(sometimes withershins, widershins or widderschynnes) means to take a course opposite that of the sun, going counterclock-wise, lefthandwise, or to circle an object, by always keeping it on the left. It also means "in a direction opposite to the usual," which is how I choose to take it in using it as the title of this blog. We're all in the same world finding our own way.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Open Letter on the Recent Attacks in Bellingham

Dear Western Students and/or Bellingham Community Members,

Please stop robbing/mugging people at odd hours of the morning (or any other time of day for that matter). It creates an unsafe environment for the community. 

Such actions encourage people to post and issue warnings telling friends and loved ones not to walk alone during certain hours, but telling people not to walk alone does not solve the problem. It does not stop muggers from mugging people. 

While these warnings come from a well-meaning place, and do offer valuable information about increasing safety when walking alone, they also create a culture of fear; a culture of fear that does nothing more than make people uncomfortable in their chosen home: Bellingham. This perpetuates the violence in the streets by taking it into our homes.

Sometimes walking alone is unavoidable. Sometimes walking alone is preferred. If you see someone walking alone, leave them alone. Don't mug them, don't rob them, don't rape them. I am not saying that if someone is walking alone, that they should not take reasonable precautions, but the burden of responsibility should not rest with them. It should rest in those who would attack them.

If you need help, there are all kinds of organizations and community outreach groups that can help you with this problem, from violence prevention programs to financial assistance groups. There is never a good reason  to mug someone.

The first steps to creating change in a community start with individuals. I'm asking those of you reading this as individuals to make a commitment not to hurt people, and to hold others accountable for the same.

In Solidarity,
Daniel Canham
Student, Community Member, Activist, heARTist

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

On Reading Love Stories

Perhaps with this foray into dating, my mind is elsewhere, but I'm finding a lot of beauty in life right now. Not specifically in my life, but in all the little occurrences: the cloud passing by, the stray rays of sun in the morning, the way the steam from my shower fogs up the bathroom mirror.

I also just finished re-reading Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer. A lot of you may recognize it from the movie of the same title starring Elijah Wood. I respect both works for the mediums in which they portray the story and the limitations and openings available therein. Like the other Foer book I've read, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, EII was so touchingly sad and beautiful, in the same way that makes you want to simultaneously laugh and cry and – sit.

The way the three parallel narratives intertwine and converge is such a postmodern expression of form as means to convey content. Listening to my friend Ryan talk about it with my roommate the other day, I likened it in part to someone reading the box of letters I have from Emerson and reading them in chronological order. There's a certain kind of sense and themes that come up, but lacking the other half of the correspondence you're often left to fill in many of the blanks yourself.

I've also been reading Other People's Love Letters edited by Bill Shapiro, and I'm realizing that with a postmodern sense of textuality that encompasses all forms of communication, the idea of “letter” is a bit narrow and here has been expanded to include everything from notes on the back of a receipt to text messages, emails and what would traditionally be thought of as “love letters.”

The more I think about it and kind of combine these ideas in my head, the more I feel like almost all writing (or to be more broad, composing) is an act of love, or at least an act of passion, be that with a context of interest or emotion.

So often we pass playlists and mix CDs for our lovers. We post pictures and status updates and videos online in recognition of the people we care about. We feed them.

In many ways, I consider this blog a love letter to my journey through life. Just as acelessthan3 is so integral a part of who I am as a person and character, Widdershins is a keystone to who I am as a writer.

I'm teaching myself to appreciate the little things more because in the end, that's all we have regularly. Little things that make us smile.

I had an idea the other day to get a deck of cards and call it “54 Reasons.” On each card, I would write a different reason I had to smile and either randomly shuffle the cards and break them out as a mood booster, or give them away. I don't know if I'll actually follow through with this plan, but it's a loosely thought out idea somewhere nestled into the horizon.

I'm not sure how I feel about reading love stories, because the kind of love stories I like most are tragedies, are full of hope and sadness and fear. And they don't always have a happy ending.

Second Date: The Date that Almost Wasn't

So there have been a few “dates” since this one, but I think things with Glitter are getting to a point where sharing everything with the reading public might not be the best idea (for privacy's sake), so this may be the last post expressly on this subject for a while. I give you our second date:

I just concluded my second date with Glitter a couple of hours ago.

