Monday, December 5, 2016

The tragedy of Ghost Ship, the Bay Area arts scene, and the housing crisis

With the recent news of the horrific fire in Oakland at the Ghost Ship artists' collective, I find myself reading article after article about the tragedy. Reading posts from Bay Area friends and community on Facebook. An acquaintance in Oakland who is a wonderful, sweet, and kind person lost her partner in the fire. Friends of friends perished in the fire. The impact of this tragedy is far reaching. It affects every queer, trans, qtpoc, poc, artist, musician, immigrant, ally, etc. that lives on the fringes of society, feels treated as an "other", or is simply gathering to connect in a community where one feels safe, seen, and validated for being their authentic selves, as well as enjoying music in a welcoming community space. Trying to find an affordable and sustainable way to make one's art, one's music, and earn a living in an expensive, gentrified urban area, where there is a major housing crisis, such as the Bay Area is incredibly difficult.

I'm sending love, light, and healing energies to everyone effected by this tragedy.

It's so sad that Bay Area creatives and lovely queer, trans, and qtpoc individuals died.

Life is sacred.

Life is precious.

There needs to be more spaces and buildings that are affordable and safe for artists to live, work, and gather in community.

At its root, this tragedy happened due to the Bay Area's major housing crisis.

I moved to San Francisco in 2009 to go to San Francisco State University to pursue my MFA in Cinema.

I recently relocated back to Portland, Or in late August 2016.

Living, studying, creating, and working in the Bay Area from 2009 to 2016, I'm intimately connected and aware of the Bay Area and the rapid changes that have occurred in the last 4-5 years. In particularly, regarding the major housing crisis.

I find it heartbreaking, that the Bay Area is no longer a welcoming or affordable place for artists, musicians, activists, intellectuals, healers, and anyone that experiences oppression and is looking for a supportive community in a progressive area. i.e. LGBTQ, Queer, Trans, QTPOC individuals.

In my opinion, the Bay Area is affordable for affluent people or people that work in tech.

What is a community if teachers, healers, artists, musicians, etc. cannot afford to live in an area?

What is a city without its vibrant art and culture?

The very fabric of a community ought to encompass everyone. The Bay Area has become a tech mono-culture.

Some artists and musicians that are hanging on by threads to live in the stressful, tense, and exorbitantly expensive Bay Area, live and congregate in places like Ghostship.

An MFA Cinema colleague of mine lived and worked in an artists warehouse in the Fruitvale area of Oakland. It wasn't Ghost Ship. He hosted a few events in his warehouse studio for our MFA cohort. I went there twice for events and gatherings. The building was only one story, yet the first floor was like a maze. There were many studios and doors. Finding the doors to enter and exit the building wasn't easy, unless you lived in the building.

These are the spaces where some artists live and work.

I lived in Berkeley and in Oakland for several years. The last three years I lived in the Bay Area, I was continually displaced from my housing. It was incredibly challenging to find new affordable housing for myself and I'm connected to my Bay Area communities. I would go to housing appointments to look at a potential new home and there would be several people there at the same time to go on a housing tour with. I would essentially be competing with these people for the room. Rather than touring an apartment or house with the current housemate(s), multiple people being shown the room and home at once created tension, competition, and trying to one-up each other. I remember leaving a housing interview and said, have a good afternoon to one of the interviewees who was ahead of me as he walked out the door of the apartment. He definitely heard me and ignored me completely.

If you rent in the Bay Area and are trying to find housing, it's incredibly difficult. Landlords, for the most part do not keep up their properties and renters put up with all kinds of decay and issues with their housing just to keep living there. People live with mold. People live in living rooms. People live in filth. People live on commuter couches and pay hundreds of dollars per month to do so. People live with incompatible housemates. People live with rodents that landlords do not feel it's a priority to get rid of. People live with doors falling off of their hinges from wood decay. Some people live with 3 people in one small studio in San Francisco. People put up with all kinds of unhealthy conditions just to continue to exist in the Bay Area.

The tension in the air in the Bay Area can be cut with a knife. So can the air of competition, materialism, and fear of displacement and housing evictions.

The last place I lived in Oakland, near Lake Merritt was affordable for me as an artist. While living there, I worked as a Waldorf teacher, worked on my film in the works; Queering Yoga, and did other odd jobs like Lyft, freelance photography and film work.

I was displaced from my Oakland home this past August. A couple of weeks before that occurred, I had clarity to move back to Portland, Or. It was challenging for me to let Oakland and the Bay Area go. I was attached. I love the Bay Area. I love the land. The water. Hiking in the Oakland hills. I love the food. Queer/Trans/QTPOC art and cultural events. I loved the Queer community yoga class that I attended regularly. I appreciate EBMC, The East Bay Meditation Center. The Bay Area was like a beacon of light for me as a child and teenager. It was a dream come true to move there in 2009 and have a purpose to be there (Graduate school). I lived in the Bay Area for 7 years. When it was time for me to move and leave the area this past August, it become evidently clear.

