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So many of us talk about love as an infinite force. I believe it. More than that – I feel it –when I am passionate, when I am quiet, when I am a channel for creativity in motion.
I feel the force of love in so many ways – one is in a sense of loyalty and constancy of friendship. Essentially, if I loved you decades ago, I love you now. A friend with whom I feel this exact kind of bond called me earlier this week, distressed. In no way do I mean to diminish the impact he was feeling when I say he related a common trajectory along the polyamory emotional highway: He and his girlfriend, some time ago, confirmed with each other that their relationship was open. She has been fine with his connection with me. She met a guy she fancied, and he was fine with that. Now, the feelings between she and the new guy are deepening and my friend called me, feeling he was completely. losing. his. mind.
We talked for some time, and I hope I gave some comforting words to a friend who was freaking out. I hope the real, honest, and continuous communication I suggested will manifest for them. I hope he believes me when I said that his feelings are valid and can help him understand his needs, which may well not be a need to close the relationship, but to get to the essence of how he can be loved and know he’s loved in a way that feels so clear and present that the unmanageable fear will dissipate. I can’t say which logistics work best for anyone else but me. I can say more about my observations on the nature of love.
Love is. It does what it does. If left to its own devices, infinite ways of manifesting between and among people are possible. Why don’t we all spend more time letting love be rather than engineering it?
Case in point: He and I have a forever bond of true friendship, a significant aspect of which is a deeply erotic connection. We could embrace it, ignore it, avoid it, or act badly on it. Over the years, we’ve done all of those. Yet it remains. This is what our love is.
The arbitrary rules we place on love can hurt so badly. Why should I leave behind a friend I love so much when I fall “in love” with someone new? There was a time I did ignore one love for another, and that experience is one of my biggest regrets. I care little about breaking the social norm or someone else’s rules, but I deflected a sincere being and broke a cardinal rule of my own heart. These days, I am very intentional about opening to the committed, poly loves that feel right for my life. I want any rules to come from within, not without, to be about allowing love, nurturing its growth, fine-tuning its expression.
During the phone call with my friend, I recalled times of being quite angry with him. Years ago I thought: Why was I never considered a possible “girlfriend?” Always, there was someone taking up the majority of the time and energy, and that someone wasn’t me. Was I so much less than? Over the incarnations of our connection, it finally resolved itself in my mind: That is simply not who we are to each other. Leave love alone. It didn’t need to be made into what I thought it ought to be, either.
Does he place significantly more importance on romantic love than forever-friend love? He probably does, I surmise. That is not equivalent to how I feel. This morning, I noticed I felt some pain around that as I listened to his story. At the same time I felt glad to be the one to field his honest outpouring of fear and doubt, and yes, love. I am still not sure how much love relationships should be about equivalent sensibilities, rather than sensibilities that through it all, emerge compatible.
I don’t know how my friend and his girlfriend will fare as they venture into the gut-wrenching, insight-sparking, fiery refinement of the ‘working through it’ they have ahead. Intuitively, I have high hopes. They may create safety zones and discover boundaries which help them feel stable as they explore. My friendship with him might move back to denial or avoidance. I hope not, but I’ll remain prepared for change. She may discover she has a boyfriend and a friend, a partner and an occasional someone, “the new guy” could be gone next week, or what seems to terrify my friend the most at the moment – she may have found two profound loves. Love left alone, I know, is capable of such wonders.
I’m rooting for them, and for the best in all of us to come forth. Messy growing pains are ok. They happen. No matter what else happens, I believe listening to love first, then doing the emotional work set in motion are the keys to bringing all through strong and whole.
I was a bit startled to realize on my birthday this past Monday, August 27th, that it was indeed the 10th anniversary of the release of my second solo CD, All Six Senses. I had what still feels like an idyllic, dreamlike time recording those songs out in Marin County, CA with producer Scott Mathews at his Tiki Town Studios. Over the past few days, I’ve spent some time listening to those tracks with my friend Amy, who played them, intermingled with other tunes, from her iPod in her car. It is sometimes annoying to listen to old recordings, but this time I really dug hearing some songs that have mostly fallen away from the set list (“Cling To You,” “I Skate Alone”) and others that have become standard fare (“Holy River,” “First Sight”). It is a very rewarding feeling to listen and feel that All Six Senses, for the most part, really does sound like the songs that I had in my head. It does a decent job of expressing snapshots of the spiritual growth spurt I was in when I wrote these songs (there is the one cover – a slow, jazzy take on “Cruel to be Kind”). I hope it might still manage to inspire anyone listening to examine their own lives and take their own journeys.
