Archive for the ‘Finding Place’ Category

I had the good fortune to meet some real punks recently. City-style art punks, living in a huge old  house that looked condemned from the outside. They had their space fixed up beautifully inside, with dozens of old bike frames hanging from the extremely high ceilings, ramshackle shelves made of reclaimed wood displaying everything from canning jars to sewing supplies to Marx– all arranged tastefully with that spare, cleaned up, dumpster art punk style. The extraordinarily tall window was half boarded up with opaque plexiglass, but the top was open to the world and the breeze was billowing out a 16 foot long white curtain. You could tell that they spent their nights drinking homebrewed moonshine and reading Chomsky aloud by candlelight.

Or, I could tell anyway, because I used to be them. The woods version– minus the bike parts and the moonshine. I was 20 in my 20s. All the way, baby. I looked the look. My chosen style was army issue wool pants with 18 pockets all crammed with gear and old Pendelton shirts which I never, ever washed. Rifle over the door, crates of dumpstered food, shelves of canned bear meat and dried wild mushrooms. Some kind of animal skin soaking in a bucket in the corner. Reading Gary Snyder by kerosene lamp light.

Now I am all grown up, with such a boringly regular looking life. And I can’t help but feel a crushing nostalgia.

But as things have evolved, as I have crept ever farther into the ‘This Isn’t How I Imagined My Life’ classic drama of modern first-world adulthood, I wonder more and more how much of what I miss, what I feel I’m missing out on, is pure aesthetics. Do I really want to change the world? Or do I want to look like I’m changing the world?

My Man always reigns me in on this subject– the tendency of people in our subculture to want to be weird for weird sake. It’s just another form of branding really. We so desperately want to believe we belong, somewhere, to something. We can’t just be us for us, we have to be One of Us. As opposed to Them.

It’s the same bullshit we rail against, but transposed onto our own supposedly alternative lives. Them being regular people, Us being ‘different,’ with an unspoken ‘better.’

The fact that I was, I think, insufferably judgmental in my 20s doesn’t help things now. As I become more and more like one of Them, and lose more and more of the badges that used to get me into the Us club, I feel a rising panic in my throat. Am I selling out? Am I failing my ideals?

Of course the answers, if there are any at all to be found, are exceedingly complicated. But lately I am plagued by wondering just how much of my discontent is due to the derailing of my chosen path, and how much is simply a lack of the appropriately alternative appearance. If I were doing all the exact same things– getting and spending the same quantity of money, using the same range of electronics to hand power, buying vs making in the exact same proportions—but in the context of a homemade ramshackle squat, would I feel more like I had succeeded?

I always thought of myself as valuing function over form. Even though I have wanted to be the artist type (you know those people who, no matter what their chosen style, make their home into a thing of composed beauty?) I was never able to make myself give up the incredible time and energy it took. In the end I always came down on the side of practical. But now I am seeing that it is a struggle within. I choose function by default, but then I pine away for form.

Certainly there is lots of overlap, and much of what I am pining for is not just the lost form of my cabin in the woods, but the function of quiet and peace that was undoubtedly in greater abundance. When we lived by kerosene lamp our lives moved slower. And I miss, I crave that mental space.

But many things have changed beyond the structure whose walls we inhabit. We had kids, for example. I never got a chance to play that out, the family woods-punk lifestyle. Would I have liked it? Would I have hated it and dreamed of moving to the city as so many mothers have before me?

I read The Unbearable Lightness of Being last year. One of the concepts that has haunted me is that we only get one chance at every decision we make in our lives. We don’t get to make the same decision twice (in the same circumstance) and then reference afterwards to see which one worked out better. With no possible actual comparison, we can never know if our decisions were for the best or not. We can only keep stumbling through, untethered by the weight of applicable experience.

As I’ve gotten older I have noticed that 1. Most people over 35 feel at least vaguely dissatisfied with their life and 2. They blame it on whatever decisions they happen to have made that led them to where they are.

Having had many friends with many distinctly different lives, I have witnessed the blame flying in all directions. People can feel disappointed because they do or don’t have kids, because they have a partner who isn’t perfection personified or because they’re single and lonely, because they have a nice house (granted not many bitches ungrateful enough for this one) or because they don’t have a nice house. I don’t actually mind a little discontent if it keeps a fire under our asses to work for what we want, something of worth. But the vague and directionless anti-climax of adulthood is less than inspiring, and if any part of this malaise is just a failure of aesthetics, I want to know goddamn it.

