domingo, 30 de noviembre de 2008

More from Mexico

Washing Clothes in the River
When was it? I don’t know if it was one time or many times that I washed clothes in a river on the rocks; the women around me expertly pressing their weight down, rubbing and slapping the fabric against the stone surface. Or did I just watch so intently that I felt I was doing it, or perhaps there were many times I was remembering the time when I had done it, and it all blended together. Whatever the case, it has been a part of me for almost as long as I can remember: the sensation of slapping wet garments down on flat rocks in a part of the river where the current is not too strong; wringing them by hand, and making piles of the twisted garments all ready to hang.

Singing to the Moon
Somewhere in Mexico on a balmy night, we were traveling miles and miles down a highway through a brightly lit moonlit landscape. I gazed up from my window in the back of the van where I sat with my legs tucked up under me, gazing at the full moon and softly under my breath I began to sing to her in the most poetic words I could think of, song after song, mile after mile. I imagine I sang of her silver face, her resemblance to a pearl, her soft light illuminating dreams...

La Tortillería
Nearly every morning, early, Agueda and I went to the tortillería just down the street to buy fresh corn tortillas. The aroma of fresh tortillas and the sound of the machinery in motion greeted us long before we entered the shop. I marveled at how the tortillas went up the creaking metal interlinked heavy gage wire conveyor belt into an oven where they were obscured from view and came out the other side and down where they were gathered up by the awaiting assistant who asked how many tortillas each of us in the gathering crowd wanted. Señora, tres dozenas, sí?, Tres docenas aquí y una media docena acá, and they were delivered into our awaiting woven tortilla basket lined with one of the colorful bleached muslin cloths we had embroided just for the purpose. They were passed out as fast as they came of the belt; and everyone scurried away as quickly as they had come with their little package or basketful of hot tortillas.

Embroidering on the Porch
Often in the late afternoon or early evening in the long warm days of summer, we women, Agueda, her daughter, and me and sometimes another relative or friend, would gather on her porch facing the street and chat and embroider. It was here in these gregarious afternoons that I learned to the ancient art of stitching handed down through the feminine lineage. I learned the running stitch, the vine stitch, the chain stitch, the blanket stitch, the French knot, the satin stitch, and the cross stitch. These were all that I needed to fill in the drawings of flowers and vines pulled taut on the wooden embroidery hoop. I was usually embroidering a cloth to wrap tortillas in to keep them warm. We bought the hoops, the fabric, and the thread at the local Mercado on Thursdays where Agueda let me choose my designs from amidst all of those in the stall hanging on display or piled high; she let me choose the color of my thread too. She had a favorite stand for buying the hilo. As we stitched, I would sometimes get distracted chatting and laughing and when I got up, on more than one occasion, I had sewn my embroidery to my dress. Agueda patiently snipped it free, helped me to pull the threads free of the cloth leaving the leaf or flower ready to stitch again. No harm done.

lunes, 24 de noviembre de 2008

More Stories from Cholula

Morning Routine

La limpieza y el orden were guiding principals for the way Agueda organized her life and that of those around her. Every morning when it was time to shower she made sure I did not just lather up, but also scoured my skin from head to foot with a rough rounded stone half the size of my palm. Often she did it for me, it felt sometimes like it was taking the top layer of my skin away while I turned a rosy pink from head to foot in contrast with the hard white tile. After my shower, she would do my hair. She sat me down in front of and old fashioned mirrored dresser and combed my hair until all hints of snarls were gone. She then gathered my hair all together in her hand and pulled it back into a pony tail making sure not a single strand or wisp escaped her grip, once secured with elastic held in place by bright round hair bobbles, she pulled the hair even tauter, till it hurt; then she smoothed the hair again with the comb and began to apply copious amounts of hair spray pumped by a black round rubber bulb squeezed between her fingers. The hair on my head acquired a hard texture, thus ensuring that not even so much as a hair would find its way loose during the course of the day.

Agueda’s Sala

Agueda’s sala was sacrosanct space; no one was allowed in it during the day. All of the furniture was encased in clear plastic to preserve it and for easy cleaning. The TV was an old style wooden console that sat against one wall decorated with embroidered doilies. In the evening we would enter the living room and under her observant eye and watch TV. I marveled at how the actors could actually have gotten inside the TV screen. I hypothesized that before we came into the room in the evening, they stealthily opened up the back and of the TV and got in and that then they either shrunk in size once they were in there so they would fit or that perhaps there was some dimensional shift once they entered the TV and that they were able to walk far back so they looked smaller.

