The Mad Go-Round

cliffs

She was the sort for whom the witness was everything.

The lens.

The eye.

She captured a cliff, a right jutted thing indeed.

Little did she know that she was being captured.

His lens caught within it a figure, photographing cliffs.

This figure, a right jutted thing indeed, filled his frame from port to starboard.

So purposeful was her focus, this frame-filled enigma, that he wondered about her cliff.

Swore he’d conquer it for her.

She ate up everything.

He could see it, and so he wanted to eat up everything too.

See the world as she saw it.

Not a hue out of place.

Not a shape unwieldy.

No sound out of concert with wind and gulls.

Every inch of every breath consumed with wonder so vast that disorientation was the promise.

She would disorient him.  Cliffs would disorient her.  Who would he disorient?

And who, then, that one?

 

 

 

Angela Carole Brown is the author of three published books, The Assassination of Gabriel Champion, The Kidney Journals: Memoirs of a Desperate Lifesaver, and Trading Fours, and has produced several albums of music and a yoga/mindfulness CD.   Bindi Girl Chronicles is her writing blog.   Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram & YouTube.

Refractions of Light: My Quandary with Memoir

picasso-girl-before-a-mirror2

Look in the mirror.   And tell the story.

To write or not to write the memoir is a topic often bandied about; and usually what’s discussed or debated are the ethics of such an endeavor.  James Frey’s  A Million Little Pieces  is probably the best-known controversy in recent publishing history.  He created a national scandal, even involving Oprah, by pushing the envelope on the ethics of telling the truth.  Lauren Slater purposely challenges our notions of truth versus embellishment versus downright deception, in her book  Lying: A Metaphorical Memoir,  by questioning whether fact equals truth, or is just one by-product of many that delivers a truth.   Charles Mingus’  Beneath the Underdog  doesn’t read like memoir at all, but like the most artful turn of poetry, at once urbane and plebeian, which has begged the question:  Just how “creative” is his memoir?   Yes, loads have been written and discussed on the subject.

I confess to being baffled at all the uproar Frey’s book created.  I once wrote a novel, a piece of fiction, that was told in first person from a child’s standpoint.   And at one juncture in its development I had toyed with the playful enough conceit of calling it a biography “as told to Angela Carole Brown.”   And with, frankly, never the intent to genuinely deceive a public, as it would all, by design, come out in the wash, and just be this piece of fiction turned on fiction’s ear.   But at the time I was considering it, the idea seemed harmless enough while achieving that sense of urgency that a true story intrinsically has on the psyche.   It never even occurred to me that such a conceit could be somehow profoundly damaging to culture, as I am someone who believes that truth does not always equal fact.  A universal truth can be unveiled in the very best of fiction.   So, yes, I was a bit puzzled over the degree of James Frey’s “crime.”   Yes, he exaggerated his story.   What exactly did that take away from us?

One of the rumors I’d heard throughout this scandal was that Frey had originally submitted his manuscript to the publisher as fiction, because though it had come from his own experience he admitted to greatly embellishing, and therefore thought it was best to submit it that way, and that it was his editor who suggested it would be more marketable as a memoir.  Whether or not that rumor is true, I think the greater point here is just how easy it is for a “true story” to be rendered true, false, real, deception, whatever, merely by the way in which it is framed.   And that perhaps Truth isn’t subject to perception and window dressing, but is the oak beneath it.

I have my own quandary with the memoir, but it looks nothing like the above.  Because though, as I’ve said, I never really saw the injury in James Frey’s “true” story, this article is not about to be some confession that I , too, have written a lie and called it memoir.  No, I have not done so.  And I’m not saying, by my take on the Frey scandal, that I’m a proponent of deception.  He exaggerated some details.  A memoir is supposed to be the truth.   I get that.  Only that perhaps Frey’s deception really didn’t merit the public slaughter it received.   He wasn’t writing a history book.  He was sharing his own personal experience for the greater purpose of the message it had to offer.

I only even bother to mention this particular avenue of the dialogue on memoir, and my take on it, because to write a piece on the memoir and not to acknowledge its most road-tread of avenues would be to plant an elephant right in this room.   And no, I never did publish the “biography as told to Angela Carole Brown,” nor in its pre-published state have I remained with the idea of that conceit.  To be honest, the reason I abandoned the idea (which was only a momentary entertaining anyway) is because such a gimmick would only distract from a story I believe is compelling on its own merits.   Its day will come.

Here, finally, is my quandary.  As a writer, I am primarily a novelist.   It’s only been in recent years that I have even begun to entertain the notion of the memoir.  And what I know about myself is that my issues with self-value have often created a twisted knot of identity assertion and confusion whenever I have entertained that notion.

Simply put, I’ve lived in the belief, for my entire writing life, that memoir was reserved for people in the public eye.  After all, why would anyone’s story be interesting to a total stranger unless it was that total strangers already know who you are, and this is, after all, a culture of fame-worship?  The irony here is that most of the memoirs I’ve read were written by writers who had not been especially well-known prior to a publisher finding something powerful in their story and taking it on.   And yet, the belief in me seems to be gravely deep-seated, and likely more a reflection of my own self-worth than anything.

I’ve generally tended to journal.  But I’ve never been that person who opens the notebook ritualistically at the end of every day lived, dates the log entries, and into the golden years can boast volumes upon volumes of my life on paper. No.  It’s been erratic and sporadic at best.  Something just hits me as worthy of documenting.  And I may not be hit again for several years.

The first of those incidents in my life that I felt strongly enough about documenting, in a way that I could easily envision as a book, was the death of my mother.  It was, however, almost a decade after her passing before I felt clear enough to unfold it in the written form.  It’s a book that I’ve more or less finished, though I’m not quite ready to put it into the world yet, and the reasons are more personal than they are about marketing and pacing strategies.

What continues to fascinate me is that the entire time I was writing it, a balls-to-the-wall battle was going on between my two selves: the Left Self, we’ll call her, who argued that everyone has a story, and every story has value not only for the one living it, but in the written form to be shared with others; that every story has a lesson, a light bulb, a dawning, to offer, if written with authenticity and purity of goal.  Every story has universality.

Right Self argued that no one cares about your story if you haven’t already made a name for yourself; that our present culture just doesn’t operate any other way.  And who do you think you are, anyway, to think anyone should care about your story?  That it’s only delusions of grandeur and self-importance that would make any writer think that her unknown life holds any interest for the average reader of books.  So stop being so narcissistic and wallowing up your own ass, and write a great piece of fiction, instead, that will be universal enough to resonate with an audience.

Well, fiction IS what I’ve generally tended to write.  And while I’ve always been a proponent of the idea that (though fictional) a great novel carries truth within it, just as I said above, I also believe that memoir is a very different animal indeed, and has a place.  The question for me became, does it have a place documenting Joe Blow’s ordinary life?

While these two Selves warred, I trudged forward, anyway, with my first stab at memoir.  Because something in me believed that my story had a message for the world.  One about the layered complexity of the mother/daughter dynamic.  One that examines grief in all its nuances and bumps.

Right Self, of course, just kept whispering, “self-indulgent.  Who cares!  You aren’t the first to write about grief.  And only the grief of Joan Didion or Frank McCourt or Edwidge Danticat is going to fetch an audience.  Go work yours out in therapy.”

Right Self had a point.  But I kept on writing, kept on trying to defend Left Self’s creed.

