Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Autumnal shift and the Jewish New Year

Today I've been feeling in a very creative mood. I harvested a handful of tomatoes from my plants last week and I harvested another handful today. I wanted to make something special with the tomatoes that I grew in my garden; the plants that I showered with my love and attention. My housemates and I receive weekly produce from a CSA. Our produce box comes from Full Belly Farm, a local organic farm in the Capay Valley in Northern California.

I felt inspired to prepare a meal today with the tomatoes. What arose in my mind was to prepare an eggplant and tomato dish. This week, we received two medium sized eggplants in our produce box. I cut up one eggplant. I put olive oil on a large pan and sprinkled thyme and rosemary that I'm growing in the garden on each piece of eggplant. Then I cut up some Irish Dubliner Cheese and placed thin slices on each piece of eggplant. I cut up a handful of the lovely tomatoes that my plants grew. I placed the tomatoes on top of the cheese. I added some garlic salt and pepper on top. I cut up two small bell peppers from the CSA box as well. Then I placed the dish in the oven for 30-45 minutes. The before and after pictures are below.

The dish is a meal of love. For me, food is love. That is what my mother and Jewish cultural background taught me. It's amazing to me the connection that I had with the meal that I just enjoyed. I ate every bite slowly and it was so flavorful and delicious! The thyme, rosemary, and tomatoes are from my garden. The bell peppers and eggplant from Full Belly Farm. The Dubliner cheese from Ireland. Well, I had a connection to a majority of the meal except for the Dubliner cheese. When I travel to Ireland one day and if I visit the farm with the dairy cows and creamery, then I will have more of a connection to the cheese that I just ate. Dubliner cheese is one of my favorites, I love the sharp Chedder. I have plenty more of this delicious meal to enjoy for left-overs.

I'm grateful to have a connection to my food. I enjoy the process of gardening and growing some of my own herbs and plants. This is one aspect where I feel and honor my connection to the Earth and Elements (Earth, Air, Fire, and Water). There is intimacy in growing one's own food. It's also a process of discovery and attunement with the rhythms and cycles of nature. As well as the process from seed, to sprout, to plant, to harvest, and to death of the life-cycle of a plant and also of human life. Although, I live in an urban area, I feel very much in tune with the cycles of nature and the shifts of the wheel of the year.

The Autumnal Equinox will occur this upcoming weekend on Saturday, September 22nd. Since the beginning of September I've been feeling the slow shift, like minute hands on the face of a clock to Autumn. The Autumnal Equinox is when it is the official shift, yet everything in the natural world happens in slow gradations. The nights grow longer gradually. These transitions and shifts can teach people in contemporary society and urban areas about their lives if people choose to pay attention and glean the wisdom of the natural world. Change that is sustainable with a solid foundation occurs in gradations over time. Thus, change over time is a process. To speed up this process would lead to fragmentation rather than integration. I'm continually amazed at the wisdom of the natural world; the plant, animal kingdoms, and elements. I am always learning with an open heart.

Sunday night was Erev Rosh Hashanah. The Beginning of the Jewish New Year. Recently, I've been feeling rather inward and contemplative. This is aligned with the Days of Awe, The High Holy Days and the shift to the Autumn season. As I walk around my Berkeley neighborhood, I look at the trees and notice the leaves change colors, fall to the ground, and the leaves that have already fallen, especially on California St. in my neighborhood. On California street, there are towering old Oak trees that are beautiful. I enjoy stepping onthe crunchy brown leaves on the sidewalk. When I was walking, I heard a child mention something about pumpkin pie to the parent the child was with. I look forward to preparing some pumpkin pie in October. It's one of my favorite pies.

