Touching spines

Last night
I read a book
that I could have written.
Lyric and melancholy,
musing, yearning, seeking —
philosophical, if you will.

Today’s book,
the pages are full of you,
have you all over them.
A novel of tight, clipped prose.
Simple. Deceptively so.
Something new for me to touch
that feels all too familiar.

Maybe somewhere these books are on a shelf,
touching in ways that we cannot seem to
no matter how much I ache.

–Charla M. DelaCuadra

little affirmations

Today, how about you give yourself a little boost?  Cell phone affirmations, anyone?  I saw this idea on Instagram several weeks ago and thought I would give it a whirl.  In the screenshot I saw, the basic folder names on their home screen had been replaced with affirmations — so instead of “Finance,” my money apps folder now reads, “I am rich.”  Gone is the “Games” label — now it says “I can play.”  Health and medical-type apps proclaim, “I am healthy,” while social apps remind me that “I am connected.”  House and home apps remind me, “I am sheltered.”


I’ve been thinking about these little phrases off and on over the last few weeks, curious to see if I noticed any changes to my outlook, and after a month or so, I think I can confirm a change for the better.  More and more lately I have been feeling the collective societal clapback against “screen time” and media influence, to the point that Instagram can feel like too-guilty a pleasure, or playing a game on my phone to unwind feels like time I should use to do other things.  While there are definite issues with too much time spent online, guilt for me was sometimes pushing the pendulum too far in the other direction.  Reminding myself that “I am connected” when I go to open Instagram now reminds me that I am able to connect with a bigger world of inspiration and ideas, people and places.  “I can play,” reminds me to approach games with that spirit – not as mind-numbing time wasters, but small opportunities for play amidst a busy day.  And even though “I am rich” can feel a little wry when ye olde bank balance is low, it is also a great reminder that I AM rich, regardless of that balance — rich in love, in friends, in joy, and in opportunities.


As far as remembering to do affirmations or other such gratitude practices, this one seemed low-lift and easy.  I didn’t have to remind myself to make time for something extra: I swipe my phone open all throughout my day, and there they are waiting.  Maybe give it a try, even if it feels a little cheesy?  You might just make yourself smile a bit more this week.

Let’s talk about sex… and feminism!

Sex.  It’s personal in the most intense of ways.  It’s beautiful and exhilarating and deeply unique to all of us.  And it can be a theoretical minefield for those of us striving to be “good feminists.”  With that in mind, I submit to you a pair of articles to ponder.

“This contrast—of women raring to assert their agency in one context, then willing, even eager, to relinquish it another—captured my interest.”

Sarah Resnick explores the push-pull of control and women’s desires in the context of Miranda Popkey’s début novel, “Topics of Conversation.”  She asks us about the liminal space between the simplicity of embracing another’s authority, and assembling one’s own story as a means of control and therefore, power.  Modern feminists are supposed to be in control, to know what they want, to not be afraid to ask for it, or to take it for themselves.  But what if we want, sometimes, to give up control?  What if, sometimes,  that prospect is sexier than anything?  Is that bad?  Are we bad feminists?  Resnick visits Amia Srinivasan’s essay, “Does Anyone Have the Right to Sex?” from 2018, asking whether feminism should have anything to say about desire at all, testing the lines between creating more binds for the people it means to liberate, and excusing patterns of desire that replicate broader patterns of oppression and exclusion. If a woman enjoys sexual submission, who are we to say she shouldn’t?

A year and a half later, Alexandra Schwartz tackles Srinivasan directly, examining her new collection of essays “The Right to Sex: Feminism in the Twenty-First Century” in conversation with Katherine Angel’s new book, “Tomorrow Sex Will Be Good Again.

“This is an ancient belief: that our most ardent desires dwell fully formed within us, only waiting to emerge… Has the time come to reconsider?”

This conversation broadens beyond control and desire and asks the question of where and how our desires — often perceived to be innate and even perhaps immutable — are actually shaped to a certain extent by social conditioning. How much is our gravitation towards a certain “type” simply our own preference, for example, and how much is subconsciously ingrained racism? From perceptions of beauty and attractiveness to reevaluating our values, Schwartz takes us on a thoughtful journey that circles down to the idea that “maybe we shouldn’t worry too much about how to shift what we want but instead… recognize that we may be wrong about what we think we want, and embrace the possibility of wanting something different.” And then we loop back again to control: “Vulnerability entails risk… and sex is never free from the dynamics of power. That is what makes it scary, and also, sometimes, wonderful.”

