Wednesday, May 01, 2013

I've Moved!

This blog has been dormant for a while, because I've created a new site for my work, which also contains a blog. Find me now at Hope to see you there!


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Mythic Journeys Documentary

Over this past weekend, I had the opportunity to go up to Whidbey Island for a visit to Whidbey Institute, which was hosting a screening of a new documentary film called Mythic Journeys. Footage for Mythic Journeys was filmed at the 2006 Mythic Journeys conference in Atlanta (which I was unfortunately unable to attend due to being both too pregnant and too poor as a Pacifica student). The film is a combination of snippets from some of the sessions by Deepak Chopra, Ellen Kushner, and others, as well as interviews with people like Steve Aizenstat, Bob Walter, and other luminaries of the field. In addition to the "talking heads" sections, there was also a myth told in segments throughout the film, interspersed with the interviews. The myth was "The King and the Corpse", and the dolls for the animation section were designed by Brian and Wendy Froud (designers of films like Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal). Ron and the boys came with me, and we spent the night at Whidbey Institute, which was a lot of fun for all of us.
Last night, at our October meeting the round table hosted Whitney Boe, one of the filmmakers of "Mythic Journeys". She showed us an extended version of one of the sessions at the conference, on how to change the world for the better, and we had a discussion on the film and it's themes.
So, what did I think of the film? I think it's terrific. The intent of the filmmakers is to introduce the themes of mythology to a wider audience in America and worldwide. This is what I've been attempting to do in my own small way through my work with the Campbell Foundation and the round table for the past few years. They are having another showing of the film on Bainbridge Island the first weekend in November, which I look forward to attending as well. Here's hoping the film is a huge success! I know the filmmakers are hoping for a grassroots movement of the type that made "What the bleep do we know" and "The Secret" such successes. The film definitely connects with people; I hope everyone who might be interested gets an opportunity to see it.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming

Wow. I've really neglected this blog lately. Doesn't mean that nothing is going on here in Stiegerland, rather so much is spinning along; the days are flying by so fast that I barely get a glimpse of them before they're behind me.
Ben is getting bigger and is doing beautifully; he'll be 7 months old tomorrow. Starting to crawl, gobbling down anything we're willing to feed him.
Alex started preschool a few weeks ago, and he completely loves it. He's attending Kirkland Coop Preschool, twice weekly in the mornings. I'm there with him one day a week. We're getting closer to the finish line with the potty training issue, and (drumroll please) he's starting to learn to read! So proud of my boy-not even 3 years old yet! Of course, Ron and I were both reading by 3, so I guess it runs in the family. :)
I've been working out a lot lately, pretty much as often as I can fit it in. Swimming, weight training, and workouts with my trainer, Kellie, twice a month. Getting healthier-it feels good.
I've also recommitted to finishing my novel. I began it in early 2005, and ran into a roadblock in the story right about the time I got pregnant with Alex, and unfortunately the poor thing languished for quite a long time. However, earlier this year I decided that it was time to either finish it or give up the idea of writing a novel, and stop toying with it. So, I created a project schedule for myself (just like I used to do for software projects back in the day), and so far I've done a pretty good job of keeping the schedule. I also signed up for a Popular Fiction writing certificate at the UW, in an effort to help with the process. It started last week, and I'm really excited about it.

In the myth space, I'm still leading weekly meetings for the Seattle Mythological Round Table of the Joseph Campbell Foundation. I've also (just recently) gotten more involved with the leadership of the Foundation, which has me really excited. :)

Sunday, August 02, 2009

To Muse or Not to Muse

I've been meaning to write about this for a while, but things have gotten away from me, as they tend to do now that Thing 2 has shown up.

