Angela Natividad's Live & Uncensored!

10 August 2023

This little light of mine

A candle shot from the wedding of two friends.

I was reading about brothel candles, which populated European brothels between 1880 and 1905. The prostitute lit them as a timer, and you had until they ran out. (The candles are about the size and breadth of modern birthday candles, so maybe you're looking at 5 or so minutes? Definitely less than 10.)

This would be a good thing to implement for when somebody starts holding forth about a topic you just don't care about. You can lift a little birthday candle out of your pocket and hold it somberly aloft, and ideally they'd know they need to get all this out of their system before the flame hits bottom. Then you all have to move on, and they don't get to pick the next topic.

Blowing the candle out in bad faith would give them poor luck in that particular topic forever. Perhaps they'd develop an incapacity to get through it without stumbling over their words.

There are some logistical issues. You need to be able to stab a birthday candle into something, so the idea works best if you're in front of food. But you can also get a small conical ceramic holder for one single birthday candle, and just keep it in your pocket. 

I happen to own one, which I procured at a weekend market in Totnes. It's a fun worry item to roll between your fingers, while maximising your capacity to set up a single candle anywhere without losing time, which is of the essence when somebody starts venting about the same old shit, or getting way too excited about a topic that even the furthest-iterated parallel dimension version of you has no interest in.

That's my big idea. The world suffers from an overabundance of birthday candles, mostly forgotten in drawers. They merit purpose. We could get this off the ground so easily in the TikTok era.

13 June 2023

On Strength

I feel strong today. I have not felt this kind of strong, specifically, in a long time: Like there's a wide horizon of possibility ahead, adventures yet untaken, and I'm game. I have the energy for it, the desire to try navigating through new problem space. 

I'm reminded of something my print shop guy said last week: "To worry is to doubt God."

To worry is to doubt. The universe. Oneself. Everything.

Nothing special changed, except that I received a new worry today and it was the worry that finally broke the load. I'm out of capacity for being held hostage by an array of concerns that never quite change and are not especially important, except that they insist on their importance by imposing on my peace.

We forget, entangled as we are in the intrigues and hamster wheel of economy, that being alive is a crazy thing. So much can happen and is happening all the time. I'm not missing it to be in front of a screen most of my day, infusing myself with heroin shots of eternal-scroll short vids. I refuse.

I want to move my body on earth and in water and feel the sun kiss my skin. I want the wind to blow hard at me in Tintagel. I want to taste my food, and read books on the terrace with a pleasing beverage. I want to touch trees and breathe in forest, to stoop down and collect chestnuts from their moist, opened armour. I want scrambled eggs and hot chocolate, and sand between my toes, and laughing with my friends over candles. I want to be kissed by my lovers, and to give birth to lots of beauty.

I don't think I should only get to have these things if I make enough money to avoid the micromanagement of a feudal lord. The game of this past few years has been to frontload these things instead—make them the priorities, not my rewards for good behaviour.

If I'm honest with myself, it's going fine. Better than fine: Beautifully. Still: I'm not rich, so I worry.

But I think that's the point: To be able to live beautifully without hoarding resources. To know that compounding interest is only one form of abundance you want in your life, and not the most important by a long shot. You want health first. You want love most. You want beauty, because what is the point of waking up if your senses cannot rest on something truly sublime at least once a day, ideally more?

Today I divest the worry. I blow it out of my open hand as one would blow a kiss. It doesn't matter. What matters is to live. I can be braver about it now.

24 March 2023

Article 49.3

If you can walk Paris—if you deign to give her the attention she merits—walk her by night. By night she is ribald, volatile. You can't listen to music. You can't get lost in your thoughts. You have to be alert. She will leave you no choice.

This is when the city is most eloquent. You cannot ignore her. Tonight, there is no romance. Tonight she is full of discontent. 

The results of the day's protest spills over at sundown, like inflamed flesh. The garbage, left weeks uncollected, has exploded into the streets. Bins are aflame.

