Arboretum

The heavy fog challenges the restless leaves
That spin cartwheels
Down to the rough pavement.
These forces cannot stop their radiance –
The way they bound forth
And paint our city with fire.
 
Mystery shakes them loose,
The breath of the Goddess
Whispering secrets,
Speaking the truth of the trees,
The Earth,
The air
That fills my lungs –
Draws my spirit up
To drive me forward,
Along this crooked path –
Once familiar, yet forgotten.
 
These streets I walk are no longer mine,
The roots that have been planted
No longer connect us.
We are part of a network,
But one that is detached from the earth.
 
I find solace in the Gibbous Moon
That shines outside my window.
She gazes down upon me
And I think she feels some part of my truth.
She beckons to her friendly stars,
And they wink at me through the darkness of the city.
Her reflection is cardinal,
Stretching out in all directions,
Giving her love freely.
All she asks is
recognition –
And faith in her consistent inconsistency.
We must trust that she is always there.
Even when she takes time for herself,
Or is covered by the heavy fog.
 
She teaches us that darkness and death
Are necessary for light and rebirth –
That we can stay true to our place in the universe,
And still always be changing.

Greenlake Twilight

Your calm, regal presence,
Your silent strength,
Give me comfort this morning.
I feel your cool warmth
Radiating through my heart.
Your soft and gentle caress
Uplifts and soothes my spirit.
 
You are Goddess of the night
And those hours in between –
Where stillness is echoed through the barren streets.
You give me courage, Full Moon,
Elevated and distanced,
Yet engaged.
 
Your familiar call draws me to you, like the the
tides –
I am, after all, a Pisces –
My waters run deep.
 
You inspire me to be big,
Bright,
Bold.
To carry myself with such unabashed elegance and grace.
To share what makes my heart shudder and sing.
 
You, my Goddess,
Shamelessly reclaim your time every month,
Your changes and cycles are welcomed –
Met with awe and wonder.
No one can tell you
To be anything less
Than the powerful Goddess you are.

The city was up in smoke –
We screamed, we ran,
And then we were conquered –
Forced into hiding.
A mansion filled with secret passageways,
We scuttled in the dark,
Looking out for one another,
While avoiding “the Other.”
Yet it seemed we knew them.
There was history there –
Hurt, anger,
Melancholy for connections lost.
Something had broken and we were now in fear –
We did not trust their return,
Or familiarity;
They were strangers to us now.

Fire
Wood Nymph

If you haven’t studied people and life around you, you can’t begin to know how to create theater. Theater explores humanity – the inner workings of relationships – how we communicate and relate to ourselves, each other, and the world around us. If you cannot begin to exercise empathy, you cannot be an artist. Artists must think and feel deeply. They must makes astute observations and explore a multitude of conclusions. Theater artists are like anthropologists in that way. Both study humanity from many different angles, and seek to paint a colorful picture of it.

If we only ever pass judgements about what we see and who we encounter, we will never have the privilege of exploring the complexities. If we stay hidden away in our own worlds, we will never even make contact with the surface.

We must always be aware and remain open. Healthy boundaries are necessary, but are different from iron gates. Do not restrict your experience of life by keeping your gates locked. Peek through the bars, perhaps reach through and feel the air on the other side. Is it so different? If it feels safe, or at least not dangerous, take out your ornate iron key and step out from your sanctuary. Feel the leaves crackle beneath your bare feet, caress the gnarled bark of an ancient oak tree, run through the forest until you see a light shining – it is attainable. Dash madly and wildly and when you get there, wrap someone in a hug – they probably need it. Hold their hands firmly but gently in your own, sit them down in an old, rickety rocking chair and ask them to tell you their life story.

Listen carefully and intently. Create a mental image for each of their improvisational, yet seemingly  well-crafted words. Reflect back what you hear, but do not try to control the story or the outcome. In witnessing their openness, you will begin to open yourself. You will see glimmers of the interconnectedness of humanity. It will lift your spirits and entice you to seek more and more opportunities just like this one, yet vastly different, because no individual’s story is exactly the same.

