Monday, July 31, 2017

Angel's Fright on Tahquitz Rock

Oops, it's the end of July. Here is another installment in A june that dreams were made of.

I'd known of the Tahquitz since early in my climbing career when I still lived in Los Angeles, but as a beginning climber with only sport climbing gear and experience, I was intimidated by this classic granite multipitch crag. After having led on gear in Red Rocks, Joshua Tree, Indian Creek, Donner Pass, and even at Owens River Gorge, it felt silly that I had not yet climbed at this "local" crag.

I met Leslie of Dynamite Starfish in Bishop during the Women's Climbing Festival in 2016. In a recent interview, Leslie reminded me that we met for the first time when I walked up alone and crashed her and her friends' bouldering session in the Buttermilks.

We met again at the WCF in Bishop this year (though I didn't have a ticket because my clicking fingers weren't fast enough), and further bonded over Los Angeles, making stuff, and the desire to trad climb. I knew that I would be in Los Angeles for writing workshops, so I contacted Leslie about climbing together in Tahquitz.

We met for a session at Hollywood Boulders, our only indoor-climbing experience together, and she told me she was interested in Angel's Fright, a 400-foot route on the West Face. Not too hard, not too long, good belay ledges. Yes, yes, yes, yes.

While I'm wary of making long drives for day trips, and especially ones with what seem like small objectives in the age of 3,000-foot long free solos, it's all a matter of scale.

In the days before the climb, the carbon-footprint conscious (also: anxious) part of me wondered whether it was silly to drive from Garden Grove to Riverside and then on to the San Jacinto Mountains for just a day trip. Leslie assured me that "daytrips to Tahquitz happen!" And in fact, that is how most climbers do it. So, on a Thursday morning, I woke at 5:30am, made coffee, and got myself on the road.

Getting to the base of Tahquitz climbs requires a 45-minute uphill hike, known in climbing terms as an "approach." I felt prepared to haul our rack and food and water up the hill after my recent years working as a backpacking instructor, but I tend toward the slow-and-steady. Thankfully, Leslie did not rush us.

A party of three got there before we did and so there was a bit of waiting as they got on their way. Leslie linked the first two pitches, which my 70-meter rope did not quite give comfortably. I had to simul-climb about 15 feet off the ground in order to get her to the belay ledge. Others had said that a 70-meter rope could make it; perhaps I just wasn't heavy enough to create the necessary rope stretch?
Racking up at the top of the second pitch. Taken by Leslie.
I had a difficult time sorting out the next pitch; I found myself crawling through spiky, gnarled trees unnecessarily and having to backtrack to get back on-route. Route-reading is one of the main parts of multi-pitch climbing that intimidate me, much more than the exposure or height. I found a shadier belay just 50 feet or so from where I began, so Leslie encouraged me to lead the final section, which included a slabby finger crack that I had a great time on.

It was a long day, with a lot more hiking than climbing, but so things go when starting out with a new skillset (and maybe also when you're in your 30s while doing so).
Summit haikus. Always check out the summit register!
It was amazing to go climbing with someone with whom I had so many shared values and relatable life experiences. I felt particularly grateful for our day together because I had just had a night of feeling, once again, great sadness and frustration from the divide between me and my immigrant parents, between what they wish for me and what I wish for myself.

I was close to canceling on Leslie, but then-- what would the day have held? Just more wallowing in negativity, guilt, frustration. Might as well make the drive, hike in the heat, climb with the sun's glare reflecting off the bright granite, stand on a summit, spend time among the pine trees. Most importantly, if I had stayed home, I would have missed some incredible conversations about all the things.

I drove back to my parents' house incredibly grateful for the experience. Kind of euphoric, actually. Connection is the best drug.

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Since that day, I've made good on my promise to myself to get out and climb, with recent bouldering trips to Mt. Tamalpais, Castle Peak, and Tuolumne. Looking forward to the weather cooling down and to getting on ropes again.

Friday, June 30, 2017

A June that dreams are made of // part 1

My spirit has been nourished to near-bursting this month.

