Archive for the ‘Terrapsychology’ Category

SanTana’s Fairy Tales

Neither Sarah or I can remember where we met. A bar? A literary event? Las Comadres meeting? Regardless, I’m proud to call Sarah Rafael Garcia a friend. She slept on my couch right after I moved out on my own and she returned from a walkabout through Australia. She taught me how to live frugally at a time I didn’t know how to be anything but comfortable middle class. We organized and gave book readings at schools, stores and universities. We started Wild Womyn Writers. I was one of the first writing teachers for Barrio Writers, an organization she started. Sarah went on to gain her MFA (impressive) and then she won an artists’ year-in-residence (wow!) to gather Mexican American community-based narratives to create contemporary fairytales and fables. I love having creative, smart friends!

The culmination of this research, writing and organizing skills occurred last Saturday at a literary event called SanTana Fairy Tales in Downtown Santa Ana that included an impressive collection of local visual, musical and performance artists, bilingual single-story zines, a fully illustrated published book, an ebook, a large format classical book with graphic art and interactive ipads. The exhibit will be up at the CSUF Grand Central Art Center through mid May.

For me, this performance brought to life the different experiences of the devastation and sorrow of becoming obsolete and marginalized in your own hometown. On display were excerpts from the collection of fairy tales, graphic illustrations for each story and central in the room were parts of the carousel that was taken down to make room for gastropubs and other hip businesses that would attract urban youth.

I was mesmerized by the carousel horses, the marque letters spelling “Fiesta” (the “s” is missing) and Aztec artwork that had once adorned the quaint carousel. I never rode the carousel but I have always adored it’s mythical quality and seeming permanence as the very fabric of this Hispanic community.  I remember seeing the carousel for the first time while driving home our live-in maid Rogelia. I was twelve. The image was so clear with the fruit stands and men in their large vaquero hats and huge belt buckles, I included the scene in Rogelia’s House of Magic.  Now that the carousel is gone there is a gaping hole – as if there is still a ghost of its presence. “Vas a ver, first the carousel and quinceañera shops, soon los fruteros, and one day it might be us!” – SanTana’s Fairy Tales.

The event began with a monologue from a circus ring master in which she attempted to win over the crowd for the revitalization of the “rundown streets of Santa Ana.” Her wicked laughter and the jingle of coins in her pocket gave her true intentions away. The next performance was a haunting instrumental while two children wove in among the crowd as if they were crossing the border, or perhaps just crossing town, and afraid to be caught. The following song remembered the first trans who was murdered. Other fairytales included the woman who refused to move her house for the traintracks and the young vato who painted a mural, a vision of oral history honoring the Mexican American veterans, which provoked the mayor to understand the difference between public art and graffiti.

My takeaway from the event was a deepening of my humanity and pride for la gente who hold onto each other and keep their stories alive despite the powers that are tearing down their safety and cultural cornerstones. I’m so proud of you Sarah!

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I Finally Did It!

They say my Santa Ana Canyon, early Californio ancestors were “Born to the Saddle.” Before I left Orange County, I was determined to touch the horizon that dominants the skyline: Saddleback Mountain. My ancestors and this land have lived in me as a River Beneath the River, always guiding and affecting my life. It is my destiny to record their story in the grandest novel I could conceive.

I planned the hike for Spring Equinox, the day my youngest son turned 18. It was a day to claim freedom and stability. When I heard the NFS was dynamiting historic dams and prohibiting access via Holy Jim Falls, I found another way. We hiked out of Blue Jay Campground – a 28 mile roundtrip with an elevation gain of 2,000 feet, vs 16 miles from Holy Jim and a 4,000 ft vertical climb. I made myself forget how far that distance actually was.

Two miles of climbing later, I pulled out my phone, looked at the map and had a truly spectacular hissy fit. It was too far. What were we thinking? Why didn’t we go the other way? Joey tried to help which made things worse. Slowly I pulled myself together and we started to walk again.

We passed through a pine forest and the scent lifted my spirits, along with the vibrant yellow primrose flowers and the shiny brick-colored manzanita bark with white flowers that look like tiny beads when they fall on the decomposed granite path. The blooming white sage and  century plants infused me with endurance. And then around a bend, I saw Santiago Peak. Tears came to my eyes. I was filled with such a fervent desire to stand on that mountain. The wind blew in the bucolic ranchero era that lives in me so deeply, so passionately. The ancestors and this land gave me the strength to push onward. I couldn’t think. I was like an animal, simply aware of being aware, walking mile after mile: 11 miles the first day, 17 miles the following day.