Moments
Moments
by Zaidaan Shibuya
Others Who Were Here
Others Who Were Here
by Cris Bruch

I walk in the footsteps of those that came before me. But the land is different now. The rolling hills flattened, the mountains melting, the streets straight and narrow. Now we only see what’s right in front of us, not the realm of possibilities that open wide like the sky above.

Have you seen the mouth of Heaven open on a cloudy day? That shining abyss that seems so inviting, yet unattainable?

These days that’s what it feels like – this Life. I wish that the Sun could reach through what clouds my mind and lift me to its great height. Swallow me in its warm and gentle embrace and let me dance through the soft and billowing clouds. Get some distance. A new perspective. On life. And living.

I feel stuck in this sphere of Seattle – South Lake Union – this city. Where the stadiums and skyscrapers cast their immense shadows, and the 12th Man and Amazon reign supreme.

That same Sun that beckons me, shines on so many places beyond this city. It is not contained in this fast-paced, liberal, weed-infested bubble.

I wish I could run to the mountains – find solace in their snow-caps and hide in their hills. I see them every day, stretched out on either side of my urban cell. They, too, call for a higher purpose – a different perspective.

They coat the coast in their glistening glory. An image of perfection. Peace. Solitude. Strength.

That’s what I need most in the hustle and bustle of this ever-moving, ever-changing city.

The Seattle I once knew is gone. It has been transformed into a tech-haven, a corporate castle. A breeze has blown through the construction-covered streets, wisping all the unwanteds away.

They can stay on the outskirts. We will reinvent this city. Come in carrying our orange-and-white umbrellas, proudly presenting our blue badges. Paint the city with our crisp, clean, colors – separated segments of the Old Center.

The one I knew. The one with a purple, paint-spattered elevator and a multi-cultural mural hanging above it all. The one where children ran and danced, crawling in concrete caves and fighting over the prevailing flash of light. So much color. So vibrant and alive. The New Center is gray. Dead. Gone.

But in my mind’s eye I envision that golden, sparkling circle. Like the Sun. The one with the beautiful horses bobbing up and down, like the clouds in the crystal sky. The one I would point at, tugging at my parents’ sleeves to stand in line and proudly hand over my ticket. I would run to find my favorite one and happily hop upon it.

These days were filled with wonder and adventure. A sensory experience I seem to have lost along the way.

Except when I see the Sun stretch its beams through the incessant Seattle storm clouds and emerge, bright and victorious. It never ceases to amaze me.

This piece is inspired by the photos above.

Beach Girl
I remember when I was little,
I could hold a seashell to my ear
And be transported to the ocean.
I could feel the vibration
Of waves crashing
On bumpy, barnacled beaches;
I could smell
The salty sea air,
Blowing through my curls
And brushing my skin;
I could almost make out the cawing of the gulls,
Floating high above the water
And flapping about for fish.
As I listened,
I drifted with the tide,
Ebbing and flowing with ease.
My eyelids fluttered,
Envisioning the calm waters,
With all of the energy
Bubbling beneath the surface.
How can such a world
Be contained in such a small shell?
How can the mighty roar
And rock of the ocean
Fit in the spiraling spine
Of a seashell?
The sea waves become
Sound waves,
Splashes spin through
The cool, creamy crevices
Of this little shell.
It tells the story
Of whence it came
And carries its whole world inside it.

“Athena.”

“Present!” sang Athena from the front of the room.

“Arachne.”

“Here,” I said. Athena snickered and her friends followed suit.

I sat right behind Athena in my senior English class, and I had pretty much had it with her. We were friends in elementary school, but ever since she had gained popularity in 6th grade, she had been treating me like shit. Nowadays she surrounded herself with friends and was hailed as “the best and the brightest” at Lydian High. To me, she had just become a rich, privileged little bitch – the “Queen Bee.”

Athena tossed her hair and turned around to look at me.

“So, that short story contest is coming up,” she said pointedly. “Are you gonna enter?”

“What’s it to you?” I snapped.

