Zed Recommends: Hozier on Song Exploder

I have been listening to Hozier’s 2019 album Wasteland, Baby over and over. It’s been a while since I have been into an album start to finish — usually, I get into songs, and make playlists, or sometimes put the entire catalogue of an artist on shuffle, but albums are less common. This one, though, still has me on the edge of my seat.

You probably know Hozier as the guy who sang “Take Me To Church,” still an incredible song (though I don’t know about you, but it was definitely overplayed in my life, as it was such a hit). I love that

I think it was the song “Shrike” that got me first. I couldn’t tell what he was singing, so I looked up the lyrics: “Remember me, love / When I’m reborn / As a shrike to your sharp / And glorious thorn.” Turns out, a shrike is a bird — well, more of a family of birds, about 30 different kinds.

As I was waxing poetic to a friend about how much I love Wasteland, Baby, a friend recently asked if I’d heard the podcast Song Exploder. No, I hadn’t, I said. They recommended the episode about Hozier’s song “Nina Cried Power” — and I thought it was just incredible.

“Nina Cried Power” is a protest song in a lineage of protest songs, and it did feel, I’ll admit, a little heavy handed. It’s the first track on the album, and I often skipped it when I put it on. Not after this interview, though.

The interview includes discussion from Hozier about how the song was written and how it came together, and an interview with Mavis Staples, who sings on the song as well. I loved hearing her words and interpretations of the song.

Hozier shared that the whole song started with the opening line, “It’s not the waking / it’s the rising” — and oh, I just love his songwriting. I love focusing on the rising — which calls to mind the idea of “rising up,” for me, immediately — and not just waking. Both in activism, and even with the beginning of a day — it’s not the moment you open your eyes, he says, it’s when you get out of bed.

I loved listening to this interview, and hearing the depths of how the song came together and was made. And now I listen to that song much more deeply than I did before. I never skip over this track any more.

Here’s the video for the song, via YouTube:

Listen to Hozier’s “Nina Cried Power” episode on Song Exploder on their website, or wherever you listen to your podcasts.


In Search of Lilacs

You know that feeling when you’re doing something really hard, when you’re challenging yourself, when you’re stepping out of your comfort zone?
That feeling when you have studied for weeks and weeks and weeks and your test is tomorrow and now there is just nothing to even think about because maybe you’ve studied everything you possibly can, or maybe you’re exhausted, but either way, you have to just let go and walk in to that room and pack your entire bag except your #2 pencil and open the booklet?
I’ve been living in that gap lately — continuing to run and leap at the Next Level. I don’t really know what it is, but I have some pretty good ideas of how to get there. They are involving all my strength to keep going keep pushing keep showing up when I want to quit or give up or take another nap. And how can I tell if I’m “not showing up” or if I’m taking care of myself by resting? How can I tell if I’m giving up or if I can’t actually do that without some sort of harm to myself?
These are questions I’m grappling with.
Meanwhile, it is high spring in the Bay Area. I got a sunburn this week, which is something I am usually very mindful of — turns out I burn easily, and am very affected by the heat. It’s taken me years now to adjust to the California sun, to say no to outdoor activities, to go into the shade even when the action is in the sun.
I haven’t been able to find any lilacs, though. They are quite rare here. Maybe they like to be farther north? I am used to bouquets of them, bushes of them with branches heaving under the weight of their heavy blossoms. They aren’t the kind of flower where passers-by stop to awe at their shape, but they do stun us with their smell: perfume and magic and stardust.
As a kid, I was taught never to pick flowers — except for lilacs. If you don’t harvest the lilac flowers, the dead bloom will stay there into the next season. But if you do, another flower will grow back in its place. This is what I was always taught.
They were special, personal, friends — almost like they wanted to be in homes, on dinner tables, on windowsills, rather than stay on their bush and drop their petals.
Maybe they are just good at adventuring, at going out of their comfort zone, at wanting to see more than the place from which they grew. Maybe they know they need a leap, but don’t have their own mobility, so they smell so good to encourage us with hands to take them.
Maybe that’s why I’m craving them so much during this mid-air free-fall leveling-up process of spring.
PS: Doing a really hard thing this weekend. If you think of me May 2-3-4, send a little sparkle my way. Will report back about leveling up.


