Wednesday, May 16, 2018

To Fight The World, One Must Look Within



Although I'd heard of Pema Chodron, this is the first time I've ever read her work. When I finished reading When Things Fall Apart, published through Shambhala Publications, I repeatedly said, "Wow." This book is for anyone, not just Buddhists, because the message is simple: when things fall apart, look within to find the "answer".

These times are filled with much running around, constant feeding of information, and the desire to want more and more. Yet, we also suffer from depression, anxiety, fears, worries, "bad luck", everything. We think our lives are perfect until we lose a job, our spouse or partner decides to leave us, or unwanted and disturbing thoughts begin to creep into our minds and make us doubt ourselves. So, what do we do when things fall apart?

For some of us, the answer is talk with friends, go on retail therapy, alcohol or drugs, mindless sex, or anything else that would allow us to enjoy a sort of escapism - a feeling of pleasure from so much pain. Yet, as Chodron writes, what if we realized that pain COULD be pleasure? What if rather than running away from our fears and pain, we actually looked at it as a sense of pleasure in that it may teach us something about ourselves? Rather than run from the loneliness, we embrace it and see it for what it is, then let it go because we are stronger than that?

This book had me nodding YES so many times - her words are simple yet they carry a deeper meaning. In order to fight the battle of the world, we must look within for the strength. We alone have the power to look at our fears and darkness and see them for what they truly are. We must be still in order to move. We must be silent in order to hear. We must show compassion to ourselves and then to others. It may be easier said than done but when I honestly began showing compassion toward myself and others, I felt a shift. It was "moving mountains" but it was enough to get my attention and to make me want to continue doing it.

Thank you for your words, Pema Chodron. I truly do appreciate them.

Ex Libris.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Five of Cups





She wanted to get away. Drop everything and just run. She could feel her pulse racing as the thoughts continued to pound in her mind. Run away, run away, run away. She closed her eyes and told herself that it was only a dream, that people who run are those who needed to calm down and focus. She opened her eyes and looked around her living room, then began to talk with herself.
"The Five of Cups," she told herself, "is a powerful card. It tells me, now, that I look for the things I don't have rather than the things I already have. The one man who didn't want me. The job I should have taken. The friends I desperately wanted. The books I didn't publish. Instead, I have a wonderful partner in my life, the three books I've already published, the friends who take me as I am, and the chance to breathe in a forest on Saturdays." She leaned back in her couch and took in her surroundings. Silent books, ready for her to read them. Photography she loved to collect. Already calm emotions that needed to be acknowledged. She raided her eyes to the ceiling and thought of walking along a train track with one bag, one bag only. One step followed by another with the same problems tied to her neck. She wanted release and freedom and found it suffocating that she even wanted such a thing. She opened her hand and looked at the crumpled Five of Cups card that was determined to imprint her skin.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Dear, Dear Leonora





I first heard about Leonora Carrington (6 April 1917 – 25 May 2011)  through New York Review of Books - they were about to release one of her non fiction books and, given the synopsis, I knew I had to read it. Although I didn't read that book (yet), I was still fascinated with Carrington - who was she? What did she do? What did she find important in her life? On a whim, I finally purchased a copy of the book The Complete Stories of Leonora Carrington through The Dorothy Project and devoured it. Carrington, being a part of the Surrealist Movement among so many other things, was a writer who was before her time. Her words seduced and haunted me and all I kept thinking was, "I wish I had met her."

After reading the first story titled The Debutante, I stared at the cover's image then said, "Hmmm. Okay, then!" The Debutante is the story a young woman who befriends a hyena at the Zoo, then coerces it to take her place at a party so that she can read in her room. Complete with the hyena eating the young woman's maid and placing her face on top of hers, this story made me fall in love with Carrington -I have a bad habit of falling in love with fellow creatives. Once there, the book leads you by the hand and takes you to a world far more dreamlike and macabre than you could ever imagine. The people are mad yet they like it as they stuff themselves with food that is most peculiar. Trees will talk and rip themselves out of the ground. Corpses offer themselves to be ridden through a dense forest. Winged beings that barely resemble humans howl at the moon and drink "red". People transforming themselves into horses and back and again and back. 

As I finished up the book this morning, my thoughts continued to reflect on the fact that mostly everyone in her stories were either mad or about to go mad. Yet, the madness that is portrayed does not seem to be life threatening (unless if you are a Queen) nor harmful. The madness here feels as the norm in this world - to be mad is to be understood. To be mad is to see the beauty of it all without question and if you do question, it just means that you GET IT. of course, these are my own opinions but DAMN, I love her version of madness. Her words and images are truly astounding and I feel at a loss because I will read something else rather than more of her work. However, absence makes the heart grow fonder, or perhaps it will be eaten by a large black bird. 

