Marta Becket

Marta Becket

This is Marta Becket, one of my earliest inspirations not only as a dancer but as an artist in general. I first heard about Marta when I was five years old. I’d come home from kindergarten, and my mother was serving me lunch. She was talking to a neighbor, but that woman’s face is blurred in my memory. I wonder if the herald to our call to adventure is often painted faceless?

At the time, we lived in the California desert. To this day, I have not been able to drive through that area of the United States without seeing the magic of childhood, Sam Shepherd plays, the migrant workers of The Grapes of Wrath and Marta Becket. I still see their stories mingled with mine in the tiny square houses painted the same color as the sand. Very little is built to stand out in a place most people come to disappear.

That day in my little kitchen with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, my mother and our neighbor were discussing a woman in Death Valley who went to her little theater and danced every day, even if no one came to watch her. That woman was Marta Becket.

“Why would anyone want to dance in the hot desert with no one watching?” My neighbor pressed her now-blurry mouth into a disdainful frown. “What a waste of time.”

And that is the moment Marta Becket became my first muse. What my neighbor saw as a waste of time, I saw as the most beautiful mystery ever laid in front of me.I couldn’t believe something so wonderful was happening less than an hour from where I lived! A dancer who performed because her soul demanded it, not because someone else asked her. A dancer who performed in her own theater by her own terms. I couldn’t form the words when I was five, but this is what I felt. Marta had called to me, and I could not forget.

Marta will never let me forget, though many times I have tried, that we have lost what it really means to make art. Art isn’t about where you live, it is about the individual creative stamp you put on the place you find yourself. Our creative power does not reside in a certain city. It is not made valid by a certain critique. It can never really be bought or sold. We become powerful when we make an appointment with ourselves, not our audience, to create something out of nothing every day.

The most important part of making art is showing up.

The Amargosa Opera House, Death Valley, CA

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Cover Reveal: The Emerald Ring by Dorine White

I am very excited to host the cover reveal of The Emerald Ring by Dorine White!

The cover reveal of The Emerald Ring by Dorine White
The cover reveal of The Emerald Ring by Dorine White

Sara Bogus’s life turns upside down when she discovers an emerald ring that once belonged to Cleopatra. The fun of discovering the ring’s unique abilities turns to fear when she finds out a dangerous cult bent on restoring Rome to power is after the ring. Forced to choose between keeping the ring and saving her friends, Sara learns the price of bravery in this electrifying read!

Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-emerald-ring-dorine-white/1113793929?ean=9781462111336

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/The-Emerald-Ring-Cleopatras-Legacy/dp/1462111335/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1355258432&sr=8-1&keywords=Cleopatra%27s+legacy+the+emerald+ring

A Broken Heart…the story that slips through our fingers

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Painting: Psyche Discovers That Her Secret Lover is Cupid, Maurice Denis, 1908

Moonlight falls through the window

Spread across your bed

To kiss your shoulder

As you forget

I taste the salt of your skin

You do not stir

Wake up and I will speak

Lover’s words whispered in your ear

But you sleep

Hold yourself above me

The muscles of your shoulder

Tense with your effort to be gentle

Do not be gentle

I kiss you

But you sleep

I memorize the curve of your shoulder

Hold on to the memory

To sculpt it later in my mind

The child’s softness

The man’s resistance

As you sleep

If I were a sculptor

It would be my life’s work

The curve of your shoulder

A gift to the world

A monument

For my kiss

As you sleep

You are a muse

Like a muse, you ask for everything

My everything is too small

One drop of water in a wild ocean

You are Paradise

I am Eve

Quenching my thirst at your tree

You do not make me stop

But you will turn me from Paradise

One seed in the wild earth

Eve is a Goddess

Like a Goddess, she asked for everything

And was expelled from the hearth

She has called me far away

Lured me from the comfort of a home

For a taste of temptation

Salt on the skin of a man

You woke the Goddess

But you sleep

I read there is an angel

Over every blade of grass

Grow, she whispers to the blade. Grow

Grow, I whisper

But you sleep

I have taken a seed from the Knowledge Tree

Hidden beneath my tongue

I plant it with sweat and tears

One seed in the wild world

If I pulled down the wall

The one you’ve built around your heart

What would I find?