Because… what? What would I do then– if it turned out that some bulk of my discontent was wrapped up in pure aesthetics? Is that a base urge to overcome, or a perfectly human urge to indulge? Should I throw out the unattractively normal looking bookshelves I have found on the side of the road or bought at garage sales for next to nothing and instead spend hours of my time scrounging splintery antique boards to build a beautiful art shelf?

I can tell you one thing, and I’m not joking. I’ve been building up to this one for years. I’m going to get a tattoo for my upcoming 35th birthday of a stinging nettle, a wild edible emblemic of my woods self. That my friend is some rarified aesthetics.





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{{{This is a republish from last year. This year met every remembered expectation. I heart this New Orleans holiday.}}}
One of many costumed families wandering around downtown on Mardi Gras

I’ve just come back up for air after a major Mardi Gras takeover. Well, with my sister visiting too, there was lots to do and see. She was coming to the Big City from Small Town Alaska, and I know just how that is. I had to show her a good time. We ate loads of good food, including a food gorge/gasm at my fave funky, but fancy restaurant, Jacque Imo’s; chocolate croissants, berry brioche, Caribbean fried catfish with lime butter that changes my perspective on life, and lots more yummies at home. We took her to the aquarium and the zoo (we have a membership), every vintage shop within a five mile radius, and yes, we took in our very first Mardi Gras.

When we moved here I, like you, thought Mardi Gras was all tits and frat boys. Drunken revelry and mania. It had small appeal. All our neighbors and new friends tried to convince us that Mardi Gras was a family event, but we were a hard sell. We’d seen the news footage. Finally we’d heard it from enough people to sort of believe it. We got tentatively excited.

Let me tell you, it’s true! Wow. Much of Mardi Gras was so thoroughly family oriented that I found it kind of boring. The zillions (okay, 20 or 30, but still-!) of parades that lead up to Mardi Gras day consist of floats and marching bands. I mean, how many floats and marching bands can a person care about? I hate to sound jaded, but the floats were nothing compared with the floats we saw in Panama when we spent Carnivale there years ago. The big thing here is the throwing of beads, and small plush toys. Each float is lined with people hucking said items at the crowd. And no, again, family event,remember? No titties were bared, unless you count my poorly concealed nursing moments. They throw the beads to anyone and everyone, particularly cute kids, or anyone who jumps up and down screaming like a crazy person, which many folks do. I had trouble getting into the mood. A bit hard for an anti-consumer such as myself to get excited about a huge pile of cheap crap. Thank you little Chinese kids, working long hours in unsafe conditions. Now we’ll leave the fruits of your labor in dirty drifts across the streets of New Orleans, to choke birds and leach toxins.

That said, it is so thoroughly local to play this parade game, that I did try my best. We went to four parades. One of the big parades passes a block from our house, and that was cool ‘cuz it felt sort of like our parade.

But! Friends! This is in fact a love story!

After two weeks of trying to rally myself to get into the parade spirit, Fat Tuesday finally came. The day there was supposedly a big party of costumed revellers downtown. My sis and I are heavy into costuming, so we were really looking forward to this, had spent days getting our outfits together and making fabulous masks. I had heard about a parade from the Marigny to the French Quarter, called the Saint Anne’s Parade. A walking parade of anyone and everyone in costume. We wanted desperately to make this parade, thinking it might be our only chance to see awesome costumes. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find any info online, in the paper, or anywhere else about where and when it was. Some kind of underground parade. Oooo la la, how alluring. We heard a rumor it was at 9 AM (the partying starts early on Mardi Gras day, strange, we thought) so we hauled our asses out of bed at 6 AM to get in costume and out the door by 8 AM, determined not to miss it.

Oh. My. Sweet. Jesus.

I am in love.

You might have heard me say those words before. Yes, I’m the kind of girl who falls frequently. But, this time. This is the one. Really.

For those of you who know me and my love of costuming, let me say this. These people put my efforts to shame, to SHAME!!!!!! My sis and I felt completely underdressed! But I don’t mean to say that I felt ashamed, oh no. Just awed, floored, and inspired.

But the fantastic quality and quantity of costumes, giant puppets, and bike floats was not even the best part. The best part, for me, was that it truly was a family event! There were kids everywhere, and old people too. All generations partying together. Not that it was G rated. Most of it was, but there were some PG-13s (including myself) and even a few Rs. But nothing to worry about.

The thing is, I love to party. Now by that I don’t mean, I love to get shit faced, do illegal substances, and have regrettable encounters with strangers. You may remember, I’m ahalf-beer girl. What I do love is dressing up and dancing my ass off. And I hadn’t realized how sad it makes me that that part of myself is made to feel disparate from my mama side.

