Magna Carta–what?

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A_Chronicle_of_England_-_Page_226_-_John_Signs_the_Great_CharterThis year marks the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta, the closest document England has to a constitution. They’re one of three countries without a written constitution, along with New Zealand and Israel. Our constitution is based in part on the Magna Carta.
Why?
It was created out of real protest, not by politicians.

Demonstration against G8 Summit in Le Havre

It was the first time protesters spoke truth to power and had a real impact–they would no longer be ruled at the whim of the King, a tradition in place for as long as anyone could remember.
It is the origin of the legal concept of our right to due process of law for people and property.
It’s still used–Darcus Howe, an outstanding Civil Rights leader in England, in the case of the Mangrove Nine, 1971, used Magna Carta as his defense.

Jay Z Magna Carta Holy Grail cover

One historian said recently–it has survived by magic rather than its words. What it carries is hope. And that’s how people have used it.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/15/belfast-g8-protests_n_3446781.html

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Amma hugs–I’ve had three. Why?

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Amma
“Amma will embrace all these people tonight.”

‘My daughter, my daughter, my daughter,’ she says over and over in my ear.

I’m lost in the lap of something so much bigger than I am, and I rest there. All I can see is the folds of her white robe as I’m overwhelmed with the permeating scent of roses, which are everywhere. And then I’m falling out of the hug, as her attendants pull me back to put the next person in, pressing rose petals and strangely, a Hershey’s kiss into my hand.

I was charged with the energy of that hug for days after, hearing her words in my ear–‘My daughter, my daughter, my daughter.’

Once a year Amma, India’s hugging saint, comes to town. She arrives at a large hotel in Albuquerque that can accommodate the thousands who come for a hug, as crazy as that might sound. When you arrive, you remove your shoes, are organized into groups, given your hug number, fed and are presented with all kinds of memorabilia to buy, from photographs to clothes. While you wait for your group to be called, you listen to Indian music, are strewn with rose petals, watch multiple large-screen videos of Amma’s good works around the world, and look at everyone else who has come.

It all moves along smoothly. She and her team are experts at this–after all, she’s hugged more than 30 million people world wide, royalty and celebrities included.

When your group is called, you join a double line of people, in chairs, gradually moving forward, like musical chairs. Up ahead, Amma is dressed all in white, sitting on a sort of low throne, hugging people, one after another—families with babies, the old, the infirm, young people, people speaking different languages. When you’re finally next in line, her attendants move you to your knees a few feet from her, asking you what language you speak.

You’re sort of dropped into a tight group of front line attendants, dressed in yellow robes, who are plunging people into Amma’s lap and then dragging them out, in a claustrophobic frenzy. You’re in a feel-good, out-of-body daze as you’re pulled out.

At first I thought that wonderful feeling was from her, from what she has. After the third hug, I began to believe that we generate it together. She calls it forth, and what I feel is my soul answering.

Photo: Erode, Tamil Nadu, Monday, January 12, 2015

Tarantula Migration–Can they get in the car?

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tarantula2

I lived in Roswell, NM, for about five years. I managed an HIV agency that served the southeastern quadrant of the state, 33,000 square miles, which was pretty impossible, with about 126 clients, so I did a lot of driving on little-traveled roads.
One night, driving home late, I was brought out of my usual driving stupor by catching sight of lots of small crawling things on the road. Tarantulas! I slowed but couldn’t help running over some of them and began to wonder if they could get into the car. What are they running from? Was it the end of the world? Would I be swarmed by them?
I didn’t know it at the time, but it was the annual tarantula migration. The males go in search, in mass, for female companionship. I couldn’t have imagined such a thing–except in a nightmare. I was horrified.
I later learned that a tarantula bite probably won’t kill you. I learned, too, that they’re gentle arachnids, nocturnal and shy, despite how scary they look.
I saw lots of other living things on the back roads I traveled–ring-tailed cats (just like out of Dr. Seuss), badger families, crowds of migrating jack rabbits lining the road, petite silver wolves, hawks, eagles–but I always remembered the tarantulas. Alone as I was, in the dark, being surrounded by lots of spiders (one of my worst fears), knowing I just had to get through it, wondering if it was a dream.
Lots of people think that part of NM is a wasteland, devoid of life, a desert. But it’s full of life, going about its business, searching for other like-minded partners, like we do.
What else don’t we know?

Photo from: rebeccamezoff.blogspot.com

Tasmania–running into the other you

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launceston
Excerpt from Jumping: a Novel.
Babe has jumped into the Void and is meeting an aspect of herself whom she almost met in life:

One of them is a woman I saw once, in Tasmania. I’m surprised to see a woman with whom I have had only one encounter, and we never even spoke. . . .

I take in the woman, who looks strikingly like me, and remember seeing her in the crowd of evening strollers along the pier one night, on the Tamar River. . . I felt so strangely drawn to follow this woman, knowing there was some sort of connection, and hoping she knew it, too.

