Dreams, Freedom, Inspiration, Love, Memoir, Nature, Photography, Poetry, Prose, Rant, relationships, Spirituality, Womanhood, Writing

Yin

20065925_664929573697496_6459980642565226496_n(1)

All I know is new beginnings.

That’s what I told him in my latest attempt to avoid the possibility of heartache, like ever. It’s like, if I cut my own arm off it won’t hurt as bad. I will still be in control.

Everything is water and matter, water and matter. Work is matter, rest is water. He is matter, I am water. I am made of matter and water and my brains and my bones depend on its balance.

I run on land. I run away. But I am a water creature, a river rat, and a beach babe so I will make mistakes on land. My horoscope read water upon water upon water so watch out and before I even read part that I cried in the kitchen — more than usual, my tears hot in the soapy vat of dishwater. It was strange and not-common. I knew I was in the wrong because I couldn’t pinpoint, exactly, what was wrong. So I wished – slash – willed it away.

I went to the beach the following day. I thought of what I’d said, “all I know are new beginnings.” I’ll admit, I’ve known a lot of them…but I am water…and I am river…and I am a wave. Water is in a constant state of movement, whether it is flowing, seemingly stagnant, or percolating through the earth, through the matter. I am part of a whole as water. I need not run, because everywhere I go is with him. And everywhere I go is with you. Every new beginning is still part of the whole. Yin. Yang. Beginning. End. I come to understand this.

Dreams, essay, Feminism, Freedom, Inspiration, Love, Memoir, Nature, Photography, Poetry, Prose, relationships, Spirituality, Womanhood

Half-Truths or The Actual Woman

19622945_768128283361114_4424393266426806272_n.jpg

I didn’t grow up to be who I was supposed to be. I wasn’t supposed to have oily hair or a messy bun. But I’ve settled for it. I wasn’t supposed to have unemployment, compromised driving privileges, trust issues, or a dying cat – that’s some other woman.

I didn’t grow up to be tame-haired and golden. I didn’t grow up to be worshiped by a man, doted on, a traffic-stopper, a perfect-in-every-way kind of girl. I’ve never been that.

Not only have I been to therapy, but I’ve walked away from it (that’s worse, it means I haven’t been helped yet). But this story is full of half-truths. You know, maybe I did grow up to be who I was supposed to be (how could I not? I was in control the entire time) (even that’s a half-truth).

I was supposed to be a role-model, for one. All nice girls wish to be role models, that’s how you know you’re good. But I couldn’t even pull that off (half-truth). You know you’re fucking up when a child asks you, “Are you a kid too!?” Eye.

Things have gotten better since then. I feel in control (half-truth). I accept the messy bun. I let the teenage neighbor kids see my climbing-out-of-the-car-with-two-paper-bags-of-groceries-clumsiness. I wish sometimes the girl could look at me with that want-to-be-like-her-when-I-grow-up-awe. You know the awe. But I don’t think I am that woman. I’ve accidentally watered the flowers in a see-through gown, waving at the neighbors. I’ve fallen in a hole chasing after the dog. I am someone else, slightly off-set of that woman. The alternate. The sister story. The girl with the hair falling in her eyes, needing to be washed. The girl with the floor needing to be swept, scrubbed. The woman in the gray dented station-wagon. The woman with the budding, not blooming, flower garden. The woman with $4.50 in fines at the library. The woman who just signed up for the Adult Reading Program (because she hopes to win a tote-bag). The woman who used to work in retail and now works in manual labor. The woman with a college degree, who makes $11 an hour. The woman who would rather paint and write more than anything. The woman with a few pretty dresses that she never wears. The woman who has many friends over the age of fifty. The woman who is apprehensive of parties, but loves them once she gets there. The woman who thinks she knows herself so well (but has a lot to learn). The woman who writes personal stories on her porch in the sunshine. The woman who wishes for tan legs, but won’t pay for them, or sit still long enough for them. The woman who wishes for the luxury of travel, an open road, snacks, a band to follow, cold beer…a bunch of things that aren’t really her, but maybe…The woman who has a defrosted chicken for the crockpot. The woman whose man will be home soon. The woman with her dog barking and her cat purring. The woman with the messy bun, fresh face, bare feet, tall grass, summer sun. The woman, the actual woman, I was meant to become.

