Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Guest Columnist: Alma Luz Villanueva Interviews Anita Endrezze

Alma Luz Villanueva

In the late 90s I traveled to Sonora, Mexico, to research my family landscape. I wanted to get a feel for the desert and the ocean near Guaymas, San Carlos, and Cuidad Obregon. I took a bus and noticed how the drivers personalized their vehicles, including taxis. The deer is a symbol you’ll find all over Sonora because it is a Yaqui symbol. The Yaqui Deer Dancers are famous. In this painting I hid a deer head...see if you can find it...and added a pelican because they flew over the beach of Bacochibampo, or the Bay of Sea Snakes, in Yaqui. I also added a dog because I saw many stray dogs as I traveled the area. The Virgin de Guadalupe was another recurring symbol. I painted myself to the left: the brown haired woman with sunglasses. - Anita Endrezze

© Anita Endrezze. Acrylic on paper.

I first got to know Anita Endrezze’s multi-genre creative talents via her book, Throwing Fire at the Sun, Water at the Moon, 2000. In this book she weaves together poetry, short stories, essays and her marvelous paintings, creating a universe of her own, with roots firmly within her Yaqui, European heritage.

With the focus, in this book, on the Yaqui ancestors, people, I was drawn to this book as I was raised by my grandmother, Jesus Villanueva, a full blood Yaqui curandera from Sonora. She taught me dreaming, poetry and stories in the Mission, San Francisco.

I was right at home in Anita’s universe- the curiosity that drives her journey throughout this book, and the beauty she always reveals. Side by side with hard truths, always the beauty. Anita’s paintings as her witness.

"Butterfly Moon" © Anita Endrezze

And then, recently I read Butterfly Moon, 2012, a collection of short stories that include Yaqui and European myth/truth, that beauty. Anita’s painting graces the cover, the butterfly moon. When I finished reading these magical stories, where myth/reality dance, I realized she had merged/married the Yaqui/European into a mysterious, coherent whole. Each story bleeding into the next one, and finally creating an alive, breathing, singing, weeping wholeness.

On page 89, ‘Choices,’ I came upon a wise, Yaqui grandmother named Alma Luz- I laughed with delight. “Jessica’s grandma, Alma Luz, once told her that Yaquis knew how to face life’s hardships. It was part of their creation story. Those ancient people who couldn’t face the future were allowed to leave the human race. Some ran into the desert and became ants. Others waded into the waves and became dolphins or sea mammals. Only her ancestors decided to face life. They did it with wisdom and courage.”

My grandmother, Jesus, used to tell me, in Spanish, “If you have one drop of Yaqui, you are all Yaqui.” Anita evokes this dreaming wisdom in this wondrous, alive, magical book of stories- spanning, including, all of her ancestors. Into wholeness. And so, here’s the interview- from San Miguel de Allende, Mexico (where I now live), to Everett, Washington (where Anita lives). This sacred Turtle Island.

Alma Luz Villanueva: WHERE are you from? Tell a childhood story.

Anita Endrezze: I was born by the Pacific Ocean in Long Beach, CA. My mother was second generation American: she’s north Italian, German, and Slovenian. My father was Yaqui Indian, a tribe/Nation from Sonora Mexico. His parents came from Mexico. I was born with a displaced hip and wore a cast for a year. My leg never healed right and it was an omen of future ill health.
We lived in Merlin Oregon for a couple of years. My parents logged their acreage to make money. My little sister and I would nap in a tent, play with twigs and moss to make little houses, and watch out for snakes. I have never forgotten the sweet strawberry smell of dried pine needles.

ALV: WHAT were you born to write about- your driving themes.

AE: When I was too young to read, I told stories about the Great Pacific Northwest. It was important that that phrase start every story. And yet, in spite of that early idea of location, I’ve written more about the spirit and especially, the female spirit, passion, and ….oh, whoa! here it is: a woman’s relationship to the earth. So, I guess, I do write about place. Now that I’ve gotten older and sicker, though, I write more about the temporal body, my body, that is a failing location of my soul.
I have MS and I’m in Stage Two which means I can barely walk and my legs hurt. I am weak all over. House bound and basically, chair bound, my location is in one spot 24 hours a day.

ALV: YOUR first memory of writing. And since you’re also a gifted painter, your first memory of drawing.