I've been reading Catherynne Valente's blog for a few months now (see here for my comments upon discovering her work about a year and a half ago). About 2 weeks ago, she wrote an extended post about a lecture Elizabeth Gilbert (of Eat, Pray, Love fame) did on the topic of creativity and inspiration, particularly in writing. Ms. Valente had quite a rant about it (it was wonderful, actually, very witty). I found the lecture on YouTube, and watched it a couple of times, as this topic is very near and dear to my heart, and is the subject of my someday doctoral dissertation at Pacifica.
Watching Elizabeth Gilbert's lecture, I understood her to be saying that, essentially, writers as a group have a reputation for mental illness, substance abuse, and suicide (true). She lays the blame for this reputation on the Renaissance-era switch from attributing the creation of new work to a daimon or muse, to the author owing the creation of the work for him or herself. Ms. Gilbert seems to be in quite a state of anxiety about her own work, understanding as she does how difficult it is to follow a huge success like Eat, Pray, Love, and, for the protection of her own psyche, she prefers to lay the responsibility for her work's creation at the feet of a daimon or muse. It appears to be her way of externalizing the pressure of publishing a new work, after the worldwide acceptance of her last. I suppose I can understand the temptation in her own situation to do this, but I must say I was more in agreement with Ms. Valente, who was calling bullshit on this argument (to put it mildly).
Ms. Valente's point is that writing, like anything else, is extremely hard work, and although sometimes when the work is going well it can seem to feel like the work is flowing through the writer from another source, this is actually a function of the artist's psyche, and the whole muse business is a metaphor for this process.
I was, of course, very interested in this whole discussion, in both sides, but I would take Ms. Valente's argument a step farther. I believe that a great deal is required of the artist in the creation of meaningful work, and that true sacrifice must be made in the journey to the unconscious and back. I use the imagery of Inanna. She descends, is killed, and hangs from a meathook. Her life essence drips from her, into the ground at the lowest point of the descent, and it is only after she has given of herself that she is able to make the ascent back to the light.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony

When we were down in Portland for Thanksgiving, we visited Powell's Book Store, which is a dangerous thing to do for someone like me. We emerged relatively unscathed, with a mere 9 books. :) I had a good time trolling the mythology section. I found this great book called "The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony", by Roberto Calasso. I've been reading it, and it's terrific! Check out my favorite quote from the first 50 pages or so:

"Mythical figures live many lives, die many deaths, and in this they differ from the characters we find in novels, who can never go beyond the single gesture. But in each of these lives and deaths all the others are present, and we can hear their echo. Only when we become aware of a sudden consistency between incompatibles can we say we have crossed the threshold of myth." (Calasso page 22)

Inanna and the Hero's Journey Part 2

It's snowing here today, big white puffy flakes. Alex is playing with his toys, Ron is working from home, and it seems like a good day to follow up on my earlier post about Inanna. I can't find my copy of the Inanna myth, so I'll be retelling her story from memory. Any errors are solely mine.

Inanna (queen of heaven and earth) gets word that her sister, Ereshkigal (queen of the underworld), is about to give birth. She begins the descent into the underworld, only to be stopped at 7 gates during the journey. At each gate, she is required to give up another symbol of her status, from her crown and scepter to, at the last gate, her robes. She arrives at Ereshkigal's domain stripped of everything that she was, completely naked. Once she appears before her sister, Eriskegal kills her, and hangs her body on a meat hook in a corner of her throne room.
Apparently, before she left the upper world, Inanna suspected something might happen, and she sent a message to her grandfather, the king of the gods, that if she did not return in three days, that something has happened. When she does not return, Enki creates two sexless creatures from the dirt underneath his fingernails, who descend to the underworld in search of Inanna. Arriving at Ereshkigal's throne room, they find her in the throes of labor. She says "oh, my back!" They say "oh, your back!" They show compassion for her pain, and she is moved by this. She offers them anything they desire, and they say "we want the corpse hanging from the meat hook in the corner". Ereshkigal is not pleased with being tricked out of her sister's corpse, but she honors her promise and gives them the body.
They sprinkle the food of life and the water of life on Inanna's body, and are able to revive her. She ascends to the upper world, regaining all the regalia of her position at each gate on her return.
This is a very abbreviated version of the story. Please refer to Diane Wolkstein's translation of the myth for more information.

