November 10, 2016

Election 2016 - The Winter of Our Discontent

As I contemplate the election of Donald Trump, I am reminded of Richard III's monologue at the start of Shakespeare's play: 
But I, that am not shaped for sportive tricks,
Nor made to court an amorous looking-glass;   
I, that am rudely stamp'd, and want love's majesty   
To strut before a wanton, ambling nymph;   
I, that am curtail'd of this fair proportion,   
Cheated of feature by dissembling nature,

Deform'd, unfinish'd, sent before my time
Into this breathing world, scarce half made up,--   
And that so lamely and unfashionable   
That dogs bark at me as I halt by them;   

Why, I, in this weak piping time of peace,
Have no delight to pass away the time,   
Unless to spy my shadow in the sun   
And descant on mine own deformity:

And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover,   
To entertain these fair well-spoken days,
I am determined to prove a villain        
And hate the idle pleasures of these days.
My life, in a nutshell, has to push against, to resist the sort of anger and resentment voiced here, that lies deep within my psyche. To resist the urge to descend into bitterness, violence, Machiavellian schemes.

Barack Obama was the first president who gave any indication that I, as a transgender woman, had value, had worth, was a whole person. It was not at all popular to grants transgender rights, to appoint transgender staffers, to welcome transgender activists to the White House, and yet he did that.

And the enmity and slander voiced against our first African-American president by many, including those in my own family, I take very, very personally. 

So yeah, the past few days have been difficult. I have no doubt that among President Trump's first actions will be to revoke the rights and recognition that President Obama extended to people like me. Do not fear for me; I carry a lot of privilege and have the tools to blend in, become invisible, insulate. Most transgender individuals are not so lucky. But yes, I will and shall take that very personally - both as I interact with our President and government, and with those who have supported him.

There is a Cherokee story that has been woven into our teacher training program
"It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil - he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego." He continued, "The other is good - he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you - and inside every other person, too."

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?"

The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."
 I need to continue to feed my good wolf, and to begin to starve my bad wolf. And that means holding myself apart from those people in my life who trigger my anger and fury.

November 08, 2016

No Gongs, Bowls, or Sound Meditations for Me

Apologies to those who create these energetic spaces. I'm not opting in.

I am both a musician and an engineer. My college project involved tearing apart a musical instrument (the marimba) sound - harmonic content, envelope, variation across the instrument range and striking force - create algorithms to describe the sound, and design circuits to duplicate the sound. We made a "one note analog circuit" that one could tweak / adjust to recreate any note on the instrument.

I cut my teeth on analog synthesizers - no MOOG, but we had an old ARP 2600 to mess with.




Of course, digital sampling came along and made all that analog design stuff kind of passe. But it's deep in my psyche, and my work and hobbies (power quality / sound reinforcement) have continued a focus on harmonics, spectrum analysis, waveforms, etc.

So yeah, when I lie down on the mat and you start gonging and chiming and ringing and droning, my left brain starts to go to work - analyzing the sound, pulling about the harmonics, drawing the envelope. That stuff keeps me firmly rooted in my monkey mind. Not a good fit for me.

I'll take silence and stillness, any day.

November 01, 2016

Life Update

So, what's new with me?

It's been a rough year. Not in any of the more traditional ways - work has been busy; health has been stable, I've been a bit more financially stable and sound than in many years. Nevertheless, I've been in a bit of a slump or malaise for quite some time. Not exactly sure I can put a finger on it but I'll hit the major hobbies and communities and see where this takes me.

Making Music

The Guinea Pigs had a bit of a slow summer. We've had some personal issues (family members needing care, injuries, busy work life) which have kept us from doing too much playing out. And we seem to have been a bit snake-bit in terms of gigs. A Blue Back Square gig got rained out after the first set; a Wethersfield Farmers' Market gig got canceled due to illness, a Billings Forge Farmers' Market gig got canceled because it was the day of their farm-to-table fund-raiser and they were cutting back on the noontime farmer's market.