A small attempt to capture it. 

Upon beginning to write this, I realized it would take two posts to even briefly talk about each of the things. So this is part one of two.

GirlVentures Staff & Sea Kayak Training

After having worked community courses and one summer course with GirlVentures since 2014, I was finally able to attend an official summer staff training in Point Reyes. We hiked to Sky Camp and Coast Camp, built relationships as a staff, practiced curriculum, and delved into discussions of equity and inclusion. Such conversations are not easy or comfortable, but it is wonderful to work with an organization where we can step into that discomfort and find support.

Another reason I love working with GirlVentures is their commitment to developing staff skills. The weekend after staff training, a number of staff were taken on an overnight sea kayaking trip in Tomales Bay, where we participated in an ACA Level 2 Coastal Kayak Touring Workshop. It was my first overnight paddling trip, and I was so nervous about it that I contemplated not going until the very last minute.

Being out on the water seems so unpredictable, and I'd never had to pack or dress for submersion before, so for the first time in a long time I was getting ready to do something completely new to me. It was a good reminder of how difficult trying new things can be and reaffirmed to me how amazing young people are to face new situations all the time.

TNP Wellness & Solidarity Workshops at Khmer Girls in Action 


I co-facilitated a series of writing workshops with tra for Southeast Asian youth at Khmer Girls in Action in Long Beach. To witness their stories, creativity, eloquence, and their commitment to justice and community was humbling and inspiring. I don't often get to work with Khmer youth and being part of the process of them giving themselves permission to tell and to explore their stories, to tell them that it is okay to make up spellings for Khmer words, to hear echoes of my own story in theirs, to have the opportunity to learn and grow with them-- I am beyond grateful for that.

I loved being able to learn from tra's presence and creativity in facilitation. To be reminded to let go of any insecurities I may have about my abilities, because facilitation is about the participants, not about me. That the job is not to perform, but to listen and to elicit. To draw forth the story. To give authentic responses, to encourage.

Some of them will be sharing their writing at KGA's 20th Anniversary Gala tonight. I'm so excited for them and wish I could be there.

Queer Road Trip with Audrey Kuo at Tuesday Night Cafe

Audrey and I do not usually write or perform with other people, but were invited to do a set together for the June 20th Tuesday Night Cafe. A major event in our friendship was the roadtrip they agreed to take with me to Lander, Wyoming for my NOLS fellowship in 2014. For our set, we decided to make up a podcast called Queer Road Trip to tell the story of that journey and to share the great tenderness we've nourished in our friendship.

We shared "A Minute of Tenderness," during which we took turns sharing things that made us feel tender.

The weekend prior saw the murders of Charleena Lyles and Nabra Hassanen, more tragedy to add the never ending list of tragedy. In our set, we created an altar for Charleena and Nabra and invited everyone to speak the names of those lost to police brutality, to racism, to anti-blackness, to transphobia, to islamophobia.

We invited our dear friend t.k. lê to the stage to share her poetry with us. We spoke of grief, of mourning, of rage, and of possibility, of hope, of joy.

Five years after I moved out of LA, Tuesday Night Cafe still feels like home. I'm so grateful.


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To be continued.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Spring Craft Fair at Temescal Brewing, May 20, 12-6PM

I intended to participate in a craft fair supporting Friends of the Oakland Public School Libraries back in December, but a car accident kept me in Los Angeles that week.

Luckily, Stephanie of Monarch kindly invited me again to participate in a craft fair fundraiser, this time at Temescal Brewing!

I have a great love for libraries, which have been a home for me from childhood to my present days wandering in different towns and cities. I'm looking forward to supporting the organization, meeting other makers, and inviting folks to #touchmypottery. 

My desire to have folks handle my pots before taking them home is not scalable in this online-shopping-loving world, but it feels right to me to work this way. And, as I've said before, even when not "making a living," I somehow continue to be alive.
All the practical matters somehow fall into place. And as I get older, those practical matters pull more and more at my consciousness, making me wonder whether I'm doing it all wrong, whether this path is hopeless. Yet I also know that the only way to find out whether something can work, whether something can exist, is to try and make it so.

