5 Places to be exposed to flora

Well, I live over in Sea Cliff in San Francisco Bay…likely the easiest place in the city to actually get some green.

So yes -

1)Golden Gate Park

…because it’s right there, literally across the street from my apartment. Manicured the outer part is not.

2)Ocean Beach

again, it’s right there, and yes, there are some sea plants around. My partner surprised me with an Audubon guide so now I can even determine what these plants are! (Something I failed to do in Minnesota. In Indiana, I knew the plants – the chicory, the Queen Anne’s Lace, the poison gooseberries…not so much elsewhere.)

3)The Presidio

For those unfamiliar, the Presidio is a former military outpost converted to residences. There is a very swanky, expensive apartment building it is famed for, and then there are several “affordable” (i.e. ridiculously expensive everywhere but NYC) apartments and houses for rent. We came very, very close to renting a townhouse there until we realized that even with a lease we had no rent protection from Uncle Sam. Also, it’s great as a self-contained community even now but it was very cut off from the rest of the city. Since I’m here to do city-spirit work, I need to be in the city itself. It has a beach and a lot of wild/woods to it.

4)Farmer’s Markets

but don’t bother with the Ferry Farmer’s market on Embarcadero if you live here. I went last weekend. While it’s OK for meat, cheese, and fish vegetables were decidedly tourist priced. Upon chatting with some of the dairy farmers, it seems that revealing you’re local will prompt them to redirect you to the other farmer’s markets in the area. Food is a LOT cheaper here  than in Minnesota, especially in the winter months (and yes, there’s winter, though it’s a different animal than what I have previously experienced.)

5) The Conservatory

while the Golden Gate conservatory does not hold a candle to Saint Paul’s Como Park Conservatory, it is flora. Since this city has a hell of a lot more cement to it than Minneapolis, it is easy to get a bit starved for it.

5 Freeing Things I did as a kid

These activities made me feel free/absorbed in the task when I was a child:

  1. Spinning in circles until I fell over. Looking back, I did it for the high. This may explain why alcohol/getting drunk never has appealed to me all that much. It’s only half the ride. I want the whole thing.
  2. Making abstract paper cutouts. I think I usually tried to make a doll chain, usually failed, but did not feel any frustration or deterrence in the face of this failure.
  3. Dancing. Always, always dancing.
  4. Reading – I always loved to read, but I remember really, really loving to read after my grandfather bought me Dragons of Autumn Twilight one summer. It never led me to much RPGing – I didn’t know who to ask, really, and when I finally found some people to play with it seemed tedious – but I loved those stories, and I still adore the fantasy genre.
  5. Sketching, drawing, crafting with no specific purpose at hand. I can’t remember why I quit – I think my parents refused to buy me sketch books at some point, (these things were often launched upon me arbitrarily with no prior discussion or clear trigger for the decision) and I had to pay for my own clarinet reeds so it just kind of stopped.

Comfortable in my own skin

Her Eyes Are A Blue Million Miles_7546808832_lSo there’s a passage in Cameron’s The Artist’s Way for Parents that talks about a friend of hers that struggled to feel comfortable in her own skin after the birth of the baby. What was described also resonated with my current experience of an unexpected, dramatic relocation. Lo, the example cited after that was a woman who had a cross-country move (in addition to a baby.) No, I haven’t had a child – but I recognize this discomfort in my own skin. Some of it is about connecting to the place more, and I come as a significant part of San Francisco’s defining community spirit is dying. I really hope I’m not here as hospice midwife.

I realized that while I’m walking more by necessity – sedentary San Francisco = moderately active Minneapolis, I haven’t just walked to walk since I moved here. I do have a few reasons for this: my allergies are just as bad here, and my Minnesota allergist is playing games with my record transfer, deferring the treatments I need to actually live in my own skin. Since all my allergies are environmental, outside time can get dangerous. I’ve also been sick twice in two months, and both were full on knock-you-off-your-ass-induce-existential-despair sick.

