I’m awake now

After an obnoxious 4am pop, not surprising after a cortisol-saturated day like yesterday, I dozed until 7 when I could persuade my body to take consciousness seriously.

Thinking in terms of an early start. It was great. Then I tried to move.

So I spent a little over an hour on qi gong, stretching, and PT exercises. Much better.

I used my hot pot to make tea and my self-important Oster blender to make my shake, not with kale but frozen spinach, a soft mutzu apple and slushy blueberries.

It burned out the blender.

When I tried to take a picture of the really impressive clouds of smoke, my phone declared it needed updating. I took it as a cue to move forward rather than stand there gawping.

But I needed to get it off my chest. The scary negative crap can stop any time now.

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"Invisible disability" gets an upgrade

I was in a van with two friends of mine, a man and a woman, both of them using wheelchairs. We were looking for parking.

She said, “I hope I have my parking pass.”

He said, “Well, mine’s in my car, so if you don’t, we’re out of luck.”

I said, “What do you mean? I have one in my purse.”

She said, “Oh, yeah. You’re our Stealth Gimp.”

Best synonym for invisible disability EV-er.

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Imp-possible

Healing this disease is supposed to be impossible. In my experience, the word “impossible” is relative.

Some things simply cannot be done: scaling Everest with flippers on your feet, for instance. Scaling Everest in a hot little bikini might be do-able, for all I know, although it hasn’t been done yet. I’ve met one or two people who seemed well suited (so to speak) for the job.

Many things that are widely considered impossible are simply heinously difficult, requiring extra time, diligence, and determination. They may be practically impossible, because most people are not willing to try that hard and can’t imagine that anyone else would be. I’ve met a few of those, too.

When facing the practically impossible, it helps to have a certain blithely F-U attitude, to be willing to flip a bird or two at the forces – or people – that seem to hold me from it. Not to hold resentment, but to detach from their limitations and clarify that they have no hold over me.

It helps to realize that those who tell me it’s impossible are really speaking for themselves, but that doesn’t mean they get to speak for me.

In short, it helps to have that inner steel spring that winds me up beyond any comfort zone and propels my willful butt over the heads of everyone who has failed before they began, and lets me look at them – not with contempt, because that has no place at this height – but with a cheerful bouyancy that holds the possibility that maybe there’s room for them up here, too.

This attitude is springy without being snappish, free-spirited without wasting time in rebellion, wild and fresh with only its own inner guidance for discipline.

It’s impish, in other words.

And this gives us a word we can use to describe things like scaling Everest in a skimpy swimsuit, or inviting cannibals to a linen-dressed tea, or curing CRPS:

Imp-possible.

I rather like that.

Curing CRPS is imp-possible. Excellent. Bring on the bikinis.

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Mendo Acid Trip

Language tends to reflect upbringing, or possibly genetics, or maybe both. Anyway, there is often a familial component. (I’ll let better-paid heads argue about why.)

Case in point — my older brother’s riff on my county’s name might have a familiar feel, although only he could possibly have come up with this imagery:

‘I can’t decide if ‘mendocino’ sounds like an antacid (“Mendocino, now in new cherry flavour…”), or a garment of Mexican origin (“and now just add a chunky brown leather belt to offset the vibrant shade of your mendocino…”), and indeed maybe are old chinos with violent coloured patchwork on them….

cropped from a photo by Midori

‘Why mendo-acid-vibrant coloured-cino?’

I had to read this through 3 times before I could keep my seat long enough to respond without falling off again.

The answer is far too prosaic to make a suitable reply, but frankly, that’s a tough act to follow…

So, why here?

Hills.
Trees.
Rocks.
Air.

Gives me whiplash to read this far.

Antacid-washed chinos might be more entertaining, but I had a deep need for a wooded granite ridge to park my frazzled bones upon, while preparing for the Healing Tour — whatever the heck that turns out to be.

My timing is good. Everything is bursting into bloom:

 Cherry-flavored patchwork chinos would look pretty good sprawled under that tree. Mind you, anything would, including that dusty ol’ truck.