Since the writing of my grief memoir, which still sits on the proverbial shelf, I’ve written one other, not counting all those journal entries over the years of isolated mini-stories and experiences, which has been published.  I felt a little more qualified to write that one, though that idea discombobulates my brain because the fact is I am qualified to write about any part of my life.  It’s my life.  Who knows it better?  Yet clearly I am still being influenced by Right Self in determining whether I have a worthy story, and by extension a worthy life.  Isn’t that really what’s going on, Angela?  So I guess what I mean to say is that I was finally writing about something that might count as sensational and unique in the eyes of a society that craves sensational and unique, whereas death and loss and grief is not especially.

I’m truly bothered that I allow myself to reduce my merits to that graph; but, well, there it is.  The point of all this (all this being a good chunk of why I write) is to work that out.  I’ve already been writing, already producing content.  Now I’m just bobbing around in the waters of trying to get read, and trying to figure out the puzzle of how to get that done when I am not Joan Didion.

In any case, my unique story (the second stab at memoir) is that I donated a kidney to someone who might’ve died without it.  I saved a life.  This wasn’t done for sensationalism, but it was sensational, in every sense of the word, and in anyone’s book.  Yet what I wrote about was not the “hair-raising” or “breathtaking” aspect of such a deed.  All the adjectives any good sell-line MUST have these days.  The real story is about how the deed managed to save my life too, as I had been living in a profound spiritual malaise at the time this need presented itself.  And so it is the story of an ordinary and flawed human being struggling through the landmines of life.  Not about heroism.

And that’s when I realized that I was writing a book, yet again, that had Right Self’s eyes rolling.

“Who cares about your self-exploration!”

Right Self is mean.  But then so is the world.

I also now really understand my relatively new penchant for writing about myself, after years of writing fiction.  Because when I look back on the grief memoir that sits on the shelf, waiting for polishing  –  and courage  –  I realize that my flaws as a human being are not only on parade in that one too, just like with the kidney book, but truly are the nucleus of all my stories, it seems.  And it is suddenly clear to me that the gravity of my need to tell MY stories exists as a way of granting permission for my life to be made valid, and my flaws to be expunged if not transformed.

The act of storytelling, and my own stories specifically, may well be of no interest to anyone who doesn’t personally know me, but it is first and foremost, for me, an act of healing.

Now here’s where I will chest-spread.  I also believe that such an act of storytelling requires a special kind of bravery.  And I think what separates the women from the girls is the ability to resist self-aggrandizement in the writing, to look in the mirror, and to tell the story.

Of course, there are those who would say that the very instinct to write a memoir, in and of itself, is pretty self-aggrandizing.   Well, that’ll have to be.    It still requires walking a road many would shudder away from.

I read quite a bit of memoir when I was preparing for writing my first one, especially those dealing with grief.  There were the ones I was floored by, like Dave Eggers’ A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, and the Lauren Slater book.   These were examples of startling perspicacity, the very seed of the brave and gnarly self-reveal.

And then there were the ones that were so much “Isn’t my life blessed?  Even with all its precious dilemmas?  Don’t you wish it was yours?” that I could barely get through them without choking on the propaganda.  I won’t name them; I’m not interested in being cruel.  But they were such obvious cases of fear and inability to see the pearl in authentic confrontation with the shadow that I felt deeply for the writers, if not the writing.

William Giraldi speaks in a recent Poets & Writers issue, an article on Louise Gluck, of knowing oneself en route to becoming oneself.  That “the facts of any life are impotent and ineffectual until literature intercedes, until it takes hold of those facts and twists them into the light, casting a refraction that allows us to glimpse them anew.”1

From the same article comes a quotation from Stanley Kunitz: “The empty ones are those who do not suffer their selfhood.” 2

I see both of these sentiments as revering the act of vigilant self-inquiry and the level of courage it takes to face Self, and to mean that only through that kind of bravery can any writing truly arrive at an important place.

So, my question is, could bravery possibly count as a worthy enough star in the memoirs of the unknown?  Might that be my sole hope for believing that I could tell my stories to an audience that would bother with me?

Or is the better question:  Should I care?

Maybe I should just be writing.  And healing.  And sharing the experience.  Because the experience of leaping out from a prison of the internal through words is like nothing else I can describe.   For all the criticism that both of these writers have received in their writing careers, I imagine that James Frey and Lauren Slater, both, understand that sense of liberation.  And I suspect there are resonant ears and eyes out there, just waiting for me and others like me, hungry for a tale that could very well be their own, for what it might dare to examine.   We just need to find each other.

And then, to be able to let go of all else.

Alas, my running theme in life.

 

 

*             *             *

 

 

Notes / Works Cited

1. 2. Poets & Writers, Sept/Oct 2014 Issue; Internal Tapestries by William Giraldi.

 

 

Angela Carole Brown is the author of three published books, The Assassination of Gabriel Champion, The Kidney Journals: Memoirs of a Desperate Lifesaver, and Trading Fours, and has produced several albums of music and a yoga/mindfulness CD.   Bindi Girl Chronicles is her writing blog.   Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram & YouTube.

Winter (The Song Series)

Winter Banner

It’s been a while now since I contributed to the Song Series I’d begun.   Life just took me in other directions for awhile with this blog.   But the series is back.   And this time, I’d like to tell you about the writing and recording of my one and only holiday song.

As I prepared for my very first holiday album, Winter, which came out two years ago, I knew automatically that it would be an album of covers.   Who wants to hear an entire album of holidays songs of nothing they’ve ever heard before.   Folks want the favorites.   And of the faves, there are more to choose from than I could possibly count, and of course I chose an odd collection of songs both classic and fringy.   Some old, some not so old.  It was important to me that I cover the wide berth of the emotional spectrum that the holidays can bring.   Christmas time is associated with joy.   But there are plenty out there who anticipate the holidays warily, because they have no romantic partner, because they have no family, because it’s a holiday that plays up the virtues of family, romance, happiness etc, and for those without, it only plays up their failings.  I swear, the last thing I want to do is to be a downer about this, because I LOVE the holidays. Always have.   But I also have great empathy for those who find that time of year melancholy.   And I really wanted to make an album that spoke to them too.   So, while there are plenty of happy, jolly songs included on my holiday album, there are also somber and reflective ones.   For example, I included the Pogues’ song Fairytale of New York, which is a sentiment about the homeless on Christmas Eve.  Guess what folks?   That reality exists.   And it’s a song of such heart wrenching pathos and nostalgia.  Just my kind of song.

A N Y W A Y . . .  at the eleventh hour of recording, after having spent months culling through Christmas songs old and new, traditional and not so, and selecting just the right ones to tell Christmas as I wanted to tell it, I suddenly decided that while this needed to be a cover CD, I couldn’t resist the temptation to contribute at least one original.   And so, I set about the task of composing my first ever holiday song.

In writing Winter (which became the title track), I wanted a song that rang of Christmas without being overtly Christmasy.  Meaning it could be played any time of year and not seem out of place, in the same spirit as My Favorite Things (also on my album).

And then what to write about.  A love song perhaps, about falling in love in winter.  Love has often happened for me this way, so it seemed a natural to write about.   What’s funny is that I’ve actually written very few love songs.   That’s just never seemed to be a persistent subject in my consciousness.   And even in this song’s case, I wasn’t in love when I wrote it.  I’ve been single for a long time now.  But, as all holiday songs seem to do, I was made nostalgic for loves of my past that seemed in many cases to have bloomed in winter.