Feminism, Freedom, Inspiration, Nature, Poetry, Spirituality, Womanhood, Writing

But I’m Not Perfect Yet

Old poem, old photo, newly paired, never shared:

1004838_622806727788647_1414012958_n.jpg

But I’m Not Perfect Yet

Why the shampoos
with promising poems
“You’ve really got it now”
“Not your mommas hair-do”
“Beautiful, luscious, supremely clean”
Why all the claims and things
in the ads we see
I know some who
can take it
or leave it—
and why I ever accept it,
I don’t know
I was beaten with it
as a girl
see: media and magazines
images of youthful
concealed women
(concealing whatever doesn’t fit
with the current trend)
see: glowing women or matte
depending on the season
submissive yet dominant
bronzed and flirtatious
You hear confidence is
everything but I don’t believe
that to be true
(I pride humility)
I cannot blame myself
here, and neither should you
Some days I am bland
Some days I am sexy
Some days I’m just decent
and free
but all these days
I am taken with
thoughts of
What I Should Be
My eyes aren’t large enough
My hair won’t lay strait
My clothes just don’t look
that good on my back
Not nearly as good
as they looked strung
up on the rack
I contort myself
with belts and jeans
I pinch, prod and shave
I bleach
chop
polish
and press
I bend over backwards
trying to achieve
a standard that someone
somehow made me believe
I didn’t feel
good-looking
today, it’s true.
I wanted to grab every
woman and ask
“Do you feel this way too??”
I wanted to know
that deep down we
are all just the same
and that on the outside
none of us are ever
what they claim
on the backs of the
bottles of $16 gunk
those are just words and wishes
amounting to junk
intended to make a buck

Photography, Poetry

Not So Hot

Photo credit: Crystal Danielle Gasser
Photo credit: Crystal Danielle Gasser

Too easily offended
I’d rather not listen
to some people
most of the time
My anger is my
downfall and rage
follows, like falling
boulders, from behind
I’m antsy in my heart,
which the doctors have
confirmed–they say my
heart doesn’t pitter-patter
right

Some days are fine,
some nights are worse
some are best for not
speaking at all
but I faux smile
cause that’s what
people want of me–
it’s what we want
of each other

Silence is    t h r e a t e n i n g
d  u  m  b  i  n  g
only meditative if you’re
…drinking hot tea before or
…wearing lycra and a yellow scarf,
with elephants on it
No but that’s not really true now

C
Photo credit: Crystal Danielle Gasser

What I mean is:
that was just my anger talking and
ah I see what I shant speak today

So I lie on the bed
or I cry
because I can’t feel my head
like a hot air balloon it has risen
and escaped me
no longer attached by way of
my spine to my feet
no longer accepting responsibility
for foul thoughts and behaviors
Truths I’ve built up with strong
hard-to-destruct things like
addiction and the inability to
see   l o v e   clearly
the tendency to judge this  l o v e
of its worth
inspect it for faults and errors
beg with my body but sometimes
do not give it up when he has
come home for me,
when he is ready

Photo credit: Benoit Courti
Photo credit: Benoit Courti

When he is ready I sometimes
see the hands of another man
a man that some of us women all
know so well
the very hands of a man who first
showed us hell
on earth
turned an ordinary meadow
into a red burning thing
where all routes leading out only
lead to more traps and catastrophes
the hands of a man can either help or threaten me
the hands of a man can trigger me
in the best and the worst of ways
I’d say don’t come for me on a day like today
I’d say don’t come for me

I’d say my devil man hands
never paid
as many of them don’t
too many wrists, unroped
so many women coping daily
in millions of different little ways
I myself
I toxify
detoxify
toxify
detoxify
on and on

Photo credit: Crystal Danielle Gasser
Photo credit: Crystal Danielle Gasser

Inside my mind I am
ringing my hands I am
pulling my hair I am
opening my mouth
to scream
my eyes are bulging
out my pretty little head
I am coming apart at
the seams
and though I can’t
seem to get a grip
I am still.

