Wednesday, 24 June 2015

“I write life. Life, what borders on death”

“To begin (writing, living) we must have death.” 
(HC, Three steps, pg.7)

“Writing: a way of leaving no space for death.” 
(HC, Coming to, p. 3)
“I armed love, with soul and words, to keep death from winning.” (HC, Coming to, p. 2)

To read Cixous is to read death, or to read life, against death.
Coiling up from death is the force of love. Where death is the pre-condition for writing life, for what springs forth in vitality from the loss that cannot be reconciled.

“The first book I wrote rose from my father’s tomb.” 
(HC, Three steps, p. 11)
I am keeping notes here really, to grasp a moment in Cixous. A moment she re-plays and works inside over and over. I was going to write about “birth” in Cixous, and I will. It’s beautiful how she writes birth and births writing. But one starts with Death to arrive in Birth with her, to know this twinned love of birth from death (in life).

“Writing is good: it’s what never ends.” (HC, Coming to, p. 4).

Isn’t education (like writing), predicated upon death? Education, in it's ongoing birthings, re-generating knowledge, practices, and social values as each generation grows up from, and is tutored by, the death of previous ones. We are durational beings.

Derrida maintained that Cixous writes “for Life” – to which she replied in text, "had he read Tombe?”

Yes, he had, and all the others, which are “on the side of life against death, for life without death, beyond a death whose tests and threat are none the less endured, in mourning even in life blood and breath, in the soul of writing.” 
(JD, H.C. for Life, 2006, p. xiii)

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Re-acquainted with the juice

A wonderful, magical weekend. Spent with sister-scholars, friends, mentors and elders from the Women’s Spirituality Maters of Arts program in the San Francisco Bay area. A trip I have made many times, down the great fault-line running through the mountainous, volcano-strewn landscape of the West Coast, from British Columbia to California. My very own pilgrimage route to be inspired/inspirited in the close conversations and practices I experience there. A weekend spent with colleagues I love and admire, who have supported the many years of my developing voice, scholarship, and art. A community where there can be these specific conversations on women and spirituality, where critical gender /race /class /sexuality voices are lived in concert with inspirited pathways and the divine female/feminine, where the Earth is honoured as sacred in relation to all-living-beings (even the rocks), where healing, transformation, and restoration are at work, where re-mothering and re-storying our-selves and others, and living well thrive. This is in a university context no less, something magical about this? Yes, sure is.

Of course there is the struggle of it all. This education is lived through the crucible of each women’s unique transformations and processes, finding her ‘true’ work with self and in community. It is not easy to accomplish such transformative education. The faculty were committed over many years to working with small groups of students, in a close cohort model of education. Step-by-step, each student finds her-self, her voice and (needed) work, in community with others, through the many mirrors held around her in scholarship, art, professors, peers, and rituals, in which she re-views her-self and others, in new ways. Perhaps this close model is ultimately unsustainable, and works on the edge of the therapeutic. Yet it was a vital place where scholarship, art, story, and activism moved us forward in our lives, in ways previously unimagined.

So worth it to keep going on this path. It’s the juice of life, the stuff I yearn for. We be-come, over and over. I felt so clearly over this weekend how these are the kinds of conversations that move me forward in life. What gives me the mojo, to keep-on keeping-on.

I say “was.” This re-union marked the ending of the WSMA program. We gathered to close these program doors. We gathered to ritually honour the wonder-full (as in full of wonder) scholarship and stories of all the many women who have passed through those gates, giving testimony to its place in our lives as faculty and students. Through various institutional issues and foibles, this MA program is closing. Women’s Spirituality had survived and thrived through two previous institutional transitions in the past 20 years. But now, with core faculty at retirement age, and the impossibility of keeping this program going in its current university context, things have come to an end.

I feel like the fates of progressive American institutions of higher learning seem more and more tenuous in these times. Places where the most experimental and vital programming could go on are loosing their ability to function and sustain themselves in new economic and social-political amalgams. It's like another “take-down” of another progressive college. We need a new wariness of soul, of heart, a “revolutionary patience” (a la Jacqui Alexander). The work goes on, of course. We carry it with us, in all the struggle and joy it takes to do what we love, and still pay the rent.

I have tried for years to communicate the depth, beauty, and inner and outer workings of this transformative education to others, by telling my own stories and those of the women who have come through its doors. This work has been an integral part of my path as a scholar-healer-artist-mother. Like proselytizing, I was on a mission to spread "the good news" for all to hear, about what could be called "education." More and more I see that in my striving, this is very hard to do without people having lived experience of such. Much like the midwifery and home birth movement I have been involved in for 30 years, you have to live these kinds of sacred birthings to know them. But it’s all good to keep trying to communicate, to stand up for what is possible, for what we know can work for ourselves and others in order to live well.