My housemates and friends honored and celebrated the Jewish New Year by having an Erev Rosh Hashanah meal at our house. It was a delicious meal and I'm grateful for friends and community to share and celebrate the shift to a new Jewish year and the change of seasons with! We each shared an intention for the new year, as we passed around a platter of apples and honey. Each person dipped an organic apple slice into honey and then ate it. Ritualistically, grounding the intention through sharing it with community and then ingesting the intention so that it can manifest. May we all have a sweet new year and fall well into the Autumn season.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Until A New Day Dawns

My schedule has been in transition with the shift of the Fall semester as I am at the cusp end of graduate school for my MFA in Cinema at San Francisco State University. All of the pieces are coming together with my thesis. I'm moving forward into the production phase of CHANGE OVER TIME. This feels like the fun part of the process with my thesis. I feel the forward momentum and creative spirit guiding my project. My work schedule shifted as well. I'm working part time a day per week, interning on the TLC project a day a week, and I'm committed to focusing my time and energies on my creative work so that I can proceed with CHANGE OVER TIME and finish before the end of 2012.

I intend to have a rough cut to show my advisors; the wonderful professors Martha and Greta by November. I met with Greta this week and a very kind recent undergrad gave me a tutorial on DragonFrame--a program that I will be using to do stop-motion animation for my thesis. I did animation tests utilizing stop-motion this time last year in the Fall, when I took my first animation class with Martha at SFSU. The animation lab/studio on campus upgraded to DragonFrame and to the Canon T3I cameras in the studios.

Working with Martha as one of my thesis advisors and taking her animation class changed the direction of my thesis. My project began to evolve and move in a direction that I did not know was possible. CHANGE OVER TIME has evolved into a hybrid experimental, animated, poetic and impressionistic personal documentary about my soul and emotional experiences during my first year on testosterone. I aim for the film to poetically and impressionistically wash over viewers. So that people can perceive a slice of my experience during my hormonal transition. Many trans films that I have seen show the physical changes and focus on interpersonal relationships that are impacted and effected by transition. I intend to show my emotional and soul shifts and changes through the poetic lens of my experience.

I will soon learn how to use a Canon T3I to do time-lapses of the elements (Earth, Air, Fire, and Water), in the natural world. I intend to layer various images over the audio shifts of my voice change during the first year that I was on testosterone. The project has been in process for over two years now. The first year, I kept meticulous track of my holistic changes while physically and holistically transitioning on testosterone. I had a voice recorder and journal where I expressed and documented my inner and outer life experiences. I have some wonderful archived material.

During this past Winter and Spring of 2012, I recapitulated and went through ALL of my many volumes of journals--which were hundreds of pages. I read everything that I wrote. Then, I took 80-90 pages of notes gleaned from my journals. From those 80-90 pages of notes, I distilled my year long experiences into a page and a half poem! Quite a feat, indeed! It took me four drafts that I worked long and hard on to edit and choose what to convey compactly in a page and a half poem. Martha was amazed when her printer only printed two pages. She thought there would be at least a 10 page poem with the amount of material that I have. I will perform/recite the poem in CHANGE OVER TIME. I also listened and transcribed all of my audio recordings from the entire year! Two plus years of work for a 5-6 minute film! Yes, indeed. I feel that during this process I have learned so much about trusting my voice, continuing to believe in myself, my creativity, and art, as well as choosing to tell my story in a unique way that I have not seen other trans stories expressed. Continually, throughout the process I have taken and am still taking leaps of faith--exploring and traversing new territory that is unknown to me. Thus, growing as an artist in the process.

I feel that it would have been immensely helpful and refreshing for me to see CHANGE OVER TIME before I began testosterone. The film is for a queer/trans audience as well as a broader audience. I look forward to continuing to work on my thesis film and to sharing the production phase of the journey with you. I feel that this film is not only for the completion of my Master in Fine Arts in Cinema--it is a gift to all who will choose to be receptive to seeing and experiencing it with an open heart and open mind. It is my personal lens of my experience of my microcosmic and the macrocosmic theme of change. Change which is so prevalent in most people's lives right now. These are accelerated times. One of my gifts and contributions is to teach about change from my own unique experience, from a trans perspective, and overall from a human and spiritual perspective.