As scary as it can be to probe and question our own desires and wants, clearly it can also be wonderful. From a place of discomfort or the kind of ambivalence Srinivasan encourages us to dwell in, perhaps we can find a more expansive version of pleasure — and of ourselves. And isn’t that the kind of liberation we want from feminism in the first place?

Read, ponder, and enjoy. I hope you find these selections as thought-provoking as I did.

On a less theoretical note, tomorrow October 2nd is a chance to mobilize and defend reproductive rights and a woman’s right to choose. Visit https://womensmarch.com/mobilize to find events near you.

seasons

Pomegranate, La Jolla, August 2021


some fruits wither and fall away
so that others can flourish
and ripen
and burst open
when it is their season

do not mourn the harvest that could have been
when a bounty of sweetness
was/is/will be
exploding on your tongue
even now
in this very moment
alive with every possibility



–Charla M. DelaCuadra

Little altars everywhere

For months I have been admiring the beautiful little altars Nichole of California Sister has been making. They are beautiful, and I loved the idea of a spot to gather inspiration, focus my breath, and put forth intentions. I’ve been watching and waiting for juuuuust the right one to come along and resonate with me. Ever a can-doer and also not entirely patient, this week I finally decided to try my had at making my own, and I am so pleased with the results.

For my little altar I scoured FB marketplace and then went thrifting, where I eventually found an inexpensive wood clock I thought I could repurpose for my own ends. I carefully took it apart, peeling away old gobs of glue and disassembling the clock mechanism, and then sanded the whole thing to help my paint adhere. Two coats of spray paint+primer did the trick, and then I hand applied gold leaf to the glass before back-painting it black to make for a decorative background for the top area of my altar. The piece de resistance was the leather-mounted lion’s head I repurposed from a cool old bottle I thrifted. He is my altar figurehead.

For me, the lion represents my fierce loves and fierce protectiveness and loyalty. The way I try to radiate light to the world around me. And the beauty I want to embody, like a big cat’s sensual grace. The items I have placed inside for now include:

  • a small Blockshop printed card, for creativity
  • a tiny handpainted Chinese bottle, to honor my family and my heritage
  • a little photo of my two dogs who have passed on, to keep them close
  • a smooth heart-shaped labradorite stone, for romantic love and also as a reminder to choose myself
  • a sweet-smelling votive, to be a light in the dark
  • a baby disco ball given to me by a dear friend many years ago, for friendship and memories
  • a fairy I’ve had since I was young, to remind me to dream

Thank you, Nichole, for your talent and inspiration. I’m not entirely sure yet what small rituals or practices will grow from this new little space of mine, but for the moment I’m content to focus, breathe, and enjoy. I brought in a single plumeria yesterday, just for the simple tiny joy of it. Right now, that feels like enough.

(never) yours

 

She’ll fly away one day.  A speck against the sun. 

Glorious and free.

But will she miss the ache of her chest, the yearning in her breast?  
The way his stubble might have felt on her throat? 
His lips on her pulse?
  
Oh, yes.

If only.  Wrong time.  Wrong place.
Missing him.  Pretending not to.

He was never yours.


— Charla M. DelaCuadra

A bookish-ish afternoon

You know how sometimes your brain can be on overdrive? Not for a little while, but for several days or weeks? Lots of things swirling around, lots of opportunities for growth to be had, lots of love and heartbreak, maturing, digging, seeking, pondering, and finding. Sometimes those days or weeks require something small, focused, and a touch mindless, even if just for a little while.

While I am always grateful for times of growth like this, it is hard. And draining. So what did I do today? After I got dressed and walked the dogs, somehow I wound up in our hallway facing my bookshelves. For the next couple hours, I sorted and purged. I organized, alphabetized, puttered, and shifted. The biggest questions I had to face were, “will I want to read this again?” and “if so, can I do it easily online or through the library?” Done and done. A couple books I kept for purely sentimental reasons beyond my read-it-again criteria, but by and large, the sentimental and the read-it-again columns neatly matched. And it was so. very. satisfying. I now have a few stacks of well-loved YA fiction to pass along to my niece and nephew, and still more to donate to the local library book sale, or to sprinkle into the little free libraries in my neighborhood. I now have no recent additions leaning haphazardly here and there for lack of space, and perhaps the best part — I had a couple hours of very Zen focus on a single enjoyable, achievable task.