I’m also a winter baby, so this felt very much at home . . . in spite of the irony that I sort of hate snow.   But I had to let that hate go, release it for its irrationality, and embrace the magic of snow instead.  It actually wasn’t hard to do, as I’d been absolutely mesmerized by a series of photos that my friend Jean Marinelli had recently taken at her folks’ home in Iowa of a hoar frost.   I was so blown away by this sight that I HAD to work the term “hoar frost” into my lyric, and in fact, the whole song became shaped around that idea.   And yes, in case it’s not obvious, I used one of those breathtaking shots of Jean’s as my cover art, which is also above.

When it came time to go into the studio, we recorded the song live, with the instrumentation of guitar, bass, drums, and vocals.   I described to the musicians on the day of recording that I wanted a sort of 16th-note feel, but without it being R&B, that stylistically I wanted something a little floatier, and not backbeat-heavy at all.   But that was pretty much the extent of my description, as I didn’t really have a firm grasp yet on the sound I wanted. Compositionally, it was a pretty simple form, simple changes.  I’ve grown fond of simple folk ideas, and I envisioned folk for this song.  So I just needed to hear something first, and shape or grow the song from there.   And that’s exactly what we did, which means that even though the song is all my writing, the whole development of the bigger picture was most assuredly collaborative with my awesome trio of artists, Ken Rosser, Randy Landas, and Lynn Coulter.

On the day of recording, in the funky Boho studio of recording engineer John McDuffie, we laid down a track, did a few different takes, and I chose the strongest one.   And I instantly knew that I was going to want Ken, the guitarist on this album, and my old pal and longtime musical soul mate, to layer and layer and layer.

Weeks later, the two of us met at his studio alone, a studio he has named Po’Tools (which tickles me; any studio guys out there will chuckle), and I proceeded to tell him what I was envisioning.   Over Ken’s basic track, which was played on a Gibson ES-335, the first thing he added was a Jerry Jones electric 12-string “for maximum jingle-jangle, baby!” (Ken’s own words).   And then, because one of Ken’s magnificent fortes is looping and texture and grunge and friction and these crazy, wild aural manipulations of his instrument, I asked him if he could give me a layer of something that sounded like snowfall or snowflakes.   Now, snowfall doesn’t have a sound, unless you’re talking about a winter storm, and then that’s really just wind you’re hearing.   But I had a sound in my head that sounded like snowflakes, and I swear (as I knew would happen!) Ken Rosser just understood what I meant perfectly.

And did he ever give it to me!   He created this sound with a PRS McCarty, processed through an Eventide Pitchfactor effect.  The only reason I can even articulate that is because I just asked him to recount it to me for this article.  It’s all Greek to me.   But it absolutely captured what I had intended.

And once that effect was in place, it changed everything else for me.   Suddenly I heard the drums differently. The bass differently.   But we’ll get to them in a minute.

Ken had taken a solo on the original live track with the Gibson.  It was a notier, jazzier solo, something perfectly befitting how the song was originally played by the trio.   But once these other layers began to shape the track in a very specific way, Ken felt that another kind of solo was really needed in place of the original.

KEN:
“The new solo was done on the PRS McCarty, roughly using Lindsey Buckingham’s solo on Fleetwood Mac’s Silver Spring as a model . . . because once we’d put all the layers on, I felt pretty strongly that the solo should just paraphrase the melody and then shut the fuck up.  Lindsey’s influence was really just about sound and some articulation things . . . I doubt anyone else would get that without being told . . .”

We both remember it being really hot in the studio when we were doing this, thus giving the musical evocations of snowfall an ironic tinge.

Next I went into yet a third studio, with drummer Lynn Coulter and my mixing engineer Mike Kramer, and had Lynn replace his drum track.   Actually, no, he didn’t replace it.   He layered, also.  Just added to what was there.   I played him a Bon Iver track that I have loved for a long time, a song called Holocene.   The drums on that song are very floaty and light.   So, I had Lynn, whose drumming is just so special (I can’t wait to talk about him more when I write about my songs  An Old Black Man Someday  and  Last Chance Mojo Eye  for the Song Series . . . the special things he does with those two . . . whew!) . . . I had Lynn play an almost “train” feel with brushes, and to layer in some shakers, and other high-resonance percussion toys.   I wanted everything to have a feeling of lightness and light.   Not heavy, not barrelly, not thundering, not bass-drum-y, but floating, and sparkling, and light.   I wanted to evoke a startling, blinding, white hoar frost.  I wanted to capture Jean’s photographs.   And it was slowly but surely starting to do exactly that.

I then sent the tracks over to Randy Landas, our bass player.   I asked him if he thought he needed to do something different than what he’d originally played, since there was now so much else re-shaping the song at this point.   He gave me back a track with a bass part that was much less percussive, and much more melodic and with elongated tones.  It was absolutely lovely.  In fact, if I recall correctly, his original bass track was done on a string bass, but the re-do was done on a fretless, which just fits the texture of the song perfectly.

I’d been talking about putting a glockenspiel part on the song, a tiny part I’d actually written for it.   And I was just going to play it on the keyboard with a glock patch, but Lynn Coulter encouraged me to practice on his glockenspiel, and then record the real thing.   Well, we did!   I was so tickled to be able to give myself a glockenspiel credit.   But I will confess here that I “helped it out” and strengthened it with a track on synthesizer as well, as my glock chops were pretty sad and pitiful.   But still!  They’re there!   :)

Lastly, of course, were the vocals.  They had already been cut, on the original live session, but as I lived with the song, and its growing, evolving, developing state, from a bare-bones pop song to a fully thick, rich, textural invocation of snowfall and hoar frosts and white Christmases, I took a page from one of my deepest hearts, the late Elliott Smith.   He has this doubled vocal effect on most of his tracks, and I thought that might be a really cool thing to do with Winter.   But rather than trying a stereo delay on my original vocal ( I’m not saying that that’s how Elliott did it; I have no idea how he did it), I simply, literally, provided the doubled part . . . I sang along with myself.   Two Angelas in unison.

I must say, the song actually sounds like winter.   Ambient, washy, and spritely, it evokes snow on the ground, and bobsleds, and snow fights, and down jackets.   I don’t exactly hate the snow anymore.  Funny how that can happen.

Please enjoy Winter.

 

 Click here to listen on Bandcamp

 

I always fall in love in winter
More than any other time
There’s just something about snowfall
And the scent of Christmas pines

I always fall in love in winter
A time of goodwill and peace
There is just no season better
For inspiring a little heat

It can have its reputation
For bleak and dreary days
But the first glimpse of a hoar frost
Will set any heart ablaze
It will set your heart ablaze

I tend to fall in love in winter
when the merry songs of children start
There is just no season greater
To inspire the romantic heart

 

 

Angela Carole Brown is the author of three published books, The Assassination of Gabriel Champion, The Kidney Journals: Memoirs of a Desperate Lifesaver, and Trading Fours, and has produced several albums of music and a yoga/mindfulness CD.   Bindi Girl Chronicles is her writing blog.   Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram & YouTube.

I Discover Treasures

CrosswalkBox

 

Newborn pups suckling from their mother
who is wary of the stranger stopping to take it all in.
As well she should be for her protection of her young is a wonderful thing to behold.

A lone bloom in a garden full of yet-grown flowers.

A couple on a street corner holding hands and kissing.
Perhaps a little too intimate for public view.
So deliciously meretricious.

A crosswalk box so layered in endless encounters with midnight taggers and their spray paint cans
that it has transcended its civic role and become art.

A fledgling on the pavement before me
whose little life has been lost from falling out of the nest too soon.
The scurrying ants upon it.