So, here goes.
Craft Fair
fundraiser for Oakland Public School Libraries

May 20, 12-6pm
Temescal Brewing
4115 Telegraph (look for the pink side door)

Vendors:








Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Super Sixy Soda Firing

Please excuse the hasty post. I'll be traveling in less than 8 hours and I wanted to get a quick post in-- I'm trying to post at least once a month here this year. It shouldn't be as challenging as it is. I was so prolific at the beginning of my bloggery.

I'll share more details about this firing eventually-- a cone 6 soda firing, where I attempted to salvage an IMC clay body called Sculpture Freckle by firing it to a lower temperature. Alas, the high ilmenite content means that this clay has a hard time getting along with the high reduction firings I like to do. I think I'll use the big I have left as a slip, though. The surface it created (which you can sort of see in the images) are kind of wild and resemble cast iron or cooled lava.

In reality, this firing may have gotten as hot as cone 8; it's hard to tell, as once soda ash is introduced to the kiln, the pyrometric cones diminish in accuracy.





Thursday, February 9, 2017

I don't make a living but apparently, I'm still alive. // Selling pottery this weekend

Flyer for this weekend's pop-up.

A couple of weeks ago, I had the following exchange:

New friend: Do you make a living from your ceramics?
Me: No... I don't really make a living. Turns out I'm still alive.

It's a statement I laugh at, but it has real relevance today. Our technological advances have necessitated a reimagining of work and of life and of economy that we haven't really engaged. I live outside of many of those norms, but I still have to negotiate rent and debt.

I agreed to have a pop up at Kostüm this weekend because

1) I was flattered to be asked
2) I have a lot of pottery that I'd like to to be out in the world being enjoyed instead of crowding together on my shelves and in boxes
3) I need to make a lot of pots to be as good at making pots as I would like to be, so more will be coming soon
4) I was raised and still live under capitalism.

What do we really need to stay alive? What's the value of an hour? What would we make and how would we feel if we could focus on the difficulty of feeling?

Okay, I'll pause the abstract thinking.

I'm really happy that I'm beginning to build relationships with POC-owned businesses in Oakland, because ultimately what it's all about is relationships with people, and how intimately intertwined our survival is.

Below is a repost of some questions I answered for Kostüm's blog.

The pop up is Saturday and Sunday, February 11-12, 1:00-6:00pm.

Address:
4020 Piedmont Avenue
Oakland, CA 94611

Access notes:
Kostum is located on the groundfloor, has a tight layout that may be difficult for a wheelchair to navigate. Store uses Glade plug-in air fresheners.

***I'll have a Square reader to take credit cards, but cash and Venmo are also welcome. If you are a maker and haven't started a Square account yet, use this referral link to give us both free transactions.

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1. What do you do for work?

My usual answer to this question is “this and that.” Since 2014, I’ve worked seasonally as an outdoor educator, teaching young people wilderness skills from day-hiking to backpacking to rock climbing. It’s taken me from Pinnacles National Park in our own backyard to the Gila Wilderness in New Mexico to the Southern Talkeetna Mountains in Alaska. I’m also a freelance video and audio transcriptionist. I’ve been able to work on footage for some incredible projects, the first of which was American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs, way back in 2009. I also recently joined the Bridges Rock Gym staff and am excited to deepen my relationship with their community.

 2. How did you get to this point in your career?

Before 2014, I worked primarily in nonprofit administration. My gateway to becoming an outdoor educator was a program called Girlz Climb On, run by San Francisco-based GirlVentures. I was a volunteer mentor in the 10-week program, then worked as their part-time Admissions Associate, and then the Program Director at the time invited me to be an instructor on a 4-day backpacking course in Point Reyes in 2014. I was hooked. (Enrollment in Girlventures’ summer programs is starting now, by the way! They have courses for 5th to 12th graders.) I took my first ceramics class at Laney College in 2014, using the Segal Education Award I received after serving as a Los Angeles Public Ally 2011-2012. While this path is not easy, I must acknowledge the privilege I have as an able-bodied, cisgender, college-educated person whose parents do not depend on me financially, which affords me more mental and emotional space to manage this life.

