Browsing Tag

poetry

Guest Posts, healing

Scars, Revisited.

January 26, 2015

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By Carly Courtney.

March 2014

“Is this a good time?” she asked, my dying phone clamped between my cheek and shoulder, both hands on the wheel, on a highway I didn’t know the name of, passing a town I didn’t recognize.

It wasn’t. The woman on the phone was calling about my biopsy the day before.

“Some of your results are back, and pathology recommends immediate excision.”

She continued babbling about the tests, but the only phrases I caught were “color strain” and multiple science-y words that start with “m.”

I hung up with the sensation in my stomach you get when you see police lights in your rear-view. My phone had 2% battery left, and I desperately needed GPS, so I sat awkwardly in the doorway of a McDonalds charging my phone and ordering iced coffee after iced coffee. Eventually I made my way along a windy road through the foothills that led me to Auburn where I found I-80, and my way home from visiting my mom and the hospital over spring break.

I had never been so happy to see the dorms when I pulled into princess parking (one of the five parking spots right outside the dorms) and texted my roommate to come help me unload my stuff. The medical assistant told me I wasn’t allowed to lift anything over five pounds with my left arm for five days after the biopsy. “No five for five!” she said, trying to be cheery and helpful. It’s hard to be cheery with a brick-sized ice pack shoved down your bra.

“What did they say?”

I focused on meticulously folding a pair of socks. “They, uh, recommend immediate excision.”

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being.

Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, LBGQ

Fragment.

January 25, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Sally J. Johnson.

I am about to bleed over everything.

*

Late one night, after a series of miscommunications strand us, my friend and I ask a cab driver to drop us off at my boyfriend’s place. Leave, we said, we’ll sleep here. When I knock on my boyfriend’s window to see if I can wake him from being drunker than I am, the glass in the pane undoes itself and a blade of it is buried deep in my left leg. I begin pouring more than the sky can be envious of. I pull the piece from my thigh and bleed in latitudes. I howl for my friend to call an ambulance, for something safe to come humming through the night toward me. She tells me later how my heartbeat felt in her hands: hot and unstoppable. But right then she thought she’d lose me.

*

Once, I dated a man who broke me into tiny pieces of myself but first pretended to fix me. He would make benches and useful, holding things out of wood. He made me a shelved mirror, which I treasured, then painted over, then threw away. He once wanted to save me money and so knelt on the cement of his garage to change my worn-to-the-metal brake pads. Instead of fixing anything, he shouldered a dent into the silver of my car. I had to take a car to a professional for the brakes, but left the crater. Later and again and again he would show me how to be useful by doing things useful for him. He built me a box, not out of wood, but from his own insistence that I was just a tiny thing meant to ask for permission to be anything more. I don’t know much about fixing anything except that a wrench is nothing without force or oil. So much of me bent out of place.

*

Somehow, when that window etched itself inside me, my cyclic scream did not wake my boyfriend but I was loud enough to pull the neighbors from sleep. I do not remember this, but they tell me they placed me on the ground before I would have fallen there myself. There, I make a large black stain they will hide under their welcome mat. I fall in and out of falling. I am wet with blood and rain and the water they pour on me to wake me. I am carried into an ambulance and my earrings—tiny pieces of painted glass on wire—are taken from me. Kept safe.

*

When I was very small, I accidentally stepped on a baby bird who had fallen out of her nest. I was barefoot. I wasn’t looking where I was going because I was cradling my cousin’s shoulders. Carrying him with my sister, pretending to aid his pretend wounds (even children know tenderness comes after a fall). I felt the little life of feathers crush beneath me. Of course, stepping on the beak and bones hurt me, but I never tell anyone that is a pain I remember.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being.

Continue Reading…

Guest Posts

Big Sur, Henry Miller and the Book of the Dead.

December 23, 2014

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By Jeff Finlin.

Some things you revisit only to find that the grandiosity of your youth has come back to slap you with a disappointment that you somehow remembered wrong. It’s like the white wash of mind itself has taken over to spite your perception of what’s really going on here. That old gerbil wheel between your ears remembers things in the unreality of comparison and what we’ve seen and heard; not in what’s happening now. The mind spits, moans, worries perceives and bewilders only based on what it’s captured before or is uncertain of.  It’s like a camera spitting out only what it’s seen or heard over and over again. Whether it’s that piece of ass you had or a glorious drunken night under the stars it mostly vomits back our experience more impeccably than it actually was.  It’s incapable, unless trained like a show dog, of just shutting up long enough to contemplate the miracle that lies before us.  The miracle is too terrifying. It’s written as our own book of the dead. The mind has to actually die in order to see that it’s the miracle itself. So in order to feel it we have to read and retain our own demise. We got to know it…realize it … love it… .  And that’s a hard thing to do. The denial of it is way easier. That Grateful Dead skull comes to mind. The day of the dead grins ear to ear in the lighthouse of itself. No …they weren’t kidding.

But then there are those times when the head shuts up long enough for us to experience the living and the dead all at once. Sometimes in a moment of God given clarity, the head, along with the heart, is able to recount the glorious cellular work of past experience in relation to what’s happening in front of your very eyes. It connects the present and past to the cellular chain link within and you are reminded in a phantasmagoric moment of explosiveness who you are, why you are here, and what you are supposed to do and be. You experience how you have become in relation to all your delusion, dreams, fear and psychosis. You come to see the path of mistake, truth and longing as a cosmic weave of grace and beauty, ugliness and pain, and in those fleeting enlightened moments it all somehow makes sense.

That happened on a drive today up Highway 1 in California into the wild and beautiful redwood spiked Big Sur where we had the pleasure of visiting The Henry Miller Memorial Library. The tears and times and heavens rolled like rain into my heart and mind amidst a beauty so big and bold that it made me aware that I was not separate from the river of universe that lay exploding within and out. I had been here before… but it was even bigger than I remembered. It was the personification of “remember to remember” as Miller so eloquently put it. I was somehow magically transported and connected to the first time; the original time of being. I was magically transported to the time I first experienced myself as a writer and human cell exploding into the many.  It was the future past and present all rolled into one Continue Reading…

death, Grief, Guest Posts, poetry

Grief Anniversary.

December 17, 2014

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By E.B. Wexler

“anniversary” implies that I do not have grief the other 364 days

I do.

But as the date approaches

I feel, slowly arising

The original grief

The breath sucked out of me when I got the news over the phone.

The early grief

Walking around in a daze, wondering where she went

How things would be now

 

She was 31

She was my “person”

And it was out of the blue.

I have not been the same since. And I don’t want to be…. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, love, poetry

How to Love a Stranger.

