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“Yoga and Healing Arts Center opens in San Juan, Puerto Rico”

by Joy Karin Weyland

 

“Stop your routine and rejuvenate yourself. StarMoonSky is opening its door for yoga, meditation, massage, theatre, doulas, and community support. Don’t miss the chance to visit and deepen your practice in kundalini, Hatha Yoga, Power Yoga, the healing arts, self-awareness of the four bodies: spiritual, mental, emotional and physical through movement, voice, botanical soaps, essential oils, divine feminine journals, therapeutic arts, goddess clothing, jewelry, and merry more.”

StarMoonSky is a non-profit organization that collaborates with other resources in Holistic Health locally and around the world, founded in 2013 by Ruth Figueroa, Jesse Rodriguez and Karin Weyland. Its mission is to bring about individual, family and social awareness and well-being.

“Book a massage, a class, or join community with us.”

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“Silence as seen in sacred places in India from two spiritual teachers: Gandhi’s last residence and the Buddha’s first teaching site”

On my trip to India, I visited Gandhi’s residence in New Delhi, where he spent the last years of his  life before he was killed. His footsteps were circled in cement as he walked to his evening meditation, finding death instead. I stood in that same place and silence took over my heart in sadness, yet in celebration of his path. Observing the pictures of his life trajectory, I relived my passion for social activism through his eyes. Soon after, grief was lifted and I treasured his simple life. One day a week Gandhi chose to be in silence, and no matter who came to the door, or what situation arose, he stayed in solitude which had become his extended practice.

I also visited Deer Park near Varanasi, where Siddhartha Gautama, known today as the Buddha, taught the ins and outs of a meditative, skillful, all united body, mind, and heart. I felt connected to his devotion for a balanced, harmonious and wise life. I recommitted to the four noble truths regarding craving as the end of suffering, and the foundations of mindfulness through the contemplation of the body, the contemplation of feelings, the contemplation of consciousness, and the contemplation of mental objects. The words, “Sadhu, Sadhu,” ended his sermon, meaning well spoken. I walked away noticing my breath, …”one who is breathing in a long breath, knows, “I am breathing in a long breath”; breathing out a long breath, she knows, “I am breathing out a long breath”; breathing in a short breath, she knows, “I am breathing in a short breath”; breathing out a short breath, she knows, “I am breathing out a short breath.” “Experiencing the whole (breath-) body, I shall breathe in,” thus she trains herself. “Experiencing the whole (breath-) body, I shall breathe out,” thus she trains herself. “Calming the activity of the (breath-) body, I shall breathe in,” thus she trains herself. “Calming the activity of the (breath-) body, I shall breathe out,” thus she trains herself”.

I pondered what makes a site sacred in each breath, and when I journaled about those life moments, I wrote about my connection there and then with the present moment. Observing my breath, my body, my feelings, my heart and my mind made those sites sacred for me. I think now of Thich Nhat Hanh when he writes, “Real solitude comes from a stable heart that does not get carried away by the crowd or our sorrows about the past, our worries about the future or our excitement about the present.”

 

 

 

“Speak Up, Down, In-between”

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A random selection of poems from a woman’s heart and psyche. It includes excerpts from my own poetry, Susan Griffin’s, Gloria Anzaldúa’s, Audre Lorde’s, Josefina Báez’s, Nellie Wong’s, Kate Rushin’s, Crystos’, and Cherríe Moraga’s, from the classic book of writings by radical women of color, This Bridge Called my Back, edited by Gloria Anzaldúa and Cherríe Moraga, and other sources.

I lack imagination you say

No. I lack language.

The language to clarify

my resistance to the literate.

Words are a war to me.

They threaten my family.

To gain the word

to describe the loss

I risk losing everything.

I may create a monster

the word’s length and body

swelling up colorful and thrilling

looming over my mother, characterized.

Her voice in the distance

unintelligible illiterate.

These are the monster’s words.

–Cherríe Moraga

“You say my name is ambivalence? Think of me as Shiva, a many-armed and legged body with one foot on brown soil, one on white, one in straight society, one in the gay world, the man’s world, the women’s one limb in the literary world, another in the working class, the socialist, and the occult worlds. A sort of spider woman hanging by one thins strand of web. So, me confused? Ambivalent? Not so. Only your labels split me.”