I remembered how much I enjoy these tunes and the recordings of them, and then I remembered another anniversary. It would take more than a short blog entry to tell the many stories and make even an attempt at the impact, but the super-short version is that I was (and still am) blessed in life to have met and gotten to know one of my greatest musical/lyrical/cultural heroes, Warren Zevon. Since meeting him at The Stone Pony (his show [opening for The Band!] was August 26, 1994 – his after-midnight autograph says August 27th – now this story is even stranger), we kept in touch. The day after my official, yet totally indie release of All Six Senses, it occurred to me that I hadn’t heard from WZ in a while. I happily tapped out a long e-mail asking him what was going on, telling him about my life, the new recording, everything. The response I got back was very brief:
He was ill.
“My lungs and liver are shot” he wrote.
I didn’t know, and couldn’t have comprehended on that day the seriousness of what he was saying. If it wasn’t that very day that he’d gotten the diagnosis of inoperable mesothelioma, it was within a day or so at the very most. I don’t have words for what I felt, or really know what I did the rest of that shocking day.
He asked me to send a copy along to him, so even in the midst of coping with finality he took the time to listen to All Six Senses. He said he enjoyed it, was glad I was continuing to work on the music, and advised me to “keep chanting.” I’ve definitely managed to do that.
I could say more – try to create some storyline about the impact of cosmic crossroads or the mystical fusion of wonderful-horrible anniversaries. I won’t. I will just try to sit with it all as it happened, and with my own uncomfortable twinge at having been moved to share this ball of entwined emotions with you tonight.
I have a very distinct memory of being next to the kitchen in my New Brunswick, NJ apartment somewhere in the 90s. I had a startling realization: I am biracial. Suddenly, I had a new, very useful, consciousness-shifting lens through which to view and understand myself. It is the nature of my family, and it’s very much who I am.
I was equally startled that I hadn’t fully understood myself as having biracial identity before that moment. I had been too busy listening to others’ ideas of me. Those people in school who told me I was “acting white” or “not black enough” – They were just plain wrong. It was scary to say all that out loud to myself then, and it still is. Regardless, I have to continue to speak up.
This past Sunday I performed at Wilmington Delaware’s first Loving Day Celebration. Loving Day is celebrated on June 12th to commemorate the Supreme Court Case Loving v. Virginia, which in 1967 finally struck down remaining state laws against interracial marriage. Mildred and Richard Loving were married in 1958 in Washington, D.C., but when they came back to their home in Virginia, were arrested. My parents were married in 1963. Lucky for them, there were no laws against their marriage in New Jersey. Still, I have come to appreciate over the years how difficult it must have been and how much they must have loved each other to go against the grain in that era.
My good friend Jenn Phillips organized the indoor/outdoor Loving Day Celebration of music, food, information, and positive, good times. I had never seen her quite as focused and intense while creating or overseeing anything. Just how much it meant to her was apparent, and I am so pleased that her efforts turned out so wonderfully. Karen Rege and Brandi Chavis performed some well-crafted jazz and R&B standards and originals. I loved hearing Scratchy Catfish’s fun and funny blues tunes (“Rockin’, rollin’, getting’ bizarre/Doin’ the Catfish Stomp!”) I played my set and encouraged audience participation and sing-a-long wherever I could. Jenn asked me to write a song for the occasion, and I came up with a tune called “(Color My Love) Indigo.” This first performance of it went well enough. I was so emotional at the end of the event, that it was hard to leave and hard not to cry. It felt so good to have that deep a sense of acceptance and belonging.
Two or so years ago when I discovered the Mixed Chicks Chat podcast, I felt immediately at home. I got in touch with the co-hosts Fanshen Cox and Heidi Durrow and eventually was a guest on the show. I spoke about overall blended identity encompassing bisexuality, polyamory, and mixed music and spiritual practices as well as issues of race. When they asked their tongue-in-cheek yet serious question “What are you?” I told them: On my mother’s side as far as I know I am African, Haitian, Irish, and Hopi. I was adopted by my maternal grandmother and her second husband – my mom and dad. I felt so blessed to be among fellow “mixed chicks” where a description of nationalities and family circumstance is informational and conversational, never accusatory or confrontational. It truly felt like a homecoming. I am sorry that I missed their Mixed Roots Film & Literary Festival in Los Angeles this past weekend, but I am sure that the Wilmington celebration was exactly where I needed to be this time around.
