el diario de la isla mujeres, part dos

Sunday, April 3

Some folks say Sunday is a day of rest. So it is for me, on this day. My possible excursion to Teimplo de las Diosa Ixchel is postponed. My mind and body want stillness, ocean, naps on the beach. And here is the secret joy of traveling alone: you can tune in to the universe and your own body, your every desire and need, and follow whatever random path the day has in store for you. You are obligated to no one but yourself–a rare thing for most of us. We all could use a little more alone time with the one person we are stuck with for the rest of our lives–self.

It is easy to not tend to oneself. There are a million distractions and demands that allow us to tuck our notions of self into a far, deep pocket of our awareness, bury it deep below: the needs of others; anxieties about life, love, money, happiness; self-loathing, addictions, and worse.

I tell you–this is a dangerous thing, this burying of the self.

Don’t misunderstand me. I am not advocating being “selfish.” In fact, quite the opposite. We are little good to others, ultimately, if we do not know our selves. We cannot act selflessly, truly, unless we allow the same compassion for our selves that we allow for others. Act toward yourself as you would act toward the people most beloved in your life. Would you call your best friend a fat pig for eating that second helping of ice cream? Would you tell your child she is stupid, worthless, a failure, and will never get anywhere in life? Would you counsel your sister to be unhappy, dwell in misery, to not, under any circumstances, follow her dreams and passions? Would you advise your mother that, really, he hit you because you deserved it, because your life has no value?

I suspect not. And if you would, we have some other issues to deal with. Most likely what my former therapist would call a “black hole.” An emotion or event or trauma that you are repressing and repressing and repressing until it is packed into such a tight, pressurized dark space that, when it finally explodes–and it will–the fallout will be mildly violent at best, deadly at worst, to yourself and/or to those around you. [A useful tip: keep your eyes peeled and your ears tuned for these black holes. If they are inside you, deal with them. If they are in others, duck and cover, or better yet, walk quickly away in the opposite direction.]

Tangents. They are not misguided errors, they are the point.

Continuing. Whenever you feel yourself being critical or mean–to yourself or to others–check yourself. Take a step back. Ask yourself, how would I react if my best friend/child/sister/mother said/did this thing about/to herself? Would I be kind? Yes?

Allow yourself to be kind to your self. Give yourself permission to dote on your self with love and affection. Listen carefully to what your self is asking of you: Let me rest. Tell me my life is worthwhile. Remind me that life is not just about stress and making money, that in fact, at the core of things, there is very little, if anything, one actually needs in life to be happy. Allow me to believe I can do anything, be anyone. That whatever it is I want to do in life, I can do it. That whatever needs I have, the universe will tend to.

Now, it’s possible your self will want you to take it on a tropical island vacation, say, right when work is becoming untenably stressful and weather reports are entirely unacceptable and people around you have a lot of emotional demands. In which case, I can recommend a few places.

___

So, somewhere in there, I was telling you about my Sunday. But to tell you about my Sunday, I have to tell you about a few other things. I could go into a lot more detail–eventually I will, but not here, not now. The essential thing you need to know is that, after about five years of brutally tough life lessons, I have finally learned to tend to my self and to listen, and trust in the universe. So that is what I have been doing here on my island, and in my life in general. And because I give myself permission to do this, the universe keeps bringing me gifts. The energy you put out is the energy you get back. Sometimes these gifts are people, sometimes they are moments, sometimes they are physical objects.

Friday, my gift was being in this place, downshifting into a slower pace, appreciating nature and beauty.

Saturday, my gift was Jorge, and all the wonderful experiences I had wandering about on my “wrong turn,” and the reawakened desire to put these experiences into words and share them with other human beings I like.

Late Saturday evening, my Sunday gift is waiting for me on the end table of the lobby common room, propped up against a stack of books. You’ll Believe it When You See it by Dr. Wayne Dyer.