–Gloria Anzaldúa

 call me 

roach and presumptuous

nightmare on your white pillow

your itch to destroy

the indestructible

part of yourself

–Audre Lorde

Amor de lejos amor de tres amor de cuatro
Un ripiao una línea larga turistas
otra ma’ larga que’r diablo nacionales
Un guardia un maletero
otro maletero
y lo mío?
otro maletero y otro má descuartizan la bienvenida
Sospechosos no conocidos al cuartico. Sospechosos conocidos al salón
diplomático
La que tiene una monga en la mano Mírenla ahí mírenla ahí
I ain’t no fucking Juanita Shit
Divisas divisorias dividiendo
parte integral del GNP
Divisas divisorias dividiendo
remesas igual a turismo
Divisas divisorias dividiendo
falsa paridad del dollar
Divisas divisorias dividiendo
reportando para la nación la que no se cayó en el cajón
El país en venta
se vende esta mejora
se vende este Club Gallístico
For Sale
Por motivos de viaje vendo
pasaporte vencido folio de su acta de nacimiento se dañó con el ciclón
regrese a su pueblo vaya a la central pase primero por la regional
cédula expirada usted está casi trancao pueblo-capital-otro pueblo-capital
Con esta me hago ciudadana con viva emoción
Bienvenidos al país mejor del mundo el tuyo
said What?
y sin esperanzas
“Todo lo que dejas te espera… Damn!
mensaje de la Presidencia

–Josefina Báez

when i was growing up, people would ask if I were Filipino, Polynesian, Portuguese. They named all colors except white, the shell of my soul, but not my dark, rough skin

when I was growing up, I felt dirty. I thought that god made white people clean and no matter how much I bathed, I could not change, I could not shed my skin in the gray water

when I was growing up, I swore I would run away to purple mountains, houses by the sea with nothing over my head, with space to breathe, uncontested with yellow people in an area called Chinatown, in an area I later learned was a ghetto, one of many hearts of Asian America

–Nellie Wong

I will not be the bridge to your womanhood Your manhood Your human-ness

I’m sick of reminding you not to Close off too tight for too long. I’m sick of mediating with your worst self Oh behalf of your better selves

I am sick Of having to remind you To breathe Before you suffocate Your own fool self

Forget it Stretch or drown Evolve or Die

The bridge I must be Is the bridge to my own power I must translate My own fears Mediate My own weaknesses

I must be the bridge to nowhere But my true self And then I will be useful

–Kate Rushin

“As women, we have been taught to either ignore our differences or to view them as causes for separation and suspicion rather than as forces of change. Without community, there is no liberation, only the most vulnerable and temporary armistice between individual and her oppression. But community must not mean a shedding of our differences, nor the pathetic pretense that these differences do not exist.”

–Audre Lorde

My name is Quisqueya Amada
Taína Anaisa Altagracia Indiga.
You can call me Kay.
El cocolo, mi timacle, calls me
chula. He calls me Chula and his
derriengue. And the rest
Gorda. They call me La Gorda.

Chiquita, gorda, mal tallá.
No soy vacana. Ni matatana
ni un mujerón.
Muy normalota. Molleta.
Una morenota.
Otra prieta mas. Sin na’ atrá.
Bling bling ain’t for me.
But you will not believe lo que yo
gusté en Erre De.
Well, not me, me, me.
But me my USA passport
Me my many gifts
Me paganini
Me my hot hip hop steps
Me mambo violento
mambo rabioso
mi mambo sabroso.

–Josefina Báez

A woman lies buried under me, interred for centuries, presumed dead.

A woman lies buried under me. I hear her soft whisper the rasp of her parchment skin fighting the folds of her shroud. Her eyes are pierced by needles her eyelids, two fluttering moths.

–Gloria Anzaldúa

There are women locked in my joints for refusing to speak to the police

Me red blood full of those arrested, in flight, shot

My tendons stretched brittle with anger do not look like white roots of peace

In my marrow are hungry faces who live on land the whites don’t want

In my marrow women who walk 5 miles every day for water

In my marrow the swollen faces of my people who are not allowed to hunt to move to be

–Chrystos

And if you are there behind your skin and if there are tears behind your tears.

and if there is speaking behind your speaking

Let me hold all these her body

entered her voice and asked

as if holding this truth of another woman was like being held, and feeling the softness of herself enter the air

she put her hand on the bone of her own cheek and was held by the knowledge of her body: how being held is like holding.