I think she was afraid of me—she noticed me, but only peripherally, and wouldn’t look at me head-on. I was a little freaked out—knowing she was me somehow, some other version of me. I wanted to see her and have her see me, as validation of something, but at the same time I felt as if something irrevocable would change, and I didn’t know if I was ready for that. I think she felt the same way.

The woman approaches. The silence lingers.

“Babe, this is Hardin,” Philip says, just as I’m thinking the name in my head.

“I know.”

Hardin and I hug. And Hardin, laughing, says, with a distinct Australian accent, “Of course, I did see you. I’m an aspect of you and you of me. It was my first time to ever see such a thing. I wasn’t well at the time, and I thought seeing you meant immanent death!” She laughs again, “I know now that’s not the case. And I’m sorry to have missed the opportunity, but I was a frightful little thing in that life. Not like you!”

“Oh, I was scared, too!” I reassure her.

The Snake

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Water drops on blue background

From Jumping: a Novel.
Babe, on the arrival of her sisters. [I have three sisters.]

“I remember seeing a snake come down from the porch roof of a cabin I was staying in with friends. As we watched, it extended half of its length down through space as if the space had substance to support it, leaving its other half anchored on the porch roof. It lowered that front half right into a fir tree leaning against the porch, into the nest of a small mourning dove, a nest clearly visible to our group on the porch, a nest with two small eggs in it.
The dove had left the nest, probably because we had scared her off by coming out on the porch, and the snake had seen its chance. It moved into the nest with half of its body still on the porch roof, and swallowed both eggs, so quickly, so effortlessly, I could almost believe it hadn’t happened. I didn’t want to believe it had. Then it withdrew itself back up onto the roof, again as if suspended by invisible wires, and disappeared from sight. We stood there, silenced by the finality of its act. . . .
“Later I found a snakeskin tucked in the fold of the bottom step of the back porch. It was beautiful, elegant, like a woman’s elbow-length opera glove, dropped unheedingly, while she was on her way to somewhere else. . . .”

Liking our female characters

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ScottandBaileycast

I’m writing about a lead character who is going to jump into the Void, and I want to like her more.  Isn’t it enough that she has the courage to jump? What’s missing?  I think about the female characters I like–most recently, Scott & Bailey, the detectives on a PBS series (that’s them above, with their boss on the left).  Why do I like them?  I have to admit the truth–it’s because they smoke, drink, and make bad relationship decisions.  And they might have tattoos.  They’re a mixture of girly-girls (make-up, skirts, heels), bad girls (smoking, drinking, etc.), and smart girls (we have evidence of this, usually in their work).

But I discover there’s something else that’s part of the hook–they have some kind of inner courage, every-day courage, the kind no one else usually knows about but that is a defining pattern for them. They hold steady on this. That’s what I want to see in my lead character–something that isn’t publicly seen but that is regularly practiced, that helps us understand her jump.  Other women might have a pattern of drama, a pattern of manipulation, a pattern of hiding, even a pay-it-forward pattern of kindness.  But these women have a consistent pattern of courage born from living against the grain.

If they come up against rejection, abandonment, violence, they don’t stick at that spot, memorializing it so that they can borrow from it later.  They’ll either take it aboard or they’ll discard it, but–either way–they move on.  They aren’t held back a grade because they haven’t gotten what came before.  They decide and move on.

I think it’s a hard thing to have.  Life pounds and pulls, telling them they’re weak or stupid or crazy, but bent and weather beaten, they stand, deciding against the grain.

For me, that makes these characters jumpers–women who would. Without making a fuss about it.  It’s what will make my lead character a jumper.

And I don’t think they’re alone out there.

I think that’s what you might be, if you’re reading this. A jumper. That’s what keeps me writing to you. I’m looking for the jumpers.

 

 

Are you selling out when you sell yourself? Sure!

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You can’t let it change you.  Then it’s not selling out.  But is that even possible?  Nowadays, if you’re a writer, you’re in sales.  We just used to think someone else would be doing it for us.

The other day, the 21 year old technical whiz who works with me and I produced the first draft of a video for youtube.  The publisher will either edit it and put it up or send us back to the drawing board.  Their marketing person said two minutes, don’t read, talk about the book, but don’t give it away.  Right now, we’re at five minutes and six seconds.  And we’ve got lots of out-takes.  A couple of times we got to laughing and almost couldn’t stop. The techie/director took care of lighting, sound, time, setting, wardrobe, hair frizzies, script management, feedback, production design, and more.  I supplied the script and showed up.  That was a lot!

I think the truth is my apprehension, at core, comes from the fact that I’m still getting to know the book.  I wrote it and moved on to the next one.  Now I look at it and try to remember.  I’m surprised and unsettled by the comments of others who’ve recently read it.  They’ve seen something I didn’t know was there and been moved by it.  The book is clearly a thing unto itself.

I will say, as I go back into Jumping, looking for things to quote or things for readings, I find a lot I remember and still like.  Maybe that’s because I know the book wasn’t written just by me.  Go, little book!