November 13, 2014

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By Adina Giannelli.
How about we meet in Chicago, a city neither mine or yours, and see what, if anything, might be found there;
And you will fly in from a small southwestern city, not your own, and I will arrive at O’Hare late, owing to unanticipated flight delays, and I will meet you in the lobby of the Hotel Godfrey, and you will be there, waiting;
And our hotel will be full of Europeans and people looking for a time, a show, a warm body (always a warm body);
And I will talk to you for hours, that night, about unanticipated subjects of all kinds; you ask for a year-by-year recitation of my life, and you ask are you okay? and how are we doing? and does this irritate you, the barrage of questions. Some people find it cloying, you will tell me, but I think it kind;
And we will sleep, strangers in a large cocoon, and your hand will slip quietly over mine;And we will float, curious, upon the muddy waters, in our rapid riverboat, our bodies anchored to metal folding chairs, our necks craning to see the city’s architecture from our watery vantage, the sun shining bright against us, in spite of and through the wind;

 

And the boat will rock and occasionally rise, the tide high or low (but I don’t know), and we will glide in our seats, unsure of what is flowing forth before us, certain only of our bodies, separate and together, moving easily through space and time;

Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, poetry, writing

Sojourns.

September 24, 2014

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By Abriana Jette.

Saturday, New Jersey Turnpike, 12:33pm

I had better tell you where I am going and why I am watching smoke sift through the hood of a 1993 green Honda Accord as spritzes of coolant spatter like small kisses onto the windshield. I am with a rap artist named the Deafinition, whom I will call Greg, and we are heading to the Poconos. Just a moment ago I was listening to the brashness of his voice seep through the SONY speakers that cost more than this car. Just a moment before life was working out as planned.

Since I have been near him I can’t help but to touch him. There is a meager patch of skin creviced between his head and neck, where his hair remains prickly, where there sits the redolence of a tender man, a place where my fingers seem to travel to trail the ends of his spine. He is soft to the touch. Wears a size thirteen. Hates tomatoes. Writes.

Except he calls it rapping. Same difference, I say. Within my reach I always keep a notepad or pencil, same as he when he scribbles lines at work or keeps a beat to remember with his fingers on the steering wheel. He writes in rhythms of west-coast rooted torments; here is the best friend’s unexpected death, there, the knowledge he has been forced to accept. He prides himself on his growth. He is 6’3”, has quiet green eyes.

I am trying to keep calm. He storms out of the car; swings open the hood, spouts curses while mumbling under his breath. For the first time I notice he is wearing dark blue jeans that he has rolled once, then cuffed, a pair of black Nike Zooms, a plain Hanes t-shirt (black), and a white Rocawear track jacket, with horizontal red and black stripes. His hair is shaved as if he were a soldier.

 

Ten minutes ago his voice sounded closer on the radio; like I could finally hear him speak. There is a distinct east coast flow in his pronunciation, a syncopated voice that manipulates verbs. A troubled voice permeates through all ten unsigned albums. He is judging, and crude, he lacks the desire to reach out and love, and yet his tone is void of rancor: it is kind, it has listened.

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Books, Guest Posts, poetry

3 Poems by Naomi Shihab Nye.

August 25, 2014

By Naomi Shihab Nye 

Dear Jen, these 3 little poems all remind me of you in different ways because
you really make the most of your days!!!!  Love, your fan club prez. Naomi (arm-wrestling with 1,000 others who say they are also the Prez. Imposters, all!) xo Naomi Shihab Nye

From A MAZE ME (Poems for girls)

Freshly out in paperback 2014, first published 2005 (Greenwillow Books)

note from Jen: Naomi is one of my favorite people on the planet as well as one of the greatest living poets of our time!

Jen Pastiloff and Naomi Shihab Nye 2014

Jen Pastiloff and Naomi Shihab Nye 2014

Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Manifestation Retreats, travel

Digging To Find Myself.

June 1, 2014

Digging To Find Myself. By Rachel Bolin.

Between my finger and my thumb

The squat pen rests; snug as a gun. ~Seamus Heaney

I have never really been very into poetry. I have phases where I have found solace in the words of poets. Robert Frost when I was at the ripe old age of 13, and I had a fleeting love affair in my teenage years of angst with Charles Bukowski. But I never understood it. I could relate to some of the passages and with bits and pieces of them, but as a whole it was completely outside my realm of comprehension. Then I discovered this man from the green hills of Northern Ireland. Where, even to this day, I would swear part of my heart lies, even though I have never stepped foot onto its soil.

I have always, and I mean always, been obsessed with the United Kingdom and Ireland. Anglophile never did seem like a strong enough term for how much I loved it. Even now, I still yearn for this probably very heavily romanticized version I carry around in my head and my heart. Of drinking Guinness in the local pub and watching football on the telly. I have gobbled up music, books, films and everything about it I could get my hands on. From the fascination with the Tudors to the obsession with the Sex Pistols, John Peel and Good Vibrations to imagining living a quiet life with grandchildren in the country many years from now. You name it I am sure I have envisioned that life and wanted to live in that city. It probably seems silly, but that daydream life was something that helped through those dark times. I knew that it would probably never come to fruition, as I was born and bred in the Midwest, but you can not blame a girl for dreaming. I have never felt my heart truly belonged here. Maybe in the beaches of California. Maybe in the mountains of Montana. Or maybe in those green hills were that man came from.

I always landed in those green hills. I think Seamus Heaney was the reason I landed there. I believed for a while that finding him was a sign for me to live there. I had my heart set on Belfast and Queen’s University where he attended and graduated with his degree in English. I was going to do music rather than write. I have tried many different things in my life. I attempted art school, which lasted for a whole 6 weeks, and then off to music production, then music business. Which definitely could have worked if I had the gumption to push myself to do it. But no matter how hard I tried, it did not really fit. I found myself getting disillusioned with the industry, seeing only the bad aspects of it, and realizing that there was a very real possibility of losing my main outlet. Music is, and hopefully will continue to be, my therapy. That is my solace in those dark times and my rejoicing during the good. I end up with music and with writing. I never thought I had the ability or the talent to be a writer for a career, but I kept doing it. Because I found that I have an easier time articulating my feelings and thoughts through it. Even though I write fiction and attempted, very badly, to write poetry, I still found a way out of my head. I have only recently begun to write those personal things. Those things that live and fester in the dark corners of my mind. I have begun to shed light on those demons that for so long seemed like they would overtake everything I hold dear. I have been in traditional therapy for so long, and while it did help, I think giving myself a voice and reaching out to others to realize that yes, I feel alone and unworthy, but seeing in big bright bold neon letters “YOU ARE NOT ALONE IN THIS.” That others have similar demons haunting them, has been such an eye opening experience.

I hopped on a plane and spent a week in the humid tropics of Costa Rica. I went on a Manifestation Retreat with (there are no real words for how amazing she is) Jennifer Pastiloff. I got home a handful of days ago, and I can feel myself flip flopping between the old and the new, who I was and who I will be. I have been so blissful and felt the best I have ever felt in my life. Then I have been agitated and felt suffocated. I can feel the old trying to choke the new blossoming ways out of my mind and my body. I can feel them fighting. I don’t entirely know what happened while I was down there. But apart from being so open with the most amazing, loving, giving and supportive group of women I have been blessed to meet in my life, something major shifted. That dark matter that resided in my belly was dug out, and the fire in my belly began to spark again in ways I have never felt. She holds the space for us to do this, to be open and so vulnerable that it could break your heart, but it doesn’t. Our hearts mend together to create this space for us to bring out our darkness and to confront it and say, “I rule this body, this mind and this soul! You don’t own me. I do!”

