems is that I have seen all of our warts and flaws and witnessed many of our errors in judgement, and I fear that we will destroy our momentum and bite ourselves in our collective asses. Fear is not a good driver! Get someone at the wheel who can drive well, and maybe just read the map for awhile. I have always been a better navigator and support person that driver. I'm so happy to let our great staff drive our bus.

I'm happy to yield to the real visionaries among us, to let experts in the many aspects of us come forward and be expert. I am not a person who wants power and control. I want to be left to my simplicity and joy and also to feel in control of my seat in the back, my lunchbox, and my satchel of homework. I've always been happier to wind my way home on foot and meander my way through the woods while other people rush to keep up or get there or make big plans or do big jobs.

I do have a big plan, which is to have Lotte and the Eugene Craft Movement be enshrined in a museum wing. I intend to do my little parts to take that dream as far as it can go. In my imagination there is a little display of Jell-O Art in a corner. In my plan maybe I get paid to write things instead of hauling tote bags to the fountainside so often, but as long as I can be by that fountain, I intend to stay there. For those of you happy about that, thank you, I really appreciate the support. I got a lot yesterday, and it feels wonderful.

For those of you resentful of that, or who want to stick out a foot and trip me, well, that is in your power. I suffer as much as anyone with emotions. Go right ahead with your bad self if you have the need to punish others. Be prepared to be ignored. Be prepared to watch the positive among us rise above it.

Get on Board, children of the market! We need your positive energy and your great ideas right there in the room. We need you to collect our wisdom before we rest. Run for the Board! Drink one less beer and attend a committee meeting instead. Put aside your phone and take minutes for it. Extend yourself. Our success is mutual. Now is the best possible time to be a Market member who thrives, with the connection, the support, and the outstanding collective expertise of our almost fifty years.

We have everything we need right now except robust volunteer participation. We have people waiting to step away, as soon as you step forward. Volunteers made this Market, including Lotte, who did it all for free, and continuing through the thousands of us who already stepped up. It's your turn. Please try. This is the common good we are preserving, with a big slice for each of us, in the ever-growing, never-finished pie. There is a piece for you, and it is luscious.

And now, a chat with Mom, who also has my undying gratitude, and a HOT DAY! I will be silent and on the deck. Or possibly singing and in the garden. Or both.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Spring Renewal

I've always enjoyed having a birthday in May, for the flowers and birds, and the ebullience of another season of abundance, with the coming promise of hot weather. I feel so much better with heat, long days, more outdoor activity...I've never successfully cultivated a love of being cold and confined even though I've come to appreciate what my winter brings too. Plus I have this sense of order from my birthdate...the fifth day of the fifth month, which is the 125th day of the year, 5x5x5...and when I was five it was 5-5-55. Don't tell Facebook. I need a sense of order. I like reassurance that all will be well somehow.

The recurrent theme of deprivation juxtaposed with abundance has shaped my life, a condition of growing up in the fifties to parents who survived Depression-era poverty, into the rich Delaware landscape where elite people owned all the good lands but the farms were just beginning to turn into suburbs. We moved when I was six from a downtown duplex into a big lot in a place called Cooper Farms...we could still locate the original farmhouse we thought, and our place had fruit trees, lots of space, neighbors who didn't have fences. And we could freely roam. I wandered all over the woods learning plants, finding bones, going to the Bookmobile and walking to school. Everybody knew everybody else. We were so safe in our world we took it for granted.

Of course not really, and our family had dark secrets we thought were normal. It wasn't that bad. I thought I had a happy childhood until some time in my twenties. I spent a decade in silent reaction to my father's actions, though I never really blamed my Mom. I did hide from her for a long time, or maybe I didn't, and she was just extra good at letting me be. I struggled for decades to find some normal, to find that elusive "one true love" of the Disney fantasies. It was having a child at age 39 that really changed me the most. I only did it because my Mom said she would back me up if I needed anything. Which ordinarily you might assume, but I had to hear it said, while drunk enough to actually ask for that.

My change was not without effort, of course. After reading "Your Child's Self Esteem" I was in therapy once a month for a couple of decades and followed it up with co-counselling, and other work. I read so many books, wrote so many journals. Journalling was my main healing modality and I do it daily. I started in my teens on my mother's urging...she meant travel logs as I ran off to Mexico in a wild adventure, but she probably knew I was a writer. I had a teacher in High School who could maybe tell it was what I needed. She was the first authority figure that really convinced me I was smart and good at something. I tested very well...I am smart and good at things. But self esteem is a wily snake that has many ways of biting you and self destruction was hard-wired from an early age. And let's not talk about Catholicism today, even though, as usual when I write, it's Sunday. The day we try not to work. The day we pretend to take a real day off. I needed outside affirmation that I had something special to bank on. Deprivation, even perceived, makes you fundamentally insecure.

So, raising a child while I worked my ass off was not ideal, but I did pretty well at modeling work. I shared my inner work some...introduced my teenager to NVC, took him to my therapist once, though he clammed up of course. I didn't date. Never even tried. Never had a babysitter. His dad and I broke up when he was two, after I read that book and figured out that my "high self esteem" was a bald-faced adaptive lie. I was so damaged. My child didn't save me, but my will to make a good, non-traumatic life for him did save me. I build a house for he could have a room with a door, and got it (kind of) done when he was about fifteen or so. I made safety for myself even before I could articulate that was what I needed. It's odd to even admit that we need that. Not as odd now as it was only a few years ago, as now we all feel in jeopardy, except maybe the very rich. May 4th with the return of Kent State reminded me how we thought campus was safe, until we got teargassed, and then shot down for protesting, or merely being near a protest. By kids our age. You don't get back your sense of safety after experiences like that. Still you have to try to have one. Living in fear is debilitating. I've refused to do that.