Here is where this long diatribe comes to topic. Mama’s need to have fun. Mama’s shouldn’t feel like they’re being “bad” or even “marginal” mamas when they have a good time. So long as the kids are safe and having fun too, mama’s need to let loose! Of course, a supportive papa or otherwise partner is pretty handy here. But mostly what was making me feel stifled (other than no party to go to!) was a barely spoken societal disapproval.

Finally, I have found a place where I can be me, party mama. That’s me on the right. And yes, those are fake boobs. And no, I don’t see a single thing wrong with that.


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I have been thinking a lot about sustainable living, and the so-called simple life lately. Dixiebelle wrote a self-flagellating post recently about her wicked fall into a fast food lunch, and in general about falling short of one’s ideals.

Oh sweetheart.

I’m not particularly old (33) but I came to this “green consciousness” early, I think. I’ve got 15 years of trying to find and live a sustainable, ethical life under my belt, and let me tell you, I’ve weathered many a storm myself. I’ve been up, I’ve been down, I’ve felt superior, I’ve felt like worthless shit. I’ve wasted entire days (back when my life allowed such luxuries) under the covers, bemoaning my own inevitable participation in such a hideous world.

And I did think the world in it’s present state was hideous (I do still when I stop to consider it, though having kids helps you to see beauty and have hope.) I think we have been informed into oblivion. I listen to NPR and am emotionally outraged when they follow “two protesters for human rights killed” with “name this top forty song.” All over the world, people suffer in factories, animals suffer in feed lots, wilderness suffers anywhere it still exists, so that we can have stuff for cheap. We keep our eyes on the prize and fuck everything else. Look out for number one.

When my eyes opened to the horrors of the world, I was young. I thought I could change, not the world exactly, but my part in it. Drastically. I would become independent from the system. What else could I do? How could I participate in something so egregiously wrong?

I spent a few years learning to live with truly minimal participation. I started out extreme, and discovered that the technical aspects of the simple life are more than possible. It was not exceptionally difficult to build a small shelter out of mostly scavenged material, to heat our modest home with foraged firewood cut with a handsaw, to grow and gather a majority of our food, to live well on a few thousand dollars a year. What was difficult, what proved the unravelling of my “simple life” was the extremity of change.

Are you prepared to live with feelings of complete isolation? Are you prepared to leave behind everything you grew up with? Are you prepared to give up all feelings of belonging to your own species?

I was not.

As fucked up as humanity may be, it’s my people. They are we. I am them. You can’t get away from yourself and the culture that’s woven throughout you.

My fall from grace is not remotely new. Every back-to-the-land movement throughout recent history has left a trail of disappointed, disillusioned, tail-tucked folks heading back to the city. Those who manage to stay find they have made huge compromises and reconcilliations. The fulfillment of their dream rarely looks like what they set out for. I have come to think that, apart from a very few remarkable people, most of us simply cannot make so much change in a single lifetime.

So, over the course of many years, I decided to cut myself some slack.

I looked towards those who have stayed, not at the very fray, but within shouting distance. Those good folks of my parents generation who have managed to walk the line. Not living as radically as they once dreamed, but not turning away either. Keeping at it.

They had cultivated flexibility, learned to accept less than the grandeur we’ve been taught to expect, and perhaps most importantly, kept a good sense of humor.

I am a realist. Perhaps that means I am a pessimist too. Perhaps I cast aside my dreams in a big sell out. But I saw my realistic options as continuing to try for hard-core and eventually burning out, or compromising for a middle ground that I could actually sustain.

And that’s when I realized the irony.

“Sustainablility” is such a buzzword now it’s easy to forget what it really means. If you’ve discovered the sad realities of the mainstream and want to carve out instead a sustainable life, congratulations on your clarity and courage. But make sure your changes are sustainable for you, and for your family.

And here’s one of the biggest sticking points. Those “remarkable people” I mentioned earlier? The ones capable of sustaining radical change? Pretty much never have kids. Rarely even manage to keep a spouse or partner. Like anyone who accomplishes extraordinary things within just one life, they have to guard their time, energy and motivations. Keep everything for themselves and their cause.

For the rest of us, we can keep our spirits up by remembering that extraordinary things can also come from the sum of many lives. We can allow ourselves flexibility, compromise and self-forgiveness. Rather than hanging our heads in shame for our transgressions, let’s celebrate our own and one another’s sustainable change.

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I never did extend my No-Frills 5 to 7, weekend included. Too hard to give up our weekend spending treats. Too hard to even want to.

But we’ll have plenty of time for weekends full of wholesome, creative, money-less activities this summer. Because, have I mentioned? We’re going home! We’ll be in our little coastal (read: cold and rainy) Alaskan town from mid-May through August.