And all I am actually doing
is leaning on the stove top
and staring at a boiling pot with
hot salted water and chicken
One would assume
I am daydreaming
thinking of nothing
deaf n’ dumb

But I am a poet                    black-and-white-photography-005
and I am still scared
in millions of different little ways
I am still scared in the way that
too many grains of weightless sand
could crush my every last bone
like the way a toddler could drown
in a half bucket of water
I am still scared in the way that
teenager held her breath and her
friend pushed on her chest and she
died but it was all suppose to be a joke

an experiment

My anger has turned to sadness
My rage into despair
Somethings,
most of the time
are too difficult
to bear

Memoir, Poetry, Writing

Good Little Woman


One Red Elephant by Helen Lewis

This is a piece of photography art created by Helen Lewis of Suffolk, UK. Inspired by this photograph, I wrote the following story Good Little Woman (below).

For more information about the SPARK Project check out getsparked.org where you can also look at plenty of other art duos. Get involved!

 

Good Little Woman by Terah Van Dusen

The armpit of Humboldt County. That’s what I’d call that place. And I mean that in the best of ways. See armpits aren’t popular. And I don’t like popular. Plus armpits are warm, one way or another. Warm when they’re not wet. Just like Orick, California.

Orick wasn’t a one stoplight town. This was a no stoplight town, bordered on one side by lagoon and on the other side by a tall forest of redwood and fir. The small town was, oh a forty minute drive from Arcata to the south and Crescent City to the north with a whole lot of wonderful nothingness in between.

I lived in Orick for one summer and half a school year but the memories linger, and viscerally. I shared a room with my younger brother Jesse in a small yellow house my mom and step dad rented behind a burl shop. My mother was making jewelry at the time—beaded rainbow-colored earrings that hung long. Earrings for gypsy’s.

In the summer, my mother sunbathed outside with a neighbor lady. The neighbor lady had a big, scary dog she kept behind a short, brown fence. She had two daughters my age whom I played with regularly. We played Saved By The Bell and they wouldn’t let me be Kelly Kapowski even though they were both blond and I had long brown hair just like Kelly Kapowski. But it guess it was fair after all because one of the blond girls would’ve have to be Lisa Turtle and she was black. So I was Lisa Turtle, the peacekeeper.

At school, I learned all about saying Bloody Mary into the mirror three times. Which was scary even if “nothing happened” because the bathrooms were always dark and gloomy because that’s how Orick was because that’s how Humboldt County was—shrouded in fog and with a mean tree cover to boot.

It’s not as if nothing ever happened in Orick. But mainly, nothing ever happened in Orick.

However one time, the circus came to town.

~~~

I had the best teachers in the world and though I don’t recall their names, I’ll tell you about ‘em: That’s right, there were two. Not one teacher and one assistant: two teachers. They were husband and wife and they held equal power. When they weren’t teaching they were archeologists. I suddenly wanted to be an archeologist too.

I didn’t even care that they usually had me on “orange” status (i.e. yellow=good, orange=almost pink, pink=bad). That was the coding we had on a big board in the back of the classroom—it’s how they kept track of us kids. Three pink slips meant a trip to the principal’s office. I didn’t have a chance to make it that far, I moved back to Rock Creek after the insides of my ears healed but that’s another story.

My two teachers taught us kids about dinosaurs and whales and they fed us mussel’s they’d collected themselves at the nearby shore. They taught us paper mache, let us paint using real paint brushes (not just the foam on stick bullshit) and always informed us of local current events.

Like the circus.

~~~

We were sitting in class when the wife-teacher showed us a big colorful flyer for the circus, said it was happening on Saturday and not just in Orick but at Orick Elementary School. Why not at the high school you ask? Because there was no high school.

To my surprise, a brown-haired boy who sat behind me nudged me and handed me a small square of notebook paper. I took it in my hand and looked at him but he nodded toward a bright blond boy who sat behind him. The blond boy shyly waved at me. I turned bright red, shoved the note in my coat pocket and turned my attention back to the wife-teacher because I was already on orange slip for the day and I didn’t want to get a pink slip (story of my life).