–Susan Griffin

Why must woman stand divided? Building the wall that tear them down? Jill-of-all trades

Lover, mother, housewife, find, breadwinner

Heart and spade A woman is a ritual A house that must accommodate A house that must endure Generation and generation

Of wind and torment, of fire and rain A house with echoing rooms Closets with hidden cries Walls with stretch marks Windows with Eyes

–Genny Lim

Images. Voices. Memories. Actions. Our differences cross out borders, fringes, divisions. The “I” and “the Other.” Absorbed, mixed, dispersed, blurred. Sketches of our shadow.

We are breathed, intersected with metaphors of losses and triumphs. The frontier is not a landscape but our female body.

Imprints in our eyes, hands, breasts, hips, shoulders, minds, and labia. Our hymen broken, our territory has no walls, no boundaries.

–Joy Karin Weyland

I have been ripped wide open

by a word, a look, a gesture —

from self, kin, and stranger.

My soul jumps out

scurries into hiding

I hobble here and there

seeking solace

trying to coax it back home

but the me that’s home

has become alien without it.

Wailing, i pull my hair

suck snot back and swallow it

place both hands over the wound

but after all these years

it still bleeds

never realizing that to heal

there must be wounds

to repair there must be damage

for light there must be darkness.

–Gloria Anzaldúa

“Homecoming”

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Homecoming= Advent, Arrival, Appearance, Influx, Landing, Meeting, Return, Approach, Disembarkation, Entrance, Happening, Alighting, Dismounting, Acknowledgement, Answer, Revisitation, Recovery, Reoccurrence, Restitution, Repossession, Reinstatement, Reuniting, Recoil, Retreat, Rebound, Reconciliation.

The taxi driver rushed through the outskirts of Buenos Aires in silence. White and grey buildings, decaying paint, brick and tile terraces with grills and dried flower pots. Metallic antennas, telecommunication cables, windows in divided walls, rails in a five lane highway, and another Renault car packed with suitcases heading towards the airport, in the opposite direction. A sudden exit, cobble streets in my old San Telmo neighborhood, youth hang-outs and sexual escapades with my boyfriend, Mi Luna Hotel. A Coca Cola advertisement, Deli Markets with empanadas (meat turnovers) and milanesas (breaded beef cutlets), a graffiti of Carlos Gardel singing tango and Julia Roberts’ image featuring the latest Lancome perfume. A billboard of Shakira’s promising elixir, “Dance,” and United Colors of Benetton’s reconciling cologne, “United Dreams,” depicting Black, Asian, White and Native women next to the words, “I’m White, I’m Black, I’m Yellow, I’m Red.”

Trees decorated the world’s widest avenue, La 9 de Julio, where the obelisk, a gift from the French, stood in its center. Eva Peron’s metallic contour of her head overlooked the traffic. On corporate ad billboards, colorful graffiti from youth gangs cheered up passersby. Still lit, Corrientes Avenue to my right held various signs featuring names of theatre companies, local plays, and cinema productions. Many halls though closed down, their old Neon signs replaced by Cable Television and Netflix advertisements. MacDonald’s occupied the place of the local hamburger joint, PumperNic. Cellular phone stores, Personal and Movistar popped up everywhere. Clothing store’s names showed a mixed of languages and cultures, Legacy, Icebow, Sea Tu Voluntad, Crocs, The London Shop, Rip Curl, Devre, Vilaro Ropa, Ash, Urban Cow, Rouge, Clara, Cheeky, Mc Taylor, Mamy Blue, Yagmour, Boating, OGGI, Look Famacity, Cardon—Cosa Nuestra, Antonio Belgornio, Kill Jeans, Maldito Glam. They stood next to Universo Garden Angels Oils, Freddo Ice Cream Parlor, Karpatos Luggage, Los Robles Polo, Biblos Resto and Coffee Shop, Martinez Café, Starbucks, and The Coffee House. On the edge of transnational shopping, homeless people slept on the Avenue’s parks next to stop buses for shelter. The former city governor closed down the business area to private cars. Only pedestrians, buses and taxis could transit. Children dove into overflowed blue garbage containers looking for the day’s meal. Jugglers did their best at the stop light for some change. Old movies of Soledad Sylveria, Moria Casan, Susana Jimenez, and el Gordo Porcel starred in an old city theatre.

