Monday, May 17, 2010

Praise the lord, maybe even .... for him

I know i said i was going to work on this project which i indeed have been. I have cooked something new everyday and have been reading tons about the different perspectives on vegetarianism. At the moment i must say i am actually leaning away from it. It is very strange because i have no desire to eat meat, except fish and wild game. I have never much liked meat and don't know if i ever will, but the evidence out there for taking animal into our diets is a strong one, which i will elaborate on soon. But for the time being i will tell you of my adventures in Columbia, Missouri or the lack there of.

I have been in Columbia for almost two weeks, which is crazy because i am not sure what i have done in this time. The weather has been rainy, rainy, rainy with some amazing storms which i haven't seen the likes of since i was living in Alberta permanently. This weather however has done little to inspire me to go out and about especially in a town (well technically a city) full of rednecks and college farm kids. Of course this is not entirely true. We did venture out on saturday and went to a cute little coffee shop called the underground and met some interesting people. A woman from portland with a hipster-esque vibe. a cute cook with long hair and a pleasant smile. In fact i haven't really met to many rednecks since being here. Justin really wants to take me to the sporty store so i can converse with them in their natural element. I would rather go to a country bar and have a few drinks in me and them in order to converse with them :)

My most Missourian experience thus far though has been going to the Crossing Church. Supposedly presbyterian, though i would agree with Justin that it is more evangelical perhaps bordering on fundamentalist. It has i would think three well developed acres, mainly a huge parking lot and church with some surrounding buildings and park space. A total of 2000 parisioners attend it. Justin's friend Marty whom he went to Korea with invited us along after i asked him a bunch of questions. Upon walking into the church you enter a large lobby with free coffee and pastries and tables filled with information and sign-up sheets for numerous church activities. There is even an actual cafe and you can take your church into the main worship area. Now this worship area is not like any other i have ever come across. It is set up like a theatre with comfy reclining seats on a slope down to the stage. The stage is a high end performance stage with a full band set up and projection screens on either side. This is all controlled by a sound booth and projection room at the back. Like all churches this one is about theatrics but never have i seen one so new and flashy, no wonder the congregation was so young.

The preacher was dressed in plain clothes, a regular looking sort of fellow and the rock band was dressed to impress and maybe show a little curve. As the sermon began i felt rather intrigued and even welcomed. The community was strong and the music was good, the preacher spoke of intellectual things but in a basic and entertaining way. There was no sense of superiority or judgement, as was present by the welcoming of all, not just christians. Justin later said that is more likely that he meant "true" christians and presumed everyone was basically christian. The sermon was about a two main things first how does one justify or find truth in their belief of Jesus? The preacher used acts 13, a tale of Paul and barberas going to see this Jews and Gentiles and preaching of god's love, stating the evidence for it all is the crucifixion and then resurrection of Jesus. On a side note he took the open discussion by Paul and Barberas with the Jews/Gentiles as an example of how christianity thrives in an environment that is open with out judgement or religious fundamentalism that represses and excludes. But instead of making it a legitimate argument and making him seem like an open pastor, he used the Jewish elite in the story and then the new atheists and then the sundance film festival as being the fundamentalists, excluding and laying abuse upon good, open and generous christians. It was quite well presented of course. He used clips of a panel discussion with the producer of "holy wars" and the documentary "Expulsion" that backed up his argument. It was well orchestrated and i can see how it could be so poisonous to young minds who do not question. I am amazed Justin even made it through, as he was seething in his seat most of the sermon.

Definitely an interesting experience now to go and see the Pastor Becky Fischer from Jesus camp. Evidently she is only a short drive away.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Midwest mind

And so the New Orleans dream has ended and after a 13 hr drive through Lousiana, Mississippi, Tennesse, Arkansas and Missouri, I find myself in the Midwest of the USA, In the state that boasts the highest rates of meth use, bestiality and formerly the KKK. To be precise I am in the university town of Columbia, Missouri visiting my dear consort Justin whom I met in Korea. Now it is not as bad as it all seems being a university town (well city really pop: 100 000) it is rather liberal for the midwest or so Justin says.