I told Joey the story of the young boy who cut a hole in a cocoon to help a butterfly that was struggling to free itself. The child did not know the butterfly’s struggle to push its way through the tiny opening of the cocoon pushes fluid out of its body and into its wings. Without the struggle, the butterfly had a swollen body with shriveled wings and would never, ever fly.

I have long struggled living on a land that does not coincide with the freedom and natural beauty that I see when I close my eyes and look inward through the memories of my ancestors. Though I love this land so very deeply the struggle is over and I see things as they are. In three months, I am moving where wildflowers grow, rivers run and stars speak and I will write a tale of family and land inextricably woven together.

Terrapsychology: Gaia Speaks

Room to Be Wild Part 2

coyoteImagery

As a child, a reoccurring nightmare was to find myself in a white room of padded walls bound in a straightjacket. My crime, they said, was that I did not understand the difference between what was real and what was imagined. I could not be trusted to behave or keep my tongue and so I was shut away. In essence, I would not be tamed. I was scared, always so afraid in this dream that I could never find ground. Every effort was spent on reminding myself that I was okay and I had not lost my mind. Sometimes the dream would morph into the trickster Wiley E. Coyote who tried to catch a ball, a symbol of solid knowing, but just when he thought he had a good grip on the ball it would slip from his fingers, circle all around him, return to his grasp only to slip away over and over again all through the night.

About this time I read a book called The White Mountains in which tripods had taken over the minds and will of all people. The main character awakens to his individuality but must keep this knowledge of his true self hidden from the electronic impulses that the machines used to control the people, as in the ancient figure of the Golem, until he could find a reliable escape route. This book further embedded a fear of becoming programmed and the loss of self, both wild and free.

oc before spanishBy the time I was a teenager I developed the suspicion that the current Orange County culture was suppressing the heart of my wildness and individuality. I remember asking my best friend if she thought I was an authentic person or whether I had succumbed to an asleep, sheeplike mentality – the true zombie apocalypse. She said I was about as unique as I could be given where we lived. My gritty, earthy personality eventually turned to a search for my Native American roots. I was dismayed by my conquering Spanish blood and wanted to find something that felt more real and deeply connected to a rock solid core that indeed connected to all life and the goodness inherent in the world.

Then I met Uncle Jimi, a Tongva spiritual leader, and he invited me to an Ancestral Walk, where the people of the Tongva and Acjachemen tribes held ceremony at several sacred sites along the Orange County coastline. We began at the ancient site for the village of Panhe, tucked into a beautiful valley where a crowded state campgrounds lead into what was now a world famous surf spot. As we stood under the shade of a tree waiting for the rest of the people to arrive he said, “We are so loved by Our Earth Mother that she will continue to provide and give her love no matter how far away we, her children, drift from her. She will always provide this shade,” He pointed to the canopy of leaves with a large hawk feather that was wrapped in leather and decorated with beads. “Her love is unconditional and forever.”gaia

This imagery of being shaded by an omnipresent tree with deep roots that offered protection and love throughout eternity regardless of how far away I strayed endeared me on a very deep level to the spirit and soul of the land. But it wasn’t just a matter of this particular parcel of land. In that teaching moment, I understood and felt the power of Gaia as a sentient being in love with her children. Just like a mother’s arms will hold firmly around her children even as they thrash about trying to discover themselves and their place in the world, so too does Mother Earth hold us. In that moment a deep desire and commitment to be worthy of that love was planted in my heart, almost like a chivalrous knight who would earn the honor of performing on behalf of his fair lady. I would apply the best of my skills on behalf of the Mother who was bestowing me and all beings with such lovinthe-giving-treeg affection, sustenance and protection.

This image of a tree aligns with The Giving Tree, a classic childhood book and one of my favorite stories. There is a young boy who loves a tree and she loves him. He scrambles and plays all around her as a child. As he grows older he visits the tree sporadically and mostly to take from her. But she is always loyal and gives whatever she can, changing form to suit his needs. She remains completely dedicated to her beloved until in his final days when he returns to her and recognizes the love that never left. I find great comfort in the stability and solidarity of the tree and I unified in love and a deep sense of family. I am drawn to tree lore and the stories of them as standing people. They are my guardians, my friends, my family.

(And for those who are listening, you will hear Gaia speaking to you even in your dreams – it’s called terrapsychology.)