A friend of mine recently introduced me to YeahWrite, a community dedicated to the craft of writing. While exploring their website, I discovered a section called Super Challenge. I was intrigued! Turns out, this group puts on a writing contest every quarter. Winners receive fun prizes, and even better, street cred for winning a writing contest! Entrants have 48 hours to write on a specific prompt that is sent to them by email when the clock chimes 7 PM on a Friday, and must be completed by 7 PM on Sunday. I decided to do it, and to my absolute astonishment, I won my first round! Since Round 1 is now officially over, I am able to post my essay to my blog. I would be honored if you read my mostly-true, essay. Please see below for the prompt and following response. And if you’re curious, I just finished the second and final round of Super Challenge. I’ll be sure to let you know the results when I get them! Wish me luck.

Reader, I have one request. This is a very raw and, again, mostly-true essay, and even though it talks about painful things in my recent past, this writing is about ME and not the other person. Writing this helped ME get through my pain to a more peaceful state of mind. I know you will probably have opinions about what you read, but please remember that we are all human and I’m sharing this with a tiny bit of fear in my heart about judgments. I truly appreciate your discretion and compassion as you read, and I ask that you hold space in your heart for the beauty of the pain that we as humans endure as part of our growth.

Love it or hate it, you’ve probably slept alone at some point in your life. Tell us about it. Persuade us that it’s the best, or the worst, way to sleep. Tell us a mostly-true story about the first time you slept alone after moving in with your partner. See where the prompt takes you!

YeahWrite Super Challenge #23, Round 1 Essay

Sheets can feel deliciously tranquil when they’re fresh and haven’t been mussed up by the complexities of love, resentment, or anger.

I was putting new sheets on the bed by myself for the first time in four years. I should have been thrilled with the smell of crisp Egyptian cotton and the opportunity to spread my limbs starfish-style, but I knew feeling happy again wouldn’t be that easy. Getting the courage to move to the middle of the mattress would mean admitting he wasn’t coming back.

Truthfully, the bed hadn’t been all that comfortable when I’d shared it with Miguel. We were both hot sleepers, and a queen size just didn’t give us the freedom to separate when we needed to, but we couldn’t afford the king we so desperately wanted. I actually didn’t mind it, considering that I thought we were so giddy in lust with each other that we didn’t want to stop touching even for a moment, much less eight hours.

Laundry was one of my chores. I began working from home because of the pandemic, so it just made sense for me to do it while attempting to get a few extra steps in during the work day. Miguel was in sales and had to continue to go into the office every day, and yet still made it a big deal if I didn’t fold his t-shirts the way he liked.

You’re lucky I’m doing your laundry at all, I would mutter to myself as I folded the T-shirts the same way I’d done it for the last 20 years. But tonight, neither one of us were lucky. As per usual, I dumped the clean load on our bed and started rescuing underwear and socks from staticky t-shirts. I pulled a pair of what I thought were strangely feminine boxer briefs away from a ripped-up Metallica tee that he refused to get rid of, and placed both on his side of the bed.

Later, when he returned from his office and settled onto the couch, he pulled me close to him and kissed me. A static Pop! exploded between our lips and we both exclaimed before blaming each other for the shock.

“You’re wearing wool socks!” I huffed.

“Well, you practically shuffled all the way over here!” He volleyed back.

Around 10:30 PM, we hauled ourselves upstairs. He glanced at the clothes on the bed and began putting them away. He picked up the underwear I’d blinked at earlier, and threw them on my side without a word.

In the one second that it took those women’s boyshorts to fly through the air and land on my side of the bed, I’d figured it out. Instantly I knew who they belonged to and when it had happened. And clearly, it had happened in my bed. Our bed.

The bed that I am now sleeping in alone.

Did you know that static electricity happens when positive and negative charges aren’t balanced? When an object has extra electrons, it has a negative charge that causes a spark, and in this case, that spark blew up our life together.

Waves of rage ran furiously through my body the first few nights I slept by myself. I punched the mattress that had been witness to the destruction he had caused. I cried into the pillow he’d bought me for Christmas. I refused to look at his side, much less touch it.

I had to force my body to stretch out, and eventually started to wiggle my way towards the middle. There were many nights that my heart would infiltrate my brain, making me think I was being disloyal to the other side of the bed, and so I would straighten up and go back to my side. One night, though, I woke up around midnight in what felt like a death match with an octopus, desperately needing to pee. I struggled with the blankets, trying to grasp my edge of the bed so I could escape and stumble down the hall to relieve myself. It felt like it took forever.

When I got back into my bedroom, the covers looked as tormented as I felt. Sheets had been heaved aside in my quest to get to the bathroom; blankets had twisted into one another. There was a street lamp just outside my window, and the glow it gave off allowed me just enough visibility to see that I had completely torn up my bed for no reason. I’d wiggled and writhed to get out of the bed on my own side. I hadn’t even given it the thought that I could have just slipped out on his side and made my night a whole lot easier.