The windshield glass in the street shattered into snow and the splats of red upon it.
The ubiquitous yellow tape.
Remnants of a city tragedy that are merely an inevitable part in the tapestry.

A sky that radiates a marbled canvas of unspeakable magnificence.
Or the rolling dark angry eyes of a tempest creeping.

The tiniest thing is mine.

All mine.

To love.

To cherish.

To covet.

To reflect upon.

To mourn.

Perhaps a moment of silence and a bowed head.

Just another day on my morning walk.   A meditation.

Until it is someone else’s turn for a captivating discovery.

And then to be able to let it go.

To appreciate its impermanence.

To move on to the next wonder.

The next brush.

The next audacious interception with life in all of its astonishment.

I once opened a fortune cookie to a fortune that was meant for me:
You discover treasures where others see nothing unusual.

 

I DO discover treasures where others see nothing unusual.

It is my proudest trick.

I also brazenly plagiarize fortune cookies.

 

 

 

 

 

Angela Carole Brown is the author of three published books, The Assassination of Gabriel Champion, The Kidney Journals: Memoirs of a Desperate Lifesaver, and Trading Fours, and has produced several albums of music and a yoga/mindfulness CD.   Bindi Girl Chronicles is her writing blog.   Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram & YouTube.

Four Points of a Twenty-three Day Odyssey

 

Abstract-Painting-Fluid-Acrylic

 

1.

. . . And he told them he didn’t do portraits.

They asked him why, and he said because

the last time he did a portrait he was

screamed at by the model who claimed

he didn’t capture the true her.

As if she might’ve had some clue

as to what that was.  See, when the work

gets too personal for anyone else besides him,

that’s when he always gets into trouble.

And there are all the little ulteriors that

hang in the balance, besides.

So he doesn’t do them.

But this family wouldn’t leave him alone.

And it’s not as if he doesn’t like to be begged.

Who doesn’t?

But these people were REALLY trying to

twist at his heartstrings.

They said the portrait was in memory of their dead mother.

Oh, boo hoo.

And when that didn’t work – sentimentality rarely does with him –

then they tried to yank on his empty pockets

with offers of ungodly amounts of money.

And that is where he fell.

It’s where he always falls.

Plus, they were able to convince him,

gullible fool that he can be,

that a dead woman could hardly

scream at him about a job not well done.

So they all shook hands, and the process began.

An impossible one, he would later come to find,

but then he’s always been of the opinion that

Creation is a job for someone with at least

a high school diploma or the equivalency.

And at all times requires a crash helmet.

 

 

 

 

2.

. . . How had he let himself fall for it again?

How do you paint someone you don’t know?

Because, you see, it isn’t just a face you paint.  It’s a spirit.

An energy.

So, faced with that puzzle, and since he didn’t know the dead woman personally,

he decided he would do everything he could think of to learn about her life.

He started gathering, collecting, rallying around him all the trinkets that spelled her life.

Anything her family could possibly dig up.

Photographs.  Letters.  A handkerchief bearing the scent of

lilacs and mothballs.  Very telling, that one.

Purses with lipsticks glued inside.

There was a pair of old nylons,

never worn, just packed neatly away in a rusted hope chest.

A brooch of black pearls and emeralds.

Most of the emeralds missing.

A very badly tarnished silver teething cup

with a name inscribed.  Hmmmm.  Laura.

Just like the movie.

A dead rose from Laura’s funeral, which someone had

flattened between the pages of

Psalms and Proverbs.

And an old, musty, floral-printed dress.

He placed every bauble and memory on tables and chairs all around him,

And just sat for days,

staring at the stained wallpaper,

feeling a bit like the irascible Raskolnikov.

He held in his hand the dead woman’s hair brush,

all ensconced in tangled and mangled

grey and black hairs.

Slowly he lifted it to his nose to smell.

Only hair.  Nothing special.

You know, what can you really get from hair?

Maybe a hint of old, stale Bergamot.

Just trying to get acquainted.

He felt like he was on a first date.

What the hell.  He popped a few Black Mollies and started.

But to his hallucinogenic dismay, his first stroke was weak –

ignorant – uncommitted – bullshit!

The color was wrong, the light was wrong, the intent was wrong.

So he threw it out, and sat three more days.

He had run through every canvas and every little tube of his oils

trying to express dead Laura.  Then he couldn’t even afford to

re-stock his supplies!

So in pure and pissed-off desperation, he thought to his huffing self,

I will slit my wrists if I have to,

and paint her on the walls with my own blood!

The truth is, it’s just too goddamned expensive to be a starving artist these days.

And a good dental plan certainly couldn’t hurt to make it a more sought-after position.

 

 

 

3.

. . . So he just sat.

For days upon days with the sights and smells of dead Laura.

Reading her letters, memorizing her penmanship, sleeping with her quilt draped over his legs.

He paced his flat for countless unbathed, sweaty days,

and went through several fifths and an easy carton of Marlboros.

He listened to the weeping timbre of Callas on an old turntable, because that voice was how he felt.

Until one day, out of the blue, after all of the madness,

for mad was what he had become,

he suddenly realized – he was wearing her.

Laura.

As one puts on a cloak and lavishes in its feel, so he wore her very life on his ripe body.

It hung from his limbs, perhaps a little snug in the arms,

but every part of her was now in his grasp.  Every little nuance.

He knew her better than he knew himself.

He was a bit awed and trembling, but needed to shake it off so that he could keep going

and actually get some paint to canvas.

He immediately hastened to the business of stretching a canvas on a 10 ft. x 10 ft. frame.

So huge and unmanageable was the thing that he had to literally lie on top of it.

He mixed paints with such a flurry that he stumbled clops of swirly color onto the canvas

before it had even been given the chance to be completely mixed,

so much faster did his head work than his hands.

He painted her with a fever by day, and with a pitch by night.

Hues of every conceivable shading and variation surfaced.

Thoughts toppled over one another to get to the canvas.

And a sort of unhinged randomness became his M.O.

For twenty-three haunted days of glorious, glorious madness

he pranced and flung paint to the round-the-clock screams of Fishbone

(he had long, by this point, abandoned Callas)

and a half pint of Old Forester.

And it was – a masterpiece.

Was he even allowed to feel that?

Somehow, he didn’t care.

He circled it for fear that he’d dreamt it.   But it was real.

And he breathed in the smell of her, which was beyond the pungent turpentine, stale bourbon, and cigarette smoke.

He stared at her until she bewitched him, and he would be so bewitched.

She was strong, yet sad and eloquent, just like her love letters.

And angry too, like that cracked hand-mirror that he could just see her

dashing against a wall.

Yet vulnerable, as in the melancholy eyes that graced every one of her photographs.

But most of all . . .

Well, look for yourself.

Is she not the most exquisite beauty you have ever seen?

It probably comes as no surprise by now that he had

fallen in love with Laura.

The minor detail that she was dead didn’t seem to stop that

ball from dropping, did it?

So the cliché IS true.  All artists do fall in love with their models.

Even the expired ones.

This career is definitely not for the faint of heart.

 

 

 

 

4.

. . . And then as if the laws of fate weren’t already

finding him the perfect punch line to a joke,

the family of dead Laura was not, as it turns out,

especially thrilled with his portrait after all.

Idiot!   (This was to him, not them)

He should know better.

How many times in the past had he already walked into this trap?

See, they wanted something they could put on their mantle like a holy shrine,

to decorate with flowers.

They weren’t interested in something they might have to ponder!

They wanted something they could readily identify.

Like a police sketch!

“It doesn’t even look like her.”