Being Brave, No Matter What Happens

I hope you’ve been following Blair Braverman as much as I have. She writes all the time over on her Twitter channel about her adventures as a musher, training, caring for, and racing sled dogs. Just this week, she finished the epic Iditarod! Can’t wait for the tweets about her stories to start coming in (after she’s rested).
I still think about this article she wrote, How to Teach a Dog to Be Brave. Bravery has been on my mind lately: I’m job hunting, and continuing to make myself vulnerable and get invested in a job I want only to not know whether I’ll get it is an act of bravery. My partner Hunter and I are also going through a process of being recognized as more formal community leaders in the leather/BDSM worlds, and that, too, has been requiring bravery.
And I’m thinking about failure, shame, embarrassment. What does it mean to fail something? There is much talk of “failing forward,” “failing big,” and how much failure is not a bad thing — but what about my personal relationships to that?
Blair writes:

What I’ve learned through years of blizzards and frostbite and broken headlamps, tangles and wolves and splintered sleds, is that whatever happens, I’ll find a way to handle it. I can’t predict or control problems, but I have a darn good track record for protecting my team and coming out the other end. Sometimes I think that’s as close to real courage as I’m going to get.

I’m thinking of Blair’s words as I write another cover letter, contact another mutual connection on LinkedIn. Whatever happens, I’ll find a way to handle it. What a lovely thing to trust, when (if) I can do that.
Happy spring,
PS: Save the date for Portals of Pleasure 2019! July 24-28 near Albuquerque, New Mexico. Registration will open in April.


Sweet Cave, Sweet Music

I’m still in a sweet cave of reflecting on the year behind and tilling the emotional-spiritual soil so I can plant things for the year to come.
I also have about ten projects in the fire, so part of my cave is pulling back and creating creating creating.
While I used to listen to tons of singer-songwriter kinds of music when I worked, lately I’m listening to a lot of sweet things, mostly instrumental, as they help as a kind of white noise but they aren’t usually very distracting.
I’ve used for years — it connects to iTunes and Spotify (and before that, my Windows Media Player) and tracks all the artists and songs I listen to. (I think my profile is public? You can look at it here, if you want to know more about my music tastes.) I just got my year-end report which said my most listened to album was Rise & Fall by the Sweeplings, and my most listened artist was Tori Amos (duh).
But in addition to that lovely music, I’ve really loved the few double-guitar solos that Jason Kertson has. Aside from everything else, that he’s playing two guitars is really cool!
How’s your January, beloveds? Are you in a sweet cave? Hope you are warm and cocooned and snuggled.