The “uncomfortable in your own skin” factor has come up synchronistically a few times of late. When I moved to Minneapolis and assumed my new identity as a newly single adult, the disappointment in myself for letting divorce happen, the conflicts between who I was, what my family wanted me to be, and lacking the money necessary to even attempt to fulfill my family’s demands I visit Indiana all tore me apart. (There was also a fear that if I did go, they’d trap me under a glass and keep me there.) The discomfort in my own skin became a buzzing noise in my head that eventually manifested in chronic hiving. That hiving is why I’m getting (or trying to get) allergy shots now.

I moved to Minneapolis in November of 2002. Over a year later, as I had coffee with a friend, she commented that I seemed “more comfortable in my skin lately.” At that point I had learned some, but not all of my hiving triggers. I also knew more about where to park, what might get me a ticket, and where I should not go for a walk at night. I knew the way home with certainty. I felt more comfortable in geographic space, and it helped me to acclimate my inner space.

The skin not fitting makes sense for pregnant women – suddenly your body isn’t yours anymore, then you get it back, but it’s not the same body. It’s got some new chemicals in it, some new processes going, and nothing is going to change it 100% back to pre-baby no matter what you do with it externally. A relocation is not like that. I know that.

A dramatic relocation does, however, do something sort-of like that to the soul. Minneapolis became integrated into my sense of self. It was my city, my town, my treasure trove of unappreciated and under-appreciated secrets. Suddenly I find myself in San Francisco, a place former residents rhapsodize because they don’t know exactly how many jewels in their memory have been stolen, or ripped away thanks to byproducts of the Ellis Act.  I keep thinking this doesn’t fit. This isn’t home. There are no artists and writers here – they’re all in Berkeley and Oakland, and every single one I’ve spoken to has plans to leave for Portland, or Seattle, or Minneapolis, or Chicago.

Everything about here sort of chafes – and I realize now it’s the tension of the unaccustomed. So yes, I’m uncomfortable in this new skin. Being given a new city is a lot like being given a drastically altered body. Suddenly I must explore it piece by piece, find the new sensitive spots, identify the danger zones, seek out the places that produce pleasure, and seek new forms of pleasure, too.

It’s an a-ha – it’s my skin. The following days, through Solstice, I’ll focus on getting walks when it’s safe to, in getting deeper into my gym habit. I need to do what it takes to relax and get back into my own skin, and get into this new geographic body.


5 Possibly Fun Outings

san francisco beach fires
Shot I took earlier this week – beach fires are a popular activity here.

I’m in a new city, so this should be fresh for me. The hard part will be not falling into the same thing over and over trap.

  1. San Francisco zoo. I do love zoos
  2. One of the museums in Golden Gate park.
  3. Trying out one of those double decker tourist buses. I’ve always said when in a new place get to the high ground and then take a land tour. Well, there’s a lot of high ground in my neighborhood so the land tour is the next most logical step.
  4. I hear rumors of a Doctor Who meetup in these parts…
  5. Green Apple books looks intriguing.


"I'm a Mom!"
“I’m a Mom!”

What Julia Cameron writes in the Artist’s Way for Parents about the isolation of a new parent is resonating with me. Why? Because a similar isolation haunts me at the moment. I am suddenly relocated from everything familiar. I sort of know safe and not-safe neighborhoods. A person I am meeting next week wants me to “pick a place with wireless.” Well, I don’t know where that is – and since I am tutoring her in using the Meetup.com system, I’m pretty sure tethering might take a bit too much work to explain this early in her tutoring.

The first month out here, in the temp housing in San Jose, I got sick. So rather than try to go to meetups in San Jose or try to meet people, all I could do was spit out mucus and watch television. I couldn’t even go down to the workout room there. The one time I did, I had some bikini-clad girls staring at me, boggled by the fat woman at the treadmill. There’s a lot of that in California.

