Sunday, August 13, 2017

Where We Are Today



I finished a lengthy post about Jell-O Art and the Parade and all of that over on my Jell-O Art blog,  Gelatinaceae so feel free to wander over there and find out more than you want to know about those gorgeous and joyful details of my life. This blog is where I get to explore my more personal thoughts and reflections and boy howdy, would I like to. I'm not entirely sure I can say much of anything about what has been going on in my life. It's fraught.

You know how I used to write those glowing post-Market essays about how much I love and value Saturday Market and Country Fair and my crafting life and my roles as witness and transcriber and all of the many ways those two organizations work so well in my life. Yeah. I still feel those things briefly, but I will say that I really did not anticipate how far Trumpery would work into my personal and political and social life. There's not enough resisting in the world to undo the damage that has followed that so-called election for me. It feels like hell on earth. And today we face another escalation in hatred and bigotry and sliding backwards in history a century. It's more than any of us think we can handle most of the time. And yet when I mentioned something vaguely political to one of my customers from out-of-town, she said "I have no problem with it, I'm getting rich!" So there you have the crux of it.

When it benefits you, all of your morality and sensibility go right out of your mind. Humans! What does it take to get you to see other people and care about them? I do not feel full of hope and love for my people today. I had a brief moment of loving my Saturday Market family sometime in the last nine months, but it flew out the window after about five minutes. Sometimes I hate almost all of you and myself as well. That's why I haven't written, that's why my days off are full of yardwork and escapism, reading novels and eating delicious foods. I am very disappointed in the humans these days. That does possibly include you. I know I am not living up to my expectations.

That's why I pour my energy into Jell-O Art and volunteering and making lots of inventory and standing on the concrete simply smiling and selling my goods. Some of the rest of what is going on is not believable and you will thank me for not telling you. It's far from pretty. You can go down to the Park Blocks and look at the cut through the wall for the dining deck with its surrounding chainlink and construction zone and dead rhodys and that can be your operating metaphor. My stone wall of solid love for my organization and my crafting life has a big, sawed-open gap in it and so that no one will fall into it and break a hip and die, we'll put an ugly, awkward fence up and wait. Surely the deck will look sharp and clean and with picnic tables and umbrellas, and we'll heal our dismay at the mangled wall. Maybe they'll face it with some lovely granite sheet and finish it off nicely. I always like to try to expect the best. But metaphorically speaking, I do not appreciate the gaps in the solid walls of my life. Put down that saw!

I have to say that the skill level of ordinary people in navigating moral complexity and right action is low. The bar keeps getting lower. I have to avoid Facebook most of the time, keep a poker face in meetings and conversations, and refuse to engage pretty much every day. And then I go home and agonize and my need for therapy increases and I certainly am not going to get it from a donkey who leaves his poop on my neighbor's space and is still in my bike tires from the parade. Can we get some real help here? Anyone? Is everyone completely overwhelmed with despair? Sometimes I think so.

Of course, I can right my ship, and do daily. I know how to keep working and I can always default to that, but there is an increasing list of things I don't want to do. I don't want to go to any more meetings where people lie and bully and pretend to be innocent when they are undermining everything we have worked for. I am shocked at people who still pretend to be my friends when they are actively ruining what I have worked so hard to build, with so many other good people. I have to believe that they are not aware of what they do. I have to actively work to forgive them and keep picking up the trash they leave behind. I have to remember that they are being seduced by some short-term gains while others of us are holding steady and will be ready to rebuild as soon as the way is clear. But I innocently never imagined this level of destruction.

One of the main issues is that so many people are really quite fragile and all this uncertainty and meanness has pushed them right over their edges. That's what's going on with the guy who sorts food out of the trash and then tries to sell it to people, and the one who walks out into traffic right in front of the bus. They've lost whatever support they used to have to maintain. They're the ones that you can see, but a lot of the others are hiding out at home or doing what they have committed to, the meetings and the tasks, but inside they have lost it and are not maintaining. So do we call them out and fight it out? Do we sit around and share our feelings and cry together? Well, maybe we do that in the empathy tent or our therapist's office or over coffee, but why don't they see that we can't do that in the meetings? Why can we not do our work without all the static and interference?

Perhaps it's widespread sonic bombardment. It's the pervasive smell of Febreeze all over everywhere. It's cars and fumes and the hot weather and travel for entertainment and entertainment and escape over substance and some of it is simply overwhelm. Life shouldn't be intentionally made harder.