“It doesn’t look like her?  It is the very essence of her!”

They asked him how he would know that.

“How would I know that?  How would I know that?

HUMAN NATURE IS MY JOB!”

“Human nature? Human nature?  Is that what you call it?  Human nature?  Well, maybe buddy, but what do you know about our mother? What do you know about our mother? What do you know about our mother? Whatdoyouknowaboutourmother!!!”

They were mindless wind-up toys.

He could not stand the sound of their voices.

“We’ve lived with her all our lives.  What have you lived with?   A hair brush?  A broken mirror?”

He finally burst:   ” I’VE WORN THE PANTYHOSE!  CAN YOU SAY THE SAME!!!?”

What kind of fetishistic weirdo are we dealing with?  they must surely have been thinking.

He didn’t care.

The truth is, they’d’ve fared better taking her photo to a booth on Coney Island for a three-minute chalk portrait,

and he told them as much.

They called him a narcissistic dilettante.

He called them cretins.

And once again, between artist and the

rest of the conscious world, it seemed,

there lay the abyss.

And so the family of dead Laura stormed off

with all her trinkets and whatnots,

and he walked away with no money in his pockets,

but his own Laura right there on his wall,

where no one could ever touch her again.

She was his.  He was hers.

And as he sipped, not swigged this time, his shot of Old Forester,

he could not help but reflect on an Ingmar Bergman line:

I could always live in my art, but never in my life.

 

 

 

 

 

Angela Carole Brown is the author of three published books, The Assassination of Gabriel Champion, The Kidney Journals: Memoirs of a Desperate Lifesaver, and Trading Fours, and has produced several albums of music and a yoga/mindfulness CD.   Bindi Girl Chronicles is her writing blog.   Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram & YouTube.

 

My World Broken Open

Parched earth

 

All of last year, I made bold claims about 2014 being a paradigm-shifting year. I even went so far as to say that this gut feeling was not just personal but global.  I still make the claim, frankly; still feel it happening all around me.  But as for my own personal shift, thus far it has unfolded in ways I did not see coming, and have with equal measure both cursed and taken into my embrace like a greedy child.   And the year’s only halfway up.

First off, a confession.  A good part of my “predictions” about this shift were shaped by the practice we’ve all come to be familiar with in this trending age:  The Secret.  And I was doing as prescribed.  Manifesting.   Walking in the world as if.   For the record, a good part of the claim, as well, genuinely resided in my gut’s intuition.  But let’s focus on the other for a minute.

One thing that happened to me this year was a very large, very significant book prize that my novel was in the running for.  I didn’t tell a soul about it.  I knew that winning this could potentially change my life, especially in light of the fact that my book is published under my own established imprint, and not a traditional publishing house.  I spent weeks and months twisting myself into “manifesting” pretzels walking the walk, and praying every day for an outcome that would break open my little life.  I went so far as to say publicly that my life would change significantly in 2014.  I wouldn’t say why. I didn’t want to jinx it.  Plus, a little mystique is never a bad thing.  It would just happen, my life would change, and it would be so huge that no effort from me would even be needed to break the news to my world.  MY world would become THE world.  Well, break open it did, my little life.  But in ways that are only visible to me, that have nothing to do with material achievement, for sure not the book prize I had coveted, and certainly nothing to do with others’ perception of me, which has always been a significant engine for me.

(I wear the mask almost too well of marching to my own drummer and not caring how I come off to others, but I am secretly and remarkably fragile in that area.)

I did not receive that book prize I had worked hard for and claimed as mine with all of my manifesting might and rhetoric.  And it was a blow I did not recover from very easily.  I have (fast forward to right now) indeed recovered, but it was a mountain to climb.  A mountain that included several summits where the air was so thin my lungs felt crushed.  No, I can’t ever resist an obnoxious metaphor.  Hey, maybe there’s a clue why I didn’t win the book prize.

But yes, the mountain summit.   Lung-explosion.  Enlightenment.  All those things associated with the spiritual trek that is Everest most certainly happened to me in the days following the book prize letdown.

Did the author who took home the honor practice the principles of The Secret, I wondered in jealousy and bitterness?   And if so, was it because he or she had mastered a technique that I hadn’t?  I was downright irascible in wondering why not me, when I had manifested the Hell all outta my shit.  Almost busted a vessel in my neck with all my manifestin’ (can you envision the dance? . . . sorta Mick Jaggerish?).

Life is never that follow-these-simple-steps-and-the-world-is-yours  neat.  Never.

And so, I took the proverbial backpack that was ready for global domination off my back, didn’t sell my car, didn’t give up my apartment, didn’t say “so long, suckas!” and instead stepped back and reassessed everything.

I thought about how people pray, and how I prayed during all of this.  I not only prayed to win this book prize, I asked those I know who call themselves prayer warriors, and are genuine lights in this world, if they would put in a good word.  With whom?  is always an issue for me, as I do not subscribe to the literal anthropomorphization of God as some “he” who grants wishes.  Yet I requested prayer.

In fact, here’s me in a spiritual nutshell, which surely promises to disturb both the devout and the atheists in my life, so this one is especially hard for me, the people-pleaser, the one who’ll do anything not to rock the boat:

I am a person who is open, who is not so arrogant as to insist that something doesn’t exist just because it might be something I haven’t personally experienced.  I do believe there are numinous mysteries and truths beyond what we can see and feel and document in an empirical way.  After all, this world is but a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a fraction, ad infinitum, of what is, and what we yet know.  I believe in interconnectedness and life force, yet how to name it, to intellectualize it, is useless folly, the most concerning of those follies for me being the literal definitions of God as a deity who wields miracles and punishments in equal measure, and has the human attributes of jealousy and vengeance.  I’ve always believed in prayer even when I wasn’t so sure about “Him.”  Because for me, higher power is indefinable.

I have great difficulty using the word God, because it’s such a polarizing, even incendiary, word.  Wars, folks; history is rife with examples of hypnotizing ideologies in the name of God.  And, as a result, my own mental association with the word brings with it an agitation I would rather not welcome into my spiritual space.  I DO often speak of our “god-realized selves” as being the very manifestation we should each be seeking in our spiritual work.  Yet to say “God” the way I’d call someone by their name feels unnatural.  I find myself using almost ANY word or phrase before using God.   The Divine.   Higher Power.   Source.   Sacred Spirit.   The Presence of Absolute Good.  It’s just semantics anyway.  The minute we label it, we’ve lost it.  Yet I understand the need to label, as language is what we have.  We simply cannot conceive of higher truth without assigning form.

But, yes, I do believe that we are more than our bodies, more than our biology.  And I think the early 20th-century French philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin got it absolutely right.   We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, but spiritual beings having a human experience.

To be honest, these are just today’s beliefs.   Tomorrow who knows?  And I’m good with that, because what I do know for sure is that I know nothing.  Our entire journey here is meant to be a constant and repeated awakening and unfolding.  If we were meant to know everything, to have the skinny on life and the meaning of life, we’d be done with our job here.  The design is right in front of us.  It’s perfect the way it is.

Anyway, I prayed.  And I asked others to pray.  There was a part of me that wholeheartedly subscribed to the idea that the universe conspires to do our bidding, and all we have to do is be willing to show up with conviction.   That’s the basic rhetoric of The Secret, isn’t it?   And which runs in complete contrast to my deepest belief that shit happens and some dreams don’t come true, and the real lesson is to learn to amass the masterful tools meant to help us respond to all of it – the fortunate and the unfortunate – with some amount of grace, humility, mindfulness, and vigilant compassion; instead of living in the cotton candy, law-of-attraction universe where we think we can get anything we want.   But I digress.