Not that I mastered it, but this house is pretty solid and I can hermit here with fair assurance that I can keep my demons and nightmares at bay. I have space for all my projects and what turned out to be archives, not merely junk I hung onto. Mom admitted on her last visit that she worried I'd become a hoarder, but after I got over my defensive shock I can explain. Most of it is art supplies (and my archives) and I can indeed get rid of useless things and have begun to thin. At some point I will have to get out of my shop to rent it, so I can work less, so that's one of my goals. I turned 68. I'm not going to be able to screenprint that much longer. But I'm not mentally ill in that particular way and I'm not going to be a hoarder. I like things, that's all, and like to use them up before I throw them "away." Earth day got through to me in my twenties too.

I enjoy the regrounding and reassessing that comes with every birthday. I take a look at things. I'm so happy that last night my son indulged me in about an hour of texting. It was mostly some uncommon sharing about his life, which was so welcome, but we touched on parenting things too and he gave me the Mother's Day gold I had been needing for years. Just a bit of affirmation of my hard work and dedication. I didn't need a lot. I just remembered how damn hard it was for me to process my own childhood and family relationships and since all I have is him, I do have a strong need for his occasional compliment or acknowledgement. He delivered. I hate to ask for it.

One of the things I've tried really hard to lose is coercion. Control patterns built from irrational need are debilitating to others and I've gone over my past many times to pin down my guilt and root out what drove me to do the mean or stupid things I've done. One upside of Catholicism is that I really do want to be a good person. Not to go to heaven, of course, but maybe to be a saint here on earth. Just to not cause more damage. Just to make the world a better place for others, after so many years of thinking only of myself, or feeling that my own needs were so great that others should fill them for me. Or that I was justified in placing myself over others for survival reasons. To really feel equality.

Growing up with four siblings, I always wanted things to be fairly distributed, and being a member of so many membership organizations that have this as a value makes me take it seriously. I grew up with plenty of racism, too, which of course persists, and as a woman I've worked my whole life to just embrace internally what I know is logically right. Equal means all of us. It isn't granted. We have to demand it, work for it, give for it. We the privileged have to release what we've gained. When I do well, I have to share.

Thus my security is tenuous...I haven't accumulated much in the way of financial resources, and I won't depend on someone else to keep me safe. No strong husband scenario for me. An equal partner has never seemed something I could handle, at least not with anyone I have ever known. Maybe I just don't have the patience for the negotiations. Relationships use up a lot of time, and as a creative person I have a flair for the dramatic so even though I have learned what drama is, that doesn't mean I can always avoid creating it. So at some point, or many points, I've just opted out. I'm solitary and I like it. Plus I have a lot of work to do.

That solitary hermit life
wasn't great to model, as interdependence is healthier and acknowledging the contributions of others should be a constant habit. I've had to train myself to say thank you instead of operating on the assumption that everyone will do their assigned part quickly and with professionalism. People need to be thanked and know their contribution wasn't taken for granted. It's a goal to be grateful.

Group process, the formal pursuit of the common good, is an excellent way to spend energy and time and I'm dedicated to us in the craft world to not get too lazy and go for the more efficient majority rule. Whenever we have a tightly split vote at the Board level I feel that we have not worked hard enough. There should be a decision all of us can support. I don't mind long meetings if we find consensus, but not many people agree with me on that. I don't usually insist any more. I wish I would speak up more, but I get the feeling I've been dismissed in some ways...put in some categories I don't accept. I hope to work my way out of them rather than give up. Efficiency has its place but poorly-made decisions come back again and dig holes in our shimmery fabric of mutual well-being.

It's like the Jell-O Art Show this year...we went off into the winners/losers paradigm and threw it out. Everyone got participation awards, everyone won the golden roses from the Golden Commode of competition for one highly valuable one got to be at the top. I thought our political quotient was perfectly attuned to the zeitgeist and left us all richer. You had to be there. The video, which we saw this week, only shows that we meant to make the points...but I guess they got across. I'm too critical as I watch my wardrobe fail and dropped lines. Being too critical is something to work on, isn't it?

Mom says I was always hard on myself. Maybe the quest for sainthood, instilled at such an early age, has made me cynical and devoted to abstract justice which is not attainable, but I'll probably die trying for increased self-awareness and incremental improvements in the lives of my friends and neighbors. Hopefully not too soon. Someone told me yesterday they were aiming for 93...that's the age I've always aimed for too. My Mom will be 93 next winter. She still has it all...she's doing super well. It's probably obvious how much I am like her, though to me I'm also so much like my dad, and really unlike either of them.

My son said he is trying to be like me, but have to laugh at things like that. I agree, of course, that he should be better...and I'm sure he will be, with the benefit of seeing my efforts and some of my mistakes. I'm mostly relieved to know he isn't really mad at me for some of them. I might tell him more about my mistakes as we grow older...I have a lot of cautionary tales that I've kept to myself. He's an experiential learner, and I respect that. It's my challenge to watch as he learns, and not judge and not advise. I get to marvel at his solutions and his explorations, and I hope he will brag to me about his accomplishments as I do to my Mom every week in our phone calls. She tells me about her limits and some of her mundane challenges, not so much her fears...I tell her what I'm proud of, and what I'm working toward. I put my fears in my journal. I like to think she doesn't have to worry about me now. She doesn't want me to worry about her either. She has taken care of herself, after taking care of so many people over the course of her life. That's what I want to do, take care of myself and not worry people. And I want to truly learn to care for others, while not expecting them to care for me...except on my birthday, when I do want them to care for me. They did!

