Sunday, June 22, 2008

broad blue reaches of sky

home sweet sweet sweet home. berkeley, california. not another place like it on earth. i feel out of my mind with LOVE for this city. the hills. the ocean. the air. the flowers. the people. the crazy, lovely, beautiful people. the amount of bicycles on the road instead of cars. the lively, abundant farmers market. bake sales set up all over town to raise money for barack obama. the hopefulness and openness of mind and heart. and the sky. it's so blue today. the purest baby blue.

i rode my bike down to the marina this afternoon where i found a comfy spot on a big, flat rock near the water, sat myself down, and gazed out across the bay. the golden gate gracefully glistening in the distance. squawking seagulls and kites soaring overhead. colorful sailboats catching the breeze, weaving about on the sparkling waves. truly dazzling.

it feels different each time i come back here from korea. i feel like a different person after these 10 months of living on the other side of the pacific. and therefore the bay area feels different too. it no longer feels like the place where i came six years ago, wide-eyed from the midwest, to go to grad school and turn myself inside times the learning curve felt exhilarating and at other times like mount everest.....i climbed it, sometimes bounding up joyfully, other times shaking my fists in a heat of rage, and there were times i found myself crying out for mercy on my hands and bloodied knees...

the years before i left berkeley for korea were characterized by torrents of restlessness and confusion. i wanted so much to feel a sense of rootedness, of home, but the harder i tried; the more lost i felt. in hindsight, it seems this was largely due to being in my twenties and also an instinctive knowing that the journey did not stop here. it wasn't time to hunker down. other worlds had to be seen and experienced...both within and without.

now i'm reaching the end of my 30th year and an extraordinary year abroad. i can't say i'm the hunkering type, but the restlessness of my twenties has calmed significantly, so much so that at times the push and pull of longing and uncertainty that strongly marked those years feels dreamlike, "a strange feather that finally fell out." with my heart now spread across the world, feeling a deep affinity for several, very different places and the people who live there, i would think that could make it even harder to know where home is. but today, as i looked out on the bay and up at the broad blue reaches of this california summer solstice sky, i felt the most profound feeling of really being home....and simultaneously knowing that at this time of my life, home doesn't necessarily mean the place to hang my hat. rather, it's somewhere to keep coming back to. to strengthen that feeling of place, of belonging. to breathe deeply and take refuge in the freedom and expansiveness of utterly and completely being reflected back as who i truly am.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

"shine" by joni mitchell

a song for the times....

"Oh let your little light shine
Let your little light shine
Shine on Wall Street and Vegas
Place your bets
Shine on the fishermen
With nothing in their nets
Shine on rising oceans and evaporating seas
Shine on our Frankenstein technologies
Shine on science
With its tunnel vision
Shine on fertile farmland
Buried under subdivisions

Let your little light shine
Let your little light shine
Shine on the dazzling darkness
That restores us in deep sleep
Shine on what we throw away
And what we keep

Shine on Reverend Pearson
Who threw away
The vain old God
kept Dickens and Rembrandt and Beethoven
And fresh plowed sod
Shine on good earth, good air, good water
And a safe place
For kids to play
Shine on bombs exploding
Half a mile away

Let your little light shine
Let your little light shine
Shine on world-wide traffic jams
Honking day and night
Shine on another asshole
Passing on the right!
Shine on the red light runners
Busy talking on their cell phones
Shine on the Catholic Church
And the prisons that it owns
Shine on all the Churches
They all love less and less
Shine on a hopeful girl
In a dreamy dress

Let your little light shine
Let your little light shine
Shine on good humor
Shine on good will
Shine on lousy leadership
Licensed to kill
Shine on dying soldiers
In patriotic pain
Shine on mass destruction
In some God's name!
Shine on the pioneers
Those seekers of mental health
Craving simplicity
They traveled inward
Past themselves...
May all their little lights shine."

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

embrace the world: international arts festival

friday morning, inhui and i set out on a long journey! we rode the train from gyeongsan to seoul. when we got to seoul we hooked up with a good friend of inhui's and hopped on a bus to incheon where we met up with two female shamans. the shamans took us out for a feast of a lunch, then we went to their house for a reading. we all sat around a table on the living room floor eating pastries and drinking coffee while everyone was chain smoking as if their lives depended on it. i was just trying my best to breathe! suddenly the older shaman indicated to me that i could start asking her questions. inhui translated for us. the next hour is still a bit of a blur in my brain. it was very intense to sit there with a couple of strangers and have them know and tell me very intimate things about my past, present, and future in a way that was sometimes hard to fully understand, due to cultural differences and language barriers. i guess i should have known it would be like that! somehow i had anticipated it a bit differently. i can say that i'm glad i had the experience, but i cannot say i would do it again anytime soon.yikes!the shamans' little pink dog was all over inhui!standing in front of the shrine/altar in the shamans' homeafter hanging out with the shamans all afternoon, we finally made it by bus to the blink-and-you'll-miss-it town of juksan at about 10pm. we tried to get a cab from the juksan bus station to inhui's aunt and uncle's house, but the one and only cab driver told us it was too close, that we should walk. so, he pointed us in the right direction, and we headed out into the drizzly, black, and silent night (but for the croaking frogs in the rice paddies), rolling suitcase and bags in hand. not a car on the road. not a person in sight. and not much of a clue where we were headed. finally we ran into someone who confirmed that we were going the right way...and soon we saw inhui's uncle coming down the road to greet us! inhui hadn't seen him in 30 years. it was a sweet reunion.