It seems almost as far away as one could get from the cold and rainy greenery of Ireland. Something big shifted in me in the sweltering heat of the jungles. It took a man from the rainy countryside to start it, and the jungles to dig it out.

I went down there to dig. That word “Digging” has never been far from my mind (I even want to get it tattooed on my arm), even as the years pass from the first time I read “Digging.” I never fully realized what he meant by any of it. How, by saying he “had no spade to follow men like that.” He was not meant to follow in the footsteps of the men before him. That he was to carve out his own path. He was to dig with his pen. He was to dig his way through himself, and through the world with his words. It was amazing to me to find out that he was all of 27 when he wrote that. That he had his moment of ‘This is what I am meant to do’ at an age not much older than my 25. That he did not have it all figured out until then, maybe even after that. He used his words to determine his path, both for finding himself and his way through the world. His pen and his words became a beacon of light in what could be an overwhelmingly dark world.

That was a calming moment for me. I have scrambled through life believing that I have to know my path NOW. Not years from now, I have to know everything right this second. Truth is, I know a few things. I have a few things that I would absolutely love to have happen, but they may not. I went through my digging in Costa Rica with the wish for a family and some peace, maybe a smidgen of self-love thrown in there for good measure.

But I fixated on family. The calm and ever loving family that I did not have, and still do not really have now. The family that I could do better and be better in. The family where we are not passive aggressive and let things fester over the years, where anger and depression and all other feelings run rampant and rule over the possibly of an unconditional non-judgmental ever lasting love. The family that I would daydream about in the country of Ireland (either North or South. I’m not picky). The one with the mass amounts of children and grandchildren running around, playing the mud, and howling laughter. With my husband and I sitting and just feeling calm love for each and every one of them. Where I could finally have those demons under some kind of control and not over-think myself into a mess that does not exist. When I slip into that bliss from the trip, that future does not feel so far away. It feels possible in some way. I can feel that peace of mind. I can get my brain to shut up for a while. I can get the words flowing again. That is the truest form of bliss I have been granted in my short life. Getting that hamster wheel of brain to stop running in circles that go nowhere but drive me insane, to halt to allow those words of Mr. Heaney to enter. To use that pen snug as gun between my fingers to dig. To really dig to the point where I can almost feel those words as earth between my fingers. Where I can visualize my words being pulled out of the hole in the ground where I lived for so long, and allowing these things to see the light of day so that I can thank them and realize them. I am trying so hard to release them to best of my ability, as I know remnants will always exist, but to dig the majority of it out and let it be gone. So I can stand guard over it and decide what I will allow back in. I will never completely control it, and there will be days in which the old stuff slips back in, but if I can be at a point where I can deal with it, and not shy away from my tough stuff, I will be good.

I went to Costa Rica to dig. And dig I did.

“Between my thumb and my finger

The squat pen rests.

I’ll dig with it.” ~Seamus Heaney

May there be many more years of digging ahead of me.

 

At Jen Pastiloff's Manifestation Retreat in Costa Rica.

At Jen Pastiloff’s Manifestation Retreat in Costa Rica at Blue Osa.

Rachel Bolin is a freelance writer who hails from the frozen tundra of Minneapolis. An art school drop out, she turned her focus to music, and has been educated in various aspects of the industry. She has been focusing her writing on Music and the Industry, but is now turning her focus onto more personal writing. She has a small collection of short stories published on Amazon. Her writing can be found on her blog at rachelebolin.wordpress.com.

At Jen Pastiloff's Manifestation Retreat in Costa Rica.

At Jen Pastiloff’s Manifestation Retreat in Costa Rica at Blue Osa.

Jennifer Pastiloff, the founder of The Manifest-Station, is a writer living on an airplane. Her work has been featured on The Rumpus, The Nervous Breakdown, Jezebel, Salon, among others. Jen’s leading a long weekend retreat to Ojai, Calif over Labor Day in Ojai, Calif. She and bestselling author Emily Rapp will be leading another writing retreat to Vermont in October. Check out her site jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Next up:  Los Angeles, SeattleLondon, Atlanta, South Dakota, Dallas. She tweets/instagrams at @jenpastiloff. Join a retreat by emailing barbara@jenniferpastiloff.com.

 

 

 

Guest Posts, Self Image, Vulnerability

Becoming My Own Midwife.

May 29, 2014

By Celeste Gurevich.

Let me share with you what it feels like to be loved back to yourself. To your True Self.

To live each day with a partner who loves and values every piece of you–even the ugly ones. Not in spite of them, but through them. One who has the integrity to point out when my inner child, still playing with fire, tries to self-sabotage the woman I strive to be. Or the ways I play out the story of myself projected onto me by others. Toxic overlays. I shred them piece by piece, his mirror reflecting the iridescent shimmer of my soul beneath layers of soot.

I learned to survive by quilting myself with breathe, blood, bones, and stories.

Panel by panel, saturated remnants of all of the Celestes I have ever been. The stitches laden with the scent of early Spring daphnes, garden-fresh basil a licorice-y labor of loving hands. The eternal tang of salty Pacific Ocean air. In the warp and weft of fiber, the scars, each with its own tale to tell.

Listen carefully and you will hear the music that moves me. You will feel the boiling momentum gathering in my root chakra, moving through my limbs with the notes, up through my arms and legs. The release, exquisite, of muscles moved to dance. Of vocal cords thrown open in song.

Mine is an embodied body. A body that was abused, and is still in recovery, rediscovery.

A body that brought life into the world without a pharmaceutical fog to separate me from my Pain. A body that has walked barefoot, childtoes in love with mud- thick, warm Mother Earth juices.

Mine is a body in flux, at the mercy of the dialogue between estrogen and progesterone, the interplay of ovaries and uterus. A bodymachine heaving herself in fits and starts toward cronehood. And I.

Am.

Ready.

Arms wide open to this New Self, it is time to embrace my failings, see them anew. To honor them as blessed teachers. To reclaim.

From this day forward, I transmute into power being told that I should NOT read in class my very first day of school. Shamed by the adult in charge for teaching myself to read. The embarrassment, guilt for being smart at six years old.

I’ll take being sexually abused as a young child, in a family drowning in generations of Othering, neglect, and addiction. Growing up dirt poor, getting teased for wearing the same clothes two days in a row: bell-bottomed denim jeans with rainbows embroidered on the back pockets, hand-me-downs from my cousin, a few years older, but petite, as my mother’s family tends to be, so they were only slightly too large. Lime green t-shirt, the 3rd place prize in a Mother’s Day essay contest held by the local newspaper. I still have the clipping tucked away in my mom’s leather briefcase.