I stared out the window. Another Friday in the Cartesian calendar. At eight in the morning the city woke up from a nightmare. Youth and night owls were gone like my Dad. The avenue’s clock reminded me of the father of rationality, Descartes’ less famous phrase: “To arrive at the truth, one must get rid of everything we know once in a lifetime and rebuild our system of knowledge.” We were always creatures of habits. Tightness in my stomach. After a fall from a horse, my mom’s leg broke. After fifty-six years of marriage, her heart was also broken. Tingling signs from my overworked, burnt out spine. Love and Trauma. Family dynamics, forerunners of negative emotions. Resentments: Unmet expectations. Blame, Anger, Grief. Unconditional love: Words or whims of fate?

The car took a turn on Marcelo T. de Alvear Street, leading to the same bedroom on 1065 Libertad Street. It hit me then I lived  on a city street called Freedom since I was a teenager. It never worked. I anticipated jasmine scent from my mom’s perfume, the smell of steak and salad, baked chicken with potatoes, meat bread with homemade ricotta ravioli, ham and cheese empanadas. Her aloe plants hung from the balcony security bars. Intimacy spaces defined the outside in a postmodern world. A fifty-year old refrigerator with magnets from around the world. The same velvet sofa from their wedding gift list. Two hundred-year-old handmade Oriental rugs. The same red kitchen clock I gave my parents for their twentieth-fifth anniversary. No image of an in-between space lacking edges or borders. How many doors did I open to take a look outside? How many doors did I close to take a look inside? Crumbling structures that no longer served me. World contact led me to renovation, invention, and new habits.  Maybe Descartes was right but no one listened and lived instead by “to think is to be.” Jorge Luis Borges’ memory of a memory. Was it as real or the same?

The taxi stopped and the driver rushed to put my luggage on the sidewalk. I tipped him a $5 dollar bill. He smiled and didn’t say a word. Pedestrians walked around them. A line of youth in school uniforms stood at the 39 bus stop on Libertad Street and Santa Fe Avenue. My finger held the buzzer. Two crystal doors, two floors, two balconies, two parallel soap-operas between my mother and myself. The lavender oils in my purse soothed my hyperactive, anxious brain. I lowered my sunglasses holding my hair straight. I shook my head and adjusted my eyes to the morning sunlight. I covered my right ear. The sound of the breaks in the orange school bus penetrated my eardrum. Kids yelling in their blue and white uniforms from public schools. It used to be one of the best, free educational systems in Latin America.

The doorman held the doors as I pushed my luggage. I welcomed his greetings and update on my mother.He had a concerned look. “She was always coming and going. She must be in a lot of pain.” I nodded. “Yes, she is pretty active.” I held my mouth tight, thinking what was ahead of me. “We’ll see how she takes it.” I took my sunglasses off and rolled my eyes. “Two months of bed rest.” He chuckled, “Good luck with that.” I closed the metallic door of a tight elevator in the back and pushed the second floor button. The front entrance was always locked.