I go back to Marshall Rosenberg saying that the reason we are here is to make life more wonderful. That's what is our goal in every human interaction: to meet the needs of the other person while identifying our own needs and working toward the mutual meeting of both. It's the win-win attitude for life. Why do we try to make losers to dominate? It does not work to make us feel better. We are not here to climb to the top of any heap, certainly not the compost heap of everyone else after we destroy them.

I watch hard for my few real-life heroes and try to blow them kisses and let them know they are seen and appreciated. I really appreciate those who check in with me about my downcast eyes (I have never been big on eye contact...I'm really sensitive and have to protect myself a lot, so I go within.) I like it when they ask me if we're okay. If we're not, it gives me a chance to say so, and if we are, it gives me a prod to be more demonstrative with my appreciation. I still do have a lot of hope in a lot of specific areas, and sometimes things go well, and sometimes people exceed my expectations and work hard and do the right thing according to my shifty moral compass. I remind myself daily about all the good people I meet, all the kindness I see and the strong, fearless people who keep moving forward. There are lots and lots of them. Mostly they are being a bit cautious and self-protective as we see what a long haul this is going to be. Mostly we collectively have a lot of hope that good will prevail and hate will be diminished as people bond together for the common good.

But gee whiz, it used to be easier. I know I'm old. Sixty-seven is getting up there. It's going to be one thing after another. I've been really lucky so far that my injuries have developed more compassion in me than disability. I'm lucky for my immune system and my sensible tendencies and my low-key lifestyle, and my plain luck. I am very grateful. I am trying hard to keep building on the compassion and keep trying to suggest avenues forward based on that and not on retribution, punishment, or domination. I do not ever want to get caught up in domination games or control patterns, except the ones I use to establish my own inner control and domination over my more base impulses.

My ability to identify control patterns is proving to be quite useful and I am dedicated to sharing my studies. If we can reduce someone's behaviors to the factors that are driving their control patterns, and identify their greatest needs, sometimes we can help them work to get those actual, underlying needs met. When they work so hard to mask and obfuscate and hide their real needs, when they catch us up in their fervent strivings for revenge or destruction or whatever they are using to establish what they perceive to be their safety, we all get lost in that. We all have to suffer with them until someone gets a glimmer of that underlying need and says the magical things to ease that specific need.

Once in awhile these openings that come are transformative and I continue to believe that empathy, listening, and setting our own sufferings aside and trying to see that of the other, do help. I've participated in it countless times and it has worked for me to work with someone who also can do that. Some people really do have skills, and practice them, and if you doubt me, step into that Empathy Tent next time you see it and work on one of your concerns. Complain, vent, cry or criticize or whatever you need to do at that moment to lessen your suffering, and see how one of these listening experts responds. More than likely, your heart strings will resonate and you will feel the shift. Listen for it. And also try to build those skills. Slow down, wait to let the other person finish, and try a bit to draw more out of them. Encourage them to see you as a safe person to work with. Be a safe person to work with. Be fucking real. Drill down.

We are all having to count on each other, to depend heavily on each other to navigate these times. We need gentle humor and sweet reassurance and we need to reground in our basic values almost every day. We have to find the energy to not give up, to not let dominators do that, to call out controllers and take away their effectiveness. We have leaders to follow on these things. Support for our leaders is always as important as taking the lead. Not everyone can get out there in front, and many of those who do are quaking in their boots, but they get out there anyway. Stand beside them. Sit with them. Get out of your inner dilemmas and look at them (this is a lecture to me, always, you know.)

We will get through this. We will build our Old Hippies Home and figure out a way to live together until we die of life. We will not submit to hatred and ugliness and call it normal. We will take care of each other and however clunky our process and procedures are, we will bring our real, good hearts to the tasks and we will use them for the forces of good. There is really no other choice.

I think sometimes that I have outlived my usefulness to the Market community. I have tried so hard to help with this Park Blocks future and to get good staff in place and to maintain transparency and do the right thing, to not be moralistic and judgemental but rather to gently point in what I believe is the right direction. To look at each thing we do and see if it is the best we can do, to keep up with the fast pace of changes and not get pushed over, to be open to change and still bring what needs to stay the same, these have been some of my efforts. Most of the time I sound like I'm telling an innocent tale of the way I wish things were. Most of the time I am ignored and lots of the time I am dismissed and probably if I had to be elected to leadership I would find out the truth, that I am of the past and need to let go. But I won't step out of leadership until people actually, plainly, tell me to.