Café con leche y pan dulce

Just before bedtime Agueda and I would enjoy a quiet moment in her kitchen at the back of the house and drinking café con leche, which was much more leche than café. The café amounted to just enough Nescafé to flavor the hot milk, served up on a brightly colored cup and saucer. She also laid out pan dulce we had ceremoniously picked out and placed on our tray with metal tongs at the neighborhood panadería. My favorite was the concha de chocolate which is a rounded roll about six inches in diameter decorated with a shell-patterned topping of flour, sugar, shortening and chocolate. I imitated her actions, breaking the bread and dipping it in the hot liquid, savoring it in my mouth for a moment, sucking the liquid from the bread, before sipping the café con leche to wash it down.

Bedtime Prayers

Every Summer, almost as soon as I arrived, Agueda gave me a brown scapular on a satin cord with the image of El Sagrado Corazón y un santo like San Martín de Porres inside to wear around my neck inside my clothes. She repeated this ritual of the escapulario every time I came to stay with her. She made sure I was protectegida in this way. También se aseguró I knew how to kneel down and pray by the side of my bed before tucking me in for the night. She taught me how to address the La Virgen, Madre de Dios and Jesus for blessing and divine intercession for family and loved ones. When my mother was sick two years ago, I learned, this is a gift and an art you can use when there is nothing else left to do.

domingo, 23 de noviembre de 2008

Primera Comunión: One Story, Three Narrations

I stood on Agueda’s porch in Cholula listening to the peel of the church bells announcing the passage of teams of girls with gleaming hair and freshly starched white dresses with frilly lace, transparent taffeta, frothy ruffles, and crinoline slips catecismos y rosarios in hand, streaming towards the cathedral. Agueda told me they were going for primera comunión. I was transfixed by the tide of girls in the prettiest dresses imaginable. Their freshly scoured skin shone brightly under a swath of Crema Nívea. There was excitement in the air—- how I longed to be parading with them through the streets on the way to such an important event.

I am standing on Agueda's porch in Cholula, listening to the peel of the church bells announcing the passage of teams of girls with gleaming hair and freshly starched white dresses with frilly lace, transparent taffeta, frothy ruffles, and crinoline slips, catecismos y rosarios in hand, streaming towards the cathedral. Agueda tells me they are going for primera comunión. I am transfixed by the tide of girls in the prettiest dresses imaginable. Their freshly scoured skin shines brightly under a swath of Crema Nívea. There is excitement in the air-- how I long to be parading with them through the streets on the way to such an important event.

Agueda, Agueda, a dónde van tantos niños? I ask as I watch and am transfixed by the peel of the church bells of Cholula Dong, dong, dong... and by the streams of girls with gleaming hair and freshly starched white dresses with frilly lace, transparent taffeta, frothy ruffles, and crinoline slips, catecismos y rosarios in hand, streaming towards the cathedral. Van a primera comunión, she says with admiration. I stand motionless on Agueda's porch. I can't pull my eyes away from the street that is awash in girls in the prettiest dresses imaginable. I marvel, como les brilla piel, and I remember the Crema Nívea from the shallow round blue can, that Agueda applied to my skin just that morning. My heart pounds, quiero ser como ellas llendo a un evento tan importante.

martes, 18 de noviembre de 2008

Thoughts on Masks

Last week Paulo Coehlo in his discussion group on Facebook introduced the topic of Masks, inviting his readers to share in the exploration. This, on heels of some of my own personal praxis, prompted me to articulate some of my thoughts. Only a few weeks ago I created a mask as part of a costume for dance piece; the with the aura of Halloween in the air, I attended a costume party, went to a Halloween Night celebration in San Francisco and the following day, performed at a dance evening hosted in the South Bay-- all of which involved masks.

It seems to me that all of us are filled with a multiplicity of facets and characters we play out in different ways, most often unconsciously, and sometimes simultaneously and or in quick alternation-- the mask is a great tool of self revelation: to make this inner drama explicit, to make the implicit and unseen visible and therefore conscious. Through exploration, we can then begin to see the characters within characters and the mask that resides behind the mask. The mask can aid us in bringing a particular facet of ourselves claimed or unclaimed into the spotlight of our awareness.

A few months ago, I participated in an exercise led by Daria Halprin at the Tamalpa Institute that demonstrated these very principles: the facets, as well as the "onion" principal of mask within masks or masks behind masks. We were asked to embody on our face different emotions and then to explore what emotion was behind it. If the current mask we wear is sadness, in the game of masks it becomes natural to inquire, what is behind the sadness? If serenity is behind the sadness, what is behind it? And how does each aspect move? The naturally arising insight is that if we embody and embrace our masks we come to know our own story and the play of our emotions through these aspects of ourselves in a deeper way, with this knowing, our empathy and recognition of others grows deeper.