After the move to San Francisco, my partner went off to work, leaving me to stay home with the boxes. The mountains of boxes with our lives in it, lives we could not even think to start until opened. Lives that required massive editing because in addition to familiarity we also gave up a roomy three story townhouse for a three bedroom, one bath in a distant neighborhood.  While my partner goes off to a job he loves, it’s my job to the editing. I can of course reach out to people – I’ve maintained cross country and international friendships for years. But when it’s time for a cup of coffee, I don’t know where the coffee shops are and my partner has a gift for finding the shittiest ones humanly possible. I start conversations in lines all the time – at the grocery, in those coffee shops, at the farmer’s market. Not one will lead to anything. Finding new friends requires joining groups, and joining groups is something my partner doesn’t do very well, if at all, at least not the type that I can frequent.

I could get up, drive to Oakland, but despite California’s “plan” to get more electric cars on the road they aren’t facilitated nearly as well as my partner insisted they were when he told me how madly in love with San Francisco he is. Really, chargers are bitterly competitive things, and electric cars are bitterly resented by the underclass. The one local EV meetup I hoped to attend switched to a Fiat-owners only meetup, and the owner politely suggested I check out the EV meetup…all the way down in San Jose. These are not the acts of people seeking expansive fellowship or environmental good. I don’t want a misogynistic reaming if I get distracted while charging my car. And it’s going to be awhile before we install a fast charger.

Even if I could drive the car somewhere, there’s a very good chance I would have nowhere to park it. I damn near lost a my virtue to a parking space in the Castro because of that. The buses are OK, but the Fulton line is so overcrowded it really should have a train line instead. Also, in the outer districts some buses only run every twenty minutes even though the population is high enough it should run more than that. These things also create a sense of suffocation.

The one meetup I’ve gone to was fun – for people that want to sing, for the sake of singing. But it’s also a bit out of step, and in a pretty bad neighborhood. People there use old technology. They stick to the American songbook. They like folk music, something I’ve learned to hate because I want to experience new things, not the same four Kingston trio tapes my parents owned and played over and fucking over. The two men at the meetup were over 50 and had very specific ideas of how women should be all qualities that would drive me to suicide if I had them. But they were happy I was there.

That also made me feel isolated, in a different way. No one here is 40 or almost 40. All the age meetups call for 35 and under or 50 and over. I am not those things. I am not a mommy, either, and that also tags me out. The other Pagans all live over in Oakland, or around Santa Cruz.

It’s a different kind of isolation. It’s also quite painful.

This will of course change over time. As I develop routines it gets better. I’m in a bitter mood because my routine got wildly screwed over by the Cantonese repairman today, when he took almost five hours to repair a garbage disposal, and in the process brought his wife and a plumber into our house without my permission. I had plans today, and I have deadlines, and because I work from home I often find those deadlines and myself disrespected. This is what a writing career when you also have a vagina can feel like. People just assume you’re not doing anything, not because you’re not, but because they’ve been taught over and over to be almost literally blind to it.

But yes – I do feel isolated.  Yes, it does bother me. Yes, it will change, but right now I’m in it and it hurts.

5 Things I Love

Hm, 5 things I love?

  1. The dippy feeling my stomach makes on a Tilt-a-Whirl
  2. Traveling
  3. My National Geographic digital subscription
  4. A well-organized closet
  5. Roses. I adore roses.

So how would I share these loves?

1. Take someone on a tilt-a-whirl with me. In lieu of a tilt-a-whirl, find a safe place to spin in circles until we both fall down. For those of us that don’t get nauseated, it is very much like going on a ride. So fun.

2. Take someone with me. Traveling is one of those things you love or you don’t, though. I suppose travelogues can build appreciation. Kiwanis travelogues gave me the bug as a child.

3. My National Geographic subscription – gift it. Maybe just go analog, and encourage any new reader to use the images for all kinds of craft projects after enjoying the fabulous reads.

4. Well-organized closets are the kind of thing you have to live to really appreciate. It also takes some tailoring. Aside from showing endless episodes of Clean House there’s not really a way to get that one across.