Going up, I already missed my corner of the world: grounded, neutral territory, walking on my own two feet, unlocked doors, the quiet of the country-side, orange and mint bubble baths, C.I.A agent Carrie Mathison’s bipolar fantasies with a U.S. Marine  turned terrorist on Homeland–a popular T.V. show on Netflix, two million unaccounted presidential votes, Sheryl Crow’s song “Soak up the Sun” playing on Spotify between car commercials, the barking of dogs, the grace walk of wild cats and a neighborhood fox, the smell of horse sweat, the crunch of their teeth, the bright orange of calendulas and poppies, the fresh scent of earth, the salty ocean breeze, lavender and pink sunsets, the smell of rotten apples on the ground, the pinch of black berry thorns, poignant horse and cow manure after the morning fog, a $12 New York sirloin steak from Safeway Supermarket, the rattle of raccoons at night, the stormy, cranky wind of California winters, women’s sacred circle, the fog when it touched the warm sand from a Mediterranean-like sun, soothing tea herbs from my garden, fresh lettuce and walnut salad, steamed kale and Swiss chard, the touch of my sweet lover, sunflowers in the rain, freedom beyond a street name, my embodied heart awaken in a hybrid world– my one and only true home.

~~~

[Disclaimer: The stories and pictures in this Blog do not coincide with the women and people depicted in the photographs. Names have been changed to protect their identity. I am solely responsible for the facts gathered and on which the stories and images are based. Nonfiction narrative asserts descriptions understood to be factual and may incorporate fictional elements to clarify and enhance them.]

“Pocket Candy – A Sweet Memory”

Memories recall positive and negative emotions, but the brain preferentially scans for and reacts to unpleasant moments in our childhood. Even when positive experiences outnumber negative ones, the pile of negative implicit memories naturally grows faster. Why is the brain like Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive ones? In our modern world, it’s the “fight-or-flight”response that activates the brain more often than the “rest-and-digest.” Unlike a computer that keeps an exact file on its hard drive, the brain regenerates each memory and draws stimulating capacities to fill in missing details, without you even knowing. Pocket Candy is a memory of a memory of my father and I when I was five or six. Writing about it fosters positive experiences and wholesome states of mind that aid my brain in building new neural structure, synapse by synapse. As the brain changes, the new memory becomes part of me.

Caramelo, chupetines, bombón helado,” I spoke to my father, catching him early morning before he went to work in the city.

He smiled at me as he put his coat on. His black straight hair was wet, combed back. “Is that what you want today?”

I nodded. I always asked for more than one thing: candy, lollypops, and chocolate covered ice cream. My eagerness charmed him as I waved my arms in the air, still in my pajamas.

Whenever he went along with my game, he held my arms tight, stretched out. I raised my legs up his body and stretched my neck out for a flip.

“One more step,” he said. “There you go, put your head down. I’m holding you.” His grip was firm and safe. “You got it. Now do the somersault.”

As I let my body go backwards in a twist, I felt the touch of my hair covering my face. I was thrilled as I put my feet down. He let go of my arms and we both laughed.

In the evening, when he was back, I could spot my dad’s mischievous smile. I was determined to get what I wanted. “What did you bring me?” I stood with my arms on the hips. I knew he was hiding something.

He didn’t answer and held his grin while I searched his pockets.

“Is it here?” I moved as fast as I could.

“Hmmm.” He said. “Cold, cold.” I moved to the other pocket.

“Here?”

“Hmmm. Warmer.” He was now laughing.

Then I noticed his palms were closed behind his back.

I put my right hand under my chin with my index finger up. “I know.” I said. ”Let me see your hands.” I demanded.

He opened his right fist fast. “Hot,” He said and spread his fingers of the left hand slowly.

“The hippopotamus.” I jumped up and down. There it was, my chocolate prize. When I saw it, I smiled from ear to ear. Nestle milk chocolate bar, wrapped in a zoo-animal-figure paper sat on his palm. It meant the world to me, even though he didn’t remember to bring what I asked for: Caramelo, chupetines, bombón helado.

~~~

[Disclaimer: The stories and pictures in this Blog do not coincide with the women and people depicted in the photographs. Names have been changed to protect their identity. I am solely responsible for the facts gathered and on which the stories and images are based. Nonfiction narrative asserts descriptions understood to be factual and may incorporate fictional elements to clarify and enhance them.]

 

 

“Fields of Love/ Campos del amor”

 

Poetry can heal… La poesía sana…It takes us deep into our emotional self, our inner psyche. I wrote this poem in one of my many life transitions, and it helped me to cope with my direct experience of sadness and letting go. I used this image as inspiration, and after a few drafts and a little help from a poet friend, I titled the poem, “Fields of Love.” I encourage you to write a poem that originates from an emotion or image you’re drawn to. Or come back to a poem you wrote, and use one sentence as prompt. / Nos lleva profundo en nuestras emociones, en nuestra psíquis. Escribí este poema en una de mis muchas transiciones en la vida, y me ayudó a interpretar mi experiencia directa con la tristeza y el dejar ir. Usé esta imagen como inspiración, y luego de varios borradores y la ayuda de una amiga poeta, nombré este poema, “Campos del Amor.” Recomiendo que escriban un poema inspirado en una emoción o imagen que les atrae. O vuelve a leer un poema que ya has escrito y usa una oración para escribir más.