As pointed out in Paulo Coehlo’s discussion group, Make-up can be another type of mask. Some have pointed out it can be used to conceal, protect, disguise and deceive; but, it can also be about celebration of the natural beauty of the body, to create drama, a character for exploration, or a way to play to create new contexts outside of the quotidian familiar ego states.

Outlining the eyes so their shape and color and luster is accentuated is a celebration and an artistic expression; taken to greater extremes, it can imbue the wearer with a resemblance to a goddess or to a bird or a lion. And with the lips-- a deepening of the color and an outline bring more attention to their role on the face: speaking, kissing, pouting... By accentuating the features of the face, a whole dimension of messaging and communication is opened up. By adding more artistic embellishment, a vista of metaphors and the imagination is opened up. This gives adults a context for play, through theater, dance, costume parties, or other ceremonial occasions.

The mask can be used to free up the psyche, so we can explore and reveal real aspects of ourselves. By taking ourselves out of a mundane state of awareness, we can open up our psychic range of movement. The mask can heighten awareness and bring out the vitality of the human capacity to play in order to learn about our universe! I believe one of the many reasons adult learning slows so much is that they stop playing, a primary mode of human discovery!

Masks can be used to conceal and protect or to reveal. By using masks to create a ceremonial, playful or theatrical context, it can make it safe to explore some aspects of ourselves that otherwise might seem too threatening. The emotions themselves can be seen as a mask. Each emotion is revealing, but concealed behind it is yet another layer, another mask. Is there an ultimate “true self”, an ultimate truth, or does the truth lie in the continual play and revelation of itself? Masks may be personal, transpersonal, cultural or universal; expressed in something as common as make-up or as particularly contextualized as a Kachina dancer. Masks may serve to explore the interface between the archetypal and the personal and to open the realm of play.

[Images of masks from Masks of the World.]

lunes, 17 de noviembre de 2008


Last week in Soto's Monday night class, we were asked to come up with three unique movement qualities while attaching "text" to each one. First quality was a slow sustained movement, the next quality was something of our own invention to contrast with that movement, and finally we were to choose a part of the body to lead the third movement and tell a story about an injury we sustained as a child. I was fascinated with the text some of the participants came up. Feeling on the spot, my narratives, apart from the story of the injury were abstract, about a sleeping octopus and "la luz que se separó del cielo". But after the class, my mind began to race to all kinds of vignettes or storylines or "text", if you like, from different times in my life. I put some of them down in writing... the following are a few:

I was just learning to ride my brand new green bicycle. My father held on the back to give me stability and pushed me along very slowly. Just as I was finding my balance and we were going very smoothly, he gave the bicycle a little push. I held tightly to the handle bars, careening out of control, wobbling as I went, but heading directly and inexorably for an "oncoming" tree at the side of the road. I hit the tree head on and fell to ground sustaining scrapes and bruises and feeling very shaken by the heretofore unrecognized magnetic power of trees.


For a week I was offered no water, only pulque. I lived in a tarpaper shack, the walls carefully papered with the colored pages of newpapers and magazines and held in place with nails hammered through bottle caps. Outside this shack, this home, I remember tall maguey cactuses. Tengo sed, tengo sed, ¡quiero agua! Por favor quiero agua, I pled. Only to be told, Ten, esto es agua, but I knew it wasn’t. It was pulque.


My mother told me stories of ravens, of seals, of mountain lions, and of the sea, and of the wind and of the trees. These were her favorite stories. She told me about the time a raven guided her out of the thickest dense fog on some rural highway in Mexico. She told me about the seal who, as she walked along the water’s edge, swam along with her just off shore. She told me about the tree whose life she saved by touching it and talking it daily. I think they saved each other again and again.


And I went to Ceci’s house. Ceci, ¿dónde está mi muñeca? ¿Cómo que no sabes? ¿Dónde la tienes? Dámela. Seguro que la tienes. I had never been to Ceci’s house. It was dark, it felt damp. The floors were scattered with toys and clothes. Somewhere in a pile de cosas revueltas, I found my doll without her head.


I am not from any place. I am not from here, and not from there. I am not Mexican; I am from any place in the United States. I can never be from anyplace because I never had a home. I didn’t even have a family. I come from the road, from some interstate highway between the East Coast and the West Coast, between the Southwest and the South, between Mexico and the United States, between Mexico and Guatemala, from some highway on isthmus of Tehuantepec, some highway in the highlands of Guatemala, I come from some highway I can barely remember or was I left on some highway I can barely remember, lost there in the hours of monotony.