Gist of my prayer:   “Please let me win this book prize.  And I vow to be worthy of the gift.”

See how I even put the humble little spin on it?  That I wasn’t just asking for something, I was offering to give something in return.  Prayer as bargaining.  Somehow I seemed to miss the spiritual lesson of:  “Hey, be worthy anyway. Period. “

And yes, all spiritual lessons begin with “Hey!”   At least, they should.

Or even (alternate prayer technique):  “I claim this book prize as mine.  My time.  My shot.  I’ve invested a lifetime at the task of fine-tuning my voice as a writer, and it’s my turn.”

The truth is, it’s everybody’s turn.  Anyone who’s ever devoted their time and energy to something creative, productive, elevated and elevating.  But we can’t all be named Miss America.

And so here’s what I find most perverse about that kind of praying.  Asking for that gift, knowing that there were thousands (I don’t actually know a number) out there all praying, hoping, crossing fingers, sticking pins in voodoo dolls, dancing naked under full moons, rubbing genie bottles, whatever, for THEIR lives to be changed too, meant that I was not only asking to have my prayer answered, I was asking for everyone else’s to NOT be.

Think about that one for a minute.

I was asking for others’ devastation.  Granted, devastation is a great bit of hyperbole, but it definitely was how I felt, in actually believing that I had a shot, that  walking in the world as if  was my bitch, that I had mastered her, and that she was about to pay up.

And then she didn’t.

Yes, devastated.  Because I had decided that my life wasn’t good enough as it was.   And I was ready for the Great Escape.  And I was way too eager to believe in ANY used car premise that was promising to aid me in that.

I had actually long ago stopped believing in that kind of prayer.  But this was a clear case of desperation so deep-seated that I pulled out every gesture, every chant, every angle, every good deed, every loophole, every prayer approach that I had long ago lost faith in, to make this happen for me.  Actually, losing faith is not accurate.  It’s not exactly that I stopped believing it worked.  I had come to the realization that I no longer believed in its intrinsic selfishness.   “Dear God, gimme…”

Had I won that book prize, I would’ve gone down in my own history believing till my death that it was because “God is good!”   I’d’ve conveniently ignored that such a premise would also mean that God wasn’t quite so good to all the other writers vying for the same prize.   And how does one work that into the deeply held narrative that God works for us all?  I see that as a fundamental problem with conventional belief, especially so because I can see how easy it is to get whipped into that euphoria when things are going smoothly.

Here’s how I actually do believe in prayer.  And if the sore disappointments that occurred in the earlier part of this year weren’t enough to jolt me right back to what I know, slap my face, and tell me to “snap out of it!” then nothing was bound to.   Prayer is not about change out there.   Never has been.  It’s about change within.  Not about asking for, from some exterior source, but about getting aligned with one’s own sentient marrow.  Appealing to that deeper, higher resonance, frequency, and vibration (actually, that’s probably the closest definition of God than anything else I can perceive) to help us AWAKEN.   A cup that’s too full can’t receive any new information or lessons.   We need to empty ourselves daily.   That’s the purpose of prayer and meditation.  So that we can get a handle on how to skillfully receive whatever life has decided to deal us, with amazing grace.   Truly, it is the difference between acceptance and resistance.  Between desperate attachment and effortless release.  Between willingness and willfulness.

I am a writer.  I will always write.  Regardless of its impact and acceptance.  Regardless of awards.   I release everything else.

Now, all of that said, and for the record, I am genuinely indebted to, and lifted up by, those prayer warriors’ efforts and the love that was behind it.  Praying on behalf of someone else is truly an act of benevolence, and that will never be forgotten in this house.

I’ve been reading Alan Watts this year, who has blown my mind in ways that . . . Well.  Damn.  Just damn.  He talks about the wisdom of insecurity (the name of one of his books, in fact), of knowing that struggles and stumbles happen, and being braced for it.  Not only braced for it, but breathing it in, working with it, dancing with it, doing our part for balance, not allowing ourselves to be sucked in by delusion and resistance and by desperately cocooning ourselves in material comforts, and convenient denial, and the desire for permanence, versus the fact of flux.

I know that the desperation to escape my life, and the genuine belief that a book prize, a credit on a resume, a label, was going to give me a sense of security, was all about needing to do everything in my power to distance myself from flux.

Well, we’d all better start embracing flux, because, baby, that’s what we’ve been given to work with.  But that’s not bad news AT ALL.   There is beauty in flux.

“The poets are often at their best when speaking of the transitoriness of human life . . . that images, though beautiful in themselves, come to life in the act of vanishing.   The poet takes away their static solidity, and turns a beauty which would otherwise be only statuesque and architectural into music, which, no sooner than it is sounded, dies away.” – A.W.

The great mis-belief that we can attain a certain thing, and that that thing, once possessed, will remain static and unchanging forever, so as to never let us down, and that this is what our life’s work is supposed to be towards, is a pretty great lie we’ve been sold.  And believe me, I was one of the first in line to buy.

I was meant to read Mr. Watts, and others like him who have blown my world wide open, in this year 2014, this year that I claimed to be a paradigm shifter.  Be mindful what you wish for!   Because, these sages have shifted my shit all out of my comfort zone, and I couldn’t be more frightened, and more alive.

2014 has virtually overtaken me with mystics, philosophers, artists, innovators, original thinkers, pushers of envelopes, those unconcerned with zeitgeist, creators of their own movement, a little off, a tad quirky, willing for and honored by their own inner fool, nobody’s darling as the poet Alice Walker says, and therefore the world’s hope, the hope of the future, the hope of the very magnificent RIGHT NOW, the hope of sustainable energy, the hope of eternal beauty, the dark and the light, the smudgy, the clean.  These have been the manner of righteous godlings that have upturned my soul, and have, especially in this year, broken my world wide open.

I observed Lent this year for the first time in my 50-something years on this earth.   Not even Catholic.   Just felt compelled.  I did prayer and fasting for 10 days straight (40 was too ambitious, yet I did want to raise the stakes by doing a full-on juice fast, instead of just giving up one thing).  I even documented it right here on this blog.   I let quiet and introspection and privation take over my life for those 10 days.  I was in the very thick of it when the big book prize disappointment happened, when I lost people (plural!) too young to be dying, when health issues even snagged my pace and slowed me down a bit.   None of this was happening before I started.  And I began to wonder, what the hell door did I just open!  It was a roller-coaster experience, and I wanted to break windows on many of those days.   I didn’t.   Instead I braved through, faithed through, did a lot of facing, and came up for air forever changed.

I’m not even sure I can quantify for you how.  But I have, ever since then, been in the midst of a tremendous transformation, and am frankly looking to be even more transparent and disclosing, more accepting of every facet of who I am, including the parts of me that are deeply flawed, more willing to offer compassion to those flaws than to try and shake them off with denial, because they make me uniquely me, more willing to say them out loud to others, which actually lessens their hold, instead of living behind a shroud of shame, or worse, behind a shroud of pretense and spin, which I’m surrounded by far too much, living in L.A.   I am using my writing these days, especially this blog, to explore my own spiritual growth through rigorous honesty.  I am incredibly proud to have cultivated the courage to look inward, and to lay every flaw AND virtue, equally, on the table for examination.  I feel for the ones who are so fragile or in denial that they can never allow themselves to face their beautiful imperfections.   Without that tool, and that desire, to do so, how do we ever blossom, grow, evolve, heal, break through?  Breakthroughs generally tend to be accompanied by some pain, but always result in true liberation.   I have decided that I am in this . . . all of it . . . every bit of my spiritual practices, my blog-writing being, surprisingly, one of those . . . for the hard lessons and the powerful transformations.

