A Final Farewell

​It seems like the time to end this blog.

Many things are colliding. Land is sliding. I am approaching something, and so is the world. I hear echoes everywhere.

For America’s part tonight: I am worried.

 Less for a country that has been under the strings of greater puppeteers for years. Less about what coming to terms and stakes with the actual functioning corportacracy of the Unites States.

And more with the bitterness and anger that seems to be steeped into not just Trump supporters or Hillary supporters. But across the board. Indeed, in this one area we seem willing to cross party lines and ignore everything. For this one emotion:

Hatred. Bitter, angry hatred.

The nastiness so many people are reacting to the election with is exactly the mindset that brought Trump’s bullying tactics to win. A tooth for a tooth may leave the people of this country and world unable to ever chew again. If we escalate the worst fight ever, we all literally end up dead. 

An eye for and eye, friends, and we all go blind. 

Empathy and trust may be the most painful way through, yes. But I believe it is the only route that lies open now. Our most dangerous enemy may just be the one we refuse to love. The beast births inside first and we, burning, will ignite the whole goddamn world. 

As a speculative fiction writer with other speculative fiction author friends, trust me. We’ve come at this from every angle we can possibly think of. And what stands is this: 

the post- of the apocalypse we are pushing forward with our burning hearts and goaded, goading emotions will be the coming to fruition of our worst nightmares. And our children’s children’s world will not care what we thought about when we fought. When we lit pyres and spires and burned down every last safe place left. Because in the fire of our hatred for one another, we will have destroyed everything. Only the future can pay a price so steep.
We are igniting the future generations of everything, even as we fling petty snarks on facebook, twitter, around someone’s dinner table or what have you.

Unpopular as this thought will be in the coming years, I still hold to it. 

Empathy is the solution to the fucked human experiment. It is all that will get us through.

So go out and love on someone tonight. Someone you think different from. Maybe even someone you’re afraid of. Someone who looks like just the person you’d rather punch in the face.

Or don’t.

I just think it might help.

Solitude oft brings enlightenment

Sitting in a donut shop overdosing on sugar and caffeine, I realize that most of the “salary men” that fill up the world around me in downtown Ikebukuro are most likely several years my junior. Their faces, if you look closely, are so often young. Possibly, I think, just out of high school. The ones who hold higher positions are older, college age. The donut shop workers, I realize, are the same. And this strikes me as strange. Not because I feel old in world full of bright bushy-tailed younglings. I’ve hardly reached that age.

But because in America, that is not the norm. Or, at least, it is not the image. Perhaps, over time, it is becoming the norm. And perhaps this is a good sign of it. Young suit-and-tie salary workers being served donuts by their seniors in striped t-shirts and baseball caps with company logos.

I say this because in so many ways, Japan is the land of the future. And not necessarily in the way one might think. It is a place where young and old, cutting edge and outdated, up-and-coming and relics all co-exist right alongside one another. It is as true of people as buildings. Customs and ideologies. The culture is slow to change in many ways, and in others, it has adapted preemptively to the the future that is still years in coming.

I see this as I think of population, family structure, robotics. I see it in the way the language shifts and morphs, accommodating new words and making up its own while aggressively resisting conversion into roman script and adaption of roman sounds. Automated systems that make placing an order at a restaurant easy-peasy while banks and the police system are so heavy laden with bureaucracy hardly anything ever gets done. And if it is done, there are about five different government buildings you must go to and about ten forms you must complete. Stamps are still a legal and official signature. Stamps made easily by a machine on just about any street corner.

The dichotomy and strange symbiosis is striking.

In America (at least), we have this idea that the past must die to make room for the future. That the old must be erased to make space to write the new rules of the new world. This simply isn’t true. The odd disjointedness that the past and future create by being strapped together can be simply…overlooked. Ignored. Paid no heed until such time as it simply ceases to feel disjointed.

This is how Japan feels to me. In Tokyo as much as in the country. Farms alongside skyscrapers. Tatami floors from the Edo period in a room where art worthy of MOCA hangs on nails bought from the Home Depot in the nearest city where ancient matcha ceremony procedures are still followed to a “T” using ceramics passed down for generations and a whisk purchased at the TOKYU HANDS in Shinjuku.