I'm lucky. Plus I got Mother's Day out of the way a week early, so I can focus on Founder's Day, which is a whole other level of caring. Maybe I'll have time to write about Lotte this week. Her vision has been such a gift to me, to our community, to my friends and family. I hope to convey my appreciation for that, if that is even possible. Carrying her legacy forward is something I'm proud of. I told Mom all about it. Next Saturday, come and see what we've done, say hello to her daughters, and spread the love as thickly as possible. It looks to be another spectacular Saturday. See you at the Market, where I live and breathe in the beauty of our mutual creation. Bring flowers. Smile more than you ever thought possible, for it is glorious spring!

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Don't Look at Me. Look at Me. No wait, don't. Okay, now.

Being vulnerable is hard. I'm a chicken about it, too, but I keep pushing myself there. Not hard enough on the big stuff, like Love and Publishing Books and other capital letter endeavors that other people seem to do easily, but of course I know it isn't easy for anyone, and people do such things with courage and luck. I've always been lucky. Bravado has substituted for courage many times and I can usually summon it. But I can't escape the anxiety; just have to manage it. I made it happen with Paul Neevel and I'm glad I did get fifteen seconds in the Weekly, and I think its a rich coincidence that it was in their April Fools edition. Put it together how you will. Like I told Paul, I am a serious person. The Jell-O art is a serious part of my life, my true art, and I believe that authenticity is why people respond so well to it. It opens up your heart in a way we all need, now more than ever. For more about Jell-O Art, you can go read my other blog, Gelatinaceae, also on

I haven't been writing here. This Facebook reveal has scared me, even though I know it's easy to scare people who have been slowly conditioned to fear by the repetition of confusing and traumatizing smaller drops. I still can easily recognize that many of us are operating in fear states since the election hijack. In some ways it's comforting to know the election was really stolen by manipulating fears, but it's also such a far-reaching betrayal of us, with some degree of guilt for our own cooperation. And of course it isn't over, and there is a lot hanging over our heads that spells destruction, even though we keep having enough hope leaking in around the edges to barely survive it. We've survived a lot, and we are strong.

I know every time I obsessively read political analysis instead of working or doing something that makes me happier, I am cooperating in the politics of distraction. I've limited myself, which has gotten easier as I limit clicking and googling and have also reduced my news feed on FB dramatically by eliminating all my preferences, but I'm still doing it. I know watching comedians is another way of diminishing fears and not mounting the anger for action, but I still need that humorous take even when I know there is a certain amount of "bought off" in their realities. It's easy to laugh but I remember how much we focused on how dumb W seemed and yet he pulled off a complete looting of our investments, with his cronies and their cynical willingness to sacrifice us. Focusing on personality and sensationalism is working to keep the real fixes from happening as fast as we need them to, but a lot of people are working very hard and I do have real hope mixed into my despair.

Big picture I know fighting hopelessness is our real task. We watch the repetition of what we know we knew last time and the time before and we still buy into it because of our spiritual needs for life to have meaning and love to be real, and for hell not to be true, and for saviors to exist. Mueller is so obviously our savior, and the kids seem so strong, like we were back in 1970, but I also remember how many illusions had to be destroyed and how much damage there is still going to be. Media is so much stronger now, perhaps, or perhaps not...we also have much clearer vision after sorting through things over and over, so we can still be most useful to the kids as they strip away illusions and build something stronger.

I was raised Catholic, so I can't escape the myths and attendant coercion, even though I generally see them. I swear I don't believe in heaven and hell, but I still try hard not to "sin" and I still care about approval, and I'm always going to be susceptible to authority and control tactics. Learning has been steady but slow, and eradicating patterns begun from early childhood is always about unearthing stories I told myself to make sense of my world.

I'm lucky I had a lot of nature in my world from the start. My earliest photos of me include me reaching for flowers, feeling safe in the world of trees and birds. I grew up roaming the woods and living high up in trees half the time, and it was easy for me to construct a happy childhood story and a sensual appreciation for beauty. I'm glad I followed it even though I took a clunky path that limited my options. I wouldn't really want to be famous and rich, I'm convinced, as it makes it so much harder to be genuine and generous, according to my puritan myths. And I'm so uncomfortable with the little bit of fame I have, and it makes me so anxious to call attention to myself, that I've probably landed in the right place when all is said and done.  Fifteen seconds is plenty!

It's easy to tip me over, so I have my avoidances. They make my life tolerable and give me the solitude I require now that I don't climb so many tall trees to get away from people. It's not that I don't like and appreciate people, it's just that I'm still scared of them. Of what I imagine about them, more probably. It's not easy to tease out our real motivations, so often when I have enough quiet I can go to my journal and really dive deep into my actual base emotions.

I can recognize the different types of anxieties and the reasons for them. I can explore fraught territory and then work through the reactions and limit the damage. I'm proud of that, even while knowing I have not done as well as I might if I were willing to work harder.

I've talked about my PTS reactions at length so don't want to get too far into it, but I watched the film The Glass Castle yesterday and watched myself start into the process, and then pull myself out. The duration of the episodes is so much shorter when I can begin right away to divert my hormones into better pathways. The family situation described in the film was way more extreme than mine, but the family constellation and elements of it made me queasy. I suffered grief about how there were healing processes in the film that my family didn't get, but I was sitting on my homemade deck in the spring sun writing in my journal and was able to acknowledge that grief, and the fact that film and novels can neatly tie up a reality that probably is not nearly that simple. At the end of the film they showed the real people Jeanette Walls had written about, and though her excellent memoir rings very true, you could easily see that there was still damage that would not be fixable, ever, and that the presentation of healing was a bit too simplistic and bright for me to waste any time being jealous of what they had that we didn't. We actually had much that they did not, which probably played a big part in why we weren't driven to some of the healing solutions they stumbled upon. Speaking for myself, I need more healing on my origin damage, but I don't know if it is possible to do it as a family, or if we should try. It seems more useful to try to pick up each day and work from there. We're planning a reunion, and I learned at the last one that there's a good reason we try not to bring up the past.