So, why is this story relevant to what we've been talking about in our last post? How can the creative artist gain inspiration from this story? There are many stories in myth about descents into the underworld, but the thing that I find interesting about Inanna's story is her death, and being hung on a hook. The translation is very specific on this point. It got me thinking about the business about the hook. So, what is a meat hook used for? Well, in a slaughterhouse, the carcass of the animal is hung on a meat hook to drain the fluids out, right? Not only was Inanna divested of all of her regalia on her descent, even as far as her clothing, but she gives even more to the underworld on her journey. It is my belief that, in order to return with the boon of authentic work, the artist must leave something of herself behind. She must be willing to make that sacrifice. The journey is a dangerous one, and if we look at the lives of our great artists throughout history, it is full of drug and alcohol addiction, insanity, and suicide. If you give too much, and are given much in return, the price to pay is large. The trick is in finding the balance on the descent, the path is a razor's edge.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Inanna and the Hero's Journey

One of the primary focuses I had in my years of study at Pacifica was in deepening my understanding of the importance of story to humankind, and in adding meaning to the process of creating art, particularly the written word. The hero's journey, as laid out by Joseph Campbell in his seminal work "The Hero with a Thousand Faces", illustrates beautifully the process that any creative artist must go through in order to create art. Phil Cousineau talks about this quite eloquently in his new book "Stoking the Creative Fires", and I would encourage anyone interested in the relationship between the creative process and the hero's journey to check it out.
One of the primary issues that artists struggle with is, and should be, how to reach their audience in a meaningful way; how to be the book, or film, or performance that resonates, that touches the soul. It is the power of art to do this that sets the human race apart, and it is, in my opinion, the primary function of art. Carl Jung tells us that when the gods came down out of Mount Olympus, they moved into the body, at the level of the gut, the level of the third chakra. This is that place in the body that art that connects can be felt, that physiological reaction that the body has when art connects with soul. We've all had that experience of seeing a great film, a great performance, reading a great book where we feel the experience of it in our body, at that precise place that Jung describes.
So, the question is, how can an artist, in the process of creating her art, connect with that place? I believe the answer lies in the very descent that is described in the hero's journey. The hero makes a descent into the underworld, and returns with a boon that he brings back to his community. The artist makes that descent into the pool of the collective unconscious, that place where stories live, and returns with a boon as well. It is that descent that sets his work apart, his willingness to make the descent is the key, the thing that separates the great artist apart from those whose work is easily set aside and forgotten. How does this work? I believe this can be illuminated in the story of Inanna.

to be continued...

Monday, November 24, 2008

Alex playing in the snow at Poppa Tom's house in Alaska

It's been a long time

Here I am, checking in with this blog after an absence of about 5 months. As it turns out, I was about 3 days pregnant at the time of my last post, although I didn't know it yet. Now, of course, I'm at 24 weeks, expecting another boy on or around March 13th. This second pregnancy has been such a blessing, although it has left me fairly sick and drained much of the time. Alex is almost 2, doing beautifully, talking up a storm and learning new things so quickly I'm astonished. We had a wonderful trip to Japan in September, to visit Ron's sister Theresa, and we just got home from about a week in Alaska, visiting Alex's grandparents and my old friends Kenan and Jana. Things are good for us, and I'm looking forward to the upcoming holiday season. The month of December is especially rich for us, as Alex and I both have our birthdays approaching.
As far as my myth work is concerned, I haven't been doing much lately, I admit. Pregnancy has kept me pretty thoroughly in my body. Our round table group did have a special meeting last week, with children's book author and illustrator Gerald McDermott as a special guest. I hosted the event at my house, and it was a good time.
Now that I'm back on the blog, I'm recommitted to writing in it several times a week, so look forward to seeing more thoughts on mythmaking and creativity.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Funny Story

So I'm sitting here in our living room tonight, waiting for the house to cool down after a day of 95 degree heat, dorking around the 'net on my laptop. I decide to check out Neil Gaiman's blog, which I do semi-regularly. Blah blah blah bees, someone named Amanda Palmer, his daughter's eyebrows (don't ask). Finally he posts a letter he's received from someone about a calendar she's created with a bunch of friends, about girls who are geeks. He posts the link (, mostly (so he says) because he likes the picture of the knitting geek. I wonder what a knitting geek looks like, so I click over. Who does it turn out to be but Ms Lorinne Lampert, my soon-to-be ex sister-in-law, the very person who taught me how to knit myself!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

How I'd like my house to feel

Years ago, when I visited Capri, I was browsing in a souvenir shop, and they had little plaques for sale that had a wonderful quote on them. I could never remember what it said, but I found the quote online today! Google is a wonderful thing:

"My home shall be open for the sun and the wind and the voices of the sea - like a Greek temple – and light, light, light everywhere!"