When I am in Japan, despite the isolation I sometimes feel as an outsider, I get the strongest sense of hope for the future of humanity. Its this warm belly sensation that spreads in chills to my fingers and toes. It’s more than a feeling. It’s a deep understanding. A truth rooted like this land is rooted to the earth, by veins of fire solidified into rock over time. The regenerating forests of bamboo watered by dirty irradiated water are full of this one truth I cannot get enough of:

Life survives.

Despite disaster, apocalypse, and invasion of a future full of dread. Despite selfishness and ill-will. Despite every possible warning I can claim —

Life is a force ongoing, forever and ever.

So it is. So it goes.

Amen.

The taste of the Past is…

The flavor of Trix brand cereal.

I just realized what it was.

Cheap sweet orange.

All those different colors and different shapes simply added different layers and dimensions to the cheap sweet orange taste. You can replicate that cereal with a cup of lady grey tea, heavy cream, and a touch of whatever vanilla sweet-thing you choice (my discovery drink was an almond-vanilla stevia, hence hitting that cheap bitterish orange flavor right on the head).

I often wondered why on cold winter Pacific Northwest or Virginian nights something almost chest achingly nostalgic happened when I would sit down under the dim lighting of yellow-white string lights, curled up under a fuzzy blanket, with a pot of one of my life-long favorite teas.

It wasn’t just the repetition of this scene. It wasn’t just the comfort of these items and what they meant to me. It wasn’t just the ritual of preparing for yet another long night sitting with characters I needed to get to know better (ever better). There was something distinctly “childhood”, distinctly that mauve tiled kitchen in Simi Valley, distinctly my past about it.

I catch it every once in a while. These sweeping gasps of the past. These breathless little windows into who I once was, sensing like a fifth bundle of receptors the potential in everything I once felt (but had not experienced enough loss to know I’d felt it yet).

It was the Trix trick.

Not even the moment of eating the cereal. That always passed in a kind of reader’s haze where I would read and re-read the labels and ads on the back because the repetition gave me a confidence in language that my school teachers didn’t. And the simplicity of the words, the colors, the funny cartoon characters all said — “It’s okay, little Rei. You can read.”

Only, they didn’t call me that name because I hadn’t happened upon myself yet. So they called me dearie, sweetie pie, and sugar because I refused their name-seeking advances.

It’s the grey milk that I would drink down to fill the last corners of my belly when all was said and done. Grey from all the bled-out food coloring. It tasted like cream because my dad always bought nonfat milk unless I could finagle a half-gallon of whole with a series of pleases and clipped coupons I’d spent the upwards of a Sunday morning/afternoon working on. And the flavor is distinctly vanilla-tinged cheap sweet orange. A little cardboardy, a hint of the crinkly plastic bag, a lot too sweet. It tightens my stomach in nausea, but by this age — I pay it no mind.

I’m deep in the throws of early stage sugar addition. This will in future years equal lots of pain and weird dietary needs. But I, sitting at the table with a cream colored bowl that has a blue pinstripe around the edge, don’t know it yet. I set the bowl down and think I’m content. I’ll get up from this scene and watch TV or train my dog to jump through rings or ride my slightly too-tall mountain bike up the street to my best friend’s house where we’ll play some kind of role playing game like “spies and walkie-talkies” or “plant the garden this summer”.

This moment of child bliss is where I go every time dairy fat mixes with slightly bitter vanilla-tinged orange. Right there. To that moment. The one where I’m walking across plush mauve colored carpet through a bar of southern California sunlight as it pours in from two wide back patio doors. This, the golden-tinted era of my life where I could have become anything. Could have spoken any language. Could have amounted to a veterinarian. Could have become an orchestral singer. Could have become this. Right now.

A young(ish) writer on the way up. Part time barista, part time baker. Full time story teller and world traveler. Never settled. Always seeking. Wings, owl-like, speckled and spread into yet another unknown night. Hunting, hunting, hunting.

I can’t say the regrets I have stack the library against my feelings of assurance that yes — this road. This is it. And this forest of western red cedars, monkey pod trees, and low coffee shrubbery — this is my home. Imaginary, yes. But all the same.

I’m content.

