Where I Come From

1.
mother of northern lights
magic beacons that dance across
the sky. me, four years old,
eight years old, nine ten eleven,
fourteen and bleary and in
the middle of some intense
dream-panic about my grown
future how will I ever
what would it mean
I don’t understand how
sheets pulled back, boots
thrust into my hands
before I can even
understand that I am now
awake, she says look
up. look at the sky

2.
mother of tidepools
she was the one who taught me
to overturn the flattest, widest
rocks to see what was underneath.
always a world, a tube worm
that makes a home grain by
grain of sand, a limpet
like a little hat, a barnacle,
a blenny. there are as many names
for sand hoppers as there are
hoppers themselves. starfish
like the deeper waters—sun stars,
count the legs, brittle stars,
delicate as their name. and
katy chitons, elusive like
the popular girl who never comes
to my birthday party, but
every once in a while if you
look hard enough, she’s looking
back.

3.
mother of temperate rainforest
mother of goat’s beard
mother of sitka spruce
mother of western hemlock
mother of nurse logs, nurturing seedlings
mother of douglas fir
mother of where christmas trees come from
mother of sensible rain boots and mud
mother of old growth
mother of conifers
mother of a canopy
mother of black bears
mother of glacial erratics
mother of muskeg
mother of karst
mother of the roadless expanse
mother of the tongass

4.
mother of fields of wildflowers
chocolate lily and fireweed
wild iris and lupine
dogwood and buttercup
bleeding heart and tiger lily
fiddlehead and wild chive
columbine and beach pea
cow parsnip and cotton grass
dandelion and forget me not
foxglove and parnassus
queen ann’s lace
fern leaf gold thread
shooting star
yarrow

5.
mother of hiding
attention brought too many
coat hangers. too much rage-filled skin
downslope river was barely comfort
when attention stretched icy hands
to find where you had tucked yourself.

it was better to be invisible

6.
mother of owl pellets
baked for hours in the oven
until they are so dry they fall
open to reveal bones of shrews
who once ran away from their
mothers in the middle of
the night with only the full
moon guide through the forest

7.
mother of music
of harmonies and guitar
every morning, NPR
from the alarm still playing
for the snake or the dishes
when she leaves the house
hands too small for guitar,
so she picked up the mandolin
in another version where she
was not so terrified of the energy
that comes from attention
she would have been a back-up singer,
on tour with the big boys,
caretaking and harmonizing
until coming back home
listening to pacific ocean
waves for hours, lapping
away at mountains

8.
mother of the first day of school
lunches and lunches
and lunches and lunches
long past when I was left
to fend for myself for
all the other meals. always
meeting my teachers, always
saying, I don’t care about
the grades, as long as you’re
doing your best. “best”
is often way more than
what I wanted to do, but
was always what I wished
I was doing.

9.
mother of bats
two. stored in her freezer
and they tour annually
to the classrooms of the
elementary schools, look
this is a bat’s wing, this
is how big its skull is.
don’t dig too deep in there
for the orange juice, she warns.
you don’t want to unwrap something
by accident. a creature too
hard to bury when the ground is
frozen, waiting for the spring
for a proper grave. but the bats
are special, because if
reincarnation is real (and
she thinks it is just as
possible as it is not possible),
she wants to come back as a
fruit bat, the only
vegetarian mammal who flies.

10.
mother of snakes
on the new york city subway,
she pinches her fingertip
like she has a hangnail,
but it’s a snake tooth,
embedded. edwina the snake
bit me, she says, and
pulls back the sticky
plastic case of her ipod,
carefully places the tooth,
and pulls the cover back
over it.

11.
mother of the flume
long and flat and as babies,
one of us was always losing
something over the side.
ravines and mudslides
when the winter runoff
started to thaw. only
two boards wide
when I was a kid, when
gym class assigned a
round-trip run, too bad
if you don’t make it back
before the lunch bell,
you’ll just be late.
twenty years ago they
added two more, and
railings. she still
goes up there every day,
with her camera and
her baseball hat,
running up the mountain.

12.
mother of pebbles
we could sit for hours
listening to the waves
coming in, the occasional
boat or car speeding by,
not even shifting from
that one spot, and still
our hands never ran out
of rocks to sift through.
smoothest baby mountains,
worried away by the sea.
everything crumbles.
she likes the egg-shapes,
I like the flat ones
that fit in my palm
my pocket, the perfect place
for my thumb when I need some
ground. she says it’s because
there is no earth in my
astrological chart. I think
I like to have something
to do with my hands. she’s
always wanted the perfect
quartz all-white egg shape,
just less than palm size,
with one black stripe.
she’s still looking.