But long story aside, I went through all my known symptoms and process in a rapid cycle that was over by the time I finished watching a PBS show about math that reminded me of how ordered and brilliant the universe can be, and what mysteries and synchronicities exist that make things like religion and hell not even remotely useful to me. I cleared up a personal communication difficulty that seemed impossible with a single text exchange, and resisted the pattern of over-communicating my neediness and moments of desperation, and I successfully remembered that cravings for substances pass in less than fifteen minutes and dissipate faster than the guilt and shame from giving in. I would say that I used my Catholicism to allow Easter in, with all its vivid imagery, but not succumb to it, and whipped those archetypes and patterns into submission. (Setting aside the fact that whipping things into submission is exactly that imagery brought forward.)

There is residue today (blogging is part of the pattern of reaching out for understanding and support in an oblique way that is somewhat safe, with boundaries, and also pushing a bit more into the vulnerable state to prove that I'm strong enough) but I'm not feeling panicked or depressed. I'm grateful for shorter cycles, and convinced I can take on more now than ever. I can do this Jell-O Art Show thing, finish all the projects I've assigned for myself, and stick with all the other parts of my life that are also not easy, like getting myself to Market next week and maintaining my roles in my membership organizations that are so important to my survival.

Family stuff needs work, friend stuff needs work, but fun is on the calendar and I don't want to ruin it with anxiety and insecurity. Last year I burnt myself out and skipped the cast party, which was dumb to do and I won't repeat it. I've still taken on too much, but I set everything else aside so I could focus and it looks like I'm on track to enjoy myself. I'll work hard at it.

I'm definitely scared, of so many trivial things, but work is the way to fix that, and Sunday, Easter Day, will be the day to rise up from any downfalls that I assign my poor weakened soul, eat some hardboiled eggs and pick some flowers. I'll call my Mom as usual and tell her all about the show, and she'll be delighted. I'm hoping my friends will come see me and like me and still like me after it. I'm hoping people will understand me.

But I know it is part of my emotions that like Jeanette Wall, we throw our story out there, depending on mercy, and mercy is generally extended. People only look as deep as they feel safe to, and mostly they don't look all the way in there to find the less-fun parts. Mostly we get away with our shenanigans, and in doing so we give permission for others to try some of their own. Jell-O Art brings it out. That's why we do it. We do it for the promise of Spring, for how cool it is to roll away the stone and look into the glorious cave, to find the magical art left behind, to mount again the hope that someone will save us from all the things we so fear about our deep and terrible hearts. We all rise. may not believe this, but really, there is no judge. We are not on trial, and we don't have to defend ourselves. We don't have to be the best. We can just play, and have fun. And laugh. We need, above all, a good, solid laugh at the absurd, silly life where we find ourselves for such a brief time. So that, I guess, is why I'm here. Come see me at the show.Or just think lovely thoughts.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

How to Deal With the Stuff

Thinking about hypervigilance, the defensive stance, and how easy it is to push people into traumatized reactions to what, to others, seem like ordinary statements or actions. Thinking about Facebook, how it keeps pitching me old posts from this blog, which sometimes I read out of curiosity, but rarely share. It seems lazy to share an old one. I suppose this will be the way I track my cognitive decline, when it comes...old posts will seem so good, and new thoughts mundane and hardly worth expressing. Or maybe it will be the opposite: maybe my old posts will be naive and trivial and my new ones compelling and passionately irrational. Sorry for you that have to watch...or maybe that is why you read these.

I wish I wouldn't think so much about aging and debilitating futures just because someone points out that I am not young now. Of course I blame the culture but really, it is individuals thinking these things that keeps it current. Yes, I don't want to move as fast as I once did, and I'm not motivated by the same things. Today I had thought I would get productive and go out in the shop, and the sun is out, so I could finish the pruning, but here I sit, wanting to write instead. So? Life passages are great. You be young, with all of the quickly made mistakes that set the course of your life before you know it. I actually like this slower pace here in the eddies at the edges of the mainstream. Do whatever you want on my former lawn, now tangle of blackcap raspberries.

I already did quite a few pages in my journal last night and this morning, working things over. I was spurred to put it down in words after reading a beautiful essay about author Patricia Hampl. It was some excellent writing, and reminded me that is why I practice writing...I want to create beauty like that. I feel lucky to have started this blog, because I put it here, people can read it if they want, but it doesn't create an object that will have to be dealt with. My living room (okay, house) (and shop)  is filled with objects. Even though I have started the process of getting rid of things, it's going to be a process for the rest of my time, and I don't expect it to get easier. No one is going to want most of what I have. Thank goodness for the free tree.

Lotte's family gave me more of her archives. This latest batch is much more poignant than the last, and I'm having a hard time delving in. One item is her copy of her book, (The Potter and the Muse) which upon re-reading provides wonderful insights into her work and through that, her life. Her extraordinary and ordinary life is part of my own musing now. I'm having an intimate relationship with her through her writing, one that is closed at the end but open for as long as I am the keeper of her things. The "and then what" part is what I'm chewing on.

I have lots of journals of my own, dozens. I put everything in there, all my misgivings and truth and probably quite a few lies that I believe are true. One reason I journal and one rule about it for me is that you never lie to your journal. This has saved my life a few times when I forced myself to check back and see what I said before, and the damning truth sits there, unalterable. Honesty has levels, and it isn't perfect. Perhaps it's more of an exploration of the veils of self-delusion, drawing them back.