I smile when I notice it. Wayne and I go way back. The night before I decided to turn in my resignation letter and quit the job I had held for all of the nine years I had been in New York, I was sitting in my living room watching “Excuses be gone!” on PBS. (Two or three times because they kept replaying it & I had no interest in sleeping.) The next day, after hitting send on my resignation email and instantaneously experiencing an entire, heavy world lifting off of my shoulders the likes of which I cannot even describe, I downloaded the podcast of “Excuses be gone!” and purchased his book Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life: Living the Wisdom of the Tao, which, after reading cover-to-cover, I now keep in my living room on the bench where I sometimes have my morning coffee. If I am having some sort of “life issue,” I often pick it up and flip through it until the right chapter bops me on the nose. It saves me (and others who might be affected by my behaviors) a whole lotta grief.

So anyway, that’s Wayne, and finding his book on the end table of my hotel in paradise was, well, quite an obvious gift from the universe. The man says things I need to hear repeatedly. I can be pretty dumb sometimes, and I find that I need constant reminders to catch myself when I am entering into bad thoughts/behaviors or being unkind to my self. And so, in between swims in the ocean and naps on the beach, I hung out with Wayne, and it was all good stuff, and again, exactly what I needed to hear.

And maybe this post is my gift to you, dear reader, whoever you are, whatever whisperings of the universe have brought you to this page. As Rilke says:

“You are so young, so before all beginning, and I want to beg you, as much as I can, dear sir, to be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

Maybe, just maybe my Monday gift will be Diosa Ixchel…

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el diario de la isla mujeres

Friday, April 1

Arrival in Cancun. Van to Puerto Juarez, ferry to Isla Mujeres, cab to hotel La Balam in time for beach exploring, sunset, margaritas, dinner, staring at stars, bed.

Saturday, April 2

Awake at 4:30am, sound of ocean waves. At home, I have a white noise machine pretty much permanently set to ocean waves. The ebb and flow, crash and rush lulls me like nothing else on earth. Now, I feel like I have stepped inside the white noise machine, inside the sound. It wraps around me, primal, womblike, eternal. I feel tiny, human, and loved.

I rub my eyes, which, I discover, are still goopy with the eye mask I applied hours before, intending to wash off “in 10 to 15 minutes.” After pondering whether or not I am actually awake awake, I roll myself off my bed and take the five steps to my balcony hammock. And I look up. Stars.

My plan is to start the day with healthy breakfast, 7:30, followed by yoga, 9:00. But I am showered and dressed before 6.

New plan: walk to 7-11 near ferry dock. Acquire coffee.

I walk past shuttered shops with enticing signs (pescado fresca! taqueria! platanos y frijoles!) and the little town cemetery where the graves are like tiny houses of the dead, painted, planted, alive with memory. Like a bloodhound I sniff the air for any hints of wood fire, tortillas cooking, hoping against hope that at least one eatery or taco stand will be open. Alas, 7-11 coffee is all I get.

I continue walking. The island is only five miles long, so I figure I will just walk until I find someone willing to feed me.

I walk a long time.

I wander through small side streets where perros y gatos are the only other creatures besides me that are awake; large thoroughfares (or, rather, what passes for a large thoroughfare here on Isla Mujeres) with the occasional passing taxi, golf cart, bike or scooter; past a glistening manmade lake. Since restaurants are still not open, I stop at a grocery store and buy more water, a mango yogurt smoothie, instant coffee, mosquito repellent coils.

I keep walking.

I pass Mundaca, the hacienda built in the mid 1800s by Fermin Mundaca de Menchaca, a pirate (false rumors) and slave trader (unfortunate truth); he built it for “la trigeña,” an eighteen year old brunette he fell madly in love with. Despite surrounding the hacienda with lush gardens and carving her name into the gates, she rebuffed him, married another, and as she had child after child, Mundaca slowly went mad. His gravestone, carved by himself, which sits in the little Isla Mujeres cemetery though he himself is buried elsewhere, is marked with the pirate (false rumors) skull-and-cross-bones and inscribed “As you are, I was. As I am, you will be.”

