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Apr. 5th, 2015

ashland

Tinyletters

There's a lot tumbleweeds around here in LJland, and crickets. FaceBook and G+ algorithms annoy me. And so i'm starting to share some of my longform writing via tinyletter.

If you subscribe, you'll get an email with a new post, kind of like a newsletter. I'll also make some letters public for while, which you can view in the archive. I got the idea from writers i admire and enjoy, like Chelsea G. Summers.

What will i post? Updates, like today's about grief. Travel musings. Poems i'm working on.

Join me!
alone/harry potter

(no subject)

Tomorrow is the two-year anniversary of my mother’s death. I wrote about grief extensively during that first year -- writing that’s like blindly groping for something in the drawer of doom that exists in every kitchen, full of sharp miscellany, until after a while you’re not sure what you went looking for, a lighter or bottle-opener or spoon. And then in a kind of mindless, sluggish exhaustion i stopped writing for a while altogether. I’m still not sure how i survived that first year sometimes. (Painfully. Desperately. In ways that permanently aged and fractured parts of me). But i had this idea that someday, should i get that far, the estate that my mother left behind would feel like a gift instead of a painful, overwhelming process. Which at some point in this second year it began to be.

Capital is a shitty way to store energy (paraphrasing Marx here) and my family has either never really had any or has truly outshone me in anti-capitalism by simply giving away apartment-sized portions of it that came their way. Who knows what might have happened had my mother not died as suddenly and unexpectedly as she did. But the mother i knew in my childhood -- a woman not yet succumbed to unprocessed trauma, alcoholism and related depression -- was a fearless extrovert, a firebrand who threw great parties and yearned to travel. I believe that she would have liked some of what her legacy has become: a fledgling collective household; a heartfelt, raucous party; increased opportunities for generosity.

It's complicated, i'm grateful, and i'd still rather have my mom.

Sep. 7th, 2014

shadow

Try to praise the mutilated world.

Try to praise the mutilated world.
Remember June’s long days,
and wild strawberries, drops of wine, the dew.
The nettles that methodically overgrow
the abandoned homesteads of exiles.
You must praise the mutilated world.
You watched the stylish yachts and ships;
one of them had a long trip ahead of it,
while salty oblivion awaited others.
You’ve seen the refugees heading nowhere,
You’ve heard the executioners sing joyfully.
You should praise the mutilated world.
Remember the moments when we were together
in a white room and the curtain fluttered.
Return in thought to the concert where music flared.
You gathered acorns in the park in autumn
and leaves eddied over the earth's scars.
Praise the mutilated world
and the gray feathers a thrush lost,
and the gentle light that strays and vanishes
and returns.

― Adam Zagajewski
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Jul. 5th, 2014

driving with woody

vacation

There was a rainy MayDay and a humid solstice and solid attempts to crawl out of depression inbetween and then i went on a rare vacation (and hopefully much-needed reset).

In my personal mythology, traveling in Italy belongs to a younger self -- to a girl who burned through this country for a month in the first ache of opening to the world as an adult, full of desire and Camus and Byatt and Foucault and Winterson and Deleuze & Guattari. I return now in my soft middle-age, ripened by 15+ years of further reading and yoga and love and labor and meditation and resistance. Less cocksure, if more ample. Was i as mosquito-bitten, then? Surely i must have been, throwing wide the windows of the hotelrooms in which T. and i loved and fucked and misunderstood each other. But i hardly remember the details, only the burnt sienna and salty cobalt of those days and the feverish reach toward some bright wordless wanting. Longing, we say, because desire is full of endless distances (Robert Hass).

And so these past few weeks, too, are already blurring into a memory-montage of sunshiny wanderings and plates of salumi and seafood and wine and impressive art and boat-rides and many espressos and bowls of stonefruit. Luminous and impossible, this place seduces me with its labyrinths, and i love it as you would a lucid dream made liquid and tangible.

"Memory's images, once they are fixed in words, are erased," Polo said. "Perhaps I am afraid of losing Venice all at once, if I speak of it, or perhaps, speaking of other cities, I have already lost it, little by little.” (Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities)

Some pictures here.

Aug. 2nd, 2013

open heart

This is so wonderful!