It was a little lower key than our first outing to the Temple Bar, but somehow this time felt more public since we were having lunch on campus.

He's quickly learning the lesson almost all of my friends have learned: you can't take me anywhere without running into someone I know or who knows me. This problem, or maybe gift depending how you look at it, is exponentially increased the closer you are to population centers I frequent, like the middle of campus.

I call this the date that almost wasn't because I accidentally double booked myself. This is why I have a calendar that I more or less use religiously, it helps me keep my appointments straight (or in my case, queer).

Last night I'd gotten a text from my dancer friend, JaguarPrint, reminding me that I would be meeting her class to teach salsa somewhere between 11:30 and 12:50. We'd made these plans about a week and a half prior, the same day where I'd made my lunch plans with Glitter for noon.

I'd completely forgotten about my commitment to help my friend with her class presentation, but really didn't want to flake on this cute guy I'm kind of trying to start a thing with.

What's a queer to do?

Make everything fit like a puzzle piece, that's what! I let my friend know about my date and had her email her professor to see if they could take the first twenty minute presentation slot so we would be finished by 11:50. Just in case that didn't work, I also texted Glitter asking if he would be okay with me being a little late.

All this morning I was on pins and needles, hoping things would work out in my favor.

10:35am. A text: “We are going first at 11:30 :)”

I could have cried in relief. I sent a quick text to Glitter telling him that I wouldn't need to be worried about being late after all and I would see him in the Atrium at noon.

He ran into me about 100ft from the entrance where I was talking with two friends I work with about seeing them last night after getting a drink with my friend Hat. I admit I had been a little bit tipsy by the time we got to the grocery store (The Reese's Klondike Bars in my freezer are amble evidence of that drunken impulse buy) and I cannot fault them for assuming Hat and I were together when I'd said “I'm with him.”

Nonetheless, it was quite embarrassing to have two beautiful girls fawning over the the idea of me and the guy they saw me with when my date was walking up.

Inside, Glitter and I made our choices between overly priced pizza, overly priced sandwiches and overly priced prepackaged meals. We both went with pizza.

We'd agreed ahead of time that for this short lunch date we wouldn't talk about finals because that's all we hear or talk about with pretty much anyone on campus for the last week and a half. So he asked me how next quarter is looking.

I laughed.

He tried to laugh, but kept stopping himself as he ended up coughing. He sounds better compared to our first date, and I'm glad the herbal tea I dropped off at his place this weekend seems to have helped.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Liminal Being: Gods, Bodies and Self

A friend recently commented on a post from... o.O almost two years ago now. To give yourself context, you should probably go read that first.

After a different post on a similar topic a few months ago, a friend suggested that maybe in reading theology, it would help me contextualize and relate to this paradigm if I were to replace instances of the word "God" with "love."

Now, I'm not sure if that solves or complicates this Christian experience for me because this approach of looking past differences in language helps, and I recognize and honor the messages being shared, but I'm still deeply uncomfortable. I will also be the first to recognize that I've been touched by a higher power. I can feel the presence of the divine in my life, in part because I've sought it out and welcomed it in all forms.

At the same time, I'm a postmodern, poststructural queer. The academic and systemic praxis I've opened myself to are in many ways explicitly counter to the kind of narratives at work within Christianity (that pushing away). I've done reading that seeks to reconcile this: Colossians Remixed was one such endeavor I borrowed from a friend, and while I feel like I better understand some of the underlying tensions between Christianity and what I would call the postmodern condition having done this reading, I just don't feel like I am of the Christian God in the sense that the phrase would usually be used.

A<3 at your service
The above picture is of my first tattoo. I'm considering getting a second one for my 23rd birthday, it would go on my right arm as a kind of parallel to the A<3 on my left. Here, I'll sketch it below:

Rough sketch of potential second tattoo
If you can't tell, that's a slightly stylized version of the symbol for Mercury. The top part that usually looks more like horns, I here represent as wings. I'll connect this all together in a bit, and no, I'm not trying to say I'm joining a sect of Hermeticism.