__

Eventually, around 8 or 9, I arrive at the turtle sanctuary, which seems to be open. There is a dock leading out into the turquoise waters. I take a video to post on Facebook, because that’s what I do, what we all do. Life as self-imposed docudrama, emphasis on the “docu.” Far across the bay are the tall buildings of cities of the main land. I sit there for a while, resting my tired feet, wiping sweat off my brow and spilled mango yogurt smoothie off of everything else in my purse. Suddenly an old man with few teeth is standing beside me, greeting me in Spanish. No habla Espagnol, I demure, and then, least he think me rude, add, squishing my thumb and index finger toward each other in universal sign language: un poquito. He says something I don’t understand, points across the bay, ‘Cancun,’ he says. ‘Puerto Juarez, Punta Sam.’ Si. Thus ends the only exchange of information we can manage. Y tortugas? I ask, to keep the conversation going, practice a little more Spanish, and also because I really enjoy saying the word tortugas. Tortugas, he replies, making a sweeping gesture at the water in front of us, tortugas es liberdad.

__

I have taken a wrong turn. I don’t realize this yet (to state the obvious), but instead of continuing straight toward Teimplo de las Diosa Ixchel (temple of the goddess Ixchel), which lies at the opposite tip of the island, I have turned myself around into a narrow fork of the island which doubles back toward where I had come from.

Had I not taken this wrong turn, I might never have met Jorge.

Jorge is a sixty-ish, leathery skinned island resident who used to be a diamond merchant, but now spends his days painting and shaping leaves until they are stiff and shiny and ready to be made into necklaces, earrings, and hair accessories. His shop is just off the “wrong” road–a large, roofed open space with no walls. His jewelry is astonishingly beautiful, like nothing I have ever seen–the way the leaves twist and dance, drip with sensuality, seem to embrace the doves and other figurines which display them. Jorge ambles over and introduces himself–it is 9:45 and his shop technically is not open yet, but as it has no walls, I have wandered in anyway, like the riff raff that I am. After the obligatory Where are you from, he starts telling me about the jewelry, and how he takes as apprentices smart local high school girls interested in learning a trade (there is one behind a counter, setting up a display; she looks up and smiles), how he wants to provide women with economic power. My ears perk up. He tells me he has this idea to expand, using this same model, to other cities across the globe. It has to be based around empowering women, he says. I will teach them to do the work, and then they take ownership of it, taking 90% of the profits. (The only thing I won’t share, he says with a wink, is my paint formula. 10% fee.) These are high-end, beautiful objects ranging in price from $200-500, so this is no small offer. The women, he says, must work around a table. In fact, he says, looking around at his display tables, I am thinking of doing away with rectangles. Circles are more….‘powerful,’ I say. Yes, yes, he nods.

He shows me other things he is working on. A hand-crafted purse in the shape of a woman–her silver figure, waist up, arms akimbo, form the purse handle; she wears a beautiful dress, underneath which is the pouch of the purse. Jorge is meeting with top-end dress designers in New York City about creating personalized dresses–Armani, etc. They will sell like hotcakes, I tell him. He shows me the “imperfect” cast-offs of previous molds of the woman handle. (It has taken him twelve years to perfect the mold.) They have holes in them, or are discolored, or have some other “flaw.” These, too, have been selling like hotcakes, he says with a grin. We are flawed creatures; therein lies our beauty.

It is then that he shows me the goddesses.

I wanted to make a new, more powerful goddess for women, he says, pulling out two small silver figurines. She how she is not fat, but not skinny? She is strong, bold, powerful. The chain for the necklace will be looped through her arms, he says. This is essential. She holds the power of the chain; the chain does not have power over her. She does not hang from the chain; she claims the chain; she holds the power. She embraces and encircles with her goddess love any who wear her, female or male.

What is it that you do, he asks. I…work for an international women’s rights organization. Ah, he says, eyes sparkling. Let me tell you about the hacienda.