Mano, oye mano, vamos a nadar, ¿sabes nadar?, ¿sabes cómo se hace?, se mueve las patas así, sí así, y los brazos, oye mano, a ver si sabe nadar Fred. Fred, Fred, [chiflando], ven Fred. She dove in. She kept her head above the water, paddling her way to the side with the most miserable, worried and betrayed expression in her eyes. From then on my dog Fred was terrified of the water. To this day, when I recall her eyes at that moment when she hit the water and could not touch bottom, I feel the weight of having betrayed her trust.


When he offered me the seat beside him, with a gesture of his hand, it opened up like the most inviting, like the safest place, like a place I could be and be safe and cared for, a place from with to greet the world. I thought it meant that I could trust him. I thought it meant that I could relax. I thought it meant so many things.

domingo, 16 de noviembre de 2008

Bucovina Dance Video

Artist's Statement for SMA Show

Colores de San Miguel de Allende
May 2008

I take photographs as a way of celebrating the visual world: an inquiry into place-- what elements are essential to that place?

Bright color and spontaneous creativity is a staple of daily traditional Mexican life. This was a part of my childhood and so I feel I “know” it in a special way. I believe that if we allow ourselves to be moved by the visual moment, we can come closer to the object of our attention, immersing ourselves as fully as possible with it, channeling it and even becoming it.

Color and hand-crafted materials are powerful expressions of the soul; this is what makes cultures that are closer to their traditions and less mechanized enchantingly nourishing. This kind of visual and sensorial nourishment can stir me up into a kind of rampant ecstasy which was the case during my six-day stay in San Miguel de Allende in late May of 2008.

I reveled in the color, texture, architectural detail, and the patina left by layers of time that naturally imbues these pictures with a sense of aesthetic and temporal depth. Mexico’s own historic depth, is a palpable presence here, expressed in a rainbow riot of indigenous hues— a mouthwatering color like crimson-orange papaya makes me long to dive deeply into its luscious strength.

My subject turns repeatedly to elements that convey a sense of place and reflect my desire to construct an inner sense of a stimulating spatial location with colors and texture, and with the brick, concrete, stucco and adobe that are linked to vital memories of my childhood.

I used a Nikon D80 with the Nikkor 18-200mm lens with stabilization.
The prints are printed on an Epson printer using archival quality pigment-based Ultrachrome inks. They are printed on Epson Velvet fine art paper; All are matted with 100% rag museum-grade matt board.

Enjoy the show!

Photographer: Lauren Wolfman
Price: All framed photographs are $225-$235 (depending on frame style) + tax. Also available matted only for $185.00. Finished matted images measure 18x24”. 15% discount available if you purchase more than one.
Contact email:
View images on web: San Miguel de Allende 2008

viernes, 7 de noviembre de 2008

martes, 4 de noviembre de 2008

La dama del sueño de obsidiana

La muerte me vino a visitar
Me dijo, yo te tengo algo que contar.
Pero yo le dije, Muertecita, yo no te quiero escuchar.
Ay, pero yo te tengo algo que contar--
Muertecita, Muertecita, Muertecita,
yo no te quiero escuchar
mi vida yo no la quiero dejar.
Ay amor, tarde o temprano, todos se dejan amar.

Y por el río el viento pasó
agitando la cabellera de los árboles.
Hija mía, hija mía, hija mía—
cantaban, arrullándome con sus quedos aullidos, tarde o temprano,
Todos se rinden a los encantos de la dama de la noche,
de la dama del sueño de obsidiana.

domingo, 2 de noviembre de 2008

Anastasia & Phaedra's Dance Night

November 1, on a pitch black night, through the driving rain, in which the only illumination was that of headlights and sheets of rain that shimmered in their light, I found my way across the San Mateo Bridge to Millbrae to the warm and welcoming home of the renown Greek twins Anastasia & Phaedra where dancers and their guests from around the Bay were gathered to honor the intoxicating joy of the dance.

Halloween 2008

On All Hallows Eve, in the dark of the night, accompanied by my friend Jack, I went in search of Rosin Covin. This search took me across the Bay Bridge into San Francisco to the Hotel Regency.

After returning through time to the 19th Century in the haunted labyrinthine chambers of the Regency, and viewing questionable theater and all sorts of bawdy spectacles, we mounted my faithful silver steed, Eufrasia, and headed back across the Bay, wending our way through the narrow streets teaming with milk maids, witches, naughty nurses, pumpkin heads, kitty cats and all manner of nocturnal creatures.