I will always love the Bay Area. I tell people that it's a great place to travel and visit. Yet, for me my quality of life is better in Portland, Or. It's calmer and more peaceful. The air and water is healthy. There are more trees. People are kinder. The pace of life is slower and thus healthier. There are a lot of art, cultural, and culinary delights in Portland. It's an exciting place yet more sustainable. For me as an artist, the Bay Area is unsustainable. I had my time there and I truly lived and worked really hard on my creative work. I was tired of continually being displaced from my housing the past several years. Having to move again and again and not having that be my empowered choice to make whether I move or not.

In a sense, I do feel exiled from the Bay Area and my community there. Yet, Portland is a wonderful place to be. There is no utopia or perfect area to live in the world. Each city, town, and area has it's pros and cons. I feel it's important to honor and trust one's inner guidance, knowing, and truth. That is infallible. If one is called to live in Oakland, then opportunities do unfold. It doesn't mean it will be easy, yet it will be more easeful. There are challenges and blessings everyday. Housing opportunities for me have unfolded since I've been in Portland.

The question is, how can we as a culture and society value creative professionals and musicians enough to create affordable spaces for artists and musicians to live, work, and thrive?

Portland is also having a housing crisis of its own, yet it's not to the degree of intensity as the Bay Area. Since, Portland is a smaller city than the Bay Area. I'll save talking about the Portland housing crisis for another time and blog.

Thanks for reading.

In light and hope,

Ewan















Monday, November 21, 2016

One Step At A Time During These Extreme Times

Since the recent news of the election in the U.S., I've pondered how I can be of service during these extreme/intense times we are living in. I feel that simply being and existing in this world as my most authentic self is a courageous and radical act. As a Queer/Trans identified Transman, I felt waves of disbelief, shock, fear, sadness, anger, and the beginning of the grief process on Tuesday night, Nov. 8th. I was in my Co-Counseling class in Portland, OR. The class began at 7PM and ended at 9:30PM. All day on Tuesday, I was envisioning Hillary Clinton as our next President. Hillary smiling victoriously as she was named the first woman president of the United States of America. I had been sending prayers up and out for her to win throughout the election cycle. Including intentions for her to be the next President on my New Moon intentions and candle lighting. Having watched and/or listened to all three presidential debates, I found it unfathomable that T**** could possibly win. He didn't have a plan. He didn't have experience to be the leader of our country. With his hate fueled racist, misogynistic, homophobic, transphobic, xenophobic rhetoric, I equated him to Hitler. T**** is abhorrent yet what concerns me is the millions of people who resonated with his hate fueled agenda/platform. That is truly scary. As well as what would happen to Muslims, Immigrants, the LGBTQ communities, People of Color, Women, and anyone who isn't a white, cisgender, straight male who is able bodied in our society.

During the first 10 minutes of the Co-Counseling class I'm taking on Tuesdays, we paired up with a person in the class and each person had 5 minutes to discuss their feelings/thoughts about the election. I held space and heard one classmate who happened to be a cisgender white man. He told me that he didn't feel it would be any different if Hillary or T**** won. I did my best to hear him and I did hold space. Yet, I was shocked by that comment. That it didn't matter who won the presidency. When, yes it truly does. That comment to me was the epitome of white, cisgender, male privilege. Being blind to all of the ways that one is privileged. The privileged belief that if something doesn't affect one directly, then it's easy to ignore. 8 years of LGBTQ rights that have been advanced during the Obama administration could be abolished/overturned during a T**** administration. Roe vs. Wade could be overturned. Obamacare would be repealed. Millions of immigrants and children could be deported and separated from their parents and families. Environmental protections could be overturned, etc. The Dakota Access Pipeline could pollute water that millions of people depend on under a T**** administration. And so much more. This is the tip of the iceberg. I shudder to think about international relations now that the U.S. does in fact have T**** as our next president.

I gave a few lyft rides home after my co-counseling class on Tuesday, Nov. 9th. I remember how quiet the streets were. There was a chill in the air. It was so quiet. I reflected back on how uproarious Portland was when Obama was first elected in 2008. That was during the first three years when I lived in Portland and the year that I came out as Transgender. There was so much celebratory noise, people were so happy, and it felt like the entire city celebrated. November 9th, 2016--a quiet chill. The first lyft passenger who I drove to their home didn't know what to tell her students the next morning. She is a teacher who works with grade school aged children. I didn't know what to tell her either. I said it was difficult. How do you share this news with children in a way that they can understand? I told her that I've worked with children before and studied Waldorf Education. I suggested telling a story to the children. The next couple of people who I drove to their destinations were in shock as well. We talked about human rights and the lack thereof under a T**** administration. I chose to drive home after a few rides since I was emotionally exhausted and overall in shock.

I did some research on the internet when I returned home and saw all of the red states and so few blue states on a map of the U.S. Hillary was winning the popular vote yet not the electoral college. I felt fear. What about my Trans affirming healthcare? I wouldn't be able to afford the healthcare that I have through the Affordable Care Act if Obamacare is abolished. I felt fear as a Transman regarding important documents such as my passport, birth certificate, etc. that I still need to change the gender marker to male on those documents before T**** is inaugurated as President in January. I felt concern for every human being who isn't a a white, cisgender, straight male in this country. I cried a few times. I scrolled down Facebook and read different posts from friends and community members. It was difficult to fall asleep on Election night.

It felt like a collective nightmare.

We're all in it.

This is it.