I’ll be working part time, cooking at a local lodge. My Man will be working part time doing the same paper-wrenching he did before law school came along. We’ll split the parenting, which is always how I prefer it.

We do have a house back home, that we’ve been renting out, but we won’t be staying there. We’ll be living in an old broken down school bus! In the same hippie squat where we first lived together in My Man’s homemade tipi. Some folks might consider this going backwards, but we’re excited about it. It’s a great place to be, especially in the summer. It’s only a mile from town, and right off the road, so not bush living by any stretch. We can still go to the library whenever we want. And with a little community of good folks, and woods, marsh and a pond, it’s an awesome place for kids.

Although I haven’t been homesick really at all this winter, now that summer at home is approaching, I’m getting a yearning for mountains, wilderness, moss, dumpster diving, and especially friends who know me well. I’ve really made quite a few good friends here since my poor, lonesome me post. But there’s nothing like people who’ve known you for years… And especially having a community of friends. Pot-luck dinners, music jams, bonfires, “a pack of hippies” as we jokingly call ourselves to go berry picking, plant gathering, and adventuring. I’m sure I’m romanticizing, a lot of my good friends don’t even actually live there anymore, but nevertheless, I’m excited.

Every now and then My Man will get a restless look on his face and say, “Let’s do something fun tonight.” It’s interesting to compare what “something fun” ends up being in these two disparate locales. At home in Alaska, the only “fun” (which really means out of the regular routine) thing I can ever think to do is go for a hike. I had really imagined that here in New Orleans there would be so many exciting things to do at any given time. But in fact, with a toddler and a baby, “something fun” almost invariably means going out to dinner. There’s a few other things we do here, but they pretty much all involve money and consumption. We do walk or ride bikes in the park a lot, or go wandering around in the French Quarter, but even those often lead up to a purchase and frankly feel somewhat unsatisfying without one.

It’s the culture I guess. Here the culture is spending money. And don’t get me wrong, I am definitely enjoying it! I feel like a kid at the candy store with all the incredible food to be had here. (We just ate dinner at a Thai restaurant the other night that was divine. Scallops in a spicy basil sauce. Oh god, so good. But– there was a $52 bill at the end.) Still and yet, I do occasionally have a feeling of weariness about it all. And a sort of gladness that our time here is limited. I know myself, and my weaknesses, and although it’s fine for three years, it would be hard to balance in the long term.

So a little dose of home is in order. Where there are no scallops in spicy basil sauce, no chocolate croissants, no berry brioche, no 100 year old Italian gelato shops to tempt my weak self. Just good friends, fantastic pot-lucks, craggy mountains and wild rivers. Here we come!

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Groupies, Revisited

A few weeks ago I threatened to start a flickr group. Well, I’ve done it. It’s all over now. We’ll never get off the computer. Goodbye kiddos, hello even filthier house.

No, really, I’m sure we’ll all be able to balance it nicely. We’ll be good. Really we will.

I don’t expect this to be some epic ask your questions to the wide world forum. I just feel like I’ve made some friends through this here little blog-o-rama-rama-ding-dong, and I think it would be cool to be able to sit on the porch with y’all and chit-chit or bitch or bolster at the end of a long day. Just us girls.

So this is a “private” group. That does not mean snooty, or elitist, it’s just a setting on flickr which makes the group joinable by invitation only. Anyone who reads this blog is welcome to join. Comment here, or email me at scarletfevir (at) yahoo. If you haven’t commented before, please tell me just a tad about yourself, so’s I know you’re for real.

The deal is, I have to email you an invitation, so please include your preferred email address in your comment (I suspect some of the addresses that come up automatically with your comments will be old or otherwise secondary). Don’t forget to type out your email address code style with (at)s and (dot)s, so evil people won’t get hold of it.

I’m sorry to say that, if I understand right, flickr is linked to yahoo, and you can’t join without a yahoo account. If you don’t have one, you’ll have to sign up to that first. There’s probably some better photo share place. Feel free to recommend. I’m really quite backwards about all this stuff, learning by force of will, but slow.

Lastly, after yesterday’s post about the links, I realized I had several of my oldest, loyalest readers’ links set to “private” so they didn’t show up. Ooops. I think I’ve fixed it now, but if you see yourself missing from the list, please let me know!

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The Whole Fam Damily

(I used to have a friend who, completely unrelated to the content of this post, often said “Well, siss on you pister, you and yer whole fam damily can go buck fufallos.” I just never got tired of it.)

A few weeks ago I got a note from New Urban Habitat, that she’d chosen me as one of seven recipients of the Kreativ Blogger Award. I am honored, especially since she has a very impressive blogroll. I’m now supposed to divulge seven things about myself, and then pass the award along to seven other bloggers.