IMG_1393

Open Relationship Mini Interview with Sassafras Lowrey: “I live the queer life I’ve always dreamed of”

Sinclair’s note: This concludes the open relationship mini interview series! I’m debating if I should do more of these mini-interviews, and I might. I’m thinking one about breakups or transitioning relationships, one about healing, one about long term relationships, one about D/s and protocol … Alright so I’ve got plenty of ideas.

Sassafras Lowrey, pomofreakshow.com

Note: I personally use the term “poly” to talk about my relationship(s) not “open.” Additionally possibly useful information – I’ve been in a primary partnership with my partner for coming up on 9 years. Our relationship has always been poly. I came out into a community where poly relationships were very much the norm. Every “serious” relationship I’ve ever been in has involved 24/7 D/s, and my partner and I were already very poly experienced when we got together.

1. What insight about open relationships would you share with your younger self?

I think the biggest piece of advice I could ever give my younger self would be to spend less time worrying about what other people think, or trying to create what I thought I should want, as apposed to what actually felt good to me. What I mean here is I have at times felt pressure to enact being poly in certain ways (dating, sex etc.) because of queer cultural pressures that normalized or privileged certain kinds of interactions or relationship dynamics when the reality is I’ve never been happier or felt more fulfilled than I have in my D/s leather focused relationships which is at this time as a general rule non-sexual.

2. What has been the hardest thing about navigating your open relationships, and how have you overcome that?

I suppose I’ve already talked about this a little bit above. I think the biggest challenge for me has actually had very little to do with my relationship(s) and everything to do with the queer culture relationship norms that I found privileged sex, and specific dating focused types of romantic connection. I consider myself Leather oriented as apposed to sexually oriented. My primary partner/Daddy and I have been together for nearly 9 years. Ze has a wonderful girlfriend (a “good egg” I call her) and they have been together for upcoming 2 years. Previously ze has dated other people, and I have been involved with others as well. My partner and I live in a 24/7 Daddy/boy D/s dynamic and are (at this point and for quite some time) happily non-sexual with one another – a fact which shocks/horrifies/confuses many queer folk.

On top of that, I have a complicated relationship to sex/dating/relationships. As a general rule I am fairly uninterested in that type of connection to other people though I have dated and/or hooked up with folks in the past. Generally I find it particularly rewarding to date the books that I am writing, and very intimate though entirely non-sexual relationships with my leather/queer family.

3. What has been the best thing about your open relationships?

One of the best things about being poly and having non-normative relationship structures has been the ability to live the kind of queer life I’ve always dreamed of. We create the rules for our life, building the kind of relationship(s) that are fulfilling and engaging for us, knowing that for each person that will take a different form. My partner and I are better together as a couple/family because of the connection we have to others in our lives – for my partner that looks like romantic “grown-up” relationships, and for me that primarily looks like the way I engage with my queer/leather family. Because we are poly and don’t expect the other to meet all of our needs be they emotional/intellectual/creative/sexual/etc. We are able to hone and focus our relationship on what is best about who we are to each other. In our case, that means that we create a beautiful home together sharing the ups and downs of daily life, we support one another creatively, and at the core of our relationship is the playful, whimsical magic of our Daddy/boy dynamic.

Open Relationship Mini Interview with Katie: Fluidity in Long Term Relationships

1. What insight about open relationships do you wish you had when you started?

That no matter how progressive your family might be, they might have a very difficult time accepting plural relationships. In my adulthood, I’ve only had one protracted fight or falling-out with my mother, and it was over my concurrent relationships with two men. Her inability to understand came out as disgust and it hurt me tremendously for quite some time. Also, that you yourself must want that type of love in your life – don’t ever get into it because of someone else’s ultimatum.

2. What has been the hardest thing about opening your relationship, and how have you overcome that?

Initially, when I began, it was pretty much a neverending onslaught upon my sense of security and self worth. Living in a world that upholds monogamy as the ultimate form of love really shapes the way you view loving and being loved — when someone doesn’t approach you and your relationship in the de facto ways, it can be very disorienting and scary. I struggled a great deal with jealousy, but much of that had to do with my (at the time) primary partner’s adherence to the old adage “it’s easier to beg forgiveness than it is to ask permission”. I felt like a lot of stuff happened without consulting me first, and that my concerns about partner selection were not being heard. In the end, I suppose I overcame that by not remaining with that partner. He was a lovely person who was not a good partnership fit for me — acquiring the knowledge that you can love and respect someone a great deal but not “fit” with them was a real eye-opener.