After that realization, the migration began. Those next few nights, I left the bed on whatever side I wanted, and my midnight pee felt like a victory.

It was a victory I needed.

I have not let myself grieve to the point of being at peace. I am still in trauma state. My head and heart worked together long enough to end the relationship and kick him out, but I still haven’t processed everything that led to the explosion of my relationship. What I do know is that I can’t remain static. I have the whole bed, and the whole world, in front of me.


I drove by his workplace after an exhilarating dance class; it’s unavoidable when travelling to and from the industrial East side of the city. One side of the entire building is floor-to-ceiling glass, and without wanting to, I reflexively looked in as my car stopped at the red light. There he was, sitting at a desk scrolling on his phone, wearing the jacket I’d wrapped around myself more than once while snuggling into his protective arms. If I hadn’t been aware of the things he’d done to hurt me, this would have been a welcome opportunity: I used to relish this drive-by scenario, honking and waving madly to get his attention, giggling to myself and hopefully embarrassing him in the process. That evening, it just made me sad. And then I got mad because I was sad.

I’m supposed to be learning about the grief process, healing, starting over fresh, etc. What I’m learning is that it hurts in waves. Most of the time I’m getting through my day managing my emotions fairly well, and then a memory makes me laugh, or makes me so angry that I start crying gigantic crocodile tears that just won’t go away. And I want them to disappear, I want the pain to vanish. But for some reason, the tears are oddly comforting, like a sad song I’ve listened to dozens of times or a campfire that I let myself get lost in. Do you know what I mean? Why are these tears so warm and inviting while they sting my cheeks at the same time?

I find pieces of him all over the house. I’ve been collecting them for some full moon exorcism, I suppose… Or I’m finding it hard to completely disconnect, if I have to tell the truth. But I am aware that with this collection of his things, I must perform a completion and thus welcome in a new beginning. So, to the Snuggle Dome memorabilia, I’m saying goodbye, respectfully but firmly.

As 2022 opens it arms anew, I will participate fully. Memories, new ones that are fresh and sparkling and beautiful—these are what will drive me in 2022. A whim trip to Kauai? Don’t mind if I do! Snowshoeing with fellow goddesses? Yes please! Should I write a novel and tell everyone about it so that I’ll stay accountable? Why the hell not!? I can do whatever I set my mind to, and that includes loving my imperfect self, and allowing myself the time to heal.

Goodbye. Hello.

Dear Becky at age 12,

The desire for love is going to hurt. It’s going to rip open parts of you that you didn’t know could tear. Emotionally, your parents’ divorce messes you up about men in ways that will reverberate for decades. For a time, you will look at fathers—all fathers, all men in fact—differently. The most trusted men in your life will seem threatening for no apparent reason. You will not understand their role once your father has left and your mother seems to be doing both jobs. Your mother wants what’s best for you. It’s incredibly hard to see this because of the stage you’re in and the trauma you’re experiencing. But try to have faith that it will all make sense eventually. She’s trying her best while your father is figuring out his own demons. But that’s fine. It turns out we’re all broken. It’s what we do with the broken pieces that matters. 

You are not going to believe me when I say this, but in some ways, being an overweight young woman will benefit you. You will grow to develop a strong character, surrounding yourself with people who care solely about your insides. Friends will be ferociously, relentlessly loyal and you will quickly be able to tell who is real and who isn’t. But you’re going to feel a lot of pain when it comes to romantic interests, and get rejected more than the others. That’s just how it is sometimes. It will get you down, and that’s okay! You are allowed to feel those feelings!! They are valid. Sometimes you’ll get chewed up, and if I’m being honest, you won’t get to do a lot of chewing. And that’s okay too. You want to know why? Because those few times you do show up with a black heart, it’ll make you feel like shit and you’ll be reminded why you’re so incredibly special. You are SUNSHINE.

It will take what feels like forever to give your heart fully to someone. And in the end, they will break it, but that leaves you more ready for the next person. Every single experience is a lesson. Remember that when you’re crying to your ride-or-dies. These friendships will carry you through oceans of despair and the happiest days of your life. You would do anything for them, and they would do everything for you. 

Boundaries are difficult. There are only a few things you’ll regret in this life, and undefined boundaries are ALWAYS the cause. Try to remember that.


Dear Becky at 42,


Some nights, if you had a knife you would have slit his throat after what he did to you. The pain he caused you is something you haven’t felt before and now you’re processing the who-what-why. He made choices that purposely broke what you two had, and it’s hard to understand. You’d never felt so confident of someone’s love and so taken by complete surprise at the way it was ripped out from under you. 

And yet. You will set him free. You will honor the place he had in your life. You will genuinely wish him nothing but true happiness and enlightenment for his next life—because you loved him, truly and wholly, and unconditionally. He didn’t know how to accept that within himself and so he couldn’t recognize it when you gave it to him. All you can do now is hope that he will learn from these lessons.