Trying to cope with people’s expectations of me based on assumptions about race has been one of the most painful challenges of my life. I wish I could have dialed down people’s anger and misunderstanding at times, but I would never trade my biracial and multicultural family experience. Among many things, it has helped me know that I may love whomever I love. It has helped me know that yes, a dark-skinned girl can indeed sing rock songs and play a guitar. And if she wants to add Indian chants or electronica or bluegrass or funk to that somewhere down the line, more power to her. That little awakening moment in my old apartment was the beginning of my understanding the importance of being all of oneself, even in the face of culture’s most strident artificial divisions. Every new celebration like Loving Day wears down those walls.
The wild, scary, beautiful storm kicked up by taking on 30 poems in 30 days is still very much alive in me. Expeditions for love, for cord-cutting and letting go, and for spiritual center run through it all. So much is going on in ideas and emotions that it can begin to bring on a kind of paralysis. I am not allowing that to take hold for long. There is too much to do. All of my projects – Robin Renée singer/songwriter, Robin Renée kirtan, The Mutant Mountain Boys, and various other creative drives are all clamoring for time. Plus, some character named Devo Dan keeps bugging me to work with him. ;- ) The many hours’ drive to and from Ohio this weekend for Mountain Boys rehearsal and kirtan at The Yoga Place was a welcome time for contemplation and decompression.
Writing daily forces me to get through my own crap- the lies it is convenient to tell myself- and I eventually have to get to something real. This is where I want to live. It is the middle of the well from which these creative impulses seem to spring. I can’t say that I wouldn’t welcome a stable ledge on which to rest in this period that feels like a long project in unconditional truth-seeking. Right now I am tumbling in the midst, and I choose to be ok with tumbling for now, capturing bits of the experience along the way.
April 21, 2011
The New Trees Take Their Places
Evergreens stand over the yard’s back edge
And there is happy naked dancing for all seasons.
Summer will contend for the witchiest season of them all
With festival love and people who really like drumming.
I wonder what happened to the pissed off trees
And shame-riddled women clutching towels to hide themselves,
persecuted Pagans and the winter that never goes home.
No such luck for the erstwhile King and Queen of Angst.
Some of those folks never lived here, and the rest have flown back
to their lovely realms.
There must be words spoken
like tsunami, earthquake, and revolution.
I wonder what happened to those words.
They must have moved beyond the property line,
but they are remembered daily.
Evergreens stand over the yard’s back edge
Holding gallant space for solid ground,
Keeping watch over quiet growth and loud passion,
And there is happy naked dancing for all seasons.
April 22, 2011
Face the sticker-splattered wall,
part mural part disdain.
I would have endured.
Finding empty letter,
noting missing friendship ring
would have been too hard.
You’ve done me the favor.
April 23, 2011
The bit part
One toe in the drink
A pen still mightier
The listening corner
The open ears
A reverent envy
In the side of
Whatever it takes
To dive in
April 24, 2011
Toes recall wild grass,
Bare skin, sun, and air make love-
Nature’s Easter prayer.
April 25, 2011
A Different Ring
Regarding the ring:
You must wear it well
as you wear shifting speech.
Once your head is turned, flowery protest? Useless.
White gold or semi-precious, I don’t know. I’ve not seen
your finger or your face
in almost long enough.
Who would I be to stand
in the laced path
of the marriage of crisis to victim?
On the New Hope bridge,
you asked for my blessing on a ceremony.
It was another love, declared before meat-eating
Straight-acting, and the face of tradition
Took you on, a code of opposites.
Teacher, point your own way home.
Who would I be to stand
in the overgrown path
of separation, mind from knowing?
Bodies- yours and mine
are not to touch again.
I take up scissors to cut the barky vine
can’t help but drop them still
thinking “Have it your way.
See you next life, then.”
I remember, to those who leave
I wave goodbye.
Somewhere in the dredged earth
is the reason to thank you
with a smile.
April 26, 2011
Which pointed buds give way to splayed white flowers,
Which dots will soon be leaves-
On the outside, there are teachings.
Inside, the chair before the desk-
Which wall needs waterproof steel blue paint,
Which bent-page piles most urgent.
Love released, received among proud dandelions,
First order of business.
April 27, 2011
If Found, Do Not Return
left for traveler
willing to give up
for hollow-handed love
or for king’s horse
of sight gag.