Nevertheless, we played a set at Blue Back Square (before the rain got us), the last Wethersfield Farmers' Market of the season, and a really wonderful fundraiser for the Manchester Community Refugee Resettlement Group (MCRRG) to sponsor a Syrian refugee family at UUSE in Manchester that raised $950. We've learned a few new songs - Blue Bayou / mashed up with Under the Boardwalk, and Ex's and Oh's which was fun. I'd love to see us network a bit more - the Glastonbury Apple Harvest Festival, the Connecticut Farm and Folk Fest, and the Meriden Daffodil Festival should all be within reach.

Audio-Video Geekery

Once again, I supported (which is to say, I provided the entire sound system) for the annual Om Street: Yoga of LaSalle event which this year drew ~2000 attendees. There are a bunch of videos of this event available, including a great (and official) time-lapse, and something more professionally edited, but I like this one because it documents the scale of the event (close to 800' of street) and the sound system working all the way to the back....


In a less positive space, I attempted to promote a wonderful duo, The Levins, at West Hartford Yoga in October. Five people showed up. Disappointing to say the least - they deserved better. I deserved better. I quipped afterwards, "Every couple of years I need to give this community the opportunity to break my heart, and it never fails to do so". So I'm set for a couple of years of introversion and vague bitterness until the wound heals and I let myself hope again.

Hearing Music


Falcon Ridge was, by all accounts, fabulous this year. I would not know - between campsite buddies not showing up early and significant issues with facilities, I spent my "hang out and relax" days camped alone, worked non-stop and had a pretty shitty time of it. Our falling apart merch trailer never made it to the site, a replacement was found, but our supplies (carefully curated over 9 years, and carefully packed away each year) were in the old trailer. Some never made it to the fest, what did show up was too late to be really useful. It made for an extremely cranky Jude.

Still not sure what it means for the future - I suspect I'll be back but probably looking to camp alone closer to the merch area.

That being said, I got a lot of music under my belt this year; with trips to the Sounding Board, Iron Horse, Bridge Street Live, Folk Fridays, Infinity Hall, Unity House Concerts, even up to the Circle of Friends Coffeehouse in Franklin MA for a CD release party. Love live music and gonna keep showing up...


Balloon Chasing

More of the same. I did a presentation on social media at the local balloon club safety seminar in January; enjoy sharing my experience and wisdom there, although not a lot seems to stick. We've flown a bit this year - mostly out of Bethlehem, which is a bit of a truck. I did get a photo voted into the balloon club calendar:


The judges (whoever shows up for the contest) tend to have a "more balloons in the shot = better" criteria, so I rarely get something chosen, but this one is nice.

Yoga  - Teaching

Ironically and with no real comprehension as to "why", everything is awesome. My two weekday All Levels classes continue to be very well attended (occasionally with more folks on the mat than the hot / power class in the larger studio next door). I picked up a 4:30 pm Friday gentle class (the teacher was leaving town) and though it seemed like it was going to be a temporary thing; I've built a bit of a following there as well.

I know I'm a good teacher, and should not be surprised, but considering the struggle I have with my own practice, it's difficult to understand. By all rights my teaching should be falling apart; and it appears not to be. My internal story - each class is tinged with bittersweet energy "this is the yoga I want someone to teach to me" and it's not happening.

I remain engaged with the studio Teacher Training program - very hard and long weekends, very rewarding. More bittersweet as the trainees engage in the practice and making life changes that I seem incapable to connecting to these days.

Yoga - Practicing

Not much to say here. I practice at home enough to keep my body limber and strong enough to teach, but I have not unfurled my mat in a studio in months. There's just too much emotion and pain wrapped around the  studio community - feels like if I broke in the way I need to break, I'd never teach there again. I'm a little too old, overweight, and chronically injured to get much out of the studio's hot / power classes. Seems like I've gotten a little too much of a look behind the sanctuary wall to let go with many of the studio teachers.  So yeah, still kind of stuck.