I see myself as the one person in place to carry forward the legacy of our original founders, that group of artists who had the vision almost fifty years ago to give us this life. Both of our organizations, Fair and Market, came from these same roots, as did most of what makes Eugene the weirdly wonderful place everyone now wants to move to. We made it for us and for all. We each did our small or large parts and we are still trying. I'm not giving up easily. I'm not stepping aside until someone takes up the mantle of carrying forward the legacy. It might take some decades of study for someone to want that position. It might not happen. Maybe our model is not a good model for nowadays, maybe we can't bring it forward any farther.

That is possible. That isn't clear yet, and it would have to be made abundantly clear to me before I'd agree to it. But in the meantime, I am here and I can be your foundational block in your beautiful stone wall. I will work as hard as I can for the survival of our old stone walls, metaphorically and in real downtown life. If you want to support me, see what you can do to help. Many of you have stepped up, to make the Guidebook, to work on the Craft Policy Working Group, to persist with the meetings and committees and keep waiting for other people to see the need and want to participate. I thank you and I am depending on you. We need more of us. We need help from those who have worked on their needs and can now see the needs of others. Our small lives need vision and support.

Do your part. Then do a little more. Remember what they say about that arc of history bending towards justice. Keep inspiring yourself and keep inspiring me. Now is our time, and we are the ones. Thank you so much for listening, and for this brief moment of peace that I will now go and savor.


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Loving Summer

I promise to make this short because one of my chief pleasures in life is sitting on my deck watching the leaves move and the sky and it is that time of day. I cannot believe that my work load has not decreased one iota since the beginning of spring...I am still trying every moment to stay caught up on the essentials and the other things are piling up around me.

But I will get to those piles because Mom is coming for my Aunt Lud's 100th birthday in September and you know you have to clean before your mom comes, even when she is 91 and really doesn't care if you do that or not. My piles are even more intense this week because I am going to be in the Parade! On Sunday! With a cart load of Jell-O Art and an outrageous outfit (if it works) and that spirit of the intensity of real fun. I can hardly wait. 


Every time the anxiety comes up I try to repeat the part about the fun. I so need it. I enjoy the Fair, and I love the Market, but those are work, tons of work, and it is hard to really feel loose and free. I anticipate feeling pretty loose riding my bike in the Parade. I plan to make it so engineered and foolproof that even I will have fun every minute. We'll see of course. I should be dusting my Jell-O pieces right now and of course I am not. Getting them on the cart and down Broadway might be way too much engineering but I am determined. And like the  Jell-O Art Show itself, the main objective is fun for all, so if things go a bit south, no one will notice, and certainly no one will care.

Working in the service of fun and love is what makes life successful. I'm dedicated to fitting that into the framework of working for money and survival. I was thrilled at Fair that no one talked politics. We walked into our world, the one we created together, where we love each other and are safe. I felt that so strongly there, immediately and lastingly. Even the harsher life/death parts are sweet there. Grieving at the Fair is always a part of it for me and I hope I can always take my grief there. Marko told me that the Empathy Booth is presently serving lots of grieving people. That's out there. Many of us are still traumatized and in shock with the current national scene and that doesn't seem to be avoidable, which makes me even more grateful for that respite.

And I have a rotten board to replace (only one, you ask?) on my booth out there, so I have to go out next week and do that, if I can somehow carve out a day. Going out to the Fair site always takes the whole day. There's a magic inability to leave or be efficient. I treasure it.

But Sunday, Sunday, is bigger than big and I need to get out there on that deck and at least eat dinner. I do not have time to eat anymore. I'm looking forward to that. And digging up my garlic. It's way too late to let it sit there in the ground.

So, so happy to report that all things Saturday Market are wonderful. Tuesday was the best of the season. Our new hires are fantastic. We are set to go into our best phase yet. The City Council got their update on the downtown programs today, and they are happy, and by the time they come back from break we will be ready to give our input, and we will be, in the meantime, working hard to keep our plates spinning and all of our options good ones. And the best part is that I no longer feel like I am doing it all by myself. I know, I wasn't, but it was oppressive and now it is not.

So this is it, short and sweet as a flat of blueberries. They might not last. This good feeling might not last. But today I will celebrate how good it feels, after so long of not being able to say that at all. See you in the Parade! I will be the one with the tsunami on my head.


Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Better!

You'll be glad to know things have eased up on the areas referred to in the cryptic midnight blog of last week. I handed over some of my over-responsibility to other entities who gladly accepted my surrender without even a conversation. I was the one who took on all of that over-responsibility, put that weight of the world on my shoulders, and it didn't take that long to sluff it off once I had someone recognize it and call my attention to it. Others stepped in, and my relief was immediate.