AE: I don’t remember my first written work. I do remember drawing. I drew rainbows over hills that resembled sleeping women: all broad hips and round shoulders. I drew teepees and horses. I drew with lots of color, using crayons. I loved reading the names of the crayon colors on their slips of paper: Spring Green, Blue Violet, Brilliant Rose. In 1958, when I was 6, new colors were added making the box total of 64. My mother worked as a draftsman on Terminal Island. She brought old office papers and blue print sheets for us to draw on.

ALV: TELL a vivid dream.

AE: One of the recurring dreams I’ve had for 40 years is of a house. The house represents my body, with the attic being the Light, the Spirit. The basement is either my genitals or my subconscious. About 20 years ago, I started dreaming of a greenhouse attached to the house. The greenhouse was full of dying plants. It was always on the left of the dream house and I now know that it was my body weakening from MS, since my left side is weaker.
I loved the dreams, though, where I’d wander through an infinity of rooms. I liked the houses where there was no end to discovering another room.

ALV: WHAT subjects do you consider to be taboo- who are your ‘critics’... as in parents, children, spouse, minister etc.

AE: I generally don’t censor myself although I would think twice about writing something involving my family. I seldom swear in my writing, even though I do swear otherwise! I don’t have any taboos.

ALV: YOUR favorite novel, character in fiction- why?

AE: I enjoyed reading Octavia Butler’s books, especially Kindred, and the trilogy of Lilith’s Brood. The characters of the alien third gender, the ooloi, were mind-bending when I read them back in the 90s. I also like reading the Jack Reacher novels, a loner ex-military cop. I read all of the Number One Ladies Detective Agency books, all of Harry Potter books, and the Twilight series when my daughter was young. One of my favorite authors is Luis Alberto Urrea.

I just finished reading Wild and now am starting A Fistful of Collars by Spencer Quinn...a dog detective!

I loved the book, The Art of Racing in the Rain. Terribly Loud and Incredibly Close was another book I liked.

ALV: YOUR favorite poet(s), why?

AE:I have always loved Neruda. His passion and seductive words enthrall me. I also like Leonard Cohen. I didn’t know he was also a musician until I was in my 40s!

ALV: MAKE three wishes.

AE: I wish for health. I’m very sick. With health I could be a part of my life instead of just existing. I could visit my family. I could touch the earth with my bare feet. I could see a sunrise. I could walk under the stars and moon at night. I could be ME instead of being weak and hurting. And I could let my family free of worrying about me.

I only have one more wish and that is that my children have happiness in their lives and can do things to make the world a better place.

ALV: ONE more… List the ‘top twenty’ most transformative moments of la vida, more if you want, of course. Maybe write it via una poema…

AE: My life in twenty versions
I was born a chamber of the sea. I was a particle of salt and tar, motion and shore.
I was a little girl with a crooked leg, skipping in puddles that cradled clouds.
My mother lay on the ground, a tree across her back, while my father ran for help, and she screamed he tried to kill her.
We drove through the snowy night, leaving him, carrying bundles of clothes and fears.
An “uncle” touched my small breasts while I was swimming, swimming, or in bed while I was sleeping, sleeping, and I drowned in my skin.
I was married, one two three. And each time, I thought it would be the last, he’s the One, although their faces blurred.
I have two children, a boy I was terrified of since I knew nothing of men and love. And a girl I was terrified for, knowing men and love.
The third marriage is good, better than good, and my children grew up to be stronger than I am, and beautiful. My fears were for nothing.
Except they were fears more terrible than monsters in the bed or under it. The fear was real: I was diagnosed with MS.
Broken bones from falls, crooked arm, fractured cheek and wrist. Bent spine, weak legs, weak torso. Blindness, paralysis, voice broken.
I am like a shell that washes up on shore, battered against the foamy rocks, the roiling surf, and the pearly sheen of my skin is a bruise.
I’m an artist and a writer, but I’d give it all up to be healthy.

No, sorry: my life doesn’t have twenty versions. Now all my selves
sit in a chair all day and watch TV or read, talking to the Other Fears in my head. I’m house-bound, in a chamber of skin and bones, far from the stars or beach.

My dreams are twenty windows,
all shut and sealed.

ALV: Anita, I’ve loved all of your answers, especially your final one, although it contains much pain, this is your truth, your courage, gracias.