“Well, it’s just that I clearly have more talent, and so I thought you might want a… warning, you could say.”

“Excuse me?”

“You know you’re no match for me, so I don’t know why you would even bother trying. Just give up now; save yourself the heartache.” She smiled wickedly and turned back around.

I felt my face growing red and hot tears of anger welled in my eyes. I clenched my fists until I could feel my nails digging into the palms of my hands. I was sooo done. I was just as good as her and this was my chance to prove it.

*          *          *

When it came time to read our stories aloud in our English class, Athena was, of course, the first to volunteer. I sat in my seat, focused and unmoving, barely listening to her self-congratulatory garbage. All I could think about was how she would react when she heard my story.

She finished and her friends applauded enthusiastically. I volunteered to go next. Athena pushed past me as I made my way to the front of the room. She sat down victoriously, sneering at me. I ignored her and began to read.

The words poured out of me like acid as I revealed to the class every mean trick Athena had ever played on me. Her expression became hateful and her face flushed red. I just kept going. She was going to get what she deserved.

When I finished, the room was silent and Athena was shaking with anger, her eyes shooting daggers at me. She stood up angrily and stormed out of the room, her posse hurrying after her. I remained completely still, every muscle in my body engaged. I felt powerful. I had defeated the “Great Athena.”

*          *          *

For the rest of the day, I felt on top of the world. That is until I checked my Facebook that night:

“Arachne is a stuck-up, talentless bitch who doesn’t know when to give up. No one fucking cares about you and your dumbass stories. You’re just a poor, stupid little nobody. Why do you even bother? Just fucking kill yourself. The world would be a better place without your ugly face in it.”

My body turned to ice. I shook violently with sadness and hurt and anger. Tears streamed down my face, but I made no effort to dry them. Her words echoed in my head. “Why bother? Just fucking kill yourself.” My head was spinning. I felt myself stand and walk to my closet. “Just fucking kill yourself.” I grabbed a belt, my hands trembling. I was in a daze. “Just fucking kill yourself.” I looped the belt around my neck and tightened it. “No one cares about you. Just fucking kill yourself.” I collapsed by my closet door and shoved the belt between it and the doorframe. I closed the door and let my entire body go loose. “Just fucking kill yourself.”

*          *          *

Beep, beep, beep, beep… The noise was ringing through my ears. Suddenly I felt warmth spreading through my body. There was a beating in my chest. My eyes darted back and forth beneath my eyelids and then shot open.

I was assaulted by blinding fluorescent lights and white walls that seemed to be closing in on me. I started thrashing around and tried yelling out, but my voice was hoarse and weak. A nurse heard the commotion and came in.

“Whoa, whoa, calm down. Everything’s okay. You’re alive. You’re safe.”

“Where am I?” I croaked.

“The Lydian State Hospital.”

“What?”

“You were admitted late last night, by your parents.”

“What? Why?”

“You tried to hang yourself. Your parents thought it would be best for your safety.” I put my hand to my throat.

“Hang myself –?” Everything that happened yesterday suddenly rushed into my head: The competition, Athena’s hateful glare – and her Facebook post. “Oh my god…” My eyes welled with tears and I began to sob.

“What has happened is terrible, but we will do everything we can to help you recover. It just may take some time.”

I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t comprehend what was happening. I had tried to kill myself… I was… institutionalized… What had I done – ?

“Can I get you anything?” the nurse asked.

“My journal… get me my journal… I want to write.”

THE END

Fall leaves burn brightly –
Radiant pastels
Scattered gently underfoot.
Scarlet colored wind
And whispers of breezes bite
Through burnt autumn breaths.
Fragrance of cool smoke –
Fresh air infiltrates.
Crystal droplets staining skin.
The city in a blanket.
Pine, with a shine of light.
Oh, what joy this brings.