But there is also zeal, and for every ten restaurants that have closed as a precaution, one is open, its lights warming the faces peering out from their terraces. This is also Paris. It is Thursday and the night is young, the chaos embraced, no interruption to the desire to flee our small flats. 

Swamps are not polite places. They have a character that can't be beat down, no matter how much civilization you build on top of them, how many Haussmann buildings—or, in the case of Florida, how many resorts. The sharks will still come. The alligators will appear in your swimming pool. 

In the case of Paris, the discontent of its people does not fester. Like spirits responding to their mother, to the hurling of this wildland corseted under concrete, it explodes vocally, viscerally. You know the expression, "ask for forgiveness, not for permission"? It doesn't even ask for forgiveness. 

We walk atop what once was wild marshlands and it vibrates beneath us, never allows us to forget. Its character remains irrepressible: Chaos always threatening to retake space from the concrete. This is Paris. And if you're called here, if you live here, you feel it in your blood, vibrating under your skin. There is no taming it.

04 February 2023

The divine comedy

Many, many years ago, when community management was barely a thing and I was in the vibrating potential of my 20s, I went to New York to provide live social media coverage to a major advertising awards show. The bloggers were all put up in a fine hotel and given access to rare and special people to facilitate our coverage.

But things started going wrong almost immediately before the first day of work. I can't remember all the details. My wireless internet router didn't work, my Macbook Pro failed me and the Genius Bar took it away and said it would be out of commission for several days. I provisionally bought a new computer which they told me I could return after the week was over, minus the return fee, which I chocked off as a rental fee.

I didn't know New York that well, and barely had the funds for these emergencies. All this running-about, trying to get my shit together before the event started, was taxing. But finally it was done, and I got to my hotel and touched the key card to the door. It didn't open.

That is when I pressed my head to the wood and burst into tears.

It happened that, in the room next door, a housekeeper was just coming out. She dashed across to me with a look of alarm and buried my head in her copious bosoms.

"He hurt you," she said with conviction. "I'm so sorry, love, so sorry he hurt you."

I relaxed all my weight into her and kept on crying. It didn't seem important to correct her. In a way, a he did hurt me: Steve Jobs.

I blubbered about my door key and she sorted me out and ushered me into the room, tut-tutting the whole time, tucking me into my bed like a little rolly-polly.

The rest of the week went fine. But thereafter, I had the strong feeling that I was on the hotel's suicide watch. I came home every day to a pyramid of chocolates and handwritten notes from housekeeping. The staff kept calling to "check in." In the midst of all that stress—the week did not turn out so great in the end, though it had nothing to do with my work, nor anything I could have done—I felt loved and held by strangers.

This is how I feel at this moment. I'm standing at the very edge of a private endeavour I've poured months of myself into. It twisted my life around, made things chaotic, and at the same time I kept encountering people—improbable strangers and professionals—who seemed destined to help me succeed. Kisses from the universe.

Now we're nearly at the end, and success does not look like the most likely possibility. The grief sits heavy on my heart. There's one last salvo, then few remaining paths. It will be over, and the machine will simply stop.

Discovering what we truly desire, and why, is a transformative act. We spend so much of our lives being encouraged to measure and temper our desires against the societies and norms we grow up in; to deviate from this single-mindedly, in the pursuit of what we alone want, is a radical thing.

But desire is not equivalent to entitlement. You are owed nothing; the universe is not a meritocracy, and I'm not even convinced that a meritocracy is an ideal. Desire is merely a compass. You follow the direction where your heart beats loud and strong, and that's important; it vitalises you.

I have finally arrived at the place I've struggled with finding for the past three months. I cannot control this outcome. It has nothing to do with me "rising to the occasion" or "meeting the challenges." This is not a gauntlet for the gods. From my vantage point at this moment, life is playful, our time here a series of games. We learn things or don't, we feel things or don't; there are no wrong answers, only experiences and new possibilities, and all that enriches the cosmos. 