 3. What are you passionate about?

 The idea of intimacy— with objects, processes, people. Nurturing interdependence. Supporting folks in articulating and actualizing their desires and possibilities.

4. What feeds you creatively? (If different than number 3)

Coffee!!!
Conversation.
Observation.
Quiet contemplation.

5. What is one of your favorite aspects of Oakland (or area of the Bay in which you live)?

I love the smallness of Oakland, which is a contrast to the sprawl of Southern California where I grew up. To be able to move is a privilege I don’t take lightly, and I’m grateful for the people around me with whom I can grapple with questions of displacement and gentrification— familiar questions to me from my 5 years in Downtown Los Angeles.

6. How do you feel most connected to Oakland (whether it’s the people, culture, environment, etc.)?

I love that there is a large community of queer and trans people of color here. I love the energy around political and social engagement that exists here, the sense that many people are in active investigation of what might be possible to make our world more just. And that there are many people who, like me, cobble together lives of “this and that” and art and activism.

7. How is fashion a part of your daily life?

My aesthetic for daily wear is on the scruffier side. I love wool sweaters and comfortable jeans. My hiking boots make foot travel around Oakland’s concrete much more bearable. I’m tempted to attribute my scruffiness to being a climber and outdoor educator, but I was scruffy long before those activities came into my life. When it comes to clay or chapbooks, I have strong feelings about proportions, texture, lighting, angles, curves. I meander through Instagram quite a bit for inspiration (daily… hourly…) and take note of what seem to be aesthetic trends in pottery and also in poetry. Some of it is similar to what I like to make and write, and some of it vastly different. There is so much wonderful work being made in the world.

8. What do you hope Kostümers walk away with after seeing or purchasing your poetry and/or pottery?

Simply put, I hope they feel good after seeing, touching, and/or bringing my work home. I’ve found such magic and healing in making; I hope they’re inspired to make things with their own hands if they don’t already. I hope that they’ll perhaps find new or greater value in what they do make, whether it’s art or craft or food.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Beyond Gratitude

A recent headline states "Forty-one years ago, the US took a big gamble on Vietnamese refugees."

This gratitude narrative makes me ill.

Accepting refugees is this country's responsibility.

I likely would not exist if my parents had not come to the US-- AND US foreign policy caused them to be refugees.

Highlighting economic successes achieved by refugees in this country is a distraction from the broad impact of US imperialism and its war economy.  It feeds into the colorism and anti-blackness that we must actively work against. The model minority myth is used to pit Asians against black and brown communities when what we need is solidarity.

People survive as best they can according to what white supremacy and colonization have allowed them.


If it were possible, I would trade my existence in a second for my parents to not have gone through the horrors that they did.

I can be thankful for my life and my loved ones and still hold this government accountable for what it's done and for what it does.

Our country has entered a new era of constant urgency and protest. This is an opportunity to shift our perspectives, to deeply examine history, and to investigate a new way forward.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Let Today Be A Beginning

I am worn down. Weary. Wary.

For various reasons, I am not out in the streets as I would like to be.

I know that I am not alone in this. Whether for physical, mental, emotional, or economic health reasons, there are many of us not out there.

But there are things to do, still, from where we are.

Today, I am lessening my consumption of social media. My internet time has spiked in these last months, as I've sought for communication, information, comfort. Also, coping in the form of sob/laugh-inducing memes.

It is hard to ignore all of the input, all that is floating through the air, all the bytes and images and tweets and messages and articles. It is hard not to engage.

