Aug 5, 2009

Chrysaora fuscescens

Last week I went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. I might lost myself for a bit while watching some male seahorses tether themselves to seaweed fronds and each other, nuzzling their very pregnant bellies together. But for the most part, I was able to keep my wits about me until I came upon the lit tank of Pacific Sea Nettles.

I love jellyfish. As I knelt inches from the glass, watching their pulsing and undulating forms move through my field of vision, I began to feel as though my heart was filling with a mysterious fluid and beginning a slow rise up through my throat. I began to drown from the inside out.

I knelt there for so long that one of my shoes broke. I had the vague sense at some point that it would be good idea for me to leave, but didn’t feel I had any command over the strange mammalian, land-dwelling body that I found surrounding me.

As I began to breathe myself back, I felt at once a deep sense of belonging to the earth and also a profound sense of being alien, ethereal. What were the odds that I would get such a chance—to inhabit this place—in this way—and alongside such creatures? I watched the jellyfish and understood that they were very much doing their job of performing the curious and delicate mystery of being alive on this planet. And this, in turn, made me want to do my respective job on the other side of the glass just as beautifully.

To be of the earth and to be human is an incidence so rare, so random, so fragile, and so precious that it warrants only one possible response from us: to do it well.

Aug 3, 2009

Closet Jock Steps Out

I feel in some strange respect that today was the day I made final peace with my own inner jock. If there is no other way to know for sure, I am going to openly write here about my deepest darkest secret-jock secret, which is my love of the indoor rock climbing gym.

Perhaps it’s become a little easier with age. When I first moved to the Bay Area, my current roommate and I occasionally fronted to friends we ran into on weekends that we had just woken up—like normal gays in their early twenties would have—rather than admitting that already by lunchtime we had woken to consume something made in a champion juicer and ridden bikes for several hours in the Oakland hills.

When my roommate and I began regularly wearing bike shorts, we could not longer pretend we were some bike punks who had decided to meander around a bit beyond our point to point business. Then we moved in together and developed a special “camping crate” that would be ready to go at 5pm on Fridays, and finally fully embraced the title of ‘weekend warriors,’ if only privately.

These days it’s hard to predict what lefty or post-punk queer or random hipster I might run into in a spinning class. My secret-jock life has been not-so-secret for a long time, partly because I do a poor job of concealing it, but also because the juice that makes for a secret expires as my peers begin to think more about self-care strategies in their own lives.

So today when this woman asked to interview me about my membership at the rock gym for her cultural anthropology class, I wonder why I found myself prefacing every response I gave her with some disclaimer about being totally liminal to the culture of the climbing gym. The fact was, I had woken up at 8am on a weekend to “beat the crowd” at the climbing gym. More importantly, this is far from extraordinary in my life. So why did I find myself explaining my own misgivings with my secret sporty side to a random woman who already was so excited about the rock climbing gym that she felt compelled to do some sort of bizarre research project on it?

The whole thing is so absurd, I can only see this strange interview as an opportunity to recognize and perhaps purge some of my own internalized jock-phobia. So to answer one of her questions and come out of the closet:

I own more than one pair of sport-specific footwear. I love indoor rock climbing. And I really love bicycling. They have done nothing but provide me with opportunities for enjoyment, growth, and presence and in return I have refused to acknowledge our bond in other important areas of my life. Worse, I think historically this had to do with a need to disidentify with things that are lesbionic (or otherwise unhip) and this is unacceptable.

I love climbing and bicycling not just for giving me the chance to move my body, but I love them because of what they teach me about my body in relation to the world. Both lend me a new perspective on dimension—on the surfaces of my habitat and the way my body is placed within them and can potentially interact with them.

Rock climbing and bicycling make me highly aware that the world has texture to it, and so fundamentally shift the way I experience what it means to move in the world (I imagine some people feel this way about their iphones). They teach me there is complexity at every scale of observation—that however I try to move through my days here, there is always enough to pay attention to--always things worth noticing and showing up for, fingers outstretched, heart open.

Next, I am going for dual-element sporting. I am going to windsurf. I am super excited and I'm not taking any shit for it.