Questions surface. Why do I think that, why do I feel that, why did I do that? Observations of what I have written about what I have done, causes patterns to emerge which can be identified. That's how I know about my hypervigilance and the many cognitive errors that I make under certain circumstances. I know if I'm writing at night, or putting aside other plans to write something scary, or writing long careful emails, or (horrors) the long ten-page letters to family members or lost lovers, I know that that pattern has meaning for me. Those are the signals that my trauma patterns are operating, and that something has set them off. While the material is essential to explore, sharing it is problematic. Mostly I don't send the letters. I save them though. I try not to read them.

Generally I can identify the causes now, of the patterned behaviors, which are usually multiple, subtle, and things that would seem ordinary to the observer. I can even have a rational track operating at the same time. If I'm defensive, the best thing seems to be to let it run its course, crafting the towers of self-righteousness and conviction, but then letting them collect dust. If I have to mount a defense, I have probably already lost whatever it is I want to hold onto. Somebody's wrong impression about me, my motives, or my actions, is probably not going to change through my defense. It has the best chance of healing itself through my actions leading forward, so if I can right my own ship so to speak, the sailing will get smoother. Back into the journal to discuss next moves.

Trying to fix everything, and thinking I can, is another aspect of the cognitive errors. (Google 12 or 15 or 20 cognitive errors if you don't know what I mean by that.) Feeling the over-responsibility syndrome, as I call it, means if the phone rings in a room, my hypervigilant self thinks I have to answer it. Even if it is not my phone. If I'm at a meeting or in a group, pretty soon I have just volunteered for everything, not to control it, but to set a good example of pitching in. Irrationality hates a vacuum. It's a heavy burden to set a good example. It's like trying to be a saint, very catholic. Have I mentioned it's Lent? Ash Wednesday still carries a shame charge for me, reminding me of how it felt to wear that smudge of certain sin to public school, and enter into that deprivation period when we gave up something we loved, like candy. That one was especially loaded as when Easter came, we got piles of it. Starvation and then gorging, so helpful for a life pattern.

I get that hoarding is about control, but I am not a hoarder, just someone with attachments to useful stuff and things that aren't finished with their useful lives. Like Lotte's journals. I could tell her family wanted to keep them, but they were all inundated with things that had to be saved. Anyone who lives 90 years and doesn't have to move into a place, has their history around them. It's essential history in some ways, and her Saturday Market history is really precious. I loved putting that together and look forward to working on it some more. They were very grateful to me for helping them sort things out.

From what I can tell with my little pokes into it, most of what I have now is Lotte's writing, and her writing about her artistic process and her pieces. My understanding of her work is increasing by leaps and bounds, and it's very profound. The materials would make a fantastic research project for a young artist wanting direction, or for some kind of retrospective about an ordinary potter and printmaker as an insight into how craftspeople live. Maybe it's museum is to me, but then I am the proprietor of the Jell-O Art Museum, so maybe I lack perspective on what the Smithsonian wants...or even the Lane County Historical Museum. Plus, they are full up  at LCHM until they get a new building, and UO probably is as well. Famous in Eugene is maybe not all that famous. Plus, potters are naturally humble, to my experience. Working with earth and fire keeps them very grounded and secure in the knowledge that back to ashes we will go. (Those damn Catholics again.) So Lotte probably expected it to be tossed into the bonfire at some point. It was important to do the work, and the product was less important. She wanted to give things away.

But when I add it to my own archives for the short term, (and I also offered to compile my Mom's writing for our family,) I get overwhelmed. I'm attached in a deeply emotional way to these materials, but I doubt that my attachment will survive me. I also have Mike's Mom's fabrics, and things all the way back to the sign-painting brushes and books and kits from a dying man, Charlie Toback, who lived over the fence from a place on Almaden Street where I lived in the 70's. I opened myself to what these people really cared about, and assured them I would make use of it. And I have! And I've loved them. I still want all of it. They might appreciate that their lives were extended in these ways.

Obviously the world is changing in a way that eventually makes these things useless and in the way, like me. I can fight it for awhile. I'll have to come to terms with it. Probably that will happen little by little, writing about it all the way, since some patterns are functional and do help my life. I could write a few books about it, if then they wouldn't become objects that had to be dealt with.

Probably should get tough with myself. Trick myself with routines like throwing away one thing a day or finishing books and then taking them to the Little Free Libraries. That's how I came across the Patricia Hampl thing. Now I don't want to get rid of it though. Maybe next week.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Same Old, and Also Brand New

Jell-O Goes Gold
I shared a seven-year-old post FB sent me, because it said a few things I have never stopped saying. Being engaged so much in crafting the elegant solution with so many people, lots of things don't change, and all of us, including me, need to keep reminding ourselves of how we get there.

It does matter what our process is. We do need to bring our best selves to every meeting. One person having an off day or engaging in self-serving behavior, or letting their fears overcome their manners, can have a devastating effect on people who are volunteering their time and energy. Every time someone goes off, everyone else goes home with the task of self-examination, checking on their own thought processes and priorities, and working on their skills and internal processes, just to get back to where they started at the beginning of the meeting. Careless words and actions are what drives volunteers away.

My two main membership organizations (Saturday Market and Oregon Country Fair) are full of visionaries, hard workers, practical planners, and dreamers. Our whole impetus starting out so long ago (hard to grasp the fifty year lifespan, already) was to create a better life experience, to share our talents, to work together without self-interest for the common good. Many of us were in our twenties and thirties, and if you were there, you remember why we needed an "alternative society." Mainstream reality was grim. Our generation of young men was being wiped out in Vietnam, brutally involved against their wills in a corrupt and terrifying war of imperialist domination (we had the draft and the lottery for it.) The government was clearly crooked and grasping (we had Nixon and then Reagan) and we had been collectively traumatized by the murders of our visionary leaders, the two Kennedy brothers, Martin Luther King Jr, and many of the Black Panther leaders, who were trying to feed children and protect the lives of their community. Our country was described as divided in two, and everyone was fighting, even at the family level. It always seemed manufactured and phony, and what stuck in our minds was the advice to The Graduate: "Plastics." What a metaphor.