Along with the transformation of Isla Mujeres from small, sleepy fishing village into tourist mecca came, as usually happens, establishments catering to the carnal desires of men. Table dancers make a lot of money, but on their off hours they want nothing to do with the carnal desires of men. So they arranged to rent out the giant, sprawling hacienda every weekend, as a kind of retreat from the world of men stuffing bills into their g-strings. A woman-only environment of peace, tranquility, companionship.

Jorge got to thinking.

Doing some rough calculations, he estimated that money earned by women doing the sort of work these table dancers were doing represented roughly 5% of total gross income, worldwide. Hmm, he thought. What if all these women pooled their money? What if someone established a global bank that catered specifically to the needs and empowerment of women? And what if women, worldwide, pulled their wealth out of other banks, and put their money into this global bank for women? Immediately, the global financial picture would change. Drastically.

Hmm, I thought. This is rather brilliant. And all prompted by the table dancers of the hacienda.

__

I left Jorge, promising to return before my trip ended. I left in a sort of cloud of bewildered luck and happiness, marveling at the ways of the universe. Have I, by taking my “wrong” turn, just stumbled upon a possible source of significant income which combines philanthropy, women’s empowerment, and the meditatively slow and laborious process of creating beautiful art from nature? (Painting each leaf typically takes 40-80 hours; shaping them can take up to two months.) And has Jorge, with his hacienda full of table dancers, stumbled upon the one thing that might shift the balance of power in the world toward women? It seems…both too good to be true and undeniably concrete and logical.

Next, continuing on my merry way and not yet having any clue that I am walking in the direction opposite to my intentions, I run across “The Island Floating on Plastic Bottles.” Which is exactly what it sounds like, a small island floating on bound-together discarded plastic bottles. The helpful sign instructs visitors to the Floating Bottle Island to walk to the end of the dock & holler, and the bottle captain will pick you up. “After your tour,” the sign continues, “you can stay for a while and relax in the shade on the lovers’ swing, enjoy the island massage table and the floating bed, have a free, cool juice drink, eat a piece of solar cake and so much more. Come on down! Life is a gift to be enjoyed. Let’s enjoy it together.”

What is this place?

__

About another mile down the road from the Floating Bottle Island, I come to Dolphin Discovery, where one can, if one wishes and one has not just walked a good three or four miles, swim with dolphins.

This is when I look at the map. Oh, dear.

Thank god for island taxis. I only walk a short, disgruntled distance when a red car stops in the middle of the deserted road and the driver inquires if I am in need of transport. Si, si, si! Por favor!

Back in the main town center, I lunch on quesadillas and finally get the large (non 7-11) coffee beverage that started me on my quest five hours earlier. Ahhhhhhh. I indulge in wifi access whilst I eat and catch up on my caffeination and Facebooking. I upload a video of tortugas.

Back at La Balam, I plunk down on one of the beach beds (queen sized waterproof mattresses on wood platforms), read a few lines of Rilke, and conk out. Later I am woken up by the shouts of the coconut seller, and repair to my room to apply coats of aloe vera gel on my sunblushed skin. After, I wander back into town to fetch un cervesa y tacos pescado, which I eat on my balcony.

Finally, I disrobe myself of my last remnants of non-bikini body insecurities and saunter down to the beach to splash about in some sea water. The water is shallow, about knee-high, for quite a ways. I plop down into a sitting position and enjoy how wonderful the water feels on my mosquito bitten, sunburnt skin. Then I nearly jump out of my sunburnt skin as a white angel fish the size of my fist ambles past my toes. Similar reactions have been had to the various assortment of lizards which occasionally skitter past, and the dogs which, unseen, erupt in a mad frenzy of barking as I pass. Ditto tooth deprived old Mexican men on docks of turtle sanctuaries. Things just suddenly appear. Take me by surprise.

Dinner: margarita with a side of shrimp quesadilla. I have decided every meal shall involve limes and avocados. So far, so good.

