Museum

I open the door with a sigh.
The unfinished hardwood floor
of my bedroom
is clear of clutter.
A basket full of laundry
rests by my bed
with a lingering scent of lavender.
My desk is covered in odds and ends
crumpled papers, a CD, a brush, a few cups
but it would only take a minute or two
to clear it all away.
My altar stands at the center of the room
with a black altar cloth
covered by a handful of colorful candles
and an amber chalice
and an athame with blue and green hilt
and incense, and water, and salt.

On most days
my bedroom makes a fine sanctuary
but today
these familiar walls
feel too solid against my touch
and vertical lines of wood paneling
remind me of cold iron bars.

Something tightens in my chest
and I want to yell
to howl, to scream, to cry
to fly into frenzy
tossing aside my altar
smashing my desk to pieces
throwing my chair through the window
tearing down the walls
with my bare hands.
Instead
I pace
and I rock in place
and I grimace in silence
and I lay my head down with a sigh.

When I open my eyes
I see sculpted stone arches
rising all around me.
I see a black marble floor
with brilliant golden veins
flowing down endless hallways.
The walls are lined with
empty white marble pedestals
and empty oaken picture frames
each illuminated by an unseen light.

I spin around slowly
drinking in my surroundings
and when I look
to the center of the room
it becomes clear
why I’m here.

Blank canvas and full palettes.
Marble blocks and sets of chisels.
Tools to turn an empty hall
into a museum of my own making

In my waking life
I had never laid eyes on such tools
but here and now
the smooth wood of paintbrush and palette
feels light and limber in my hands.
I lavish the canvas
with stroke after stroke
and in a matter of minutes
the face of a woman is revealed.
Golden brown hair
cascading down round pink cheeks
flowing over soft white shoulders
with brilliant blue eyes
shining over soft lips
lifted in a sly smirk.
I step back from the canvas
and for a moment
I’m breathless, speechless
my heart skipping a beat
at the sight of her.
Then I step forward
and pick up the canvas
with a light touch
carrying it over to
a frame on the wall.

This is only the beginning.

I turn to the tools
at the center of the room
with a spring in my step
and a fire in my eyes.
My hands fly faster than before
and in a matter of moments
another face is revealed.
Soft blond hair
cascading down smooth peach cheeks
flowing over strong shoulders
with bright blue eyes
twinkling over laughing lips.
I step back again
and my eyes widen
and my heartbeat quickens
as I look into her eyes
and feel her presence.

Another painting for another wall
and yet I move without pause
to the next canvas.
A woman with dark brown hair
just long enough to kiss her shoulders
framing deep brown eyes
and thin pink lips
spread in a soft smile.
Another woman with dark brown hair
but hers is long and wavy
cascading over strong white shoulders
framing warm brown eyes
and a slight smile
mysterious as Mona Lisa.

I leap from canvas to canvas
palettes strewn about me
a brush in each hand
painting two portraits at once
without missing the slightest detail.
With dozens of paintings complete
I go back to my earlier portraits
with blank canvas in hand
painting my subjects from different angles
in different lights, with different expressions
trying to capture their character
in splashes of oil on canvas.

But soon, two dimensions are not enough.
I pick up a chisel and tap at the marble
carving three dimensional sculptures
of each of my subjects.

The first woman stands
clad in leather armor
with one hand wielding a sword
lashing at unseen foes
the other hand holding a bandage
binding a broken arm.

Another woman stands
in T-shirt and jeans
a guitar slung over her shoulder
a chalice of wine in her hand
her lips spread in a broad smile
her voice raised in song.

The next sits cross-legged
her eyes closed in meditation
her lips lifted in a slight smile
her hands pressed together
in front of her heart.

But soon
even sculpture is not enough.

I return to canvas and oils
pacing and rocking in place.
After a moment’s pause
I leap at the canvas again
painting a sunset
in the blink of an eye.
Each of my subjects
has their own wing of the museum now
and I fill each pedestal and frame
with paintings and sculptures.
A table full of dog-eared books
and sketches of fantasy characters.
A lone figure on a sharp mountain peak
standing in tree pose
bathed in the peaches and purples
of the rising sun.
A woman seen from behind
cup off coffee in one hand
cigarette in the other
pouring over piles of textbooks
on the table.