Watching the levels of discontent and burnout of many professors in academe, I feel that maybe people don't know what is possible? Some become stuck in ruts of complaint, through reams of academic dramas and traumas that lock good folks into loops of despair, separating selves from the original passion of scholarly work.

In women’s studies and in the field of education and curriculum, we can be so very good at the critical voice. Criticality is important. But how to move beyond, inclusive of insightful criticality, to the work of healing the self/others, of creating a just, sacred and sustainable society, of seeing and be-coming new integrations and visions for human life?

It is the death of love to stay in the critical. Make the leap to the transformative, to the restorative, to the gifts of community and co-creation, to the beauty of inner/outer re-generative visions and voices and stories. Talk to the trees. Many scholars are flailing in their silos of knowledge, burning-out and burning-in. I see pain in the academy, in what could be a hotbed for wise leadership. Resist voices of competition and individualism that threaten the vitality of our work. We have our own unique voices and paths, AND we can work with each other in collective ways for thriving and going on.  

Getting re-acquainted with the juice.

Thursday, 4 June 2015


Yesterday, I was looking for an old file in my computer. Instead, I re-found my pregnancy journal of 2001-2002. I wrote this journal, in part, to contribute to my MA thesis study, written during my pregnancy, and the birth of my second child. My MA thesis centred on four women’s birth stories (including my own), at home and in hospital, through midwifery-type care in the early days of regulated midwifery in British Columbia. It was a personal, political, and scholarly juncture for me, in life and birth-giving. I faced challenging health issues and stress arising from circumstances around midwifery care of the time. Alongside this, I was tracking my thesis work-in-progress, and opening to deeper questions and impulses of my life.

Seems I truly hold onto the mothering, birth, and creativity-in-relation themes I write of in this journal. These are ongoing. I want to re-incorporate some early thoughts and experiences, or allow them space to breath. I know my current “coming to writing” with Cixous is an extension of these previous dreams and wishes for a way of working/writing/living—a holistic account of life and with life, in line with emergence of women’s creative forces and birthing-thinking. This is a thread I want to track in/with Cxious. She utilizes and writes alongside metaphors of pregnancy and birth-giving as feminine force. Not to essentialize or close birth for women-only, but to open up and liberate a larger metaphor /metaform and impulse for birth-in-life and art. To express and theorize birth from fe-male standpoints, and the body, in ways that have not been voiced.

Pregnancy journal:

oct. 1, 2001
the stories i’m collecting are attached to my relationships with each woman in relation to their births, through my roles as friend, birth attendant, hospital doula, each story contains a multitude of rich experiences for me with each person,

i will lay out this information in an ecofeminist framework, understanding ecology as a philosophical standpoint from which to work, i identify my personal concerns and interests, how our birth consciousness is directly related to our conscious, or not, relationship with the earth around us, and how this plays out in our bodies as women, body and nature as relational and body dependant on the earth,

with organic inquiry as my research methodology, i hear the stories of the women in a sacred and relational way, i don't have have to draw specific 'conclusions', the research begins to speak from what is related through story sharing and telling,

today i pulled out my needle work catalogues, what to do with these? my interest in spinning something persists, the big spinning / weaving metaphors that emerge so continually in ecofeminist writing, so i will do this literally, spinning into being, like the three fates and all... ‘to twist blood’ where the etymology of the word “thread” includes ‘to twist’ with ‘read,’ and ‘red’

jan. 10, 2002
i have just been thinking about my relationships with the women i am interviewing, how this tells a very personal story of my ‘activism’ in birth through relationship with others, gives me shivers, i realize that these last years since my first child was born have been very different in quality as i withdrew from directly working in birth except for friends and some postpartum doula work, i did this instinctually and in how i felt about being a mother, needing to be in it full on...then back in school with a master’s program, and now pregnant again, and its like a whole new way of being in this pregnancy and even after, how this baby will come into where i am...the juggling of my leaves me in the unknown again with this second child,

i know i am telling a story with the art: a deep, mythical, archetypal, desire of my life, to have the blood mysteries and the earth honoured as such, through source in the earth and ‘women's creativity’

i can begin to see a way into this thesis writing, aligning with my story and path in birth, as well as the integration of becoming a mother myself and where this is bringing me, also pregnancy as central in image and form

feb. 12, 2002
so much of this pregnancy has been about my ego ambivalence to being pregnant and taking on the role of “mother” again, being the carefree childless woman, early on not contacting a midwife or wanting to tell people, so much of my last years in self focus and goal setting of my education...yet at my heart this deep, deep, desire to be a mother again, watching women at the playground with their little babies in arms and feeling soooo pulled, and having a deep sense of satisfaction in being pregnant,

this image/art actually visually shows the truth of me, the self-search, yet a deep need for connection through pregnancy and birth and mothering as a family, yes, yes, to liberate this into the search!