You gave all of yourself to Boo Bear. You did the best you could. You will never regret a single moment, and you will probably always love him. You will miss so very much about him. Inside jokes and memories will constantly pop up, making your heart pull and crack. It will stop at some point, but you’re not there yet. You’re going to see someone wearing his flannel shirt and it’ll take your breath away for a moment, replaced by the emotions of a bittersweet memory. You’ll remember laughing until you cried with him. Maybe you’ll think that he’s the only one who could ever make you laugh that way, but it’s not true. Someone else will make you laugh like that. Louder, even. The thought of someone wrapping their arms around you the way he did will make your heart sob, for a time. You will be held like that again

Keep moving forward and don’t regret where you came from or the mistakes you made. They happened for a reason. 

I love you.


Hello! It’s been a while since I’ve written anything for This Curious Universe. For those who have read my work consistently over the years and have reached out, I am so appreciative of your support and encouragement. I am still Curious! Life just happens at a speed faster than I can run some days, and sadly, extracurricular creativity can be shoved to the side because it fits easily under the laundry…the dishes…grocery store…you understand.
These days, outside of my day job as an events and communications associate, my writing energy has been moving in the direction of fiction. Though I consider myself more of a nonfiction writer, I find incredible value in taking courses across the board at Portland Community College. For the last two terms, I’ve been taking Elements of Fiction. That’s right—same course, same teacher, two terms in a row. The instructor, Wes Griffith, is funny, empathetic, highly motivational, well-read, and downright magnificent. I presented this latest piece last week in class. I recieved creative, useful feedback and can’t wait to sit down and dive into the changes.
And so I present my latest, as yet unedited, based on true events, short fiction: TinderBeard

Boots, bags, the flotsam and jetsam of bus life clogged the narrow aisle leading to the back of the city bus where a seat between a hipster in a skintight hoodie and a student somewhere in middle school range waited for me. The student chewed on a straw and looked out the window, dreaming perhaps of one day kissing a girl and having no opinion of me whatsoever. Hunched perilously over his phone, to the point I was afraid he might tip over if the bus stopped too quickly, the hipster fixed an annoyed look on his face with a frown and furrowed brow. While I understood greatly that personal space was the most prized possession on the bus, it wasn’t happening today.
TriMet D40LFR bus
Doing my best to remain within the confines of my seat, I looked straight ahead, taking note of the distinct differences in hats, jackets, and backpacks. In relative terms, I was yet an unpolished commuter, always searching for the best brands and life hacks to make the commuter life easier. Do you do that? Get fixated on something and feel the need to take a mental straw poll to see which people around you are doing it best? Often, I find myself getting lost in the faces of all these strangers, wondering how many missed connections are made on public transit each day.
My eyes rested on an African-American man who had an utterly fantastic beard. He was also wearing those giant headphones that seemed to block out not only outside sound, but sights, smells, and anything else that might interrupt a podcast.
A few stops later, I heard the familiar beeping of the wheelchair ramp. One by one, riders in the front stood up and made room for the wheelchair-bound woman who was boarding. Several of them began heading to the far back, where there were a few seats—where I was sitting. Grasping the opportunity to study the beard closer, I put my phone in front of my face and pretended to read something very important. It was longer than the average beard. It had two silver streaks running parallel down each side–very distinguished. The silver beard streaks seemed to flash in the sunlight as he stepped into the back half of the bus and took the seat on the other side of the hipster, which is when I realized who he was.
Adrenaline rushed through me as I reached out to tap him on the shoulder, further ruffling the hipster’s free-range organic feathers. (You like that? I just thought of that one all on my own.)
He turned towards me and, clearly surprised, replied, “Oh hey you! How’s it going?”
The bus had paused at a stoplight right before the bridge that would take us to the other side of the city. Taking advantage, the hipster stiffly stood up and stalked off, leaving a gaping hole between the bearded man and I. Making sure my light brown curly hair was posed perfectly on my shoulder before responding, I crossed my legs towards him and answered with slight color in my cheeks, “Great, thanks. How’s it going with you?”  Nailed it, I thought to myself sarcastically. Couldn’t think of anything more creative?
Apparently that was all he needed to open up a conversation. He remembered quite a bit about me: my passion for good grammar, my favorite neighborhood brunch place (we’d gone together the first time we met), and that I enjoyed salsa dancing every once in a while. I was shocked at the amount of details he was ticking off so casually. I remembered that he worked in IT/computers/something dough-handed like that at some company downtown–though that second detail could be construed as a given, considering the bus we were riding on. I guess I had made an impression on him! It made my heart corners curl up into a coy grin as the exchange continued.
His hair was longer than I remembered. Small twists dotted the top of his head. I liked the new style. The beard had always been an attraction for me, but today it seemed especially well-coiffed. His eyes were kind and he had a welcoming smile that was slightly bucktoothed–like mine. I called mine rabbit teeth and absolutely hated them when I was younger. Now people tell me it’s part of my charm. I finally understood what they meant.
Lightning fast, it seemed, the bus arrived at my stop. My eyes travelled up and down the aisle, at him and then away, as I gathered my things, self-consciously wondering if he was interested in continuing the conversation. I had tried to make it obvious that I was disembarking, to see if he’d take the bait and ask me out, but I didn’t hint strongly enough.
“Well, great to see you!” My bag slung over my shoulder, I lifted my body off the plastic seat and waved my goodbye, immediately kicking myself for not being bold enough to say anything as soon as my Adidas hit the pavement.
When the bus had cleared from view, I whipped out my phone and typed in “Tinder” to see if anything came up. I labeled all of my Tinder dates “Tinder John,” Tinder Christian, (In case you’re wondering, yes I most certainly do sing Sister Christian in my head every time I saw that name.) Tinder Richie… How else did a serial-Tinderer keep track? None of the names seemed like they fit him. Shame me all you want, but I’d probably been on 10-13 more first dates since last summer–it shouldn’t completely come as a shock that I had no idea what his name was.
I supposed it wasn’t meant to be, then. Neither of us had had the guts to speak up and ask the other out (Of course, I was assuming he was interested after all the things he remembered about me. Wouldn’t you?), and who knows if I’d ever see him again. I had been running extremely late that day, and sometimes I took the other bus that came to my stop, and sometimes I went to work at 7:00 rather than 7:30…clearly this wasn’t going to turn into a thing.
Until a month later. I had missed my first two busses and was incredibly cranky that Monday morning. I was carrying not only my backpack, but a cowboy hat and yoga mat as well. My jacket half on and half off, I had run to the corner unabashedly and made it just in time for the 17 to pull up. I stormed onto the bus, breathing heavily with purpose and headed toward the back as usual, but a silver glimmer caught my eye. It was TinderBeard! I stopped dead and did a military swivel in order to take the seat beside his. He looked at my cowboy hat pointedly and gave me The Look.
“It’s for a work event…” I trailed off, realizing that no amount of explaining would make this cowboy hat any cooler. I said it with a sheepish smile though, enough to let him know he couldn’t faze me. We slipped into conversation easily once more, and I thought that it HAD to be fate! We had both been running late that day, and sometimes I rode the other bus, and there had been a seat open next to him. This was totally a thing.
He still wasn’t receiving my ESP message! Traffic light after traffic light darted past my eyes. I was dying to know if he wanted to hang out again, and I was trying desperately not to lose my nerve to do the asking before I had to get off the bus. Our three-date love saga last summer had ended amicably enough. At the time we met, we had simply been looking for different things; I refused to pursue something that may or may not pan out. He looked at it a little differently. His wish was to begin with something casual, sexually speaking, and if it turned into something more serious, great. If not, a casual bed buddy was just as good. I was a little more old fashioned, and so had declined his polite offer. But all had ended in what felt like friendship, though we never saw each other again.
It was do or die time. We were three blocks from departure.
“Well…let me know if you ever want to hang out!” I offered.
Immediately he replied, “Sure, but I don’t have your number anymore.” I whipped out a piece of paper and scribbled as he recited his number to me.
Several hours later I texted him. I wasn’t sure what to say, exactly, about his name having left my head many moons ago. Smiling to myself, I wrote, “This is Brandy from the bus this morning. I hate to admit this, but I have forgotten your name.”
Two words in response: “Thank God.” I released a sigh from deep within and continued to read, “I forgot yours too, and was going to play it off until you texted me.”
Great relationships are built on honesty. This could be the beginning of a beautiful thing, TinderBeard.