when we arrived, inhui's aunt made us a late night dinner of rice, kimchi and soup on the kitchen floor. then we had some watermelon for dessert. she grows all of her own veggies (without spray). it was a treat!the next morning - inhui out by the garden (corn!) and the dogsinhui's aunt and uncle were a goddess-send! their hospitality was over the moon. i felt so happy to have met them.we took a cab to the juksan art center where the "embrace the world" international arts festival was being held. we made this journey because one of our professors from graduate school, arisika razak, was to be a guest performer and workshop leader at the festival. when we arrived at 8:30am no one was around so we checked into the nearest hotel which happened to be the castle-like love motel, "hotel provence," in misty walking distance from the arts center. we napped till noon, as we had gotten very little sleep the night before on the floor with inhui's aunt up and at 'em at 4am!newly planted rice paddieswhen inhui and i came back to the arts festival we ran into arisika right away! it was SOOOO good to see her. here we are: inhui, sin cha, arisika, and melunch time - bibimbap!an afternoon workshop led by thomas flindt (from denmark): "the power of laughter." our bellies were aching by the end! the best part was an exercise called "arguing laughter" where we found a partner and pretended to have an argument with only laughter and pointing fingers!this man (who had a gorgeous traditional paper exhibit) gave arisika a sweet little hat made of leaves.a dance performance by hwae kyung cha (from korea) and nam narim (from cambodia)a community of local women from juksan performed traditional circle was hauntingly beautiful as the music came on and women in white stood up amidst the crowd and walked slowly down onto the grassy stage.and then began to dance together....

spiral dance!"en attendant godot" ("waiting for godot" by samuel beckett) showcase by sin cha hong, a well known korean choreographer and dancerhyun kyung chung doing an invocation before arisika's dance performance. earlier in the day she held a lecture on ecofeminism. hyun kyung is a professor of ecumenical theology at union theological seminary in new york city.arisika's beautiful dance performance "celebration of the sacred"inhui paying tribute to the korean comfort women - thousands upon thousands of women who were forced into prostitution and sexual slavery for japanese military brothels during world war II."in harmony with earth" dance performancesunday morning: the group of participants gathered round at arisika's workshop "opening to the heart of healing."some cool, feminist gals i met from seoul
something really, really funny happened as inhui and i were leaving hotel provence sunday afternoon. i made a stop in the hotel lobby's bathroom while inhui was checking us out. the toilet was one of those notorious "western" korean ones with about 30 different buttons to push. simply wanting to FLUSH the toilet, i chose the button that seemed the most obvious. nothing happened. so i examined the myriad of buttons more carefully. i chose a second one that had a little picture of cascading water droplets. immediately an apparatus extended out from inside the toilet bowl. it looked like one of those home pregnancy testing sticks. i'd never seen anything like it so i leaned in to get a closer look when sure enough a geyser of water came shooting out of that thing directly into my eyes! i screamed and threw myself against the wall. the water made an arc about as tall as me to the other side of the bathroom stall. i stood there for a second, trapped between the wall and the water. when i realized this perfumed water was soaking my backpack that was still sitting on the floor, i grabbed my bag, closed my eyes and made a mad dash through the waterfall and out the stall door. i looked like a drowned rat. i could not stop laughing and thought "yeah...this is what life is all about!" not always knowing what's going to happen. being surprised again and again. i think that's why i felt so overwhelmed with the shaman's reading. i really DON'T want someone to tell me what's going to happen. or even what they think will happen. i just want to be in THIS moment and let life unfold naturally, without preconceived notions. had i known that bidet was going to pop out and spray me in the face, i certainly would have declined from pushing that button.....and sadly, would have missed out on all that laughter!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

a day ending

"all the craziness,
all the empty plots,
all the ghosts and fears,

all the grudges and sorrows have

i must have inhaled
a strange

that finally



-"a strange feather" by hafiz

Monday, June 9, 2008

daegu international tea festival

service of pu-erh tea (from china) favorite!bricks of pu-erhlotus blossom delicate and full of subtletymr. leeoodles of exhibits with exquisite, handmade pottery and beautiful traditional clothing. it was like seeing a completely different side of korean culture....away from the flashing neon lights, shiny plastic purses, and high heeled shoes....many of the tea growers and tea ware makers were dressed in beautiful, natural, loose-fitting clothing, the older folks let their hair go grey and didn't bother to perm it (as 99% of the older women i see around town do). there was a totally different vibe going on! made me want to run away with them to the mountains for awhile...a tea ceremony competitiontaeok holding up a lovely, natural-fibered women's hanbok.children's hanbokseverybody getting a hand at the tea making's incredible how much effort and time goes into the making of tea, long before it ever reaches our cups.tea leavesa very friendly monk serving the organic green tea that he grows high, high up on jiri mountain.taeok and the ladies!