Saturday, December 23, 2006

Christmas In Bavaria: Wrap it up, I'll take it.
I've spent too many sweaty dismal holidays in Texas, dreading the day the cedar "pops" and dealing with the trendy Austin crowds in Central Market. We dealt with some fairly serious crowds in Regensburg at the Christmas Market, but Germans are normally pathologically polite (except when they are extraordinarily rude) and, for many generations, used to crowding. US'ns, as an estranged in-law used to call them, are used to open spaces and getting their way, and get psychotic about it.
In any case, no one is as rude as a German who has put their mind to it. Old women or men are the worst.
Anyway, most of the time, I find myself having to keep up with the niceness.
I got gummi bears at the bank, chocolate and then butter cookies at the grocery, and beer, beer mugs and calendars from the German neighbors. I'll gift them all with my homemade jam and American candy canes (woo!) tomorrow.
It's cosy here, it's absurdly safe, it's beautiful and clean. They pay unbelieveable taxes, but at least they have public health care, clean streets, recycling and guaranteed pensions. There are few bums or beggars, and old folks get taken out for walks every Sunday.
Balconies are lit with little wooden carvings, strings of dangling lights, even reindeer and Santas (a new thing here) but there are no inflatable Santas or snowmen about.
The big thing is Santa on a rope or ladder hanging down the front of a building and putting lights in an outdoor tree.
They are getting more Americanized, we see Santas instead of Father Christmas with his little black elf. Adults we know tell stories of being kidnapped by whomever in the family was playing the black elf, if they'd been bad -- stuffed in a sack and carried away!
The Bushites have decided that ex-pats who decide to stay are more of a problem than corporate tax dodgers (why ask their friends to pay?) and last year passed a law requiring all changing citizenship (due possibly to lack of faith in said administration) shall continue to pay "double jeopardy" tax rates for foreign earned income over 82.5K for ten years after they turn in their American passport. Wait, did no one tell you about this? didn't you get to vote on it? Gosh darn golly, I guess you didn't . Me neither. See , it will be easy to find.
It's an incentive for me not to try too hard on the foreign side, and to divert my tax dollars to purposes worthier than (a) getting myself screwed further, or again or (b) giving any support whatsoever to an administration greedy for current profit over future development, sane growth and gain.
Do your research, follow the money, be happy, do what you love, and have a beautiful holiday.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

What is the ultimate luxury, but feeling good and feeling free? People trade their time for money, and their money again for time.
Me, I'll take this deep exploration of how good I can feel. I feel like a puddle of silk, a sensual ribbon of flesh at the end of a Chinese dancer's staff, on a good day.
I don't care for this keeping up of appearances, this false nails and skin-destroying tan lifestyle. I have a rather boring hair colour, so until it turns a pretty silver I will play with the tint of it. Teeth are important, but I don't agree with this shaving and capping and bridging. Anything which destroys the natural integrity of a thing, such as tanning booths, I cannot agree with. Growing up in Texas, sun was the enemy. My Celtic skin is practiced with regular sun exposure, but then, my dad tells me I've got a touch of alligator blood here and there. Here in Bavaria, I am letting my skin "rest" and have only once or twice incurred an actual sunburn.
I saw a picture of myself from Texas times, and noted that I was gently browned, a cautious outdoorswoman's tan. My face has remained untanned since I was 15, which may be why I don't look as close to 40 as I truly am.
I'll trade present fashion for longtime survival any day. Besides, powder bronzers give the same short-term effects without the long-term ones.
Increasingly, I find true Beauty in grace and freedom, rather than what others try to tell me what beauty is. Yes, eyeliner is good. Eyeliner can elucidate beauty, but only if you have a Very Steady Hand. Otherwise, you look like an owl on acid.
So, for beauty, I insist on grace, freedom of movement, health, fabulous toenail polish, and well-applied liquid eyeliner. Not much else seems to matter.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Here's a post probably a bit more relevant to what I am going through right now.
I encountered one of those "speed bumps" on a very deep personal level, had a huge enough glitch to make me Pay Attention, and got down to work on my own personal issues of rage and rebellion.
I did the work of paring away distractions, I did the work of finding a way to Listen, and am doing the work of making myself, somehow, a simpler, easier person to be. I have too much to do, to continue to be so high-maintenance for my own self. My work has become larger than I am, and I am my work. This is something my Rolfing teacher Harvey Burns said: "I am the work". I kind of get that. I have to be the work, to do the work. I have to stay active in my own process. I have to manage it, and keep it going. I have to model what I hope to give others a step into.

In so many ways, budo is where it all started for me. Here's an early window:

I'm sure the question in everyone's mind is:
What is different for you now that you are not training in aikido? I trained in aikido from 1989, starting with Joe Birdsong of MAF under Akira Tohei. Joe's first teacher was Tri Thong Dang, whom I believe trained under Ueshiba and under Koichi Tohei. I might well be wrong about that... In any case, Joe is a good teacher and a great dancer.

I had to take three years off due to financial and personal reasons, but I was miserable when I stopped, as if someone had taken away my source of sanity.
I began again under someone who had beaten me badly in a kenjutsu fencing match with old-fashioned bamboo fukuro shinai, a man I knew would teach me what he knew of the sword, and originally it was the sword I loved. Jim P introduced me to several other teachers, from Stephen McA to Brendan H. In about 6 years I ended up a shodan assistant instructor under Brendan (nidan in aikido and godan in judo) in Round Rock at Mr. Matl's dojo. Lots of other folks worked out there, but Mr. Matl was Brendan's sensei and therefore mine. He gave me much in our time there, and I will not forget. I learned to love and respect judo there.
Brendan, poor determined Brendan, tried so hard to forge me with his own hands. He gave me moments of truth that devastated and remade me. I would drive home crying my eyes out and not knowing why. Frustration, perhaps, or joy. No telling, at 11 pm.
After I joined the Aikido list in 1998, I began to cross train even more. I met students of Nishio Sensei through my "brother" Kregg and met people like George Simcox, Rocky Izumi, Chuck Clark, Philip Akin, Chuck Gordon, Alan Drysdale, Hiroshi Ikeda, and so many others. I have taken ukemi from all of these folks.
Tragically, very little from Shoji Nishio but quite frankly at the time I wasn't up to it. I have also trained with Seagal's student Larry Reynosa. I did not like his style, granted, I allow generously for differences.. looking back it was very Shin Shin Toitsu with a generous touch of Dillman and Kali.
Standing where I am now, I might have liked it better, but I was very committed to what I understood as softness at the time.
I have trained with Don Angier at one seminar, and with his students, who are wonderful folks, especially Kurt Von Quintus and the Dallas Yanagi Ryu fellows.
Granted, this is all a fairly shallow experience. But what does one spend a lifetime learning? I have trained in Wing Tsun, gaining my first level with Sifu Jeff Webb in Austin, and in "garage" kenjutsu and kickboxing with my buddy Dan A. Dan, you still out there doing a job you love?

I have done judo with the current national champion of his age group (being trashed joyfully and gently by Matl Sensei is one of my most treasured memories -- "so you want learn newaza?" mash, smoosh, wad...).
I trained a little with the gentleman who owns Tai Chi People in Austin, a remarkable person, also a healer. He is the one who told me "killer is healer. You need a knife in the battlefield AND in the kitchen".
All of this should serve only to tell you where I've been. And it doesn't matter. I have faced the spectre of the lack of women teachers and gotten over it. Men are teaching. They can be good people. The responsibility is on me to be brave and make it mine.
So what the hell am I doing NOW? it is a composite of jujutsu (aikido is jujutsu. It is. completely.. or you are getting an incomplete version) kempo, weapons and strategy.

Chuck calls it Kokoro Ryu. When his teacher Richard Gordon was trying to describe to Fumio Demura what he did, and where it came from, he pointed to his heart and said "I just do what's in here" and Demura said "Aaah, Kokoro Ryu". I understand that some enterprising person has taken that name as a trademark, however, I don't think they had Demura's blessing.. (smiling) It's hard to know exactly where the art comes from, but it is simple, elegant, deep and undeniably effective. During his military service, Richard Gordon trained under a variety of individuals including Koichi Tohei and Gozo Shioda as well as some undeniably old school jujutsuka and swordsmen. We may never find out the whole list,
I don't know how much he remembers. Chuck is constantly researching and backtracking to find his roots. I am a tadpole wanting to be a bird, yet again. I am humiliated, frustrated, terrified and fascinated. It is like my early days in aikido all over again, from the butterflies at the beginning of class to the pounding frustration of trying to throw powerful giants like Martin, flexible wires like Monica, sandbags like Tim and Bob, and the implacable ferocity of my teacher Chuck Gordon. I learned to enjoy my fists in Wing Tsun, and I do not give them up here. We HIT each other, with fists and weapons. We become astonished at what we can take, and are eminently careful with one another in it. Bruises are inevitable, but they are in aikido training too. You just aren't warned of it. Broken limbs have not happened, and I know they do in aikido and in life in general.We are careful, gentle, intimate. The class is too small for anyone to have a Persona as happens in large groups. We know each other too well. Occasionally I'll GET a throw and Martin will step up to take incredible ukemi repeatedly. Occasionally one of the others will Get It. Tim is one of the best at that, he's been with Chuck the longest and really and truly threw me once. Once I figured out I was still alive it was really cool. But I said a Very Bad Word on the way over. Quite involuntarily.
It is more intense than any aikido I've ever done. It is more complete in terms of using fists and feet and assorted weapons. It is terrifying and my teacher pushes me harder in the most terrible places. The fact that he is also my mate may enter into that somewhat, on the mat we are teacher and student and I love him and hate him with the rest of the class.I often wonder, gee, is that where that came from? in terms of what we get now in judo and aikido. Nikajo was never this painful. Kote Mawashi, a pain by any other name...