I've been in process. During the past 12 days, I've talked about my feelings/thoughts about the election to friends, housemates, lyft passengers, classmates, a barber, my parents, and community members. As a coping mechanism, I've been keeping active. Continuing to work on Wednesday morning when I would have rather stayed curled up in bed or simply at home all day, in mourning. In process, feeling all of my feelings. I've been feeling all of my feelings while working, taking care of practicalities, appts., taking care of myself, and living an active life.

One way that I thought I could be of service is to write about my experiences. Thus, I'm finally writing about my experience for people to read and digest on their own schedules. This past week, I didn't want to talk about it anymore. I simply wanted to be and to write about it. I know that the majority of people whom I spoke with and have interacted with are devastated. It feels like a collective grief process that so many people are feeling and going through. On an individual level, everyone's S**T is activated right now. This is it, we are in the thick of it. It's messy, it's scary, it's beyond the beyond. Everyone can see America's blood, pus, and unhealed wounds. What was ignored and in the collective shadow is now clearly visible. It's a national and global healing crisis we are experiencing. My Mom said today that the healing part hasn't begun yet.

In this Country, the foundation and history of racism, misogyny, indigenous persecution, xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia, etc. all of these isms and the social, cultural, and political institutions that uphold all of the isms is clearly visible and in the light. Illuminated for all to see. Needing to be reckoned with, acknowledged, and healed. In my opinion, the United States, as a Country needs to acknowledge all of the isms and apologize to Indigenous people in the U.S. and to all black people for all harm and persecution done. Reparations need to be made. The trauma of slavery needs to be acknowledged and sincere apologies and reparations need to be made.

There is so much division in this Country. Between T**** supporters and those that are abhorred at T****'s message of hate and discrimination. There are other stances yet I'm honing in on the major divisions in this country between acceptance/unity vs. hate rhetoric.

I began this blog to write about hope. I'm doing my best to take one step at a time. To breathe. To eat healthy foods, keep hydrated, and take excellent care of myself during these very challenging and extreme times. To reach out for support. To be heard, seen, and mirrored with love, compassion, and kindness. To connect with community. To do all of the steps to get a new passport before January as well as a new birth certificate with my name and male gender marker on it.

A few days after the election, a lyft passenger said my name correctly, Ewan. With an emphasis on the E. (ee-whan). I turned and looked in the passenger seat behind me and it was a friend who I met in Albuquerque when I lived there for 6 months in 2013-2014. (For this person's privacy, I'm not going to reveal their name). They have lived in Portland for two years. I knew that I would run into them sometime at a Queer/Trans event in Portland, yet this was our first encounter. I asked how they were doing. They said that they were having a very difficult time. On Wednesday, they were attacked and physically assaulted for being visibly queer while waiting at a bus stop in Portland. They were called epithets and were physically injured and have trauma from that experience. I heard them and I didn't know what to do except say kind and supportive words and I'm so glad they are okay. I felt horrified and scared for the many people who were attacked or assaulted the day after T**** was elected. It's beyond the beyond. People feeling fueled and empowered to act out in violent ways and to target members of the LGBTQ communities, People of Color, Immigrants, Women, etc. the list goes on. I thought of the book, The Stone Butch Blues and it felt like traveling back in time. Is this what it felt like during Stonewall or the 1950's? The feeling of safety that someone has to simply stand and wait at the bus stop was shattered for them since they were visibly queer.

Since Wednesday, November 9th, I haven't been feeling "SAFE" as an American in my own Country. I feel that American has a lot of potential. My Jewish Ancestors came here to escape from the persecution of pogroms and anti-semitism in Eastern Europe. My Mexican Great-Grandfather Duarte fled the Mexican Revolution and left his home in Michoacan as an 18 year old. Traveling north until he reached Fresno, California on his own. My German ancestors came here for a better life. So much persecution for simply being Jewish. Brown. Mexican. Immigrants.

America is the land of immigrants. How can this Country reconcile its past and how can we create unity in the present so that we can move forward in integrated and healthy ways as a nation?

It's up to each individual to discover who they truly are, most authentically. Then have the courage to BE one's most authentic self in this world. It's about taking personal responsibility for the internalized isms and phobias. Racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia. Do one's work around privilege or the lack thereof and become an Ally to all people.

We are all ONE.

I'm concerned about what life will be like under the T**** administration.

What I can do today is to get my papers in order and get that new passport ASAP and updated birth certificate. The future remains uncertain and the ground feels groundless.

May we continue to ground in these times of groundlessness and upheaval to the Earth even more so. We are on a spinning, magnificent, blue ball. Our thoughts matter. Our words matter. Black Lives Matter.

Your individual healing helps the collective healing process.

May you breathe. Root down for strength. Center yourself. Love yourself. More. Cultivate support. Reach out for support. Keep hydrated. Take one step at a time and do the best that you can.

You are enough.

We are all enough.

There is hope. Even if we are all in the dark at this time.

In light,

Ewan

Monday, April 18, 2016

You have to learn how to get up from the table when love is no longer being served

Last year I ended a significant friend relationship.

This blog post is an offering about relationships and accountability.

I've been contemplating and mulling over how to share this--if to even share it at all.

It's come to my attention that I need to express these words.

How I live and am in the world is guided by my inner compass.