Over and Over Again

Renowned martial artist Bruce Lee described the opponent he was most wary of: “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” In my astrological opinion, you should regard that as one of your keystone principles during the next 12 months. Your power and glory will come from honing one specific skill, not experimenting restlessly with many different skills. And the coming weeks will be an excellent time to set your intention. – Rob Brezsny
It’s a theme that is so common in every thread of life: If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
I hear it every week in belly dance class. My instructor and dear friend, Claudia, is unyielding in her insistence that you can take a set of simple moves and make them incredible with a metric ton of practice and a heavy helping of personality.
I can drill with the best of them. I love it. I could shimmy for hours; hone my taksim and maya for days. Add in that personality or emotional factor, however, and I crumble. Showing my vulnerability is one of my biggest fears. To show your vulnerability is terrifying, but essential to being a whole dancer. It’s what gives the dance tarab. Tarab is the climax of a feeling derived from hearing music expressing an intense emotion. I struggle with this, because I love belly dance with a passion; I want to be a complete dancer—tarab and all. I feel these emotions with the music and the movement, but somehow I can’t set them free into the universe, because that would open me up to something incredibly scary. The audience would see the raw, naked parts of me. It’s the gift of imperfection. It’s what makes us relate to other humans. But I always seem to see it as a gag gift. To her credit, Claudia never gives up on me. She just makes me do it again and again. If we dance for an hour and she sees one glimpse of my wall breaking down, she knows it can happen another time, and she encourages me to get back up and expose myself again. I am a dancer. Music and movement are my passion, and no amount of failure will make me stay down, because I yearn to cultivate this gift of mine.
Dating…I cannot count the number of times I’ve been stood up, “ghosted,” or rejected. If you’ve ever tried online dating, you know the frustration that can build so easily. Greater quantity does not necessarily mean better quality. I’ve met some true gems, but the timing wasn’t right or our schedules didn’t match up. Do I sit at home and cry about it? Yes. But then I get back up and try again. I set up yet another date to meet someone new, holding out hope that my person is out there. I am strong, smart, beautiful, and deserve to be loved. I am love.
America has felt over and over the hate that comes from fear. We see people killed for reasons beyond our comprehension. Hate crimes, terrorism, crimes of passion. It is a scary time in our existence. We easily fall down rabbit holes of depression and distress, struggling to get back up.  Should we give up, let ourselves sink back down to the darkness forever? No. We repeat our mantras of love and acceptance. We recognize that there is a purpose for the light and the dark, and search for a balance. We get to know our neighbors. Sometimes I falter at knowing what I can do for my brothers and sisters of the world. But I can start with something small—holding each of us in the light. That is what my Quaker faith taught me to do—understand that there is that of God in every person, no matter what they have done or who they are. I can start there. Wash, rinse, repeat.
If my one, time-tested impeccable “kick” turns out to be sharing my love with you, then I am honored to try, try again, with every blog I post and every action I take, whether that be writing a few words, sharing my passion for dance, or practicing loving kindness, expecting nothing in return.

