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dancing through seattle.

Fresh fish at Pike's Place Market in Seattle.

Ketchup time! I wanted to wait to post till after my weekend in Seattle because I knew there'd be more than plenty to share after that.

Though I had some fulfilling, sweet, and dreamy moments in the city, I also experienced a persistent nag of sadness, and a sort of too-much-ness, a desire to get back to work and accomplish, do, have routine and grounding to hold on to. Part of me just wanted to get back and keep working on stuff, because it's been really good to do so, and I've felt most fulfilled and happy when working on my writing and poetry. So I'll talk about that stuff, and then I'll get to the flashy experiences and Instagram-worthy footage of the festival. I really felt though that the Real Stuff has been sort of behind the curtain of the circus instead of the circus itself.

Can you see it in my eyes?

It's been so good to talk to people about sex. I mentioned in a previous post that I'm working on a piece for Crazy Wisdom about the state of sexual health education in Ann Arbor and the greater Southeast Michigan area. Well, I've been working on reaching out to and interviewing folks and collecting data these past couple weeks, and haven't felt so much passion about something in a while. In case you were wondering, so far, the data is showing that sexual health education in Michigan in general is far from adequate in preparing youth for the realities of maintaining healthy, mature relationships. As it stands, the only requirement for public schools in Michigan to teach regarding Sex Education is HIV and other communicable diseases. Nothing about pleasure, nothing about LGBTQA+ relationships, gender queerness and non-cisgender gender identification, nothing about actual sex, nothing about birth control options (except for that abstinence should be emphasized as the best way to prevent unwanted pregnancy), nothing about pregnancy, nothing about pleasure, and nothing about having healthy, non-toxic relationships. Additionally, parents can choose to exclude their children, by law, even from the minimal amount of sex education that they might be provided with. And the education you receive is totally dependent on what school district you live in; that could mean that someone down the road is getting an excellent sex education, while their friend one district over is having a completely different experience. Michigan does, however, require that if additional information about sexual health is provided, it must not be medically inaccurate - some states do not even have this as a requirement, believe it or not. For more on all this, stay tuned for my article to air. But hopefully that gives you some idea of the legislation and current state of education that children are getting about their bodies in 2023. Not much has changed since I was a kid, seemingly.

Excerpt from Gender Queer: A Memoir, by Maia Kobabe

However, I've had the honor to connect with sexual health educators, sex therapists, and advocates for sexual health and ending domestic and sexual violence the past few weeks, and have seen some real glimmers of hope as to what the future may hold for sexual health education, and even what is already provided at present outside of the public school system in Michigan. It's been an absolute privilege to speak with these experts, to hear their perspectives, their dreams, their passion. That's been bringing me a lot of joy these days. I also recently read Maia Kobabe's memoir, Gender Queer, which I would highly recommend to anyone who is struggling with their own gender identity, is close with someone who is struggling with this, or, well, anyone, really. It's a short read, and is written in graphic novel format so it is very accessible. I've also just started reading The Body Is Not An Apology: The Power of Radical Self-Love by Sonya Renee Taylor and also think that anyone and everyone should read it. So I've done a bit of a deep dive into gender, sexuality, and sexual health education in general the past few weeks, and am absolutely loving it.

A fun guy spotted at Gabriel Park!

Other than talking/reading/writing about sex, here are some other things I've been up to:

1) Visiting some cats and giving them some wuv and playtime at a nearby animal shelter (and them giving me comfort and wuv in return).

2) My pal Trevor was in town the other weekend and we hiked around Forest Park, the biggest city park I think in the States(??). Saw a woodpecker friend which was either a Downy or Hairy. I always forget which is which.

3) A night of dinner, ping pong, engaging conversation, and movie time with the Goldblatts.

4) I made a yummy quinoa bean salad that was so large it provided all my lunches over a week.

5) A series of adventures with Rachel last Wednesday; bouldering, queer salsa, dinner at Guero (An awesome Mexican place, 5 stars for sure), Fifty Licks ice cream (sesame and lemon coconut cream for me), and a dance rave at Mt. Tabor (which has happened every Wednesday night since the advent of Covid).

Van life for a day.

Now comes the Seattle saga that I promised.

Friday around 9pm, Sue and I got on the road, stopping at a rest area for the night. It was my first van life experience, and I gotta say, it wouldn't have been bad, but I got so hot in my sleeping bag I was all sweaty and then I got chilled and overall didn't sleep great. It would've been fine if I'da just brought a light blanket. Note to future self.

Fresh seafood, views from the pier, and a market stall brimming with fresh veggies.

We drove the rest of the way the next morning and found ourselves in Seattle City Center in no time. The festival was a bit overwhelming for me to be entirely honest; there was so much going on, music everywhere, people everywhere, so much stimulation. A couple times I felt the need to find a quiet place to go and collect myself. But the events I did attend were such fun overall, it seems like the price you pay for festivals I suppose; lots of awesome stuff happening all at once with not a lot of time in between for processing and transitioning. So you kind of just stuff yourself at the buffet, and tell yourself you'll fast for a week or two afterwards, and that it'll be fine that way.