Aikido by and large has been gentled to help the masses, and believe me I don't have a problem with that. Whatever will help people reach beyond themselves is fine with me. It is so desperately needed. If aikido fills a person's needs, that's wonderful! not everyone needs to go to quite the masochistic means I have. Not everyone is into this deep personal adventure.
Unlike others who have left aikido in anger, I have left it in a more positive light. I am simply an adventurer. I may still teach something I call aikido, but only in that I believe that peace is best held from the high ground.
Ueshiba did beautiful things.. those who believe that any one of his students holds the whole picture has an unclear notion of the human mind. I have striven to follow a path more similar to Old Mori, in that I have explored and tried many things. I may never serve my country militarily, nor will I found a new religion, but I will follow my Path. Right now I am involved in a deep and brilliant history lesson, one I will pass on to whomever I teach, one I am striving to embrace with all of my being.

(Dec 2006)
Now, as the assistant instructor in a tiny club on a military installation, my training has an immediacy and a depth most people only daydream of. Our senior student is no longer in security, but he still has that focus and earnestness. We try very hard to pay attention and challenge each other. He is so giving, and forgiving, I couldn't ask for a better whetstone. I hope I can do the same for him.
Chuck remains one of the more difficult sensei I have ever faced. Not because of our personal relationship so much, I keep that pretty strictly limited to keeping him functional. His teaching style is very much demonstration, not explanation, which is strange for a man of so many skilled words. In a way, this works, because words cannot convey this stuff. In a way, it's harder, because we are both so wordy, and it's like cutting off an entire sense, and growing a new one, to learn this language called budo.
My personal evolution here, lately, has been deep and wide, in feeling if not in result.
Once again, the words fail... but as the bodywork has freed me, I am so free, just to train.
It doesn't hurt to fall, I can stand up and sit down (seiza is not hurting) I can move pretty freely, the pops and clicks are mostly just sound effects, the left wrist still needs bracing but I can offer it from time to time.
These things are all huge, in this training microcosm.
Another oldie but goodie:

Since I was a kid, my primary entertainment has been whatever's going on outdoors. My dad was quite the outdoorsman and my mom was too, when she was fit enough. She is still very attuned to the weather and the natural world in her own way, my dad even more so.
When I was a few months old I was out on their backs in a little baby backpack with a fly whistling past my ears from a flyrod. Our outings were to the clear rocky streams of Central Texas with a cooler full of food and beer.
We spent weeks on the Texas Coast in the summer. You want a purifying experience... sheesh. The glory of a beach sunrise is balanced by an ocean of intimate sand and salt, biting flies and man-o-war and relentless, murderous midday heat. I am hopelessly spoiled to fresh-caught shrimp, fish and crab. I spent hours in the waves, body-surfing with the mullets and investigating the rich microcosm of the shallows. In the mornings I would walk until I was tired on beach, entranced by shells and the raucous lyricism of the gulls and skimmers.

In June in Texas, the thermometer spikes to 100 degrees and it does not come back down on a regular basis until nearly October. By September, 90 F is a cool breeze.

Here in Indiana that seems so very far away, the days are in the 80s but the air is literally soggy. Astonishingly enough, I experienced some deep pangs of homesickness for the intense blaze of the Texas sun accompanied by the cool waters of the pristine San Marcos River. If I went and sat in the oven for about an hour and then took a cold shower I might be able to accomplish the feeling if not the scenery..

One of my deepest interests is foraging for wild foods. We used to pick grapes on the riverside from my dad's johnboat (a flat-bottomed aluminum craft) and make grape jelly, a tradition I have taken with me. I try not to turn the kitchen nearly so purple now as my mom and I did as we extracted the powerfully acid muscadine, or "mustang" grape juice.

Here in Indiana, the earth is incredibly rich and, wonder of wonders to this lifetime semidesert rat, it rains on a regular basis. Big black clouds gush cold rain onto rich earth, and the result is a disregarded bounty in the parks and waste places.

Early in spring I became obsessed with finding morels. I found them. It is more like a hunt than any gathering I have engaged in previously. They have a rich earthy mushroomy taste, but truly finding them is actually more exciting than eating them. Not that I won't squabble for my share, mind you!

I made a mushroom and rice dish that I fed to our dear guest instructors Goyo Ohmi and Eric Tribe at Wood and Steel III when they arrived from Canada. Cooked morels look a bit like tired octopus (tako if you eat sashimi) but taste much better. I found nearly 50 morels all told, not bad for a beginner. I wait happily for next morel season and spy out new hunting spots with the gusto of a lioness eyeing a watering hole.

Later in the spring, I found raspberries! O rare treat indeed! I gathered and gathered and made some delicious seedy raspberry jam. Chuck doesn't like berries so I suppose that will be around for a while. Next year perhaps I will make a cordial. June came and the acres of blackberries at a local city park ripened. Monica and Chuck and I filled my largest basket with the brambly treats, and I made cobbler, jam, and froze about three gallons for Martin to make into wine. Then, in August, the wild cherries started to ripen. These are things better gathered with a stick and a sheet, but I picked them by hand. Have to be careful with wild cherries, they contain toxic prussic acid and unless you're going to cook them thoroughly they have to be meticulously de-stemmed and pitted. But they make _delicious_ jam. Yum!
Shortly after the cherry adventure, Chuck and I ventured to Eagle Creek and picked about a gallon of river grapes. I made a tart and lively jam with them. I have another batch of them in the sink which I hope to hand over to Martin for making into wine. He keeps talking about making something called a "lambic" which I am curious about.

I gathered some apples this morning as well, it's a wonder to me why people will spend money on the toxic, mealy waxy things at the store and never glance at these trees groaning under a burden of creamy crunchy sweet tartness. There's not much like this in Texas, that's for damnsure!I wait like a kid waiting for Christmas for my very first Fall.

In Texas you know it's fall when the leaves leave tiny smoke trails from the trees as they burn from the branches under the ferocious sun. Here, the bright green of summer has faded dull and hints at gold and scarlet round the edges. For her birthday I sent my mom a card with some early brilliant leaves in it.

You knew I might get political.. the deepest passions of the soul are what we bring to our politics, after all. If you knew that the government was participating in subsidizing the sale of toxic or non-beneficial substances, that it was denuding forests in Brazil so that we could pay less for something that is killing us, would you chalk it up to Darwinism and hope it didn't raise your health insurance costs? If you were hungry, if you couldn't afford to go to the grocery or pay rent for a kitchen, what would you do?Do you have the knowledge to support yourself? Can you walk outside your door and identify even three things that grow wild that would nourish you? Do you trust the government, which is subsidizing beef (ground water? trees? topsoil? who needs it?) and tobacco (nicotine is a standard ingredient in rat poison and is the most addictive substance we have around) to make it easy for you to get food that is delicious, clean and good for you? I'll brush good clean earth off any edible and bring it home a prize, but you can't get me to eat things from a street or sidewalk or any drive-through. Perhaps it is my personal rebellion, I love to look outside and see a world my species adapted to hunting and gathering in, so generous with its bounty when you know where to look. To walk in the woods and know that the cherry tree will give me treats, the hickory will give me protein both from its fruit and the squirrels who get so fat on them, to know that a little yarrow will smell wonderful and ease mosquito bites, to know that I might find a sassafras leaf to rub between my fingers and sniff and savor, this is home to me.
I see children raised by the media who think, like their damnfool parents, that the outdoors is a giant toilet, and I want to show them exactly what they are shitting on. People ask me what I am picking, is that edible? Their grandmothers likely made jam or jelly from these same plants, but we have forgotten.
They have no conception of the part they play in their world. They have fallen for what Daniel Quinn, in _The Story of B_ calls "the big lie" that humans are separate from nature. We are not. We may scent ourselves artificially and never eat anything that hasn't seen a butcher, factory, or megafarm, but we are still hyperactive, noisy predatory apes.
For some reason humans have become accustomed to a diet of clowns and music videos, we eat what is "cool" to eat and pay no attention to the needs of our bodies or spirits, when what the cells of the body actually encounter is actually a mixture of monocropped, overfed, chemical-laden chaff and lard. I love a good steak but I'd like wild venison better. I drink wine and beer and good scotch, I use olive oil and garlic in abundance and my mate is a fabulous Southern cook.
But what I love best is something I or my mate caught, made, and served to my family with my own hands. I love sharing what I know, knowing that understanding how delicious wild grapes and apples are might save tiny spaces of what I love from greed and stupidity, at least for my short lifetime.