My cynical perspective sees everything differently than I did then, as history repeats itself but in ever-darker ways, but we have learned a lot over the years, and we have taught our children well. In my little corner of the alternative society, we're well established in experienced process, we practice peace, and we value self-assessment and education, and there's a lot of wisdom in every gathering. Some among us are excellent at cutting through the crap. One of my friends nailed it at a difficult meeting when she pointed out an absence of something basic, personal responsibility. We live with that every day as self-employed people, with our survival on the line with each action we take.

We aren't as flummoxed by bullies and gaslighters as we were in the past. Collectively the whole world is much less willing to tolerate coercion and negative framing and divisiveness, and people are much braver about speaking clear truth and leaving their fears and confusions outside the room as they focus on actual problem-solving. Crafting the elegant solutions comes a little easier now. Not that it isn't a constant challenge.

Facebook discussions have both facilitated and destroyed process but reading so many threads that are open to everyone has me convinced that on balance, these rather warped forums of participatory democracy are helpful. We can identify behavior patterns, illogical arguments, trolling, and inspiration. When people turn the conversation with positive framing, you can almost hear the cheering. When someone comes to trash things, they rarely succeed. Ranks close and their comments are either argued down to shreds or they sit like a turd on a platter at the end of the thread. People reveal themselves in ways that wouldn't happen in a live meeting. We can edit our comments when we say something that doesn't sound right. We can drill down into the issues and bond or identify areas we have to work on.

It can be too much. We still have to get in the room together and be vulnerable as we take step after step toward naming and solving the actual problems. But often the myths we carry are shown to be such, in the online process, and we can share that perspective and re-right the ship. We're more in charge of our own process than ever, at the same time being more bombarded by distraction and intentional obfuscation than ever.

Country Fair, with it's larger population of stakeholders and many more FB pages, does a lot more of this online processing then we do at Market. We actually do ours on Saturdays, since we meet there so frequently. Sometimes you could frame it as gossip, but I see it as the informal process that facilitates the formal process. We tend to stay away from online processing, (and I'm grateful for that) as our population is smaller enough to interact more in person throughout the year. You don't necessarily have to be a committed volunteer who goes to meetings to share your perspective with your friends and neighbors. I am convinced the networking that goes on during the day on Saturdays is invaluable to our work. We get discussion time and we reach a lot more of us who aren't online, including both the new or infrequent sellers and the regular every-week members on the Park Blocks. I especially like the morning set-up time and the 3-5 afternoon time for the easily shared communications that we can do ongoing during the season.

Of course the offseason is a different story. A lot of us go into retreat mode and turn our energies to other things, and the core group of people who are working on Market issues is smaller. But still, when we come together to work on our tasks and decisions, people bring skills. We slog through things that take time and care. We can't always be efficient and quick with how we work things through. Like with Fair, our event comes up quickly, faster than we are ready for it, and at the same time we can hardly wait for it. We feed so deeply on the actual gatherings. There's a thread right now on an OCF page where people are writing what they are looking forward to doing at Fair. It's as diverse as the population and illustrates well how many kinds of contributions there are, and how they all fit together to make the others possible.

Sure, there are always going to be people who cause other people to do make-work around them, who don't pull their weight, who complain and blame and make mistakes. Plenty of people try to eliminate process to just get the job done. It was easier when we were pioneers creating things for the first time, when individuals could exert more personal power and get approval for it. We have to be more careful now to create group buy-in, to get consent, to stop from acting long enough to make sure it will be the best way to get to the solutions. It can be frustrating, but we still have to do it, or pay the price by doing things over or repairing the damage.

We have always valued consensus, but it takes time. Now we lean toward it, but we don't always take the steps to find it. We increasingly go to majority rule, which is flawed in so many ways, and furthers division, to my mind. It fosters coercion and domination. It short-circuits the careful decision-making process. It forces the consensus-building out of the meetings into the informal networks, the FB threads, the Market neighborhood discussions. It's the way it goes. It makes our experienced, traditional leaders more important than ever, and it's unfortunate that they are often aged.

Young or old, people with developed skills at building consensus to make morally right, thoughtfully crafted, fair and equitable decisions should lead the process. Loud and demanding voices have their place, but it shouldn't be at the head of the table. Change can come, but not at the expense of what has been so carefully built.

Everybody has their fantasy of what our shared reality is like. All of the many thousands of Fair-goers have their perfect Fair in mind and they try to experience it every year. Everyone who comes to Market has a vision of what it is that serves them in whatever ways they need it to. None of these are perfectly correct for all of us, none of them are perfectly the truth.

But in the collective reality, they each play a part. Each of us has the task to envision the best possible practices and the best possible experience, and work toward it. We do this with amazing power and force, and each event is an explosion of this manifestation of love. Every Saturday, every July, we are stunned by the beauty and joy we create together. Sometimes we have to slog through some mud to get there, but our collective vision remains clear and bright. I am so grateful for that, and so in awe of how many people try so hard to create it.

It's not easy to make a beautiful vision come true every day. Now in our traumatized political state, it's harder than ever in my lifetime. But it's happening, and happening harder and harder as the daphne and violets bloom and the weeds take off. I'm thrilled for myself that I have the Jell-O Art Show as my annual vehicle to illustrate that. I hope you have something similar and a way to express your creative and dramatic self that includes some silliness and some hugging and some singing and some brilliantly colorful ways to clear away the grime. I'm excited that my vision is still refresh-able.