As of today, I recognize my value in my relationships. Off with the blinders of self-doubt. I see now that I was a woman desperately in need of affection, for someone to have my back, to hold me and say it would be okay. Settling for abuse or safe mediocrity because I couldn’t yet see that I could thrive, and not merely survive.

I reclaim my own experience of being a poor, struggling single mother in a generation of women who watched as socially guaranteed safety nets were yanked out from under our feet. Denying those of us who ached to elevate. Those of us who were willing to sacrifice, those of us who kicked and screamed against the System.

All we wanted was the opportunity to succeed.

I’ll take every shitty job, every small-minded, small-dicked tyrant boss.

Decades of working my body to chronic pain and injury for someone else’s profit.

I call to power my library and barstool education. I rose beyond the poor-ass school district I spent hard time in. Held my creativity close. Set my own curriculum. Pushed through being denied funding and support to continue my education. The thing I wanted most desperately.

I proclaim my diploma from The Global University of the Self-Educated and the Academy for the Ideal of Unlimited Potentiality.

I’ll even accept losing my mother, my twin self, my primary parent, in a car accident when I was 21 years old. She was 40 and ½ when she died (she always marked the ½’s, from her height to birthdays). I was suddenly a motherless child, with a baby of my own. My mother’s best friend fell asleep while driving 60 mph. Mom napping in the passenger’s seat, dreaming of waking to the majestic Grand Canyon. Her soul left her body in the Arizona mountains. Land of the First People. As she would have wanted.

I claim it all. Every piece invaluable. After all, until you fall enough, how can you lose your fear of falling?

It made me who I am today.

Healer, mother, writer, artist, empath, musician, wife, gourmet chef.

Grandmother. Matriarch.

Holding the line of my ancestors. Holding the line.

Heart wide open. Mind on fire.

There is wisdom, empathy and strength through suffering and pain. If you chose to look that motherfucker in the eye and not blink. To jump free-fall down into your stories is a courageous act, and they are the most crucial gift we have to give one another.

To say FUCK YOU to fear is the only way to creating new trajectories for ourselves. Away from abuse. Away from neglect. Towards loving ourselves as we are.

Knowledge, consciousness, and righteous outrage are my weapons.

Stretching, my mind and spirit are being pulled outward in every direction. Ocean size. To the nebulas. Far enough to hold the magnitude of abundance that is my life now. That is my love. Now.

Mind wide open. Heart on fire. Expanding, out and out and up and beyond, wide enough to hold all of the intensity and passion and pain and humanity and laughter and sex and joy and stories and stories and love and art.

 

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Celeste Gurevich grew up on the Central Oregon Coast and currently lives with her husband, Andrew, in Portland. After experiencing a trauma-induced decade-long writer’s block, she started taking writing and film classes at Mt. Hood Community College and experienced a literary rebirth. A Social Artist in training, her goal is to teach others about the transformative nature of sharing our stories with one another, and the collective healing that comes from revealing our deepest inner selves in community. Her work has appeared in: Perceptions: A Magazine for the Arts, The Manifest-Station Whatever Works: Feminists of Faith Speak, and The International Journal of Gender, Nature, and Transformation. She is currently a member of the Dangerous Writers workshop with Tom Spanbauer, and is working on her first book. Her website, celestegurevich.com went live just in time for Christmas. She can be reached via email at urbangoddess70@gmail.com.

 She met Jen Pastiloff at a writing workshop in Portland called The Writer’s Voice with Lidia Yuknavitch and Suzy Vitello.

 Jen Pastiloff will be in Vancouver (Jan 17) and London (feb 14th) next with her Manifestation Workshop: On Being Human. Click here.
Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being.

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5 Most Beautiful Things, Jen's Musings, poetry

I Love You… But I’m Shy.

March 11, 2014

For Naomi Shihab Nye, who makes me want to be a better person.

The 5 Most Beautiful Things Project. I sometimes forget to write them down here in the blog but I almost always am on the hunt for them. Here’s the latest:

Poetry. Even the found poems, especially the found ones. As if they were left specifically for us. (Maybe they were?) Like the journal I found in my drawer tonight that someone had left at the restaurant I worked at for years. I’ve kept it all this time. I found it left under a table one night while I was cleaning up after my shift.

Some day I will live in the southe of France, wear espadrilles and a long silk scarf flowing behind me as I ride my bicycle to the beach

photo 1

So much time has passed since I found this old journal that I question now if I indeed wrote the words, but the handwriting isn’t mine and there’s these little drawings, which are most definitely not mine (at best I can draw stick figures.) But this gift, this poem(s) as it were, because it is a poem- who can question the image of a long silk scarf flowing behind a girl (who, according to the drawing wears a mask) and how that image will live somewhere inside me so that if I ever visit the south of France, which I have every intention of doing, I will conjure this mask wearing bicycle riding scarf trailing bicycle girl.

The next page:

I love you… but I’m shy.

More bicycles.

One of the riders is only a head. No body. This gift of poetry, which is everywhere if you look.

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Saturday night I went to a reading of Naomi Shihab Nye’s. (She’s actually the number one beautiful thing on this list.) Naomi has become a friend and what I most love about her, and there are many things to love, is her ability to be present and how she looks at the world with a poet’s eye, or rather, with a childlike sense of wonder. She talked about going to the library as a child and how you’d just let yourself wander until you found a book. You’d explore, as you weren’t going there for anything in particular. As adults, she said, we’re so directive. We make a beeline for exactly when what we want. There is a mission and a purpose and very little letting yourself get lost amidst a sea of books. She has that sense of wander and wonder.

Naomi and I

Naomi and I

My first love was poetry. I started writing stories as a child but when I got serious about it at NYU, it was for the love of poetry. C.K. Williams was the first poet I heard read.

I loved C.K. for how his poetry ran on and on. How it felt like he was talking to only me (isn’t that what all good writing does?) singling me out in a room full of shoelace-faced students—whispering into my freezing ears. Out of all the ears he could whisper to on a packed C train and he chose mine! This is what poetry can look like, he said. This is what words can do. And he conversed with me through his poems and taught me what was possible. If it weren’t for him (and a few other poets who crawled into my slowly-going-deaf-ears, right at that particular moment in time, I might still be riding the C train without the knowledge that words could change the world.) They could pummel and destroy and create and fascinate. I didn’t quite realize the capacity they had until those poets (Donna Masini, C.K. Williams, Derek Walcott, Seamus Heaney, Sharon Olds, Stanley Kunitz) quietly, without so much as a word of warning, showed up during my 19th year on the planet. They marched in and planted their word-flags and even when they left, their flags remained waving for me so that no matter where I went, I had a place that felt like home.

Naomi Shihab Nye makes me want to scour the world for poems.

I went digging and found the journal in my drawer which is undoubtedly filled with other poem worthy artifacts. I remember when I found the journal at work that Saturday night in 2001, or whenever it was, how I thought I’d hit the jackpot. I peaked in the book and realized it was nothing confessional (I murdered someone or I’m having an affair.) It probably sucked to lose it but I doubt it was earth shattering (Geez, I hope it wasn’t)- most of it was blank, save a few drawings and dreams and clothing sketches.