Despite the million gazillion things I have done with my Saturday, it is still only 6pm. I decide it is time to tool back into town for another coffee beverage and, damn it, finally start writing this blog entry. Which pretty much brings us up to speed. Tomorrow: Teimplo de las Diosa Ixchel.

Or perhaps another “wrong” turn…

Hope and Despair: On Being Women

So I haven’t yet gotten around to writing my 2009 rant about the state of publishing, society, and mainstream media in regards to how all of the above tend to shit on women, but, big surprise, my rant from *two* years ago still applies (okay, except maybe some of the Hillary for President stuff, but, you know, Secretary of State ain’t so shabby either.) So, here ’tis, your slightly recycled but still relevant rant of the day from yours truly…

February 2008:

And now, ladies and gentlemints, as promised, a little HOPE, a little DESPAIR . . .

HOPE
It seems like a nice thing to do to start of with a smidge of hope, before delving into despair, but, don’t worry, little chickens, I will end with hope, the extended version.

But for now, chew on this, which is taped above my desk, as of yesterday (acquired at AWP at the Kore Press booth. Lovely press. Do check them out.):

“For a very long time everybody refuses and then almost without a pause almost everybody accepts.” — Gertrude Stein

DESPAIR
I have just emerged from the land of AWP conferencing (Association of Writers and Writing Programs), which, in a nutshell, is basically a bunch of despairing writers/publishers/editors/et cetera looking for a little hope. I did indeed find some much needed hope. There are a lot of excellent small presses and literary organizations and individuals who are trying to change the world, one book at a time. This gives me hope. I was especially delighted to hear Johnny Temple of Akashic Press inform a crowded room full of writers that what his press was all about was publishing the books that get passed over by gargantuan giant mega publishing houses; that, though agents are lovely, he actually prefers to work directly with authors; that his main goal is to see to it that his authors love every minute of the editing & publishing & book birthing process; and that if a manuscript is part of a bidding war, eh, he’ll pass. That ain’t his thing. He just wants to publish the books that deserve to be published, but that no one else will publish. So, before I start my general rant at the state of publishing, hats off to Johnny, and hats off to Akashic and all the other fantastic small presses out there who are doing the good work (Graywolf, Kore Press, Orchises Press, Wolsak and Wynn, Host Publications, Four Way Books, Fence, Wave Books, Counterpoint, and Soft Skull to name a few, not to mention the hords of university presses, god bless ‘em.)

That said, I am now quite ready for my rant. Ready? Good.

Slight apologies to poor, dear SS, who happened to be the first of my friends to email me this morning (by which I now mean yesterday morning) and so got the first wave of THE RANT. But now, I cut & paste it here, for all of you. It starts off as a rant about the publishing industry in relation to women writers, which emerged out of a most excellent panel I attended (having meant to attend the Charles Baxter panel but having once again ended up in the wrong room) called THIS IS NOT CHICK LIT: THE BRANDING OF WOMEN’S FICTION, but, stay tuned, it kind of opens up into a more general rant about the branding of women in general. And if you happen to not like the words “fuck” or “fucking,” well, fair warning, moral outrage gives me quite a potty mouth:

I’m tired, too. [He was tired, this friend of mine.] This conference I have been attending for the past 3 days was exhausting, but also amazingly GOOD!! Now I just have to find a way to productively channel my rage at the publishing industry, who thinks of male writers just as writers, but when it comes to women writers, the marketing dept. ain’t happy until they’ve pegged us into the “appropriate” box. Chick Lit. Woman Writer.  Southern Woman Writer. Southern Lesbian Woman Writer. Et cetera. The result of which is that, wherever they decide to “place” us, we get shoved in some obscure corner of whatever bookstore is carrying our book, and no one can find our books, so no one can read our books, and no one of intelligence would necessarily know to pick it up, cuz it’s got a goddam chick lit-esque cover on it, or some other thing that is truly degrading and/or wrongly stereotypical that has absolutely nothing to do with what’s on the INSIDE of the book . . . but, sadly, people do indeed judge a book by its cover. I do. We’re just hardwired that way. It’s a shortcut to sorting information.