to be a mother and a wholly integrated and realized being, to be a mother how i want to be, and to have my sense of self in the culture at large, such a 'taboo' topic is motherhood....the old restricting of mothers from both public and religious life...i will never let myself feel left out of anything anymore due to my pregnancy or breastfeeding, or care giving of my infant, i see so clearly now that i am at the heart of the mystery and so holy as to be the source of religion itself....the madonna image as it were, that image of mother and child as source...image of woman as source...and then the man on the cross is death and regeneration, he is hanging on the tree of life, he is the truth of the body that suffers yet comes again in the image of the woman with child,

in my astrological birth chart (Vicki just did) this looks like a strong tension, my taurus moon (my mothering and family life, my “wife”-role, with asteroid juno there) and aquarius sun (my work, intellectual and project life) are conjunct (meaning both are very important to me, but they will always be in a creative tension), 

i wonder if this is true of the time we live in as mothers and women? there cannot be a unity of being in these ‘projects,’ always a creative tension in the conjunction, this is like a cultural imperative for women in these times as mothers and woman in the world...yet looks like i strive for integration in my life...i join the association for research on mothering, i study birth and do midwifery, women's spirituality, i describe these things as “life work”

jun. 4, 2015
Ya, this previous journal writing pretty much sums it up! The “art” I refer to was the beginnings of the red woven mantle I ultimately completed during the months leading up to my daughter’s birth. It’s image graces the pages of this blog. This red thread mantle was also my entry into my dissertation research. I wore it for that ritual in the forest, previously discussed in this blog, which provided an embodied connection of threads of ‘women’s creativity,’ blood-mysteries, and an honoring-earth I write of here during my second pregnancy. As poet Judy Grahn reminds me/us, we all have deeper questions in life, questions which thread through our lives. Even if we don’t always have their explanation pages in front of us, we are motivated by them. They keep us ticking along.

Cixous writes of this, how there is always the book waiting to be written. Or the book inside the book that follows it, carrying our original impulse along in some new form.

My quest of the next weeks is to continue my red thread series into new forms, into my research ‘now.’ I will work with the red thread mantle, and the felted placentas, but also new weavings and wool dye projects. On that thought, I just re-read another journal section, with notes for the weaving project:  

nov. 16, 2001
make three variations in forms of woven objects:
1. womb baskets to hang in the forest (life in its earth/forest/tree source)
2. a woven form that is then embedded in concrete (life in the city-scape),
3. and a shawl/cloak for wearing in a performance on the beach (life at water’s shoreline, amniotic-origins),

all three are made with the same wool of blood hues, reds and blue-purples, all to somehow come together in film/video and performance…it all comes together for me but it is a very ‘surreal’ type of art piece set in dream-like and ritual type space, i can't imagine that i will get it together completely, need to focus on creating the physical woven objects first and at least video tape myself weaving and spinning, i would really like to include my pregnant self in the imagery. 

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

The texture of your life

What is the texture of your life?

Text-ure – from the root “text” with the -urrrreeeeeee. Texture is a feeling, in fingers touching fabric, rubbing to discern the sensation of crisp, soft, bristly, wrinkled, or firm.

The texture of our lives is not something we work towards, or even earn. It’s not a goal, or a choice we make. It’s not owning a house, getting the right or wrong job, being in love, or being very, very, ill.

Falling asleep last night I felt it, the texture of my life. Lying content in my own bed, at home at last, gazing at the dimming summer light through our window curtains, I was enjoying this stillness at the end of the day. And there (and then) it was, my texture, flowing out in all directions. There was/is peace in this sensing. Words miss what it is to sense one’s texture. Like a quilt or patterned design, I could see/feel all my various elements at work, a choreography of people, relations, places and time. Those I was born into, those I have given birth to. Those I love and have loved. Tragedies and triumphs are all equal in texture, it's all part of the feel of the fabric. 

There is no judgement in texture. Texture might include my sense of going to Paris, or my simple gratitude of living in this East Vancouver neighbourhood. It’s made of all that, but it’s not about that exactly. Texture arises of its own accord. In texture, there is no worrying, manipulating, or making of circumstances and events, or feeling in the ways we might habitually feel about others in our lives. One simply rests in texture, recognizing it all, including the self you were meant to be-come in relation to all those selves around you, without having to pursue anything about this.

Maybe it’s the passage of time that brings forward our textures. Is it a middle-age thing to know? In shedding form, we more and more recognize form. Texture is the ALL-ness of life, the good, the bad, the happy, the sad, the mediocre, the just-as-it-is. We don’t make it, yet we very much are it. It’s there in the weaving of life’s threads. One senses who one is, who is around us, the forces of what and who forms and gives us our particular shape, just as we form and give shape. And it is all good, good in the sensing of it all.