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I stuck it in the safe at the restaurant. No one claimed it for a whole year so I finally went back and got my loot. Then I stuck it in a drawer for a good ten years. Until today. So that’s one (or more) of my beautiful things. The way art finds us. The way poetry is everywhere. Just like beauty. And bicycles with body-less riders and lists of places to go, well, can’t the mind just go wild on that shit nodding madly yes yes yes.

Opening my own notebook and seeing this list.

2014:

Italy

London. Meet Jimmy again.

Go To Hong Kong.

(I remember now that these were my husband’s wishes and I’d just written them down for him.) We were in San Francisco. We’d just had some pizza. It was December and we were in San Francisco at some over-priced restaurant targeted for tourists. I had a glass of chardonnay and the wine gave me that rush of what was possible so I said to him, What should we do, you know? This year, with my pen poised and my little notebook out. Where do you want to go? So I am looking at this next to this old notebook I found at The Newsroom on my waitressing shift and I’m thinking how the same we are. So many of us. How we dream and dream and want and want and how we write things down in little notebooks and maybe we leave them behind or maybe we take them. Maybe we never go to any of the places we dream of going, but maybe we do. There’s so many of us with so many wishes and places and notebooks that surely there is a varied lot- some who make it to the other side of their dreams, some who make it as far as the ink on the paper and some who never have the courage to write it down. I’m thinking there’s all sorts.

Anyway, funny that I have these two books open and both are lists of places to go.

Oh, the places you’ll go!

I wonder if the girl who lost the notebook at The Newsroom ever went to the places she doodled. Her name is in the front cover. Back then we didn’t have Facebook to look her up but now I suppose I could. But I won’t. It would be awkward. If she reads me (wouldn’t that be a funny thing?) maybe she’ll recognize her drawings and her words. And maybe she will shoot me an email saying, “Yes, I made it. I am here in the south of France on my bicycle with a long scarf flowing behind me.”

The joy of quiet. Something Naomi said last Saturday. She loved my essay I wrote about my hearing loss on The Nervous Breakdown, and it struck me hearing her talk of the joy of quiet, that she, along with myself, must think of bursts of silence as holy things. The moderator, Lisa Napoli, asked Naomi how she finds quiet in the madness of the world. Oh, it’s to be found, she said in so many words. And I thought how the quiet is in itself a found art.

I am so unwilling to let myself get quiet most days and combined with the constant ringing in my ears, it seems as if my head is a carnival of sound. Nonstop chatter. I decided I must excavate quiet, I must unearth it and actively look for it as I do with the 5 Most Beautiful Things Project. Beauty Hunter. Hunter of Quiet. I’ve begun making it a project, seeking quiet wherever I can, because surely we all deserve the joy of quiet.

I have been walking to the beach. I have been meditating. I have been listening. It’s nice.

**

Today, a couple kids were yelping loudly so I said, “What’s the excitement?”

“He’s my cousin!” one shrieks, pointing to another, obviously very proud of this relation.

“She is too!” Pointing to another, younger girl, thrilled to be able to point this out to me. That such excitement about family exists. We are related!

Can you imagine being somewhere and jumping up and down to tell someone This is my mom! This is my brother! This is my Uncle! She’s my sister! It was sweet. And I wondered how long they’d stay close. I am not particularly close to any of my cousins. And just then, one of the kids face planted and havoc ensued.

** 

I sort of lost track since I’m rambling, but I think I am at number 5.

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#5 then, my friend Angela Giles who is a gifted writer and who sent me this book the other day when I was feeling like shit. I had been struggling with depression and anxiety and she sent this wee book in the mail, so small I thought the package was empty. It’s called The Do-It-Yourself Guide To Fighting The Big Motherfuckin’ Sad by Adam Gnade. The timing was impeccable. And this little book, surely there are parts where I feel as if I wrote it (again how similar we are! So many of us walking around trying to fight the big motherfuckin’ sad in our lives.) I mean, have you read my friend Maggie May Ethridge’s piece on my site called Sad Fish? It’s one of my favorites and I have taken to reading it aloud to people like some preacher on a street corner. Hey you! You! Over there! In the red jacket! Listen up.

I think that maybe finding the beauty and the quiet is the poetry. And the things we notice when we are the denizens of such particular states of grace will allow us to harness our joy in such way that every so often we’ll feel as if we are on a bicycle somewhere in the south of France, some scarf trailing behind us and nothing existing but that which is waiting to be found by us and has perhaps been waiting forever.

******

Jennifer Pastiloff is a writer living on an airplane and the founder of The Manifest-Station.  She’s leading a Retreat in Costa Rica at the end of March and a weekend retreat in May to Ojai, Calif as well as 4 day retreat over Labor Day in Ojai, Calif. All retreats are a combo of yoga/writing for all levels. She and bestselling author Emily Rapp will be leading another writing retreat to Vermont in October. Check out her site jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Next up is NYC in March followed by Dallas, Seattle and London. 

Guest Posts

Setting Free The Bears.

March 5, 2014

By Maggie May Ethridge (who, truth be told, Jen has a total girl crush on.)

When life is hard, then harder, then fossilized into a shell over your skin so tight and so fragile it breaks with the smallest tapping of the new thing trying to be born, then there are things that must be done. Firstly, right yourself. Are you sleeping enough? Your mother told you. Your doctor told you. Even your Uncle Alfred who farted and belched loudly after turkey dinner told you – you must sleep enough, or simply nothing works just right. Your brain is your gateway to reality. If you close off the energy force the gateway will not work, and your entire perception of reality will be tilted, see- just so – just enough to make you slightly wonky. I’m already wonky on my own, born and bred, and need no help in that direction.

Next, are you eating healthy? Every meal should be protein, veggie, healthy carb (nothing white, but brown rice, multigrain breads). Eat in intervals that feel natural to your body. Drink water. You don’t like a shrively pruney lemon looking face, do you? Well you don’t want your brain this way either. Drink. Then there are the essential caretaking measures: shower, shave, scrub your pits. If, because of lack of hygiene, you happen to randomly and repeatedly catch a whiff of your own sour stench repeatedly during the day while trying to interact with other life forms, you might find you like yourself a little less. ‘ Anyone worthwhile, ‘ you might think ‘ would not smell like pig ass when they have a perfectly available and working shower, equipted with the latest modern miracles like razors and soap. ‘ Shower. Lather. Make large, ridiculously cheerful bubbles, and sing. I recommend singing a rap song in operetta. I do, and it makes me happy.

Also, don’t forget to wear clean clothes that fit well. Now you are fed a nutritious meal, showered and shaved, dressed and standing tall. Let’s begin by setting the mood. Music Please… and

Flowers. Pick some, buy some, just get em, anyway you can, and spread them around your places. Your places are usually work, home, maybe a lover’s apartment, or your psychotherapist- wherever you spent a lot of time. Put them there.

Also, while I’m on the subject, be Naked. Often. Get in touch with your body, as a living breathing beautiful form, not just as a clothes hanger or food hamper. Have Sex.