(Scroll down for Spanish version)

Flying like a bird,

I’m free to breathe like a human,

To be embraced, nurtured.

In feathers of love and rapture,

I cherish my lust and fondle my treasures.

A flock of pigeons overtakes me.

I open my wings and draw near.

A plethora of laments stream my consciousness.

My flapping is unique, slow, abounding.

Sweet like the purple blue of the horizon.

Sky reflects the green, orange, red of the Earth.

Rain nurtures the soil of the soul.

My eyes reveal the sparkling of the water.

I take in the crushing waves,

And I envelop my sensual outbreak.

A raindrop falls in my head while drifting.

I swallow my tears and go on winging,

I’m free to be seen when no one is surveying.

Spinning in the swell of passion,

I unearth my ardor with buoyancy and fervor.

The green of tall grass blinds my sight.

I drop a leaflet from a California poppy,

and I spread my sorrows in the flurry.

My empty beak cries for a refuge,

I search for a nest, to rest and nibble.

I close my eyes and the yellow pink lightens my spirit,

I taste the salt of the ocean, my sanctuary.

A wink at a time, I chirp at my flesh.

I set down the world, my mortal universe.

I am, while fields of love beckon the wings of desire.

~~~

En Español:

Volando como un pájaro,

me siento libre de respirar como humana.

De ser abrazada, alimentada,

en plumas de amor y éxtasis.

Celebro mi deseo y acaricio mis tesoros.

Un grupo de palomas me alcanza.

Abro mis alas y me acerco.

Una plétora de lamentos llena mi conciencia.

Mi volar es único, despacio, expansivo,

dulce como el azul violeta del horizonte.

La lluvia nutre la tierra del alma.

Mis ojos revelan el brillo del agua.

Escucho el romper de las olas

y me encierro en mi estallido sensual.

Una gota cae en mi cabeza mientras vuelo.

Me trago las lágrimas y sigo luchando.

Soy libre de ser vista mientras nadie esta mirando.

Doy vueltas en la ola de pasión,

destierro mi ardor con abundancia y fervor.

El verde del pasto me ciega.

Dejo caer una hoja de la amapola californiana,

y derramo mis tristezas en el viento.

Mi pico vacío llora por un refugio.

Busco un nido para descansar y picotear.

Un guiño a la vez, muerdo mi carne.

Pongo a descansar el mundo, mi universo mortal,

cierro los ojos y el amarillo rosado levanta mi espíritu.

Pruebo la sal del océano, mi santuario.

Soy, mientras los campos del amor atraen las alas del deseo.

~~~

Painting that inspired the poem by Shanti Benoit from the Artist’s Coop in Mendocino town, California. The project was part of Ekphrasis V, a collaborative project between artists from the Artist’s Coop and writers from the Writer’s Club of the Mendocino Coast.

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“Work in a Patriarchal Age”

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“Healing is a cyclical process that follows a pattern until the situation or the physical/emotional pain goes away. If not addressed it may linger from one generation to the next. In a patriarchal age like ours, men and their career choices affect the way women organize their lives around work and family. However, it takes female energy and informed wisdom and equanimity to regain harmony and balance in the body, the family and the community.”

“Why do you want to leave your teaching job?” asked my dad thirty years later, as we sat in his study-room. We had moved three times in the city, however my parents kept the same furniture at each place; all gifts from their wedding day: a wooden set of table and French chairs, a red velvet couch, tall lamps with brown shades, two green sofas, a marble coffee table, silver picture frames, and a cast silver table center.

I chose to sit on the leather chair for back support. The study was in the center of the apartment, in-between the bedrooms and the kitchen.

“I’m in physical pain all the time, Dad.” I said. “The university assigns me almost one hundred students each semester.” I sighed. “It feels like a factory. Time off is not helping my back, only worries me more what I’m going to do next.” He stared at me in silence, trying to understand my situation.I held my tears of frustration. “I love teaching but I also want my body pain to go away and give myself more time to recover from the surgeries.”

My parents paid for my college tuition so leaving my academic career behind was a major decision for all of us. I’ve always felt I owed them for helping me out during those first years in college. My mother eavesdropped on the conversation as she walked from the kitchen to her bedroom.