Originally posted by bearsir as an excerpt
excerpted from Constellation of Intimates. from the forthcoming Blood, Marriage, Wine & Glitter. ©S Bear Bergman 2013

..."The best thing for me—in all the many gifts of my chosen family, the very best thing—has been feeling that I am seen as the person I am, and loved for it—not measured against old hopes or expectations as I am in my family of origin, but valued for what I’ve done in the world as the person I am. I can count on my chosen family to understand how big a deal a particular honour or accomplishment is, to talk through complicated problems (especially the kind of problems that really benefit from the advice of an old and close friend who can and will say, at a certain point, “Mister, I love you, but this is just like it was the last four times. We need a different strategy”). They know what I overreact to and what I under-react to, when I’m actually feeling brave and when I’m just putting up a front, when to boss me a little and when to let me go off and do something potentially foolish—all the sorts of intangibles of intimacy that we gain very slowly over time. They can’t be rushed; they come with experience and patience—just as my old friend Jonathan, scion of an apple-orcharding family of seven generations, could take one bite of an apple and tell you not just the varietal but how soon it would be ripe, if it was late or early, what kind of weather conditions had contributed to the balance of sweet and tart, and the qualities of the flesh. He would describe the correlation between the rain last year and the taste in my mouth in a way that presaged his choice to later live as a monk for quite some time, and then become a writer after that. It was all there in his eighteen-year-old self, like the apple showing the conditions of his life (and his understanding of even a single, simple apple’s nuance, the product of a daily osmosis of information and experience since before he could remember). It’s a relief to feel so known, on a level that’s both beside and beyond any narrative I might be creating. Especially since I’m so often involved in creating a narrative.

Relief is exactly the right word—my chosen family, and especially my constellation of intimates, is my harbour in the world. Some days I really need one. But it’s not just an end-of-the-day sense of relief, the kind where after the travails of a workday you get to finally take your shoes off and put your feet up and have a short measure of something nice and an episode of The West Wing.  That’s a nice thing; it’s a daily pleasure and over time the daily taste of it contributes to a much longer wellness. But this isn’t just that. This kind of relief is also a relief from a lifetime of solitude and doubt. Every phone call and email tells me that all the dire predictions made about my ability to ever make friends or coax anyone into loving me were unfounded. (I already knew they were unkind.) The ways in which the people with whom I have planted and grown great intimacy, whether while naked or dressed or both, make a lie out of the pervasive myth that people like me—fat or queer or trans or unrepentantly nerdy or polyamorous or difficult or some of those things or all of them—that people like me (and maybe like you too) don’t get to have families. Not wonderful families, not families full of warmth and heat and light and the clean fresh air of love that lives in the truth. They shame us and scare us; they try to make us normalize ourselves with the threat of loneliness. We resist it so long that then when we can lay down our arms, sometimes we just need to cuddle up and cry for a while (or, at intervals, forever), and having a way to do that is as much a pleasure as the first moment a painful injury finally doesn’t hurt anymore—the relief radiates like the sun.

There’s another kind of relief worth mentioning here: the relief of having such an important thing named and recognized so well. When Ishai asked me about my constellation of intimates, I also felt the relief of not having to start at zero and explain everything I value and cherish in the world of relationships. It was a shibboleth; I knew immediately that despite the fact he’d offered me something called a vegan Reuben sandwich, we were nevertheless together in a profound way on some of the most important issues in my universe. I walked through the door he held open for me that afternoon, at that wobbly little café table, and into a whole new wonderful life.



This entry was originally posted at http://sbearbergman.dreamwidth.org/27492.html.

Apr. 27th, 2013

walla walla wheat

April

On April 6, my mother was found dead in her home. I was in New York City with longueur, our first weekend getaway in six years. The next day, we sat in Central Park on the first nice day of the year, making lists. Cremation, cat, house, car, guns, bank. A life measured out in credit card bills.

Telling my grandparents about the death of their daughter was the hardest thing i have ever yet had to do in my life.

There's a strange language to the business of death. "Your mother is on hold at the Medical Examiner's office. She didn't make the list today" seems fittingly Soviet with a touch of Muzak, my mother an underachiever even in death. Some of it is pure capitalism, as though entering grief through a giftshop: "Your mother's death certificate will be available for purchase on Monday." And then there is the mundane absurdity of human ashes traveling in the mail.