Eventually, my supplies are exhausted
and I stand at the center of the museum
surrounded by paintings and sculptures.
I spin around slowly
basking in the colors, the shapes
the lifelike portraits
the iconic images
the tangible presence of these women.
For a moment
I feel drunk in their presence
and spin around faster and faster
lifting my hands in the air
throwing my head back in laughter.
But soon, I slow to a stop
and realize that there’s still
something missing.

I pause in place
and as my heartbeat slows
I feel the touch of cold marble
against my bare feet.

Cold, hard, still marble.

I look around
and though the sweeping arcs
of oil on canvas and sculpted stone
imply movement and animation
everything around me is motionless.
The portraits are colorful
but two dimensional
and the sculptures are lifelike
but cold and colorless.

I take several slow, stilted steps
toward my first painting
a familiar face
with brilliant blue eyes
and golden brown hair.
The image is warm and soft
but I run my fingers across her cheek
and feel the cold, stiff, jagged touch
of oil on canvas.

She isn’t here.
None of them are here.
I am surrounded by
bits of oil and canvas
and sculpted stone.

Something tightens in my chest
and I want to yell
to howl, to scream, to cry
to fly into frenzy
tossing aside the portraits
smashing the sculptures to pieces
snapping the paintbrushes and chisels
with my bare hands.
Instead
I pace
and I rock in place
and I grimace in silence
and I lay my head down with a sigh.

When I open my eyes
I’m in my bedroom.
The unfinished hardwood floor
is still clear of clutter
my laundry is still in its basket
and the desk is still covered with
crumpled papers, a CD, a brush, a few cups.

But now a golden beam of sunlight
is pouring through my window
brightening the hues of my hardwood floor
and the candles on my altar.
I lift myself out of bed
and my muscles ache
as though I really have
spent the whole night
painting and sculpting.
I shake my head
with a smile and a sigh
and head outside
to meet the dawn of a new day.

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Vote Green in 2008

McKinney and Clemente in 2008: This is an image of a yard sign that I found online supporting Cynthia McKinney and Rosa Clemente in their President and Vice President campaign in 2008.My last entry was about the “Don’t Just Vote, Get Active” campaign. I should have more news on the active portion of that equation for you soon. In the meantime, I have the first official endorsement of a political candidate that I’ve made since starting this blog.

In 2008, I encourage you to vote for Cynthia McKinney and Rosa Clemente for President and Vice President. I also encourage you to vote for any Green Party candidates who may be running in your area.

In the past, I’ve been slow to endorse any candidate or party because I believe that party-building, especially at the federal level, detracts from efforts to engage more directly in the political process. In other words, time spent campaigning for a federal candidate could have been spent on other, more direct forms of action such as shutting down coal plants, providing social services to our local communities, supporting local candidates who will change our local power structures, etc.

However, I’ve decided that it’s time to take a somewhat more practical approach to politics. I won’t personally be involved in campaigning for any Presidential candidates, and I do not encourage anyone to devote any length of time to promoting Presidential candidates unless they were already planning on doing so. But I’ve accepted that other people do support political candidates, and I’ve realized that not all campaigns are created equal. Some federal campaigns have the potential to bring direct and positive changes to our local communities and bioregions. And some federal campaigns offer us a way to vote for candidates who actually embrace our beliefs on principles such as social justice and ecological wisdom.

Therefore, whether you are interested in actively volunteering for a Presidential campaign, or someone like me who just wants to spend five minutes in a voting booth officially opposing the idiocy of people like John McCain and Sarah Palin, I encourage you to vote for Cynthia McKinney, Rosa Clemente, and other Green candidates in your area.

Why am I making this endorsement?

First, there are the candidates themselves. Unlike a lot of third party candidates, Cynthia McKinney has the right mix of experience, principle, and character to make her a fitting choice for a national leadership role. She was the first African-American Congresswoman from Georgia, which means that she has experience both at fighting uphill battles and at interacting with the madness that is Washington DC. She also is a former Democrat, and her switch from Democrat to Green is a reflection of her realization that the Democratic Party does not in fact share in her commitment to the rights of the people and the accountability of the government.

Rosa Clemente is a community organizer, workshop leader, independent journalist, hip hip activist, and more. Her in-depth academic studies of liberation movements are matched by her social organizing experience and her talent for creative self-expression and advocacy for the causes she holds dear.