If you have no one to have sex with, have it with yourself. Do something
that feels good, and feel good about it. See? Your 8th grade Religious Studies
teacher was wrong about masturbation, because I have neither 1. pimples nor 2. scales on my hands.

Take every opportunity to Dance * yes dance, dance i said, not only you sexy people, all you sly muthas, just get out there and dance- Dance, I Said!* Salt and Pepa knew. So should you.
I dance in the shower ( not while soaping and singing. that might get tricky. ) I dance in the car. I dance at work, to the amusement of my co-workers ( Yes you, Stephanie and Heather ) I even hurt my right butt cheek dancing to Michael Jackson in the sun room two days ago.

Remember White Nights? How could you not want to tap and leap your way into life!

 
Now we are somewhat refreshed. Here is where we begin to think of how we can be of Service to one another. To the people around us. I had my son at 19, and learned one of the greatest lessons of my life in his birth: acting in behalf of another human being is one of the greatest healing actions available to us. Not the daily ‘allowances’ that we make for one another- these things that we confuse with service to our friends and family but really are only small ways to drive ourselves crazy- the constant yes when no is meant, the answering of phones at any occasion or time, the need and demand for availability ( IM, Chat, Facebook, Phone, Cell, Email), this kind of thing. To care and love in a healing way means that we keep our eyes open for the person who needs and desires it. This is stopping when a flustered, near tears elderly lady cannot find her money and paying for her coffee, taking on a mentor role in a young person’s life, volunteering an an Assisted Living Facility or Pediatric Unit at the hospital, making dinner twice a week for the family of someone undergoing cancer treatments- these and million other actions are what unite us as a people and bring peace and meaning to our lives.

Then there is the indomitable Spirit. As a writer and poet and passionate person in general, I have only once in my adult life felt disconnected from my spirit, and I fought tooth and nail to regain my whole. I believe that literally the act of holding your head up is a physical way to pull the strings of the spirit. I will NOT look down at the fucking ground. Everything we do to nourish our spirit is reflected back eventually. I am a huge believer in taking positive action even when you cannot see the results. The lack of results is a facade. Holding your head up, repeating marching orders to yourself ( you will be able to do this, yes ), reading about the particular issues you have in life, talking to friends, a therapist, service – it all becomes part of the gust of spirit that will eventually blow through you and lift you back up where you belong. So,

finding what nourishes the Spirit is an important part of growing up. Am I grown up yet?

Bears

Can I Set Free The Bears?

Next time we will discuss:
Drinking
Vacationing in ill-mowed and unkept squares of green (otherwise known as my backyard)
The in-house prescription for cheer
Sticky notes of love (not what you might think)
Animals and their furry hairy magic
and
Children make good clowns, there for your amusement.

Maggie May Ethridge is a novelist, poet and freelance writer from the deep South who has lived most of her life in San Diego, CA. She has an Ebook coming out in January with the new publishing company Shebooks ” Atmospheric Disturbances: Scenes From A Marriage ” and is completing her second novel. She has been published in magazines both on and offline in places like Diagram, The Nervous Breakdown, Equals Record and blogs regularly at Flux Capacitor.

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Jennifer Pastiloff, Beauty Hunter, is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Her work has been featured on The Rumpus, The Nervous Breakdown, Jezebel, Salon, among others. Jen’s leading one of her signature retreats to Ojai, Calif. over New Years. Check out jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Next up: South Dakota, NYC, Dallas, Kripalu Center For Yoga & Health, Tuscany. She is also leading a Writing + The Body Retreat with Lidia Yuknavitch Jan 30-Feb 1 in Ojai (2 spots left.) She tweets/instagrams at @jenpastiloff.

 

 
Grief, Guest Posts, healing, poetry

On The Anniversary Of My Father’s Death.

February 25, 2014

By Stacey Brown-Downham

This piece is written in honor of Stacey Brown-Downham’s father, Peter Brown–photographer, carpenter and jack-of-all-trades (with a special finesse for the art of cursing)– who passed away three years ago today at 60 years old, but maintained his sense of humor through years of illness (e.g. After one of his many heart attacks, a nurse says to his wife, “He’s had a very bad heart attack.” His response from the other room, “It must not have been that bad. I’m still here.”) 

BREAK HERE. AND HERE. AND HERE.

It should break us all–to feel so much, to love so hard, to hold on so so tightly only to let go willingly (or not).  Maybe it does break us all in different ways only to put us back together better, at least different.

As children and perhaps parents we are made of each other, of our nasty and glorious insides and outs. I had (and still have, in some ways) no idea the ways that I could be broken, and then healed–all the things nobody talks about. Scar tissue in unmentionable places. Scenes etched in cerebral sharpie.

Scene 1: I dropped my son down the stairs, and listened to him roll down all twelve wooden steps in his three-and-a-half-month old body. We drove ourselves to the hospital in a dream. I ran into the emergency room, pleading for someone to help us, not knowing if he was okay. Somehow he was–the hairline fractures in his tiny skull healed long before I could shudder the memory away. It held onto me or I it, or both. I can only write about it now, five years later, and almost not hear it or see it happen in front of me.

We have since carpeted the stairs, but they are still wooden underneath. We have not fallen again, so carefully now we tread.

Scene 2: When my father passed away two years later, after years of illness, at the young age of sixty, we drove through the night to Canada from New Jersey, to sit by his side as he went wherever it is we all must go. I sang in his ear, watched him stare intently up at the corner of the room, and nod in communion with some unseen friend, pull his gaze back down with all his might to search for my mother, then with her permission, allow his soul to slip out and to leave his body still and quiet at last. I sang again at his memorial, ate far too much maple coffee cake and promptly returned back to work, suggesting to all who asked that it would be an adjustment.  An adjustment? You could call that term a gross understatement and perhaps it was at the time, but what else can any of these earth-shaking moments require of us than wholesale adjustments of the body and soul?

Scene 3: I tried to be okay–I was strong, right?– but my body revolted. I became unbearable to be around. I liked no one and nothing. My husband braced himself when I opened my mouth to speak–what accusation, what complaint might issue forth?  So I had to adjust, alright, or risk breaking it all.

Scene 4: At exactly the right time and place (a Saturday afternoon, Spring 2011, at Dhyana Yoga in Haddonfield, New Jersey) I found myself sitting cross-legged on the floor in Jennifer Pastiloff’s Manifestation yoga workshop and she told us to partner up and sit directly across from each other. I was odd woman out so I was paired with her. Our job was to stare into each others’ eyes for two minutes straight–into a stranger’s eyes for two minutes straight. I don’t think I’d looked into anyone’s eyes for that long, ever. My eyes welled up–no big deal. I can hold it together. But then she smiled, nodded and gave a little wink, just simple gestures of kindness. It was like she knew, knew that I had had no one to whom to bare this grief, no one whom I thought could bear it. But she smiled permission and so I gave it up, all that grief to a sister-like stranger and I did not break.