I am not really the only one holding up the sky, and it certainly looked ridiculous even to me when I saw that I had been trying. Was I really forgetting that there were plenty of capable, caring people working for the same common good? I'm guessing now that I had merely fallen over the edge into a zone of irrationality, one of those where you can only see that level of mistakeness in everyone else, not yourself. It's fairly common for me to be there, with that blindness that convinces me I am right about that (and pretty much everything else.)

Ah, arrogance. I really did have too many plates to spin and was afraid and unable to drop any of them. I don't fault myself for believing in my powers. I'm glad I didn't proceed with too many decisions during that time, that I was moving too fast to pile up a lot of mistakes on that underlying one. I did some good work and kept up for the most part, which impresses me a little. It was a huge workload and I'm relieved to trade it in for my regular pre-Fair workload, which is mighty. There will still be way too many meetings but there are a lot of other people in those rooms.

I'm still the point person with City staff on the Park Blocks issues, and I like it. It's fun to gain confidence in a new area and find myself capable in new ways. I worry about it of course. My thinking about the whole Park Blocks remodel needed some months to evolve and I have now realized that it would be wrong to stand in opposition to the opportunity to spiff up our home downtown. When they say "permanent home for the Markets" I should hear golden bells of exactly what our shining diamond Saturday Market deserves and will love. I can easily admit I love that photo in the PPS report of the meandering stream with boulders in it and people lounging beside it.
I'd love that. Nobody is going to take my space and not give it back. Maybe I'll even gain back the corner that I give to the fountain and be a real 8x8 someday.

I'm embarrassed and still trepidatious to be a city booster but when I meet with these folks I like them a lot. I see that their intentions, within their job descriptions, really are to honor us and help us thrive. They have been so careful, really, with their own set of trepidations that someone like me will be hurt or damaged by their actions. They are so welcoming to our feedback and very responsive. Of course they are bound by so many restrictions that don't bind me...they are public officials with all kinds of legal boundaries, ethics rules, regulations, laws and the myriad details of each department and its codes. They have to think about everything: who they can be seen having a beer with, what kinds of things they say that might be misinterpreted, what kinds of things they might see as illegal or untoward and have to report to their bosses. I can hardly imagine the kinds of things they worry about late at night. In comparison, I am free as a little old bird.

I have to worry that my fellow members won't like me anymore (those who do) if I lead them down this path and we don't like where we end up. That's about it, really. I suppose my income or retirement "plan" might be compromised if I am involved in some dumb decisions. I might have some arguments or make some enemies in the process, but really I have little to lose and so much to gain. 

I think we forget that when we moved into the Park Blocks 32 years ago, we fit ourselves into the existing spaces. If they weren't perfect we warped ourselves to fit them. I've spent years in a spot where I can't use the fourth leg of a popup because I can't put it in the fountain (yes, we used to...). I have to be next to a fountain where some people do gross things in public and sometimes splash my goods in the process. The concrete is uneven and lots of people trip and lose their balance on the cobbles, and the morning sun can be too hot and the afternoons too shady. Each one of us has fit into a space with some limitations and we've made it work. There is no reason to think we can't do this in a new space. There is every reason to think we can do it in a better space!

A lot of us initially thought this was not what we asked for and we felt somewhat resentful that we would have to change what works for us so well. But if we're honest, we can find things that don't really work that well, that could be improved, like access to the interior, access to the raised areas, and amenities we don't have like flush toilets and cool shade coverings and who knows what all?

If we really got to work and designed ourselves the Market of our dreams, I'll bet we could find a few things to change that we'd love. That's our task: not to react in dismay to what gets done to us, but to design for ourselves the spaces we want and the amenities and features we need. We can grab this opportunity and make the most of it, and we'd be shamed if we didn't. If we really opposed this gift to use and made it so hard for the city to do it that they gave up, we'd be doing a disservice to the whole community. The community loves us. It wants this for us too. 

Nobody wants us to do anything but polish up our facets and shine all the brighter. Everyone we know wants us to thrive. Sometimes I think so small I wonder how I made it this far. Thinking big is risky, sure, but nothing really great happens if we can't at least be open to hearing from people who think bigger than we can.

So I'm a leader on this, taking on the interface between the city and my people of the market, but it's not something I am doing by myself. I'm listening to everyone, writing down what they say, writing down what we think, and helping to make an articulated plan. Every part of it is open to our thoughts and our visions and our ideas. We don't want to be the limiting factors for our lack of vision, we, who are some of the most creative and innovative people around. We want to add our vision and our great skills to the mix that comes up with the best home imaginable, the best we can all afford, the best we can all achieve together.