I almost splurged and purchased every book related to her last night. I haven't done that since my introduction to Ian McEwan. Still Leonora Carrington has a place in my heart, nestled right next to Clarice Lispector, Toni Morrison, Zora Neale Hurston, Nella Larsen, Iain Pears, Edna St. Vincent Millay and many many others. 

To end this review, I want to quote my all time favourite line from this book. Although I write dark fantasy, this line struck me as horrifically beautiful:

"You can't love anyone until you have drawn blood and dipped in your fingers and enjoyed it."

Leonora Carrington is my Goddess of Surrealism and Madness. 




Monday, April 16, 2018

The River Before



The first time I saw him, he was naked and lying on the banks of the river. I was on a walk with several friends when we spotted him and rushed over. As we ran, I knew he was dead and I wasn't a friend of Death. By the time we were a foot away from him, the man slowly got up and stared at us with eyes that I'd never seen before. They were blue and yet with a hint of mud to them. His pale skin held a slight twinge of blue that swirled around like waves. We stopped in our tracks as he raised a hand to us and smiled. His short black hair was still wet as it stuck out in all directions from his head. He then saw my face and walked towards me. I felt my heart beating rapidly as he came towards me and my so called friends moved away to give him room. He asked me my name and I told him with a shaky voice.
"No," he said, "what is the name that the River gave you?" I told him that I had no other name, to which he reached out to touch my hand. I did not flinch as his warm watery hand made contact with my suddenly dry skin. His eyes studied me and soon, I felt a warm wash flow through me. One of my friends asked him if he was alright, to which he replied that he had come from the River Before. He looked at my friends with a calm gaze then returned his focus on me. The blue muddy eyes welcomed me into his soul. Thankfully, my friends were all dreamers - one asked if the River Before was a beautiful place. He, still focused on me, traced a line down my arm as he said that the River Before is too blue to behold - a place for his kind to drink and rest. I then asked for his name. "Silt," he said with a grin. Another friend asked if he wanted to come with us for clothes and shelter. Just then, others came running up to our group and Silt in amazement. A man yelled that Silt had no business being naked around here and that if he came quietly, they would "take care" of him. I stood in front of him and said that he was coming home with us. I could feel Silt's breath on my neck and knew that my choice was a sound one. The other people looked at us with a mixture of disgust, fear, and a little wonder as they slowly walked away. Silt came with us.
He stayed with me and taught me the ways of the River Before. His body could change colours on a whim - clear blue like his home, muddy as the food he ate, and clear like the dreams he spoke of. His eyes showed the equal of blue and brown when he laughed with me. When he touched me as a man touches a woman and his lips brushed against mine, I saw the River Before and his people. His body smelled of pure rain water mingled with freshly turned earth. One day, after so many others passed, Silt asked if I wanted to go home with him. I asked if this meant that I would die, to which he laughed and said no. We returned to the bank where we first found him and he slowly removed my clothes. I then removed his and, after sharing a deep kiss, we walked into the River. As the cold waters covered my body inch by inch, I began to feel fear until Silt squeezed my hand and said to not be afraid. I nodded as the river covered my head and I gasped for breath, yet Silt continued to hold my hand as we slowly walked through the muddy water. I saw nothing, nothing . . . until I saw the bluest blue, clear and welcoming. Warm and happy. I saw others like him swimming along, all like him. All dreamt from the River Before. When they saw us, they waved and welcomed us home.

My name is Tide. I am of the River Before.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

THOSE People


(Cafe Eclectic - Harbor Town Memphis)


I see them everywhere. THOSE people. They seem to meet up in packs, converse about whose house they'll be visiting later that day, and who will bring what craft beer. I watch them from behind my curtain of shyness, desperate to be a part of their world. They see more, experience more, and dress in ways I could never imagine. They wear clothes that make them look as though they just woke up from a perfect night in which nothing fell out of place. Black framed glasses with a careless attitude make me wonder if they wear them just as an accessory rather than for vision problems. I wanted in, I kept telling myself. I wanted into their world and their jokes that seemed to be private. I wanted to shop with them at the local grocery store, searching for the best apples. I wanted them to help me with my wardrobe and tell me how to put on my hemp lip gloss properly. I wanted to be invited to their houses to talk about my latest read over wine and cheese whose name I couldn't pronounce. I wanted to be like them and hate them within the same breath. And then, one day, one of them noticed the book I was reading and asked me if I liked it so far. I looked up from my book and noticed the face - clean and free of makeup, female sensitive with a hint of something earthy, short black hair, clothes that were made for her. I smiled and said yes and asked if she'd ever read it, to which she sat down next to me and told me (with a white teeth smile that proved she drank a lot of coffee) that her group had JUST finished reading it. Can you imagine the odds, I said with a smile. She continued her smile then asked if I was doing anything later - her friends were going over to Tom, Steve, Joan, Sarah's house for wine and watching French films. Book closed, grin even wider. 

