To ignite, pull, & heal
Dispatch #21: Replace the men
One of the things I love most about my neighborhood is all of the little free book libraries. For those that have never heard of such a quaint thing, little free book libraries are mailbox-like structures in front of certain homes. The public constantly fills & empties them of books, magazines, how-to guides, & more. Depending on how frequented a little free book library is, it may have a totally different array of goods week to week. Each one in my neighborhood has a different “personality”; one attracts novels, travel guides, & literary journals. Another is kid-specific. Another remains emptier, with only the occasional science textbook. My favorite one is the first I mentioned. It leans on the experimental, the vintage, the odd. When we’re out for a walk, when Odyssey spots this particular one, he knows to pause for me to rummage.
Last month I found Richard Hittleman’s Yoga 28 Day Exercise (1969) in there; the step-by-step instructional photographs were too good to leave behind. I didn’t know what exactly I’d use the book for, just that I needed it. This week I found the most recent issue of The Surfer’s Journal. Flipping through its pages, with the dog tied to my wrist, those yummy, dense waves whispered one thing: collage. I couldn’t wait to tear up those pages, leaving white streaks almost like sea foam.
During a quiet moment that same afternoon, I lay down to first read the issue. I’m not exactly an avid surfer. I’ve surfed two or so times. But the experiences were profound. The 1st time, in California, I encountered a surprise sea lion & had a deep spiritual exchange. The 2nd time, in Hawaii, I was encouraged by a local to go wayyyyyy out of my depth & ended up surfing in ten foot waves. The thrill was that I caught what felt like a 30 mph wave & rode it on my knees (as if devout) all the way back to shore. The bummer was that I had nightmares for weeks after, unable to shake how terrifying the whole ordeal had been.
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I flipped the pages of this very slick & beautiful journal, excited to see what this sport’s high-risk, high-reward participants & writers could teach me. As I flipped & read I noticed myself growing aggravated. I was mostly seeing men. In the same week where the entire world watched Spanish soccer federation president Luis Rubiales non-consensually kiss soccer player Jenni Hermoso moments after her World Cup win, I felt beyond tired. Despite the documented non-consensual kiss (can we just call it sexual harassment?) Rubiales has refused to resign, instead calling the kiss, “spontaneous, mutual, euphoric and consensual.” The entire Spanish coaching staff (except for their heard coach, which is a misogynist story for another time) resigned in unwavering support of Hermoso. It enrages me that Hermoso has had to endure advocating against sexual harassment when she should be celebrating a lifetime achievement. Being confronted by the invisibility of women in the pages of that glossy, gorgeous magazine, that same rage bubbled up inside me.
I’m not sure if all art is a response to a rupture, but much of mine is. There’s an event, which causes an emotion too large & unwieldy to be easily expressed, so it calcifies. What I can’t language sits, fermenting inside me. It may ferment for days, years, or decades.
Then it will hit me.
Days later, Angel & I prepped for a massive house clean. But before we dove into our Sunday clean, I felt a creative impulse. I took out Hittleman’s Yogis & stared at the stunning symphony of flexible women. I took out The Surfer’s Journal, & looked out on man after man catching wave after wave. I sat at my desk, holding my materials, being with the feelings that arose. That’s when it hit me. In a blur, I started cutting & gluing, my mission clear:
Replace the men.
(Behind the paywall is an exclusive detailed look at the collage series, including ‘Hibiscus Jane’s Traveling Surf Choir & Etiquette Parlor,’ & a prompt based on my creative process.)
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