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How we REALLY were made! :)

Saturn, my favorite mythological curmudgeon, lost his throne and gave way to as nasty a pack of rapists, pederasts, thugs and thieves as Capt. Jack Sparrow could find in a century of shore leaves. Their litany of crimes is tedious, at best, but I’m aware of the limits of history; what gets preserved is often chosen by the loudest predators. 

There’s an old Greek story about the creation of humankind which sidesteps most of that. It goes something like this. 

*********
Young Kore (Persephone’s childhood name) was wandering by a river one day. As she forded her way across it, she was pleased by the clayey texture between her toes. She stopped on the opposite bank and scooped up some of that lovely mud.

She modeled it into a familiar bifurcated form, but it wouldn’t keep its shape. She worked some humus into the clay, to give it more body, and that helped. Bits of humus showed here and there, and the slightly fluffy look of it inspired her to give the dolly a nice topping of shreddy mould for hair.

Her father strolled up and asked what she was up to. She showed him her handiwork, as charmingly pleased with herself as only a kid can be.

Zeus admired it and said it was very nice, and what was she going to do with it?

She said she wasn’t sure. “But would you make it come alive, Papa? Please-please-pleeeeease?”

Zeus looked down at her wide, bright eyes and rosy cheeks, her face alight, and fidgeting in a pleased sort of way. Only one thing to do. 

He turned on his endless vision and looked up to see who was near the Olympian Fire. One of his nephews was standing there, staring at it. Zeus turned on his bullhorn voice and bellowed up to Olympos, “Hey, Prometheus! Oy, Prometheus, I need you!”

Prometheus looked away from the Fire and said, “What’s up, Big Guy?”

Zeus hated it when people called him Big Guy (it lacked class), but he swallowed his irritation. “Toss me down some of that Fire, smartass, okay?”

Prometheus grinned good-naturedly, scooped up a handful of the divine flame, and lobbed it in an underhand toss.

Zeus caught it in midair, massaged it into shape, then carefully pressed it against the clay creature in his daughter’s hands. It baked the clay and filled it with life.

The little clay dolly twitched, gasped, and sat up. It rubbed its face and opened new eyes. It rubbed its head, now sporting a fluffy head of soft hair. It spoke: “Holy crap.” Pause. “Well, that was weird.”

Kore bounced up and down, causing the creature to splay its legs and hang on for dear life.

“I want lots of them! And I want to call them Kores, like me! Look how cute they are,” she declared ungrammatically, staring at the singular creature.

“They should be called Zeus-lets, kiddo. You’re hardly old enough to be naming dollies, let alone species! I gave it life and I’m the grownup. I’ll decide what happens to it. Understand?”

Gaia, who had had quite enough of her rotten grandson lately, made her presence known with a rumble. “Do you ever tire of being the biggest brat in the room, Zeus? I gave my flesh for the creature, so it should be named after me! Lots of little Gaia-citas running around. Should brighten things up considerably around here.”

Zeus found himself in a serious disagreement, where he had expected a minor battle of wills with a child.

It didn’t help that Prometheus and the rest of the Olympians had turned to watch, and were encouraging all sides indiscriminately: “Go, you kid!” “Give it to the Big Guy!” “Hey, Grandma rocks, she should have it!” Zeus personally saw Apollo, alone, change his vote three times. And he wasn’t the most changeable, either. 

It was a floor show.

He caught Gaia’s eye. “Arbitrate?”

She lifted her chin. “If you can find an impartial arbiter.”

Zeus looked around and saw nearly every face animated with opinions. Even Hades had something to say. Naturally, he was rooting for the kid, just to spite Zeus.

Nearly every face. One face alone was still, and it was still behind bars. Zeus’s father, and former opponent, was just quietly watching.

He turned to Gaia. “How about Kronus?” (That’s the original name of Saturn, to you Latinites.)

Gaia was surprised. Also mighty pleased — she considered all her sons mentally weak, but Kronus was the best of the bunch and had taken her side when no one else would. If he was acceptable to his arch-enemy Zeus, he was certainly acceptable to her. “Kronus it is,” she said, and everyone turned with her to look at him.