On the positive side, I've redeemed a very generous gift certificate (bestowed back in 2011) for a May 2017 workshop called Big Magic and Bold Music, with Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat Pray Love) and Rayya Elias. So even though it's not really yoga, well, it's AROUND some yoga. One of those "not really sure why I am drawn to this, but I am, so let's see what's there" situations that I've come to expect and trust over the years, but which have been sorely missing from my life.

Testing . . . Testing . . . One . . . Two . . . Three . . .

Hey look, there's a blog here.

Pretty sure that this is a personal record for not blogging; my business blog has seem more action than this one has of late. I've shaken up my work life a little bit of late and hoping to be a little more engaged with life (personally, professionally, etc.) as a result. Time will tell....

But, for the moment anyway, I'm back...

July 17, 2016

Checking In

This blog has been pretty dormant of late (social media continues to suck the life blood out of my personal blogosphere, although my work blogs are still simmering)

However, in light of the recent killings of officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge, I ponder how long the 2nd amendment of the Constitution will remain intact given that the folks with heavy arms are persons of color (rather than crazy lone wolf white dudes), and the persons being killed are police officers, rather than children, queer folk, or random bystanders.

I'm trying not to get too deep into the mud on this stuff:
  • Most murders are committed with handguns, not rifles or "assault weapons" 
  • Gun deaths, and the murder rate in general, are falling
  • Most gun deaths are suicides, nearly 2:1. In some ways, I feel as if the rigor with which the 2nd Amendment is defended is as an alternative to a more enlightened policy on assisted suicide. In darker moods, I note that gun owners are killing themselves faster than they are killing the rest of us.  
The plight of black persons remains heart-breaking - mass incarceration, black-on-black crime, racial profiling, ongoing discrimination, the economic disadvantages of generations of slavery and subsequent discrimination - all of these by-products of an open wound in this country.

I do not support violence as a means of creating change. But I certainly understand how people reach a breaking point, and something snaps.

And oh yeah, the Dallas and Baton Rouge shooters were both veterans / victims of our ongoing wars in the middle east. We train these guys in the art of killing, we expose them to horrors both internal and external, and then bring them back into a racist and prejudiced society without a lot of support or opportunities, but with easy access to guns and ammo.


#BlackLivesMatter

May 24, 2016

Guan Yin / Avalokiteśvara

I'm not really sure how or why I stumbled across this particular bodhisattva. Serendipity works that way. When one is ready, something (or someone) drops into the path.

Wikipedia has a quick overview:
Guanyin is an East Asian deity of mercy, and a bodhisattva associated with compassion as venerated by Mahayana Buddhists. The name Guanyin is short for Guanshiyin, which means "Perceiving the Sounds (or Cries) of the World". She is also sometimes referred to as Guanyin Bodhisattva.
It is generally accepted among East Asian adherents that Guanyin originated as the Sanskrit Avalokiteśvara. Commonly known in English as the Mercy Goddess or Goddess of Mercy. This bodhisattva is variably depicted and described and is portrayed in different cultures as either female or male. In Chinese Buddhism, Avalokiteśvara has become the somewhat different female figure Guanyin

According to Mahāyāna doctrine, Avalokiteśvara is the bodhisattva who has made a great vow to assist sentient beings in times of difficulty and to postpone his own buddhahood until he has assisted every sentient being in achieving nirvana.
I'm not really sure why, but there's a deep resonance here. I'm in a place in life of serving, of providing nurturing and support to others even as I am unable to partake of that myself. It's happening in my yoga practice - even as my skill and popularity as a teacher increases, I find it a struggle to practice except on my own. I teach the practice I want to take but find it so difficult to connect with the practice as led by others. Similarly, I am the cheerful and kind voice of the Christmas season for clients.


April 10, 2016

Life in Da Hood, Part II

Back in 2011, I wrote about a particularly creative (in terms of stupidity, lack of personal boundaries, and amount of damage) lawn job.

