Justicia Para Todos

Photo taken from a moving car by a reluctant teenager. I tinkered with it to try to bring it closer to my memory of the moment of color.

This is the dawn of a new semester. Here on the second day of our new classes, I am trying to get a baseline writing sample from all my students, and trying to make sure that everyone knows how to submit their assignments electronically from the get-go. I’m playing Amanda Gorman’s inaugural poem today as the poem of the day, and then asking them to write about what they want America (or their own country) to be.

Here are some of my reflections from yesterday:
The relief was almost as hard to breathe through as the grief has been. I felt like I do when I get off the bike and don’t walk it off–light-headed and wobbly. Even though I was extra careful with my daily grounding and breathing, it was hard to keep that energy anchored. It’s been a heavy task to carry the weight of constant destruction in these past four years, and laying down the better part of that burden was a shock to the system, especially as the anxiety of further domestic terrorism still hung over the day. Are we safe now? I kept asking myself. Maybe now? Maybe we can say we’re safe now?

We have made it from there to here. Now it is time to take ourselves from here to the next where. We are safe, but not rebuilt. I celebrate with great joy all the successes of yesterday, all the diversity of cabinet members, all the voices being called in and called on and amplified. Now we hold the leaders to the vision they offered us, and to the dream of a just and equal society, of justicia para todos.

It would have been nice to have had some indigenous representation in the ceremony, some Muslim voices. I admit that I cringed at the overtly Christian tone it set. Our new president is Catholic, and so I think it is perfectly apt and acceptable to have priests and ministers give Christian blessing to the ceremony, but I did come away with a sense that there was an assumption of Christianity. I think someone even used the words “people of faith” as though it belonged to us all. This does not destroy the beauty of so much of the ceremony, even in the prayers and speeches–but it mars it a little for me, makes me wince. I want our leaders to commit to separation of church and state, a separation that can bless the religious perspectives of a Catholic president, as well as the Muslims and Buddhists and pagans and atheists and seekers among us all.

Yesterday, after four years of a constant barrage of vicious and violent and belittling rhetoric, a young Black woman taught us how to speak to each other again. Kindly and firmly, honest about the brokenness we have walked through. She showed us how the language of poetry can craft a vision of a desired world in ways that rhetorical speeches cannot. The wildly joyful response to her words show how starved we have been for poetry, how we have longed for the uniquely disruptive vision of the Poet. I kept wanting to tell people, “I loved Amanda Gorman before Amanda Gorman was cool,” but that would have been a buzz kill–I remember how entranced I was the first time I heard her voice. “Tyrants,” she said, in the poem she spoke at her own inauguration as National Youth Poet Laureate, “fear the poet.” Yup. There has been no poetry in this past administration.

The mockingjay is not necessarily a call for violent revolution, ya’ll. As I understand the books, the mockingjay was about the networks of people committed to changing an oppressive system that privileged the wealthy, about resisting an authoritarian regime that brutalized children and families in order to control the population (sound like a familiar border-control plan?), that centered the vicious and horrific as entertainment. I don’t know if Lady Gaga and her stylists intended the association between her peace dove and The Hunger Games mockingjay, but I hope they did. It was brilliant. To me, it means that the people are still holding the powers that be accountable, no matter who holds the titles. As it should be in a democracy.

I do not pledge my allegiance to any flag or nation. I belong to the world, and pledge my allegiance to the planet and her peoples and her plant and animal life, to her networks of energy. I do like the liberty and justice for all part of our pledge, however. I do hope we can start living up to that. Especially the ALL part. Yesterday was the first time I ever got teary-eyed during the pledge. A Black woman, signing the pledge. White gloves. Eloquent hands. Her strong, clear voice. Her distinct signs that made even non-ASL speakers understand the meanings. (And then later, Amanda Gorman’s eloquent hands that seemed to be speaking along with her voice. Eloquent hands.)

Speaking of hands, I am a fan of Bernie’s Mittens, made for him by an elementary schoolteacher, by recycling wool sweaters, using fleece made of recycled plastic bottles for the lining. I hope he understands that the meme-making of the image of him sitting there in his mittens is more about how he also represents something about us rather than making fun of him. I, too, am sitting in the cold in my mittens, legs and arms crossed, watching to see what we will make of our chances. Dear practical Senator Sanders, how we need your vision to help guide us now. Be as curmudgeonly as you need to be. (And also, I think I might start swearing by Bernie’s Mittens. Seems like an emblem of power somehow. Eloquent mittens.)

I don’t really like our warlike national anthem. Never have. I prefer to think of “America The Beautiful” as our anthem. Why isn’t it? And I loved the sweetness of J-Lo’s rendition of that one, and the gorgeous intensity of her breaking in with the Spanish version of the pledge. My Spanish isn’t good, but I understood what she was saying by the time she got to “justicia para todos.” Yes, please!

Despite my dislike of the anthem, I found myself moved again, at the moment that Lady Gaga turned and gestured (eloquent hands again) to the flag, as she sang that it was still there, and suddenly it wasn’t just about war but about the fact that we had just weathered an insurrection, and no longer just the flag, but Democracy, was still there. Suddenly it all stood for so much more than war and colonialism and imperialism, but for the basic principles of democracy that we keep trying to get right, that were under attack just two weeks before in that exact same spot. I still don’t like the anthem, but Lady Gaga transformed it momentarily for me yesterday.

Keep singing, Mockingjay. We’re listening. We’re gathering.
We’re working as hard as we can to make justicia para todos a reality.
We’re ready to be that light you spoke of, Sweet Fierce Poet.

May we be worthy of our dreams.