Why: Part III—Origins

This “Why” series is a way to bring me closer to you—by revealing my inner-most thoughts and being 100% vulnerable with you. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for taking my words and embracing them with love and kindness. This is the third and final installation of this series. Read parts one and two here. 
In honor of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday this week, I would like to talk about my roots. So often I shy away from calling myself a patriot. Images of the Bush administration(s) or our recent wars dance in my head, and it makes me feel less than proud to be an American. There is a lot I can criticize about the American Spirit as a whole, and much I can laud. Regardless of all of this, I am an American, which means this country’s history is my history.
I was raised in a small town in Ohio, surrounded by the typical Midwest culture mix—majority Caucasian and African American, with the tiniest sprinkling of other ethnicities. I easily identified with the two majorities, but had very little knowledge of the other cultures, except for what I read in the many books my parents showered upon me in my youth. I also had my Quaker background, which filled me with a curiosity for people from all walks of life. My hunger for information was vast, but actual real-world experience was lacking. Because of this, I felt especially called to understand African-American struggles and triumphs.
Living in Portland, Oregon for the last 11 years, where the population is currently somewhere around 76% Caucasian and the other ethnicities are largely Asian or Hispanic/Latino, I’ve noticed there is a marked lack of African American culture. I find it inspiring to speak to my African American friends and hear their view of living in such a place. Most of them are not originally from Oregon; Portland has a unique saga pertaining to its “whiteness” which most definitely leaves a bad taste in the mouths of African Americans. I won’t go into the whole story here, but if you want to know more about the fascinating history of why this is, read here from the Oregon History Project.
It’s easy to feel defeated about equality and race relations when we hear about stories like those that have happened in Ferguson and even in our own backyard. I admit that my connection to my hometown roots and those larger African American populations in the Midwest and the South is farther away than most, living here in Oregon. I am thankful that I have my small enclave of friends that share either a physical skin-color connection or a mental one concerning first-hand experience with the American outlook on race relations. We often discuss the things that advance America’s viewpoint as well as those that keep it tied down to past negativity.
It is so important to acknowledge our history as Americans, no matter what color we are. As my dear friend Hannah said to me yesterday, “This is your history too! It’s your victory too! White people should pause just as much in celebration. They were freed from enslaving notions, too. It’s a shared victory.” Truer words could not be spoken. We have many stories of immigration and population shift throughout American history, but no one can deny that the African American chapter in our story is one of the largest parts.
The purpose of MLK Day is to make us aware of a few things. Number one, to always remember America’s history and what makes us a great nation, willing and ready to push beyond our past into an awareness of equality, love, and opportunity. The past will always be there, and it is important, but what matters right now is the love we are giving the world. The second is to highlight the importance of serving the greater good.
We may or may not have the fortitude to become civil rights activists in the manner that Martin Luther King was, but we can certainly find peace through helping others and sharing our love. Volunteering at the food bank, becoming a mentor, donating a few dollars to a worthy cause, or just looking in on a friend who is having a bad week is just as important as a march on Washington. It is not the size of the impact; it is the intention behind it. I encourage you to really get to know your American history, no matter what color your skin is, and vow to celebrate the American Spirit in the way it was intended.