And of course, the audience for this particular panel was 99.9% female. Men just don’t give a shit. Why should they? They don’t have to deal with any of this. They are just “writers.” Even if they write fucking chick lit.

It’s bullshit, I tell you. And it’s not just publishing where this happens, women face this, on some level, in every fucking industry, in every fucking aspect of their lives. I mean, look at Hillary for fuck’s sake. Is there any greater current example of a woman hitting the glass ceiling, a woman who is profoundly overqualified, but is being poo pooed as “uncharismatic” or “cold” or “fake” while people fawn over the new, pretty, shiny, smooth talkin Obama. And I LIKE Obama, I do, but GWB has so, so, so fucked up our country and the world that we CLEARLY need someone who can step right on day one with her sleeves rolled up, ready to do the good work. Instead, she fucking has to answer questions about whether her “emotions” will work for or against her in her campaign, and is attacked whenever she stands up for herself in response to Obama’s attacks on her (how very unwomanly of her), and has to answer stupid ass questions about her husband, who is, for the record NOT running for president, people. And this whole business of being seen as “fake.” Oh my god. Don’t even get me started. Every fucking woman in the world, every girl, everyone you know, everyone I know, EVERY female HAS to “fake” it sometimes to get by in this world, because it is so much still a man’s world, and for now, it’s the only way we can get by.

Sorry for ranting in your general direction . . . those rants have been building up over the past few days/weeks and I only now have moments to verbalize them and put them in writing . . .

[end of ranty email to poor dear SS]

Ohhhkay. I think we can get back to HOPE now . . .

So, yeah, sucks to be a woman. Sucks to be a writer. But as I mentioned earlier, there is hope to be found in small presses who actually care about books, and I suggest we all head over their way en mass, and leave the major mega publishers to their chick lit, their non-fiction best sellers, their mass marketed paperback piles of crap. (No offense to the authors who do manage to publish with the big ‘uns. Good on ya for actually making some $$, if you have actually managed to make some. You deserve it. I hope your cover art was not too atrocious, and your book was well place in B&N.)

But here’s what else I have to say about HOPE which relates to my favorite rant topic, the trials and tribulations of owning a vajayjay.

1.
We have an opportunity to elect a female leader of the free world.

Because the world at large tends to not hear women, let me repeat: We have an opportunity to elect a female leader of the free world.

As someone deeply involved and committed to female mentoring, particularly in my puppy dog, full-on slathering, sloppy love of and involvement with Girls Write Now I have witnessed first hand the power of a strong female role model in a young girl’s life. 100% of our girls go on to college. 100% of our girls own their voices. They are strong, bold, powerful, intelligent, sexy. But they are also awkward, shy, and think too much about boys (or girls, if that’s their druthers). The same is true for their mentors, though they may not know it at first, or ever, because they look to us, and they think we got it goin on, and got our lives together. What they don’t often realize is that we are looking at them, thinking the same things: Damn, this girl is only 14, and she got it goin on, and she’s got her life together, and goddamnit if she isn’t a better writer than me to boot!

So, this gives me hope, and Hillary Clinton gives me hope. Because if nothing else, she knows from personal experience how fucking hard it still is to be a woman or a girl, and how even intelligent men (and women) will still give you a fucking hard time and make you constantly have to explain yourself and justify your (unwomanly) existence and ambitions and qualifications, and they will judge you for the choices you make in life, and who and how you sleep with, and who you happened to be married to, and they will judge you for showing emotions, and they will judge you for not showing emotions, and they will continue to polish the glass ceiling above your head that gives you all those internal bruises, and they will continue to ignore you, put you down, refuse to listen . . . but Hillary, if you can just make it to the White House, there will be a new well of hope in the hearts of young women everywhere, across the globe. And yes, this gives me hope. A lot, lot, lot of hope.