It feels like a lifting of a burden, to really accept and embrace this big change in our beloved home. It feels like an anticipation of a big event, a life-changing one like a wedding or a birth. I really want to live there in a brilliant and successful future. I do not want to be one of the ones who stood in the way of a good dream.

So finally, somehow, I have entered into the world that some consultants from NYC saw for us when they came with their wide worldview to our little town. I will never agree with everything they recommended or  thought they saw, because of course I know us a lot better than they could. I see our flaws and the ways we've made our compromises and decided we couldn't have nice things. But I'm not going to be stuck there in the "this is good enough for me" zone about the Park Blocks. 

It wasn't good enough for us last year, and while it's getting better, it's still not good enough for us. We're incredible. We're a force of nature that makes our community great right in the very middle. We're where you can bring yourself and find your people, find the things that matter, be in the middle of a time and place of fun and depth of emotion and what is real in our lives. We are at the center. We offer this to our community every week, for practically nothing, for their enjoyment and their dismissal and their delight and their distraction. We put it out there for whatever other people want to feel and want to do with it. We've been giving and putting it at the feet of our community for all these decades. And now our community wants to give it back. I want us to accept it, with gratitude and with joy. I want us to use our talents to make it so shiny and beautiful, so perfect, that we will all expire with satisfaction and be fulfilled forevermore. 

Yes, I have a romantic fantasy about the Park Blocks Revitalization. I think it is going to be remarkable, and I want to be a part of it. I want to be a city booster for it. I want to put my hand to it and help make it happen. I want to leave my little fingerprint in it somewhere. What better way do I have to use all of these skills I have gained over all these years?

That's the weight I want on my shoulders, the weight of possibility and the lightness of perfection. Let's try for this, together. This is so worth doing. Let's not let our fears get in our way. Let's embrace. We're already in the middle of it, so there's no turning back now. 

And all this work I'm doing, all this oppressive, onerous work...well, I love it. I want to be needed and I want to put the meaning on shirts and make beautiful treasures and sell them and I want to stay up late and get up early. And get paid for it. Today was a gorgeous summer day at the Tuesday Market and people wanted what I brought and I had a lovely day. I came home and forced myself to type some minutes and then, rather than being depleted and depressed, here I am happy and reluctant to stop writing and go to sleep. I have a wonderful life and I chose it. I get to share it. I get to work harder and longer and then go to a festival that will still be full of love even when we disagree and always when we love each other the way we do, when we're honest. And we do know how to be honest. Right from the deepest part of our hearts. We'll get through anything we need to get through. And then we'll laugh and get on with whatever comes next. On that bus, that bright and colorful bus. 
Glad I got to be under it long enough to get back out and climb on top. There's quite a view! 


Monday, May 29, 2017

Lying in the Mud Waiting for Rain

Another sleepless night. Now I know what it feels like to get thrown under that proverbial bus. It's an experience that has a demoralizing quality like no other. The wheels start to spin and dig their muddy ruts and there seems little chance that the bus will ever extract itself from the pit to roll forward again. The gears grind and we lurch from side to side.

I truly think I'd rather be under here than on the bus at this point. I think I am going to welcome the role of scapegoat and run with it. I think I am actually uniquely suited for the role, and that it fits me well. Blame me for everything. It makes sense.

Part of my minutes-taking love is the sacred role of impartial witness, observer of all, interpreter, person who frames things with honesty. I try so very hard to do that. It's a spiritual practice to me. I think of myself as someone who pursues rationality, contructs sensible and productive narratives even when there is chaotic action to describe. I don't think this is delusional, though of course tonight I am working over my delusions in fine detail trying to see if I am really the dissembler I have been accused of being. It doesn't fit with who I believe myself to be.

But I'm a person who understands being really wrong. I am the gullible innocent, and don't try not to be. I think it's part of what allows me to approach that level of honesty I try to get to. I can be fooled. But I can also see patterns and repeating attempts to confuse and I can articulate them. Not that it helps. People who haven't seen the patterns tend to not believe in them and the more the description extends, the more the listener can edge away. There's an instinctive discomfort to get away from things that one doesn't have the capability to follow or understand. Gaslighting comes into play. The sensitive noticer becomes the one at fault. Protesting adds more words. Someone who exposes misconceptions in such detail must be constructing one. People throw up their hands and won't believe anything.

Lots of metaphors I could use. I wish I could tell the story in concrete detail, but it's depressing and the best strategy is to endure until more pressing matters arrive to wash the bus down the lane despite its broken parts. Pack up the tools and pick up the next piece of work. There's still plenty to do, and there's no better way to rebuild trust than to pick the work up and resume doing it. Start sawing, start stacking, get that woodpile lined up straight and don't forget that winter will arrive whether or not all of us are ready. Summer will flee while we fret and analyze and fiddle with the details of things that are going to have to creak along somehow. With or without us.