Now other than visiting Justin and living the Midwest lifestyle I find myself wondering what the hell am I going to do in this strange little place and so I am going to give myself a project to work on during my weeks here while Justin attempts to learn Spanish. What will this project be you ask, well I am debating between trying to figure out all the options of things there are to do in the fall, What fun spending time you don’t know what to do with planning for time in the future you don’t know what to do with. Or option two researching different dietary practices and the benefits and concerns associated with them. As I will inevitably spend time on option one, I will choose option two to keep my brain working and to learn something new.

My general idea at the moment is to spend a week at a time looking at each different idea and so I will focus on Veg/vegan, Raw, Macrobiotic, Ancient nourishing traditions and ???? And so I delve.

New Orleans: Birthplace of Jazz

New Orleans is truly the birthplace of Jazz and the home of wicked awesome music. In fact, if it is possible to see more great music in one weekend I would be amazed and I didn’t even see a third of it. You can rock and roll, jazz and blues it up from the minute you roll out of bed and turn on WWOZ to the first show at the fest at 11am until the last show of the night (I don’t even know what time that is). From Friday to Sunday I immersed myself in the annual Jazz fest which has 12 stages with 5-10 performers daily for the amazing prize of $45 per day. Then of course there are the thousands of shows after the fest which ends at the very early hour of 7pm. Each day we awoke and prepared uncertain of what the day would hold for us. With so many acts it is really difficult to choose who you will see except perhaps a few special big names and so we wondered into the fair grounds like excited little children.

Friday began and ended with Latin music for me. First Fredy Omar con su Banda which were a great way to start the day shaking my booty to, then off to Buckwheat Zydeco who was amazing just the kind of music you expect and want to listen to in NOLA. Third, we went off to see our friend John Boutte who I recently have the pleasure of spending time with when he was up in Calgary playing with Paul Sanchez. Boy, did he rock it out with way more energy than his show in Calgary, the whole audience was singing along and feeling the joy. Our fourth act of the day was the New Orleans Social Club which technically is very good but not really my kind of blues. My final act of the Friday fest was the Gipsy Kings (alas Aretha Franklin cancelled) who were absolutely fabulous, after all these years they can still play some mean music. After the Fest we went and saw Paul Sanchez at Chickie wa wa’s, who had tons of guests that jammed it out together and really reflected the ability of great musicians to play together music that they may never have heard before. The best show of the day would have to go to John!!

Saturday was truly a day of the unknown, as there was really no one special I wanted to see and it turned out so good, a day of Louisiana music to the max. We started out with Paula and the Pontiacs at the blues tent who were awesome, Paula could sing, dance, play the harmonica and the sax and was hot. After Paula we wondered over to see Shamarr Allen and the underdawgs. Shamarr a NOLA native who was brought up through a youth music education program sponsored by the threadheads, now a singer, rapper and mean trumpet player. This man can put on a killer show. Shamarr was followed up by a full afternoon at the Fais-do-do stages which is strictly Cajun, Creole, Zydeco swamp bands and man did I ever dance my little heart out. First was Chubby Carrier and the Bayou swamp band; hot, hot, hot. Their who stole the hot sauce song was wicked. Then we had Beau Soleil avec Micheal Doucet who was a little chiller but some awesome Cajun French music and finally the Honey Island Swamp Band, Oh My Goddess were they good and cute!! Then to finish off the day we checked out a little Banu Gibson with Swing out and tap, some good old jazz and dancing too. That night we made it out to Bourbon Street which is just what you would imagine it to be, half naked people drinking on the streets and mean music coming at you from every direction. Finally to top it all off we went and saw a midnight show of John Boutte and Paul Sanchez at Preservation Hall, one of the oldest music halls in NOLA and you can truly breathe in the history of jazz. The best show of the day, hmmm, this is a little trickier I am going to have to say Shamarr and Honey Island are tied for top.
The final day and my most planned out day was also a killer. We missed the first act after our rather late night and so started out the day with Sierra Leone’s Refugee All-stars, who were absolutely amazing. A little reggae, a little African and a whole lot of fun!!!! On the diasporic train we went and checked out Chouval Bwa of Martinique who were a lot more chill than I expected but great tropical island music. A complete flip of genre was in order next as the amazing Van Morrison was playing. I went a good 30 mins before the show started and the grounds around the stage were packed and so I squished in about 2 meters out from the VIP zone and a little to the left of center. The show was not exactly what I expected and yet so much more; very chill and crowded, Van left us all swooning in his wake. Finally to finish off the day BB King at the Blues Tent, not quite as busy as Van but still impossible to get into the tent and so I danced outside till I some people left the bleachers and I snuck in to hear the last few songs. At 84, BB is still a musical king!!!!! So who were the winners for the day definitely Sierra Leone’s RA and BB, my apologies Van but just not enough energy in it for me.

