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November 2010

To all my American friends, family, colleagues, and readers. . .

Bunny Troupe

Enjoy that turkey and pumpkin pie for me, the latter of which is virtually unknown here in England. (As is Shoofly Pie, which I grew up with in a family that is Pennsylvania Dutch on my maternal grandmother's side.)

And since I've been recommending something every day this week, here are Thursday's recommendations:


1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving by Catherine O'Neil Grace and Margaret Bruchac. Published by the National Geographic Society, this is a fascinating book for children which dispells many of the myths that have grown up around the holiday by exploring the actual history of the event. 'Sure wish I'd had this when I was a kid.

Giving Thanks by Chief Jake Swamp, with illustrations by Erwin Printup, Jr. This is a truly lovely children's book that draws on the Iroquois ceremonial tradition to remind us that giving thanks shouldn't be limited to a single day each year.


The Cranberry Cantos: The editors at the Poetry Foundation provide a wonderful round-up of Thanksgiving poems old and new here. (Don't miss "Perhaps the World Ends Here" by Navajo poet Joy Harjo. Or Bruce Guernsey's ode to the Yam!)




A British friend asked me recently if Thanksgiving was a religious holiday. "No," I said. "It's pretty much all about the food, and watching football, not going to church."

Then to whom, she asked, are we giving thanks?

I reckon that all of us Americans would give a different answer to that. Some would say "to God," some would say "to the land, for its bounty," some would say "to the family and friends gathered 'round the table, who sustain our lives as food sustains the body," and some would say, "who the hell cares, pass the turkey."

I'm in all these catagories, thankful to it all and for it all...although "god," to me, isn't Our Father sitting on high with a long white beard, it is the mystery of life that permeates all things. I don't seem to have a need for god/spirit/the mystery to be explained, or proved, or confined into one set of religious practices; the mystery of life just is, and for that I'm thankful today, every day, always. So my Thursday "listening" recommendation is Iris Dement performing her charming song "Let the Mystery Be."

Wednesday's Recommendation: It F*cking Gets Better

  Hal Duncan My colleage Hal Duncan, a young Scottish writer of mythic novels and a contributor to The Journal of Mythic Arts, has a video up on right now that I highly recommend. Brit Mandelo explains:

"The It Gets Better project has been huge on the public media, the internet, everywhere as an attempt to save the lives of queer teens, or at least make their burden slightly more bearable. Speculative writer and all-around interesting guy Hal Duncan observed on Twitter that most of these videos would not have spoken to a teenage-him, and I personally agree. They are full of platitudes and well-meaning but unhelpful good cheer. They don’t connect, especially if you are or were a queer teen who was not just sad but angry. So, he made his own It Gets Better video, and it’s the best one I’ve seen."

Honest, obscenity-laced, wise, and even profound -- I admit it, Hal's video made me cry by its end. You can watch it here.

And while you're at it, check out Hal's novel too. They are wild, weird, and wonderful.


Hal Duncan


Tuesday's Recommndation: Shadows


I'm still thinking about the use of shadows in the Miwa Matreyek video I posed here last week, which reminded me of the charming shadow art created by Allison Read Smith (above). "These pieces run across the floor and up the wall," says the artist, "so that when the viewer stands on the 'feet' of these pieces their shadow is cast.  The shadows, cut from black felt are approximately 8-10 feet tall.  They are looming and comical."

Shadows are such magical, fickle, tricksterish things...particularly to generations raised on J.M Barrie's Peter Pan:

6a01287651dd4a970c01287777d950970c-800wi "Mrs. Darling returned to the nursery, and found Nana with something in her mouth, which proved to be the boy's shadow. As he leapt at the window Nana had closed it quickly, too late to catch him, but his shadow had not had time to get out; slam went the window and snapped it off.

"You may be sure Mrs. Darling examined the shadow carefully, but it was quite the ordinary kind...."

On the darker side of the shadow realm, I'm also a fan of Kara Walker's shadow drawings/silhouettes, (pictured below), which are beautiful, disturbing, and utterly brilliant. "In Walker's work," wrote Hilton Als (in a New Yorker profile of the artist), "slavery is a nightmare from which no American has yet wakened: bondage, ownership, the selling of bodies for power and cash has made twisted figures of blacks and whites alike."

“Most pieces have to do with exchanges of power," says Walker, "attempts to steal power away from others.”


Monday's Recommendations


 Things to read, and look at, and listen to:

Reading (print)

Please don't miss The Turquoise Ledge, a new memoir by the award-winning Tucson writer Leslie Marmon Silko. It's an unusual book: richly mythic and symbolic, engrossing, surprising, harrowing, and deeply moving. Lordy, can this woman write! I particularly love Silko's evocation of the desert flora and fauna of southern Arizona; I can practically smell that creosote-and-sage scented air. (Many thanks to Carolyn Dunn, no slouch of a writer herself, for the heads-up on Silko's latest.)

Reading (on the web)

Monique Poirier has written an interesting post on the Steampunk movement and Native American indentity over at the Beyond Victoriana blog (with thanks to Amal El-Mohtar for the link). "Part of the fun of Steampunk is the aspect of alternate history," she says, "of deliberate anachronism and the application of alternate timelines and technological developments and the ration of ‘Steam’ to ‘Punk’. It means having the chance to create alternate histories in which Native Americans maintain sociological primacy and control over the North and South American landmass, if we so choose. . . ." Read the whole post here.


My fairy-goddaughter, photographer Guarina Lopez-Davis, was awarded a 'Young Artist Grant' by the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities Photo by Guarina Lopez-Davis this year to create "Modern Natives//Personal Regalia":  a multimedia photographic project consisting of large format photographs Photograph by Guarina Lopez-Davis (silver toned and hand printed), audio interviews and an accompanying website. The project is Guarina's creative response to the controversial Edward Curtis' photographs of Native Americans taken in the early years of the 20th century. "This is a project that I have been thinking about conceptually for almost 15 years" she says. "As a Native person, I am acutely aware of the historical misrepresentation of all Native tribes. I am also aware that the Native voice in the Contemporary Art world is almost non-existent on a grand scale. With this project my hope is to give a voice to Native peoples, so that our presence can be known as modern as well as traditional."

You can see Guarina's gorgeous photographs on her "Modern Natives//Personal Regalia" website.


In the video below, shot at the Botanic Gardens in Tucson (one of my favorite places there), R. Carlos Nakai (Native American flute), William Eaton (harp guitar), and Will Clipman (percussion) perform "My Wild Heart Sings," from their CD A Distant Place (Canyon Records). I have the album on my CD player right now -- and it's a song that fills my own wild heart with desert rhythms on a mist-shrouded morning at the edge of Dartmoor.



 Also: The poet & musician Joy Harjo has a lovely new CD out, Red Dreams: A Trail Beyond Tears. You can hear a bit of it here.

Chimera Fancies


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Jewelry maker Mia Nutick (at Chimera Fancies) has started her annual Holiday Sale. There are only a limited number of these one-of-a-kind pieces, so you have to be quick if you don't want to miss them! Mia calls them Wearable Fairy Tales: "Old story books and glitter, fragments of dreams and mysterious messages from the Universe. Adorn yourself with secrets and poetry."

I love them. I won one one of Mia's pendants in the IAF Auction last year, and I wear it often. Since the "photo booth" picture I just took of me with it on today (below) is too blurry to show the necklace clearly, this is what it says:
my dreams
filled with
fairy tales and
the Black Dog

Fairy tales and Tilly. What could be better? 
Black Dog Necklace

The Tillster