What arose in my mind as I'm writing right now is the image of the Wheel Of Life tarot card-- or the Wheel of Fortune card. The themes of change, luck, and the ups, downs, and all degrees in between in life that are experienced and lived as a human being. The creative process and the filmmaking process overall for me can be encapsulated in that image of the wheel. At moments, feeling on top of the world and moments where I feel in the dark and I'm exploring unknown terrain with a lamp of hope and faith that shines as I continue to walk step after step, not knowing what direction my art is taking me. Yet, trusting my voice and the process as my lamp shines bright and I continue until glimmers of sunlight emerge as a new day dawns.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Patient and strong like the mountains

Yesterday and today I enjoyed the Autumnal sunshine in my garden, while I watered and attended to my plants. I picked the first large Cordova tomato from one of my tomato plants. I've been enjoying the cherry tomato jewels from one of my other tomato plants. I've picked most of the ripened cherry tomatoes. The larger tomatoes are gradually ripening. There are a handful of large tomatoes that are various hues of red. I've been preparing my own sauces with an onion, garlic, and heirloom tomatoes simmered in a pan on the stove. The only spices I add are salt and pepper. I learned how to prepare this sauce from my housemate, Amelia.

I did take some cooking classes when I was 20 years old and living/studying abroad in Siena, Italy. At that time, I learned how to prepare sauces as well. The tomato plant is originally native to South America. There are around 7500 different varieties of tomatoes that are currently being grown world-wide! It's amazing how cultivation of the tomato spread from South America to Europe, North America, and to most of the world! I find joy in watering, nourishing, and being near the growing plants in my garden.

I recently went on a camping trip with friends at the end of August, near Guerneville in the Austin Creek State Recreation area. We found a wonderful campsite that was spacious enough for all 6 of us. I enjoyed walking to the top of the hill that preceded the campsite area and gazing at the rolling hills and mountains. The first night, I saw a shooting star from the expansive area at the top of the hill and gazed at many stars and constellations above me. I later joined up with my buddy Sam and Amelia near Bullfrog pond to look at some constellations. Amelia pointed out the constellation of Cassiopeia--which was clearly visible. I saw several more shooting stars that night and the cool forest air felt refreshing.

On our walk back to our campsite we saw a Spotted Owl fly from a branch above us. That was the first time in my life that I had ever seen an owl before in the natural world. What an amazing omen! The next night while I was brushing my teeth near the water spigot, I heard the rustling of leaves and shone my flashlight in front of me. A few yards away was a small Spotted Owl! The Owl rotated its head and looked at me and then rotated its eyes and head away. I gazed at the owl for several minutes until it flew away. I was the only one to see the Spotted Owl near the spigot.

That night I slept under the stars right beneath a tall manzanita tree. Near the tree I found a beautiful Red-Tail Hawk feather! During this camping trip, I felt that I received many blessings from the natural world and animals in that area. The Red-Tail Hawk has very special significance to me and is one of my animal totems. I revere and honor the Red-Tail Hawk. This was the first time in my life that I've seen or found a Red-Tail Hawk feather in the wild. The feather is now on my altar in my room with the other feathers that I've found during the past couple of years.

During our last morning at the campsite, I went up to gaze at the mountains and rolling hills. It was a warm day. I had my water bottle beside me and I meditatively watched the mountains and felt the warmth of the sunshine on me. I love gazing at an expansive natural landscape and only hearing the sounds of the natural world. It feels so expansive, nourishing, and liberating to my soul to only see the natural world in front of me without power lines, cars, concrete, traffic, and urban planning. I was acutely aware during the weekend, how quiet it is in nature. Except, the last morning when some of us were woken up by many loud bird calls. Yet, during my time in nature on this trip, I was reminded of how quiet, peaceful, and nourishing to my holistic self nature is. There wasn't any urban noise pollution.

I yearn to live in an area that is that peaceful and filled with the sounds of the natural world. The external peace that I experience and feel at times in the natural world is like the inner peace that I create and cultivate within myself through my meditative and mindfulness practice. Everything in nature is communicating. One only has to be present, clear, have a willingness to listen, and a reverence and respect for the natural world to truly hear. These California mountains are old and wise. As I gazed at the mountains, I felt peaceful and grounded. May I be as patient and strong as the mountains.