I have one more question after reading your wondrous book of stories, Butterfly Moon, which seems to contain all of your ancestors, Yaqui to European. I especially love the ones where the ancient myths (truths) come into play. The final story in the collection, ‘The Dragonfly’s Daughter,’ features Desetnica GoLightly. At the end of the story she learns she was born with the tenth child’s blessing, to become a roaming storyteller as her mother was. Desetnica meets three magical women who tell her the destiny of the tenth child, as they call her magical name, Dragonfly’s Daughter. They give her a “carved with runic symbols and other wondrous images” walking stick. “This is a storyteller’s walking stick. All will recognize you by this,” they tell her.

They give her an amber necklace with a tiny dragonfly inside: “You will take your father’s spirit with you, for his ashes drifted into the creek. The dragonfly formed its larvae from your father’s bones.”

“‘And here.’ They circled me, placing their hands on top of my head. ‘We give you our blessings, Desetnica GoLightly.’

“Their hands felt like a wreath of shining stars on my head. ‘Thank you, ladies.’

“‘We will meet again one day, child….Remember that you do sacred work. Death can be its own blessing.’

“I took a deep breath. ‘I do not understand my fate, but I accept it.’

“‘And that’s as it should be...Now, go forth and tell stories.’”

As I read this wonderful story, I recognized myself as the tenth child of my lineage. And I recognize you as the tenth child of your lineage, Anita GoLightly. I think I just answered my final question, via the excerpt from the story, above.

You went forth and told/wrote the stories, Anita. You’ve gifted us with your marvelous poems, magical stories, and powerful paintings. GRACIAS for your very necessary voice and vision.

© Anita Endrezze

Anita Endrezze’s web site with a full listing of all her books, artwork and a biography. www.anitaendrezze.weebly.com

Alma Luz Villanueva is the author of eight books of poetry, most recently Gracias 2015, and four novels, most recently, Song of the Golden Scorpion, 2013.

She’s taught in the MFA in Creative Writing program, Antioch University Los Angeles the past sixteen years.

Mother of four grown children, and Mamacita to five grandchildren, two Greatgrandhijitos. Has lived in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, for the past ten years, returning to teach, visit la familia. www.almaluzvillanueva.com

New Theatre For Now at LATC
Michael Sedano

Over a recent weekend, Los Angeles theatre-goers exulted in the grand spectacle of a world-class raza ensemble bringing a twenty-two hundred year-old play to life, Plautus' La Olla - The Pot of Gold. Plautus is so old, he's brand new--in the hands of the incredibly talented players of the Los Angeles Theatre Center.

Energized by a brilliant adaptation, sparkling improvisations, code-switching hilarity, actors comfortable in roles including a miser, some bad guys, colorful samberos, and denizens of nightclub society, kept the heavily subscribed house laughing. All in all, LATC's La Olla at the Malibu Getty offered a wonderfully absurdist noir.

 Now this same theatre company presents its 2015 season that features local work and local talent,  along with visiting companies who, like the locals, work at the leading edge of world theatre. Years ago, the phrase "New Theatre For Now" signaled an exciting season that lived up to its name, bringing brand new plays to off-the-beaten-path locations.

Season after season, the Los Angeles Theatre Company evokes that long-ago feast for theatre-goers, with the plus of the LATC's deluxe auditoria, convenient parking, and a lively street scene.

"East of Broadway" is both a geographical and a cultural referent. The gorgeously refurbished theatre complex, located at 514 South Spring Street, a block east of Broadway, is a showcase of glass and shiny metal and architectural appointments. 

Culturally, the LATC theatre site is not far from LA's historic Bunker Hill, the quondam cultural center where the Mark Taper Forum once supported local talent and new work not just via the NTFN series. Today, LATC stands as one of the jewels of a surging arts district coming to life east of Broadway.

Visit LATC's website for subscriptions and opportunities to support the teatro.

Getty Malibu ceramic

Tejano Conjunto Festival Coming in May

The thirty-fourth annual musical extravaganza returns to San Antonio Texas with free and fee events for all ages.

According to organizers, "Cucuy accordionists will be invading San Antonio this May when the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center presents the 34th Annual Tejano Conjunto Festival en San Antonio 2015 from May 13-17 at the historic Guadalupe Theater and Rosedale Park."

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