Crow Medicine

In my personal Numerology, the number of the day is seven. Seven is the number that is all about meditation and self-reflection. In the resource that I use, the missive reads:

Look Within

Be alone, at least for part of the day. Be still. Read. Think. Listen to your inner soul. Drop the business world. If you pursue money today, it will run from you. If you keep still and wait, things will come to you. Study something spiritual or scientific. If you read the scriptures, choose Matthew 6 on this day. Work with your plants. Take a long walk or a drive in the country. The number 7 always reveals something. Meditate. Be open. – Louise Hay: Colors & Numbers

I certainly needed that message today. I have been in a funk this week and am having some trouble getting out of it. I won’t go into the details here; it’s not necessary. When I feel like this and decide to do something uplifting instead of huff and pout my way through the day, one thing always happens: the world drops some knowledge on me, loud and clear.

Crow Medicine

Crow Medicine

Since it was nice and sunny outside after work, I decided to sit and write on my porch, a setting I enjoy but do not make time for very often. I pulled my camp chair out of storage, grabbed a notepad, and filled a giant goblet with cold water, sitting it beside me on the cement. I had been listening to a song on the radio on my way home earlier, and it came into my mind as I stared at the blank page. Then, I started to write. The words came easier than I expected, but there are always natural pauses in my work. I fidget, or look up when someone walks by. I get hypnotized by the honeybee pollinating my poppies. I imagine something crawling on my toes and feel the need to whip them up in the air and shake them around a little…you know, just in case.

I was two stanzas into my song/poem when I saw some large shadows moving across the ground in front of me. I looked up and saw two crows. They spoke to me. I didn’t know what they were saying, but I knew I had to put pen to paper and somehow get it out of them. Here’s what I wrote:

Now, stop.
Look at yourself,
really take a look, and breathe.
It’s too much to ask that
you believe in yourself?
I just want to know you’re staring back
into the glass and seeing what’s there—
love, loyalty, wisdom, and truth.
Wake up and hear your crow-cry!
Don’t fill your head with toxic waste.
Go instead into your beautiful mind,
and see love infinitely, authentically,
at last.
Why do you forget this gift,
roll over and part ways
with the one who loves you best?
I just want to know you’re filled with hope.
Know the world is here to help.

I got curious. I have these Native American animal medicine cards, and I thought, if Crow is giving me such a strong message, I owe it to myself to get that book out and reread what crow medicine is all about. Instead of copying and pasting the entire page (however, please click the link to experience it in its entirety), I will attempt to paraphrase.

The Crow sees that all worlds are an illusion, and that there is something much greater the laws of humanity. When we think of the Crow, we tend to think of death. This is just one of the infinite worlds. Because Crow is a shape-shifter (some see this as the metamorphosis between the living world and the dark unknown of death), it is illustrating that change is always imminent. Nothing is what it seems, but the Crow is the one who is able to peer through the clouds to ascertain what is truly important. Those who feel a connection with the Crow should use this knowledge as their guide.

The last paragraph is beautiful and eloquent, and I would not be able to do it justice, so I will end with this quote:

As you learn to allow your personal integrity to be your guide, your sense of feeling alone will vanish. Your personal will can then emerge so that you will stand in your truth. The prime path of true Crow people says to be mindful of your opinions and actions. Be willing to walk your talk, speak your truth, know your life’s mission, and
balance past, present, and future in the now. Shape shift that old reality and become your future self. Allow the bending of physical laws to aid in creating the shape shifted world of peace.

Boom. That spoke to me, big time. All the bad feelings I’ve been having this week were shattered by that paragraph. I felt refreshed and different when I read it. I love that words—and words alone—can do that for me. They bring up something inside that just needs the tiniest bit of prodding to come out.

Have you read, heard, or watched something that made you feel this way? If you want to, borrow Crow today and see what it brings out in you.

You've been asking for it!