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Hanuman chairman of Indian business school

Who says myth isn't relevant?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

What I've been learning lately

I finally got out my copy of Clarissa Pinkola Estes' book from the early nineties, "Women Who Run with the Wolves". I've been meaning to read it for ages (it actually still has the receipt in it-I bought it at Esalen during my workscholar month), and now I'm finally getting around to it. It's really a wonderful read-very insightful. I'm only about a third of the way in, but there are already some real nuggets of wisdom there. She's had some interesting psychological insights from the stories of Bluebeard and Vasalisa the Wise which I've really enjoyed.
I've also been immersed in my studies for my French 2 class at Bellevue Community College. The material is starting to get more challenging, and the instructor is moving more quickly through it, which makes it more fun for me.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Writing and the Interstitial

Writing has not gone particularly well for me over the past several months, and I've been struggling to understand why that might be. I know the lack of reaction to my "Anya and the Bear" may have been a part of it, but not entirely the problem. In reading the Endicott Studio blog over the past few days, they had an entry that the Interstitial Arts Foundation will be publishing a second anthology of interstitial fiction, and they're having an open call for submissions. This seems like a good opportunity for me, and is far enough out that I have the summer to work on a story, versus the two weeks that I had before sending my story out a few months ago.
I've been thinking that I would rewrite "Anya and the Bear" as my submission. I think that Anya is, or could be, in an interstitial place, between the ordinary world and the spirit world, and in my rewrite she is pregnant, telling her story of the bear to her unborn child. Being an unborn child is about as betwixt and between a place as anyone ever is. So, I'm going to work on the rewrite, submit it to the IAF, and see what happens. It's a small enough project that it doesn't seem too overwhelming, and it's a rewrite of a story that I've already written.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


I haven't written a blog post in a few days, mostly because life has just been moving right along, and no one thing seemed worth a blog post devoted to it.
I've been knitting Alex a new sweater since the Aran sweater turned out so well. The new one will be charcoal gray with an orange star on the chest. Ron's mom mentioned star-bellied sneetches, which I had totally forgotten about, so Alex got a new book yesterday to go with the new sweater I'm making him. :) He's also been really fascinated with cars lately, so he got Richard Scarry's Book of Things that Go. Of course, for him anything with a motor is a car (lawn mowers, trains, etc.), so we've been working on the difference between cars and trucks, cars and airplanes, and so on.
In dog-related news, Hank has finally learned to swim! I'll post photographic evidence tomorrow. :) On Sunday when we were at Magnuson Dog Park he went into the water and was actually swimming to get his tennis ball, and the last two mornings I've been throwing the ball into the river at Marymoor for him, and he's really swimming! It's exciting to see him finally do it-he's figured out how fun it is. He is a lab, after all ;).
This weekend we had my friend Dan Gronwald from Pacifica staying with us. He was in town for a workshop, so we offered him the use of our spare bedroom. On Saturday night we had my friend Liz and her husband over for dinner (Liz was also in our class at Pacifica). It was such a gorgeous day-rarely hot for spring-over 80. We ate outside on our deck, and it was so much fun. Ron Alex and I went down to Pike Place Market in the morning and got a dozen oysters, salmon, fresh asparagus, and a pear tart from the French bakery. It was my first time with raw oysters at home, and they were so delicious! The salmon turned out really good too-Ron cooked it on cedar planks (the traditional NW way of cooking salmon), and it was so delicious.

We also went to my niece Korienne's 7th birthday party on Saturday afternoon. My brother Chris has been urging me to express some of my feelings about the situation with my dad in this blog, but I don't think it's a good idea. For one thing, if I did that, I wouldn't really be on a break from things, I'd just be communicating in a different way. I know he's been really involved in the situation, as he and my dad have been talking things over about me, but I'm really not ready yet to reengage with that situation just yet. I'm still looking for a therapist, for one thing.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Alex's new sweater

I finally finished the Aran sweater I'd been knitting for Alex yesterday-check it out! I think it turned out really well. :) I'm proud of myself. My knitting has come a long way!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Kairos time vs. Chronos