You might crumble with the bricks

Fall to your knees at my feet

 I might find there is nothing for me

I do not belong in Paradise

You sigh and I am gone

One seed on a breath of wind

I am on my knees looking up

Your head is thrown back in ecstasy

I own your pleasure

You cannot take it with you

The seed of knowledge

 Temptation

The taste of your skin

As you sleep

If you had felt my kiss

Turned to me

Seen me crumble

Like the bricks

And loved me anyway…

But you sleep

Open your eyes

Find me in the wild ocean

Find me buried in the earth

Find me waiting beneath your Knowledge Tree

Unravel me and spread me across the sky

Like a string of stars

Spread me across your bed

Like the moonlight

But you sleep

I have my monument

You cannot take it with you

Sleep, I whisper. Sleep

And forget your Eve

Censorship…The stories we hide

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(Photo above courtesy of flickr user florian.b)

Following is my interview with my friend and local librarian Molly Senechal about the issue of banning or removing certain books from a community. I had intended to weave my conversation with her into a much larger piece, but her words are too well said. No need for any further decoration.

I grew up in Bakersfield, CA, the epicenter for the controversy over The Grapes of Wrath. Even forty years after the book was published, there were still strong feelings over the decision to remove the book from the Kern County Library. As a writer, I know how hard it is to be criticized, to feel I’ve made the offering of a great and perfect gift no one else can see. I have some sympathy for the people in the Bakersfield community who felt John Steinbeck overlooked the good California did for migrant workers. What fires me up, and what interests me from the perspective of a storyteller, is the choice to hide rather than discuss the shortcomings of a story. These are the moments I find so compelling in life! And now…Molly Senechal:

What is your definition of censorship? How have your personal experiences shaped that definition?

I believe censorship is the act of impeding or blocking access to words, stories, music, art, and/or ideas. As far as personal experiences involving censorship go, I have only one: In the early 1980s, the rock band KISS was playing in my hometown. My older brother had tickets to the concert, and our mother forbade him to go. She had heard stories about the band worshipping phallic symbols and other such things. Whether the stories were true, I can’t say. My brother was furious, of course.

Do you think controversy surrounding a book creates more interest, curiosity, or readership?

Controversy surrounding books definitely creates interest. The hubbub over the 50 Shades trilogy by E.L. James is a great example. (See? I’m creating even more interest just by mentioning it here! But that’s because it is a great example of controversy and curiosity.) There are some public libraries that aren’t carrying the series because of its theme and content. People want to know what the big deal is. What’s drawing folks to the book? What’s repelling them? Will they feel the same about the series as their friend (or sister or neighbor or whoever)?

Controversy over a book can be a very beneficial thing. Think about it: You read a book you love, hate or don’t fully understand and you want to “review” it for anyone who will listen — and hear their review(s), too. Heated discussions can even encourage people to read books they might not otherwise touch. I didn’t care for Twilight, but struggling through it inspired me to pick up the granddaddy of all vampire novels: Dracula (which, by the way, I loved).

 

In a perfect world, how would controversy over a book be handled?

In a perfect world, there would be no controversy over books! Discussion, yes. Debate, yes. Pulling a book from a shelf, no. But since we don’t live in a perfect world, controversy over any art (literary, musical, visual) would best be handled by we, as humans, becoming comfortable with any topic. I really think people censor, or shy away from discussion, because they’re afraid. They’re afraid because they don’t have all the answers, or because they might have to question their beliefs or value systems. Digging deeply into your own mind can be a scary business.

Other thoughts (related to censorship, though perhaps loosely):

Our thoughts are the only things we can control. They are wholly, completely ours. They cannot be restrained, arrested, or withheld. If it’s true that humans are the only animals capable of “higher thought”, why would we limit ourselves by censoring? Why would we limit others’ ideas and ideals? If fear is our motivation (see above), then we need to be braver!

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“Ideas don’t die because a book is forbidden reading.” -Kern County librarian Gretchen Knief on the burning of The Grapes of Wrath

Falling in Love…the stories we hold on to

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The Story of Empress Moon

In the beginning, Spirit lived within water. And Spirit wished to know the warmth of the Sun and the smell of the world and the fear of death. Spirit rose into the sky in search of a way to find such adventures and came across Empress Moon, bored on her throne.

“What more might there be to life?” Empress Moon wondered. “What more might I do and see and feel?”

The moon is a windless place, and the heat of the night was enough to scorch the skin. Down below on earth, a pond stretched cool and inviting.

“I will fly down to that pond,” Empress Moon decided. “I will stick one toe in the water and refresh myself. No one will even know I am missing.”

And so Empress Moon took up her cloak of swan feathers and flew down to the earth pond. She put one toe in the water, but it felt so refreshing, that was hardly enough. Before she knew it, Empress Moon stood with both feet in the cool pond.

“How good this feels,” Empress Moon said to herself. I will wade out and stand waist deep in this pond. It will refresh me, and I can get back before anyone knows I am gone.”