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Ink Stained Nothing


(from the Woodruff Fontaine House in Memphis, TN)


My words, my blood. My thoughts, shared on paper for the world to see and possibly ridicule. I see people using their words so carelessly, as though they wanted to give away their power. Not I. I refuse to give anyone anything that I treasure. Each thought comes from my mind like a soft whisper, a delicate knife slicing through the air, or a single drop of water to land in a glass. You see my words and you KNOW. I want them to be near me, forever. And yet. . . my hands tremble when I hold my pen. My eyes dart here and there, searching for something that fell out without warning. My heart beats rapidly as I read line by line on the too white paper. My words, my prison. I want them to feed me so that I never know hunger again. I close my eyes and feel . . . .

The stain grows above me on my ceiling. Black and viscous. Muted whispers of nothing sensible. I look up and see my words there. They float and fly towards the over growing mass above my head. Are they going to kill me? Will they take mercy on me, their Creator? The whispers grow louder. I want to see them. Each little line. One stroke of my pen becomes my noose. They suddenly slide down my walls, changing the white to a heartless black. I sit at my desk in the middle of the room. No windows, no fear. They come towards me as children returning to their parents after a long day of playing. Here we come, they whisper. Open your mouth, dear. Open wide. I do what they want. Soft. Slow. Pulsing. Fear. Tremble. Regret. Love. Anguish. Terror. Please, please, please. Let us return. Let us in. In. In.

In.


Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Laina - a fragment


(my grandmother's hands, yet I think Laina's hands would look just like hers)


I have seen several lifetimes and still I am amazed at how limited humanity appears to be. So much beyond the realms of Maybe and Hopefully. My hands, wrinkled and brown from many suns kissing them, can still serve tea faster than the wood elves in the next town! I want to share my life with you - what I did and still do, whom I've seen, whom I've slept with (wink), and which areas I'm banned from because I disobeyed their rules. A Tea Traveler, once set out into the worlds, is loyal to only one set of laws - the laws that bind a Tea Traveler to what they do for the sake of Tea. When I took the oath, I was a mere 20 years old and rebellious. Still am I guess but I digress. I wanted to leave Birmingham for good when I stumbled upon the town of Mabon during spring break. Yes . . . the way you looked at me when I said that name. You know of it, don't you? When I found it, I couldn't believe my eyes. All of the things I'd hoped and wished for were real. When I crossed the Veil to the Otherworld, I held my first conversation with a strange man who wore loose blue clothing, claimed he was from the Land of Sleep, and served me the best cup of tea while telling me a story about a desert dryad. When I finished my cup, I thanked them then asked where I could get more of that tea (it's called Blue Wave and it's now one of the Forgotten Teas), he told me something better - visit the Tea Temple and study to become a Tea Traveler. The rest, as the Tea Mystics never say, is history. Of course, I'm only giving you a sample of my life. If you want more, then pull up a chair, chew on those Soft Shoulder tea leaves, and let's begin . . . . 

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Wasure - a fragment



The name I chose was Wasure - forgotten. Just like the teas I study, I am forgotten by my past.

People see me and whisper to their friends. Is she? Is that the one who - ? I catch their glances at me and smile from behind my black fan. They nod quickly then rush off to their destination, while I remain in the Temple. They want to see Me as I truly am, want all of those lingering questions answered. I refuse to show yet I do tell them - yes, I am of both. I studied the history of the Forgotten Teas and was "blessed" afterward. No, it is not a curse. Far from it. People from all over come to the Temple to pay homage to our work, enjoy our carefully blended teas, and listen to our stories or our adventures. And, as always, they finish their day at the Temple with a visit to my area. They come to hear my stories and to peer carefully at my face and my handmade red silk kimono. I always have a smile for them, for is that not the Way of the Temple? One night, as I prepared for dinner with the rest of the Mystics, my teacher pulled me to the side and placed a hand on my forehead.
"Three Apples," he said to me with a smile. I looked at him with a blank look on my face, knowing better than to question him. Since he was over 400 years old and looked barely 60, I trusted him with everything he ever told me. "Seek the Three Apples," he continued, "and your Path will truly begin." He then bowed before me and went into the dining room. I stood there in silence as I felt the warmth from his hand still on my forehead. I then nodded to the air and walked into the dining room. For three months, the three apples remained on my mind as I continued with my daily duties. In all of my time studying the Forgotten Teas, I felt as though my Path was clear to me. I was wrong. Every time I saw a new face enter the Temple, I wondered if they had anything to do with three apples. Every time I went into the city for errands, I searched for three apples laying on the road, or in a shop, or even at homes I visited for special requests. Then, on a rainy morning, a woman walked into the Temple. She came alone and wore clothing befitting that of a lost soul. I paid no attention to her except to give her the standard greeting, only to stop in amazement. She noticed me staring at her and walked over to me.
"Greetings," she said with a grin, "why did I shock you so?" I quickly closed my mouth and tried to regain some form of composure.
"Your necklace," I whispered. "Where did you get it?" She looked down at her necklace - three silver apple charms strung on a thick black string hung from her neck - then looked at me again.
"I received it as a gift from a friend now long dead. He said it was the way to my Door being opened." She grinned again. "Perhaps you could tell me?" I reached out to touch the necklace and immediately felt a strong current of power from it and her. I bowed low.
"My name is Wasure," I said with a trembling voice as I caressed her cheek. "I am Blessed."