As I update my old web site, I'm going to transfer the stuff I like over to this blog.
This next post is from March 2002.

If I recall correctly, author and scientist Richard Dawkins flatly dismisses the myth of race.
As I like this theory, this essay becomes a moot point. However, for those who still thrive on myths and cling to illusion, here's my opinion on racism in budo:

Updated March 18, 2002:
There is something I am very tired of. A certain childish attitude, in the world of budo. It is born of insecurity and lack of confidence, born of closemindedness and fear.

It is composed of the very things we seek to extinguish in ourselves by pursuing our path.
I did not see it so clearly until I went to Kim Taylor's "Sword School" in Guelph. Having been to the Guelph Sword School, where they are trying frantically to preserve ancient arts from being lost, I must say I observed a difference.
At Guelph, the differences are between ryu, not ha. That is, a whole different system. Socially, less competition. As in, between baseball and football instead of between football teams.

There is much interest and open sharing. There is mutual respect and admiration. They know what it is to do a crazy thing to a level of expertise and respect it. They don't do what you do, but they will enjoy your performance and enjoyment of it.

In the gendai budo world there is a form of racism (undoubtedly in the koryu as well, within sects). Yes, racism. "'Oh, don't talk to them.. they're a different color/school/sect. They will 'pollute your aikido/karate/judo/basketweaving' "No.Really. Even in the most polite and softened terms, anyone who forbids you to train with anyone else has something they don't want you to see about them. Anyone who thinks everyone else is a waste of time is an egotist, a megalomaniac with an inferiority complex. Naturally, a person should try to gain a base in an art which suits them, but training under lock and key is like never leaving your house.. no matter how cool you make it, you're not going anywhere. It's a kind of spiritual and intellectual agoraphobia. It's locking your door when someone of a different color walks by.

It's a terribly poisonous practice and it is robbing the aikido world (I know little of the other arts besides Wing Tsun and will tell you for free that's vicious and crazy) of a "whole vision" of what Morihei Ueshiba taught. Not to say the Japanese are sinless, in fact Hombu Dojo is known for its nationalist tendencies (see
footnote by Henry Ellis) and policies which include holding back Western student so as to promote Japanese students faster.
Ueshiba taught Inoue and he taught Saotome. He taught Akira AND Koichi Tohei. If you throw away what he taught one person, what they brought away from the experience and yes, added to it, then you disregard a piece of the whole.

Can we afford to do that?
Can we, as second-third-fourth-XXX generation aikidoka and budoka, AFFORD to do that? I say no.

At the same time, we don't have to perpetuate the prejudices.

I came back from Guelph to an e-mail message which, while very sweet to me, attempted to undermine my instructor, from one of my old instructors, written under an all too traceable pseudonym.I figure he had a hard time dealing with the fact that I got to go to Guelph and get my hands on "the real thing" while he flails for truth by his own parameters back home. Geez man, let go and be glad for me! The fact remains that we cannot help those who will not either recieve help, or help themselves. I have gone out to find out more, I will meet strange people and go sword to sword with them, I will humble myself to learn from them and take what I can to those who might someday learn from me. I have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Is it all about whether or not you can hit somebody with a length of bamboo? I don't think so.

I think it's about history, about respect (hokorei...) about generations of survival in a lethal political and military climate.It's about taking what your teachers give you in blood and sweat and carrying it on. It's about supporting other people who are trying to do the same. Big arfing deal if they have other teachers. They are your brothers and sisters in preserving an ancient tradition and improving upon it.In a political climate terrified of people with power (unless they have money too) unless it's a question of character and legality, we must support one another. And we must be compassionate and try to understand that everyone does the best they can with what they have. If the person is poisonous, then be specific. If you simply don't like someone's art, don't assume they're a bad person. Just because other folks don't fit in your little cookie mold doesn't mean they're evil.

Can we turn up our noses because of the unknown and the assumed?

What do we gain, with closed minds?

Now, here is my dare, for you. Try something new. Add to your collection of perspectives. Are you content with your tiny piece of it? I dare you to kick at the darkness til it bleeds daylight. Don't just cower behind your door, or under your label, or behind your shield. So, you're already right about everything? What does that mean, if you only do one thing and won't think about anything else?

If you want the karateka's version of this, go to If you want to talk about genetic racism, sorry, can't help ya. Don't suffer from it (I don't even believe there is any basis for it!).

A footnote from Henry Ellis Sensei, posted on the aikido list:
"Hi Chuck,
I totally agree with you and others on the subject of grades in Aikido. In the 1950's several of us that were students of the legendry Kenshiro Abbe sensei were graded to dan grade, we all trained at least four to five nights a week, with three hours every Sunday, these were some of the best aikidoist's I have ever seen, all dan grades were graded by Abbe sensei, our certificates were signed by O'Sensei. In the very early 1960's Aikido was now expanding very quickly throughout the UK, Abbe sensei asked O'Sensei to send another teacher to the UK. The first teacher O'Sensei sent was Mikoto Mashailo Nakazono, we were all shocked to learn that we were to be regraded by Nakazono Sensei, the gradings were harder the second time around, I must add that the first grading was tough enough, we all kept our grades except one who was demoted from 2nd dan to first, this was the occasion that Nakazono stated " Necessary sell your gi while prices are high " this guy was a great student and a good 2nd dan, he was totally gutted after that, and it was not long after that he gave it all up. Now back to Chucks point, we later found out that Abbe sensei had received a letter from the Hombu dojo to advise that all Western students should be held back from promotions in grade, this was obviously to enhance the grades of any visiting Japanese

-Henry Ellis

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Travels in Germany: Badenland-- Frieburg is as like Home as I can imagine.
Austin is in a unique corner of the world, especially of Texas, an exceptional cultural and environmental crossroads, with the best of everything at everyone's fingertips. University town, people come for their education, fall in love and want to stay.

Unfortunately, as in my hometown, this leads to the foundational entities in the town taking their residents for granted and diminishing their returns for their work to the point that they cannot afford any more than poor emigrants quarters in the town they love. Certainly the market bears what it will, and those choosing to deal with it pay, but certainly there is a point of diminishing returns.

So in this beautiful rolling country, the toenails of the Vogesians (Vosges), urban sprawl interdigitates with plowed fields and terraced vinyards. Our friends live a few minutes walk from something called the Tuniberg, a cute little hill covered, at the moment, in slightly tired grapevines with individual fat, slightly dried clusters of dark Spatlese grapes. My friend Eva and I took turns nibbling these sticky, juicy, sweet and sour treats right off the vines. Our other friends don't quite regard the outdoors as the big snack bar that we do. I tend to wander around nibbling everything that looks vaguely edible, provided it isn't actively trying to get away from me at the time. Rose hips, leftover berries, half-frozen schlehen/sloes, mints, oregano, edible flowers and trees are all part of the buffet. In harvest season, apples always line my pockets, earlier, I always have a bag or basket for berries and mushrooms. The world is so rich, why let any of Mamma Natura's cooking go to waste? I feel that she gets her feelings hurt, when we do. Having grown up in such a ferocious environment, Texas, I find this soft bountiful bosom of Middle Europe positively intoxicating.

What also reminded me of home was that it was scarcely cold at all. I hadn't brought anything cool enough, and was sweating in my light silk turtleneck and jeans! Andy, of course, Northerner that he is, wore his usual black T-shirt and jeans. I think he would wear this in Alaska on a midwinter's day, and sweat through the icicles on his beard. Meanwhile, back in the Oberpfalz, we are still hovering within 5 degrees Centigrade of freezing most of the time.

Baden is warm, inviting, bounteous, and crowded. The nature of the land and the people has a deep French influence, and there, where German and French interdigitate is also hard to discern. Okay, the bathrooms are cleaner on the German side, and the food is better on the French side. Go to the French side for red wine and cheese, and the German side for meats and white wine. The Badischer white wine is just wicked good, and they tend not to export the goodies. The French are the same way. All I can say for wine is, buy it where it comes from. No one exports their *really* good stuff, and it's always worth the travel, to go to the source.

I love Badenland, but so does everyone else.