I have been twisted, yanked, torn, and shaken by spiritual epiphany this year.  It has been illuminating, if not always pleasant, and it has, yes, done what I said 2014 was going to do.  It doesn’t even remotely resemble what I had in mind.   Funny how that works.  And releasing my attachment to THAT outcome has been an arduous process, but release it I have, and I am breathing deeper and more fully because of it.  Oxygen, heavenly oxygen!  It may not look like anything to anyone observing my life.   But it’s happening.  It’s happening so big and bold that I’m a bit nauseated trying to keep my insides still.  The Earth of Me has opened up and rumbled.  And, as I have to keep reminding myself, the year’s only a little more than half up.

I said this in an earlier article, and I feel compelled to say it again here.  The world IS insecure.  It is unsure, unpredictable, it will always, and till the end of time, give us joy beyond measure, AND loss, heartbreak, and disappointment beyond measure.  And all the praying to the manifesting, law-of-attraction gods will not make us magically immune to pain and disappointment.  To spin our wheels trying desperately to never be touched by pain or struggle – or flux – is futile and foolish.  Yes, we can intersect.  And we should.  Yes, we can make change.  And we should.  But there is no magic pill.  Don’t be disappointed.   That, either, isn’t bad news.  It’s the best, actually.  It means that every effort holds just that much more meaning.

I have the unshakable feeling that our world is presently experiencing both a great enlightenment and a mad fall simultaneously, and the wonder of which force will ultimately tip the scales, and the knowing that we must all stay engaged, stay conscious, continue to evolve, and opt for amassing a healthy arsenal of sapience and sentience.  I’m not a political or sociological analyst, and my writings will never be a partisan rant.   I am only an authority on my own psychological and spiritual growth, and on how I choose to show up in the world and contribute, and on my efforts, always, to try and up that ante daily, in order to be my own greatest, god-realized self.

As the earthquakes become more and more prevalent around the world, so does the quaking of all our ideologies.   What’s in store for us?   And are we ready?

 

 

 

 

 

Angela Carole Brown is the author of three published books, The Assassination of Gabriel Champion, The Kidney Journals: Memoirs of a Desperate Lifesaver, and Trading Fours, and has produced several albums of music and a yoga/mindfulness CD.   Bindi Girl Chronicles is her writing blog.   Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram & YouTube.

 

 

The Goddess Project Documentary (Interview with Holli Rae & Sara Landas)

The BUSThe Goddess Bus

 

 

Hope and Crosby never made a road picture like this!

I wholeheartedly salute two extraordinary young women whom I had the honor to encounter nearly two years ago. They are Holli Rae and Sara Landas, and they have been in the midst of filming their documentary The Goddess Project  for some three years now.  Their credo: “To set our fears aside, and film other women who are doing the same.”

The film’s premise is simple, yet their journey to make it was a life-changing one for them.  It is an intimate look, through interviews, into the lives and inspiration of over 100 women across America, each speaking and baring their souls in a very personal way about their struggles, their inspirations, their contributions, on everything from sisterhood, family, and overcoming fears, to spirituality, aging, body image and sexuality, and speaking in such an honest and disclosing way, toward the purpose of demonstrating real and diverse role models for women of all ages to see and to experience, and to bridge the gaps that have sometimes separated us.

 

THE STORY

In 2012 Holli and Sara left all of their comforts behind, acquired a vegetable oil-powered school bus (decking it out as only goddesses can!) and took a leap of faith, embarking on a remarkable journey across the US in search of women from every walk of life – artists, activists, mothers, sisters, academics, businesswomen, scholars – all eager to share their stories.

I came across these two lights, or they came across me, because Sara’s dad is a friend and colleague of mine.  They came to my home bearing a bouquet of beautiful blooms, and carrying on them their cameras and their great big hearts, and we had a ball talking about life as women, and even shedding a few tears. I believe L.A. was the first wing of their journey, so little did they know at that moment what amazing adventures and encounters were awaiting them.

 “Everywhere we stopped, whether it was at a coffee shop or rest stop,
we were amazed by the number of people who wanted us to meet
an inspiring woman in their life . . . This film presents an intimate look at the
universal concerns that we face as women through groundbreaking dialogue . . .”

 – Holli & Sara

Holli & Sara

10,000 miles later, they had amassed hundreds of hours of footage, and had experienced the time of their lives.   After the honor of being one of their interviewees, I caught up with them recently, in the midst of their post-production tasks, and asked if they wouldn’t mind being on the other end for a moment.

 

*          *          *

ACB:
How did you two meet?  And did the idea for this film come out of your blossoming friendship, or did one of you have the idea first, and through or because of the idea met the other?

H&S: 
We met in the summer of 2008 on a mountain top!  Through sharing stories and making art together, our connection quickly developed into the most co-creative friendship we had ever experienced.  As our bond became stronger and our dreams became bolder, we started meeting so many other inspiring women who were also on a path to pursuing their dreams.  Meeting these ladies and hearing about their unique journeys of self-discovery inspired us to create The Goddess Project.  We saw a need for more empowering stories like theirs in the media and instantly started envisioning how we could share them with the world.  We decided to sell everything that we owned, and launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise enough money to fund the production of the project.  We promised each other that even if the campaign wasn’t successful, we would still hit the road and find a way to make it work.  Our minds were blown away by the incredible people who showed up to help make this film possible.  Over 100 people from around the world donated to help us start the project.

Then something even more magical happened!  We met a man named Chirp at a music festival, told him about our project, and he offered to give us his vegetable oil-powered bus!  Neither of us had ever been given a gift like this from a total stranger, so this act of kindness absolutely blew our minds.  This incredibly generous gift was a huge game changer.  Then we serendipitously connected with an incredible artist named Michelle Robinson through Tumblr who donated her time to help us transform a little brown school bus into a beautiful, inspiring art car.  So we packed our lives into The Goddess Bus and hit the road with two suitcases, our camera equipment, and no idea what we would find!

ACB:
Well, we love Chirp!   Our angels do come to us in the most unexpected ways, don’t they?  And Michelle’s bus art is just so breathtaking in that powerful Sacred Feminine tradition.

As an artist, myself, I find that the ideas I come up with for a book, or a song, or a painting, are usually coming from a place in my soul of lack or need, a hole to be filled, in a sense.  Where do you think this idea of interviewing inspiring women came from?

H&S:
We felt frustrated by the constant bombardment of the same stereotypical roles of women in the media.  We wanted to see a broader spectrum of female role models, so we decided to put our heads together and come up with a solution!

Movies play a huge role in shaping culture and we need to see more films that empower women rather than perpetuating negative stereotypes and limiting beliefs.  We don’t need any more distorted versions of reality telling us that we are not good enough.  We are perfect as we are, and more films need to encourage that!  We are creating The Goddess Project to remind women of all ages that they are strong, beautiful, and capable of achieving anything they set their minds to!

ACB: 
What were you hoping to discover in talking to women across the country, and were your hopes and expectations answered?   Or did you find that conversations went in completely different directions than you had planned?

H&S:
We wanted to see what women across America are passionate about, and to discover how similar we all are in our differences.  We wanted to know what it’s like to be who they are, and hear about what they have overcome to get there.  We wanted to know what their fears are, what they love about themselves, and what they hope to see and become in the future.