I had been feeling a little old and in the way. It's kind of a default forced on us as we wrinkle and our disks degenerate inside us. We slow down. But this has its important place. We have more time to reflect, and take in the wisdom of others. We have the undeniable advantage of historical perspective that can so enrich the enthusiasm and energy of youth. We get to support instead of lead. We get to sit back and be satisfied, and embrace joy and contentedness instead of just acting and doing. We get to set the example and bring forward what we've been taught. We're part of the continuum in a new way.

We're all playing a part in this drama. Make them laugh. Make them cry. Touch their hearts. Watch them play. Applaud. What a world! Thanks for staying in it, even when you feel discouraged.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Early Saturday Market History

This poster, hand printed, was in Lotte's archives. It was most definitely from the first Market in 1970. I'd love to find out more about it, if anyone knows anything. Possibly Lotte made it, but it could have been another artist. 

Instead of working on my taxes I have been archiving Saturday Market materials, my own and a box of things I got from Lotte's family. She had saved and pasted in albums every article written and some of the newsletters and things from the beginning of Market. It's three volumes but here's some of what I gleaned from the first volume:

The people in the group did have some sales before this, known as the EPIC sales, (acronym for Eugene Peace Information Center) each Christmas for about a decade. Lotte did spearhead the effort to go to the City Council and an Urban Renewal group, SCORE, and the Council approved this one-day Market. 29 people sold in the rain. After the one day it was evaluated by the Council. Two hundred people went to the City Council to support the Market. 

After a lot of discussion the Council allowed another in June.
It was held June 6th and they were allowed to continue for the summer.  The first one cost 50 cents. The second one cost a dollar.It was located by the Overpark on Oak, in the alley. It wasn't a good place for it, and it soon outgrew the space. Dogs caused a lot of problems, apparently, but the people were all delightful it seems.

The City gave three months, then in September let them sell until Dec. 19th. Even though it was rumored that it would not be held on the Saturday of the October Renaissance Fair, it was. (That was the second "OCF".) By then there were over a hundred "booths." People sold on blankets and low tables then, very minimal. The City was always supportive, but some downtown merchants were not, so often the Council votes were tight. Hundreds of people would come to the meetings with petitions, and tourists would write letters. Locations on the Mall didn't really work well, so the group petitioned the county for use of the Park Blocks in February 1971.

The County Commissioners denied the use of the Park Blocks, 2-1. Nancy Hayward wouldn't even second the motion to deny. They offered the top of the Butterfly. The City had offered a courtyard of City Hall, but neither location had the visibility and aesthetics the Saturday Market Committee wanted. They went back in April and asked for Courthouse Plaza (which has since been redesigned) and again the commissioners voted no, 2-1.

The Market people had jumped through a lot of hoops, hiring a lawyer, moving toward incorporation, etc., and were surprised at the no. The Market was homeless. Then Eugene Downtown Association and many citizens and business owners came out in support of the Market, and on May 12, 1971, the County okayed the use of the Courthouse Plaza, for a three-month trial period only.

The first year they held a market on the day of the first "Renaissance Fair" but the second year they waited until June 19th to have a strong opening (Fair was June 5th). They hired M'Lou Carden as part-time manager and charged $1.50 to sell. The county only gave them June, July and August. They had rules, including No Dogs, a simple jury by Board members to keep it handmade only, and the hours were 10-5. Food sellers had to have temporary restaurant licenses. The second week it rained, but Rain or Shine was already the rule.

They bought insurance for $800,000 in coverage for the three month “trial period”. After total success, in the middle of August the commissioners had gone back to their 2-1 opposition. After some drama with black armbands and bunting, and rain on the second-to-last day, the Market Board decided to move to the less-desirable Butterfly lot. The last day on the Plaza, Sen. George McGovern came and shook some hands! Coburg also offered to host the Market.

Courthouse Plaza permitted 250 booths but people were asked to limit themselves to a 3’x 6’ space. Vendor totals were up to about 120 regularly, and it thrived. They signed a two-year contract for the Butterfly, but it was larger, sloped, and there were fewer people selling, but the rent went down from $25 a week to $10 a week, and I think they paid that to the City.

Even Sunset magazine featured the Market. It was appreciated much like it is now, with most of the opposition to it coming from people who didn't even go see it, but feared political action, the hippies, and so on, although there were always, as now, many people who did not fit the counter-culture stereotypes.

That's it for Volume 1. I'll post more about this as I go through her notebooks. What a treasure. 

Saturday, January 20, 2018

We are the Center, and the Center Will Hold

I'm trying to force myself to go to the March, but so strongly compelled to stay here and write...and have my excuses lined up for why I can't go into those huge crowds. I don't want to indulge my excuses, but maybe I can write and then go. Or get started and then finish after what will surely be inspiring.

I know that whenever I force myself out of the cave, I gain things I didn't know I wanted. When I stay in, I'm not contributing, and I know how good it feels to be contributing. Reposting things on Facebook does not satisfy deep down, particularly when I know my reach on there is so tiny as to be insignificant. My reach in a huge crowd will also be insignificant, but at least I will open myself to seeing others and what they are doing and saying, people who are far more courageous than I.

I spent a lot of my twenties and thirties protesting. I was somewhat fearless back then and allowed some damage to accrue...damage that has come back to haunt me again and again. But when I hear people's stories and see how they have transcended theirs---because we all get damaged---I know I can do better. I can speak louder and work harder to armor myself. I do not want to be a fearful old woman, beaten down by thoughtless people who probably don't even know they are toxic. I want to be one of the ones to shift that damage back and force the change that will stop it from spreading.