Monday, November 20, 2006

What's different about being here?
Besides the doorknobs (usually a horizontal lever instead), everything closed on Sunday and the bewildering array of toilet methodologies?
There's no way to address the culture without addressing its trappings.
First of all, Germans are always prepared. They all learn first aid in high school, and are required to keep first aid kits in their cars and render aid on the highways.
In keeping with local culture, I saved a little bit of sidewalk salt from last year, or maybe I just had it left over... An early snow made me glad I had! We came back from a mostly sunny Halloween trip to Cesky Krumlov through fairly thick, wet snow. No need to shovel, but the salt was a Good Thing.
Most of our neighbors have built up stacks of wood a beaver would envy. As in the US, Christmas schlock is already up. Formally, the winter festival here does not begin until the beginning of Advent. I can't explain Advent to you because I was never Catholic, and it's a Catholic thing.
I've settled into German culture comfortably enough to know to greet my elders first and respectfully, carry my own basket and/or bags to the grocery, and how to complain when the price rings up incorrectly. Sometimes I even keep my front walk swept, but honestly we are not interested in trying to compete with German standards of house and/or yard keeping. It is the law that anyone living on a property must clear a path to their door so that anyone who may need to come to the house may do so without injury. This can be a chore in snow season, but we've learned to keep after it.
In Germany, you can't put mail in your box for the postman to pick up. You can GET mail in your box, and tons of adverts from kids who make a little money from stuffing boxes with them. But you have to go to the box to get your mail sent anywhere. Don't try to go to the post office. It won't be open. Not on Wednesday afternoons, not over lunch (11-2) and CERTAINLY not after 4pm. It makes me wonder who actually works on the mail? Even the Germans can't be that "fleissig" (industrious).
Incidentally, "fleissig" is a great compliment, but to call someone "faul", or lazy, is a deadly insult. I recently taught the Germans who work at the gym the word "malingerer" and they love it.
On our way into the Czech Republic for cheap shopping thrills, a Nuremburger tried to slam into the border crossing line ahead of us. I told my hubbie to roll down the window and tell them it cost 25 Euro for that place in line. It resulted in the usual conversation about how they made a mistake and didn't see that the line was single file, bla, bla, bla. I used the word "unfreundlich" loud enough to let them know I thought they were rude. They quit trying for a new paint job, and horned in on someone else.
This may well be my shodan in German culture. It made the whole thing funnier, cut the tension, and made our young American newbie (okay, 2 years here) friends collapse laughing in the back seat.
"More civilized than Thou" leads the charge here, in a big way.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

A few weeks ago, I said some thing I came to regret, online. Not because they weren't true. Perhaps because they were. The person I aimed them at is someone I think should be an icon, but has instead become a kind of liability. The details don't matter. I was miserable about my own gracelessness and lack of tact, though people have told me I was perfectly tactful. I think it is my Jekyll/Hyde problem, that I have cultivated a fluffy bunny skin to keep my dragon's teeth in.

My sensei observes that, in and out of kata, my entire body language changes. I take little lady steps in, great ferocious strides within the irimi, the practical part of the kata, and little lady steps out. It's an interesting interface between socialization, training, and nature.

I found a deep well of ferocity and rage, when I thought my teacher or my old dojomates might be hurt. I didn't care what others thought, I was going to defend my family. The fangs and claws and "dragon breath" came out, and I lost control and let it go. I lost control because of some bodywork which tore down some of the careful architecture of my limitations, I lost control because of some Spanish red wine and I lost control because I am so devoted to my old dojo family. I let that message fly, and fried in my own sweat and regret all night. I was ashamed at my lack of control. This was the central issue. I was terrified at this lashing out at the same person, again, over issues I can never change, issues my "family" can and will deal with. Issues this teacher knows about, and wrestles with on a very personal level. I know it's his fight, and I know he's trying to do the right thing. It just didn't work for me, and I couldn't communicate why, so I did what an INFJ does. I left. It's an awkward theme for me. I can't explain it because it would hurt too many feelings, and I leave. It explained my ex-marriage as well.

My old teacher said "I believe our training is not only to end conflict, but not to begin it. I hope your ire will cool but never your fierce heart."

I came out, apologized, and rededicated myself to my training.
I have done so on an unprecedented level. Every time I face the dragon, I change.

This place is very deep and very soft. This place, I just try to do what's good for me, and listen to other people about what I should do. My sense of self is well-developed enough for me to have an automatic filter. But in terms of the true basics: how to exercise, what to eat, what to drink, how to train-- I've had enough of my own advice. Certainly there are things that work for me, such as staying away from sugar and wheat and getting lots of "walkies". I've enlisted a personal trainer, and sworn off my own old black belt, on the mat. I try to see everything as for the first time. Lordy, I'm trying not to say "I" so often. I want to hear what other people are saying. I can listen to myself anytime. I have picked up the brush and the pencil again, and that's a miracle in and of itself. That, and the complete redesign of my web site, will keep me amused all winter. There is nothing like trying for complete compliance with what you see, to make you calm and whole.
I am trying to walk into the world assuming nothing.
Don't assume, however, that this has anything to do with conformity. Just listening, and doing my best to learn.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Bavaria is at her most beautiful in fall. Like Sophia Loren, she is somehow at her most beautiful, easy and self-possessed, in the golden warmth of the autumn sun.

We spent the weekend in Munich. Travelling down on Friday the 13th, the countryside going by in cascades of green and gold, red tile roofs, green fields and white inviting villages and dorfs.

It's so beautiful here, I love fall so much. We don't get fall, in Texas. The poor leaves scorch right off the trees and spiral down screaming, leaving tiny smoke trails.
Here, the apples redden, the leaves yellow, the evenings cool and sweeten.

Munich was its usual carnival of construction and people. We stayed at Pension Excelsior, the beds were soft and yummy, the room large with a sink for face washing and tooth brushing. It's on Kaulbachstrasse near the Englischer Garten, but the usual German desire to Fix Something was afoot and a Giant Noisy Machine was across the street with someone going for extra credit with a chainsaw at 8am.

It's useful to ask, if you like to sleep late, about "baustelle" in the area. If there's one right outside your window, as there has been %85 of the time I've been staying in Munich over the last 3 years, they probably won't tell you.

Pension Geiger is a great cheap place to stay, but don't bet on anything but the coffee for breakfast. I love Pension Steinberg for their soft beds, nearness to the English Garden, and incredibly fresh and fabuluous Fruesstuch (brekkie) and general gemutlicheit (hospitality), but the guest windows are across the street from a pub (this is normal) and people can be incredibly drunk and inconsiderate (gosh, I've never been one of *those* *ahem*) at 3 and 4 am.

Generally, if you can be forgiving of various personal errors, the Schwabing pensions can be delightful, especially if you are interested in having fun in Munich.

Other than that,look for cheap deals, check out the Bayern-Ticket, learn your Bittes and Dankes and enjoy the educated German's easy English skills. Germans love to speak English. It's required in school (from grammar school) and most understand at least spoken English. Perhaps it is a trait of Anglican obstinacy that everyone has to understand US.. honestly it makes me feel a little silly. Certainly any given German's skills in English are better than mine in German, but I like to give them a
"run for their money".. wait.. the $ is getting its pants beat off by the Euro... an even better reason to learn Deutsch.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

I read a New Scientist recently about the origins of genius. The research points to two things: a supportive environment and hard work.

Even Tiger Woods, despite his early start, just out-worked the others.
I'm trying to be there right now, trying to purvey this little scrap of talent I have into something which will sustain me. Like a tiny flame on a cold winter night, I'm blowing on the part which is burning hottest.. which is not this blog. I'm sorry, but I'm just not able to commit like a good blogger.

Right now I'm building my practice, learning German, taking care of my mate, and eating as many apples right off the tree as I can get my hands on.
I got one today which had that old-fashioned almost clove-y taste mixed with the buttery warm, tart vanilla taste of a shade-cooled, delicately sun-warmed apple.

We had a friend stay with us for a while, and as he has an interest in things wild, I handed him a bit of everything I was devouring as we wandered through the woods.
Always, I took a bite first, to be sure.
And always, he gave it a try. Rose hips were a big hit, and the leftover apples at a 12th century ruin close to Regensburg.

In my memory lies a fateful day, when a senior monk at the Omori Shrine picked up a fallen mountain apple at the grave of Omori Sogen on the Big Island in Hawai'i.
He offered it to those of us following on the tour. After a shy second, I held out my hand. After nibbling to the core this hard, sour sphere, I carried the sticky remains with me until I found a suitable place to tuck it back into the earth.
The legend of the snake in Eden remains with me... but perhaps it's different for those of us who choose the cadeucus as their own.
In a metaphysical sense, I believe this mountain apple from the grave of Omori Sogen led me to also devour koryu as better for me than aikido. Not that I was poisoned, but cleared, to find my own path.