Kronus’s eyes lifted. The ages of imprisonment had left his eyes deep and dark with shadows. It took some time for him to bring himself fully into the light again. His brother Iapetus gave him a surreptitious hand.

As he stepped into the center of the watching gods and took up the mantle of judgement, bright white light filled the space they were in. It chased away every shadow, prying into every nook. Nothing remained hidden. 

He cleared his throat softly. “I can’t pretend I didn’t see and hear every bit of that. I’m a little surprised you asked me, so before I go further, I need one word from each if you.”

He paused and made sure he had their attention. Even the restless child was riveted by the lines and hollows on his great face, the aeons of thought marking his brow. “Swear before all Olympos that you’ll be bound by my decision. All of you. Because greater good or greater ill may come of this than any of you can now see.”

Surprised, but trusting him, Gaia nodded. “Of course.”

Enthralled, Kore whispered, “Yes.”

Boxed in and suddenly wishing he’d named anyone else, even Hades, Zeus grumbled, “Oh, Hell.” Beat. “All right.”

Kronus nodded, and shifted position. “Then this is how I rule.

“Zeus, you did a thorough job of giving this creature life, and therefore gave it a future and everything that goes with it: thoughts, wishes, actions, an ability to affect the world. That is a heavy burden to lay on something that didn’t ask for it. It will need a strong ally, a knowing guide, a wise governor. You will be all that and more, because, having given this thing life, you should help to make that life worth having.”

Zeus blinked and stepped back, as if punched in the gut. Not what he’d been thinking at all. 

Kronus turned to Kore, who blanched and tried to shrink. He smiled at her as gently as he was able. “Kore, you made something beautiful, and it was intelligently and cleverly made. Well done.”

She tried to smile. She was certainly proud at his praise, but overwhelmed. Never had she been in the center of so much light; it hurt and frightened her, but she didn’t want to show it.

Kronus went on, “You asked that there be lots of them, and so there shall be. You will get your wish.”

Kore nodded with a big, shy motion of her head.

Kronus added, “You made it out of clay and in your hands it was lifeless. Do you remember?”

Kore nodded again.

Kronus said, “Then, in the fulness of time, you will be responsible for them in that state again. When they live out their spans and return to being lifeless, they will return to your hands.”

Kore’s eyes widened. So did Hades’, because a new shadow — distinctly like the shades of his realm — descended on Kore’s form and began to soften the light that nearly blinded her. Her mother Demeter, riveted by the shadow, was so tense you could string her in a bow, but there was nothing she could do. 

Kore breathed her relief at being shielded from the painful glare. 

Kronus turned last to Gaia. “You gave your flesh to make this flesh, so its flesh is your responsibility. Provide this species with food aplenty, and ensure its fertility so that it will perpetuate itself time out of mind.”

Gaia, hiding her relief, nodded. She didn’t know what she had been expecting, but hadn’t expected to get off so lightly for stooping to Zeus’s level in the first place.

Then Kronus stopped briefly and gave her a Look, and she felt she had just been privately chewed out for that very thing. She dropped her gaze and gave a little nod, accepting the silent rebuke.

Kronus looked upwards and scratched his chin. It made a scrunchy sound, since he hadn’t shaved. “As for what to call it,” he mused aloud, “I see no point in choosing one of your names over the others. It’s now a shared task and no one of you should have more credit — or more responsibility — than you already do.”

He looked at the little thing, sitting peacefully cross-legged and wondering what all the fuss was about.

Its mud was now good flesh, and the crisp, short fibers of humus peeking through were transformed into crisp, short hair. It saw Kronus peering at it, with his huge wise face alight with interest. It smiled brightly up at him and gave a big enthusiastic wave with both arms, exposing more crisp patches underneath.  

Kronus smiled as inspiration dawned. He remarked, “It does look like it was made with humus. We’ll call it homo.”