5. Roses – show pictures, take someone to a rose garden, volunteer to work in a rose garden…

The Artist’s Way for Parents: Raising Creative Children

So, here’s an awkward situation: I committed to working through all of Julia Cameron’s creativity series, and along with it her spirituality series. All fine and well, except that her newest, the Artist’s Way for Parents: Raising Creative Children, by default tags me out. I don’t have children. I made a very active decision when younger not to have children, and for those that read this steadily, my reasons for sticking to that decision are pretty clear.

1909 Mennen's Toilet Powder_3654194280_l
1909 Mennen’s Toilet Powder_3654194280_l

However, upon looking through the book it does seem like there’s still the same principles of self-care. Since this helps me stay on track I might as well. With two books coming out and one in the middle of a pitch stage at the moment, I need some help staying on track. The exercises look on par with most of the Artist’s Way vein, and most of it is about getting into the right mindset.

To give you all a wide-angle view on what’s going on:

My partner’s company shut down temporarily last spring, and in that momentary void he got offered his dream job. Said dream job lives in Silicon Valley. So here I am, now in San Francisco, where my fellow artists and Pagans can’t afford to live anymore. We couldn’t do Oakland because that’s just a bit too far for my partner’s commute. I’m near the ocean, near a major park, have access to a car but nowhere to park… I’m new, and kind of lonely.  I’m also hesitating to tell anyone how I came to be here because the tech industry is not exactly welcome out here, although the housing situation is more the fault of the landlords and less the fault of the industries. Certain techbro disrespect for what makes this place function and the bad, unthinking kind of libertarianism are ruining a lot of what once made this place good.

I have some dear friends that are beyond thrilled that I’m out here. It’s heartbreaking – I will have to tell them this is not the place they remember, not even a little bit.

This all happened just as my own career started to pick up in Minneapolis. I’m pissed off that I have to be the loser in this deal, and I’m more pissed off that this situation, created by outside forces, established a situation where one of us has to be the loser. I’m getting a lot of loving support, but the “it’s so great you’re in San Francisco!” is a really unwelcome and kind of cold thing to say because of that. “I’m so glad you decided to again sacrifice your own career advancement! I’m so glad your husband’s happiness is so much more important than your own!”

Not that these people would know. I have a hard time getting it across that Minneapolis is a wonderful city, that it has everything – even some of what San Francisco has had forcibly taken from it in recent years. Mostly the people that are pushiest about San Francisco’s greatness are pretty dismissive and condescending about the city that’s been my true love since I was 25.

No, I’m not happy to be here. My choice was moral, not emotional, because my choices are always the moral ones. The people that expect me to put on a happy face, and clap my hands, and squeal, and act all excited…they’re assholes. I hope they get hemmorhoids, for expecting me to suppress my emotional truth.

So one way or the other, I need some guidance. I already made the commitment so I’m going to see it through.

All this Artist’s Way stuff: here’s the payoff

So I started the Artist’s Way in 2008, mostly as a sort of me-too with Xiane and Cassidy and Angelique, two being women in the Etsy beauty products guild I was in. It’s one of those situations where life definitely has a purpose – the beauty stuff was a huge diversion from what I knew I was supposed to be doing.  This 12 week series turned into exactly the kind of guidance I needed because it made me pause and look not just at my creative habits but at my entire life.

The Artist’s Way proved so helpful I moved on to Finding Water. Then on to Walking in This World. Then I just kept going…and only this year have I sort of caught up, with the Artist’s Way for Parents sitting on my Kindle despite my not having children.

The small steps, the daily work, the wisdom – for me, it helped. Because now I have my first published book to show for it:


At last, it’s out – and it would never be finished without my adherence to the Artist’s Way path. You can get your own copy at Amazon or any other bookstore your heart desires. You may want to ask your favorite indie bookseller to order a copy.

But… it’s out. I did it.

And after I post this I’m going to work on the next two books I have contracted.