It's about us, sure, but we can't forget the macro sense of who we are. My life is about me insofar as that I'm living it, but I extend beyond my body. 

I am kapwa: I am me and you, me and the community, the community and the environment. I extend to my interactions, known or unknown, and cannot be divided from this fertile, murky mess in any meaningful way. So this story can only be about me in that sense. It's me as the cosmos, not me as a small slice of anxious ego wanting a happy ending from a very narrow spectrum of perspective.

I brought up the story of that woman and the hotel because it's on my mind. It feels related to this moment. Over the course of this project I've met with many forms of chaos, but also many people that, for a multitude of reasons, I believed were signs I was on the right track, and a "positive" outcome to this project was meant for me. They were strangers who became friends and they fought for my interests and still do, or spontaneously reassure my fears without me asking them to, or answer questions I didn't know I had, seemingly making the path clearer ahead.

All this time, I thought this was about me getting the right ending. But this isn't about the ending at all. It's specifically about those interactions. All those years ago at that hotel, everything went wrong but I felt held by strangers, cradled by the universe. I feel this now: As the project slowly unravels in front of me, as hope begins to rise softly from her chair and move toward the door, I realise I'm not alone in this room, have never been alone.

I am still held by strangers. I am still cradled by the universe. And this says more about my value to myself, my value to everything, than securing the fucking outcome. Though losing it, to be frank, breaks my heart. 

I can feel it: softening me, making me more malleable, relaxing my muscles with the grief. I bury my head in the copious bosoms of the universe. May I be worthy of the gift of the hands that go on holding me, and moulding me.

It is beautiful to be here. 

01 February 2023

Brigid's creation song

St. Brigid's Cloak, the Shannon Academy.

It is Imbolc, that middle place between the winter solstice and spring equinox in the Northern Hemisphere. We're in that first salvo of the creation principle, awakening after a long sleep. Imbolc is the primary feast of Brigid, goddess of fire and water, with dominion over midwifery, poetry, crafts, brewing, iron-working, and technology, per Judika Illes in "Imbolc: Crafting the Creative Flame," in Taschen's Witchcraft tome.

I lit a candle yesterday, on Brigid Eve. This morning—sun bright, frost still clinging to its edges—I dug through Sean Kane's Wisdom of the Mythtellers and found one of my favourite passages. This is Brigid's song of creation, written by Ella Young as told by Alice Kane: 

Now comes the hour foretold, a god gift-bringing,
A wonder sight.
Is it a star, newborn, and splendid up springing
Out of the night?
Is it a wave from the Fountain of Youth, that is upflinging
A foam of delight?
Is it a great immortal bird that is winging
Hither its flight?

It is a wave, high-crested, melodious, triumphant,
Breaking in light.
It is a star, rose-hearted and joyous,
Risen from night.
it is a flame from the world of the gods, and love runs before it,
A quenchless delight.

Let the wave break, let the star rise,
Let the flame leap.
Ours, if our hearts are wise,
To take and keep.

Brigid sings this song and moves the hearts of the other gods, who quickly recognise it doesn't come from her alone. She describes it as the song of the earth, who dreamt of beauty and longs for it now. Thus inspired, the gods descend to earth—a dark, formless abyss, chaotic and frightening—then begin paving it with beauty, each gifting it with their own pulsating wildfire touch.

When they have finished, the earth is rampant green and blue, clothed in flowers. They commit not to duplicate, there, the things that exist in other places. They decide to stay and collaborate with the earth, helping cultivate a beauty that is hers alone.

Only Brigid opts to leave. Her work done here, she turns her mind to other matters. The gods lace a ribbon of remembrance to her mantle, and off she goes, needfully separating herself from the creation she contributed to.

20 January 2023

Every fire

Each morning I wake, put on my rubbery boots, and gather wood and kindling from the shelter in the garden.