I contemplate. I discern. I listen to my inner knowing.

From here, I then take action.

From decisions such as, how will I structure and organize my day? To big decisions such as which graduate school I chose to go to and important decisions regarding relationships, etc. I'm committed to carving out the time to create stillness, peace, and listen as the answers arise from my inner knowing. My inner compass.

From this place of knowing, peace, and stillness I received clarity and guidance to conclude a friend relationship that was significant to me since I moved to the Bay Area in 2009.

Our mutual friends and community were interwoven together with this friendship.

This ending had been building. I had clarity that the friendship was unsupportive to me. I didn't feel appreciated or seen. If I do not feel supported then I don't feel respected.

I feel that support, respect, appreciation, being seen, and heard are the basic building blocks of a healthy relationship. As well as trust and communication.

At times examples and experiences of major lack of support as well as small acts of unsupportive gestures, words, and actions are insidious. They build over time.

I choose to build, cultivate, and co-create relationships that are soul-nourishing, reciprocitous, supportive, where there is mutual appreciation. Where there is more harmony than times of conflict. Where who one is, their art, their offerings to the world are authentically appreciated, honored, supported, and respected.

What I didn't foresee was how this act of empowerment, choosing to end a relationship that wasn't healthy nor supportive nor empowering to me nor mutually beneficial or in the highest interest of all would create a rift in the community that I had been a part of and cultivated for years. A community that I loved and contributed so much to. A community of people that I saw as friends, supporters, allies, and family.

What transpired from this action that I took to end a relationship that I felt in my heart and core was unhealthy and unsupportive for my growth and evolution as a human being,

I felt like I lost my community.


The repercussions of my action that I took from my place and stance of empowerment, inner knowing, and personal growth were viewed as "bad" and "negative" by people who I called friends and community members. Multiple narratives were expressed that I heard.

The question that I have is, "Don't we as a community want to support, honor, and encourage personal growth, authenticity, healing, honoring one's truth and taking the action that one needs to take to be supported and live an empowered and healthy life?"

I did not receive the support and honor from those that I thought would have my back and would be there for me.

What I feel is important to say is that relationships whether it be a colleague, a friendship, a romantic relationship can be successful and still end!

Every relationship has a natural time-line.

Western culture views relationships ending as being "un-successful."

This isn't true at all. I feel that this friend relationship had a successful timeline and I honored it's ending. I was ready for it and felt empowered about the conclusion. So that I could move on and co-create healthy relationships where I feel honored, supported, appreciated, and seen.

Ending a relationship or creating any change is uncomfortable. It is unknown. It is not a safe and snuggly couch to sit on.

It's walking into unknown territory and not knowing what will happen next. It's having the courage to trust one's inner guidance and relying on one's inner compass to guide them on their journey into the depths. With or without the support of their friends and community for the decision that they are making or will soon make.


Many human beings mostly see things in terms of dualism. Good/Bad. Black/White. Man/Woman

The Queer/Trans communities in the Bay Area and beyond are all about moving beyond the binary regarding gender.

Can't we move beyond the binary of Good/Bad and dualistic thinking regarding relationships ending naturally?

Can we not see that our experiences and decisions are a spectrum? Just like gender being a spectrum as well as sexuality.

Endings and death are a spectrum as well.

There doesn't need to be an "other" in a relationship. Yes, everyone has a perspective yet I wish that we would view two people who ended a relationship from a grander perspective.

Zoom out!

There are two perspectives from two people. Maybe there are more than two!

Yet, do we need to create an "other"?

For example, I'm right and you're wrong! They are wrong and he's right.

There are more than two sides.

The stories and narratives that we do share with others have an impact on how people are perceived and thus treated.

Rather than choosing to push people out of one's community from "things they've heard," observe and have an expansive and open heart. A neutral mind. Do one's best to view an ending as a spectrum. It is what it is. It's a journey into healing. Into the unknown. It's mysterious. Unless, it's yours to experience you can have empathy, yet not understand. Since, you are not in the shoes of the person experiencing the end of the relationship.

Relationships can end and we can still be civil and neutral to each other in community. Greeting each other and saying hi. Having eye contact, etc.

We can evolve past a dualistic mind-set and honor each individual for the path that they are on. Whether that includes being on their journey with them or not.

We can learn to honor one's decisions when we know that they are a person of integrity, truth, and kindness.

May we all evolve and honor each person's path of personal growth, heart, and honor the decisions that they make from a stance of empowerment and evolution as they journey on.

Nothing lasts forever.

I like to say that forever is the moment.

This is why I feel it's important to be present with people. To honor the moment and to honor the relationships you have and cultivate in the present moment.

We need to learn how to let people go and things go when it's time for them to conclude. To end. To die.

As Nina Simone said, "You have to learn how to get up from the table when love is no longer being served."

I release this blog post. May all who read it receive it as an offering.

In light,

Ewan

p.s. BIG thanks to my beloved friend and facilitator, Riza Noyama-Zee for her support, guidance, and active listening regarding this topic. Her support and holding space for me to be heard and seen about this topic was and is invaluable.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Transformation Soup: Identifying My Body’s Gender

This article was originally published in print in LILIPOH Magazine's Culture Pulse Pages in the Winter 2013 issue. This is my first published article.