In the Interim

I had a moment this morning when I wished I’d had my camera on me. It was the early hours of morning along the Lanikai beach. I’d ridden my new bike up the short hill, tossed it on the side of the road, and clamored down the grass and rock path to see the sun, golden arms reaching out from behind a puffy grey and white cloud. The sky was powder pink and beautifully pastel blue. The distant periwinkle morning sky flickered through passing clouds, almost flickering like stars. I thought, more than once, I glimpsed the moon.

The pumice and frozen up lava flow millions of years old were painted black from the slapping, laughing ripples of the sea. In the heavy humid air, I felt both drenched and strangely dry. Sticky salty tang of the sea lapped at my lips and teeth, reminding me of the taste of fish grilled on an iron pan over open fire. The gentle slope down into the beach parking lot has no cars. I lean the bike, again. This time, against a tree where I finish the stretches of the morning.

I have been neglecting this part of me. The wanderer, mostly. The one whose eyes are like camera lenses. The one who set photography aside to be a gatherer of images expressed in words. A thousand words, every picture I want to snap.

This morning, in the island air, I am reminded where I belong and who I, at my core, am.
The reminder felt like sun on my back, warming not burning me.
It was good.

I pedaled home and wrote 1k+ words immediately.

Over the next few months…

I will slowly be transitioning away from this blog, into the new blog over at my website that I will not yet reveal because it is not yet ready to see the light of day (or the light of night for that matter).

But, I will be archiving this blog once the new official has-my-own-domain-name site is ready for others’ eyes. I am hoping the transition is fluid (as I wish all transitions to be). I don’t anticipate accidentally leaving any of you consistent readers in the dark (which is a very small number of you, at any rate).

But I did want to put this on the horizon so that it’s not too sudden.

I’ll keep you posted. We’ll move together. It will be fine.

On Writing

I have been stalling out on regular updates because I have in the works an essay on racism that is consuming my creative non-fiction energy whole. However, while that’s in the works, I do want to write something.

For the one or two readers who have some kind of faith in me.
I shouldn’t let you down. Lest you, too, leave me.

So, in that posts stead, I present some thoughts on writing. This profession can be a funny beast.

It’s not always a very visible activity. I don’t introduce myself on the forefront. Because that’s strange.

“Hi, I’m Rei and I’m an author. Ooh! Look here. A book. Do you like short stories? I have a few. What about novellas? Novellettes? What’s a novellette? Glad you asked. Let me explain. Do you read? Oh what’s that? You were just having lunch and didn’t want to be bombarded with excessive information about my livelihood? Oop. I’ll just excuse myself then. But seriously, look me up on Twitter. I also have facebook, and instagram, and a website, and books EBOOKS! and a blog. Here (business cards galore) you could find all my work on–”

And…they’re gone. Maybe they’ve even pepper sprayed me in the face. Hard to know for certain how strangers react to this kind of odd occupational aggression.

What to do in this case? Move on to the next poor unsuspecting soul? Do the same thing but online? At Cons? In writing? Do I send emails to friends, promoting myself? Do I start snail mail chain letters threatening the roof of peoples houses will fall in if they don’t spread the news? Do I create a religion of myself and get people to buy in with their hearts?

No, that’s not how any of it goes.
So, then what?

To complicate matters, I work at a cafe in a college town about 6 months out of every year. I am a front lines barista and behind the scenes baker and chef. More often than not, people ask me when I’m graduating from college. And I get it. I act sprightly and young. I have spunk, and I don’t often talk about the very adult things I go through. I’m a very personal person in that way.

In fact, I have a sense that the majority of acquaintances don’t know all the strain I put myself through.

The truth of the matter is if you took a peek at my desktop on any given day — your eyes might bug out. You’d see folder after folder markets “series” and “novella project” and such. I mean, big stuff. Long term goals. I keep them like change in my pocket. The familiar weight of them jingling against my leg as I walk sets me straight. Balances my stride. Without that, I’d fall down.

But, what a reader (hopefully) gets from the pages I kill myself for is not a harried harrowed brain, but a very open and honest heart. And while I am honest and real in person, I am not always the most open. I do not always give. I do not always want to.

This feels like a fairly common writerly trait. Making the beast of writing even stranger for me. Almost to the point of a disconnect between who sits in front of the blank page and who reaches out from across a cafe counter.

Maybe that’s not a bad thing.
Yet, it bothers me personally.