Greenlake

When I was little I wanted to be just like my mom.  She has intelligence, grace, and beauty that fill any room she walks into, and she is my greatest inspiration.  She used to have long raven hair, deep-seeing blue eyes like the ocean, and luscious, wide hips that carried her full and comfortable stomach. I would snuggle with her for hours, wrapped up in her big, beautiful body, not a care in the world. Fast-forward several years, and my innocent, naïve brain is inundated with ideas about style, beauty, and bodies – ideas that have formed who I am today.

I was 13 years old when I first started thinking about the shape of my body. Unfortunately, for many, that starts at an even younger age.  Girls being told they are too fat or that they are ugly.  These comments eat away at their self-esteem and they feel isolated and depressed.  They deprive themselves of food, trying desperately to be accepted by all of the girls who have already succumbed to this trap of trying to attain “perfection” and “beauty.”

I never tried to fit in directly.  Instead, I fell down a path of sporadic self-loathing.  I would see all of these skinny girls wearing cute clothes, with cute hair and makeup and aspire to look like them, knowing that I couldn’t.  I couldn’t buy the clothes they had, I couldn’t style my hair the way they did, I couldn’t make my stomach smaller like theirs were.

I never thought that I would be someone who worried about her weight or size all the time, but that is who I have become.  Every day, I look sideways in the mirror, at how my stomach pours out over my pants, at how my fat rolls as I move, at all of the extra me that I wish wasn’t there.  I have grown so uncomfortable in my body, I wish I could just push the reset button – to go back to when I was 12 and I still loved my body.  When I didn’t care about how I dressed or what I looked like to other people.  But I don’t know how to end this cycle of hatred.

The media has taught me to hate my body.  It has taught me to see fat as ugly, something that should be eliminated as quickly as possible.  The thing is, I don’t see fat as ugly – not on other people, any way.  I still see my mom as the most beautiful woman in the world, but I no longer desire to look like her.  I love the curves of her body, but I don’t want those curves.  I love the fullness of her face, but I don’t want that fullness.  I don’t want to feel different because of the shape of my body.  I don’t want to have to struggle to fit in.

My thoughts and actions are driven by fear and hate.  Fear of being a pariah in a society that values external appearance over internal beauty and wisdom, and hate of my body and the ways that it is different from what society expects it should be.  I am an aspiring film and television actress, but instead of thinking about how my talent and dedication will get me roles, I worry about how my size will affect my chances.

The truth is, you just don’t see very many women in Hollywood who are not thin. Men can be any size or shape and get fun and interesting roles, but women have to be thin and beautiful. They are oftentimes put in movies for no other purpose but to serve as eye candy or a romantic interest.  They don’t have their own intriguing storyline – they are a blip on the man’s fantastical adventure or quest for love and heroism.  Women are objectified over and over and over again, and this reflects back in everyday society, in the way women groom, make up, and criticize themselves.

We are not taught to love our bodies in their natural, beautiful form.  We are sold products that will cover our blemishes, conceal our cellulite, and heighten our features to make them “more attractive.”  Women and girls alike pick up on this, get hooked on it, and then start to believe that they can’t look beautiful without it.  Many women can’t go a day without putting on makeup, because they feel naked and ugly without it.  I am not one of these women, but I will admit that I prefer the way I look when I wear makeup or wear pretty, sexy clothes.

I think about my appearance several times a minute – multiply that by the hour, the day, the week, the month, the year, and you realize how much of your brain is filled with self-consciousness and criticism.  When I step on a scale and it shows 150, my mind darts back to just last year when it was 135.  How could I have gained so much weight?  That can’t be right.  The scale is broken.  My clothes probably weigh more today.  I need to stop eating so much.  All of these thoughts rush through my mind and I spiral downward into more hatred. I squeeze my stomach fat, trying to make it disappear.  I pull and claw at it; I suck in my stomach, and I wonder how many other girls and women do the same?

I know I am not alone.  The commercials that tell me to start dieting, or to buy clothes that will make me look thinner tell me so.  The thousands of women who fall into that capitalist trap tell me so.  The thousands of women who starve, cut, and kill themselves because of their immense self-loathing tell me that I am not alone.  We have been conditioned to believe that we are not good enough, that if we just buy this one product or go on this diet, that all of our problems will be solved. That we will get the guy (or girl, although that’s not really advertised), that we will make friends, that we will be happy.