Imagery and symbolism are important to me, especially as it pertains to my body. I got a tattoo of A<3 because it means something to me. A<3, ACE of hearts, love, memories, and, now that I'm thinking about it, A<3 even has a hermetic influence since I chose Courier New as the typeface I wanted engraved in my body specifically in part because of the play on the word courier with messenger.

A<3 is a powerful symbol to me.

So too is Mercury.

Hermes or Mercury was a Classic god of messengers, traders, tricksters, thieves, and travelers. He was Psychopomp, guiding the souls of the dead to the underworld, and according to some tellings, he was the one who carried dreams from the god Morpheus to sleeping humans. The little glyph above looks like the caduceus that Mercury was depicted as carrying and contains the symbol for earth and the feminine, while somehow being bothandmore. It's also reminiscent of the Egyptian ankh, a symbol for life.

Though I've always been attracted to the role of fool, I'm really not much of a trickster, but I do find myself embodying a certain kind of liminality, standing at boundaries and thresholds, in-between. I put myself in transitional spaces and don't really feel at home if I don't have a certain level of adaptability and variability. Anyone I work with could tell you how much I enjoy standing in their doorways.

Astrologically, Mercury is significant to me because my sun sign, ascendant and moon sign (Virgo, Virgo, Gemini) are all ruled by Mercury. So if I understand my astrology correctly, I should be thrice influenced by this god of in-betweens.

And I would tattoo this symbol of impermanence and crossing thresholds on myself (a wry irony if ever there was one) because I feel like this influence speaks to my truth.

Binary systems leave no room for liminality. Dead religion leaves no room for liminality. The traditional narratives that govern most of Western society and popular Christianity in particular, leave no room for liminality.

There are problems with this liminality. Often times when I feel "off," I feel ungrounded. I feel as if I'm unrooted and unbalanced and floating aimlessly. Usually I'm okay with that, but every once in a while it's unsettling.

But I've also embraced the liminal. The liminal spaces are where we derive our ability to adapt. Communication and thus anything involving communication such as learning is a liminal form. Movement is liminal because it is the body in a state of being not in one place or another, but travelling between them.

Sometimes when I dance, I enter a trance-like state where there's nothing but me and the movement. It's not about where I'm going, but how I'm getting there, the process. This is when I feel most open to Gods.

I meditate on this sometimes. And I would spin like a whirling Dervish if it helped me find this space.

I don't know what this means, or where I'm going, but I'm taking this as a sign of my own process, of my own queering of religion, of my liminality expressing itself for some greater purpose. I think that's one of the lessons I was meant to learn that day almost two years ago.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Physics of the body

Sometimes I feel jaded by this Biomechanics class. It's the same physics I did Freshmen year, which was the same physics I did in high school.

But then I start thinking about how it doesn't change because it literally is all the same stuff that I've done before. Slightly different applications and examples, but the baseline concepts of velocity, force, acceleration, energy and work haven't changed at this fundamental level for hundreds of years.

That's cool. Boring when you're required to take it more than once, but cool.

This is part of my radical retraining.

Rethinking my minor (and major) complaints into something positive. In recognizing the usefulness of a thought as it serves my journey in life, there is no room for complaints.

This does not entail denial of thought. No thought is worthless or without merit, no emotion without cause, but  the contextualization of thought.

My boredom in biomechanics is valid. I've learned this before which flavors my perspective in such a way that makes my peers' struggle with the material seem trivial. But that's comparing their experience to my own.

As someone seeking social justice, I know that this does not work. A comparative analysis of experience creates an unequal power dynamic that leads to violence (though in this case more implicit than direct). People attribute knowledge with intelligence, a valued  judgement since knowledge is privileged. Those without knowledge then feel lesser.

So let's start again.

I'm bored in biomechanics because I already know the majority of the material on a working level, but by the time we finish this course, my peers and I will all have a working understanding of the principles of biomechanics and be able to apply basic physics and data analysis methods to human bodies.

As we continue in the kinesiology field we may or may not continue to use this information for other classes or practical application, but we'll still have learned it.

Thursday, March 1, 2012


And no, I don't mean the yoga kind of tabling.

I spent the majority of my time "in the office" today out in Vendors Row tabling. I was selling shirts. I was freezing my toes off. I was having fun.