She set me on my way back. From there I talked, I breathed, I took strange supplements and new age tests, I stopped eating wheat, I moved my body and I wrote.  I was sick for months, maybe years, and then I was better.

These things should break us, and they seem to for a time, but they don’t. For here we are. We are here. And that’s the nasty and glorious truth of it all, at least for now.

Stacey and her father.

Stacey and her father.

But if you want it in other words:

“Resolution”

Each year at this time as
The earth revolves
Around the closest star
It slows just long enough
For us to stop and take
One last sweaty look at summer
Then reluctantly face forward
With immense resolve
To begin the year anew
(I keep a students’ calendar
If the sun does not)

In its recent circles
It has turned us askew
All the big things, you see,
It has let us see
The greatest of loves
Joined and divided and divided again
Two times made mother
Once the wife
And the grieving daughter
And the one who slipped
And watched him tumble down the stairs
Over and over and over
As the world spun too

It shone in their eyes
While we made humble promises
And donned rings
Outside it waited
While in those windowless rooms
We were first and then again made mother and father
It rose as we drove
Glinted off snowy banks in the
Hospital parking lot as we arrived
And was traveling westward too
As he took flight
And we walked out into the cold evening with and without him

No matter how far we go
We end up right back here
Parts the same but
Wholly different.

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Stacey Brown-Downham is these things (in no particular order):  Canadian ex-pat/recently baptized American citizen, the mother of two ceaselessly charming (charming and ceaseless?) boys, wife to an equally charming American gentle-man, high school English and Special Education teacher, singer-songwriter under the moniker of The Classic Brown, soul-student of Jennifer Pastiloff and when windows of time permit, an amateur writer of prose and poetry. 

Jennifer Pastiloff, the founder of The Manifest-Station, is a writer living on an airplane. Her work has been featured on The Rumpus, The Nervous Breakdown, Jezebel, Salon, among others. Jen’s leading one of her signature retreats to Ojai, Calif over Labor Day in Ojai, Calif and she and bestselling author Emily Rapp will be leading another writing retreat to Vermont in October. Check out jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Next up:  SeattleLondon, Atlanta, South Dakota, NYC, Dallas, Tucson. She tweets/instagrams at @jenpastiloff. Join a retreat by emailing barbara@jenniferpastiloff.com.

Next workshop is London July 6!


beauty, Guest Posts, Self Image

Teeth.

January 18, 2014

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By Kate Hill Cantrill.

My eight year-old nephew, who is an Arab Israeli, thought I looked like a farm girl when I wore braids.

“Why do you wear your hair like that?” he asked. “I don’t understand why you’d want to look like a farm girl and you do with your hair like that, and your big teeth, and your spotted face.”

“Big teeth are better than no teeth,” I said. He covered with pursed lips his missing front ones.

Later, he poked his finger into my nose and asked me why I had no babies.

He and his two brothers came to America every summer to visit their mother’s side of the family. She and their father had met when they were both studying in Germany. The oldest boy planned to be a football star; although when the football star was in America he said ‘soccer.’. He would never speak English to an Arabic speaker, or vice versa. He learned early on that there are differences in this world, even though sometimes those differences perplexed him. In his Bedouin village in Israel all the married women had babies, and he didn’t mind really, he said, but he did wonder why I was married if I didn’t want babies. I told him it wasn’t that I didn’t want them; I just didn’t want them yet.

“What are you waiting for? You’ve been married since I was a baby. You’re old.”

“I’m thirty-five,” I said.

“Yeah,” he said. That’s what he was talking about.

I told him I didn’t know what I was waiting for. He scrunched his face. This didn’t satisfy him; this was not an explanation he could chronicle in his head. He still had questions, but then he said he didn’t care anyway because if I had babies I couldn’t ride upside down roller coasters with him at Hershey Park. Maybe I could, but I’d have to find a sitter and I’d get tired a lot faster.

I believe I confused them. In their world girls were girls until they were mothers, but I was neither. Even when they came to visit America they came to Mennonite country Pennsylvania, where men did men things and women did women things; and these women things, for the most part, included having multiple children by they time they were thirty. It meant, for the most part, eschewing fashion for comfort and making other arrangements that enabled them to be anyone’s mother at any time it may be needed. A man craved a sandwich? Here was a mother. He needed his shirt cleaned? A mother. The childless daughter-in-law didn’t eat meat and therefore required a large bowl for the salad? Mother. Get your own bowl, the three boys must have thought. And wipe this steak sauce off my face while you’re up.

When I went for a run they asked, what for? You’re just going to get fatter anyway—look how big your arms are! I told them it was muscle, which it was, and then I flexed.

“Feel my guns,” I said.

“Those aren’t guns,” the oldest one said. “I’ve seen guns and I wouldn’t touch them even if they were guns.”

“Why not?”

“Because you’re a girl,” he said. “Sort of.”

They were frenetic thinkers. One day the younger one pushed the heels of his palms into his eyes and declared that it was impossible to think of nothingness—true nothingness meant nothing: no air, no god, no blinks, no thoughts. The boys’ mother, my sister-in-law, who was fairly quiet like my husband and the rest of her family, laughed and mussed his hair and said her boys were growing up to be like Arab men—always talking, talking, talking—like they were jacked up on coffee and couldn’t keep their mouths from uttering all of their thoughts.

I wondered, though, if these seemingly pointless ramblings were really indications of my nephews’ extremely high intelligences, like in a cross-cultural philosophical sense that was way, way over my head. I wondered if their demand for answers regarding differences in ways of living was simply forced upon them by circumstance.

I was wearing a blue tank top and cut-off blue jeans and turquoise earrings one morning and the youngest one, the third nephew, walked up to me, flicked at the bottom of my shirt.

“Tell me you don’t like blue,” he said. “Just say it.”

I didn’t know what I was waiting for, exactly. Money? A book deal? Something that defined me before I was defined by my children? My mother fought to find herself after she birthed me and my two sisters; back then it was the renegade thing to do—find ways to separate yourself from your children—but to me, and to my sisters, it was painful. Find yourself, make your mark on this world before you have children—it’s what I thought my mother’s life had taught me, and I had always been grateful for the lesson. Although I didn’t believe I understood the number of years that might take, that search for oneself, that search for the spot on which one’s mark should be made.

Now that she is gray and soft, my mother says that children often point women in the right direction, but that felt wrong to me—using children as trail markers. I feared it might not happen either. I feared I’d simply lose myself, happily, inside of their needs. I did enjoy sitting next to my nephews, smelling the play in their hair, watching them kick at the dirt and wonder aloud how a bear’s teeth could reveal its age. They had just learned this and were going to talk to their dentist father about it when they got back to Israel.

“We have the biggest house in the village,” the youngest one said. “It gets dusty but not as dusty as other people’s tents do. The wives are always sweeping, sweeping, sweeping.”

I cringed, bit my tongue with my front teeth.

“You’re my Uncle Scott’s wife,” he said, as if he noticed my teeth pressing down.

“I’m married,” I said, “but I’m not a wife.”