Newsletter Poetry

Her Message: A poem after the California fire

On the first day, the fires came without warning. Just a precession right down the middle of main street, hello, hello, I’ve been looking forward to meeting you. The wind scattered sparks skyward. There wasn’t enough time to find the cat who has been stalking butterflies outside. There wasn’t enough time to check in with the elderly neighbor who shared photos of their grandkids and loved your pumpkin pie. There was only time for those who could to run.
On the second day, the smoke had already traveled hundreds of miles. The nearby towns and cities are choked with grey, including mine. We are told to get P-100 or N-95 masks. We are told not to go outside. We are told to close all the windows. And we are the lucky ones: we still have our bookshelves. Our car tires are not melted to the road. The air is toxic, but we are alive.
On the third day, I think about the smoke. It isn’t just ‘smoke’: it is the remnants of melted car tires, burned photo albums of baby pictures, charcoaled couches and guitars and lamps, burned human bodies of people who died in their cars trying to escape. I am breathing them in. They are becoming part of me.
On the fifth day, I order reusable N-95 masks online. I have been putting this off thinking that by the time they arrive, the smoke would clear, but the fire is only twenty percent contained. This is the third time I have needed this kind of mask since I moved to California. The fires are becoming a regular occurrence.
On the sixth day, the air is the worse it has been yet. I read about the cities whose air quality is always like this. Yes, San Francisco’s air is bad: 290. But Dhaka, Bangladesh is 465. Delhi and Mumbai are frequently above 290 on typical days. Kolkata, India is 208. Lahore, Pakistan is 207. What is it like to live with this as a daily reality?
On the ninth day, I realize that my bedroom is not at all sealed. The cracks in the windows and doors are completely open to the outside air. I think about sleeping on the couch.
On the tenth day, I read that the trees love smoke. Smoke is carbon dioxide, which is what they love to breathe. I read that areas where there are the most trees, the air is the highest quality.
On the twelfth day, I read that the air is so bad, it is the equivalent of smoking ten cigarettes a day. As a former smoker, I think, well that actually isn’t so bad.
On the fourteenth day, the rains finally came. The puddles become full of toxic ash. We are advised not to let the dogs drink from them, but who ever could stop a dog from drinking a puddle? Our deck is slick with the residue. The city glitters and shines, fresh from a bath, and I can see across the Bay again.
Every day, I think: Could the earth be any more clear in her message?
Paradise is burning down.


honoring the process of death

Everything ends. Everything is fleeting, temporary. This feeling, this open wound, this particular phase of the moon — we want it to be the way it is, but it isn’t. It is the way it will be, and will be after that.
Don’t get too comfortable. Don’t get too used to one thing, because it will become another. Don’t worry. You won’t stay as you are, either. This body is not the same one you had a year ago, ten years ago. Have you kept up with who you are now?
What will you continue to teach after you’re gone? Who will have your name in their mouths? What if it is no one? What if you are never internet famous, what if you never run a start-up that is the next cover of Wired, what if you do not leave a patented invention? What will you do with your life if you knew all you had was just your feelings when you create, your connections, your kinetics?
The great divine energy that is all that is loves to experience. The divine loves experiences so much that they have shattered themself into an innumerable amount of beings, each able to feel and see and hear and taste and love in different ways. They are moving through you to explore all there is to explore in your unique form. Do not deny the world your insights.
Do not be so selfish as to keep your gifts to yourself — even if they, too, will be temporary, will end, and may never be what you want them to be.
When something is dying, what happens? A withering, a crash; a crunch, a soft fading. Sometimes, things to do not go between the worlds willingly. Sometimes there is struggle. There is struggle all around, right now, as the old systems are dying.
Rage, rage, into the dying of the light.
Is there struggle in you? What is struggling to die? What should you be letting die with dignity, but aren’t? What wishes to sing itself into the great long slumber?
Me, I am shedding layers built up and I cower feeling the wind on my raw skin. It is hard to believe this is better, that this is where I should be: to look at the hard thing that I know will gut me and do it anyway. And I do it, and I do hate it, and that hate fades, and I have done it. Everything is fleeting, temporary.
Everything ends.
This body, too, will be a corpse.
Merry Samhain; happy Halloween.