And so the weekend of music came and went and I can’t wait to get a hold of some of this music. If you get a chance to go to this festival you sure as hell had better. It is cheap and awesome.

Voodoo, drive-in daiquiri and quiet spaces!

After the hustle and bustle of New York city, New Orleans seemed bizarrely quiet and empty. Where are the streets spilling over with people and music?! Was my initial thought upon arriving in NOLA. The streets are wide with large over passes and many empty and boarded up houses. There is a real feeling of an old ghost town here, some part of the soul truly never returned. Many people believe it was a conspiracy and after talking with a few people and seeing the evidence of buildings that could have been used as emergency housing and reno’d into new residences, that are now being torn down by the highest builder that will create god knows what kind of crap. I can see why this problem is one that the gov’t and corporations don’t give a shit about.

This first imagine of NOLA was quickly eclipsed by the people and culture which is what it is famous for now is it not. On my very first night Justin took me to an awesome fundraiser put on by a group of mainly middle to upper class white middle agers called the Threadheads. These Threadheads save their money and put it towards music funding projects of all sorts, albums for those without money for recording, educating inner-city youth,… And boy do they know how to party. I got to see the last act that was a jam of about 13 people from different groups playing creole zydeco, just like one imagines you would find in New Orleans. It was spectacular!!!!

Day two Justin and I did the quintessential tourist thing, walked up the French quarter, went down bourbon st, had coffee with chickory (yummy!!!) from Café du monde, ate po boys, went to the market, strolled along the mighty Mississippi and went to city park with massive trees hung thickly with Spanish moss. The French quarter is what I think of as new Orleans with beautiful old homes painted eccentrically with mismatched shutters and exquisitely wrot-iron balconies curving delicately around the sharp corners of the buildings. Bourbon st is almost as blinding as walking down a street in asia, but exclusively alcohol joints. This city is definitely made for drinking, I mean there are bars everywhere, stores that sell booze and my favourite the drive-thru daiquiri places. If you like to drink and eat this is the place for you.

Today I spent the day alone wondering and attempting to stay out of the intense heat and humidity, that I was so not prepared for. In my attempts to stay cool, I found an wicked store and cultural center about voodoo, the proprietors were both voodoo practitioners, one specializing in Haitian and one in New Orleans, as well as being openly gay, pagan and a vampire. They had tons of info and answered all of my questions. It was a fascinating experience. They really emphasized the positivity of the practice and how Hollywood has butchered voodoo just as it has all other religions except Christianity. I ended up praying to two Yoruban Orishas Oya for transformation and Ellegue for new paths and communication and bought a voodoo doll to encourage positive forces into my life and send the bad away. I am excited to start using it 

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Apprentice week two: get me the fuck out of here

I have finally done it, after two weeks of uncertainty and horrific nightmares, I have decided to leave my apprenticeship. This week was brutal to say the very least, some of it great and some of it bad. Many realizations occurred, especially around my feelings and my tendencies to rebel against authority figures. I learned about many plants and remedies and an interesting theory called “feeling twins”. It says that each of us at birth or early in life choose a feeling twin; either abandoned-safe, betrayed-trustworthy, not good enough-good enough, deprived-abundance and we live our lives based on these things. If we can figure out which one we are we will be able to tell others we have relationships with what we truly need. A way to figure this out is to think about what we do to people who hurt us or what we do when we are scared. This is often our feeling twin. I am still trying to work out whether I am abandoned-safe or betrayed-trustworthy, as I often abandon things and people, but I also have very little trust in myself and others. Despite all this new wisdom or perhaps because of it, I have been able to identify what feels right to me with the aid of my Tarot deck and that is to get out of dodge.