I never have been much of a direction follower.

It’s cool to bolster everyone up, and I’m all for it. But it does seem a tad more like chain mail to me than an award. If I remember right from those ‘scare the kids into chastity’ AIDS diagrams in high school, 7 x 7 x 7 adds up quick. Purty soon we’d all have… an award. And that just seems a bit silly to me.

So, at the risk of being shamed and potentially excommunicated from the creative blog world, I’m going to sort of pass.

By sort of, I mean that– true to form– I’ve just changed the rules to suit me. I do like the idea of creating community, giving smaller blogs exposure and sharing good stuff around! So, I’ve added a new thingy onto my sidebar, with all my readers’ blogs. I got these all from comments, so if you’re a reader who’s never commented and would like your blog added, just comment here and I’ll hitch it right on!

And so’s ya’ll know, I’ve subscribed to all your blogs with a reader, but when I checked it against my own, the subscription didn’t show up. So, if you (like me) watch your sub numbers obsessively, count me in there among them!

Also, I’m going to set up the flickr group as mentioned earlier, so we can all get cozy.

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That last post was apparently fairly popular. More views than any post yet on this here blog-o-mine. Which leads me to believe that feminist housewifery is a hot topic, and that perhaps quite a few ladies, errr, womyn, out there are grappling with these same issues.

About a year ago, when I was scheming my next venture (my last was a zine and then blog, called Subsist/Resist), I sketched out ideas for a name on a scrap of paper. Apron Strings had been kicking around in my brain for some time, but I do love me a good subtitle, and I was really torn on whether to use the word “housewife.” Was the punk/DIY/feminist/liberal world ready for such a blasphemed word? I really wanted to see it reinvented, but could it be done? In the end, “Revolutionary Housewifery” was just too clumsy a mouthful. “Revolution Starts at Home” not only rolled better off the tongue, but said succinctly what I meant. “Housewifery” was relegated to the sidebar description. But I still have quite an unusual fondness for the word, precisely because it makes me (and everyone else I know) uncomfortable.

After the popularity of that last post, I can see I am not alone.

I don’t particularly think of myself as a feminist (though of course I most certainly am). I grew up with hippie parents– dad as likely to be cooking dinner and mom as likely to be fixing the plumbing. (Both more likely to be devising a new business plan.) I was shown how to use a power drill at age 6. I never really got feminism at all until I left home. And even then, though I had plenty of opportunities to get riled up, and listened to more than my share of Ani DiFranco when she was still pissed off, Alaska is a relatively progressive place in the gender department. Women hunt, fix cars, cut firewood, all in a day’s work. Check out the Talkeetna Mountain Mama contest.

But even more than that, dogmas tend to get my back up. Liberals make me want to flaunt my hunting rifle, greenies make me want to drink out of a styrofoam cup, and feminists make me want to brandish the word housewife with a teeth-gritted pride.

Because how in the world did the work traditionally and even, dare I say, biologically done by women, get to be so thoroughly disrespected?

Let’s go back to the beginning.


I, personally, believe patriarchy started with birth– the most sacred, most complete, most mind boggling power of all. The boys got jealous, and who wouldn’t? We women could do it all. Grow another human being in our bellies, push it out into the world, and nurture it to independence. I thought all this before I was a mother, but now, having seen birth particularly, I really understand the significance. The raw power of a woman in labor is not to be underestimated. Anyone else in the room must feel small. Powerless. Insignificant.

Patriarchy is a big wheeled truck attempt to hide feelings of…. well, inadequacy.

I think over the course of history, our culture became more and more dictated by a giant Napoleon Complex. Men scorned women’s work because they feared it. For a long time women said, ‘Whatever, screw you. We know what’s going down.’ But as time went along, things got worse, and the men with their little ego stoking got out of control. They had invented new kinds of power, and seated themselves as Kings. Women lost eventually patience and got pissed. Enter the Feminist Movement.

But I believe, and I know I tread dangerous ground here, that the feminist movement made a vital mistake. Things had gone too far, and the male mindset had infiltrated our strong female selves. They had convinced us on so deep a level that the work we did was meaningless, that when we looked for change, we took a wrong turn. We tried to claim our own seat in their big wheeled truck. When what we should have done was torched it.

Don’t get pissed off too quick. I am not saying “a woman’s only place is in the home.” Of course a woman should be able to do whatsoever she chooses, and get paid and respected equally to any man.

But in the heat of the moment, let’s not forget that we hold the ultimate power. Let’s not forget to value and respect it. Let’s not forget to kick some ass in our very own, uniquely female way.

Because true revolution starts at home.

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