At the stove, I clean the ashes out from the previous day.

I make a sandwich of paper, kindling, cardboard, more paper. I light it bottom to top.

In some configurations I know this will go well, but it doesn't always; the fire can be colicky, slow to take.

Every fire is a different fire. Each has its own temperament, its own way of being coaxed into autonomy. I start it off with soft foods, then move on to progressively bigger, harder comestibles. 

It will spend its first hour toddling, needing careful attention—a spare ear or eye forever monitoring its condition, even as I prepare breakfast, stretch, start my computer. By afternoon it will seem more confident, but experience knows this is not the case; left to its own for an hour, it could be dead-cold, not an ember left to revive it.

Every fire is a different fire. My job is to forget the nature of the one that accompanied me yesterday. I spend the day weaving my attention to it, hoping that by nightfall it will be fully its own, raging hot and radiating, dangerous in its certainty.

18 January 2023

On making my new phone mine

There's a lot of change happening—shifts backed by years of marinating. In the midst of two big shifts I'm engaged in at the moment, I had my phone stolen a month ago and decided to break it off with Apple. I'd been considering it awhile, the cost of it had started outweighing the value, and a chaotic, stressful situation was the perfect last straw.

So I got a Google Pixel and lost half the data I've accumulated over 13 years—phone numbers, apps, messaging data (iMessage!), any number of things that seemed really important at the time. I spent a weekend in a foetal position and another week trying to understand my new normal, then came out the other side and decided it was time to start adapting the phone to my needs.

I'm very much an Otterbox fan because I drop my phone a lot and have often enjoyed the exercise of throwing it across the room to demonstrate the value of "military-grade" protection. But I'm over that now. Protection for ordinary drops is fine, which means I don't need a case the size of a commando's walkie-talkie. In keeping with that, I also decided against getting a phone clip, which in any case has proven too bulky for the type of gear I carry lately, and utterly impractical for attaching to a bicycle.

I still want to be practical. But it's a time of change, and I'm interested in who I'm changing into and how she manifests herself, especially in terms of styles and textures. These are the things I got:

First, this most delicious leather phone case from Bellroy with a secret orange interior that I have already forgotten about and which has consequently delighted me all over again. It is delicious to touch and yields perfect grip.

Second, this fully-rotatable ring and stand from Burga which is pleasingly smooth and niftily associates with my tropical leopard water bottle—an acquisition that followed the loss of my black Zojirushi bottle, which vanished as I was sliding off a cliff face last year.

I like this—these leaping-out greens and oranges that mark such delectable contrast to the monochrome accessories I have favoured most of my adult and adolescent life. It's a new language, muted but playful. It leaves room for other kinds of exclamations, new ways of being.

None of this is very important but I wanted to put it somewhere because it makes me happy. I also like how these colours interact with others in my life: The orange metal pen sitting beside my phone at this moment, the black Merci wristwatch with the subtle red details. Why have I spent so much of my life refusing my eyes this lush indulgence?

10 January 2023

On heroes

There's a convention in the very old oral stories where a prophecy is given, but its completion relies entirely on the central person not knowing about it.

This is a crucial distinction, completely at odds with the convention that you, the Hero, are aware of and thus driven by your destiny. Knowing or believing you're the Hero is a burden for you and others.

In the older tales, there aren't any side characters, not really; the whole universe conspires to bring the prophecy to fruition. Even your mistakes are critical. Sometimes you have to die. Sometimes you resurrect, unable to be the person you were before. But you need everybody. You are part of a larger story that isn't really about you at all.

A story where a central character is infused by their own heroism enables the hero to use (and treat) everyone around them as collateral. The hero is not only protected and supported but enabled, including by the audience. Their belief in their own story—that they act in the service of a Greater Good—ultimately corrodes the very qualities that made them heroic, because there is no place for a greater good—for others—to flourish.

Somewhere along the way, the story came to be about them alone.