I have the strength to be the scapegoat for awhile. I've made enough mistakes that I certainly deserve blame for some of them. I made my kid eat school lunch, for heaven's sake. I'm guilty. Blame me.

Dump all your blaming and your shaming and all of your accusations, dump them right on me, right now. You get two more minutes. Get it out. This is a limited time offer, but it's wide open. Blame me for every little thing. Let's all throw it all out there and then we can let it go up in smoke. We can bury that hatchet once we chop all of our flaming blame into little tiny pieces and stomp on it and make sure all the fire is out. Get it done.

And then we can get back to work. We still have a lot to do, and we're still stuck with each other here in our little mud pit we made. We're still going to have to shove each other around a little until we can get comfortable for the long haul. We keep finding a lot more problems to pitch into this soup. We keep trying to make something beautiful happen with what materials we have.

It's always worked before. I've been through this: being wrong, being blamed, being seen in the wrong light or called hurtful names or bruised with the thrust of someone else's defense moves. It wasn't about me then and it isn't really about me now. It's about our need to climb up, out of the pit, and the way we sometimes step on each other when we do that. It's nothing personal, that muddy boot on your shoulder. You're supposed to climb out too. At some point someone else will reach back and give you a hand. It's not a story that has an end to it.

Hardly a story at all. Someday I'll tell you the details, maybe. Probably they don't matter. It's when I tell the details that people start edging away and thinking I'm too serious about it, too intense, maybe even hysterical. Been there? Let's keep trying to make a world where that doesn't happen.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Jeez it's bad

I haven't been writing, Perhaps you noticed. I don't have a theme or a subject I've been mulling over, or something compelling I just have to say. Probably shouldn't start, but I remembered that when I am troubled or rootless it has helped to write. Don't have that faith at the moment, but something has to be different than watching Colbert while I doze off in my chair and then going to take a hot bath, read for a few minutes and wake up at dawn to worry some more.

So many things are falling apart. I had an hour or so of feeling good this morning but that was killed by another long and difficult meeting. All the meetings are long and difficult these days. When we laugh it is with ironic detachment. We don't let ourselves feel much, we save that for when we lie in bed in the morning and feel like we don't want to get up and we don't want our stomachs to be tied in knots any more. It seems pointless to cry about it.

We probably don't all feel that. It's going to be sunny so there's a little glimmer of hope that says maybe I'll get some happy moments. I will, because I am easy to slay with a flowering shrub so when I walk downtown for one of those meetings I walk under those flowering chestnuts and past the quickly changing neighborhood of mollis azaleas and rhodys and sometimes even see a plant I don't recognize or hadn't noticed before. There's one dogwood I have to check on that's glorious. And I have a pair of Bewick's Wrens in the neighborhood, and a bushtit's nest in my fir tree. So there are those things.

I get a little thrill by the Little Free Libraries but I don't have time to finish the paper so it isn't a good time to get more books. I smile at people but they trouble me with their desperate energies and their transparent faces that I try not to really look at. Every so often I see a person who seems okay, but only rarely one with no worries. Maybe in the summer. We've had a lot of rain.

It's the beginning of my busy season. By some miracle of discipline I finished my big order on the day it was due but I didn't feel the love like I used to. I used to muse how each shirt was given its meaning by my hands and would go off to be treasured forever by the lucky hard-working volunteer who got to get it sweaty and hang it from their belt when they weren't working, make it into a quilt or wear it until it falls apart. I used to feel a connection with each person and be happy to see them wearing "my" shirt but I'm pretty heartbroken by my Fair world these days. Some of those people wearing those shirts are pretty hateful toward some of the other people wearing my shirts and some of my shirts shouldn't have ever been printed I guess even though they were done with pure intentions and no malice. They were made to bring us together but I guess "us" has changed. And we might have broken up, not sure, because we're not answering each other's texts.

It's not just Fair that's broken, the Market broke too. I'm pushed into leadership I was trying to move away from, a little, to get some peace for myself, to get to garden, to get to read, to get to do my work that I will soon have a ton of. I've been bullied and manipulated, and in fighting that off I took on another big challenging task, to change the bullying culture. My efforts will be tiny drops in a sea of meanness. Tomorrow I go in to watch more bullying and see if I can inject a tiny bit of wisdom or helpfulness in the midst of it, but I don't have a lot of hope for that. Maybe. Sometimes things don't go as badly as I expect. It's not all dysfunctional behaviors people should have learned about in grade school. Lots of people are trying to do their best, but they don't always know what that is. Sometimes things are a relief.