I’ve decided to post an excerpt from my NaNoWriMo 2011 novel! I’m not going to give any backstory or details. I want you to read it, and if you like it, please tell me so. If you’ve got suggestions for content or development, I’d like to hear those too. I’ve been working hard all month on this, and I’m very proud of what I have so far. There is a lot yet to do, but I think the groundwork is there. So, without further ado, please enjoy an excerpt from [working title] “From Rich Soil:”
[Vanessa, third person]
She knew she had to get back to work. As Vanessa reluctantly lifted her body out of the chair and moved to put on her coat and hat, her mind wandered to a day in the previous summer, when she had asked Nasreen about the spider tattoo peeking out from between her shoulder blades. There were no colors in the art, only shades of black and gray. The two front legs straddled her neck, its eyes bulging. Vanessa said she didn’t look the type to have such a picture on her body. She was too…nice. Nasreen told her it wasn’t about being hard or looking scary. The spider was the African god Anansi.
“What did Anansi do?” She asked.
This time Nasreen spoke more than a few words: “The legend goes that Anansi was the keeper of all the stories. They first belonged to the sky god Nyame. Everyone on earth was very sad because there were no stories. Anansi wanted to obtain and be the keeper of the stories so that he could spin all the great stories about life on earth. The sky god did not give them up easily because he wanted them all to himself. He challenged Anansi to a set of tasks, telling him that if he could complete all the tasks, that he would then be the keeper. Anansi was very smart and clever, and used all of his best tricks to complete the tasks. When he finished, Nyame was true to his word, and gave the stories and the ownership to Anansi. That is why people say ‘I’ll spin a tale for you,’ it’s because Anansi was always spinning the stories in his web.” She had learned that story in the Peace Corps in Ghana. Every time she told the story her cadence got smoother. Many people had asked her, and she patiently told the story each time.
Nasreen felt a kinship with the spider after hearing its tale many times while she was in Africa, so when she got back to the states, she wanted to commemorate it somehow. This way Anansi would always be with her, to inspire and encourage her.
*         *         *         *
I left for the Peace Corps almost immediately after college. Like most college graduates at this time, there were few jobs available, and not many opportunities were as adventurous as going to a foreign country to work and live with the natives. The idea appealed to me very much. My father had given his blessing almost immediately. He encouraged me to get as full a view of the world as I possibly could. This was because Firuz had travelled to many countries in his youth. He hadn’t gone to fancy, tourist-filled places, but rather the places where people showed their true colors. He found that this was preferable to going to a place where the hosts tried to make it as much like home as possible. It was only a few weeks after my graduation ceremony, but I was ready to go.
Africa was, quite literally, a different world. I had been to Tehran once when I was a child, but other than that had not travelled internationally. The very first step off the plane in Ghana made me want to run back inside and demand the pilot take me home. The heat was like none other I had ever experienced. It was deafening, like a sound I couldn’t shut my ears to. During the entire four years I was in Ghana, my long black hair pretty much stayed up on the top of my head or in a wrap. I couldn’t stand the sticky feeling of it touching my neck, droplets of water sitting on the ends, waiting until just the right moment to drop down the front of my shirt. My host family was amazing. They did the best they could to keep me comfortable, but there was only so much they could do without air conditioning or a full time cabana boy.
I would have preferred the cabana boy who fanned me all day long, but I made do with Francis. He was a Christian minister who worked directly with the Peace Corps volunteers. He struck me as the type of man who had rotating girlfriends each time a new crop of people came to the village, but he was kind, made me laugh, and never made me feel used, so I left that thought to the wind and just enjoyed myself while I was there. He went so far as to take an HIV test, showing me the results. I trusted him without the test, but I have to be honest and say that it gave me a better night’s sleep to see it in official type. We weren’t allowed the luxury of lounging around, making love whenever we felt like it; most of the time it was whenever we could get his roommates out of the house. I refused to do it in my host parent’s house, feeling it would somehow betray them. They were so very sweet to me and I wanted to be perfect around them.
I was not perfect outside the house. In addition to sinning with a native, I, without a doubt, was terrible at my job for at least the first six months I was there. I talked too much, didn’t listen enough, and got caught up in the drama of sweating and hard labor. It was a hard blow to my ego when my supervisor had to sit me down and talk to me about it. He was a handsome man of about 50 years old. Greg had been supervising Peace Corps volunteers for 10 years. His face was wrinkling from the sun, but his body was hard as a rock from lifting, pushing, and moving constantly almost every day of the year.
“How are you liking it here, Nasreen?” He asked me. My blood instantly ran cold. Those were the words of someone who had a bomb to drop.
I tried to swallow but my throat was dry. “Well, I’m learning a lot, that’s for sure! I never would have touched most of these tools in the states, and I think I’m doing okay at using them…” I trailed off, not knowing what exactly he wanted. I felt like I was being baited into saying something that would give me away as a liar. I got the feeling he was about to send me out to the fields to pick four-leaf clovers twelve hours a day for the rest of my life.
“You are,” he said amiably. “But I’m not sure you’re allowing yourself the full experience here. Do you ever feel like you’re a high-heel shoe in the middle of a bunch of work boots?”
I protested, “I didn’t bring any heels! I think my footwear is perfectly acceptable.”
“Maybe I should have put it another way,” he said. “You’re going through the motions, you’re contributing, but I don’t think you’re in the moment.” He paused. “I’m not here to tell you how to live your experience here in Ghana, but I would consider it a failure if you left this place merely knowing how to shingle a building. There’s so much more to it than that.”
“What do you mean?” I asked, perplexed. I could feel the sweat starting to make its way down between my breasts. As if the normal heat wasn’t bad enough, my body heat produced by the nervousness I was feeling gave me the impression I was in a sauna.
“Have you gone to any of the village festivals yet? Have you made any friends outside of the PC volunteers?” He countered. “Do you feel you will leave a part of your heart here when you leave?”
His last question left me a little breathless. “I’ve only been here six—“ I stopped. I hung my head and took a deep breath, and then lifted it to look Greg straight in the eye. “You’re right. I’m not letting Ghana inside. I get it. I really appreciate you looking out for me. I don’t want to miss anything here and I have been in my head so much that I haven’t seen the beauty of it here.” As I said the words, I knew he was right. I tended to be that person who was so caught up in the details that I couldn’t see the big picture.
From that day on I saw everything. I started going to village story-telling nights. I heard all of Anansi’s stories. I met beautiful people, young and old. I learned that their life force was so strong you could almost cut it with a knife. You know that stereotypical picture of a shriveled African man sharing his single bowl of rice with a child who couldn’t fight for a bowl themselves—the one you see in a National Geographic? I met many like him. It all became a reality while I was there. I felt myself changing long before Greg checked back in with me another six months down the road. My soul quieted down, as did my mouth. Before saying a word I would take it all in and meditate just a moment before my reaction left my mouth. Sometimes my body would give it away before I could stop it. I wasn’t all that good at hiding things at first. Slowly I grew up, knowing when to speak and knowing when it was smarter to be still.