Social media has both enriched my ability to engage with the world, and stifled it. It has allowed me to stay in touch with friends across long and painful distances. It has allowed me to make new connections. And it has also invited trolls into my life (e.g., this exchange over Twitter, which is the perfect medium for non-communication and antipathy) about the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

A few pieces of media that have provided me fortitude in these times:

13TH by Ava DuVernay. A documentary covering the history of the 13th Amendment and how it abolished slavery “except as punishment for a crime,” and how those words were a loophole through which the criminalization and mass incarceration of black and brown bodies were set into play. The same economic—that is, capitalist— imperative that created slavery is what has millions of people in prison today, where there is massive exploitation of inmates and their non-incarcerated loved ones. Watch this, and challenge socialized assumptions about crime, drugs policies, economics, and our punitive system.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I am late to this one. Published in 2013, it is a beautifully written novel that observes race relations in America and England through the eyes of Nigerian immigrants Ifemulu and Obinze, respectively. It is a love story. It gives insight into the experience of the African diaspora, being undocumented in England, and describes an immigrant experience that resonated with me immensely as part of the Khmer diaspora. The most engrossing read I’ve had in a very long time.

An Open Letter to My Sister, Miss Angela Davis by James Baldwin. Written after Newseek published an issue with Angela Davis in chains on the cover. I was directed to this by a friend. Written in 1970, it is chilling (yet unsurprising) how relevant the letter remains today:
“The will of the people, in America, has always been at the mercy of an ignorance not merely phenomenal, but sacred, and sacredly cultivated: the better to be used by a carnivorous economy which democratically slaughters and victimizes whites and blacks alike. But most white Americans do not dare admit this (though they suspect it) and this fact contains mortal danger for the blacks and tragedy for the nation.”
Last night I came across the video below of Valarie Kaur at a Watch Night Service on New Year’s Eve. I watched it again this morning. It contains a story that needs to be known, a mourning for what is coming to pass, and a message of hope and strength for what's next.

At some point the feeling in my chest now will lessen from its pounding anxiety to a dull murmur.

I’ll be at home this weekend-- and I'll be making, writing, sharing.

I posted this status on election night: Tomorrow, let yourself make something. Beautiful or ugly, whatever. Remind yourself it's possible to change the world.

As difficult as these times are, the worst thing is the false belief that there is nothing we can do.
No matter what, we'll keep going.

I want today to be a beginning.

A day when I begin to focus more fiercely on loving acts for the people around me, the people within arms’ reach, the people who may not be physically near but are incredibly dear to my heart.

I have to start at this touchable scale, and to believe in my ability to grow from there.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

New Year, New Chapbook, New Shop

It appears that I never wrote about completing from somewhere along the way, my 2015 collection of writing. Better late than never?

make / mend came into the world on December 31, 2016.

Since 2013, I haven't finished a chapbook earlier than December. A part of me scoffs at the fact that I clearly procrastinated, and another part of me is relieved that I've actually met my annual chapbook goal, albeit by the skin of my teeth.

I also opened an online shop, with all of my chapbooks from past years on it, at discounted prices. I may include my pottery on it someday, but for now they are objects I believe need to be touched before they are purchased.

The last weeks of the year were stressful, with an unplanned return to car-free life (a somewhat inaccurate description because I still have access to friends' cars), and with the impending sense of doom hanging over the coming administration. Our government has never felt, in my lifetime, as blatantly corrupt as it does now. My illusions of America as the land of the free have been stripped away and replaced with a painful awareness of how ruthless capitalism is, and how deadly it is, interwoven with structural racism and neocolonialism.


And yet, the mundanity of life, for many of us, carries on. There are banks and businesses and manufacturers some are trying to stay away from moreso than before.

Those of us who fear for ourselves and our communities are each trying our best to do what we can in the face of what's to come.

It is strange, this feeling that terrible changes are taking place, but that the concerns of rent money, how to support myself, my community, and, someday, my aging parents, are still very much present. It feels like we are fighting for our survival, and at the same time, life does not feel so much different.

There is a sinking feeling in the air, we are wary of the coming administration-- and the fact that this country has not encountered this situation before. Another country meddling in our election rather than the other way around. A reality show figure elected despite the many marks against his character.

Is this what it feels like to live under a failing government?

Meanwhile, I am trying to cultivate change, in what small ways I can. Gardening projects. Making pots. Writing.

To be honest, it sounds a bit ridiculous.