2.
And so, now, my final story of HOPE. An inspirational tale. I’ll try to keep it short, because, little chickens, if you are still with me this far down in this excruciatingly long blog entry, you deserve it.

The setting is the Girls Write Now end of year reading at Astor Place Barnes & Noble. The voice is that of Jessica Valenti, who is reading from her newly published (by a small press, of course) Full Frontal Feminism. She, too, develops a potty mouth when talkin up the moral outrage. So at the end of the reading, this teacher who had brought along some of her students to the reading (I think maybe 5th grade, but don’t quote me), checked in with them, wanting to know if they had any questions or concerns about the reading. She thought they might be offended or shocked or at least blushingly giggly about the potty words, and so she wanted to give them the chance to voice their thoughts so she could properly respond to them, reassure them.

They didn’t give a fuck about the godddamned potty words. (Why would they, really. Surely they’ve heard them before.) This is what they asked their teacher:

“We want to know more about this word, ‘feminism?’”

So there you are, folks. Short and sweet. There is still HOPE in the world. For women, for writers, for future generations.

As the Dixie Chicks say (ahhh, remember when they were lambasted and labelled “unpatriotic” for saying something not glowingly positive about GWB? Like, that maybe he should not have dragged our country into war so quickly. You know, that war that has been going on for umpteen years now, in which thousands and thousands of people have died. For . . . what exactly? Really, what were they thinking, those Dixie Chicks? Clearly unwomanly thoughts. Not very dixie or very chicky of them to dare to open their pretty, painted mouths other than to sing pretty, happy, i-love-my-country songs).

Ohhh, look how I got one last little rant in there. Wahoo!

But back to hope, for real, and cowboy hats off to the Dixie Chicks, and all other female artists who won’t keep their pretty mouths shut:

Sunday mornin’, heard the preacher say, Thou Shall Not Kill.
I don’t wanna hear nothin else, ’bout killin, and that it’s God’s will.
‘Cause our children are watching us, they put their trust in us, they’re gunna be like us.
So let’s learn from our history, and do it differently.
I hope for more love, more joy and laughter.
I hope we’ll have more than you’ll ever need.
I hope we’ll have more happy ever afters.
I hope we can all live more fearlessly.
And we can lose all the pain and misery.

But no, I can’t just leave it there. I have to leave it here, circle back around to my own voice and the voices of the women and girls who inspire me and give me HOPE every minute of every day, the women and girls of Girls Write Now. Yes, indeed, something was in the air on May 19, 2007:

3.
Straight Outta Workshop…
An Exercise from the Creative Nonfiction Workshop

Normally, we just feature a few outstanding pieces from a GWN workshop. But something was in the air on May 19, 2007. Mentors and mentees had such incredible responses to this exercise, we couldn’t resist sharing many more.

Enjoy! — Write On, Girl! (official GWN newsletter)

Turn off your logical brain that says 1 + 1 = 2. Open up your mind to the possibility that 1 + 1 can equal 48, a Mercedes-Benz, an apple pie, a blue horse. Don’t tell your autobiography with facts, such as “I am in sixth grade. I am a boy. I live in Owatonna. I have a mother and father.” Tell me who you really are: “I am the frost on the window, the cry of a young wolf, the thin blade of grass.” — from Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg

Jeanette Anderson: I am the body that rolls over drunk with harsh shots of morning air. I am the crack in the window letting bits of Brooklyn in. I am the hands on your hips discovering you like a tourist on Broadway. I am the wine who rivals her sister Red. I am my mother’s coffee cups left in the bathroom after a shower, waiting. I am the plane you almost missed as socks spilled from your luggage, hungry to escape.

Grace Bastidas: I am your favorite t-shirt, an unexpected wink, that cherry on top, a sneeze in the morning, and a single white cloud coasting on a blue sky.

Caroline Berger:I am the sun bleeding into a cool Bed-Stuy morning as seen from my fire escape. I am my grandmother’s wedding ring, which I wear around my neck. I am the cat who waits patiently by the door for you to come home so I can swat playfully at your dangling, homemade scarf.