“You could have bought yourself an apartment here in the city with all the money we sent you,” my mother couldn’t wait to remind me whenever the subject came up.

“I know Mom, you said that more than enough.” I responded each time.

“I know what the problem is,” she said and paused to clean her hands on the apron around her waist, holding a kitchen rag with the other hand.

“What, Mom?” I said.

She flipped the rag and pointed at me. “You’re just burned down.” I looked at her in dismay. I didn’t know how to react to that.“I know.” She spoke even louder. “I saw it in a movie.”

“It’s not burned down, Mom. It’s burnt out.” I said.

She was probably right but at the time it hadn’t hit me yet how exhausted I was. I just wanted my body pain to go away. My mother didn’t express her opinion much but when she had an idea about me, she was firm and most times right.

“Let her talk,” my father pleaded trying to get back into our conversation. “I want to hear it from her.”

“It’s okay Dad. She can express her opinion.”

My mother played the submissive type, so I always defended her when I could. She rolled her eyes and walked away into the hallway, back to the kitchen.

“You will lose touch with your own career,” my father continued. “That’s what my own father told me when I started to manage the ranch.”

Opapa, my father’s dad was a Baptist protestant and the general surgeon at one of the most prestigious private hospitals in the city, El Hospital Aleman. He had high expectations for his children and grandchildren. However, my dad didn’t follow his steps because he fainted at the sight of blood. Instead, my dad studied philosophy and then switched to architecture, a career that took nine years to complete. When Tono died, my grandfather on my mother’s side, my dad took up the management of the ranch.

“And?” I asked.

“At first I didn’t think of it too much,” He said with nostalgia. “As the years went by, he was right. I was too immersed in the ranch, trying to make ends meet, and helping your mother to keep her piece of land. I couldn’t do both.”

After Tono died, my father switched his urban planning projects for one closer to the land. That’s also when he began working with Guarani people. The few Guarani men, who had worked for my grandfather, and now for my dad, had no choice but follow my father’s new dreams on which depended the sustenance of our family and their families as well as the survival of their patriarchal names. As in my family, men were the major players. While my father chose to manage the ranch, my older brother followed in his footsteps and became an agricultural engineer. The need for reason inspired them as they searched for their own truth that led my dad and many other men of his generation in an insatiable dominion over nature. Always struggling to acquire more, they built doorways to the physical and mental labyrinths they created for the upcoming generations. My next of age brother, Jorge became a lawyer and followed my grandfather’s footsteps by practicing law.

Induced by societal norms, the men in my family learned to fortify a male sense of security based on material gain and comfort. In the end, they faced mortality like the rest of us. As to my decision to leave academia, it became an on-going struggle for several years, until my body said enough is enough. Falling back in the gentleness of my female body became my priority for a better healing.

~ ~~~~

[Disclaimer: The stories and pictures in this Blog do not coincide with the women and people depicted in the photographs. Names have been changed to protect their identity. I am solely responsible for the facts gathered and on which the stories and images are based. Nonfiction narrative asserts descriptions understood to be factual and may incorporate fictional elements to clarify and enhance them.]

 

“The Coiled Serpent”

“When I was nine my little girl body faced the challenges of patriarchal authority. The silencing of my voice opened my eyes to class and ethnic distinctions as well as the cathartic power of the serpent as metaphor for women’s solidarity and transformation. This is my story—an excerpt from the unpublished manuscript, Uncoiling the Serpent Goddess: From Ancient Myth to Spiritual Freedom by Joy Karin Weyland.”

Ever since I can remember, I’ve been scared of serpents. When I was a child, after a daunting fight with my father, I hid inside a wood shed. Poisonous snakes were likely to nest there. I sat in the dark, wishing one would bite me and I would die. For many years, I replayed this incident in my head several times, blaming myself for my own rebellious voice.

“I hate you,” I yelled to my father as he served himself a piece of steak.

His dark long thin hair was combed back. Some grey hairs were beginning to show. His big ears stood out against his white skin and his eagle-shaped nose was always running from allergies to dust, pollen, dog hair, and mildew. He sniffed into his handkerchief.

My mother gave me one of those looks to shut up. She was always the last one to sit down at the table, arranging the food and what was needed for our meals.