No one can ever be sure of their genius, only of their own efforts to find it. I shared what I could with this friend, I tried to show every inch of my own hard-won genius. When people receiving my work tell me I'm a genius, I reply with "I am very well trained" because it is the job of the trainee to reflect their training in their own unique way. I reflect the destruction of budo as the "life-giving sword" in a very concrete and meaningful way in my work. I am the tiny bird picking the teeth of the crocodile, the clown fish hiding in the arms of the anemone.
I'm not even noticed, pulling out thorns and pushing the system where I can. I'm a tiny tick-bird feeding off a rhino. I do it good, and it does me good. We don't think of it much, we don't think much of each other, and we don't exactly communicate in a detailed fashion. It can't, and I, I suppose, won't. Would it make a difference?

When I meet someone I suspect of genius, I cannot keep myself from trying to push them find their "groove". Our recent guest has such a talent with words/ideas/expression and a deeply expressive nature, as fine or finer than many things I've read, heard or seen. In my readings in psychology, conflict in the family is said to produce creative children. This one grew up in the depths of the Anglo Irish conflict (my mother she was Orange and my father he was Green) as did I to a very removed extent.

To see this conflict in person, to talk and reveal and listen, gave me more than is really understandable now. One thing I have come to understand, is that compound essence of time is the most important ingredient.

It took one mountain apple for me, and perhaps my feeling is that a handful of wild apples and rose hips can play the temptation of the wild adventure of wisdom and experience for another.

When wisdom is evil, so will I be.
Greece needed both Artemis and Athena.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

It's late August in the Oberpfalz. Evenings are cool, it's 13 grad now and I'm wearing sweats indoors. Plums, apples and mushrooms are ripening. Climate-wise, I am so much healthier here. We're starting to think about staying here.
It's a little scary, to be honest. However, like so many misfits to their own culture who try a different one, it's almost a relief to be really foreign, instead of just rejected.
It's not that I don't belong in Texas. It's not that Texas doesn't belong to me.
It's just that I'm not in my best of health there. The heat in the summer, the cedar in the winter, and the terrible air with all the cars and heat and pollen.
There's no way to wander around in a hamster bubble, nor would I want to live that way. Meanwhile, the American health system is falling apart, afflicted with greed to its very roots.
Here, if you can pay a little extra for private health insurance, and be accepted, you can get all kinds of treatments and spa weeks paid for.
Try that with your American health insurance.
In the meantime, I think I have to really get my business off the ground, and work hard, so that I can be a success here, in a successful and stable economy where wholistic health is valued. I'll wait and watch to see where my own beloved country is going, but, at the moment, theocracy is not what our Founders had in mind.
Nor is Imperialism (which we fought to free our own selves of).
Nor did they have in mind such an economic oligarchy.

It's actually incredibly disgusting to an aware person, unless one takes into account that only %25 of America votes (and perhaps even then) that we are in such a state.

In any case, I'm aware, and I'm disgusted. Take Note.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

It's the beginning of what I call "apple time" here in Bavaria. I learned about it first in Indiana. The apples on the trees begin to redden at the cheeks, the light turns more golden, and perhaps a little moody. Evenings cool, and the earth and its inhabitants seem focussed and gravid. Nuts on trees show promise, and mushrooms bloom.
Personally, I can weather any cold with a warm fire and a kitty in my lap. I'm wearing a deep pile jacket and have a down throw and an adoring kitty, with the back door open to let the katydid sounds and fresh air in.
It's amazingly beautiful to me, to look forward to apples and have cool nights. It was what I dreamed about back home. Now I bike past forests of ripe blackberries and cranberries, and check my favorite apple trees, and watch the wheat and barley dry down.
The vintners take the early fall grapes in and sugar them, starting the fermentation. Green wine and cider are available for those hard of head. I can't touch it, splits my noggin in two.
Fests are here and there and everywhere. Tents and toasted meat are everpresent.
Cars tuck into the entries of forest trails as the older folks go in to pick berries and mushrooms. It's quite the pastime here. No one is thought strange for it. Older folks interview me and even check my mushrooms for me, given a chance. It's hard to get their dialects, but even the best educated of folks will stop and chat, particularly in this area. America is deep in their cultural images, as the liberators, the givers of Coca-Cola and Hershey's Chocolate.

I can only accept the history and keep my eyes open to the future, as America deals with her own version of fascism.. how come every Communist nation, with a government Of and For the People, ends up with a dictator? is capitalist representative democracy headed the same way?

I love apple time. I just hate the bad apples.
The fun part, I suppose, is throwing them at OTHER bad apples.

*evil grin*

Monday, July 24, 2006

I've made the best batch of raspberry jelly ever. I mean seriously, the flavour is amazing, the colour is astounding. Makes it worth all the fly bites and nettle burns.
What, you think I went and picked them in the garden?
No, I don't think so. I have a battered, slightly pink wicker basket that I bungee on the back of my mountain bike, and pedal off into the woods. The deerflies are vicious and insane this year, biting though Off if it hasn't been applied in the last quarter hour. Even a short nip from one is painful and leaves an itchy, scarring welt. The only remedy is to cover all skin with Permethrin-sprayed cloth. I even use a ballcap sprayed with Permethrin. It also repels the flying deer lice -- like ticks with wings. There are regular ticks as well, and danger of encephalitis. I've used tansy flowers as fly whisks, after I discovered that the flies really don't like the stuff. No kidding, the houseflies won't even land on the garbage can after I laid tansy sprigs across it. No wonder Medeival households used tansy as a "strewing herb".
I have a gorgeous bouquet of tansy topped by a tawny sunflower from my garden on our kitchen table.
Raspberries grow on all the edges here, from forests to brooks, streams, and agricultural irrigation channels. It's very dry this year, so the berries are fattest by water. Meanwhile, I have noticed that the schlehen, or sloes (wild plums) are thriving in the dry (by Germany's standards) heat.
I'm not doing so badly, either. This is nothing compared with Texas heat, and it gets deliciously cool in the evenings, down to almost 50. Texans would kill for 70 or 60, round about this time of year.
Cherries are at the end of their season. I found a wild cherry tree with yellowish fruits that was just delicious. I washed them and popped them in the fridge, snacking on them now. Apples are bulging green on the trees, some with tantalizing rosy cheeks. I'm enchanted by hazelnuts in their lacy casings, but I'm honestly not sure what to do with them. We have wild chestnuts too, in tresses of spiny casings, "hedgehog eggs" I call them. Poor mommy hedgehogs!
In my forest forays, the thing which thrills me most is the finding wild gourmet mushrooms.
Naturally, I must disclaim that I spent years of study getting to know them, and if you just go devouring random fungus, you can easily end up dead, permanently insane, or worse.
I've gotten to know the European chanterelle, known in Germany as Pfifferling. Whitish yellow to egg yolk yellow on a dry day, their fresh peppery fragrance is enchanting, mixed with the mossy musky smell of the earth they hide on. I also enjoy the European boletes in their variety. Get the right kind, treat it right (porcinis on pizza!!) and cross your eyes and hope to die, it's amazing. Chanterelles are best for breakfast. Grate an aged Gruyere into two farm fresh scrambled eggs and a dash of cream. Sautee sliced, cleaned Chanterelles in fresh butter, very gently. Dash with dry white wine, then add eggs/cheese mixture and cook on cooling burner. Snip chives over, and serve. O. M. G. I'll find even more of them when I go hunting for blueberries and cranberries in the fall, along with elderberries, and the later harvest of blackberries. I don't preserve apples, so far, just eat them. There's nothing in the world like a crisp tart apple right off the tree on a snappy fall morning.
It's an experience I trade being home for.
Like most natural progressions, I am here, there, and everywhere with it on a given day. This time of year the tunas are ripening on the cactus, and the muscadines are getting ready to pick, but it's the same story of protective clothing and timing. I got the worst case of chiggers once, picking wild muscadine grapes at McKinney Falls State Park where I used to work for Tx Pks & Wild. I worked so hard, to work for them, and then they disappointed me enormously.
I like my job much better now, I like who and where I am much better now, I like my health better, and by damn I may be chilly in the morning.
For a Texan, there ain't much to beat that, in late July.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Cat kept going to the edge of the garden today. Before we left, she never passed the line of grass at the edge of the stone patio. Now, after we have left her alone for a month, she explores more. First, to be out with her most beloved human, my husband. Second, well, it's, oh, sniff, what's this? oh, what's over here? wow this is a warm surface! ooh! a bird!!
It's not much different than anyone else's train of thought, so lets not make fun of this cat who is old enough to vote.
I'm twitchy, itchy and bitchy, coming back. I'm not sure how much of it to hide.
I'm conflicted about where I want to be. The good Southern girl in me just wants to go back home and take care of my mom and dad and support my brother. My wild streak says, what good would it do? you'd just be pouring good time after bad. Tears find me, when I think of not being able to be there, if they need me. I keep in mind that they don't need me yet. Not badly. Certainly my folks miss me, but I was never Miss Available. Especially with my family, where I developed my four-chambered life, I am partitioned and walled and carefully, compassionately, alertly aloof.
It's shaped who I am and how I interact with the world.
I always reserve the big guns far too late, when my attacker realizes that I am actually not only armed, but willing to unload, I generally get a few powder burns myself. I've learned that I need to walk a little taller, to avoid conflict. Still, I realize that stupid people are eaten by moose on a regular basis, just because they thought the big thorny apartment-building looking thing was harmless. Mostly harmless.
Anyway I'm mostly wild streak. Hubby, when I am on a cooking or cleaning tear, calls me the Domestic Goddess. I remind him constantly that I'm only feral. I'm just here because I can sleep without scratching.
Today the house was closing in on me after a day full of (doubtless inspired) cooking and errands. I had to run out on the bike and pick raspberries. They don't ripen as fast up here, which is good since downhill in Graf, they are starting to wear out. The occasional wild strawberry or chanterelle is a real thrill, and it's never really HOT. Deerflies are vicious, but long pants and Permethrin turned them today. They leave terrible, filthy bites and scars.
The German countryside shines like few others. Silence, grasshoppers, and bees. Smell of warm barley in the sun. A drift of liquid manure, followed by the sunny, furry smell of drying hay. Blue tits fuss and frolic in the birches, and magpies scurry around doing magpie mafia deals. The evenings are long and cool, with a warm golden sun. People talk, and blackbirds perform incredible blackbird operettas.
Soon the evenings will quicken and sharpen, and the apples will redden and ripen.
Mornings will be gilded, not with sun and birdsong as they are now, but with rimes of icy dew, leading to frost.
But for now, summer is wild and broad and in full swing.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Home in Bavaria, enjoying a glass of Indiana port. You have to know a great vintner, to get a decent glass of port in Indiana. Lucky us, our old landlord there has a love and a hand for the grapes.