It is not the reality of our bodies that are making us unhappy, though.  Rather, it is the constant message that our bodies should be different from what they are, that they are in a constant state of imperfection.  Our society in the U.S. does not cater to or respect people who are not thin.  We see magazines and movies full of people with “perfect” – nay, unrealistic – bodies; the prettiest clothes are made to fit the bodies of thin people; and fat-shaming is a common occurrence both in real life and on TV.  How do you think people with more fat on their bodies feel when this is what they see every day?  How do you think they cope with the message that they are “not good enough”?  They try to change themselves – that’s how. They invest their time, money, and energy in finding ways to lose that extra pound, shave off that extra bit of fat. They diet and starve and exercise and overextend themselves to get to a place where they think they will be happy.

The problem is that that is only a small part of happiness, if any.  True happiness and self-love has to come from within.  Acceptance of who you are has to be learned and practiced.  Changing your body won’t do a damn thing if you continue to be told that you “aren’t good enough” or “aren’t skinny enough,” and if you continue to believe it.

I am at this crossroads with my body.  Every time I look in the mirror with daggers of hate in my eyes, I have to bring myself back to softness and self-acceptance.  I try to focus on the gentle rolls of my hips instead of my stomach; I admire the beautiful curve of my back, instead of the folds of it; I take pride in the strength of my arms and legs, instead of the way they jiggle. Little by little, I find parts of me that I can appreciate and that I think are beautiful.

Of course, there is still the nagging refrain of self-improvement.  However, I have come to realize that my need for self-improvement is more related to health and less to outer appearance, and that is what I should be putting my energy into.  I don’t need to diet (in the current idea of the word) as much as I need to eat healthier so that I feel better.  I don’t need to develop killer abs as much as I need to strengthen the parts of my body that are weak and are detrimental to the condition of my joints and muscles.  My self-improvement needs to come from a place of concern and care for my well being, not from a place of vanity and hate.

This is not what the media typically advertises.  Instead, it is made about the calorie count.  Health is not determined by calorie intake.  You could just eat a bag of microwave popcorn as your food for the day, and it would not make you healthy – skinny, yes, healthy, no. Taking Lipozene will not make you healthy, either.  Neither will wearing a “Tummy Tuck Belt.”  All of these products are rooted in appearance and capital gain.  The media does not care how healthy you are – it cares how skinny you are and how much it can make you feel inferior so you will reach toward that “desirable size.”

It is time for a change in viewpoint, and that has to come from us – me included. I may have given in to this cycle of hatred, but I can see it for what it is.  I can recognize how it is destroying the minds of our young girls and women, and can fight for different representation so that I no longer hate my body.  We have the ability to turn the cycle around, but it will take courage and compassion for ourselves and our wonderful, beautiful, unique bodies.

Beach Body
Shadow

As I walk down the street I consider my privilege.
Cloaked in my hoodie, my head and face shaded,
I have no cause to fear the police.
I am not stopped and frisked for no reason,
Or questioned for being out late at night.
My white skin is a shield – a protector against prejudice.
When cops see me, they nod or smile.
I do not receive suspicious glances when I run to catch a bus.
I don’t have to worry about getting shot when I don’t even have a weapon.
I am not stalked or followed by police cars
Just for carrying a backpack.
When I drive a car I don’t think about hiding.
I often consider the police to be the people
Who will protect and defend me against the evils of the world.
I am not thought of as that evil.
My white skin has historically made me “good,”
And yet the people of my color were the ones who held the whips,
The ones who beat black boys senseless
Just for trying to acquire the human right to freedom.
How can white be superior when we have committed such horrendous crimes?
How is it that black boys are being raised to fear the people
Who are supposed to be protecting and defending them?
How is it that this discrimination continues,
And yet people are still willing to turn a blind eye?
It is there.  It exists.  It is a problem.
I walk down the street and consider my privilege.
My privilege of not living in fear.