And so it was.
*********
The much shorter translation from Pseudo-Hyginus’s “220 Fables” is here:

http://www.theoi.com/Khthonios/Persephone.html

My prior work on the Saturn mythology is posted as a guest-blog series at Oxford Astrologer. …Why under astrology? 
Because, since the death of Joseph Campbell, modern astrology is the best repository of psychologically-oriented myth. Ignore what doesn’t work for you — but enjoy and mull over the stories, because they’re utterly human:
– Saturn’s tricky childhood: 

http://oxford-astrologer.blogspot.com/2011/08/how-i-made-friends-with-saturn.html?m=0


– The (kind of creepy, but fascinating) birth of Venus: 

http://oxford-astrologer.blogspot.com/2011/08/kind-of-creepy-birth-of-venus.html?m=0


– When Saturn goes off the rails: 
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The Raven quoth … Something untranslatable

The ravens almost never come this far out on the water, but this morning two, then three of them, didn’t want to leave my ‘hood.

One perched on my mast; I shook it off with a nasty remark (their poop stains), and it flew around and around and around, too restless to settle elsewhere, too fixated to leave my bit of the sky.

(My unrepaired jib and the neighbor’s “corporate America” flags point to the rook’s erstwhile perch)

The restless raven rasped brusquely, then all three absconded at once.

As mythological moments go, that was a showstopper.

If I were writing a story, that would only happen right before all Hell broke loose. The thing is, Hell has a habit of breaking loose around here — in my life, in Oakland, on Earth generally these days. Why ravens now?

I’ll keep an eye on the sky (I always do, for the weather) and my nose to the grindstone. I’ll keep my hand on the plow and not sheathe the sword. And, of course, both feet planted firmly on the ground while grabbing the tiller.

What’s left of me will post updates.

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Chiron the Centaur: Earliest recorded case of CRPS?

I’ve been mulling Greek mythology as it has come down through my European ancestors and been rendered into my English tongue. Mostly, it seems that people haven’t changed much, even when they’re mythical. One of the most intriguing mythical figures I know of is Chiron, the centaur.

Chiron was the first of the centaurs, and of them, the only immortal. That devouring titan Kronos was into a nymph named Philyra, but Kronos’ wife (and sister) Rhea wandered by when he was in flagrante delicto. Not wishing to upset his wife or stop what he was doing, he changed into a horse in midstream (as it were) the better to hide in plain sight. Legend is silent on what Rhea did, possibly just figuring those nymphs were a funny lot, but Philyra bore a child with a novel equine aftereffect, and was so repulsed at the sight that she disowned him on the spot and begged her other uncle, Zeus, to make her into a linden tree (…why?). Since she subsequently had other children with Kronos, I assume the transformation was temporary.

Kronos and Philyre’s ongoing affair resulted in at least two other children: the twins Bythos and Aphros, who were like tritons, men to the waist and fish below, only they had horse’s hooves in place of men’s hands. Obviously, something was trying to tell their progenitors to stop horsing around.

Rejected by his mother, abandoned by his father, Chiron could have fallen into misery and loss, as many do, but with a huge dash of luck, he made it through. I can’t find anything in the mythology about how he survived his infancy, let alone how he grew up. When another nymph spawned a herd of half-human, half-horse beings (…why??), Chiron and his wife and daughters took them in, adopted them, and raised them as their own, so it’s probable he was fostered by someone conscientious and kind. His family likewise fostered and reared any number of heroes, including Jason (of the Argonauts), Achilles (of the Trojan War) and Aesclepios (who gave his name to the physician’s staff of office.)

This second generation of centaurs were quite different from their divine foster-father: where Chiron combined human understanding with animal knowing, they combined human desires with animal spirits — and let brains go hang.

Chiron, a loving, generous, brilliant individual, was what biologists call sui generis — he invented himself. He grew up to become a musician, a brilliant and knowledgeable healer, a hunter, a gymnast (among people who valued physical skill), a prophet, and a martial artist so gifted and so clear that gods and heroes came to him for training.