We hoped that we would be able to find women who were willing to be open, honest, and real . . . and we ended up finding over a hundred of them!  We sat with women from all walks of life; at dinner tables, coffee shops, on horseback, and in parks; to talk about what they felt most called to share.   We interviewed artists, mothers, healers, business women, and scholars about the life-changing experiences that shaped them to become who they are today.  We talked about everything under the sun, and almost every interview ended in tears.

We learned that many of our fears and obstacles are the same.  We learned that women across America want to feel connected and understood.  We learned that every story is profound, and that women are ready for more representation.  We learned that women across the country are dedicated to bettering themselves and the world around them.

ACB:
As young women, yourselves, looking for positive role models from just such women as you describe, how important was the older demographic among the ones you encountered?   And what gold did you get from the younger women?   And what ended up being the age range of everyone you interviewed?

H&S:
Well, so much gold!  We ended up interviewing women from the ages of 18-90!  The older women we spoke with absolutely blew our minds because they have come so far and have so much insightful wisdom to share.  The younger women inspired us as well because they were so dedicated to pursuing the life of the dreams.  Each woman taught us something new about ourselves and the world that we had never seen before.  It was an amazing experience to be able to travel from city to city, hearing the collective voices of women and seeing the amazing things that they are doing in their homes and communities!

ACB:
I’ve been following this journey, and it’s been very exciting!   In seeing the clips, the beautiful teasers, in the trailers that you’ve made over the past year, I’ve been especially moved by how you left no social demographic out of the loop.    As an African-American woman, myself, in this society, it isn’t uncommon for me to feel, at times, a bit left out of the cultural conversation.   And, of course, I had the honor of being one of your interviewees!   And I have to say, I was completely struck, as I followed your journey, by how much you were so all-inclusive of the radiant array of women of every heritage, station, vocation, age, and every other social orientation.   Can you please speak a bit on that?   Was it conscious on your part, or were you just walking this path with hearts so open that . . . well, let me let you finish the thought.

H&S:
We embarked on this journey with open hearts and planned to interview as many of the most diverse women as we could find.  We definitely made a conscious effort to be all-inclusive when it came to our interviewees because we know that all women out there are seeking inspiration and in most of the media, women, especially those of color, are lacking representation.

As we made our way across the country, we ended up finding women in the most serendipitous and magical ways. Initially we reached out to them through the internet and by word of mouth, but as we traveled from city to city our brightly painted bus became a magnet that attracted amazing women everywhere we went!  At each destination we were approached by women from all walks of life who felt called to share their stories.  Having the opportunity to connect with all of these unique women opened our minds to so many different perspectives, and as we got to know each of them we also realized just how similar so many of our fears and obstacles are.  We learned that although each of our individual journeys looks so different from the outside, there are similar threads that connect us all.  We are so excited to weave this beautiful web of women’s stories together, so that we can bridge the gaps that separate us from one another and inspire people everywhere to create positive change in their own lives!

ACB:
Please talk a little, if you don’t mind, about some of the more unexpected things that occurred on your journey.  Any interesting hurdles?   Especially considering that you were living on the most menial of resources.

H&S:
We both love camping and road trips, so going into the journey we weren’t too worried about life on the road!  That said, the reality of living for 6 months in an amenity-free bus (sometimes in 100 degree heat) ended up being a lot more challenging at times than we had anticipated!  Most of our showers consisted of baby wipes and Dr. Bronner’s, and we spent a lot of time peeing in cups if there wasn’t a bathroom nearby.  We quickly learned how to live off just the bare necessities, but also discovered how many amazing people there are out there ready and willing to help you out in a time of need!  One night, we found ourselves trying to get some sleep in our bus in New Orleans when it was still blazing hot outside and we were in a bad part of town, so we had to keep the windows shut.  We lay there pouring water on ourselves, wondering if we could survive the night in that kind of heat.  Suddenly there was a knock at our door.  It was a woman we had met earlier that day who insisted we come stay with her.  We followed her back to her place just down the street and had a beautiful night’s sleep in her air-conditioned den.  Everyday we faced new hurdles as we stepped into the unknown, but we stayed open and our intuitions always led us right where we needed to be!

ACB:
Was there anything that scared you about taking on a vision as monumental as this?    Doubts, at any point, about the leaps of faith you were taking, not only to go on this journey, but the leaps of faith in each other?

H&S:
From the very moment we made the decision that this is what we were going to do, we committed wholeheartedly to it!  We did have our fears about taking on something this big, but we made the choice that no matter how things unfolded, whether we rallied the support or not, we were going to make this film happen!  Three years into the journey and we can definitely say we had no idea how much work was going to go into bringing this film to life, but everyday we work together to keep our vision strong.  When one of us is feeling doubtful or overwhelmed, the other one is always there reminding us of the importance of this project and why we have to keep pushing forward!  Taking on something this big is a lot more manageable when you’re sharing the weight with your best friend!

ACB:
SERIOUSLY amen!   Who have been your personal heroes, who have helped to build you into the strong young women you are today?   Either personal, or in history?    And why?

H&S:
One of our personal heroes is Eve Ensler.  From her playwriting to her global activism, she is a force of nature!  She is a woman who has devoted her life to being a voice of change, and an example of how instrumental just one person can be in changing the lives of so many!  We were lucky enough to have her reach out to us when we were about half way through the journey, and her organization One Billion Rising became a producer of the film!  We are so honored to have her on board, she is such an inspiration to us!

ACB:
Eve Ensler is truly a special being on the planet.   You’re definitely speaking my language.  So, what is ultimately the legacy you’d like to leave?

H&S:
There is this great quote by Albert Pine: ” What we do for ourselves dies with us.  What we do for others and the world is immortal.”  We want to use what little time we have in this life to use the talents we have to create art that helps raise the consciousness on the planet and empowers others to overcome their fears and live the lives of their dreams!

ACB:  
You two are an inspiration, and the world needs to know about The Goddess Project.  I have felt incredibly humbled to have had some small part in this, and to have been able to watch it grow beyond all expectation, as your journey unfolded.  I raise my proverbial glass to you two bright beacons for change and liberation, Holli Rae and Sara Landas.  Thank you so much for chatting with me.

*          *          *

THE GOAL

The larger goal, of course, is the film itself, and everything that it stands to shift in our consciousness.  But the immediate goal is one that can use our help.  Holli and Sara have a Kickstarter campaign in the works, to help raise enough money to complete the post-production on a film that is truly important and needs to be out there.   If you’re feeling even the slightest bit philanthropic ($1 even!), I urge you to consider being a part of this game-changing, transformational project.  You honestly couldn’t choose a nobler investment.   The deadline to raise their pledge is Friday, Aug 22, 2014, 3:33 PM PDT.

If NOTHING ELSE, please take 4 minutes to watch this newest trailer, and I defy you to not be inspired.

http://youtu.be/ttkwVO_tUQk

 

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8/23/2014 Footnote to article:

Congratulations to Sara and Holli for successfully reaching their funding goal!   It was all because of you, the supporters.   That means there will be an extraordinary film coming our way in 2015.   Brava, ladies!    And bravo to all the philanthropists who made it possible.

 

 

 

 

Angela Carole Brown is the author of three published books, The Assassination of Gabriel Champion, The Kidney Journals: Memoirs of a Desperate Lifesaver, and Trading Fours, and has produced several albums of music and a yoga/mindfulness CD.   Bindi Girl Chronicles is her writing blog.   Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram & YouTube.