BIG thanks to my friend and editor of this article, Leslie Loy for this wonderful opportunity to share my story in LILIPOH Magazine. Another BIG thank you to the editor of LILIPOH Magazine, Christy Korrow for including the article in the Winter 2013 issue. Thank you both for this opportunity!

In Light and wellness,

Ewan

Transformation Soup: Identifying My Body’s Gender
Ewan Duarte

My body—this porcelain skin, these green eyes that can see the beauty of the world as well as the challenges and harsh realities of life. My auburn, curly hair that used to be red. Red as my beard. My body is always changing, growing, regenerating, experiencing, and aging. From sunrise to sunset, with the circadian rhythms as the Earth traverses around the sun. The sun, the moon, the stars, and my time here on this Earthly plane in this temporal, physical form.

When I think of my body, I think of a gift—a divine gift that I chose. I chose to be born this way, in this skin. One of my greatest challenges and blessings was to slowly learn, unravel, and discover who I authentically am, and am meant to be, within this physical form. This is my temporal gift, one I am always with: my body, a beautiful dysphoric body. These muscles, these strong bones, the blood coursing through my veins remind me of my ancestral ties: Eastern European Jews, Mexicans, and German people—a real diversity soup. I am a culmination of my ancestors, their existence, sacrifices, and lives. My blood, my bones, my body connect me to them all. I am proud of them for simply being and existing.

When did I realize that I was uncomfortable in my body? That the word “girl,” that “woman” did not fit me? Was it when I was a child playing on the all-boys football team at my elementary school in Clovis, California? My Dad picked me up after one of the games or practices. He asked me in the car, “Rachel, do you know the difference between boys and girls?” I got instantly upset and reactive. I yelled, “Yes!” That was the end of the conversation. It was quiet in the car as my Dad drove us home. Writing and reflecting upon this now, I thought that my Dad was referring to anatomy. I had the body of a girl. Yet, I wanted to play on the boys’ football team. It would take me until nearly a decade later, while attending college at UC Santa Cruz, to begin to question my own gender identity, to be exposed to and become part of a queer/transgender community.

My body. My soul. My spirit. It was during one of my meditations in my Portland, Oregon apartment that I realized, was able to receive the clarity and guidance, that I was a boy. I felt so happy and elated to finally know. I wanted to tell the world “I’m a beautiful boy!” To express it out loud—to shout with joy! Boy! After years of inquiry, personal examination, taking queer/transgender studies classes, reading books, articles, viewing film/media, going to lectures, and having conversations about queer/trans themes and experiences, I now had the experience. All of my studies and inquiry were the foundation to prepare me for this unfolding clarity—that I am a transgender guy.

I was simply, me, Rachel at the time. A unique individual with a feminine voice and laughter. I had felt androgynous for years—in between the “gender binary” of boy and girl. I was neither. I was a gender-fluid being. With this new clarity, I was continuing on my personal path of truth and authenticity. I was beginning to externalize the way that I felt internally. I now had a name for the way that I had felt for so many years: transgender.

The spaces my soul has travelled, traversed, and experienced thus far on my path as a transgender man are colorful, infinite, and spiral-like. Wow! I have come so far from where I have been, having experienced both soul and physical shifts. I have physically transitioned to become a man socially and holistically while living in San Francisco during graduate school.

I am in the transformation soup. How many fires must I go through? How many initiations to become the man that I truly am? Expressing myself holistically—this is my truest, most authentic form that I inhabit. This body that transcends gender, rises above it. Yet, I claim the identities of transgender, FTM (female to male), transsexual, and man. I am a man. I was a beautiful boy and I have become a beautiful man. An integrated man who honors his divine femininity and masculinity. A man who has lived this journey and continues to live it every day.

To continue to walk one’s path with personal truth, conviction, clarity, and empowerment. I choose to continue to be and express myself in a way that is most resonant and authentic. Today I am an empowered man, comfortable in my skin. I am grateful to be here now. Grateful that I know that my essence is a timeless being of love and light. Temporally, in my human form, I am Ewan, a transgender man; and so much more.




Ewan Duarte is an artist, writer, and award-winning filmmaker. He was born and raised in Fresno, California and received BAs in American studies and film/Digital media from UC Santa Cruz. Ewan studied and practiced Waldorf education at the Micha-el Institute in Portland, Oregon and recently graduated from San Francisco State University with an MFA in cinema. Ewan’s most recent films, Spiral Transition (2010) and Change Over Time (2013) have screened nationally and worldwide at film festivals, conferences, and art events. To receive updates about film festival screenings, join his newsletter, or to inquire about exhibiting his work, email Ewan at ewanduarte@gmail.com.

VISION
Culture Pulse is a pursuit in understanding the attitudes, questions and manifestations of human creativity in co-cultivating a community that nourishes lives of meaning.

EDITOR’S THOUGHTS
In the last Culture Pulse section, we explored our relationship to spaces, particularly the spaces around us, and how they are mirrored in our experiences of them. What if we begin to recognize that we physically inhabit not only spaces such as rooms, gardens, and so forth, but that our bodies and even aspects of our soul experiences are also spaces? In this issue, we invite Ewan Duarte, a California filmmaker, to reflect on his relationship to his body as he transitioned from a female to male body, and documented the process of what it means to relate to the one space we can never separate ourselves from, and yet which we largely identify with as aspects of ourselves—our bodies.