I don’t know either of these candidates personally, but from all that I’ve seen of their work, and all of the people I’ve spoken to who do know them personally, they seem like they offer an incredible combination of experience, dedication, principle, passion, and character to the effort to create true change in our society.

In addition to the candidates themselves, there is the organization that supports them. The Green Party has a long and fruitful history of speaking and acting for the common good, guided by Ten Key Values which are the closest thing to a sane set of principles that I have ever seen embraced by a political party.

In case you’re not familiar with them, these are the Ten Key Values (Illinois Green Party version):

  1. Ecological Wisdom. The Greens recognize that the Earth sustains all life processes. Green ecology moves beyond environmentalism by understanding the common roots of the abuse of people. Whatever we do to the web of life, we do to ourselves.
  2. Social Justice. Greens want to replace the worldwide system of poverty and injustice with a world free of all oppression based on class, gender, race, citizenship, age, or sexual orientation.
  3. Grassroots Democracy. The powerless suffer the most from resource depletion and toxic pollution. Greens believe in direct participation by all people in the environmental, political, and economic decisions that affect their lives.
  4. Nonviolence. Greens reject violence as a way of settling disputes — it is shortsighted, morally wrong, and ultimately self-defeating. We are working to create a world where war is obsolete.
  5. Decentralization. Power and responsibility must be restored to local communities within an overall framework of ecologically sound and socially just values and lifestyles.
  6. Community-Based Economics. Greens seek a new economics based upon the natural limits of the Earth, which meets the basic needs of everyone on the planet, under democratic, localized community control.
  7. Feminism. The Green movement is profoundly inspired by feminist values. The ethics of cooperation and understanding must replace the values of domination and control over others.
  8. Respect for Diversity. Greens honor the biological diversity of the Earth and the cultural, sexual, and spiritual diversity of Earth’s people. We aim to reclaim this country’s finest ideals: popular democracy, the dignity of the individual, and liberty and justice for all.
  9. Personal and Global Responsibility. Greens demonstrate a commitment to global sustainability and international justice through political solidarity and in personal lifestyles based on self-sufficiency and living lightly.
  10. Future Focus. Greens seek a society where the interests of the seventh generation are considered equal to the interests of the present. We must reclaim the future for our children and ourselves.

Pretty good, eh? No such list can ever hope to be complete or perfect, but I’d say it’s a pretty good start. And what I value most about the Green Party is that on a good day, in a good chapter of the Green Party, the message of “Don’t Just Vote, Get Active” has already been taken to heart.

Naturally, as a political party, they field candidates and run campaigns for those candidates. But when possible, they also work directly on local, regional, and national efforts to create the very same change that their candidates are speaking for.

This mix of “candidate campaigning” and “issue-oriented activism” is rare among political parties, which usually just focus on getting their candidates elected with little or no direct action on the principles they espouse. It’s one of the aspects of the Green Party that first caught my attention, and it’s one of the characteristics that I hope will continue to grow both within the Green Party and beyond it.

As I’ve said before, it will take more than “just voting” to create the change we seek. So it’s good to see that even those who are highly committed to organizing around voting are not losing site of the fact that direct organizing efforts in our local communities are still called for.

So, because of these excellent candidates, and because of the principles and practices of the party that they are involved with, I encourage you to vote for Cynthia McKinney and Rosa Clemente. Voting for them will send a message about what you believe in and bolster support for one of the few political parties that’s actually doing something good in the world.

If you live here in Southern Illinois, I also encourage you to get involved with the Shawnee Green Party and their local efforts to support local and regional candidates and issues.

Rich Whitney, who received 10.4% of the vote in his candidacy for Governor of Illinois, is still involved with the local Greens. He is someone who I’ve been happy to get to know through his active participation in various community groups. To my knowledge, he isn’t currently running for any office, but if you voted for him, now is your chance to join him and other Greens in taking action on the issues raised by his campaign.

Local volunteers gather every Saturday and Sunday to canvass for candidates. These include Charlie Howe, who is running for State Rep; Rodger Jennings, who is running for U.S. Congress, and Cynthia McKinney, who I’ve already talked about above.

If you’re still not convinced after all of the above, I encourage you to meet with members of the Shawnee Green Party sometime to learn more about their candidates and the issues and campaigns that they support.