3. What has been the best thing about your open relationship?

It forced a great deal of introspection in my early/mid 20s. I learned myself, my emotional patterns and my weaknesses very, very well. Through a great deal of reading (I’m particularly partial to Tristan Taormino’s “Opening Up”), I learned a tremendous amount about non-violent communication. How to know what I wanted or needed and how to ask for it without resorting to passive aggression (or straight-up aggression) has been a boon to literally every other aspect of my life, too.

4. Anything else you’d like to add?

I’m no longer actively nonmonogamous. In short order, I’m marrying the person who was, for several years, my secondary partner. Meeting each other on the terms of an atypical relationship structure forced us to communicate on a different level than if we had met each other as single people. There was a lot of deep discussion that might not otherwise have happened at such early stages. The raw honesty that was required forged an incredibly solid bond between the two of us. We’re certainly keeping ourselves open in theory if not in active practice, as we feel it stops us from lapsing into bored complacency. There’s a bit of a safety valve built in there, too. If we become infatuated with someone else, knowing we can talk to each other about it and possibly negotiate for a very happy conclusion really takes some of the pressure off of a long-term commitment to each other. It’s very unlikely either of us would run off with a sexy coworker or what have you, if we acknowledge the truth fluidity of desire within a long-term relationship.

Hello From Vacation

Greetings from my hometown in Alaska!

Kristen and I have been here since the 2nd and are leaving tomorrow for some adventures in Seattle for a few more days before we head back east. It’s been a busy trip, my dad turned 60 and we’ve had quite a few memorable nights and wonderful meals with him. 

I have been having a fantastic time. I’ve been on Twitter a bit, sometimes sharing some photos from the trip, so you can follow me there while I’m away. I have a few more things to share with you, but meanwhile, here are a few shots of my hometown. 

My Father’s Son

The GoatWhen I saw him in September we camped in his family’s cabin. My grandfather built it with his own two hands and gave it to his children; now his own two legs, the prosthetics he got after both were amputated below the knee from diabetes, are the legs of the cabin’s kitchen table.

My two younger sisters and I slept in the cabin’s only room on pillows and dusty weathered couches as Dad woke and stoked the fire. Mornings at the lake are chilly, even at the peak of heat in August when the summer has been baking the water to its depths and swimming is the best. I watched him add kindling and logs and sometimes dozed off. He spread another blanket over me. When I woke I saw a forlorn gaze in his eyes I’ve never seen. What was he thinking? Was he wondering how his oldest daughter evolved into this boy? This big-city dapper masculinity that is too faggy to fit in with him and his brothers and all my older boy cousins as they discuss elaborately the latest football game, the way they fixed their trailers and trucks, what they caught when out fishing, how to clean the geoduck, how to make a perfect sausage-and-egg breakfast for ten, how to put on a wedding, how to give away the bride.

Dad, are you wondering how I got here? How I went from that tree-climbing skinned-knee ragamuffin girl to this prettyboy? From that girl who worked through her teens in your sports card shop, flirting with the boys as my girlfriends came in to seek sanctuary from the juvenile delinquent park hangout across the street when their feelings were hurt, when someone dumped them (again), when they got caught smoking, when they were being sent tomorrow to rehab or summer camp or anorexia camp or gay camp or bible camp.

I never was your tomboy daughter, never got in fights with the boys in the neighborhood, never stood up to the bullies of my younger sisters. I was the artistic one, moody, on my own. Studying my peers as we metamorphosed into our adult bodies.

We used to go on drives sometimes. After dinner restless, this was when neither of us wanted to be home, neither could stomach my mother’s depression. We’d go on drives and this was when you first told me, “I want to open up a store, right there maybe,” pointing at the empty corner lot that used to be a restaurant bar, at the mall on the wharf. “But my dream space,” he whispered, leaning in, “is right by Foodland.”

That was back when we shared our dreams with each other.

It was on one of those drives, too, where he saw a little silver Saab for sale and said, “that’s the kind of car I want to buy you.” I was fourteen and wouldn’t have a license for nearly ten more years. I couldn’t see myself as a driver, just as I couldn’t see myself as a grown woman, a wife, a mother, a panic that plagued my teens.

Recently on a road trip I saw a blue 1970s GTO and remembered some photos from my mom’s college album. “Hard top, 1964,” my dad emailed back. “Midnight blue, the original muscle car. I got it up to 100 easy on the road out to the cabin. I called the car my “Goat.””

Once, I told a lover that I was considering taking T. She had a string of baby trannys, she knew how to break us in over her knee. “You won’t turn into Cary Grant,” she warned me, and stopped at a photo of my father in the hallway. “You’ll turn into him. Look. Is that what you’re thinking you’ll be?”

I didn’t grow up in my father’s footsteps, but suddenly I’ve found myself standing in his shoes.

And now, fifteen years later, he moved his store right next to Foodland, the only grocery store downtown. A prime spot for retail. He has all but retired from the environmental engineering business upon which our family was built and now sorts sports cards, comics, coins from his father’s collection, from when the store opens at noon – so he can sleep in – to six pm, every day except Monday. “I’ve worked enough Mondays for a lifetime,” I’ve heard him say.

Now, fifteen years later, I don’t drive much; I take the subway and taxis but I still miss the stick shift in my hand and the dance of the pedals, just like you taught me. Now fifteen years later I can imagine myself as my father’s grown daughter, this “man” I’ve become, your son.

Three daughters and your wife, our mother, all in one house for nearly half of your life. Did you ever wish you had a son, Dad?

I wonder what he’s thinking, as this fire, his fire, warms our morning. He smiles at me with a look I’ve never seen.

“I sleep just like that,” he says. “With my arm over my eyes. You look just like me.”

8against8: Clare and Jack

Clare & Jack, September 2008.

Says Clare: “I am wearing a vintage dress and hat from the 30’s (note the vintage strappy heels as well ;), my daughter is wearing a vintage dress from the 50’s and Jack in wearing a super-fly new suit (yum!) . We have some domestic partner benefits here, and we creep closer and closer to legalization every year In Washington state, but we are not legal yet. Hopefully it will move up the coast from California.”

upon returning, a small complaint

I was out of town last week, and now have returned from the other coast, the coast where the sun sets correctly into the water rather than over land, where I was in the Pacific Northwest primarily visiting my very large extended family for five days. I have all sorts of ideas about family and heritage and where I come from, about having kids and having a traditional structure, about how much my sisters and I are the freaks of the family.

Also strange to be referred to as niece, daughter, sister, granddaughter. Those words have never felt so ill-fitting. At some point I went to the bathroom and the door was labeled LADIES and I nearly stopped right there and turned around.

I am not a “lady,” not really. It’s not that I’m necessarily offended by it – I feel lucky to be part of groups of ladies at times, I love that I’m in women’s circles and women’s groups and women’s friendships, but even that word – woman – I’ve never quite felt right about it. I never refer to myself as such.

It’s not that I’m offended by it, it just doesn’t fit. Like too-big clothes or trying to put a hippie in black goth lipstick.

I have a friend who tells childhood stories that always start, “When I was a little girl …” and it struck me when I noticed it that I never refer to myself that way. I’ll say “kid,” as in “when I was a kid.” These days, I say “guy” – “I’m that kind of guy” – when referring to myself. Sometimes I use dyke or queer or butch I suppose, but I don’t ever use woman, lady, girl, or even sister, daughter, niece.

Still, it’s not that I’m transitioning – I’m not – and it’s not that I don’t identify with the lesbian/feminist communities – I do. Maybe I’m too much the poet, too much the semantics theorist, but some of these words just don’t fit.

I suppose this is just one of those frustrating gender binary things, and yet another of the reasons why butch is a trans identity of sorts. And yet another reason why I am still, continuously, inspired to keep doing this work, to understanding gender and creating new language to adequately describe myself and others, to contributing to the community and lifting each other up.

So there was a wedding in the Pacific Northwest, which is what prompted the large paternal family reunion. There are few events that are more gendered than a wedding. I thought it was going to be a small family wedding, as a few of the others had been, but the 20-something family members were actually in the minority and the community of friends and colleagues were abundant. At the church, I got sneered at by the small-town strangers. I was a bit flamboyantly dressed – pink button down, black argyle vest, no tie (I didn’t think it was going to be so formal!). But certainly I was not the only one dressed up, it was a freakin’ wedding!

Just served to remind me that I’m an outsider. I forget that, in New York City, where I don’t generally get noticed walking down the street unless I have a particularly good hair day. I fit in, I don’t stand out really.

The throwing the bouquet / throwing the garter felt like very strong gender-defining moments in the evening. No way in hell I was going to go out there and catch the bouquet – and actually I’m not sure I have ever been to a wedding where one was thrown, now that I think about it. But I did get out there when it was time to throw the garter. I couldn’t stay, though – I was too much on display in a room-full of too many people who had been giving me too many bad looks throughout the day.

I was little more than The Dyke From New York City all weekend.

I’m lucky, I suppose, is what I should take away from that experience – if I lived there, I would not dress as I do, would not have the fun I do with my hair and pink button-downs and vests and ties and belt buckles and cufflinks and jackets. I’m glad I have that opportunity, that I live in a place that not only accepts it, but encourages and, at times, demands it.

I didn’t expect it to be the reason, but really, I came to New York City so I could learn how to dress. Nothing has taught me fashion or style like this place.

Sometimes it is so uncomfortable to not conform to gender roles.

PS: I’m tremendously behind on email and correspondance, forgive me as I catch up.

declining politely

I saw a girl on the subway this morning so beautiful that I have considered writing a Missed Connections ad on Craigslist:

Red bag, paper cup of coffee, black tank-top, silver necklace, boots with two rows of big buttons marching up the front. Tossing your slightly feathered hair, talking to your friend, then when she got off, you pulled out your compact and began applying face powder, lipgloss. It was such an intimate act, and something about it felt so familiar, like I could see you at your mirror in the morning, getting ready for the day, me pulling my tie through the knot, slipping on my jacket, sipping coffee, pretending to read the paper, legs crossed, at the kitchen table, when really I’m watching you in the reflection of the mirror in the hallway while you’re in the bathroom. And, though perhaps I don’t want to admit it, I felt a little crackle in my chest when I watched you.

Probably it was just my being half-asleep on my commute that gave more meaning to this girl than I would otherwise attach. But this is not the first time this has happened to me lately – I see sudden, recognizable familiarity in a femme and think, maybe that’s her.

I’ve been sleeping awfully this week. Every night, I’m having restless dreams, vivid and sometimes lucid, often full of imagery and messages.

Tuesday night, I dreamt I was stuck in my family’s crypt, a small mosoleum of some sort, which was above ground, walls covered in stained-glass colored mosaic windows. I couldn’t leave this crypt, though there seemed to be some sorts of tours going on, with people in small groups of twos and threes coming in and out. Some of my family was there, my maternal grandmother and her mother, I specifically remember – and things somehow began to turn horrific, and the crypt tourists were zombies, or dripping blood, or other horrible things. I had some sort of perch in a corner, somehow removed, they couldn’t see me, but I was terrified.

I woke myself up at this point, and lulled myself back to sleep only to re-enter right into the same dream, the same crypt. This time, my mother was there, talking to me through the gated door, saying that it was my responsibility, my job, to stay there, that I inhereted this, that it was passed down through generations and all culminated in me.

I awoke feeling that I had remembered something, rather than dreamed something.

Two personal asides: in my astrological chart, I have many planets – Venus, Mars, and Mercury – in the 12th house, and also in the sign of Pisces, which is the 12th house’s natural ruler. The 12th house is often spoken of as the unconscious, and also baggage. In fact, it’s specifically related to family in many ways:

The 12th house may also likely have connections with “family life issues” or “gifts” that our parents (and perhaps our parents’ parents) were given… but they refused or were emotionally unable to give expression to and/or resolve these “family life issues” during their own lifetime. And now it’s been left up to the child (you) to experience and resolve these energies for the parents. (source)

Second aside: I am the fourth generation of first-born daughters. My mother, her mother, and her mother were all the eldest child in their families, and there’s actually a word for that (which I can’t remember or find) and some sort of significance of, again, inheritance.

I spoke with a friend the other day about this, and she said, “The thing is, you don’t have to “inherit” it. You can politely decline the ancestral karmic stuff. It’s not your baggage. You can honor it and honor your ancestors, but it doesn’t have to define your life now. You don’t have to live in a tomb of their making.”

Politely decline.

Decline politely.

Right. If only I could remember that lesson – and, clearly, it is a big one for me. I don’t have to take on everything from everyone, I don’t have to save the world.

I do, however, have to save myself.