“What?”

Never mind, I said. That was stupid.

This one was the most affectionate of the three, but when his brother jammed his finger into my nose, clenched his teeth and asked again about no babies, this one tried to copy him but missed and poked my eye. It hurt but I didn’t know how to react until later when I decided that I should have grabbed their hands and taught them something about manners; but I didn’t really know my place there, and truly I was too distracted by their questions, and all the many questions that followed that one: why? why not? when? who are you?

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Kate Hill Cantrill’s writing has appeared in many literary publications, including Story Quarterly, Salt Hill, The Believer, Blackbird, Quick Fiction, Mississippi Review, Swink, and others. She has been awarded fellowships from The Corporation of Yaddo, The Jentel Artists Residency, The Virginia Center for Creative Arts, and the James A. Michener Foundation. She has taught fiction writing at the University of Texas, The University of the Arts, and The Sackett Street Workshop. Kate’s first collection of short stories, Walk Back From Monkey School, was recently published. She lives in Brooklyn.

All of Jen Pastiloff’s upcoming events listed here.

Guest Posts, Inspiration, poetry

Being A Fan by Naomi Shihab Nye.

January 16, 2014

**Note from Jen: It’s a huge honor to have one of my favorite poets in the world guest post on my site today…

Being a Fan by Naomi Shihab Nye.

Maybe we could pay more attention to this subject. We’re so full of ourselves, but it’s much more fun to be full of others. Who do we deeply appreciate and how does this help us when the going gets rough? Or, if we’re feeling a little dim or faded, who’s someone new we could love?

At age 20 I stepped into a falafel joint in Austin, Texas and heard Tom Waits singing from a speaker behind the counter for the first time.  Who is that? I asked the Arab guy who looked like my cousin. That’s Tom Waits, he said. And he handed me my hot wrapped sandwich.

I went straight to a record store and bought 2 Tom Waits albums. I basked in them, listening over and over, playing them

for all prospective new friends, watching their reactions. If they responded strongly to Tom’s songs, I was more interested in being friends with them.

Over the years, the songs of Tom Waits have circulated in my cars and rooms more than the work of any other artist and I continue to love his music in all of its phases.  Every song, every album – even the clankier songs on “Frank’s Wild Years,” for example, have grown on me as I got clankier myself – he and later his wife Kathleen Brennan alongside him have written music to live by and I feel deeply companioned, comforted, whenever his voice is present, and especially at top volume, and even when a song has just been played 50 times in succession. His songs are homes to live inside.

Who would I have been without these homes? I have no idea. Someone lonelier, for sure. I urge you to watch the videos for Tom Waits’ songs, “Hold On” and “Hell Broke Luce” –- both made by the visionary Matt Mahurin, if you have a chance.

Attending only one Tom Waits concert in my life, in a weird overly warm “standing only venue” concert hall in Dallas, the Palladium Ballroom, I consulted with the guy next to me who had also arrived 2 hours early. Somehow I attempted to establish the fact that I was a bigger fan than this guy was. In fact, who were all these other people? They had no right to stand in front of us.

The guy casually said he had been to Houston the previous night to hear Tom’s concert there.  “They had seats,” he said. “It was a nice hall.” I was thunderstruck. All the Deadheads of the world might be surprised to hear how shocking it was to me to realize I could have followed Tom around Texas and attended even the concert in El Paso, for goodness’ sake. I had made a big mistake. One concert only. But, it would certainly be the best musical night of my life and by the time Tom ended his encore, repeating, “And it’s time, time, time” as in – time to go home, maybe – I was mesmerized, rhapsodized, utterly confirmed in my fandom.

Out in the parking lot (a grassy field behind the ballroom), I stood a long time by my car to be the last person to leave. That seemed important. I phoned my son and husband back home in San Antonio to describe in detail how great the concert had been. Though it was past midnight, they were kind enough to listen to this.

The next day I was so disgusted with the Dallas Morning News reviewer’s word  “demented” in the concert review headline – okay, so it appeared alongside another agreeable word like brilliant – that I wrote a letter to the editor, which was never published.

Tom, Tom, Tom. Time, Time, Time. To be a fan is a lucky thing.

(I know a 22 year old writer named Vincent who has been to 40 Dar Williams concerts since he was 12.)

Right before Thanksgiving, I went back to Dallas, and read a Dallas Observer review of someone who had played a concert in a giant arena the night I arrived – someone named “Macklemore” along with his pal “Ryan Lewis”  – there was a picture of these two fellows, both wearing black, the main man staring off to the side. The reviewer said something like, “If anyone had ever told me I would be writing a wildly positive review of a rapper, I would have been shocked,” then went on to say what a captivating concert it had been. He mentioned a song called “Thrift Shop” and some others. Hello, YouTube.

Why did Macklemore in those blue footie pajamas even singing the M-F word which many people my age do not feel comfortable with send me to the moon?

Since that first viewing, I have watched all his other videos, repeatedly, his Tiny Desk Concert for NPR, his radio interviews, the interview in which he takes us on a tour of some of his thrift shop clothes and big coats on a rack in his living room, etc. When he turned up on the stage at Times Square on New Year’s Eve, I was stunned. Is this the most in touch with popular culture I’ve ever been? Probably.

Thanks, Ben Haggerty aka Macklemore, for reminding me how great it is to be a fan. It’s invigorating. I get in my car and there’s Tom Waits at full blast. But when the day sags (between 4 and 5 p.m. usually) I turn on Thrift Shop and do a little dance to it. The world is bright again. ~Naomi Shihab Nye

*Naomi Shihab Nye says “I am a fan of Jennifer Pastiloff and her blog!”

naomi-shihab-nye

Kindness

Naomi Shihab Nye

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.
Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

Biography of Naomi Shihab Nye 

Naomi is a poet, songwriter, and novelist. She was born to a Palestinian father and American mother. Although she regards herself as a “wandering poet”, she refers to San Antonio as her home.

Her first collection of poems, Different Ways to Pray, explored the theme of similarities and differences between cultures, which would become one of her lifelong areas of focus. Her other books include poetry collections 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East, A Maze Me, Red Suitcase, Field Trip and Fuel; a collection of essays entitled Never in a Hurry; a young-adult novel called Habibi (the semi-autobiographical story of an Arab-American teenager who moves to Jerusalem in the 1990s) and picture book Lullaby Raft, which is also the title of one of her two albums of music. (The other is called Rutabaga-Roo; both were limited-edition.) Nye has edited many anthologies of poems, for audiences both young and old. One of the best-known is This Same Sky: A Collection of Poems from around the World, which contains translated work by 129 poets from 69 different countries. Her most recent anthology is called Is This Forever, Or What?: Poems & Paintings from Texas. 

She has won many awards and fellowships, among them four Pushcart Prizes, the Jane Addams Children’s Book award, the Paterson Poetry Prize, and many notable book and best book citations from the American Library Association, and a 2000 Witter Bynner Fellowship. In June 2009, Nye was named as one of PeaceByPeace.com’s first peace heroes.