Sandbox Notes: Twilight Boundaries at the Abyss

 

Want to dig deeper into the sandbox? Explore more at these links: 

-Do you ever walk into a room and immediately forget what you came there to do? This is called an event boundary. Thanks to the poet, April Ossmann, who first told me about this phenomenon.

-It took about 45 seconds for the atomic bomb to drop from its plane and fall onto the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Take 45 seconds today to think about everything you are grateful for. 

Joanna Macy and The Great Turning : Macy, an environmental activist, explains that it is time to shift from an Industrial Growth Society to a life-sustaining civilization.

About Sandbox Notes. Collections by Cameron Finch.

Hibakusha Stories

Last Wednesday, I had the great honor of hearing the stories of two Hibakusha (atom bomb survivors), Shigeko Sasamori and Yakuaki Yamashita. I am so very grateful they traveled all the way from their homes in Mexico and LA to visit Vermont.

What an incredible gift they gave us—sharing their stories and experiences, reliving the horror of witnessing and surviving the nuclear blast.

I do not know what it is like to live through such violence, and yet Ms. Sasamori and Mr. Yamashita gave me a glimpse of it last night, and even then, it is difficult for me to fully imagine the numbness, the fear, the sorrow, the tragic loss, the pain, the devastation, the discrimination, the destitution, the sickness, the shame, the desperation, the courage it takes to live every day with these memories.

This may have been a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me, to have heard eyewitness accounts from the final generation of HIbakusha. Their work is ever more important these days when fewer and fewer stories are being told, and the population of survivors is dwindling.

We must remember their past, in order to ensure history does not repeat. Nuclear warfare affects not only those who survived the horrors but also the global environment and all people born into this world thereafter.

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We must educate the youth that nuclear weapons have an unacceptable impact on human beings. So far, the organizations that put on the event last night have brought Hibakusha stories to over 40,000 students in the lower 48 states. Many students had never heard anything about the atomic bomb in their entire educational career.

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As Yakuaki-san said, “Don’t hate anyone. Hate creates another hate…Your lives are beautiful.”

It took 45 seconds for the bomb to fall from the airplane to the city below. Take 45 seconds today to think about all you are grateful for.

For one, I’m grateful to have heard these remarkable and brave Hibakusha Stories in person last night. I will remember them for the rest of my life.

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Together, if we all do our part with the unique skills we possess, we CAN eliminate nuclear weapons and work toward peace.

You can join the peaceful movement by visiting icanw.org and sign up for their newsletter to keep up to date on the Nuclear Ban Treaty and discover ways to take action.

Love widely. Peace for all. 💜

Sandbox Notes: “Darjeeling Abs – A National Movement”

 

Want to dig deeper into the sandbox? Explore more at these links: 

-The inspirational messages on every bag of Yogi Tea.

-Montpelier’s famous biscuit breakfast joint, Down Home Kitchen, used to be a used bookstore called Rivendell Books before it merged with neighboring bibliospot, Bear Pond Books. Hence, the new national movement: “From Book to Biscuit.”

Saint Lucia (my new obsession, my latest essay subject, and the patron saint of authors, blindness, cutlers, glaziers, laborers, martyrs, peasants, Perugia, Italy; saddlers, salesmen, stained glass workers, and writers): meet Sufjan Stevens.

-Has anyone seen Life in Squares: a BBC drama about the Bloomsbury Group? It’s on my to-watch list. Also, after listening to this recording of Virginia Woolf, I’ve decided she’s best suited to be the sole spokesperson for all future Darjeeling Abs informercials.

About Sandbox Notes. Collections by Cameron Finch.

Sandbox Notes: Extract the Abandoned Rice Cake

Want to dig deeper into the sandbox? Explore more at these links: 

Redstone

Redstone: Montpelier’s Mansion from Yesteryear (see floor plan and photos from inside here)

-Who knew that Mr. Monopoly’s real name is Rich Uncle Pennybags? This article notes that a number of people remember Mr. Monopoly wearing a monocle, confusing Pennybags with Planters’ mascot, Mr. Peanut. This is an example of a “false collective memory.” I  must confess I was one of those mistaken rememberers.

“The Gooey Details Behind a Glow Worm’s Starry Night Illusions” (New York Times)

Where does your blood go during the embalming process? and Here’s a look into all the people who handle us when we die. 