And in the end, if you still aren’t interested in the Greens, I encourage you to find whatever forms of involvement in the political process you can. The people who support war, ecocide, and other forms of oppression and destruction aren’t going to sit on the sidelines idly hoping that their profiteering agenda comes to pass. They’re going to take swift, decisive, sometimes brutal action in support of their nefarious cause. Therefore, we as concerned members of the general public shouldn’t sit around idly either. Any action you take, however great or small it may seem, can be a part of a broader effort to create a more free and ecological and cooperative society.

There’s no one solution, and no one vision for what a good society can or should look like. But really, that’s a good thing, because it means that we are all free to pursue our own unique visions of what a good life might be like and work together in the areas where we find agreement. That’s what public life should be like — and that’s what public life WILL be like if you and I and our fellow community members take action to make it that way.

As I see it, one way of doing that is by supporting these candidates and the work of the Green Party. Support them at the polls, and take other forms of action on non-election days in the service of freedom, ecological values, and social cooperation. In the meantime, if you have any other ideas, I’m open as always to hearing them.

Posted in Uncategorized

Don’t Just Vote, Get Active

Don't Just Vote, Get Active!: This image is taken from the "Don't Just Vote, Get Active!" campaign organized by CrimethInc and others in 2004. I wrote about this campaign and its relevance today in one of my blog entries.Back in 2004, there was a campaign by the CrimethInc. Ex-Workers’ Collective and its allies called “Don’t Just Vote, Get Active.” This campaign argued that whatever our thoughts may be on voting versus non-voting, we should still focus the bulk of our enegry on direct forms of action rather than the indirect approach of voting for candidates. Rather than asking politicians or businessmen to act on our behalf, we should reclaim our power by engaging in directly democratic community organizing and forms of demonstrations which achieve direct results (i.e. interrupting systems of oppression in some direct way rather than asking that they be interrupted). This campaign was an effort to find common ground between people who see voting as endorsement for a corrupt system versus those who see it as a strategically important tool in seeking social change.

Don’t Just Vote inspired a lot of people and mobilized a lot of them into action. Some of them voted; some of them didn’t; all of them sought ways to participate more directly in the political process. Sadly, Mr. Bush was “re-elected”, and Don’t Just Vote faded from prominence. But I’d like to take a moment now to rehash and retool some of their arguments for the current context and issue a call to action of my own.

Voting is a very serious issue. Throughout history, many have fought for our right to vote, and some have even died for it. It is one of our few (if not only) means of participation in the systems of power. And yet, the entire system itself is flawed beyond salvaging. Instead of voting on issues, we are asked to vote on candidates — and these candidates are selected for us by two corrupt political parties and the handful of transnational corporations and businessmen who fund them.

In theory, voting could be one of the great foundations of a truly free and directly democratic society. But in its present form, is it just a brutal mockery of all things free and democratic? If the system of voting asks us to choose between Hitler and Stalin, must we carefully weigh which man is likely to kill less people and vote accordingly?

As usual, I’ve sought to find a golden mean between these two perspectives — a delicate balance of the strengths of each which provides an unexpected and powerful solution.

The Don’t Just Vote campaign is a part of that mean. It shifts the primary focus of our quest for greater freedom and democracy away from the halls of power and into the hands of the people. Our struggle to create a better society is not defined by who we do or don’t elect to office every 2 to 4 years; instead, our struggle is defined by the work of our own hands, and the voices of our communities coming together in pursuit of a better life and a better world.

Personally, I’ve decided to vote. In fact, I’ve decided to endorse an independent political candidate, which I’ll be doing in my next entry. But I haven’t chosen to join a third party, or to spend any substantial amount of my time promoting a third party or any other voting-related initiative.

Why? Because I believe that our greatest hope for better communities and a better society lies in the hands of the people, not the hands of a party or a politician. Even with all of the horrific things I’ve seen in this world, I still believe that we, the people, have the power to act in a free, direct, and democratic manner in the service of a better life for one and all.

I will vote because I am fortunate enough to have the opportunity to do so. I will vote because I want to lend my support to those good people who do believe in using their political party as an engine of social, economic, political, and ecological change. I will vote because I am so very tired of the madness that surrounds me in the public and social arena, and so terribly desperate to take a public stand against it that I will grasp at straws in order to do so.