April 28, 2011
Chocolate, Wine, & Porn
First thing I see are bed covers unraveled, like they’ve just enjoyed the ride, then there’s you, crimped brown hair, as avant garde undressed as in leopard print and vintage clogs,
I wonder if you’d let me really see you this way were I not imagining your story and you were not hiding in the arms of academia. I may be deep in the house of mistrust still
at least I imagine you, alone with dark chocolate, red wine, grainy porn, still-no-silicone video, hairy, hot and real. My brain stops here, I want to know what you do by yourself
and what with, times I’ve known you there is love and doors that close
on making love, sudden, no warning, no formula to break barriers.
Still, I believe you, once mistress of three classic pleasures, exciting
and dulling nerve endings, in your endorphin cocktail haze, lover,
may you have remembered me.
I remember your backpack at the bus stop, what your intent eyes knew,
your sleeping beauty on post-collegiate futon, how the three of us, that one time,
barely fit in the shower.
Want to fast-forward this stuck cassette, see what is now, what unstuck passion together might come beyond memory, beyond numbing, beyond the endorphin rush of running.
Pour me a pinot, I’ll bring the raw cacao.
April 29, 2011
Chant and dance move this night
Circular motion time intended
A love not actionable
Comes back around
A slow burn
Toward flame or fizzle
At any point
There is a straight line
April 30, 2011/May 1, 2011
Garden earth green and floral
or warm city rhythm
If we do not drop our armor
on the eve of Beltane,
we lie by omission.
I plan to wed the summer
hand-held or solitaire,
make love in the field
of clover and thorn
I’d been searching for a while for a succinct way to describe the essence of this blog, when I mentioned it to my friend Bill Lutz (author of The Shark Tank). Personal impressions, contemplations, general stuff of life, and of course, the music is its vehicle, but it needs to speak to all those who travel the in-betweens – those not necessarily gay or straight, black or white, of one particular gender – those who skate easily through spiritual paths and feel integrated through the journey. I talked for a while about life other than the culture of either/or. Bill cut to the center of my concepts with “Welcome to Tweenerworld.” I like it. I think this recasting of “tweener” could be to blended and both/and culture what queer is to the growing alphabet soup of alternative sexualities. The Dream Between may have a moving target of a tagline for a while and might not really use “Tweenerworld,” but I have to thank Bill for getting to the point. Not a bad summation.
Sara Parks of Great Balancing Act (“It’s no secret I love that band”) recently posted a Facebook status regarding feminine hygiene and caught some flak from guys who thought it was not only TMI, but actually inappropriate. In response I was duly inspired to show my support for frank conversation and the demystification of women’s (and everybody’s) bodies by reporting this “tweener” moment:
So there I am at the routine gynecologist appointment last month. The nurse practitioner goes through the basic questions. No new medications, no surgeries, nothing particularly new happening. Breast exam. No problems indicated. I mention that as a matter of routine I like to have all the STI tests. She makes a mental note to send me down the hall for blood work. Then she asks me to lie back for the rest of the exam. Just when the speculum hits, I look up and see a picture taped to the ceiling. It is someone who looks very much like this guy:
What the heck? I was stuck in a processing loop. I can at least now begin to sort out what was wrong with that picture.
Here are a few of the assumptions in operation: It assumed that the woman having the exam is straight. It assumed that this particular masculine expression is a universal turn-on to women. It assumed that the woman having the exam is uncomfortable with the exam and in need of a distraction. It assumed that nudity and genital touch in a clinical context is conflated with erotic or sexual feelings.
All I could think, after the disconcertion brain delay, was – Wait, why did you think I wanted to see that guy? Was I supposed to be having a sexual moment? Personally, I had been feeling neither nervous nor sexual about having a PAP smear.
I get the humor. At least I think whoever decorated that office figured a hunk on the ceiling would be funny. The surrealist in me finds it more and more amusing.
It also tells me that they weren’t expecting me in that office. No one imagined a queer-identified bi woman who prefers feminine to androgynous or interestingly gender blendy people. No one imagined a person who prefers not to be asked psychologically to feel aroused in the middle of a simple exam. It was invisibility in living color.
Being one who naturally falls on the in betweens means it’s rarely ever you who people expect to show up. They’ve mostly prepared a place for someone else. But surfing through and between the spaces where others see hard lines drawn is a sweet, layered source of creativity and the place where I find the deepest expressions of love. I would never trade it.
It has been unbelievably quiet here. I am not complaining. Mornings begin around dawn and I land my butt on the meditation cushion before the monkey mind gets too busy. Exercise has been mostly swimming and yoga, though I hope my body will like the weight training once again before too long. My body has reflected the break from health and happiness I took this summer. It feels good to be back, present, and ready to rock, as it were.