I've been having a hard time lately getting myself into a creative head space, particularly for my writing time. I spend most of my time these days in Chronos time, changing diapers, keeping the house clean, running errands, etc. I'm trying to look for ways to bring myself into Kairos time, because without it writing is impossible for me. Today on my morning trip to the dog park I tried to hold onto that state of kairos time from sleep, and let my mind drift in the space where my story lives. It was a misty morning today, and somehow the "mistery" of the mist (sorry ;) helped me to retain my state of kairos time. It wasn't effortless, but I think things will improve with some mindfulness. I think if I use my morning walks with Hank to meditate on my story, I will be more able to write. We'll see how it goes.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Delicious New Writers that I've Discovered

The other day I was poking around on the Endicott Studio blog, and several people answered the question "What is the best book you've read this year?" with "The Orphan's Tales: In the Night Garden". I found this book and it's sequel "In the Cities of Coin and Spice" at the library, and I've been working my way through both for the last week or so. They're by Catherynne M. Valente, and they are fantastic, in both senses of the word. Both books are stories told by a girl with tattoed stories all around her eyes-she looks like a raccoon. She lives in the Sultan's garden, and the Sultan's son finds her there and asks her for stories. The stories are nested inside each other like a Russian matryoshka doll. I haven't been this blown away by a writer in a while. I recommend these books to anyone who enjoys mythic fiction, and I look forward to reading more of Ms. Valente's stories and poems. She's also still in her twenties!

I also found a quite different type of book delightful recently, but in quite a different vein than Ms. Valente's work. I was at Parkplace Books with the boys a few weeks ago and bought a book from the children's section called "Larklight" on a whim. It sounded fun, being about Victorian outer-space pirates ;). It was so delightful! I ran right out and bought the sequel "Starcross" the next day. It was about spies, time travel, and curious hats ;). These are the sort of books I look forward to reading to Alex when he's a little bit older. Wonderful adventure stories. I've had good luck with new discoveries lately!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Alex with his chocolate Easter bunny

Silly boy! You're supposed to eat the ears first!

The Pinecone Hunt

We had a nice Easter at our house-Ron's parents came up from Portland for the weekend, and my brother and his family came over for dinner and an egg hunt. It was pouring out, so we had the egg hunt indoors, but it was still lots of fun. Alex loves having visitors, but it can be hard to get him to take his naps when we have guests over-he doesn't want to miss anything. :) Chris had been reading this blog, and he asked about Artemis, so I was able to explain a little of what's been going on for me recently with that particular archetype.

Yesterday Alex did something particularly cute. We went out to play on our deck, and he grabbed an old bucket that Ron had been using to scrub the deck, and he started picking up pine cones and putting them into the bucket, like he was playing Easter egg hunt. He astonishes me sometimes. See the attached picture.

I'm meeting with my trainer again today. Things are progressing well there, but a little more gradually than I had thought. It's good though-it would be hard to go from basically nothing to two hours of working out each day. I do like the trainer a lot-that worked out well.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Finding Balance

When I had my first training session at the gym on Tuesday, I was reminded again that I need to keep finding balance in my life as a high priority. I've always been a pretty dominant lefty, and some of the exercises illustrated just how out of balance by body has become. When I had to balance on my left leg, I did pretty well. On the right, not so much. My body is out of balance, as my mind and life have been for some time. However, I'm forced to find a balance now if I want to find time for everything in my life that is important. I can't spend 4-5 hours a day working out (as I did once upon a time), because I also need time to spend with Alex and Ron, to write, to read. I have a tendency toward extremes when I embrace something, but I can't spend all my time doing any one thing right now. So, balance is a focus for me right now.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Moving from Athena to Artemis

Just woke up, but thought I'd get in a quick blog post. Ron has to get into work early today, so I'm in charge solo in about 30 minutes. I have my first real workout with the new trainer today, with the program that she's been planning for me. Ron and I have decided to do the ab workout together each evening-last night was our first attempt. I didn't realize my abs were so weak! Well, nowhere to go but up, right?

I've been trying to focus on the mythological underpinnings of my new attempt to identify with a different archetype. I've always been closely identified with Athena, she who sprang fully formed from her father's head, a goddess of wisdom, strategy, and the intellect, who developed close friendships with men and was never interested in the world of women. In the past few years I've invited the energy of Aphrodite, Hestia and Demeter into my life in an attempt to find balance, and now it is time for Artemis. Artemis is fully in her body, and loves the athleticism of it. I need to find that joy of being in my body, of reveling in it's youth and strength. I need her with me when I meet with the trainer later today, that's for sure. :) Wish me luck.