NaNoWriMo has begun–write now!

I started the blog this week by creating a pie chart of how my time is divided into a million pieces, how I’m soooo busy, and how I worry that I won’t have enough time for National Novel Writing Month amongst all my other bad-ass extracurriculars. Then I realized that is pushing the nerd envelope, even for me. So I pitched that concept and decided to be honest. I may not write great blogs during November. I may decide to copy and paste some of my novel into WordPress and call it a blog post. What I don’t need to do is worry that you all are judging me for not writing—except that I am writing, in enormous quantities—and do what my heart tells me, which is to live my NaNoWriMo experience and take a breather from This Curious Universe if I need one.
What I will give to you this week is a look inside my brain. My novel is going to emphasize the characters instead a plot. Have you ever seen the movies “Mother and Child” or “Crash?” Those were based on the intertwining of several people’s lives, all of which came together in a dramatic clash of action and emotion at the end. My story is heading in the way of dramatic, for sure. But first I need to get to know these people and figure out how they are going to lead this story.
If you’ve ever started writing, and all of a sudden the story took over and left you typing frantically to get it all out, then you’ll understand my elation when last night one of the main characters finally told me what her purpose was in the story. It was one of those moments where the answer was so obvious, but it had taken me the better part of a day to figure it out. I got over 2,000 words written last night, which was amazing and gave me the ability to meet the November 3rd word quota. I have never met a word quota in my life. I was so excited!
Now that I am a few hundred words ahead, I can stop panicking and really start digging in. These characters are going to tell me what they do and do not like; if they are outgoing or quiet; if they went to school or built their way up from the bottom at a small company; if they secretly snort cocaine. It takes a while to develop them and to get to know their motives and personalities. I’ve got a gay 25-year old man, a playboy ER doctor, a female black activist who is missing her pinky finger, and a grumpy Persian man who is ready to retire, among many others. Those descriptions are just one part of them, and this week I am determined to find out everything about all of my characters. Have an idea? I welcome them! I don’t want to expose too much of my story today, but I can honestly say that any plot twist you throw at me, I could probably work into my story somehow.
If you are a comrade in NaNoWriMo 2011, good luck! If you’re in the Portland area, hit me up for a write-in. I attended my first one on Wednesday with a new friend that I met at the Portland NaNoWriMo kickoff meeting and it was highly successful! Until next week…

Why I Write

This is from another assignment courtesy of NaNoWriMo 2011: Why do you write?
I write because I have so many fascinating thoughts in my head that I know others would find interesting, given they were written with the right set of words in the right order. It’s up to me to put those right words in the right order…and there is the challenge.
As a youth, I wrote constantly. I wrote poetry, fiction, song lyrics, whatever I could get on paper. I posted my work on my bedroom walls, in my Trapper Keeper, and in any random notebook I could get my hands on. My mother was so proud that she sometimes made her guests sit down and read all 187 hand-written pages of the “novel” I penned in four arduous years, from 4th to 8th grade. Other times I read my poetry aloud. These were usually followed by a piano recital. I took 9 years of piano lessons, and while I liked it, I knew it wouldn’t be my ultimate calling. In college I majored in creative writing, knowing full well my mother was dreading graduation day when I would not, as I anticipated, have a fabulous writing job the instant I had diploma in hand. Her prediction was correct.
When I moved to Portland I jumped into a weekly writing group. That lasted maybe 8 months, and I quickly dropped it when the bellydance lessons I had been taking switched nights, which conflicted with my writing group nights. I soon left writing behind and pursued dancing with the greatest passion. Bellydance has done so much for my self esteem and bodily grace…but the feeling I get from performing in front of an audience is not the same as when I successfully post a blog. Don’t get me wrong, they are both amazing, but writing is my soul. It’s what I have always yearned to do.
Last year I participated in the 2010 NaNoWriMo, after hearing about it for several years. I took the plunge! I completed 17,000 words out of the expected 50,000. I was undaunted. I will try again this year! In the meantime, I have started a weekly blog that I consider to be one of the best parts of my life. When I started it, I thought it would be terribly difficult to find things to write about. The truth is, it has been the exact opposite. Words have flowed out of me every week, sometimes twice a week, from the start. I’ve had over 1,000 hits on my blog in the last 5 months. I consider this amazing, and I don’t mind saying it makes me feel a little more legit as a writer.
So I persist. I love it. I will continue to do it, even after my bestseller hits the market.
So…why do YOU write?