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

A Darker Wonderland


I found a copy of The Floating World in a used bookstore here in Memphis. Being a lover of Japanese culture, I figured that it would be an interesting read. I was wrong. The Floating World by Cynthia Gralla is an excellent read, one that I would like to read repeatedly. This book is lush and sensual, allowing the reader to dive into a darker Wonderland with hopes of never returning home.

Liza, a student at an Ivy League university, leaves it all behind to travel to Japan after being entranced by the world of ankoku butoh, meaning the dance of utter darkness. She sees a different world and longs to become a part of it. Her life in Japan soon consists of dancing butoh, starving herself, taking in new lovers while she taunts her former lover back home, and meeting and befriending a strange woman who leads the way. Maboroshi, a woman who dwells in this Wonderland, lives a life of decadence, extremes, and never ending pleasures. She and her group of women dressed as maiko (apprentice geisha) wreak havoc in the streets of Tokyo with perfume scented kimonos, daggers, and distorted visions. They lure Liza into their world and it is here that she evolves and becomes something stranger and deeper than she could ever imagine. The Floating World is a novel of a woman's attempt to discover her hidden side, the one she knew possibly existed yet never met it until now. Reading this book was like having a delicious erotic dream.

When I was halfway through the novel, I knew I had to reach out to the author. I had to let her know just how much I adored her book and that I had to create a tea blend for it - The Dance of Maboroshi tea blend will be coming out in two months - be on the lookout for it!

I fell in love with Gralla's writing - she makes you feel everything you read. You want to see the horrific because it pleases you so. A light brush of silk across the face as you are blindfolded, your heart beating fast because you are in someone else's hands. You desire more and you know that you'll get it, yet be warned. The darkness never leaves this Wonderland, this modern ukiyo. It will crawl across your skin like the sushi placed on the naked woman in the more expensive restaurants. You take your chopsticks and delicately pluck the darkness from the woman's body and eat it, feeling the slight warmth from the skin envelop around your morsel. Gralla gives us morsels to savour just like Liza and we feel full from it. We feel lighter than air and stronger than ever because we have tasted true desire. I could go on and on but I'll just end this review with - Buy The Book.

Arigato, Cynthia-san!

EX LIBRIS!

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Harney and Sons Organic Bangkok - Tea Review



I may have found a new Spring/Summer favourite.

Harney and Sons Tea Company has done it again with Organic Bangkok Tea Blend. This green tea is quite the refreshing blend, as you enjoy the tastes of ginger, coconut, and vanilla along with the green tea. The smell of the tea is quite grassy and fresh, making me burn my mouth in the process because I didn't want to wait for it to cool down.


The overall experience of this tea is exotic, delicious, and for me, simple. Although the tea smelled grassy and fresh, the taste was very much a pleasing blend of green tea, coconut without being overpowering, and vanilla. I tasted only the barest hint of ginger at the very end of the sip - that surprised me, as ginger tends to be strong and sometimes bitter at times depending on how much is used. Yet with every sip, the flavours came alive for me while the mouthfeel was wet and satisfying. The instant I took a sip, I felt as though I was in another land, enjoying a Spring day while people watching in a cafe. This is a tea for when you are on vacation - adds to the overall excitement of being somewhere else! This tea is a good "comfort the soul" tea blend as well and I would love to try it iced. I didn't need any sugar or sweetener for this tea; however, I did eat some mango sorbet before sipping the tea (works well - try it if you can!) and that flavour enhanced the tea. This tea came in my Murder on the Orient Express tea order as a free sample and I'm glad I had a chance to try it. I will definitely be ordering this tea very soon.

Much thanks to Harney and Sons!