I've been reading back in the Saturday Market archives, randomly, as I try to organize the ones I have. Lotte saved every newspaper article and mention of the Markets and I have done that too. Hers are mostly mounted in albums, yellowing and with her notations. Mine are piled up and not organized so that anyone else could benefit. Reading back over only the last decade of what the Markets have been through is incredible. I was there, and it's far too much to keep in operating memory. Yet we have to carry the stories forward so we know who we are and how we got to today.

It's easy to see how people have forgotten even the recent past in politics and government, and how impossible it is to keep perspective with so much new information. That is no doubt part of the current strategy of bombarding us with misinformation to keep us confused and shut down. Even I hear myself asking "What is the point?" and feeling hopeless and lost. I know better! There has always been a point, and it might even be the same point: to make our lives better. To limit suffering and help all of us move in a healthy and life-affirming direction. To live well. To be happy, and see joy in the world around us. Simple things, simple goals, but constantly thwarted.

I can't afford, for my own peace and happiness, to get crumbly. The things I have fought for, stuck my neck out for, haven't been accomplished yet. I don't get to stop working. Since I do have access to history, and I can recognize patterns, that's part of my job. Since I have words, I must use them. I can't keep quiet. None of us should, since it is taking all of the effort we can collectively apply to even hold the center.

But the center is holding. We own the center. The center is in our chests, our hearts, and our minds, and we know what is right because it resonates there. That song "Shed a Little Light," so eloquently describes how we go to the well on the hill, how we feel the rightness of what we are filled with, and how we hold that as sacred vessels of life. It sounds religious but only in the greater sense of reverence for life. The life of our planet. That is what we are holding dear. You and I will come and go, leave our bodies and our boxes of newspapers behind. We will not finish our work.

But that's not the nature of our work. It isn't one task that can be completed. That's one thing that makes it so hard, so discouraging. We don't see the effects. But that's one reason I have to go today, as fearful as I am of my little emotions. I remember at a protest years ago, the biggest lesson I learned was just from watching a young man speak to counter a confused section of the crowd when an argument developed with a Republican supporter. (Remember we have been fighting this Republican mindset since Nixon. Reagan. Bush senior, and W. This stuff is not new, just much more depraved and thinly disguised this time around, and crass. Low.)

This young man just spoke loudly with some advice to basically ignore the troll and not get engaged in his power game, to not let him take our power from us. As I remember it he was also a Dad, with young children. He wasn't saying a simple message about peace, he was drilling down into the practice of it. He was giving us a way through our next few minutes, a new way at that moment. It was what we needed. He responded to our need, leading from the center. He was within us, and the truth and how he spoke it was the balm on the troubled waters that kept us flowing.

The days of bad dads and powerful men doing the wrong thing are waning. The patriarchy is desperately struggling for control, and we are denying them what they have felt so entitled to. They are still winning and taking all the gold, over and over, but we are winning too. We are winning a thousand, a million small battles each and every day that will swing that pendulum and swing it hard.

We are winning. That is why we keep working through the discouragement. Some parts of what we are trying to save will indeed be saved. I can't say I am thrilled about the future, and the struggles still to come, but I do feel proud of how hard we have collectively worked. Pitching in works. Bringing skills works. Gathering to feel the hunger and break the bread and pass it around works.

Sure, it hurts. I'm accessing deep feelings today, which also happens to be my son's birthday. In 1990 I was laboring hard, long hours of trying to open, trying to do the first letting go of an unimaginable amount of letting go that I would have to learn to do with my son. He was born in the evening, after more than a day of that altered state that was so terrifying and also so simple and direct. Nothing else mattered. I was visualizing myself as an elephant. The task and my body were huge. I felt gravity, and waves, and immeasurable natural forces. And with a lot of help, we accomplished our goals.

We set out together on his life. He's taken it well in hand and he's doing well. He learned what I was able to set before him and many more things I wasn't. He has a fine mind and body and has only begun to accomplish all the things of his life, many of which I will not get to see or even hear about. He's a man now. But he isn't part of the patriarchy. He's a good man.

He's more than I thought I would be able to give the world. My heart wanted to keep him inside, all to myself, but that isn't how life works. We have to open. We are compelled to open. We must BE open.

So I will open the door and go downtown. I can stick to the fringes if I have to. I will take cash and I will give it where cash is needed. I might chant and I hope I'll sing. I will do my tiny part, add my tiny voice, and try as hard as I can to stay open as long as I can.

And for my reward I will pick up a library book written by a friend of mine and read one of his fine short stories, and I will go to my grocery store where I have been a loyal customer for forty years and more, and buy something for myself. Something healthy, or not. And then I will come home and get out an album of baby pictures my Mom returned to me, an album about my son that I wrote a lot of little stories in. I'll go back to that proud and focused self who was able to keep a child safe for long enough for him to grow up. I'll laugh at my naivete and unevolved cultural politics and remember those days before the internet and before decades of therapy, back when I thought pretty well of what I had done and what I was doing.

It was okay that I was naive. It was okay that I set aside what would have prevented me from leaping and created that child. It was the most brave and foolish thing I have ever done. I didn't know how much of what I got from the well was going to go into that part of my life, and how satisfying it would be. I only knew that childbirth was a miracle, and I wanted to participate in a miracle.

So Happy Birthday John, and thank you for the miracles. Thank you for your patience while I learned so many things, and your abilities as a teacher with such a complicated class. Thank you for allowing me to ground myself in your mere existence, from that egg that came from my grandmothers, was grown in me when I was in my own Mom, that was grown in her, and all the way back. We brought forward Life that we knew nothing about and are not here to fathom. We are part of Mystery.

It is not about me, and most definitely not about my little insecurities and weaknesses. Today is not about my comfort levels and my thoughts and plans. It's about Life and the Well, and where Hope comes from. It will come. It keeps coming. We keep working. We keep winning. The prize is within.

Be open.