I'm so far behind in transcribing minutes of meetings I can't face it long enough to make a list. I'm going to have to work all of my days off for weeks to catch up, and we keep scheduling more meetings. I'm either in charge or being the note-taking witness, or both, and it's all urgent and it's all uncomfortable as hell. And listening to it again while I transcribe doesn't usually make it any better.
And making it about me is the exact wrong thing to do. Some time in the empathy tent would help perhaps, but as soon as I clear one worry away a new one springs forth. At least with the minutes I get to leave things out that shouldn't have been said.

There's no hope of being inspired. There won't be a special peach tote bag this year, and the only hat design I can think of is "Someday we'll laugh about this" but it comes with a derisive snort. We're nowhere near the laughing stage. Selling is still fun, especially to the students who love my hats and say things like they're the best thing they've ever seen in their lives, but all the tourists want to move here and you know how that boom town story goes
. I get a few hours of pleasant feelings on Saturdays but probably for the next two months I'll get a lot of concerned or angry members coming to criticize, try to get some reassurance, or simply to let me know they have no idea what is so hard about what I'm thinking and feeling, because they have the simple answers. It has been a long time since I thought there were any simple answers.

So yeah, the plants and flowers, and the birds. The humans are not doing so well. Who would have thought one evilly stupid person could have spread so much shit over everything, even the things that are really not related to politics? Who could have predicted that we had so many bullies waiting to be empowered who are now gleefully causing chaos everywhere? They must have been holding it in. A truck with a confederate flag drove right by MY HOUSE yesterday. Colleen, to her credit, yelled at him. I couldn't even raise my voice to do that.

At least I truly do have a few allies in this with me, a few people who know how it is and are working for the same goals as I am. Fewer than I would like but maybe more than I know. Some people are doing better than I thought they would. Some new people will come along and be even better than that, I think. Rising to the challenges is always gratifying on some level. Plus I registered for the parade and asked the Radar Angel Jell-O Artists to be in it with me. 

And then I remembered that it might be a lot of work. The fun part might be really worth it, but to do it well means I have to use that discipline I am so good at and stick with it and make it happen. It's again, up to me. Did I really give myself another challenge when I am feeling so unable?

Yes, yes I did. I decided that I didn't want to miss the parade and the chance to be a Queen, a chance that might not come again like that. I feel overwhelmingly vulnerable, and the wrong thing to do is make myself more vulnerable by revealing what I really care about that might make me look a little not exactly normal, revealing what I really care about that makes it something I can't afford to lose, something I have to work to protect and save and make whole again and somehow preserve to care about some more.

I keep thinking about the practice of filling the cracks in broken crockery with gold. Taking something precious, that's ruined, and putting something even more precious on the line to make that point, that this is treasure worth saving, that we have to hold it together until the gold hardens and the piece will stand on its own again. We have to. And we will.

Because that is what we do. We rise to challenges, we work harder than we want to and we work long hours and sometimes the hot bath is the best thing we have to count on. We make do with that until things get better. We didn't really think we lived in a rose garden without thorns.

This is hard on me. This is hard. I will try to do my best to make it less hard on you, and you can try to help me, and we will do the work and put our world back together. At least this small corner, we will preserve and protect. We will make our Market stronger and more polished and even more full of vital life, that which has built us and we have built, and we will ripen our peach too and somehow hold onto our flamingo family as well, somehow we will hold our friends until they can stop being hurt and angry. Somehow we will do these things, carefully and slowly and we'll make it last as long as we can. I'm not letting go of any of it. I'm melting gold. 

Here I am, in the late night, melting my own heart so I can push it back into shape. That's what I wanted to do. Thank the dark, thank the pain, thank the heart that can still beat through it all. There will be summer, a parade, lots of them in fact, there will be some laughs, there will be some results of our work, and someday we will laugh about all this. There. Fixed. Goodnight.
  

Sunday, April 2, 2017

One thing finished, a pile of other things to begin

It was a terrific Jell-O Art Show as usual, and I marvel every year at the way the limits disappear and I am able to do so many things that I would normally avoid...the persona of the Queen takes over and I can extend much more generosity and social ease than I can do as the hermit worker that I really am most of the time. I'm still feeling vulnerable and depleted but also buoyed and rewarded for all the efforts it took to get to today.