My personal ashram is coming along nicely. Oppressing myself with ultra strict time constraints has not felt useful. The intention is what’s important, and that is sticking. I am awake hours earlier. I find center. I work with diligence and new shows for 2011 are beginning to get booked, which promotes a sense of accomplishment that keeps an entrepreneur going.
I open up time to clean and organize. It is hard to explain how a freshly polished dresser in the bathroom (“The Amber Lounge,” as I like to call it) that was once my Grandmother’s translates to a mind at ease, but it does just that. Seeing that the basement will soon be ready to receive much-needed repainting is exciting.
I have been eating moderately and well, loving cooking once again. I tend not to cook when I am living in a space that is somehow energetically off. Rediscovering the process and simple enjoyment of making fresh, vegetarian meals is one joy of no-housemates that I had forgotten would re-emerge. In the evenings, I’ve been making sure there is leisure time. I mostly catch up with my friend Brian, and I’ve been reading the brilliant book by Heidi Durrow, The Girl Who Fell From the Sky.” Heidi Durrow along with Fanchen Cox are the hosts of Mixed Chicks Chat, a podcast where I have found an emotional home and sense of cultural identity in so many ways. Lights out has been purposeful and a bit earlier on its own accord. No more falling asleep trying to make one more connection or watch one more thing on You Tube. There is a tomorrow for that.
All this personal ashraming is absolutely positive. I am also aware of it as a state of preparation. The mind is rediscovering focus for the pursuit of spiritual awareness and wisdom. The stability of quiet joy that is emerging will be the bedrock that allows the new songs to come through – the ones that hold all the anger and feelings of loss that I’ve been avoiding. I am preparing for the inevitable birth of those, and the light that comes after.
I am preparing for family. What I said about the wighead knowing more about her family than I do is true. She is certain that she wants the man and the woman who she loves to form a poly triad. I would love such a scenario, though the partners are not evident. For me, three doesn’t have to be the magic number. All need not be lovers. All need not live together. I do believe that my friend Brian is one of us.
The polyamorous family of my dreams has an unequivocal heart connection. We are friends and partners who know in our deepest selves that love and freedom are not incongruent. Queerness and gender fluidity weave a wide swath of our tapestry. We explore the divine, creativity, and intellect. We give each other space. We have each others’ backs.
Last Samhain, a woman who came to my ritual asked me if I wanted a family. I didn’t have a short answer for her, sensing her likely cavalcade of assumptions. Yes, I really do want a family. And today, I am enjoying incredible near silence.
How will I find enough singlehood and enough togetherness? It is one of my lifelong quests to find and stay in this balance. The living room will soon ring with my current favorite sound of OM. Today, I am happy and serene. There is no need to chase after answers.
I am not sure why wigheads are my usual canvas. Maybe it stems from the new wave aesthetic that is so imprinted on me. I find them strangely beautiful, sometimes eerie, and when I work with them it feels like sculpting.
I wrote a novella in 1993. That was the first time I discovered a phenomenon that I’ve heard fiction writers talk about frequently since— Characters take on lives of their own. This new wighead has definitely done that. “She Dreams the Triad” portrays one woman’s jumbled musings of love and desire and her ultimate clarity about pursuing partnership with a man and a woman. Creating her was peaceful in moments, and also an emotional challenge. I, too, am seeking poly family. I believe she is more certain than I of the people who will be together and the structure of the tribe. Here is a look into her mind.
The images click along like an old school slide show. They make trails as they shift through brainwaves. She follows.
She thinks of him, and for a moment he is red-splattered. She is shocked to envision him bloody—Could her anger be so great inside this many-layered romance? Then her cheek flushes red with wanting him and thick desire outruns all turbulence. Another image flashes. It is her closest friend— punky, blonde, intellectual, more social than she. Yes, she loves her, but she is startled that snapshots of her have erupted so suddenly into her raw passion fantasy.
The slide show click click clicks. She sees herself. Who am I now? She sees her; she sees him. What would he say? Sure, he could have a romp with them, but could he love them both? She sees them all wildly distorted as if they’ve fallen into a kaleidoscopic abyss of color and dreamscape and alchemy. Then they return in a picture clearer than any before.
They are stylized and static, yet their emotions seep through in spite of themselves. Her third eye shines with the knowing of what they could be, and her throat is jeweled just where she will form the words to speak her truth. She knows that soon there will be the messiness and sublime potential of words and flesh.