But in the end, voting is something that I will only do every couple of years when the opportunity arises. It’s something to do, but it’s not enough. In the end, the important action — the action that will make or break the future of my life, my community, my society, and my world — is the action that I take on a daily basis to promote the spread of noble values and qualities such as freedom, social cooperation, direct democracy, and ecological wisdom.

Don’t just vote, or not vote. Get active! Talk to your family, friends, neighbors, and fellow community members about issues such as global climate change, green collar jobs, health care, and ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Tell the people in your life how you feel about these and other issues, and ask them what they think. Find ways that you and those close to you can make a direct difference in your own life and the lives of those around you.

Maybe you believe that Politician X is definitely going to bring a great change to Washington. Or maybe you think that there’s not a politician alive who genuinely cares about the good of the people and the planet. Either way, if we want to live in a more free, cooperative, and ecological world, we’re going to need people on the ground in every community to make that happen.

So whatever you do or don’t do on Election Day, be sure to take action on the other 364 days of the year. I can guarantee to you that corporate lobbyists, oil tycoons, war mongers, and other malevolent forces don’t take a break the other 364 days of the year. So why should we? However great or small you contribution may be, I can guarantee you that it will be appreciated by someone, somewhere, somehow.

If you’re like most human beings, you like reading, watching, or hearing about the stories of heroes. Now is your chance to be an everyday hero, or perhaps even an extraordinary one.

I look forward to hearing where your adventures are taking you, and I’ll be sure to let you know where my adventures are taking me. In the meantime, good luck, and don’t forget to have as much fun as humanly possible along the way!

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More Gaia Woes

Gaia's Orphans Black T-shirt: In preparation for the release of Gaia's Orphans, I've created an online shop filled with GO merchandise. This is a photo of the black T-shirt. Be sure to check the shop out, and let me know if you have any suggestions or product requests. As the release This fall must be the season for mindless pawns of bureaucracies to throw unexpected wrenches in the gears of my life. First it was the Facebook ban, and now it’s Gaia’s Orphans. Yes, that’s right folks — I have once again been harassed for putting the word “Gaia” on a T-shirt.

The trouble started a year or two ago. I’ve been working on a book titled “Gaia’s Orphans” for a few years now, and I’m not entirely sure if or when it will be complete. About a year or two ago, I made a simple website about the book as a way of exploring ideas for the book’s eventual promotion. Since CafePress lets you design items for free, I designed a few simple T-shirts and buttons which say things like “Gaia’s Orphans” and “We Are All Gaia’s Orphans.”

Shortly after I uploaded my images to CafePress, I received a cease and desist letter from an attorney speaking on behalf of PI, Inc, a company which claimed to hold a registered trademark on the use of the word “Gaia” on T-shirts. The letter demanded that I discontinue selling my shirts, and that I pay them money according to how many shirts I had sold.

Their tone was quite demanding, and their letterhead quite impressive, but I’m not easily intimidated. I replied politely but firmly, saying that their claim had no merit and that I hadn’t sold any of the shirts yet anyway. Once they realized that there was no money to be gained from their extortion tactics, they quickly broke off contact.

When I didn’t receive any further contact, I assumed that the matter was settled. However, a few days ago, I received an email from CafePress stating that a different employee of PI, Inc. had contacted CafePress directly and asked for my T-shirts to be removed. CafePress placed all “Gaia’s Orphans” content on “PENDING” status and informed me of the reason why they had done so.

In practical terms, this hasn’t created a difficulty yet because the book won’t be coming out anytime soon. But as a matter of principle, this second attack on my creative self-expression and religious freedom made me very angry. I sent a somewhat formal but openly scathing letter to PI. Inc demanding that they withdraw their complaint and have CafePress reinstate my content. Their response was very dismissive and somewhat mocking in tone, threatening legal action if I continue infringing on their trademark.

That’s the gist of the story so far. Unless I receive further contact from PI, Inc., I’m going to take a few days (weeks?) to reflect on the situation, talk to my friends/associates/contacts, and decide what my next move should be. In the meantime, as always, your thoughts are greatly appreciated.

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My name is Treesong. I'm a father, author, talk radio host, and Real Life Superhero. I live in Carbondale, Southern Illinois. I write novels, short stories, and poetry, mostly about the climate.

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