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006 Ada & the Three Spinners

 

Four friends go to the Emerald City in search of answers,

A stubborn spinner gets some unusual help,

Two disagreeable cousins discover the magic of a secret garden.


Storypoem: Oz

Folktale: Ada & the Three Spinners

Recommended Reading: “The Secret Garden,” by Frances Hodgson Burnett

 

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What if everything we make– Art– is because someone else, thousands of someones, placed their order??

What if nothing is made in a void,

what if nothing is birthed into the world without being called into the world by an audience,

by a tribe,

by its own family?

So literally every Thing we make exists in this world because it has a home in other people’s hearts already waiting for it?

Then artists are in the business of delivering answers to prayers.

005 – The Magnificent Brocade

A brother’s fate depends on a tiger’s whisker, 

a weaver makes an enchanted brocade, 

a mischievous beggar suddenly becomes king.


Storypoem: “The Two Brothers and the Tiger’s Whisker,” adapted from a Korean folktale.

Folktale: “The Magnificent Brocade,” adapted from a Chinese folktale

Recommended Reading: “The First Two Lives of Lukas-Kasha” by Lloyd Alexander

004 The Troll Ride

A girl’s clever sewing saves her from a magician, 

a groom almost misses his own wedding, 

a grandmother leaves her granddaughter an unusual quest.


Storypoem: The Golden Thread (a retelling of Anna Wahlenberg’s “The Magician’s Cape”)

Folk Tale: The Troll Ride (a retelling of Anna Wahlenberg’s “The Troll Ride”)

Rec. Read: “My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry,” by Frederik Backman*


*this book isn’t written for kids, but apart from some mild swearing and some scary moments, I think it’s kid-kosher. If you’re unsure, please read it yourself before sharing with the kids in your life. It’s certainly no scarier than most of my beloved books by Roald Dahl!

Most of it is Junk (it’s not just you!)

(I most often write for and work with kids. This post is not limited to Kid-Appropriate Language.)

“I like to try to apply [the] spirit of crate-digging to everyday life. The only way to find the good stuff, the special stuff, the genuine moments and the true inspiration, is to first engage with the everyday, the mundane, the seemingly useless, the things nobody else seems to care about. [To dig through the junk].”

Robert Walker, talking about DJs digging through crates and crates of shitty records

I really like the context of MOST THINGS ARE JUNK– it’s very Ecclesiastes: we’re all gonna die and life is hard, so drink and be merry with your friends once in a while and don’t worry about it so much (you can’t do anything about it anyway).

Isn’t it interesting and strange that I feel so much better when the context is IT’S ALL A MESS? Because I no longer have to worry about fucking it all up– it is crap. Nothing I do can make it more crap.

And if I only have to do better than Total Shit… Well, I can do that (at least some of the time)! That’s doable, bite-sized. I mean, I won’t always achieve that, but failing won’t actually make anything worse than it already is. I CAN’T MAKE IT WORSER, AND I CAN’T MAKE IT “GOOD” aka PERFECT. I can only maybe make a moment more bearable.

But if the Law says I Must Not Mess Shit Up because otherwise society will fall to chaos because of my dumbass– there’s no room to even begin, to even answer an email– if I answer it promptly today, I know it’s only a matter of time before I fuck up, because failure is inevitable. As with that time Jay gave me lessons in snowboarding, each success only only moves me higher up the hill and lends me more momentum when I inevitably come crashing down (thus, all successes are really evidence that it’s gonna hurt even more when I fail). (But it’s possible Jay was right in telling me to move up the Bunny Hill: that more momentum makes it easier to succeed, to get the hang of it. Maybe we should be learning how to fall better).

If EVERYONE is shit at email, at dishes, at folding their laundry, at going to bed at a reasonable time and eating enough leafy greens, if EVERYONE is wiping out all the time… then… maybe I’m not so terrible?

This is such a backwards-sounding wish, but I want to see how everyone is fucking everything up and actually no one (well, not including Michelle Obama) no one is actually better at adulting than I am… because then I could actually HELP people. I could DO stuff. Perform a little triage, staunch the bleeding, sit in hospice with someone. (And not delude myself with hopes of defeating the inevitable death that comes for them and for me).

EVERYONE IS AFRAID OF FUCKING UP ALL THE TIME. EVERYONE IS AFRAID THEY ALREADY MADE THE WRONG CHOICES.

I’m not “qualified to help them” because I’m Amazing and Advanced– I’m qualified because I care. Because I want to try. Because I’m Here. Because I’m a mirror for Beauty. And even in a junk pile, people are beautiful– IT’S LIKE A HOMEMADE PIE: NO MATTER HOW MUCH OF AN OOZING MESS IT IS, IT IS BEAUTIFUL– truly beautiful, because it is alive, it has soul, it has ATTENTION, and

“attention is love.”