Some other help came from watching another teacher. This weekend we had an amazing workshop with Z Budapest, a truly amazing woman who has made major changes for the feminist movement and the goddess in her 70 years. A high priestess and tarot master and beautiful soul, She has the wisdom of the crone and the compassion of a grandmother. She taught us how to read tarot in an amazing and truly intuitive way. We also learned about some major astrological events in our lives, the three (or four if you are really lucky) Saturn returns which occur every 30 years and changes our destinies. This results in major confusion for the 2-4 years before this time (26-30, 56-60, 86-90) and the best way to deal with it is to take immaculate care of our sacred spouses (aka our bodies) and have faith it will all reveal itself. The other two changes are the reversal at 45, when many people completely flip everything in their lives and the Chiron return every 50 years which brings great turmoil from 50-52 years. I can’t wait to get a hold of one of her books!!!

Know don’t get me wrong, Susun is an amazing teacher with so much knowledge that she offers to apprentices, but it she is not for everyone. Her ability to live with all her passion is remarkable. However I am looking for something different. I would strongly recommend anyone to truly think before they commit to study with Susun and if they are in doubt, just go for it!! You will know if it is meant for you, right away and you will definitely learn something!!!

Apprentice week one: diving into the void

I hardly even know how to begin describing what has happened so far on this most recent journey. I find myself in the Catskill mountains in upstate New York on Laughing Rock Farm where the Wise Woman Center is located. It is an incredible beautiful area with soft rounded mountains, lush forests, streams, mosquitoes, ticks, flowers, rain and shine. The weather has been up and down from low 70’s to low 40’s (I think that is between 5 and 20 celsius) with some nice sunny days and some cold rainy days. Thank the goddess I am living in a cute little house by the name of “Nettle Patch” where I actually have my own room with a real bed, running water, electricity, heat and a phone (much more than I thought I would be getting).

So what has brought me here you ask, the spirits, the flowers, the trees……. I have come to apprentice under a herbalist, wise woman, high priestess and bitch, Susun Weed. If any of you have heard of her it may have been for many reasons, perhaps you have read one of her books on herbal medicine, seen her speak, watched one of her youtube videos, had a friend do a workshop or an apprenticeship or perhaps you yourself have. So your opinion of her may be high, low or somewhere inbetween. My experience thus far of Susun is that she is a force to be reckoned with, she sings as sweetly as she screams ferociously!!!! After a mere 7 days here I have spent every single day thinking about leaving, running as fast as I possibly can. This apprenticeship is not merely about learning about herbs, far from infact, it is about learning who you are and how to deal with it and Susun’s methods are not orthodox. Like any extreme master (though she claims not to be one) her methods are harsh, abrasive and intense and meant to peel away your skin, fat, muscles and bones and all the other layers of crap you may carry around. She is not for the faint of heart and many people who come to apprentice leave with in the first few hours. I personally have never been yelled at as much in my whole life or with such ferocity. Despite all of this there is a real sense that she is doing this for the good of women and humanity and with real love in her heart. She pushes you to live in reality, to stay conscious and be passionate.

This week I have learned and identified many things that I was aware of in some capacity but perhaps not willing yet to admit to. I certainly am not fully conscious all the time, drifting off into daydreams which is made all the worse when you become so anxious you will get into trouble that you can not think at all and then fuck up and get into trouble. But after this short period of time I am beginning to be able to control my anxiety and stand up to her, which is amazing thinking how I felt on the first day. I have also become aware of how I never ask questions and generally make assumptions which does not work here unless you can read minds and thus I have made the commitment to ask questions, which has not been very easy. I know there will be much more work done and we even have help from Susun’s singing teacher twice a week who also is a tai chi teacher and studied a great number of therapies and guides us through many different of them including reikian therapy, Alexander work…..

Thankfully I have an amazing apprentice sister who is also from Vancouver and I rely on her so much. She is totally the opposite of me, thin and fragile, emotional and rather flighty. But it works out so well because we seem to balance each other out a bit. It is also really amazing to have someone else to talk to about the madness that happens here and bitch about Susun too.

Despite the fact that it seems like we are in tense, horrifying torture all the time we also do many other things around the farm. We care for the animals; 7 goats (of which 3 are pregnant), two insanely hilarious geese who follow you everywhere, 7 bunnies (of which four are just babies) and two cats. We also do work around the house; cooking, cleaning, making infusion, making cheese and yogurt, caring for the tons of plants that are everywhere, making remedies and we have our assignments; naming the botanical names of a new flowering plant everyday, a report of plant families, spending time with our green allies who teach us what they have to offer without us reading about it. Our days are long and intense, but very rewarding especially working with the animals who are so loving.