I truly do dedicate myself to the show and the Angels efforts and serve as this essential link to the gallery and the public that strengthens the show and the community...and I was doing this to a degree for the 24 years before I was Queen Gelatinaceae of the Jell-O Art Realm but in her embodiment I can carry several hidden roles and still end up loving it. The depth of emotion in the troupe and in the art of performance itself is something I am still learning about. This was only my fifth performance (I was crowned in 2012) and I still have a lot to learn about the fear/fun divide so that I can spend less time in the fear part (manifesting as worry) and more in the fun. I simply love the costumes and props part, and will spend hours at home working on that. I love to sing and dance, but wish it didn't come with anxiety.

Making the Jell-O Art itself is getting harder in some ways...I have less interest in playing with it and more interest in some deep artistic process and statement, so the theme is important to me, even though I don't follow it in some discernible way sometimes. The theme, Fool's Jell-O, was wide open and I was in a zone of deception and imitation...thinking about how fewer birds come to my yard, whales are still being massacred, and the obvious present assault on our planet is really our biggest problem. Combine that overwhelming anxiety with the antique bell jar that created a space used in history for preserving things from the passage of time, or keeping them safe from the effects of the environment, dust, light, etc. worked to give me this kind of simple concept and elegant presentation which wasn't really what I envisioned but did satisfy me.


Practicing greater simplicity is a goal and the script was more streamlined as well. I wish I would have crammed more jokes into it and done this or that, and I didn't give myself a solo or lead to a song, but played a supportive role for the most part and held down some of the emcee and director duties to be responsible for the flow and action. That worked mostly, with quite brilliant assistance by the fabulous Jester Jacque who gamely stood at my ear in case I didn't have it down. She also helped me with the parallel duty to sell my shirts which is something that doesn't fit with my Queenly duties during the public show. I like to try to recognize and congratulate each artist and let them know how much we all appreciate them and love their work. I work with the raining Slug Queen or whomever represents her, to try to get them the right space to give the benediction, and do lots of tiny things to keep it all afloat. Of course I am not the only one doing any of these things.

A big thank you to Bee who held down the shirt table and apparently did most of the work as lots of shirts went home with people! Next year will be the 30th show so I don't mind that we have a few left over. Thanks also to every single artist, young and old, and to the staff and volunteers of the gallery who are wonderful to us and improve the show every year. Having seating in front was great and a lot of people really appreciated it.

There is no way to encapsulate the gratitude and appreciation for the rest of the Angels who are each and every one amazing with their generosity of time and talent. It's important to acknowledge that they do it for love. It takes a lot of meetings and practice and it's hard as hell for that to all be over in less than a half hour and consigned to our rich history. They find the parts they love to do, be it dancing or singing or playing ukes and kazoos or making costumes or promoting the show to their friends and families. 

Indi deserves an entire book for her many contributions as the true goddess and glue of why we are still doing this after all this time. No one wants to let her down! She is patient and wise and kind and without her it would not be what it is at all. The funniest part of yesterday for me was that a young TV reporter was trying to interview me with a tight deadline and the whole time Indi was behind her dancing and making big gestures which I could not look at but also could not ignore. My peripheral senses kept asking "What would Indi want me to say?" and "What is she trying to tell me?" and it kept me guessing and even brought tears to my eyes once to the dismay of the reporter. I don't think she ended up using the interview at all and after I looked for it on the website I realized she didn't have any lights or a real TV camera...she was using the interview as notes for the little article she did. It was terrible but it's awfully rude to say that so I won't repeat it. I can be so mean and nasty sometimes. I want to be understood! I do not want to be quoted in a terribly grammatically incorrect run-on sentence that I swear I didn't say! But yeah, it doesn't matter and since it was the only media coverage we got I should be a lot more grateful. We'll make a bigger splash next year when there might not be a sportsing event grabbing all the attention. If there was a spot of me talking on TV I didn't see it, and I'm okay with that, too. Roger Rix, who is the official photographer of the Slug Queens, did a fabulous group of photos that you can see on his Flickr stream. He really captures it so well you can almost hear us.

I have three weeks of things to do in a week starting tomorrow so although this is my chance to get my photos processed and posted and write all the things about all the other artists and what they brought, I'm going to go outside instead. I have weeds to pull out there. I can't write about everything at once the same as I can't do it all at once. I will try hard to follow through. I can't even get into my deeper feelings and document all that I learned, but I'll hope to return in not forever to do more of that. I hope to get a video in a few weeks and will try to post more photos. Stay tuned I guess. Probably you are outside yourselves, as sun is rare and we need it. Be well! See you back on the Park Blocks next Saturday!