Side note: you know why I was always on orange slip? Because there were two teachers not just one.

~~~

Back at home I isolated myself in mine and Jesse’s bedroom. Jesse was outside playing. I sat on a bed near the window and it would be the first of many times I would fantasize about a boy while in bed. This first fantasy was tame, mind you.

I looked at the folded square of notebook paper and feared the worst: it would say how ugly and stupid I am.

I eyed the note. I could tell by its corners that it had been folded once and never opened. I looked at the bedroom door, wishing I could seal it shut with only my mind, and just for the moment. It would be so embarrassing if my mother caught me with a love note (at least that’s what I hoped it was). I slowly peeled the note open. It read:

Hi,

I like you. Let’s go to the circus together on Saturday.
We can eat popcorn. It will be fun.

Saturday: I’d managed to get my mother to take my brother and I to the circus without telling her I didn’t really want to go to see the elephants, just a boy. We walked to the school-circus from our house—my twenty seven year old mother in her signature frayed, worn jeans with holes and a long-sleeve plaid man’s shirt. Her girlish fingernails and cigarettes fresh from the pack. Me with long hair and a long dress with flowers and pockets and lace. The only dress I wore that previous summer. A hippie dress.

We got to the circus before dark. We waited five minutes (which was a long time in our town) in line to ride the elephant. I rode the elephant as the sun went down behind the hills to the south. Where the redwoods are. I sat strait up on that elephant and my girl hips moved with it as it stepped. Up on that elephant I didn’t give a care about the blond boy who was suppose to meet me. I didn’t care about the blond girls next door who were lucky to have sisters not just brothers. I didn’t care about my ear problems or my mom and dad problems. I didn’t care that I would grow out of my favorite dress.

Sadly the elephant ride lasted only a moment. Two minutes at the most. Much like a really, really good song or that time I danced on stage in NYC or all the times I’ve dove under water in a clear, clean river, swam to the bottom and opened my eyes and no…one…could…touch…me and I didn’t even have to hear myself, let alone anyone else.

Some moments let us be untouchable.

~~~

Later, in the audience, I’m just like everyone else. I’m sitting on cold and flat and watching the untouchable trapeze artists and the little boy who can blow fire. I’m waiting for the next big thing.I patiently watch the circus show with my nine year old hands clasped in my lap—ever so often scanning the crowd for my blond date. All of town was there, and down from the hills too cause the place was packed.

Then I saw him. His patch of blond hair lit up under the dark canopy of circus tent. The boy was dressed in a black tuxedo, white collared shirt, black bow tie, shiny black shoes. My first thought was that I didn’t think I could find the courage to approach him, let alone allow him to buy me popcorn. My second thought was: who’s that?

Next to the blond boy who’d specifically asked me to be his date to the circus was a pretty little girl in a light blue dress. They were standing together near the popcorn. The fury rose inside me like a ring of fire. Why would he invite two girls? I reread his note in my head: Let’s go the circus together. We can eat popcorn. It will be fun.

It will be fun? This wasn’t fun!

Like a good little woman, I kept my head low until the circus show was over then I led my mother and brother Jesse home on the darkest possible route as to not be seen by the blond boy leaving in his limo–as clearly he was loaded. I didn’t talk to the boy at school on Monday, I never mentioned the note, and he never apologized either.

If I didn’t already know she was his date, I would’ve thought the little blond girl was the little blond boys sister.

Poetry, Writing

Arms Wide Open by Helen Lewis

Arms Wide Open by Helen Lewis

This is a piece of photography art created by Helen Lewis of Suffolk, UK inspired by my poem A Fortune Teller Once Told Me (True Story).

For more information about the SPARK Project check out getsparked.org where you can also look at plenty of other art duos. Get involved!