I’ve never been good at compartmentalizing. I like unification. I feel at my best when I can see how all the puzzle pieces fit together. How the compartments are really pieces of a whole. How I can stack and sort and store the pieces together in the same room.

I feel often mistaken for having one or two boxes in a big empty room versus a wall of compartments comprising a house. I don’t know why. Perhaps, that’s not even true but I have fear. A fear of being not unknowable, but uninteresting. A house no-one ever goes through. A garage, packed full, and sealed up for good.

Come flood water and storm turmoil, the precious things stored up inside will rot and ruin. But who will know?

Who will care?

As with all things, it becomes very personal very quickly. I take too much to heart. I hold on to mild assumptions or guesses I’ve made and convince myself they are true. My intuition must be spot on.

“And you, my dear, will always be alone.”

Self pity is an easy trait for the perpetually unseen. Meanness and sharpened teeth one step behind. The inevitable insatiable downward slide into resignation and defeat.

Perhaps, that is why the blank page always felt safe. It offered something people couldn’t — an emptiness that I could fill in. Regardless of where I went, what I did, who I became — it waited for me. A story that needed telling always on the edge of my door, knocking. Always a new character caught out in the rain needing to be let in.

And so, I suppose like every other obsessive author, I do what I do because I love it. Because it feels good. And because, on the other side of the page, I hope someone gets to know some piece of me. However distant and remote. However disconnected from the rest of my heart. However compartmentalized and stored up.

Such is fiction. A book only reaches the heart when the eyes read it, and we each carry around different glasses with lenses as varied as the possibilities of the universes.

I think I can live with that.

Seasonal Growth

​Reading the twitter feeds on the Dakota pipeline protests has brought back memories of mine. One is the image of me with a rainbow flag and a drum. Another in the biting cold, straddled aboard my bike in the middle of an intersection. Another, my bike between the SWAT team and me while behind my back strangers marched on that I was charged to defend.

In my life, the best protests have happened in the rain. 

I’ve only been to a few handfuls. Lead one on Wall Street in the middle of the night. Facilitated some. Met in quiet room and discussed big lans that came to meager ends. And over a course of years, it never felt like much. 

Like digging my fingers into the dirt never felt like becoming a gardener. Planting stakes in the ground never felt like starting a revolution. Beating a drum like jump-starting a revolt. Leaving home  never looking like becoming free. And shaving my head didn’t feel like becoming anything.

But after years have passed in slow progression, I look back and see how each piece was a step along a long staircase toward this outlier’s garden.

And now I sit solo with my head in the clouds, eyes closed, seeing worlds thriving and dying in universes no-one else knows. I am trying to ellucidate, but failure is so easy to come by; success so rare.

But, still, I know that nothing is intrinsically linked to anything. My actions and attitudes are no guaranteed momentum upward to some inevitable goal. But rather, life is lateral movement. I suppose as I go, I necessarily move away and towards. But it all feels arbitrary and relative. Circles and cycles, spinning wheels, nothing else.

I loop and loop and loop around. Hoping I am honing in, knowing only I am trying. Effort equals some piece of the equation, but which bit?

Struggles build muscle. But the older I get, the less I retain them. The more I gain experience and grow, the more effort base survival costs my heart and body.

The rage of my youth has mellowed into a steady glow. Less a fire, more a current. A flow. Oft times, I feel both grounded and steady. Some days I fail at composure and need my quiet solitary to recover.

Some days are plain bad, and I have to go far away, disconnect, disengage. Count spoons. Those days people say unattributable things like “mercury is in retrograde.” I only attest it to my heart —  tangles of scar tissue that beats off-kilter and awkward when the weather is too warm and the nights too short. But it sings in the rain and speckled starlight of winter’s drawn out cold.

I am an autumn core. Born in the shift, always on the cusp of some new experience. My winter was a youth in which I was oh so slow to grow. It showed. But now come age, come spring,  I am developing in every direction. Soon enough you’ll look at me and see more than a narrow sappling. An earth-bounded tree. A sentinel. A forest for all these leaves.

And in the long and low angles of a late summer’s glow, I will come into my own. Come into old growth. Bend inward on myself. And rest.

But for now, I am covered in the blue-green of these new shoots. I am spreading everywhere and reaching for everything. Now is the time to catch my hand and dance. To catch our breath and jump. To chase whims and try it all.

Off into the wild.