Design courtesy of the AS Publicity Center

See, I work in this funny little office called the SAC which stands for the Sexual Awareness Center (one of the most appropriate acronyms I've ever heard for an office). It's part of the Associated Students of Western Washington University, specifically the department called the Resource and Outreach Programs.

As a ROP office, we're expected to both provide resources and programming, so we have everything from a resource library and ever-growing list of community and campus organizations dedicated to providing access to pretty much everything relating to sex, sexuality and making healthy sexual decisions, to a big bin full of quite the variety of assorted safer sex supplies. In addition to this, we plan events throughout the quarter.

It's kind of an awesome job. (If you're interested in taking my job, or a related one next school year, applications open here on Saturday, March 3). Seriously, I get paid to talk about sex and read about sex and post witty status updates about upcoming events.

Amidst all this fun though,  I do a lot of work.

Putting on events, we generally have anywhere from two to five levels of bureaucracy to go through, a seemingly endless tide of paperwork and face the harsh reality of the fickleness of college students. I'm sure my friends and fellow AS employees can attest to just how mentally crushing it can be to put weeks worth of energy into an event only to have one or two people show up.

Which is one reason why I like tabling.

With tabling, the pressure isn't a matter of numbers. It isn't a matter of getting people to show up. You can catch them as they're walking by. With tabling, you're just trying to get people's attention.
Perhaps it's the two years I've spent pouring laughter and tears and blood and money (okay, no tears or blood) into the Acts of Kindness Club's events in Red Square, but I was made for tabling. I'm extroverted. I can be fairly loud. I'm decently articulate. Most importantly though, I'm connected... probably for all the above reasons.

Put me behind (in front of) a table with a cause I care about and I will sell it. Or at least try to. I like to think I have a much more human approach to this kind of commodified space that is the branding and use of a space for a function.

Tabling is an interesting social experiment as well. After a while, I've learned that making eye contact with people will either scare them away from the table or draw them in. If I'm smiling/laughing/talking when I make eye contact they will usually smile back even if they keep walking.

I really enjoy watching people I know walk by. Often, I call them out by name and wave them over (or along). Today in particular, I sent out a mass text:
"Hey friends. I'm in vendors row for my office most of today and would love hugs to help keep me warm. I may try to sell you a SAC T-shirt but feel free to say no."
I was trying to be honest in that my purpose for the mass text was to get people to the table to buy shirts, but I would settle for a hug if they didn't have the cash or didn't want to spend money. With Bellingham's weather recently, it's been pretty hit or miss whether we'll have snow, rain, hail or sun and standing outside even for an hour gets cold fast.

I think I got about four text responses from people who never showed, three people who texted back and hugged me, and three people who showed up to hug me without texting back.

My feet were numb after the first hour and when I walked away to throw away the remains of my lunch after the third hour, I realized just how numb they were. I was surprised I didn't fall over taking the fifteen steps between our table and the garbage can. My bad for not wearing properly waterproof shoes I suppose.

Tabling today was also particularly interesting considering Western had the Migrant Youth Leadership Conference on campus. Several bus loads of middle and high schoolers from the greater Whatcom community were on campus as student representatives gave them tours and encouraged them to consider pursuing higher education.

Several tours passed by my table, and the youth giggled, wide-eyed at the selection of condoms out beside me as their guides talked about Vendors Row being a place where clubs and organizations could share information about their group or have a bake sale.

It wasn't until the fourth or fifth tour passed by that one of the youth stopped and asked me about the condoms.

"Are these free?"

How do you explain to a seventh grader that while yes, we are giving them out for free, because of the office I work for they're paid for by student dollars and, yes, you can take more than one, but are you even fully aware of the emotional, social and physical consequences of sex when you don't even know what lube is used for? In under thirty seconds? While his friends are clamoring around him, laughing and taking a few for themselves?

You don't.

You make eye contact with their college tour guide hoping they'll move the group along and politely ask the young gentlemen to limit themselves so other people have the opportunity to enjoy the safer sex supplies that are supposed to be available for everyone.

I can't wait to hear the stories from teachers as parents find these lovely little presents in their sons' jacket pockets.

For me though, it's just another day in the SAC.