So Empress Moon waded out waist deep into the pond. Little fish swam around her legs. A wind moved across her skin and made the surface of the water ripple like a million dancers. She looked up at her home. Everything seemed stagnant and lifeless up on the moon. Here the earth, the pond, so full of life and promise.

“I will stretch out and float on my back in the middle of this pond,” she announced. “It will refresh me, and no one will even know I am missing. I will be back. I must go back, but not yet. Not now.”

Empress Moon stretched herself out over the middle of the pond. She floated on the surface, felt the water ripple along her pale skin. She closed her eyes and sighed and all was good.

But Empress Moon wasn’t the only one whom Spirit had tempted out into the night. King Sun stirred from his sleep with a sense of unrequited passion. He brimmed with a desire to fight or to love in equal measure, whichever met him first. He left his bed and looked down at the earth. He saw a pond that seemed to shine with its own light. It lit the trees and rocks with a magic he could not resist.

“I will go down just for a bit,” King Sun said to himself. “No one will notice if I do. I might hunt at the edge of that pond and rid myself of this restlessness.”

So King Sun flew down and landed by the rock where Empress Moon had discarded her swan feather cloak. When he saw it, he smiled, thinking one of the moon maidens had snuck down to the pond for a swim. He never thought it would be Empress Moon herself. He took up the cloak and cleared his throat.

“Well, isn’t this a fine cloak. What a piece of luck to come across the likes of it so far out in the middle of nowhere.”

Empress Moon startled and jumped onto her feet in the middle of the pond. “That belongs to me. Please, give it back.”

“Finders keepers,” the Sun King shrugged. He turned and stepped into the woods, knowing full well that the maid would follow.

Empress Moon thought to call up the Goddess within herself, but Spirit or some inner knowing all her own stopped her. She tip toed along the tree line after him, as the moon is always apt to follow. When they came to a clearing, she leapt in front of him.

“I will fight you for this,” the Sun King warned. He believed she thought him nothing more than a hunter. She would try to seduce him in order to win back her cloak, and he would enjoy the fruits of her effort.

She did not seduce him.

“I will fight you,” said Empress Moon, “and I will win.”

She smiled.

His blood boiled.

The two ran at one another with a clash that lit up the night. They fought, and the more Empress Moon evaded King Sun, the harder he tried. The harder he tried, the more she smiled. The more she smiled the angrier he grew. The angrier he grew, the more she evaded him. On into the night they fought, first through the trees and then above them, rising higher and higher. The Sun chased, the Moon evaded. The Sun attacked and the Moon countered. On and on and on, until Empress Moon leapt onto the chest of the Sun King. There was dark air above them and dark air below and nothing at all but their two shining figures against the night sky. Empress Moon reached for her cloak. Their fingers touched.

Empress Moon and King Sun fell. They fell through the hot night air, through branches that snapped beneath their weight, through the swish of leaves and the whispered joy of Spirit. Empress Moon and King Sun landed tangled together on the forest floor.

That is when the two truly saw each other. There was suddenly as much interest in the discovery of one another as there had been in their fight. They extended the night long as they could, but it came to pass that King Sun could neglect his work no longer.

The sun and the moon are two different worlds. It was hopeless to believe they could ever be together. They agreed it was best to part as friends and never see one another again. Empress Moon left one way and King Sun the other. They both stepped out of the forest from their opposite sides and could not take one step further from the other. They both stood and waited and could not return to their lives until each had run back to the other and promised to meet just one more night. This need was repeated from one last meeting to the next and might still be this way today if on one night Empress Moon had not been late. While he waited, King Sun swam out into the ocean. When his body touched the line of the horizon, he felt himself begin to sink. Empress Moon arrived. She watched as her lover drowned in the sea.

For a long time, there was no King Sun to light the day. Empress Moon refused to show her silver face in the endless night. Until…

Until Empress Moon felt a tug on her heart that came from deep in the ocean.  She walked to the edge of her world in the sky and looked down at the waves that had taken away her love. She dove. Down and down and down she went, through the dark blue night and the stars. She plunged into the ocean and still she did not stop. Down and down and down until she reached the dark and lonely place where King Sun was captive.

Death asked a bounty for the return of King Sun. Empress Moon gave the silver comb from her hair.

Life asked a bounty for the return of the Sun King’s breath. Empress moon gave her first child, which Life placed on the earth and called Human.

Spirit asked for a bounty for the safe journey to the sky. Empress Moon gave her second child, which Spirit placed in the ocean and called Fin.

Empress Moon took King Sun back to the light where he belonged. Every now and then, the sun and the moon happen to be in the same place at the same time. Empress Moon and King Sun smile at one another, remembering their brief time on earth before they return to their solitary journey through the sky.

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