He was accidentally wounded by a poisoned arrow belonging to a friend, amidst a silly brawl his rambunctious semi-equine foster-children started, over wine. I find those details very telling: the youngsters got out of hand, someone got careless, people died — and in this mess of love and greed and chaos, his whole life changed completely, his old way of being pulled apart in one ridiculous moment.

The pain of the wound never left him; some say it killed him by sepsis in a matter of days, others that it lingered on for years. It tortured him beyond bearing, but by and large he learned to bear it, becoming more and more of a recluse as the pain crept into his mind and disrupted his ability to manage himself. Once a teacher and musician who thrived on company, he withdrew from the world in obstinate self-involvement — or, speaking from the other side, in obstinate refusal to inflict the results of his condition on others. As an immortal, he had no choice but to survive; he didn’t have to like it.

When the chance came to give his own immortality to his friend (some say it was to save Prometheus, some say Prometheus persuaded the gods to give the immortality to Hercules), he didn’t hesitate: he surrendered his life and escaped the pain and the silent, hidden destruction at last. Zeus placed him in the heavens as Sagittarius, whence he could visit Earth in spirit — unlike going to Hades, which is strictly a one-way trip.

The kicker: his name, “chiron” or “kheiron”, means “hand”, signifying “handy”, and also serving as the root of the Greek word for “surgeon.”

He is recognized in the constellation Sagittarius, and more recently in the minor planet Chiron. Aphros, his piscine brother, became king of Carthage in modern Libya and gave his name to a whole continent. Aphros (“sea-foam”) and his twin Bythos (“sea-deeps”) are honored together as Pisces, heavenly gratitude for their aid in Ashtarte/Aphrodite’s safe birth. They got along with their titan half-brother, Poseidon, but I don’t know how their once-fertile father Kronos felt about them. It’s not like he was good parent material.

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Reverse culture shock, transcontinental style

Dear Reader … I’m a Yank. It’s true. I may have sparkly blonde hair, find it easy to talk to strangers, and not assume that anyone who smiles at me has an agenda, but that’s because I’ve been living in Central Coast California for 1/3 of my life.

Here in California, when you tell an acquaintance that they’re particularly clever or sweet, they grin pinkly and do a little riff on, “aw shucks, stop it again, quit it some more,” and like you the better for it. In New England, they’re liable to lift their chins — apparently avoiding a slobbery little dog — and take it as their due … while wondering what your agenda is, and bracing to resist it.

I know this because, after living in each place for a few years and watching the expressions and asking why, I found myself doing these exact same things. (I’m not immune, but I try to be aware.)

I’m also planning to go between the mid-Atlantic seaboard and the Northeast, which I’ve done before, and that has a charming set of subtle cultural potholes of its own.

For instance, if you call a stranger “ma’am” or “sir” in Alexandria, they figure you have nice manners and relax a little.

If you do that in New York, they raise their chins (ever so slightly) and figure you’ve taken a lower peg than themselves in the pecking order; then they’re either magnanimous or obstructive, but usually magnanimous.

If you do that in Massachusetts, they look around in a flustered manner and can’t quite figure out if you’re making fun of them or are putting them on a pedestal they aren’t sure they should occupy. … Which is in interesting contrast to the reaction to compliments.

Mind you, those who know me well have it figured out: compliments are taken pleasantly and “ma’am/sir” lightens the mood. So I’m not worried.

But I am glad that California has the cultural weight that it does, because — as I learned long ago — saying in an explanatory tone, “I’m from California,” smooths out any number of cultural faux pas. And there are sooo many pas to faux up.

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Words, words, and words, with a poetry chaser

I have logical and philosophical objections to certain words used to describe me or what I do. I don’t expect anyone to change the way they speak, but feel free to entertain yourself by mulling two ideas and reading one egregious rhyme (think Lewis Carroll meets either Timothy Leary or Tom Lehrer, I’m not sure which.)