These jewel bugs died holding tightly onto hydrangea stems.

About Sandbox Notes. Collections by Cameron Finch.

How to Quit: Lessons from a Former Chain Chewer

  1. Decide to quit.
  2. Tell others you want to quit.
  3. Do not go out of your way to buy packs of gum.
  4. If others have generously bought you packs of gum, tell them kindly that you no longer are eating gum anymore and have them hide the packs from you.
  5. Remind them that you know where their last hiding place was, so don’t put it in the top cabinet on the right, next to the laundry room. Because you WILL FIND IT.
  6. Begin to eat real food instead of chemicals with equal parts unpronounceable and unswallowable qualities. You know, those ingredients the Internet can neither confirm nor deny are harmful for your body.
  7. When your cravings for gum gain strength, try biting your tongue. Or drink more water. Or brush your teeth to prevent a dirty mouth.
  8. It probably means you are hungry. Try to listen to your body when it talks to you.
  9. Save up to $40 a month because Orbit is no longer chewing you out of house and home. Watch as the supply and demand you have struggled to keep up with in the past crumples like the wadded up wrappers you used to pyramid on your desk.
  10. Spend a few minutes every day considering why you quit. Convince yourself you feel better now that you aren’t chewing a piece of gum for five seconds before spitting it out, only to unwrap a new piece and stick it on your tongue. But really two, because you always liked having two pieces in your mouth at once.
  11. Remember that every Orbit pack you pass in the store is an opportunity. A reminder. A reminder that quitting is a solo act, but you aren’t alone. You are one in a community of many chain chewers, whose metronome jaws are nodding along in perfect synchronicity. Yes. We. Know. How. You. Feel. You. Dirty. Dirty. Mouth. 

*Why did I write this, and why am I sharing this with you? Chewing gum has been a sort of crutch for me in the past, in times of stress, or when I was very sick and found tiny ways to avoid eating real food and real calories. Currently, in my three-week module class at VCFA, we are talking all about vulnerability; asking questions about why vulnerability is scary, but necessary; what’s the difference between personal & professional vulnerability (and how that line is often blurred in writing); how do you know when to share vulnerable details and when not to, etc. I suppose we are all vulnerable as human beings to becoming addicted to such-and-such thing. Science backs it up that it takes about 66 days to form a habit, whether “good” or “bad,” if you choose to assign such labels. I’m proud of my work to quit chewing gum, and though it may or may not sound difficult to you, it definitely was not easy for me, and it’s so freeing to say that. To be honest. To work hard to overcome an act that was controlling me. Whatever your “gum” is, I believe you can free yourself of it, too.

Delicious Movement

How do I even begin to explain this past weekend—in which I threw my belongings into a small bag and hitched it to the Berkshires in Western Massachusetts for a Delicious Movement Workshop with the legendary Japanese dancer, Eiko Otake.

I first came across Otake’s work while researching Hibakusha Stories – the stories of the atomic bomb survivors. When I found out that she was professionally trained in Butoh by one of the dance form’s founders, Kazuo Ohno, AND that she was teaching only three hours away from me, I knew I needed to attend the workshop and learn everything I could from her.

One of my characters in my novel is a Butoh dancer, and I took this weekend as an opportunity to understand what it feels like for him to dance—which is one of the yummiest things about being a writer—exploring my many selves and interests for the sake of “researching” a character.

The Setting

The Delicious Movement Workshop was located at Earthdance, an artist-run retreat center, which provides dance, somatic, and interdisciplinary arts training, with a focus on sustainability, social justice, and community. Set in the middle of the woods, we breathed green tree oxygen, ate fresh vegetarian food, and helped each other with chores and clean-up. For three days, I had a home away from home with the kindest of strangers.

The Dancers

In total, there were 22 of us, ranging in ages from 23 to late 50s. We were mostly artists (visual, dance, writing). A few dancers had worked with Eiko in the past, but for many of us, this was our first time, and we were in awe.

Delicious Movement Moments

Since there’s no way to truly replicate the experience of this weekend without demonstrating each activity sprawled out on the floor, I’m going to try my best to explain in words a few of my favorite moments of the weekend.

The Paper Dance*

Walk around the studio space with a blank piece of paper in your hands—don’t let it make a sound. Then, make as much sound as you can. Get comfortable with your paper. 