Saturday, May 3, 2014

Culture shock in Clovis

I've been back in my hometown of Clovis/Fresno for less than a month. I've been unpacking, acclimating, and catching up on rest. I've been exhausted from moving out of my apartment in Albuquerque as well as the 1,000 mile drive that I did in 2 days! The landscape was spectacular as I drove from the Southwest back to California. I have a deeper appreciation for the beautiful fertile farmland in the Central Valley in California, where I grew up. It's incredible to drive through Eastern California through the Mojave Desert and then to gradually transition into driving into beautiful farmland in the Central Valley. Most of the produce that I bought in Albuquerque was shipped from California and 2x or 3x the price of organic produce in California. I'm grateful for beautiful and rich farmland. The San Joaquin Valley is known as the Breadbasket of the World. California is truly the Golden State in many ways. It's a shift for me to see such cultivated land rather than the wilds of the New Mexican landscape. Albuquerque was so quiet. It's the only city where I've lived that is completely surrounded by uncultivated land. I do appreciate and have a core need for peace and quiet. Yet, while living in ABQ, I realized that I need a balance of excitement as well as peace and quiet. Living in a City surrounded by wild, desert land made ABQ seem like it was in the middle of nowhere. Well, it's in the middle of the desert. Yet, as a young, creative person I need more of that balance that I mentioned.

For me, the desert is a place for me to go for a stint of time. To work on a creative art project or movie, a place to focus on healing, a place for visioning, cleansing, purging, and getting perspective on one's life. As well as being open to the clarity that comes from being in the desert, in the Southwest. There is no place like the Southwest that I've traveled to on this planet. I have an immense amount of deep respect, appreciation, and reverence for the desert, and the Spirits of the Land. I'm grateful for my perspective, lessons, and recent chapter there.

A bunch of my friends in the Bay Area said to me when I visited in March and then again in April for Passover that it felt like they had seen me yesterday. For me, it felt like so much time had passed. From the month that I spent in Portland during September 2013 to the 6 months I had lived in the desert. So much had happened in the chapter that I lived. To my friends who were still in the Bay Area, our conversations and connections picked up from where they had left off. It was as if I had time traveled for a stint of time and returned the next day. I have changed profoundly. While my friends see me as the same person that they had seen just a day before. Time is a construct. Time is.

Edward Abbey said something to the degree that it's so important that some land is left wild and untamed. It's so healthy for the human soul to gaze out on such vast landscapes and see wild land, wild nature. Just as it is. Without any human intervention, cultivation, infrastructure, urban planning, branding, etc.

In Clovis, I've been helping my parents with purging things in the garage. We had a yard sale. I've sold stuff on Craigslist, etc.
I'm glad to be back in California. Yet, I am in the process of discerning my next steps. I've been looking for resonant temp. work in the Clovis/Fresno area, rather than long-term work since I will be going on a wonderful professional film opportunity at the end of May. It's the Pride Of The Ocean Film Festival opportunity. I'll be going to NYC and then on a film festival cruise to Bermuda! My film, Change Over Time will screen. I am very much looking forward to the opportunity!

I've been experiencing culture shock in my own hometown of Clovis. Although, I haven't lived here for years, there is more to it than that. To quote, Jem Bluestein, "I'm an anomaly." This is in reference to me being from the Clovis/Fresno area. Yes, I was born and raised here physically, yet I resonate more with the culture, art, progressive politics, consciousness, and intellectualism of being from a more urban area. Such as the Bay Area. I get my cultural, culinary, literary, and art aesthetics and sensibilities from my Mom who was raised in Berkeley during her teen years in the 1960's and also lived with her family in France and Israel in her late teens and early twenties. My Mom's experiences living and traveling in Europe had an immense impact on her artistic, fashion, and culinary sensibilities, consciousness, and aesthetics. So, yes. I am an anomaly in the Central Valley. I never fit in here and I'm glad that I don't. I'm grounded in who I am and I'm grateful to be me. There are qualities and cultural aspects in Clovis that I forget, that aren't on the forefront of my everyday experiences anymore. Perhaps, they are buried. Until this most recent visit/stint of living here.

For example, seeing some hairstyles that I haven't seen in years since living here. There was a braid on the entire backside of a woman's head. I haven't seen that hairstyle since I was in high school. Hearing a man behind me with a cowboy hat tell a cashier at the grocery store that he's in town since his daughter is in the rodeo this weekend. A woman behind me at the grocery store asking me what the cucumber and tehini I'm buying is for? What will I make with it? I told her that I was going to make hummus. She then proceeded to ask me, "when did I learn how to eat healthy?" A conversation like that would probably not happen in line at the Berkeley bowl.