Word 1: Disabled

Hah! I am extremely able, thank yeeew. With both hands behind my back and my head held under water, I am still able. I’m able to add 2 and 2, for instance, or quote that wonderful bit from Twelfth Night that starts, “I’d build me a willow cabin at your gate, and wait upon my soul within the house …” Mind you, if you’re holding me underwater, it would be hard to check that, but I can still do it, I assure you.

I am handicapped. Like a runty little horse that has to have 30 pounds of lead stuffed into its saddle before it gets into the race. Like a golfer who’s being scored by a drunk with a broken calculator. I have exactly the same tasks to accomplish as anyone else in the race or on the course, but I have some added burdens that make it rather harder to succeed.

Word 2: Recovery

Why should I want to re-cover? Of all the covers that have been ripped off, I can’t say I think all that many need to go back on. I love all this fresh air. I love the lack of artifice. I love the inward freedom of having so much stuffing removed.

I don’t need recovering. Appropriate padding, yes; portable cushions, yes please, by all means. But upholstery is just one big refuge for dust mites and dander, metaphorical and otherwise.

I aim to heal. Healing from any profound physical or mental insult (and CRPS is certainly both!) does not mean going back to what or who or how I was before, it means finding a new way forward. There is no way back, and if there were, I have no reason (given how things played out) to think that returning there would be good for my health!

No, it’s forward for me: man the lifeboats, or woman them of course, but I’ll head for new horizons rather than try to wade back through the hideous swamp I sometimes think I’m climbing out of.

The Rhyme: “Re-cover and Heel — an overstretched metaphor”

Before you read further, let it be clearly understood that I love dogs, I have always loved dogs, and I’m old enough to use the word “bitch” in its traditional sense of female dog. In this case, an upholstered one…

The brocade bitch took a turn for the worse
and bit off the toe of a shoe.
The shoe kicked back with a bitter laugh
And said, “That the worst you can do?”

Upholstery torn, the bitch barked out,
“You’re badly in need of a nurse!”
The shoe stomped off and hollered back,
You’ll soon be in need of a hearse!”

So the bitch went home to patch things up
While the shoe sought places new.
She’s jacquard now, otherwise fine;
He’s Prada, Gucci, and Diesel too.

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No choice but integrity

I’m a walking, talking, babbling, ceaseless argument for the fact that sexuality is not a choice. Integrity is — though that’s not my point here.

As a sometime lesbian and appalled heterosexual, I’m well aware that the combination of qualities I adore are hopelessly rare in either sex:

Men are disgusting… Women are unbearable… And sadly, as friend Lori remarked, “There is no third sex… And goats are too chatty.”

But that’s not the point either, though there’s plenty of material there — and some of it’s even original. This is about nonconsensual sexuality: the understanding that most of us don’t choose our orientation.

To what do I attribute my own unforeseen, profound internal shift?

Brain damage. Obviously.

The answers that sound less flippant are somewhat less convincing to me. However, CRPS’s extensive disruption of the endocrine system (that is, system of hormone-secreting organs) is already amply demonstrated. I think that’s it.

When I was more lesbian, and other people were being silly about that, I used to ask, “Why would I ‘choose’ to be something that has led several companies not to hire me, my own government to refuse to let me marry despite my being such a good citizen, and at least one individual to try to kill me in cold blood?”

Now, nobody gets silly about my orientation, but I ask myself the complementary questions. They are a lot more trivial, but also much more intransigent: “Why would I ‘choose’ to be relentlessly attracted to a sex as ill-mannered as chimps, as emotionally corrupt as usurers, and as stable as malaria?”

But hey, nobody’s tried to kill me for being straight; same-sex marriage is heading towards legality; and I’m unhireable for reasons that have nothing to do with my orientation. If I were less lonely and more selfless, I would take these changes as major victories. (As it is, it’s more like a no-score win.)

But, at New Year’s, I’ll toast those victories nonetheless, in the names of all my spiritual kindred who can be a bit safer, a bit freer, a bit better recognized for being good people, good spouses, and good citizens.

Hope to hear your voices, and see your glasses, raised with mine! Who knows, I might even run into my own better half in 2011. Whatever that person turns out to be.

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