Find a partner. Sit down and place both of your papers on the floor between you. Communicate (without talking) who will begin. Engage with the paper any way you like. Make it clear when each interaction is complete. Take turns. As you grow comfortable with each other and build trust, begin to use each other’s paper—become one flowing unit. Move, attempting to hit an “end” of the dance.  

Next, we move individually, reenacting the paper’s journey. What does it feel like to be that paper? As half the group begins to move as paper, the other half of the group eventually comes over to try to calm us (the papers) down. Our task as paper, Eiko said, was to resist the people. 

Later, I reflected on how I approached “moving” like paper. As the paper, I felt a deep history of abuse circulating throughout my fibers—feeling wanted for a spark of a moment, a tease, used only for a certain purpose that does not include everlasting love—then unwanted, mistreated, crumpled, thrown around. How often, I realized, we take advantage of each other, our environments, our everyday objects. When the person came to “calm me down,” I had so much of that attention I had been craving as paper, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted it, or I didn’t trust that it was an ephemeral desire to connect. I was slow to trust—I think the paper really did want to be loved and treated well. It didn’t want to get hurt again. 

It’s pretty incredible that I was able to inhabit this deep root of humanity through embodying an inanimate object. But it’s not too abstract if you really consider how we could ask the same questions on the circumstances of being an adult: “What does it mean to have a wrinkle? For someone to come along and care for you? What is it like to care about a thing that’s not human?” The Paper Dance is a terrific “icebreaker” move. As Eiko told us, ‘You won’t know much more about the person internally, but you will have spent some time seeing and being seen.’

*Keep in mind that this was the very first activity of the workshop. On Day One! Yes, it only became more intense from here.

Body as a Landscape

Throughout the weekend, our bodies were not human shapes. Instead, we took on the landscape of the earth. Our torsos were mountains, our hands were gardens, blooming. We were growing comfortably, yet asymmetrically. Moving subtly, with purpose, like the earth spinning on its axis. We were twists of air.

At one moment, we were to find a partner, a fellow mountain, and begin to touch. We were equipped with the language of “hissing” in case we ever felt unsafe or too uncomfortable with a touch. At one point, I wasn’t sure which part of my partner I was touching. But then I discovered the watery elements of her hair, the ridge of her knuckle, and I could have stayed there for much longer. I’m intrigued with this new way of encountering another body, another life form. I hadn’t known I could connect with an unfamiliar body in this way, with so much ease. 

We All Come From Water

In this exercise, we are sacks of water moving downstream. The river is the dance studio floor. Everyone lying on the floor is now a sack of water. Drip, Eiko says. Drop your water. Let it go. The water always comes. It will never run out. It comes in and goes out endlessly. We all come from water, she reminds us. We come from the sea. The same salt content. Think of that the next time you disagree with someone, we are all water. Our water may just be different, or springs from a different source. We close our eyes and move/survey/flow in a slowed, embryonic state, swimming downstream, through this stubborn molasses river. Time does not exist here…5…10…20 minutes may have elapsed. The only sound is that of the live water sacks around me breathing, rippling. And then, Eiko’s voice emerges from the deep: “Begin to calm yourself.” When she claps her hands, we are awakened from the hypnosis. The world a blur. I am reborn every time I open my eyes. 

Finding Your Aesthetic

We had several chances throughout the workshop to split into groups and “watch each other” perform. The point of “watching” was not to critique what was good art or bad art. Instead, Eiko reminded us that every time we have the opportunity to observe art, we are finding our own aesthetic. This is an important lesson that can apply to all fields of art. For example, it’s not the performer or writer’s job to entertain you specifically. It’s your responsibility as a viewer or consumer to hold your criticism and use your reaction to the artist’s work to help narrow and define what your personal aesthetic and interests are. Every time we engage with a piece of art, whether it’s to our liking or not, is useful in assisting us to better understand ourselves.

Gratitude and Growth

This weekend has been one of the most singular transformative moments in my life, and I do not know if I will ever again feel the way I did through these exercises with Eiko. I am filled so deeply with gratitude for Eiko Otake, the generosity of Earthdance and the land of the Mohican (People of the Waters That Are Never Still), and the other sacks of water with whom I had the honor of sharing my dances, my surveillances, my discoveries.

Learn more about Eiko’s tenets of movement by reading her Delicious Movement Manifesto and her Personal Manifesto of an Artist as a Cultural Activist.