I volunteered last week to photograph pictures of Raw Fresno at the Old Town Clovis Farmer's Market. Unbeknownst to me it was during the 100th Anniversary of the Clovis Rodeo Parade. I watched as the Clovis High School Marching band paraded along the street. As well as the Clark marching band and others. Then a truck full of smiling, high school cheerleaders, cheering. Also, a lot of American flags, horses, and vestiges of the pioneer history and remnants, such as a sign that said, "California or bust" on a wagon or old-fashioned car. As well as horses with people decked out in Western wear and Mexican-Americans, sporting the Mexican flag to show, to me a reminder that California belonged to Mexico until 1848, The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. People alongside the streets wore Western wear and cowboy hats. The Clovis Rodeo was completely sold out and people wanted more tickets. Snippets of conversations here and there. I gazed at the parade with earplugs in since there were many blank gun shots from rifles that kept being shot into the air. Also, a strong military presence was in the parade. This reminded me of all of the Clovis High school rallies in the Gym, Football games, and overall Clovis culture that I never resonated with and always felt like an outsider from. An "Other" in my own hometown. I watched the drum line as they marched by and I thought of all of the fierce and sexist competition from the boys as well as the teachers that I put up with just to be on the drum line. I was in the marching band when I was in Middle school at Clark and for a year at Clovis High. The farmer's market across the street that sold organic produce where I was, wasn't in existence when I was in high school. Yes, things are changing, yet that dominant Clovis culture, that is "The Clovis Way Of Life" still does exist here. Thus, my feelings/experiences of culture shock.

Thanks for reading! More to come!

Feel free to comment or like if you are inspired, since my blog audience is a silent audience.

Light and wellness,

Ewan

Friday, April 18, 2014

A deep well of gratitude

I have returned to my home state. I've been intending to blog about my clarity and shift to move back to California since I had clarity. I wanted to write a blog post to the friends that I made in the Southwest and my new community there. Most of all, I want to express my appreciation and gratitude to all of the folks that I met for their warmth, kindness, openness, generosity, and conversations. Also, to all of the new friends that I met whose couches I stayed on the first couple of weeks I was in the Southwest. I've never done that before. Staying on couches of people who aren't friends, family members, or friends of friends. Yet, it felt right to stay with folks who I had contacted who are in the queer/trans community in Santa Fe and Albuquerque. I trust my core, my intuition. It was an adventure. I felt called to go forth to the Southwest. To experience what I was meant to experience there. Yet, it was all unknown until I lived it. Of course. The layers of unknowns upon unknowns.

I also felt that for me as a trans man, I was more comfortable and confident driving into a different part of the country being a visible man. I would've felt uncomfortable and would have probably experienced more discrimination if I was a visibly genderqueer, pre-T, and overall a visible queer. Even though I am a visible man, I don't feel comfortable driving solo through Texas though. As well as some Southern states. Perhaps, with a friend. Yet, I felt so many emotions when I first drove into the unknown, the desert, the Southwest! What would await me? Dust and a film shoot were what was known. My car was packed with my clothes, one comforter, a sleeping bag, and several boxes. The sky grew bigger and bigger and the landscape sparser as I headed deeper in the Southwest. I was in awe when I first arrived, of the sunrises and sunsets. The wildness of the landscape. The rocks! The big sky country. Yes, the sky is bigger in the Southwest. There is just the crust of Earth, the sky, and the heavens above. I feel it's the closest that one can be on the Earth yet also be close to the Heavens in a sense. A truly majestic place of wonder, beauty, and magical realism. I can envision opening a door and it leading just about anywhere!

It's interesting that as I am writing, I intended to write about my conclusion in the Southwest and I'm instead writing about the beginning of my adventures there. Full circle.

I returned to California during my birthday week in late March 2014 with so many more stories from my experiences in the Southwest. I kept looking out the window on the plane and was so full of gratitude for my first trip back to California since I had moved to the Southwest during October 2013. It had been almost 6 months and I hadn't returned to visit my parents or established friends in California. That's just how my life unfolded when I was living in Albuquerque. Even the plane arrived 30 minutes early to San Francisco due to favorable winds. I felt carried back to the Bay Area in a sense. The Bay Area to me feels like home. I felt so grateful and joyful to be back in the Bay for my birthday week. I could've kissed the Bay Area ground as I got off of the plane.

What I instantly noticed when I set foot in the SFO airport is the pace of life in the City. If the pace of life in Albuquerque is a treadmill that you are on, you are leisurely walking on the treadmill at a slow pace. Instantly, in the Bay Area, the pace had been upped 4-5 notches and it was a brisk speed walk. Arrive in NYC and the treadmill would be turned up another 4-5 notches to a running pace.

In the Bay Area I smelled the Jasmine in the air mixed with the smell of the Ocean. I could feel the water close by. I observed all of the different people on the Bart. Outside, I looked at the California poppies with love and gratitude. Such beautiful orange flowers. All of the white California license plates looked so dull to me in comparison to the vibrant turquoise blue or yellow New Mexican license plates. The pulse of the Bay Area was palpable. It is an area that is known to me. Yet, I explored on foot parts that were unknown to me near my friends' Aimee and Silvia's house off of Jones St. in Berkeley. I walked from the North Berkeley bart to their home several times. Exploring, being, and enjoying walking.

It was a blessing to visit the Bay. To see good friends. To visit my parents in Clovis/Fresno. For quite a while, I've been living with the questions of whether it was in my highest interest to continue to stick it out in Albuquerque and see if things would work out or move back to California.
Well, I finally got the clarity that I had been looking for, or more appropriately waiting for, for a while. My clarity crystallized in the Bay Area and during my visit to Clovis/Fresno in a sense. Serendipity, synchronicity, and powerful clarity.