Minerva Gaea, a plumed, medium sized, Indigenous woman with Spanish features, then the main caretaker, helped her with last minute details. The protocol was that once the food was served, she would go back to the outside kitchen and eat there. My two older brothers never helped, and I was too little, the baby girl. Salt, pepper, a serving spoon, a missing napkin, water, and a glass of wine. Minerva moved slowly as she emptied her tray.

“Why are we stuck here?” I kept at the conversation, “I want to be with my friends. I’m missing all the fun they are having in the city.”

“Your father already told you,” said my mother, “we’ll be here until we can straighten things out.”

“It’s been a whole month already,” I stuttered, knowing that I was pushing the boundaries.

The temperature of the room was rising. Minerva’s thick eyebrows rose as she walked towards the door. Unlike my father, her straight dark long hair was always in place. I never saw a sight of frustration or complaint in her face.

My brothers didn’t seem to care we were stranded all summer at the ranch. After all, they enjoyed riding horses and the freedom of the land. One of my brothers kicked me under the table, but it was too late. My dissatisfaction grew and I blurted out.

“I hate this place and everything about it.”

That’s when I didn’t see it coming, and my father’s hand stroke my left cheek. The only time in my life the heavy weight of a man’s open hand was on my face. His face shrunk with anger, as if he couldn’t believe what I had just said. His parental authority was undermined, out the window.

I was still a little girl, and yet my body witnessed a mixed feeling of failure and solidarity. While Minerva was in the same room, I was safe to speak up, and my father held his anger in place. As his irritation unleashed, I was nauseated with the smell of steak and my mother’s pleasing tone. I raised my hand to my mouth, as if I was going to throw up. My whole body contracted and I left the room crying. I then walked into the shed and sat in a corner. I wished for a snake to bite me.

Dying seemed like the only response to my father’s slap, to his repression of my ten-year-old rebellion, to the silencing of my voice. A baby snake slipped through one of the logs as I was standing up. She wasn’t coiled. No bite. May be yararas didn’t bite when they were little.

Yarara was the Guarani name for the regional poisonous snake that roamed the ranch, and was now part of our mestizo heritage. The yarara knew no boundaries, sharing the soil of Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia, and Brazil. The Guarani, the Indigenous people of this regional area who appeared in the first millennium, drew her on plates, coiled with spots, moving through the jungle with ease like the jaguar, also called Yaraguarete, another mythical figure in Guarani culture.

“Go ahead and look for Karin,” my mother asked my brother Jorge.

It was a busy morning that day, and my parents were ready for their afternoon nap. I could still hear the dishes clanging in the kitchen. I hesitated between waiting for someone to find me. Instead, I stood up and I walked outside, feeling renewed, as if my old skin had been removed.

The process of shedding had turned snakes into symbols of legends and myths representing neurosis, healing, initiation, death, transformation, wisdom and rebirth. I anticipated the power of the serpent goddess and her many polymorphic and multidimensional manifestations in my life. It would be some time though before the new skin was ready for the world, shameless and free, growing instead a strong woman Self that some day would face my father’s authority, or better yet, how I saw the world through my parents’ eyes.

I met my brother playing outside, and we carried on our usual children’s games. He warned me about my father still being angry, so we went to the back of the house and ate some oranges from the trees.

I’ve held on to this traumatic experience for most of the years I lived abroad, sometimes in the foreground, sometimes buried deep down. I came to see my own affliction with patriarchal authority in the immigrant women I met years later in New York City when working in the Dominican neighborhood of Washington Heights. Here I met Paulina, Carmen, Altagracia, Maria, Mercedes and Belkis, women in their forties who had powerful stories of family, displacement and survival. I was still in my twenties then, but they left an impression on me.

It took me another twenty years however to acknowledge our struggles from a broader female lenses. We had in common the pain that was rooted in centuries of devaluation of female power and distrust of the female will, as if a snake coiled up ready to attack.

~ ~~~~

[Disclaimer: The stories and pictures in this Blog do not coincide with the women and people depicted in the photographs. Names have been changed to protect their identity. I am solely responsible for the facts gathered and on which the stories and images are based. Nonfiction narrative asserts descriptions understood to be factual and may incorporate fictional elements to clarify and enhance them.]