 


A Fortune Teller Once Told Me (True Story) by Terah Van Dusen

Several years ago
I had a psychic reading
Not at one of those hole-in-the-wall places
with the flashing lights
and crystal balls

It was done in my living room

My former roommate, Sydney, had her future read frequently
Sydney had the same lady come over to our house
oh, every couple months or so
Always when nobody was home
I don’t remember how it was arranged
but the next thing you knew,
I too was signed up for a reading
Sydney promised not to tell the “medium” a thing about me
That way we could insure accuracy

The medium didn’t wear a long, flouncy dress
Or bring a satchel full of rocks and crystals,
She showed up in her Subaru car,
dressed in a North Face pullover and jeans
Said to me, this isn’t my day job

We sat facing each other in the quiet house
Nobody there except for us,
That was one of her rules
That nobody else be there

She took a few minutes to gauge me,
Had her eyes closed, seemed to be sniffing around at the air
Like she were some kind of animal.
I closed my eyes too, I was tired

Maybe its custom to start out by saying a
few nice things about the person.
Because that’s what she did at first,
mentioned a few of my qualities,
built me up a little bit.
She said she noticed that I was a writer.

She told me:
Keep writing, someday there will be people helping you.
As you can imagine, I was pleased
This lady was good

She went on to say that there was a person from
my past, a person who wished to speak to me.
From a past life, from a past life, she clarified.
The medium then, with her eyes still closed,
began speaking in a stranger, lower voice
I realized that the spirit was speaking through her:
It’s you! It’s you! I cannot believe I can finally speak to yyyooou!
The emotion that came with this voice brought tears to my eyes
Ooooohhhhh, youuuuuuuu!
Oh, oh, you are sssso lovely in this life!

The voice was truly eerie,
but my, what a compliment! Lovely?

The medium broke the contact with the spirit
She looked at me and said:
Whoever that was they sure are fond of you.
But, know that not every spirit is good.
Spirits, like humans, are both bad and good.

Let’s move on, she said

I have some advice for you, based on what I’m seeing:
First, know that a good way to gauge your happiness, is that
you are happiest when you are light on your feet.

I would imagine…

Second, you should eat less spicy food. More fresh food.

No and okay.

You are very serious, watch more funny movies and TV shows.

Now, I have given you some advice about how to better your life,
I’d like to mention just a few other things before we close
:

You are wondering if you will have
everlasting love: you are not the type.
You will not be with the same man for all of your life.

I’ll show you!

You are wondering if you will be happy when you move from Arizona.
You will be happy, you will be more
whole than you have ever been.

In the distant future I see you standing up on a hill,
inside of a prairie or meadow.
Your arms are wide open.
You are rejoicing because
you have finally reached the place
where you’ve been headed all your life.

I will keep my eyes wide-open for that place…

That was the last psychic reading I’ve had
The only psychic reading I’ve had
The woman told me all I needed to know,
and then some.
Knowing your future is not fun.
Whether its true or not.
I mean, there’s the good:
I should keep writing!
People will be helping me!
I’m going to stretch my arms out wide like a crazy
person while standing in a high-elevation prairie!
And then there’s the bad:
I should give up Thai food,
No relationship I will have will last.

Enough is enough,
I know enough now.
I will seek that meadow where
I will be whole and free
and I will try my darndest to have a long,
happy marriage someday.
Regardless of my “destiny”

I paid the psychic $25 bucks that day.
She told me a whole lot more
But its been so long that I forgot it.
I hadn’t written it down because
at the time I was sure I’d remember it all.

Writing

SPARK Project: One Red Elephant by Helen Lewis

One Red Elephant

I am involved in something called The SPARK Project. It’s awesome.

The general idea is this: I’m assigned a partner. My partner sends me a photograph and I write a story about it. Conversely, I send my partner a story and they take a photograph inspired by it.

Other types of artists involved in the SPARK project are musicians and painters.
Here’s a description of SPARK (I copied it straight from Facebook):

SPARK is a call-and-response creativity project in which artists, writers, and musicians from around the world use each others work as inspiration.

Wish me luck–I have 10 days to write my response piece to One Red Elephant by Helen Lewis of Suffolk, England (bonus: Helen’s a writer too, and a veteran of SPARK).