2014 is the year for me to get Top Surgery and I'm going to get it through insurance through Covered California via Kaiser. I'm back in California, living in my hometown of Clovis/Fresno for a stint. Currently, I'm acclimating to being back in California and being in my hometown. I'm fine and super grateful to be in my hometown. I have a deeper appreciation and a well of gratitude that has been carved deep down into my soul. I was grateful before I left the Bay Area for my recent adventures, yet the Southwest carved me out, cleansed, purged, and released a lot. It's intangible, yet clear to me. Parts of me have been carved into canyons while living and being in the Southwest.
I will be in my hometown until I have the clarity and also the resources and opportunities to relocate to Los Angeles or to move back to the SF Bay Area for professional film/media opportunities.

As a professional filmmaker and photographer, there are more professional opportunities for me in the Bay Area and Los Angeles. I do not feel called to live in New York City. I'm from California and California is my home. That's some powerful clarity that could only have happened through recently living in a different culture and region of the U.S. I've travelled a lot. I've lived in Portland, Oregon for close to 3 years. I lived in Siena, Italy for 7 months when I was 20-21 and studied abroad in college. I lived in the Southwest for 6 months. In California, I've lived in Santa Cruz, San Francisco, Berkeley, as well as my hometown of Clovis/Fresno. I'm grateful for all of my cross cultural experiences and for having the opportunity and experiences to live in different parts of this Country and world. It's definitely shaped me. I want to be in California and as a professional filmmaker, this is where I need to be right now.

Also, I've realized that life is hard everywhere! I thought that life would be easier in the Southwest in a sense since there isn't the urban stress of living in a big city. There is survival stress. The economic situation in the Southwest is incredibly challenging. A lot of people are out of work and it felt and was incredibly difficult to get any kind of job there. How things operate and flow is very different from how things work and flow in California, from my experience. The Southwest is a different world. It feels like a different country to me. I told my friend Rasa in Albuquerque, that it felt like a different world and she just laughed. Not at me. Just at hearing that perspective. Albuquerque is her hometown. She went to college in Colorado and Naturopathic school in Arizona. She has primarily lived in the Southwest the majority of her life.

I'm glad that I went and I'm glad to be back in California. I have no regrets. I have a lot more stories, experiences, and profound gratitude. My well of gratitude is deep. Deeper than it was when I left. Despite the incredible challenges, I'm glad that I went and I'm glad to be back. The journey continues.

Thanks for reading.

In light,

Ewan

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

I have earned the Springtime

I feel the impending Springtime.
It is a gift that I feel that I have earned.
Wind, cold, snow, and being new in a different land, city, community, and chapter of time.
I have endured the Winter.
The Spring holds its gifts like a promise in every bud that is about to burst open.
So too, I will feel this re-birth.
What will I be birthed into?
What does this season have in store for me?
With so much uncertainty and unknown. Each step I continue to walk. With confidence? Trepidation? Continuing on my path, yet I don't even know what the next few steps in front of me will be. Since, I have major decisions to make. Yet, I am grateful for my meditative practice. My connection to my Self. My connection to Spirit. That will guide me like a shining light, like a bursting bud, into the Springtime and beyond.
When the few steps before me, I usually see with clarity. Even in this desert, the Southwest, I do not know.

The rocks know how to wait with patience.

The rocks are patient.

My soul is the river that washes over them.

I could sit with the rocks all day, near the riverbank and still not have the answers that I seek.
With patience and in time the answers will come. The clarity will burst forth like a blossom in the Springtime.

Not before, when it is still Winter.

I thought that this chapter would be easier. That I would have more time to be, in a sense. To live. To create. To enjoy life.
Yet, it is harder. Harder than graduate school. When I worked 80 hour weeks and put everything into my film.

Hunger.

The desert has stripped me of everything that I came here with.

My bank account.

My confidence.

My faith.

Thus, the spiraling descent.

I heeded the call. The call of my heart. My clarity. My personal guidance. I made the decision.

and.

I.

Am.

Glad.

That.

I.

Did.

Despite the pain and suffering.

Eating beans, peanut butter, and pasta.

Now.

I do have enough and I am enough.

I've always been enough and I always will be enough.

I am light. I am love. I chose to be here on Earth.

Faith is believing in myself and my path.

Faith is continuing to walk, one foot in front of the other, on my path.

Faith is to persevere.

Faith is to believe in myself even when only I and the Universe believe in myself.

Faith is not giving up.

Faith is to continue to apply for jobs.

Faith is to find a way to be like the rocks.

To be strong. To be. To listen to the water flowing. To be patient.

Faith is being a self-reliant man.

Faith is continuing to co-create my life, although there isn't any external validation or a clear road yet. Since I am the one making the road as I continue to live.

Faith is trusting in myself and the Universe.

Having faith in myself is having faith in humanity.

For one advancement helps everyone as we collectively evolve.

The buds of Spring whisper to me to trust. To be. To grow. To burst forth at the right moment.

And I will.

I am.

Here.

Now.

By the riverbank watching the rocks.

Watching patience.

--Ewan Duarte