From that event:
I called the local police, an officer showed up who was friendly but mostly unhelpful - she took some pictures, did a plate search on the car (came up clean) and found it was registered to the place next door. But was unsuccessful in contacting the owner and confessed that there was nothing she could do (because apparently this happened on Tuesday, so to charge them on Wednesday involved "warrants" which I guess means paperwork, and besides, this was not a vehicular matter (tickets) but a criminal one. etc. etc.
So when I came back home this noontime to a repeat performance in the making, I wasted no time contacting the local police. Catch 'em in the act, so to speak, and hopefully prevent the incident from going downhill fast.


Sorry to have to contact Johnny 5-0 on you, but you spent a good hour spinning tires and getting yourself in deeper, showed no sign of dealing with the problem in any sort of adult way, and your apparent intention (to continue to drive around to the back of the building to unload, since that was the direction they were trying to move the truck) was setting up a repeat performance of the 2011 event.

The cops (helpful, friendly) called a tow truck and hung around while they winched the sucker out of there. The damage on our side of the property line was not too bad, but they left a trench about 12" deep and 5-6' long on the other side.

Now I'm kind of stuck in the house until they finish unloading and vamoose - don't want to leave in case the new neighbors or their moved decide to screw with me or the condo for ratting them out.

Hard hittin' New Britain....

March 16, 2016

Documentary: Peace Officer

Caught this documentary last night on Hulu; a sobering and powerful film about the increasing militarization of the police (tactics, firepower, equipment, policies) and the cost in lives lost (officers, criminals, bystanders) as situations escalate. 
 
 

What made this powerful is the way the film-makers decoupled race from this issue. Clearly, systemic racial bias, issues of privilege, and racial imbalance between the police and their community multiply the problem many-fold for persons of color. But by focusing on cases where race was not even in the equation, the brokenness of the system is evident.

Not saying that it's a simple issue - the availability of powerful and high capacity weaponry makes policing a lot more difficult in the modern era. But this is really thought-provoking.

And then I had a nightmare that people were breaking into my house as I frantically barred the door and called the cops. Thanks a lot.

March 10, 2016

Happy Birthday to Me (or Not)

Wow, have I really not written a word here since November?

Well, it's my birthday; and a sorta big one. In recent years, I have been rather cagey about my birthday; keeping it private on Facebook, removing it from various databases where it might leak out, and fastidiously deleting or hiding social media posts throughout the day. My primary motivation was somewhat self-protective - most such posts, as well-intentioned as they are, focus on a traditional birthday celebration. Party, drinks, cake, presents, dinner, a gathering.

I enjoy none of these. I generally spend my birthday completely alone (but for a trip to do an errand for a friend this year); I've had a handful of cards, but mostly, birthday celebrations are something that others enjoy, but not me. And yes, I'm sure that some of this is self-imposed, or self-chosen, or cultivated by a lifetime of introversion, but it is what it is at this point.

So it's always seemed easier to just sweep it under the rug - that the outpouring of social media and virtual birthday wishes contrast to the nearly non-existent birthday reality and make the latter even more difficult, sad, painful.  Let's just pretend it's not my birthday so I don't have to feel like shit about it.

For whatever reason, I decided to do something different this year; simply removing the privacy guards on FB so that my birthday is visible. And my timeline / wall has been bubbling all day with well-wishes, comments, cute photos and videos. Which is all nice. But truth be told, it feels specious, somewhat disingenuous, when held up against the emptiness of reality.

My intentions were, really, pure - I wanted to break the cycle of birthday denial, be open to something new, different, better. But as the day has unfolded, it feels a little more like the real reason was because I want to feel the deep pain of the day, because I want to snuggle into the discomfort, loneliness, sense of alienation that spending a birthday alone entails.

So thanks for all the Facebook posts. I carry each well intentioned missive on my back as I sink into the morass.