This afternoon I’m feeling a little less frazzled, a little more calm, and a little more even-keeled than I have in a few weeks. For the anxious overthinker in me, that is a huge win. Big questions are good to grapple with, but sometimes we need small things to give ourselves time to rest in between. What kind of little win can you gift to yourself this weekend? May I suggest a bit of decluttering or organizing? For me, at least, this little thing felt big — in the best way.

Quiet getaway

Travel is looking very different — or nonexistent — for a lot of us these days. A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of visiting a dear friend in Washington, and we explored the little towns of the Olympic Peninsula by day and cozied up to watch movies by night. Paired with slow, quiet mornings, cup of tea in hand, it was the perfect foray back into travel, sans crowds or stress.

Unlike Southern California, where most cities sort of bleed into each other as you drive, there are trees and greenery aplenty in between each town in this area of Washington. You can travel a relatively short distance and feel like you have traveled far and wide, as each town has it’s own character, quirks, and charms. Puget Sound is quietly omnipresent everywhere you go, a stunning blue-grey backdrop that is integrated into daily life in a way that fascinated me. Residents here will see it, have to go around it, over it, or through it every day. It made me reflect on “life on the water” in a new way, one very different from my youth living in San Diego not far from the beach. It’s not a spot to visit here, but part of the fabric of every day.

Little Manchester with its lovely views, the historic buildings of Port Townsend, the Scandinavian charm of Poulsbo, the windswept beaches near the Kingston ferry — I loved my time in Washington. If you’re looking for a place in unwind, explore, and spread your post-lockdown wings a little, maybe find a waterfront cottage on Airbnb and take in the serene charms of the Olympic Peninsula for a few days. Whatever you do, make sure to visit the bakery in Poulsbo. Trust. I could have cried at finding the bread I remember eating as a kid, best served toasted. Also perhaps the best apple strudel I have had in my entire life.

If you aren’t convinced yet, here is a smattering of photos from my visit. Enjoy!

Thank you so much, B, for being the best host and companion. Much love.

Pride of place

Victorian Pride Centre in Australia’s updated rainbow logo has two new colors: brown and black were added to represent LGBTI people of color.

Welcome to June, and happy Pride month to all LGBTQIA+ folx. I see you, and I am sending you love. If you are out and proud, I see you. If you are closeted, I see you. If you are transitioning, I see you. If you are struggling to define yourself, I see you. This month is all about you and your freedom, your rights, your visibility, your love, and your being. You have a place. You don’t have to shrink away to better “fit in.” Your place is wherever you want or need to be.

Fun links and food for thought this week:

The pointless ‘kink at Pride’ discourse. “I want to bring my daughter to Pride parades… because I want her to grow up with a broad understanding of the ways love and enjoyment of others can manifest.”

A beautiful watch with a beautiful sentiment: you’re worth celebrating for you.! Plus, Shinola is pledging $120,000 to the Ruth Ellis Center and SAGE in their home community of Detroit.

Pridefinder is a handy-dandy resource to help you find in-person and virtual pride events all around the globe. The IGLTA also has a global gay pride calendar, both equally useful if you’d like to travel or find an event locally.

In need of some underthings? Savage X Fenty is offering a Pride capsule collection that walks the walk. The collection was shot in Los Angeles entirely with individuals from the LGBTQ community, both in front of and behind the camera. They offer an inclusive size range of 30A-42H and XS-3X as well as small to XXXL, and a portion of the collection’s proceeds benefit five different organizations, including GLAAD. Yes and please!

If you’re in LA, the ONE Archives Foundation opens its “Pride Publics: Words and Actions” outdoor exhibition tomorrow! Free and accessible outdoor installations and a digital guide examine the intersections between pride and publicness, Expertly curated by multi-hyphenate Rubén Esparza, “the exhibition will examine themes central to queer public life and highlight trailblazers and their visions.”

And finally, some excellent nonprofits to consider donating towards:
Pride Foundation
The Trevor Project
The It Gets Better Project
SAGE Advocacy and Services for LGBT elders