New Orleans Bounce!

Day One, I attended a New Orleans Bounce Twerkshop with Tricia Diamond and learned to twerk as best I could. We all shook our butts off, laughing at ourselves and each other as we quickly found out how strong of a core and thigh muscles you have to have to make a twerk look good. It was absolutely exhausting. I have renewed admiration and respect for those who practice the noble art of The Twerk. Hats off to you ladies. Ending the session in a Second Line, a New Orleans tradition, was a sweet touch. Essentially, the music played by the musicians is the First Line, and the Second Line is sort of the dancing and party that follows them. To the best of my understanding, that is.

Second Line post-twerking.

After that, I took a seat next to Sue at a performance called Macedonian Legacy in a cool auditorium (a welcome respite from shaking my ass off with a bunch of strangers in the sun) and watched the performers engage in traditional Macedonian dance and song. Sue's Daughter-in-Law, Mona, performed in the choir and in part of the dancing. Later in the day, I attended a West Coast Swing Dancing workshop on the second floor of the Seattle Children's Museum. It was such fun! We switched partners every new move we learned, so I got to interact with a lot of lovely people. I was quite hungry after that, but I'd already chowed down my quinoa bean salad for lunch and couldn't find anything for less than $15 at the festival. So I settled for a small bowl of noodles (Cantonese Style) with green onions and three pebble-sized pieces of chicken for $15. I vowed to pack more food the next day.

Romanian Dance performance.

On the way home, Sue and I drove back to Mona's house with her daughter, Elenwe. I sat in the back with Elenwe and we chatted about books and reading and writing. To me, there's something so inspiring and engaging about a kid who cares so much about books, especially in this time of technology and TMI overload. It reminded me of myself, of the magic that existed everywhere when I was a kid. It revitalized me. It brought me back, and in doing so, it made me want to move forward.

Tango showcase in the evening.

Day Two at Folklife Festival was full of activity for me. I started off with a Tango class to re-learn the steps, the movements, and the general feel of the dance before a Milonga (a social tango dance) later in the day. There wasn't anything I was super interested in at the Festival in the afternoon, so I walked over to Pike Place Market to see Puget Sound, grab some fresh seafood for lunch, and wander around the market. It took about half an hour to walk there, and I spent most of the afternoon meandering around, seeing stalls offering everything from freshly-caught seafood, to produce of all kinds, to bouquets of fresh flowers, to arts and crafts and candles and honey... they had it all. The market seemed to retain a lot of Old World charm, with signs that looked as though they'd been painted in the 1920s, and a layout that seemed a bit cramped and crammed with stuff but in a cozy sort of way. It was my favorite (granted, one of the only places I visited outside the City Center) part of Seattle. I bought a cup of Northwest clam chowder and a tuna steak for lunch and sat down on a pier next to the ferris wheel, watching sailboats, ferries, and barges move about Puget Sound through the beautiful, 70 degree sun-warmed salt-tinted air. I yearned to find a place to swim, but knew I wouldn't find one within walking distance. So, I settled on gazing into the sunshine glittering off of the waves, and the faint smell of wave-tossed seaweed.

Seen down by the wharf overlooking the Sound.

Heading back to the Festival later in the day, my feet throbbing with resistance of holding up my body all day, and I wondered how I'd manage to muster the energy to dance even more. But dancing is funny like that. Just when you think you've had enough, a boppin' song starts up and your feet start to tap almost despite themselves. And so, I Milonga'ed the early evening away, and also watched some professional tango dancers do their thing as well. It was such fun, but I felt myself fading towards the end of it. Retreating to the cool auditorium christened the Cornish Playhouse by some unknown donor, I settled into a seat to take in a Romanian Dance Troupe, which was surprisingly really engaging, and super high energy. I couldn't believe how much stomping these people were able to do, and at such a quick pace. It seemed endless. It was incredible.

My $8 soft serve. Was it worth it? Yes. Would I do it again? Absolutely I would.

After an $8 small soft serve ice cream at the Festival (my sweet tooth will be the death of me), I joined Sue for a participatory Balkan Folk Dancing party, and found myself warming up despite the cool evening air. Linking arms and seeing familiar faces I'd encountered at various points throughout the festival, I felt a sense of community, of togetherness, that was really beautiful, even though this particular community was so fleeting, and so transient.

Spotted busking at the festival.

As we finally drove back to Mona's, and then the following day drove back home to Portland, I felt that nagging sense of sadness, of feeling sort of sick of having been on vacation for so long, sort of like it feels when you have too much junk food. I felt myself yearning for work, a routine, a groundedness, that I realized I don't totally have figured out yet. I'm still transient. Portland is still transient. I don't know where I'm going next, or if I'm going to want to stay longer. I just don't. It feels hard to make decisions about that when I've not done so really since I graduated from college, which at this point was almost 7 years ago(!!!)

Bouldering and getting unpacked/organized and chocolate last night helped.

Wild cucumber.

Till next time. Missin' all y'all extra right about meow.

xoxo grace

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