Announcing: Entering the Long Night

Hello beloveds —
Alex & I are doing an energy & BDSM focused workshop, Entering the Long Night, in Seattle in December, and you’re invited.
It’s all gender, all orientations, clothing optional. It’s limited to 12 people, and it’s already half full — so if you’re thinking about it, sign up quick & save a space. 
This is related to the Wicked Equinox SM workshops Alex & I have done in the past, but this time we’re doing it at the very beginning of December, as we approach solstice and the subtle time of the year.
Here’s the information. Hope you can join us <3  Zed
The winter solstice is a time to pause and reflect. The days are shorter, the nights are longer, and what few hours we have with the sun are extra crisp and clear — even crystalline — particularly in places with snow and ice. With all the winter weather, hibernating plants and animals, and the sun low in the sky, it might seem like there’s no life activity; but underneath all of that, life is still there, resting, pulsing, waiting for the reemergence.
That’s the kind of resting life we will engage with in this weekend workshop.
Sometimes aliveness at its most full and actualized by being big, bold, and loud, but there is just as much vivid vibrancy in the small, subtle, and soft.
We’ll use various tools to explore the energy body and tap in to the wisdom of the body, through play, sensation from subtle to bold: intense sensation, bondage and holding, stillness and movement. We’ll build energy up, then slow everything down so we can reflect and embark on an internal journey. Using principles and theories of the energy body, of BDSM, of group dynamics and interaction, we’ll craft our own rituals to dialogue with our deep aliveness with curiosity and kindness.
This is an opportunity to meet the challenges, external expectations, and obligations of the (American) holiday season with intentional pause and stillness, strengthening a felt inner sense of home.


Go to the page and fill out the interest form. 

Space is limited to 12 participants
Tuition: Pond $375-450, Lake $450, Ocean $475-595 (you decide)
Registration Dates: Open now until October 27th (six weeks before the workshop)
Open to all genders, all sexual orientations; participants should have previous experience with Body Trust or equivalent.
Accessibility: Private space has 5 cement stairs; we request all participants be scent-aware and do not wear scented products (we will provide additional information about that).
Questions? Email


Erotix is published!

A baker’s dozen writers come together to explore the idea of what it is to be adventuring in a body: what is it to connect with others? What is it to experience intense sensation? What is it to transform? What is it to live in this particular body that we have? Using erotic touch, somatics, BDSM, love, and more, this journal explores the poetry and prose of the erotic experience in many different forms.

Learn more and get your copy here.


harvest season

It’s harvest time, so of course here’s the obligatory golden field of wheat photo. I’ve definitely noticed more corn around, and the bigger, thicker squashes in people’s urban gardens (so envious, my tiny container garden right now consists of a few scraggly cherry tomatoes and kale that is 90% eaten by caterpillars).
The wheel of the year has a cross-quarter celebration August 1st, one of the ones halfway between a solstice and an equinox. This one is Lammas, very much a celebration of harvest — of what we planted in the spring at Imbolc (February 2). I’m thinking back to the intentions that I planted and noticing that I really am in a different space, and really did plant energetic wishes that are now blooming.
Here, the wild blackberries are also really ripe, so our plans have been to make some bread and some blackberry jam (which will probably actually be squashed blackberries, not formal jam with the boiling of the jars and all that). I haven’t made time for that yet, but it will happen! I feel flexible with my celebrations, though I like doing a little something, at least, day of.
This year, I did a tarot spread (I know, shocker) from Little Red Tarot, who I found because they have a “Queering the Tarot” series that has been fun to read. The article with the spread also has more information on lammas and the energies of this time of year.
Enjoy! And happy harvesting, of whatever it was that you have been planting, nurturing, and growing.
— Zed
PS: Exciting announcement — Erotix: Literary Journal of Somatics is almost ready! It’ll be out at the end of August.


“To make [my story] not too heavy, I plunged it into the water.”

Hello from Portals of Pleasure!

We are on retreat right now, at our annual five-day deep dive in New Mexico. I invite you to tune in to our circle, radiating outward and connecting to all of you beloveds who follow and accept our work — you create part of the larger energetic circle.
Just take a deep breath and think of us through Sunday the 22nd, we’ll be gathered and experimenting and rooting into wildness. We’ll be breathing & thinking of you, too.
Wait, there’s one more thing I want to share with you.

I mentioned that I’d seen this short film with a dancer underwater this month on the video Amy + Alex + I made and posted to the Patreon (you can join us here and support our ongoing work — it makes a big difference for us on this end!) I found it stunning, and have watched it many times.
The film is Ama by Julie Gautier.
What an incredible portal of pleasure.
— Zed