Nana Brew-Hammond: I am a raised fist shaking with conviction and fear. I am an overflowing waffle cone of vanilla ice cream. I am the song I sing in a 20-minute shower.

Kerri Davidson: I am the dust that dances in the light of a sun-filled window. I am the thought that has yet to be written, the sand on a California beach, held in a souvenir bottle.

Sami Diaz: I am a plague upon existence, the black ink in the felt of a Sharpie, the pixilated picture on myspace. I am made of real hair and eyelashes and nails. They call me Sami Cyanide, the poison that stops your mitochondria. The instant death, the sound of your computer starting up, headphones on your dresser, your posters, your idols smeared with black eyeliner. That old book smell that keeps you going, the turn of the page, bad handwriting, your flaws and imperfections, the holes in your stocking, the poison, the zombie. The girl.

Jazmine Gray: I am the perfect verse over a tight beat, I am the one pink rose in the midst of weeds, the dream that never came true.

Lauren Gurfein: I am a single leaf caught in a swirl of wind, lost and free, the sticky air that surfaces when summer rain meets pavement.

Mona Haddad: I am a collection of other people’s stories, ice cream in the freezer, the surveillance camera outside, a half-cracked glass, a hidden jewel. I am the thing that can only be felt, not seen or named.

Stephanie Huancas: I am…the first snowflake that falls on a warm face, the adorable laughter of a child, the twilight breeze through your hair, the encouraging smile you anticipate.

Sarah Jang: I am the “Oh! What’s in this?” the overly curious newborn puppy, the soft light that reflects the white wall, the huggable plushie.

Phantasia Johnson: I am the letter-creating words that make sentences into a story. I am the colors of a rainbow that represent gay pride. I am the eyes of an observer that see everything but says nothing.

Lisa Ko: I am a wound watch, ready to turn. I am the still air before a summer thunderstorm–weighted and expectant. I am the lion hiding in the grass, biding the time, catching her breath.

Ebony McNeill: I am an angel flying through the sky, dancing among the twinkling stars. I am the clouds bursting with chocolate strawberries. And I am the chocolate strawberries that fill your mouth with joy.

Zaedryn Meade: I am one solid tree in a field, I am the blenny fish in the tidepool after you’ve overturned the rock, I am caught sheep’s wool on a wire fence.

Rhonda Palacio: I am the sun while it’s at ease. I am the rainbow after a sun shower, I am like burnt bread, crispy on the outside, soft on the inside.

Mary Roma: I am the Wonder Woman on Halloween and all other days (but I’m just not wearing my costume), a human library of celebrity parentage and sob stories, a dream of guppies.

Catherine Shu: Appearances can be deceiving. People tend to think that I am very sweet and polite but, in reality, I have a mouth so filthy that being force-fed the entire contents of a Bath and Body Works distribution center wouldn’t clean it out. I am so deceitful that I make Dick Cheney look like Little Lord Fauntleroy. I have so little self-control that I make Mary Kay Letourneau look like Martin Luther.

Erica Silberman: I am that frisky horse that runs away on the first beautiful day. I am the scent of hyacinth remembered from a long time ago. I am a hurricane that rattles things and chairs up your deep desires.

Michele Thomas: Who am I really? I am the last grain of sleep before you wake up, I am the scent of your favorite dish, I am the friend you forget you know, but have always really liked.

Natalia Vargas-Caba: I am a blood spurt from an open-heart surgery, the neglected shirt hanging behind his bedroom door. I am the stitches on an animal in laboratory testing. I am the sunrise, watched by another male.

Briana Wilson: I am the chores your mom makes you do, I am the guilty conscience, I am the crack in your mirror, I am the addiction you can’t break, I am the white lines on your bathroom sink.

Rashri Shamsundar: I am a hurricane, the twisted tornado jumbled up, the quiet right before the storm.