Tom Petty sings a song about wild flowers. He might as well have sung it for me, back in 1999. This flower has a home, and always will, in Central Texas. The magnetic fibers of my iron heart point there, and always will. Going there fills me with joy, and leaving, I cry for a day.
It's only a day, and I bless the shortness of simian memory, for I am easily distracted by the pleasures of new places. At the same time, I realize that my perception of these pleasures are forever flavored by my experiences. Growing up in the heat and dry, my delight in cool green places is endless. My delight in the sea is also endless, however, since meeting the Agean, I'm a bit spoiled to cool, blue and clean. This doesn't mean I won't savor the Atlantic and her earthier delights. I also savor the harvest of the Atlantic, oysters and shrimp and crab, where the Agean is fished clean. The Greeks point and remark at certain fish which used to swim commonly in their waters. Gone now.

So I've been to the place I call home, and returned to my current abode in Bavaria. The goddess Bavaria and I have much in common. We are both broad and bawdy huntresses in the tradition of Artemis, her stolen Roman name Diana. Her likeness exists in the German Hunter's museum in Munich, where we made a pilgrimage. I had my picture taken with her, but one of us was looking much too serious and I chose not to publish it.

Our first week was in Norfolk VA. I could call this place home. The mild weather would allow a simply raucous garden, and the culture is friendly and casual. I would have both sea and mountain close at hand, as hubby and I would dearly love to do. He loves the sea to be near it and travel on it, and I love it to be in it and harvest its riches in fish, shrimp and oysters.

Second week was Austin, Texas. There is no more unique place on the planet, in terms of culture, intellect and interest. I took it for granted, for the first 30-odd (emphasis on the ODD) years of my life. How can one take for granted so much diversity, so much energy, so much texture and creativity, so much absolute ridiculous uniqueness?
I did. I understand now, all too deeply, the error of my ways. Indianapolis taught me first about my loss, in leaving Austin. Chuck should have gotten another job and joined me there. However, we never would have gotten the European experience, which, by the way, parallels the Austin one. This place is home. This place is home. This place is home.

If I click my heels three times, I'll get bruised heels and a lonelier heart. Texas culture is all about lonely hearts, so I fit in even better from afar. Like listening to Alana Davis's version of the Reaper, it's the same song on my own theme.
There are pros and cons to Austin. The pros include my family, my brilliant mother, my aging father and my incredibly talented baby brother. My magical godmother and her equally enchanting family (godbro J and the lovely K met us at every opportunity and we had great big fun) as well as brother KP and my beloved teachers BH and JP (points for trying, JP-sensei). I'd be sure to have work and home within biking range, only way to go in Austex.
I feel the need to be there and Pay It Forward very strongly. The best thing I can do is bring you my teacher, whether you like it or not. It's the best thing that ever happened to me, and I can't go back. It's like drinking port, once you get there, you know the difference between wine and water. If it don't got an Edge, I don't got no use for it. I hated it at first, too. I got to swallow the bitter, to find the sweet. I found it, and I'm not going back.

That flight to Colorado was supposed to be a vacation trip. I cried every mile of the way, and I'm crying now when I think of leaving home, It's another bitter/sweet equation. When I blink away the tears, the solution becomes clear. I am more than willing to spend time in Austin to care for my family, mentor/support my brother and guide their affairs. When that is done, I need to retreat to the mountains where I am at my best.
In Austin, I must negotiate the heat and the juniper pollen. In Glenwood Springs, I spring up at 6:30 or 7am, savor the light and the incredible air (thin as it is, this former asthmatic thrives at 7000 feet) and leap to the day, once I adjust to the altitude. Hikes with the amazing FG were nothing less than illuminating, astounding and enlightening (mostly because of FG's lectures). The Almighty's backyard is my destination when I decide to settle down and do my Life's Work, most likely teaching bodywork and natural history. There might be some budo involved, but only as a hobby. Much as I love it, it comes a cozy third to my great Passions.

Indiana is home to some lovely people, but the culture neither fosters nor tolerates individuality, so, piss off.
I have never been in such a stupid, ignorant, prejudiced (especially the black folks! hellO! not the way to go!) I've never met such closeminded, rude, aggressive, ignorant,careless, angry, WILLFULLY IGNORANT people in my entire life. The exceptions are statistically as opposite the mean as can be (T&LL, RC, and others in the Family) but I can't believe that the rest of you can live that way. Get a fuching clue. Get an education. Get on with your life, and realize that the rest of the World is so much bigger than you and your tiny problems.

Back to VA, there's some hope here. Folks are really nice, so long as you meet them outside of their cars on Hampton Road. They get seafood, they get the military, they have some decent music and culture.

Back in Bavaria, the nights are cool, and the welcome is warm. Where else do the neighbors offer to mow your lawn and have to be bought off with beer?

Life, in its intricate variations, is a treasure to be savoured, in any flavor. I am fortunate enough to try many.
I don't offer judgement, only encouragement to get to the ice cream store and try that pistachio chipotle chocolate scoop you've been curious about.

If all you learn is that you don't like it, you still will have learned something.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Flashback time... this is me, listening to Petshop Boys.. this is me, wondering when they will play some blues again.
After falling madly in love with someone I am still in touch with and fond of, I swore off for at least a year. It's a good plan, and a good cure for madness, to wait a year. Life goes on, and in a year, if it matters, it will still matter.

This is me in high school... in a dark fog of confusion, depression and anorexia. I was in counseling for about 4 years. It's still a great influence on my life, and I use what I learned from Fr. Dave Penticuff far more than anything I learned in HS, other than to completely disregard what anyone else thinks of me. That lesson was the most important, for me. Danny W asked me to the Prom. I was friends with his GF and blew him off. DB asked me over for drinks. I tried to remind him that I was under the age of consent, while not taking it personally... it kind of undermined my respect for him, which was too bad. Other than sneaking some JD here and there, I didn't drink, and didn't, until I was about 25. This is me trying desperately to escape the dysfunctional death sentence of my family.

This is me, trying the perfection route, weighing about 125 lbs, making honor roll, and dating a pyschologist's son who is a year ahead of me. This is me, dealing with dating a teenage boy, dealing with my own issues and desires, breaking loose and giving up and taking New Age seminars which give me the emotional support and bouyancy I never got at home. This is me, getting out of high school and laying tracks to get out, any way, any how. This is me in the cheap South Austin apartment with my old friend Beverly, and working retail for something like 400 a month. This is me clearing brush, running fences and going into construction work with my ex in Bastrop County. This is me, immersing myself in martial arts practice, which evolved me beyond anything I ever expected. This is me, losing my mind, leaving the land and the house and the man, moving into a friend's sewing room. Many relationships were not Y2K compliant... many who had other agendas for me, or simply weren't sure about what I was doing, or maybe felt abandoned or set aside.. I'm sorry. As usual, it was never about you. It hurt more than anything in my life, to leave the familiar limestone under my feet.
I refuse to sit around listening to Bruce Springsteen, I'm way more into Pink's Stupid Girls, blues and vintage jazz.
I can listen to Bryan Adams, since he opened for Journey way back When and I was there...

This is me, breaking down doors, smashing windows. I've restructured my life in a way that I never could have imagined, way back in 1986. I'd like to think that I wouldn't be surprised. I knew what I wanted, it was just a matter of time until I found my way to articulate it, and get there. This life is still a work in progress, and will be, up until the very last moment of possibility.

This is me, calm and clear-eyed, with a view to what is, and what has been.

This is me, finding my way.
I'm looking forward to lilacs. This last winter has been so long, and so cold. Evenings in Bayrische Siberien are soft and cool, with blackbirds trilling and burbling at the eavetops. It's not salsa weather by any stretch, at 20 Celsius. Over freezing in Bavaria is something to celebrate, though. Forsythia splashes brilliant yellow, plum and cherry trees float delicate cotton candy petal flakes to the sidewalks.
In Texas, there were fields of bluebonnets, and mountain laurel with its strangely heady "beery" smell. Here, I get high on lilacs. Like the mountain laurel, they are incredibly toxic, but they smell wonderful. A roomful of either would give an adult a headache after a while. I learned not to sleep in roomfuls of lilacs. On the other hand, a generous spray of them in a crystal vase on the kitchen table is an incredibly sensual experience.
This year is the 20th reunion of my high school graduation. It's an interesting marker... like crossing the border in another country. Sometimes they stop you and look at your passport. Sometimes they don't care. It's just another stamp on my passport of life. I lost my first passport somewhere in Austria. It has all the marks from Scotland, Ireland, England (London), a few from Czech and back and forth from the US.
I wonder if my classmates even remember the quiet, strange and estranged girl who wore her hair over her face, and could only really express herself in writing. Sometimes not even then.. the AP teacher gave me the most grudging high grade I ever got, saying.. "weird style, but good writing". I've always lifted a silent middle finger to her when I write, while trying to use the more concrete suggestions she gave me. It's always more fun, when you can hit 'em with their own stick.
I've published scholarly papers without a degree, achieved the equivalent of a master's in my field of bodywork, earned some eccentric attention in the field of martial arts, and pioneered in the area of bringing bodywork to the military.

In general, I have completely forgotten to live a normal life.

I don't figure I'm missing a damn thing.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Last Monday I didn't celebrate the Unniversary of my first marriage.
I know I didn't make the same mistakes as last time, but that didn't keep me from making different ones. How many mistakes can a person make?

I hope that Edison was right about mistakes just letting you know the wrong direction.
Life isn't ever going to be perfect, I know that.
But maybe I can learn to avoid some of the stupid shit, you know?
I'm sure trying.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Here in the narrow mind of the Army (not so narrow for some people, just for the majority, as usual) we are subjected to Rush Limbaugh, with criminal guests such as Tom Delay featured, for your enjoyment. I suggest, as an antidote, to check out Penn Jillette. . I have suggested this to AFN, but, as usual, they have ignored me, because they are IDIOTS.
Fine. Lose all of your business to the internet. I can get everything I need on the Net. I have a functioning brain. I can escape the propaganda, and decipher the code, and make my own decisions.

In other news, did you know that the tampons of different countries come in different sizes?
A Greek Super Plus Tampon (by OB) is a good quarter inch larger in diameter than an American one. A German Super Plus is in between the two.
Now, what does that say about the cultures involved? Are American women really that "uptight" or Greeks really that, um, relaxed? There is certainly far more support in Greek, and especially German, culture for having children. The Germans say that one child makes you healthy, two makes you beautiful, and three makes you strong, etc. I haven't a clue what the Greeks say. They love kids to death, though. My Danish friend who married a Greek around age 20 has four beautiful kids, every one treated as a valuable investment.
Anyway, what's up with the international tampon size anyway?
More research to come, possibly with pictures.

Friday, April 07, 2006

They say you can't go home again. I'm pretty sure that's true, because the you that left, is never the same you that comes back. This me is, now, almost seven years from the me that left Austin Texas in January 2001.
How can anyone leave Austin, Texas, those who get there and stay, wanna know.
I got too tangled up. I started chewing off my limbs. I still have cracks in my teeth from the frustration. I was literally losing my mind.
I didn't care to start losing anything else.
Like a caught animal, I just started lashing out. Then I realized it, and tried to isolate myself, to save anyone from harm. It went on for a short while, but I cannot thrive in isolation, especially with another person too close for comfort. That relationship was never exactly on solid footing, but neither of us knew the difference. Too dumb, too young, thought we were so damn smart.
My personality has difficulty with intimacy, and especially trust, in the best of situations.
No one who is uncomfortable with themselves, can truly let another in. Think of being ashamed of your house when you let someone in. You keep them in the rooms you feel comfortable with.
I had a couple of very nice guest rooms, and most of my friends thought that was me.
There's a whole house here.. I've thrown a lot of antiques out the windows, but am sure there are ever more relics and dust bunnies to discover and either redecorate or simply let go.
Let go, my teacher used to say. Just Let Go. I had one of the most beautiful and honest budo teachers out there. He said he was teaching aikido, but I'm not so sure any more. He was the hammer, and the mat was the anvil. I was the faulty steel.. folded a thousand times and still needing honing. My teacher now, does that well.
I've been through multiple processes now, and this steel is, now, simply naked.
I've found a place where I don't have to hide any more. I have a partner who delights in drawing every aspect of me out. He is fearless in that direction, and excels at being fearless, for others.
I have a profession where wierdness is celebrated, I live in a culture where I am an outsider, and therefore not expected to fit in. Like many other outliers, I am more comfortable in a foreign land. I'm already strange, therefore, to be a stranger in a strange land is actually an ease, for me. At least until memories have faded, and I have changed enough to be almost a foreigner, where I was once at home.
But for now, I go home in a few months, and I am feeling terribly, terribly naked. I dreamed, back when I began bodywork, that I had stepped out of a full medieval suit of armor and walked into the woods, and when I looked back at the armor and where my feet had fallen, flowers grew. They grew out of the armor.
Part of the concrete psychophysical process of Rolfing is to find a way out of the defenses we all put between our soft selves and the terrible world, if we perceive it that way, growing up. I certainly did. And now, headed back to the world I grew up in, I am honestly feeling a trifle nervous. At the same time, I am also thrilled.. that I will see it all, perhaps, with these new eyes.

Monday, March 27, 2006

How many of us can find our way? How many of us are over-influenced by what we hear, what we read, what our friends say?
How many of us can go without shopping, without flattering, without wanting?
How many times, can we simply do what calls us?
If we want to paint, or talk, or heal.. if we want to sing, or dance. If we want to simply be, and teach others to do so as well?
Our destinies are far simpler than our inflated fantasies make them out to be.
What more can it be,
we are here,
we are together.
How many thousands of years has it taken already,
for this limited tolerance
to take place?
Just that we are here.
Sometimes it is enough
just to be

Sunday, March 19, 2006

The lower middle-class health care experience: I was 16 before I ever saw a dentist. I was chewing on ice and bubble gum, and a tooth exploded. I'm on the second crown for that tooth, fortunately I actually have pretty good teeth. I've been told I should have had braces, but I was never sure that wasn't just a cosmetic thing designed to make orthodontists rich.
I hid a cat bite from my mom when I was about 4, and had to get pulled off a board when I stepped on a nail in it and got my foot impaled. This happened twice, I think. My parents always got so upset when I got hurt, and I never understood that it was about that basic empathy parents have for their kid. I always heard the part about the money it cost them, and thought that was where it hurt them most. I'm sure that wasn't true...
When I hurt my knee on a skiing trip with a boyfriend, one they didn't want me to go on, one that I begged for (rare for me) and took a bad fall on an over-ambitious run, I never told them. Later, when my knee hurt too much for me to keep playing soccer, I just quit. The pain would sometimes abate, but always lurked, should I get too much impact or turn the wrong way. When I started doing martial arts, I had to be very, very careful. When you have knees that don't kneel, Japanese martial arts become especially difficult.
I had to go and choose the thing I could not do.

After the whole Rolfing series twice, plus some wonderful advanced work, my body feels so good that the knee and the hip stick out like the proverbial "sore thumb" as they never did before in a background of constant pain and limitation.
I insisted that conservative treatment was not the answer, and the very nice military osteopath on post sent me to a German colleage, an orthopedic surgeon who is also an osteopath.
After a short interval of manipulation (woggle waggle, does that hurt? Ow!) he ordered a hip and a knee Xray.