Karen Maezen Miller

Wow. Living well is the same as making a pie from scratch. No matter how it turns out it’s beautiful. Something magical happens when you make a crust and fill it with fruit and bake it for an hour– things merge and it’s they transform. (I hadn’t fully articulated before how making pie is a spiritual act– it’s so redemptive BECAUSE YOU CAN’T FUCK IT UP. IT’S LITERALLY IMPOSSIBLE TO FAIL. A bad pie has to be really, really, really impossibly bad to be Bad– I don’t think it’s even a pie anymore at that state– and even then you can still eat the filling).

So, it’s extremely important for my freedom and full expression and health and creativity to really know I am not actually able to fuck things up any worse than they are: The house is burning/falling down– why worry the paint you chose might be too “loud?”

YOUR BODY IS FALLING DOWN. IT IS MAKING ITS WAY BACK INTO THE EARTH. AS LONG AS YOU ARE NOT TRULY CRUEL TO ANYONE, YOU CANNOT FAIL MORE THAN DEATH*. You can only die once (and it’s not a punishment).

So, write a shitty book. Draw lazy illustrations. Don’t bother with an ISBN. It doesn’t matter! Doing it right isnt a real thing! Sing the wrong note– sing almost all the right notes but sing sharp. It doesn’t matter! The world is a mess. Everyone is a mess. Everyone will die. There’s no redemption because there’s no sin. There’s no fault for the chaos of being a person– this “oh, shit” feeling is not a punishment– it’s just the weird truth, like gravity.

IT DOESN’T MATTER IF YOU FUCK UP. EVERYTHING IS “FUCKED UP.”

Congratulations: if you’re fucking things up left and right you are 1000% normal, you’re right on track.

See lots of JUNK everywhere? Congratulations again. Nothing is wrong with you— you’re just paying attention. (And attention is love: keep looking– it’s the only way to find something wonderful).

We are all 8th graders / 3rd graders / overly-tires toddlers who happen to be allowed to drive cars and use the stove and there’s no one to tell us when not to spend money or when to go to bed.

I think we’re doing pretty well. We could certainly do much worse.


*(I do believe there are some “cardinal sins,” like not recycling– that hurts my heart! This rant is about how it’s not my fault life is so fucking uncomfortable– there’s no linear correlation– so I can stop being afraid of someone blaming me for everything and kicking me out of the treehouse.)

Resolutions, Traps, & Letting the Horse Out of the Barn

When things get difficult, is your instinct to invest the effort to make it better, or to set a trap so it all gets worse?

Because if things get worse, well, then you won’t have to deal with them much longer.

-Seth Godin

Seth Godin is a favorite of mine. (The Icarus Deception is a particular favorite– it flushes out all the “stay small” propaganda of growing up in a small town).

Self-sabotage seems a very timely topic at the start of a new year, filled with potential, a clean slate, brimming with resolutions. It’s uncomfortable to NOT set a trap– to sit with uncertainty or with fear of failure. But it also feels like a good stretch– like muscles that hurt just a little but feel stronger each time.

In early 2019 I told a friend, “Shame is the horse to break.” (Her response was great– “Why is it a horse? Why not a cat?” She also pointed out that when you get a new, unfamiliar horse you ought to give it sugar cubes first.).

In 2020 I want to root, ground, expand– live sustainably by having daily practices (such as sharing writing here), rather than focusing on a project. I want projects to grow naturally out of practices. To stick with the horse metaphor, this means feeding the horse and taking it out of the barn at regular times. (My dog, Blue, is flexible until 10am, and then we MUST go walking or she’ll lose her mind and likely chew something up).

It’s obvious that you have a better relationship with the animal you ride (or walk) everyday, at approximately the same time. There’s trust, there’s anticipation, an easiness between you. I’d like that experience with writing books, scheduling gigs, practicing songs, making a podcast.

If I meet the horse, the muse, each day, it’s less likely to buck me off. Right? (Or, at least I’ll be less likely to be afraid of a fall, and be more graceful when I do).

The New Year Looks to Us

Oh, what does
the New Year
see in me?
I certainly see myself.
But from where
does it reckon
who I am?
I’ve always viewed resolutions not as decrees I will impose on the coming year (and my future self), but as the things that are already rising to the surface, the things I’m meant to serve, to follow, to join. This is similar to how I view naming someone, whether human or animal: it’s not a whim I get to indulge, it’s a perception I must hone, clues I must decipher, a puzzle to assemble so the whole is revealed.
But I’ve never thought of the New Year– or my future self– looking at me. Maybe it, too, is observing, deciphering, puzzling as we dance together.
Wishing you mystery, treasure, delight, reunion, and the ongoing joyful return to your home in yourself in 2020.