Three weeks later, i am predictably unpredictable to myself. My needs and wants are difficult to gauge and seem to change more quickly than i am used to. It's hard to make decisions about food, let alone anything else. Mainly, i want to be nurtured, and am entirely lost in how to make that happen. At first there were bouts of desire for doing something reckless -- sex with strangers, running away to Italy, New Zealand, somewhere unfamiliar altogether. (The most reckless thing i managed was ice cream for breakfast.) These days, i'm just depleted and immensely sad. I misdirect my anger. The world seems much too loud and fast, crowds are exceptionally hard, and i'm trying to find the quiet, slow, solitary without isolating and staying in bed all day with the curtains closed. But i do that, too. I feel lonely a lot despite having a truly most awesome community. I guess i don't really mean lonely; i mean unreachable.

Speaking of unreachable. Spring is my favorite season, opulent and earthy, all magnolias and lilacs, the pleasures of the body in the world. But not this year.

There is an estate to Deal With. I hope to some day soon be able to see that as an incredible gift, rather than a painful and difficult process. Money is good to have -- still, i'd rather have my mom.
january

Alright. Time to get out of bed, then.

Against neoliberalism, educators, students and other concerned citizens face the task of providing a language of resistance and possibility, a language that embraces a militant utopianism while constantly being attentive to those forces that seek to turn such hope into a new slogan or punish and dismiss those who dare to look beyond the horizon of the given. Hope is the affective and intellectual precondition for individual and social struggle, the mark of courage on the part of intellectuals in and out of the academy who use the resources of theory to address pressing social problems. But hope is also a referent for civic courage, which translates as a political practice and begins when one's life can no longer be taken for granted, making concrete the possibility for transforming politics into an ethical space and a public act that confronts the flow of everyday experience and the weight of social suffering with the force of individual and collective resistance and the unending project of democratic social transformation. - Henry A. Giroux

Jan. 1st, 2013

teleport position

A Year of Yes

Yes to roadtrips. Yes to loving bicoastally. Yes to acting from a place of integrity, honesty and kindness. Especially towards myself. Yes to trusting my gut. Yes to more yoga. Yes to walks and giggles and heart-to-heart talks with loved ones. Yes to believing in myself more with every passing year. Yes to staying the course. Yes to reaching out when it's hard. Yes to poems. Yes to conviviality. Yes to bringing good party. Yes to knowing when to stay home. Yes to holding more hands. Yes to learning as i go.

Dec. 21st, 2012

shadow2

Solstice

I woke up this morning to find the world still here, but every SMS conversation from my phone apocalyptically gone. All the year's mad flirtings and pictures of loved ones and sweet messages of support and desire and daily interactions have disappeared in a single sweep.

It's been a year of potential and foment and frustration and reckoning. It's been a month of negotiating emotional investments, longing and desire, finding my edges, redefining roles and relationships. What am I made of? I used to think that I wanted to be clever and strong; these days I strive for honesty and kindness. It is nice to feel that largely I succeed.

As I write this, the gray stark world outside my window is being washed and blown about. An intricate mesh of dripping branches reaches for, pushes against, the leaden sky.

Still, the light returns.

I want strong peace, and delight, the wild good. I want to make my touch poems: to find my morning, to find you entire alive moving among the anti-touch people. I say across the waves of the air to you: today once more I will try to be non-violent one more day this morning, waking the world away in the violent day. (Muriel Rukeyeser)

The familiar compulsion and thrill of clean slates. Start again, reframe, reinvent. Face the dawn.

For the year ahead: Clarity & Flow.

Apr. 29th, 2012

owly

(no subject)

It is not a moment of pure bodily hunger (though there is nothing quite like the physical craving for the first strawberries and the promise of summer, so different from the longing for the sticky languor of stonefruit or for the rainy august mornings that linger in the center of raspberries), but neither is it appeasement or distraction or reward, not an avoidance of discomfort through sensation, no.

Eat with me.
Food as memory. Food as ritual.

I am losing my mother. (She was never mine, really, but that is a different story).

I am losing my mother. (Just when, more and more, i catch unexpected glimpses of her in mirrors i walk past, in pictures of myself i see from afar.)

I am losing my mother to something she will not name, to something for which i have been for years blindly fumbling in the dark rooms of trauma and dysfunction.

Sit with me. See, this is how we used to do it when and where i was a kid: sour cream and a bit of sugar. Kitchen table.

Remember with me that some parts of my childhood were sweet and uncomplicated, just like this.

Tell me that there is a time for unnamable grief (perhaps all grief is inherently unnamable), and a time for strawberries, just like in Brothers Karamazov, except there it was pancakes.

Tell me that there are songs to survive the summer.