Hey presto, I have a possible medial meniscus tear of the right knee, and hip dysplasia on the left side.
From what I've read, babies are supposed to be screened for dysplasia, and put in some kind of brace. Even with that, and surgery, if needed, they can develop osteoarthritis later. I also found that they most certainly get OA later, if they are undiagnosed. I was never diagnosed. I just walk a little funny, and tend to topple to the left if I am not paying attention, or am tired.
Even though I have complained about my hip all of my adult life, no one ever took an Xray, and if they did, they didn't say anything about the angles.
I have complained about the knee often as well, and been diagnosed with chondromalacia, patellofemoral syndrome, water on the knee, and jumper's or runner's knee. No one ever bothered to order an MRI.
Why? Is it because I don't fit the "profile" of ripped athlete in some modern popular sport? If I was playing soccer or softball, perhaps I would have been treated as an "athlete" and gotten more aggressive treatment.
I've never been exactly a couch potato, but I've never been naturally skinny. A person of normal metabolism and my activity level would probably be pretty skinny. Both my parents are diabetics, so I didn't exactly inherit a great metabolism. I don't eat sugar or much in the way of refined carbs any more, so I'm pretty lean (about 30% body fat) and I work out daily with cardio and/or weights(in addition to budo practice, walks, hiking, and a busy massage practice schedule). If I skip that, though, I go right up in a hurry.
Since when isn't the practice of martial arts an actual sport? If people don't understand something, does that mean it doesn't exist? If it can't be sponsored by Nike, does that mean it doesn't matter?
I'm not surprised about either diagnosis. As I have learned more as a Rolfer, I have had a pretty good idea of what is going on with my body. I'm happy to have some concrete answers. We tend to blame ourselves for our problems, especially with the dippy New Age influence of "how you think is what you are" which we carry to ridiculous extremes. Most times it's just an ordinary organic cause, not anything dramatic/traumatic at all.

I'm just finding myself sort of frustrated "after the fact" and wondering if, if I had really pushed, I could have gotten a decent diagnosis earlier. Yeah well.
Hindsight is often the art of seeing what an ass I have been.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Do you value your rights as an American? My ancestors came over here from Ireland and from Germany to escape totalitarian regimes (one still rules over Northern Ireland today, out of the frying pan into the fire, eh?).

Did you value Free Speech? Kiss it goodbye.. what's this about not being able to print that the President has broken the law? Are we setting up for dictatorship here? More, as people dare to print it.

Just for the statistics: I do not believe in God or a supreme being. I don't need an imaginary being to keep me straight. I learned Science in High School and the little college I could afford, and I do not think imaginary beings had anything to do with it. Any time you want to talk about God, insert the phrase "Pink Unicorn" instead of "god", and see if it still works for you. Then you know how rational beings feel, when you mention god.

This is the burden of sentience. We make the choice of who we are, and what we believe in , or what we refuse to be subjected to. The National Socialist Party of Germany, also known as the Nazis, were Christian.

You Democrats, who cowered while Feingold spoke the truth, Shame, Shame, Shame on you. You cowardly crooks. You might as well re-label yourselves Republicans and sell us down the river some more.

Neither party ever had my faith. I ask too many questions. I'm pro-gun and pro-choice, which puts me in a very odd corner. I don't really understand being pro-life and into the death penalty, BTW. Save babies and kill old people? Silent Running, anyone? I think it's illegal to be over 70 in California now, anyway. Too bad, Arnie, they don't want you at home any more.

Too few of our representatives have been pregnant, obviously. Too few have been faced with the life risk of delivering a child, much less one they maybe didn't want. It must be so easy, to be right all of the time. It is a luxury of the rich, a luxury of place and status, to have so much choice. Our representatives are so not representative of us any more, with guaranteed health care and retirement. Those who have it, want to keep it that way, and make the rest of the pious and well-meaning into Baby Machines. Hey, it was a woman's role in the Dark Ages. Why not go back?

I got this letter from the the very sold-out, deaf dumb and blind Senate Rep John Cornyn recently, in response to a form letter I sent his office from NOW. As you can imagine, the NOW (National Organization for Women) message has to do with personal choice and freedom above any imaginary religious right ideas about what they should do with their lives.
I had written to this public servant about the fact that women in America's military not having access to abortion in military medical clinics. Tri-care will not pay for a termination of pregnancy. Imagine a female soldier, wanting to go with her battle buddies, finding out there's been some kind of accident and she's pregnant. No sane woman would want to expose her fetus to the horrors of war, nor would she want to abandon her brothers and sisters in her unit. This is a something only the person at the center can decide on.
This is the message I sent to Mr Cornyn, whom I did not elect (I did not vote for him), who is not at all an accurate representative of my decisions for my country, who is an utter failure as a representative of what I, or others in the military community and society at large, wish for.

"I regret that my reply to your letter has been delayed. I strive to respond to each constituent in a timely fashion, but a technical error in an e-mail system used by the Senate prevented my reply from reaching you before today. The input that you and other Texans provide is valuable to me, and I appreciate the opportunity to respond without further delay."

Yeah, I guess you guys are pretty embarrassed about old Tom. *laughing* Did I mention that every absentee Texas resident (many of whom are military) much pre-register to vote by rigid standards, a month before the vote, and pre-registered. Try this from Germany. "Ask not what your country can do for you..." register me permanently to vote for one year and send me every ballot, thanks!! Yep, we got DeLay problems, all right.

"Thank you for contacting me to express your views on abortion for servicewomen overseas. I appreciate having the benefit of your comments on this important matter.I believe that all human life is a gift from God, "

You're mixing church and state again. Constitutional no-no. Religion is not a rational basis for morality. Our founding fathers were not religious, nor did they presume to legislate morality. At least 24% of the military population is at least "unchurched", and in many states, the number of people with no faith outnumber the fundamentalists by 10-20 percentage points.

Okay, maybe you missed out on the part where what a woman chooses to do with her body is none of your business. Then there is, again, did you miss my point? the Separation of Church and State issue.

Why should a small religious (fundamentalist) minority make decisions for others? This is no basis for legislation without the input or approval, much less the gross ignoring of DIS-approval by a large section of the poplulace?

"and I will continue to work within the law to see that all life is treated with the dignity and respect it deserves. "

While still supporting the death penalty? How can you do that and still stand up straight?
Wow. Does that mean that our taxes will go back to supporting education and advancement of all humans? How about those increases of Pell grants, state scholarships, and reduction of fees at state universities? How about health care?
Here in Germany, where we are deployed, the state pays for all necessary medical costs - not for us, for the Germans! . Retirement is guaranteed. Higher education (college) is taken for granted, if you pass the tests. In the US, the GI bill is increasingly the only pass for the poor, to college. Hey, W said there would be no Draft. Does taking away college education funding aside from entering the military constitute a silent one?

Is the legislation against abortion supposed to maybe create a bigger underclass of uneducated, easily controlled with religious pabulum breeders? Then there is the science education problem. No one with a decent education would buy Intelligent Design. I want some words with the Maker on this one.

Irreducible complexity is another way of saying "too dumb or lazy to figure it out". This is what we do best as humans, figure things out. To put stops on this is to deny our beautifully open and inquisitive nature.

With a decent background in science, you would know that, in the first three months of life, and most surely until the fetus is able to survive on its own outside the mother, there is no real consciousness, no pain, no real sentient existence. It's been proven in Britain. Funny how science has now gone back to Europe, in the face of burgeoning Dark Ages mentality in the US. My colleagues here in the health fields are celebrating.

How come I just feel ashamed of our primitive narrow-mindedness in response to some governing minority? I often wonder if the administration has been taking notes from the Taliban. Undermining education & options for the poor, increasing the power of religion while decreasing personal freedoms. Hey, steal my shoes and slap a black sheet over my head!

"I will oppose any legislation that would force the federal government to increase accessibility to abortion for any of our citizens, including our servicewomen.I appreciate having the opportunity to represent the interests of Texans in the United States Senate, and you may be certain that I will keep your views in mind as relevant legislation is considered. Thank you for taking the time to contact me.Sincerely,JOHN CORNYNUnited States Senator "

Um. Thanks. NOT! You do not represent my interest at all, any, whatsoever. I have no interest in the agenda of the Religious Right to bring us back to the Dark Ages of Femme Covert through the Reconstructionists and the Dominionists who are so in control of your Handlers and those of the Shrub, who should be impeached, not just censured.

The whole world is shocked and disappointed. We were living the dream, and now we are falling into some kind of conservative black hole. The time has come for the sleepers to awaken.

Over here in Europe, I am repeatedly having to explain that I was not asked, my vote was not counted, my opinion is not regarded. The other half of the tragedy is that they understand. All too well.

I have to give this answer because of YOU. I will do everything I can to point to the rotten bits, to publicize, to criticize, to enlighten and inform.

Congratulations. You have created an activist.