Gratitudes:
1. Safety
2. Rest
3. Poets
4. Breath
5. Tabula Rasa

May we create justicia para todos.


“For while we have our eyes on the future
history has its eyes on us
This is the era of just redemption
We feared at its inception
We did not feel prepared to be the heirs
of such a terrifying hour
but within it we found the power
to author a new chapter
To offer hope and laughter to ourselves.”
–Amanda Gorman, excerpt from The Hill We Climb


THE LUTE WILL BEG
by Hafiz

You need to become a pen
In the Sun´s hand.
We need for the earth to sing
Through our pores and eyes.
The body will again become restless
Until your soul paints all its beauty
Upon the sky.
Don´t tell me, dear ones,
That what Hafiz says is not true,
For when the heart tastes its glorious destiny
And you awake to our constant need
for your love
God´s lute will beg
For your hands.


“Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.
Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain.
And could you keep your heart in wonder at the daily miracles of your life, your pain would not seem less wondrous than your joy;
And you would accept the seasons of your heart, even as you have always accepted the seasons that pass over your fields.
And you would watch with serenity through the winters of your grief.” —From “On Pain” by Khalil Gibran

Repairing America

Anything we do, no matter how routine or mundane, can be a ritual, a prayer, a magical spinning of webs of healing. This week, as I have been repairing a quilt, I have been pondering/praying/spinning webs for the mending of the raggedness of the world.

When we got engaged over thirty years ago, Jon and I bought ourselves a glorious Sunshine and Shadow wedding quilt. For a few years, in one of the places we lived, we hung it on a wall, where it was fabulously set off by the natural woodwork of the doorways and window sashes of the house. But for much of our marriage we kept it in storage, waiting until we had a perfect wall again to display it. About ten years ago, I brought it out and said that a marriage quilt belongs on a bed. If it gets damaged by everyday use, so be it. We’re looking a little bit more ragged and worn ourselves than we did back in 1990, and it just felt wrong to keep something so symbolic tucked out of sight out of fear that it might become damaged.

And it has indeed become worn and ragged, but only in one of its colors. The heathery olive green was apparently a less sturdy fabric than the rest, and over time, it became completely shredded. It was my intention to go to a fabric store and try to match the color exactly, but I just don’t ever seem to find the time to make excursions like that, and so I put off fixing it for a couple years. Finally, during lockdown, I began to wonder why I was so attached to the replacement color matching the original exactly. I had some green with the same intensity of vibrancy as the other colors in the quilt. So I cut some patches and started to cut away the old and tattered fabric. (I didn’t think to start photographing the process until I had already repaired eight of the patches.)

And while I have been appliqueing the new patches into the design, I have been thinking about the raggedness of brokenness in our world, and especially in this country, where things have actually never NOT been ragged and torn. Unlike our wedding quilt, which began in beauty, and which represents a marriage and family that respects and values the true humanity of all its members, this country may have had some beautiful aspects when seen from a distance and through certain lenses, but the colors in the American quilt were created from the blood and bones and sweat of enslaved people and from the genocide of those who lived here before the Europeans came along with their ideas of Empire. This quilt we call the United States may need to be completely remade in order to create a thing of true and lasting beauty.

What are the elements and colors of beauty and grace that we think we want to keep when the quilt has been repaired? Democracy? What a lovely and marvelous ideal! But it’s never actually been a true and shining democracy for all of us. Can we find a fabric to replace that one? This time, let’s choose a strong fabric, one that weaves us ALL into the warp and weft, that offers everyone a voice. It’s going to take a great deal of energy and time and personal labor to cut away the ragged and corrupted edges of that one, and stitch the new and stronger pieces in its place.

We’re going to need to examine our communal ideals, one by one, and carefully trim away the ones which have become torn and tattered so we can stitch new, more vibrant colors made of stronger, more inclusive fabrics into their places. Perhap then we can save this quilt of a country. ‘Til all is said and done, we’ll probably be replacing the batting and backing, tearing out rows of quilting, finding new threads and better materials. The next version of this American quilt may not look much like the original, and that is a good thing. The original was never so vibrant and meaningful as so many people thought it was. It’s always been corrupted, moth-eaten, and tattered. Now is the time to create a true America, the one we thought we had, but real and solid and vibrant.


Gratitude List:
1. Fixing, repairing, mending
2. Contemplating, praying, spinning webs
3. Creating, making, designing
4. Listening, absorbing, holding space
5. Stretching, breathing, unbending

Do justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly–in Beauty!


“That’s the way things come clear. All of a sudden. And then you realize how obvious they’ve been all along.” —Madeleine L’Engle


“In all religious systems the danger is that the logical structure and rational doctrine will obscure the mystical vision.” —Bede Griffiths


“Note to self today:
Do not feed the monsters.
Monsters are those thought threads that denigrate and disrespect self and others.
Some are wandering thought forms, looking for a place to land and live.
Some are sent to you deliberately or inadvertently. They can come from arrows or gossip, jealousy or envy. Or from just…thoughtlessness.
Instead, have a party.
Invite your helpers to the table. Give them something to do. They want to be helpful. And just celebrate.
Feed the birds.
Second note: A positive mind makes a light slippery surface and anything not of it, slides off.” —Joy Harjo


Omid Safi: “In many languages, the words for “love” have a connection to words for “seed.” In Arabic and Persian, a word for love (hubb) comes from the seed that is planted in the ground. Sometimes a seed of love is planted in the heart’s ground through a glance, a touch, a word. The seed of love falls on the heart’s soil. Is it a hardened earth, a rock-covered surface, one that will have the seed washed away with the first water? