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December 2015



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Dec. 28th, 2015

Collie muse


I'm reading my email & letting my brain wander idly in a train-of-consciousness writing… and it occurs to me that the question one of my correspondents asks is a good one:

Why do I want to be good?

That is, actually, easy to answer for me: I want to be good because being good makes me feel good. Plus I get the added bennie of helping to make the world a little bit better every time I'm good — and that makes me feel good too. Pleasure feedback loop for the win. ;)

I know there've been studies that show this, curiously enough: given the option of doing something nice for ourselves or doing something nice for others, those who chose to do something nice for others had a slower endorphin rush — but it lasted much longer. Up to three months later, when the researchers asked the study participants what they chose to do, those who did something nice just for themselves had difficulty remembering what it was, and were somewhat indifferent to it in retrospect. Those who did something good for others, however, remembered it quickly and easily, and had a repeat of the endorphin glow they'd initially felt! That sounds like a win to me, as well as good proof that we really are a social species — we're even chemically hardwired to feel better when we help each other!

I'm sitting on the Bridge (what we call our computer room) and admiring the sky outside as I type. There's a big old pine right outside the second-story window, its branches wet and black from the rain, and its needles a mix of bright green and the tan-brown of fallen dead needles. The sky behind it is cloudy slate gray from the rainclouds, but every once in a while the sun peeks through and gilds the old pine, brightening its colors and warming the view. It's a lovely mix of visual/emotional reaction, because while the grays are duller visually, they mean rain — which we desperately need here in drought-stricken California… and I love the sound of falling rain pattering lightly on the skylights as I sit warm and safe and dry in our new (as of about a year now, wow!) house. But the sun's return is a joy as well — we're past the Solstice by a few days now, and each day there's about three and a half more minutes of sunlight as this great, wonderful, ancient Gaia continues on her whirling dance through space. I am so very lucky to live here and now.

Dignified kitty is dignified

Dignified kitty is dignified! Yeah, tough to be too serious with this relaxed silly girl on my lap as I type! :)

I try to remember that in life: they grays may seem dull, but they're the preface to renewed beauty and life. Scholastically, I've officially advanced to Candidacy now — I have the school's permission to do my dissertation — and I suspect there will be several "grays" in my dissertation process, as well as both disappointments and delights in the interviewing. I'm working to keep the cyclical nature of life in mind as I start on this round of my journey. I have to remember both to keep a thoughtful, constant eye on myself as well as to give caring and compassion to those who don't want to be self-reflective.

I'll freely admit that confuses me, actually. How can you not be intrigued by your very Self? What mystery is greater? Yet I know several people who've told me, either indirectly or flat-out, that they don't want to "know" themselves. The reasons range from an impatient, "I'm too busy for that stuff!" (which sounds like a somewhat fearful excuse to me — I've made that one myself, after all) through to what I suspect is a far more honest, "I’m afraid of what I'll find." What perplexes me — and what my friend couldn't answer — is that if there's something they don't like within themselves… how can they change it until they know that? I've made quite a few changes in my life due to small and/or unpleasant self-realizations, after all. I find being alone with myself far more comfortable as a result, in fact. Admittedly, complacency is one of the stumbling blocks I have to keep watch for, but I do try. It's one of the (more non-conscious) reasons I chose to drive across the country, in fact, a few years ago: I wanted to know if I actually liked myself enough to spend an extended period of time alone with me. I was actually rather pleased to discover it was a pleasure to do so.

Another thing I need to remember is kindness, both to others and to myself. I've seen the results of projecting self-disgust or self-hate onto others. It's not pretty — or healthy. So I try to recall that imperfections I see in others — unwitting/embarrassing errors in dress, say, or uncontrollable bodily reactions — are just part of being human… and I’m human too. It's easier to deliberately forgive that in myself, I've found — rather than simply ignoring it or blaming it on the dog or someone else or whatever — when I'm willing to forgive it in others as well. That also means that just because I take fascinated joy in the never-ending voyage of self-discovery doesn't mean all my friends will as well — and it also means pushing them to do so when they're not ready is not the answer! If anything, it retards their slow-growing willingness to even entertain the idea. They'll get there in their own good time… not in mine.

I may believe that the world is best healed by those who've taken the time to first work on healing themselves… but I'm not the arbiter of righteousness that decides who gets to play and who doesn't. If we all waited until we were all healed to work on healing the world, it's a good bet there'd be little world left for healing, after all. So I try to do my bit, both for the world and for myself, and to help those I can, and to be kind to both myself and those around me. That's part of why I came up with the thought I'm going to try to implement in this New Year:

My body is a temple worthy of respect.

To me, that says I am holy and worthy of respect… and therefore I should treat myself accordingly. I will be (continuing to) exercising more in the new year, both mentally and physically, and attempting to share the fruits of that labor with others as well. If I can bring more joy into my life, why not share it with others? Joy shared is, to my way of thinking, magnified — and I really like bringing joy to others as well as sharing in theirs.

The pine tree outside is grayish again. No worries… the sky behind it is slowly starting to turn blue as the clouds begin to break up. There will be more rain, and the sun will be out again… and there will be more gilding and growth and beauty.

A very wonderful, prosperous, and fortunate new year to you all… with much shared joy and compassion.

Originally published at Collie's Bestiary. You can comment here or there.

Dec. 24th, 2015

Collie muse

Holiday joy and greetings to all! :)

It's three days after Solstice and Christmas Eve and well after Hannukah… and I have a ton of things to be thankful for. First and foremost for me: I have officially advanced to candidacy!

Halleluia! :)

Halleluia! :)

In case I didn't make it clear just how unutterably happy & relieved that makes me:

…yeah, THAT excited. :)

So, also inexpressibly delighted that we have a tree! :)  If I can figure out what google's done with my phone photos I'll add in the picture here later.

Finally, in the spirit of Solstices past, I'm including a few URLs that I much enjoyed, to share with friends. First something nifty about the origins of the season: Doe, A Deer — A Female Deer: The Spirit of Mother Christmas which I knew already due to my studies, but apparently many of my friends don't! Let's rectify this…

-and then let's have something silly and fun! As a very aspiring — as opposed to wildly successful — cook myself, this made me laugh so hard I cried! We'd Rather Eat Coal: A disturbing evening spent preparing vintage Christmas recipes.

Enjoy, and a very merry and blessed holidays to you all! :)

Later edit: Oooh, figured it out! Here's Goldie at the tree, & the tree from a different angle:

yay, treee!

yay, treee!

Goldie & c-mas tree! :)

Goldie & c-mas tree! :)

Aren't the reflections on the wooden floor pretty? I'm really thrilled too because this is the first full-sized tree we've had in something like two and a half decades — yay! It just feels more christmassy to me than the tiny tree I had to work with previous to this. Plus this tree is artificial, so sturdier when the cats decide to see if it's climbable (it is, though I didn't get any photos of the little monsters! :), and also the lights are both cool AND already wired in! Totally awesome, in my book — this way we get all the joy of a tree but don't have to kill one! Oh, and I absolutely love how beautifully colorful decorations are:

Many colors of the season

Many colors of the season

Handmade Polish hedgie ornament

Handmade Polish hedgie ornament

Handmade gold lace shooting star

Handmade gold lace shooting star

…and also how much fun it was to make some of my own decorations this year! The red and white exploding star is made of paper — they're surprisingly easy to make, too! They're a traditional Polish decoration, and their proper name (which I've forgotten & will have to look up later) translates as "hedgehog" — which I love! The little shooting star is a lace weave from gold thread, and also surprisingly easy to do — with the right pattern and tools, of course! I wouldn't want to try it from scratch. ;) But apparently lacework, like the hedgie-star, is effectively time-consuming but simple to do once you know how. Very cool! :)

I also wanted to mention one not-so-successful holiday attempt, mostly because it made me giggle so much when I pulled it out of the microwave. It was supposed to be a little brownie-cake in a mug. I call it the chocosplosion! ;)



Finally, because "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" is my favorite holiday show, I have the following, filched from FB… as a happy reminder that it's not the loot — it's the sharing and joy that really make the season. :)

True meaning of Christmas :)

True meaning of Christmas :)

A very merry, blessed, and prosperous holidays and new year to you all!

Originally published at Collie's Bestiary. You can comment here or there.

Dec. 8th, 2015

Collie muse

A Love Letter to Dickens Faire

(Author's note: according to the website, Dickens Fair is "A Victorian Christmas Card Come to Life!" Located just south of San Francisco, Dickens Fair runs for approximately each weekend between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. It's a truly wonderful and Christmassy recreation of Dickens' London, which I greatly enjoy visiting on a yearly basis. Personal favorites are waltzing at Fezziwig's, the delightful shows and shops, the delicious scent of the candied almonds… oh, and Charles Dickens giving wonderful readings from his beloved book A Christmas Carol!

The Great Dickens Christmas Fair!

The Great Dickens Christmas Fair!

Thus this blog entry: an attempt to communicate how wonderful Dickens Fair is, but perhaps in a more Victorian-era style of writing. The Fair is a fantastic way to start your Christmas season — check it out, and let me know what you thought of it in the comments!)

Dearest Mamá & Papá;

O! but it has been too long since I have written you, and there is so much to say! I must beg your forgiveness for my tardiness; I have been a most recalcitrant daughter in that respect, though I trust my news will inspire delight in me once more.

The Grand Concourse

The Grand Concourse

O my dear family, London has been such a wondrous adventure! I cannot tell you how delightful it has been for a young woman of the former Colonies to visit the bustling capital city of the far-spread United Kingdom. The delicious and mouth-watering scent of cinnamon-roasted almonds sweetens the air, and spirits everywhere are elevated by the joyous singing of carolers and troubadours wandering the streets. Also entrancing are the many and beautiful Christmas decorations which adorn every shop window and brighten the very air itself, it seems! Further, early in the morning it is possible to collect a daguerreotype of the Grand Concourse before it is thronged with passersby, which allows me to share with you its delightful nature.

Papá, Fezziwig's was just as delightful as you described, for despite the Mr. and Mrs. themselves being constantly surrounded by well-wishers, such that I shall have to present your letters later, I was most kindly treated. Many were the gentlemen who gladly swept me up into yet another delightful Roger de Coverly or Strip the Willow, and when those delightful country dances were not in performance, the various gentlemen present escorted both myself and the other ladies present in many quite dreamy waltzes! Mamá, you need have no fear: I sat out the rowdy polkas as per your excellent advice, and I assure you we were most genially chaperoned at all times.

Her Majesty"s honour guard

Her Majesty's honour guard

Indeed, I was most grateful for the steadying presence of both my dear B_ and the various gentlemen present, for you shall never guess who I spotted there as he departed the premises! It was none other than that dreadful villain Bill Sykes – I declare, upon realization of his identity, for a moment I found myself quite faint! I had just marked him to B_ as a most striking-looking gentleman, were it not for the formidable scowl upon his unshaven countenance — and it was his surly grunt of reply to the doorman's cheerful greeting of, "Happy Christmas, Mr. Sykes!" which caused us providentially to pause. Considering the fellow's ill-bred rudeness, I was not surprised in the least to hear him later, in a less savory section of town, to be quite fierce and growling while calling out for some poor lass named Nancy to emerge and show herself to "her Bill"! Indeed, I found myself in instant sympathy with the young woman in ragged clothes who, upon spotting Mr. Sykes, hid her countenance from him only long enough for him to pass – then shrilly cried out warning to this Nancy to hide herself safely away (though do not fear for me, Mamá – my sturdy B_ was a most dependable and reputable escort throughout all my perambulations!).

There were a few other curious incidents which occurred while we strolled the streets of Merry Olde London, though I hesitate to mention them for fear I cause you doubt of my faculties. Nevertheless I assure you both most earnestly, Mamá and Papá, that I had not been tippling in the least! And yet, twice I could swear I saw… a ghost! The first one seemed a most lugubrious gentleman, laden with great and heavy chains and with its face drawn into a perpetual frown of dissatisfaction. At first I commented in puzzlement upon it to dear B_, though I became most trepidatious upon realization that B_ could not spot it in the least! I watched with great concern as two laughing children ran unsuspectingly past the ghost – yet it merely paused in its slow, steady perambulation only long enough to allow passage of the heedless and high-spirited children… and then it continued on out of sight.

The Ghost of Christmas Present

The Ghost of Christmas Present

That caused quite the cold shiver of fear down my spine, I must say! Fortunately the second viewing was of a far less oppressive nature. Indeed, at least one of the two spirits present seemed a most remarkable and jovial personage, laughing and merry and full of Christmas cheer. Further, it seemed to my startled gaze that the spirit's very presence brightened the pleasure of those unwitting partiers nearby – which consequently made perfect sense in the context of how he was addressed by the second spirit there: as the Ghost of Christmas Present! Most odd and marvelous, I declare. However, the second and less appetizing ghost appeared to be some poor soul who'd died in his sleep, for it appeared to be a much older gentleman sporting naught but a nightcap, slippers, and a dressing gown! Were they both other than spirits I should have been quite flushed in embarrassment for the poor fellow's indecent state of public dishabille. They too were present but for mere moments – and before I could remark upon them to my dear B_ … they too had departed.

Her Majesty Queen Victoria

Her Majesty Queen Victoria

But enough of such dour subjects! Let me tell you of the most marvelous occurrence, dear family: I actually spotted Queen Victoria herself!! Can you believe such?! I was quite breathless with excitement! It initially appeared but a parade of the gallant redcoats processing along the street, with accompanying gentlemen of rank sternly calling out that the passersby make way — but then I was sure I heard them mention the Queen! Dearest B_ was so patient — for I was simply beside myself with excitement as I urged us both into a corner from which we might have an excellent view — and sure enough, there she was! Such a gracious lady — and I declare, so young! — yet also clearly beloved by her people.

Mr. Dickens in full storytelling mode!

Mr. Dickens in full storytelling mode!

Yet this was not the only delightful shock I was to receive, for much to my surprise: I was privileged to be present during one of Mr. Charles Dickens' readings! We were strolling along the street and enjoying the colorful and delightful decorations, cheerful shopkeepers, and happily chattering passers-by, and I happened to glance in through the window of a charming little pub called "The Green Man" – and who should I espy there holding forth most enthusiastically, but Mr. Dickens himself?! Well, I tell you! I slipped in quick as a wink — and at the barmaid's pleasant, "C'n I he'p ye, mum?" I inquired as to the propriety of settling quietly nearby the gentleman, but to listen. I was most delighted at her acquiescence, and soon thereafter had crept as close as I could, settling into an available chair as quiet as a mouse.

His eyes - how they twinkled!

His eyes – how they twinkled!

O! Mamá, Papá, I so dearly wished you both to be at my side just then – since, as it transpired, Mr. Dickens was reading from his book "A Christmas Carol"! Such a flood of happy memories were released as I listened: of all of us curled up by the crackling fireside, cozy and warm as we shared reading one chapter a night of that lovely little story, culminating on Christmas Eve! Mr. Dickens himself was a joy as well: such merrily twinkling eyes behind those wire-rimmed spectacles! Such delighted laughter as he shared in the excitement and joviality within the chapter which first endeared the Fezziwigs to us! Why, listening to him I could scarce believe the pair of spirits which troubled me earlier could be any other but Mr. Ebenezer Scrooge himself and his companion the joyous spirit of Christmas Present!

Alas, my inkwell runs dry so I must close for the nonce, that I may pop round to the stationer's for more paper and ink to write more of the gay and celebratory holiday marvels which we encountered. I await with great joy the opportunity to escort you both around this merry old city in a year or two; I trust your delight will be as great as mine.

Until then believe me, Mamá and Papá:

Your affectionate daughter.


Originally published at Collie's Bestiary. You can comment here or there.

Nov. 10th, 2015

Collie muse


Just got the news: after a month more deliberation than required by my actual dissertation committee, the HRRC Committee (that is the committee that determines if my research will be ethical towards those whom I will be researching) has finally belatedly given their approval to my dissertation proposal! This means after nearly a year and a half of my writing, researching, engaging in random required effort, more writing, angsting and panicking, even more writing, leaping through flaming hoops of paperwork, and yet more writing… I am now officially ABD (All But Dissertation) — and allowed to actually start work on my dissertation!!



Break out the confetti — it's a miracle! :-D

Originally published at Collie's Bestiary. You can comment here or there.

Oct. 31st, 2015

Collie muse


Hallowe'en silliness because I can; because Goldie is both patient and a delight to work with; because it's fun to dress up; because why not? :)

My ATS bellydancing class was a blast this morning! On the way to class I heard Alice Cooper's "Welcome to My Nightmare" and a version of "I Put A Spell On You" and something new to me: the "Monster Hash." In class we continued the joyful holiday silliness, of course — we danced to "Thriller" and to "Swing Swing Swing" and to "This is Halloween" from The Nightmare Before Christmas and to other more, um… standard bellydancing fare. Oh, and we also celebrated the birthday of one of my dance sisters. It was really wonderful!

So after ATS bellydancing today my housemates and I went to breakfast at a lovely restaurant that has both a porch, and people who love dogs that work there. They know us there by now, and think Goldie's just a sweetheart — which of course simply shows how perspicacious they are, right? So for fun I tossed on some bits & bobs to make an impromptu costume for us both: La Zorra in her everyday gear — and her brilliantly disguised horse Tornado!



As you can clearly see in the photo, enthusiastically shouting, "Olé!" together is an important part of couples dancing, which… isn't really a critical part of being a super, but what the heck. After all, in the original Zorro series he was quite the gentleman when he needed to be, so La Zorra can be a gentlelady too!

Also important is having a faithful sidekick, so you can establish an alibi for your secret identity — by having your faithful sidekick wear the costume while you're elsewhere in regular clothing! Otherwise people might put two and two together and realize just who is that dashing and elegant lady behind the mask of the daring La Zorra! I'm quite sure no one will suspect… :)

Establishing an alibi

Establishing an alibi

Of course, one must also properly reward one's loyal sidekick for sharing in such mad shenanigans, so they're willing to continue doing so again later! Enjoy! -and a very happy Hallowe'en to you all. :)

lunge for it!

Lunge for it!

Originally published at Collie's Bestiary. You can comment here or there.

Oct. 17th, 2015

Collie muse

Dissertation blues in a majorly cheerful key, pt. 3

Last three titles of my ten most influential books and articles which helped shape my thinking regarding feminism and the human community — woo! Got it posted at a reasonable hour, too! :)


8) Iroquoian Women: The Gantowisas by Barbara Alice Mann

I loved this book! It's so refreshing to read excellent research that simultaneously recognizes and refuses the Western fallacy of the disinterested, distanced researcher. The author, Ohio Bear Clan Seneca and professor Barbara Alice Mann, successfully interweaves Western scholarly research with a powerful native perspective — the Iroquoian Story Keeper's style of oral record — to produce a narrative which is at once rigorously researched, richly threaded with humor, and a fascinating read.

Mann explains the profound influence and direction of Iroquoian women in the politically consensus-seeking, economically gift-oriented, socially egalitarian, and spiritually feminine divine Iroquoian social realm, through chapters which explain the culture's social conceptions of balance. Strikingly, Mann also traces the slow erosion of women's rights, duties, and honors through the often violent influence of the two Western "religions" of capitalism and Christianity — including how modern Western research wipes women clean from the record. Despite the horrifying record of Western atrocities, however, the author's interjections of dry humor make this a profoundly hopeful work, offering the unique template of a far more egalitarian and widely distributed matriarchal society than is ordinarily available for modern study and learning. Check out my quickie review here!

9) "An Organizational Approach to Undoing Gender: The Unlikely Case of Offshore Oil Platforms" by Robin J. Ely & Debra E. Meyerson

This article was a wonderful revelation to me, with its scientific examination of how we can "undo" destructive gender roles. As the authors themselves note, it was quite startling for them to discover "an organizational initiative designed to enhance safety and effectiveness [which] created a culture that unintentionally released men from societal imperatives for 'manly' behavior" (p. 3). The original article may (unfortunately) be difficult to find, but I blogged about it here.

10) The Tending Instinct: How Nurturing is Essential to Who We Are & How We Live by Shelley E. Taylor

Holy cats, where do I start?! This book was amazing — so many incredible ideas! Definitely read this one for a strong scientific backing to the fascinating discoveries it relates. Fortunately for me, I've already written about it in my blog, so you can check it out in:

  • Part 1 – which is mostly me musing about scholastic requirements, but also includes some references to Susan Kent's wonderfully perceptive article "Egalitarianism, Equality, & Equitable Power." It's a brilliant take-down of white male anthropologists who (usually unwittingly) twist what they see to fit their unacknowledged and pre-conceived notions regarding the superiority of masculinity and what they consider men's work… as compared to their ideas of what femininity and women's work are.
  • Part 2 – where I mention the unfortunately tenacious "alpha fallacy" extant in most patriarchal cultures. In a nutshell, in every heavily social species examined the most highly aggressive males are not the biggest winners, as we've been incessantly taught. The most highly aggressive males are, in fact, invariably the biggest losers, stuck at the bottom of the social hierarchy — and the easiest way to fix this? A childhood involving greater nurturance from calm, confident, attentive mothers.
  • Part 3 – This section includes my ruminations on Taylor's research regarding the critical importance of nurturance & of supporting pregnant women & mothers so they raise physically and emotionally healthier, more empathetic and confident, and well-socialized children… as well as how to prevent domestic violence.
  • Part 4 – Here I review the research on the incredible physical & financial value of women's nurturant work, & how their social networks lessen stress for both women & men — to the point that men who are living alone die at a hugely increased rate, that the rigid hierarchy of most patriarchal cultures and social class hierarchies is incredibly damaging… and how to fix it!

There you go! That's 10+ really fascinating and personally influential texts. Admittedly, most of these books are rather scientifically oriented, mostly because it's been my experience that hard data is what is required to get people to even consider changing their minds. This is not to say that I dislike poetry and prose, or lyrical writing — there are several books in my "polishing" category that are beautifully written and a pleasure to read. Just off the top of my head I recall:

  • Alice Walker's heart-wrenchingly inspirational We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For: Inner Light in A Time of Darkness;
  • Luce Irigaray's gorgeously difficult poetic philosophy in je tu nous;
  • Anne Primavesi's beautiful melding of logic and lyricism in her Gaia's Gift: Earth, Ourselves and God after Copernicus; and
  • Kathie Carlson's elegant myth-making from both patri- and matrifocal perspectives in Life's Daughter/Death's Bride.

Finally, for those who feel philosophy isn't a "hard" science, I recommend Feminism & the Mastery of Nature by Val Plumwood. If you follow her staggeringly deep and articulate reasoning and it doesn't convert you… then nothing will. :)

Originally published at Collie's Bestiary. You can comment here or there.

Oct. 16th, 2015

Collie muse

Dissertation blues in a majorly cheerful key, pt. 2

Whoops! Finishing off the list of my ten most influential books and articles which helped shape my thinking regarding feminism and the human community took a bit longer than expected. Life intruded — mea culpa! So, continuing with #4…

4) "En'owkin: Decision-Making as if Sustainability Mattered" by Jeannette C. Armstrong

This article was personally revelatory for its explanation and implementation of a community ethos which believes everyone is important — rather than just the majority. It is the results of such an attitude which most move me to excitement, as I note in the description of the book I posted on my blog (check the second half of the posting; the first half is about a different article). Here's a great quote from the article itself:

I have noticed that when we include the perspective of the land and of human relationships in our decisions, people in the community change. Material things and all the worrying about matters such as money start to lose their power. When people realize that the community is there to sustain them, they have the most secure feeling in the world. The fear starts to leave, and they are imbued with hope (16-17).

Further, this social attitude of caring for all is being dramatically implemented in several modern societies to great gain for all involved. There is a fascinating book, which I have not yet finished, which examines the cultural results of this social attitude: The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger by Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson. Check them both out!

5) Blood, Bread, and Roses: How Menstruation Created the World by Judy Grahn

In a brilliant intellectual re-creation, in 1993 feminist lesbian poet Judy Grahn re-members and reclaims the sacrality of women and menstruation in her Blood, Bread, and Roses: How Menstruation Created the World. I'm not entirely sure how to quantify this book — it's such a smooth intermixture of research and lyrical prose that it both defies linear description and practically invites scientific criticism by the rabidly insecure. Despite that, it is indeed a book about menstruation — a reclaiming for women of an amazing biological process which our culture has worked very hard to demonize.

Grahn notes (with a personally startling clarity) that: "All origin stories are true" (7) — then offers women a radical new origin myth. She grounds this re-newed symbolism in her conceptualization of metaformic consciousness and metaforms: actions or objects which are regarded as not just conceptually iconic, but also directly linked to the mental concept of menstruation. In Grahn's brave new origin story, metaformic ritual is synchronous, cyclical; a cultural "container of knowledge" embodying a conceptual ideal, with blood as one element. Within a lyrical mix of creative non-fiction and personal remembrance which I found both entrancing and inspiring, Grahn poetically locates menstruation as the foundation of human culture through these symbolic metaformic expressions via ritual, mythology, language, cosmetikos, and food.

Frankly, I far prefer her old/new origin myth — which needs denigrate no one — to the cruel and unbridled misogyny of the supposed "big 5" world religions. This is a symbolism I'd like to use to replace theirs, as Christ suggests in her "Why Women Need the Goddess."

6) Feminism is for Everybody: Passionate Politics by bell hooks
Completely aside from how awesome hooks is, this book was critical in my realization of the privileged and individual-centric perspective we currently consider the norm in US society. Here's a previous blog on why this book was so important to me.

7) Vagina: A New Biography by Naomi Wolf

I initially approached this title with a mix of both amusement and trepidation — but Wolf's vivid prose and her enthusiasm for this revelatory subject shines through. Though the book is deeply intriguing and deserves to be read for fullest understanding, here's a (very simple) synopsis of the book: Wolf explores the research concerning what she refers to as "The Goddess Array," in the process explaining how a woman's genitalia are neurologically connected to her brain via pathways that are about three times more complex than the neurological wiring in men. In fact, "[a]ll female mammals were designed by the process of evolution to experience great sexual pleasure" (49; italics hers). It is unsurprising therefore to discover the empirical evidence proves that women's sexuality is directly neurologically and hormonally linked to their confidence, creativity, and joie du vivre.

This is such a new and radical idea to me… and yet in some ways it just makes sense. The more I read the research the more I found myself agreeing with her — though I was also sadly aware of just how many would be turned away by spiritual sounding prose such as her evocative phrase, "the Goddess Array." It's a real shame, considering how accurate an assessment that is of such a critically important facet of being a strong and healthy woman… and how starved our culture is for both a generous spirituality and the Feminine Divine.

Read the book! Also, if you can't easily find it you can read my review here: part one, wherein I introduce Wolf's concept and explore both its positive and negative ramifications; part two, which lays out both why pornography is not healthy for either women or men, and how historical ignoring turns into modern ignorance; and part three, where I replicate Wolf's recommendations on re-awakening a woman's Goddess Array.


Enjoy! Also, I'll post the last three titles in this list tomorrow — this time for shuuuure! :)


Originally published at Collie's Bestiary. You can comment here or there.

Oct. 13th, 2015

Collie muse

Dissertation blues in a majorly cheerful key, pt. 1

Woohoooo! Current scoreboard in the Collie's advancement to dissertation candidacy game:

  • HRRC approval (as in: the ethics committee): a decision is promised to me by the end of the month at latest, and…
  • Dissertation committee approval: three out of three — DONE!! :-D

I'm getting very excited about this — it's so wonderful to see what was just a rather nebulous dream starting to shape up into something very real and doable by me! I'm so close I can almost taste it! :)

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Interestingly, I've been asked more than once why I chose to further my scholastic career by taking something as obtuse as Women's Spirituality. Part of it, of course, is the fascinating journey of women's discovery — of learning where to find the cracks in the façade of supposedly endless capitalist progress and utopia for all, or of the insidious ways in which the issues of women and people of color are metaphorically swept under the cultural rug.

An equally dramatic part of my scholastic choice, however, is the vital and unrecognized need humans seem to have for some form of spirituality. I remember an article once which postulated that science was very effective in teaching us what is, and projecting that forward as either encouragement or warning… but it's not very good at dreaming up a better future. Instead we look to religious or spiritual thought to help us come up with the stories that tell us what should be. That's the main reason I study Women's Spirituality: to help me figure out the best should be for our world… AND how to get to it.

I'm in an exceedingly good mood currently, so I'm probably jumping subjects a bit… but it seems to me that listing the ten books and articles that most helped shape my thinking regarding feminism and the human community is also an excellent means of demonstrating how my thinking on how to make a better world has changed and, I hope, matured. This is not to say that other books or articles were not equally important over the long run, and I'll likely list them later as well. However, I think of them more as a refining polish upon the rough beginnings which were created in my mind by the original ten texts I list below in no particular order:

1) The Chalice and the Blade: Our History, Our Future by Riane Eisler

This was the earliest of the ten that I stumbled across — with thanks to Ann for pressing this book upon me! I credit Dr. Eisler for verbalizing for me several critical concepts which up until then had been a sort of grimly understood, inchoate knowing. Some of these fascinating concepts are:

  • the fact that history and archaeology are interpreted and written down by those who dominate the cultural conversation — which unsurprisingly leads to an interpretation of the past which is overwhelmingly merely a reflection of the present,
  • the new (to me) idea of dominator and partnership cultures, and
  • the socially required debasement of the feminine in dominator cultures.

Incidentally, another book on a somewhat similar theme which I recommend along with this one is When God was a Woman by Merlin Stone. The very title alone gave me a visceral thrill — imagine how nice it would be to worship a deity who not only looked like you but also approved of you! It's one of the books which I feel "polished" my personal growth.

2) Leaving Mother Lake: A Girlhood at the Edge of the World by Yang Erche Namu and Christine Mathieu

Another book I stumbled over by accident, this is Namu's autobiography of her childhood as one of the Mosuo, a remote culture located in China in which women and men do not marry but rather remain in their matriline's household. While there has been quite a bit of forceful cultural contamination by outsiders, the original society had no monogamous marriage, nor words for the concepts of "husband" or "father." Instead a man would discreetly visit the room of the woman who'd invited him to spend the night for mutual sexual enjoyment, and would be departed by the dawn. All the women of a matriline, and all their brothers, worked together as a family — which included raising the children of the women who were part of that family.

As the anthropologist co-writer of this slim volume noted, by disconnecting sexual love from who was part of the family, an entire host of issues are neatly avoided. For example, children are given a constant, loving family in which to be raised. There is no divorce, and there is no concept of bastardy. Also, Mosuo men are never trained to consider other living humans their property, such as occurs in marriage within patriarchal societies; and as a consequence the women do not have to struggle with societal oppression. I was very impressed with how smoothly the Mosuo handled both sex and family — I still am. I think they're on to something brilliant which we should consider long and hard.

Incidentally, if matrifocal societies intrigue you, I also strongly recommend Peggy Reeves Sanday's fascinating ethnography of the Minangkabau of West Sumatra: Women at the Center: Life in a Modern Matriarchy. That's another of the "polishing" books I loved.

3) "Why Women Need the Goddess: Phenomenological, Psychological, & Political Reflections" by Carol Christ

Someday I will write another blog about how revelatory this article was for me. For now, suffice it to quote what I found to be the personally most important section:

A symbol's effect does not depend on rational assent, for a symbol also functions on levels of the psyche other than the rational… The symbols associated with … important rituals cannot fail to affect the deep or unconscious structures of the mind of even a person who has rejected these symbolisms on a conscious level — especially if the person is under stress… Symbol systems cannot be simply rejected, they must be replaced. Where there is not any replacement, the mind will revert to familiar structures at times of crisis, bafflement, or defeat (Christ, p. 274-275; italics mine).

This is getting long — I'll continue tomorrow with the rest. For now: Woohoooo! Almost at the finish line for dissertation candidacy! :)


Originally published at Collie's Bestiary. You can comment here or there.

Sep. 28th, 2015

Collie muse

Proposal committee approval score: 2 out of 3! :)

Another 'squeeeeeee!' moment for me this morning! I opened my email inbox to discover that my second (of three) committee members has approved my proposal — woohooo! Lots of really great suggestions and critiques too, which are both really helpful and a relief to receive — that tells me that my proposed research actually engaged my readers! Also lovely and encouraging was her email to me, in which she said:

It was a pleasure reading your proposal, which I just finished.… You write very well, and have clearly given this much thought.

Equally exciting were some of her notes on the dissertation proposal itself, such as:

This is a wonderful section! You write so well throughout, it is a pleasure to read your writing!

So very happy about this! Only one committee member to go now — and also I must get approval from the Human Research Review Committee (HRRC). They're the committee that makes sure all the research the university approves is also ethical — though neither my Chair nor I foresee any issues with what I plan on doing during my research. The HRRC requires the associated paperwork to be turned in by the first of whatever month they're reviewing it — and I would so love to have them check my proposed research out this October, considering it's my birthday month! Got all the paperwork done — just waiting on the cover page to be signed by the right folks, and then I can FedEx it all to CIIS!

I was excited to have the committee member express surprise and interest at some of my research —  and even ask me for citations! That was a very nice feeling, in that I felt like I was able to give interesting data as well as receive it… if that makes sense? I like to feel that even though I'm a student, I have something to offer as well, to my profs and committee members. :)

It was also weirdly cool to have this committee member make a comment on one of the authors I cite — by stating she knew the guy, and his work had developed since that book, and I should check it out! In retrospect it makes sense that folks within the field of Women's Studies, and specifically in addressing violence against women, would know each other, of course — it was just kind of startling and interesting to… to have the realization hit me quite so directly, I guess?

Incidentally, I now also know when my head is far too deeply into proposal writing — because the other night I actually had a dream… which was also tidily footnoted! ;)

Originally published at Collie's Bestiary. You can comment here or there.

Sep. 14th, 2015

Collie muse

Proposal passed by my committee chair!

Eeeeeeee! I am SO pleased — just got the email from my dissertation committee chair that she's passing my dissertation proposal on as acceptable! Now I can send it on to my other two committee members — and soon: ONwards to dissertation researching and writing! :-D

Also extremely exciting is what the Chair wrote in her email to me — lovely things that reassure me that I'm not a failure at having taken so long to get this thing done! A few very nice lines that have me doing the happycolliedance:

You've done some exceptional work here!


You've done an incredible job with the breadth of the literature review -truly establishing yourself who has done her homework!

and best of all:

Great revisions with the methodology chapter!!

These are particularly happy-making because I was initially truly worried my lit review chapter and (in particular) my methodology chapter would be sub-par. Yay for busting my chops and finally getting them right!

Yay also for the extremely yummy chocolate-peanut butter microwave mug cake recipe that a delighted friend dug up for me so I could properly celebrate — was tres delish, my dear! Sharing so all my friends and sister scholars can enjoy as well when they get to their joyous celebration moments! :)

Two Minute Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

Serves 1
1 egg
1 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp peanut butter
1 Tbsp flour
1 Tbsp cocoa
1/4 tsp baking powder
a small handful of chocolate chips
In a small bowl stir the egg, brown sugar, peanut butter, flour, cocoa, and baking powder with a fork. Stir in the chocolate chips and pour batter into a greased ramekin or mug. Microwave for 1 minute. Eat straight from the ramekin or mug while dancing around elatedly, or invert onto a plate. Do not attempt elated dancing simultaneously with eating from a plate.

Originally published at Collie's Bestiary. You can comment here or there.

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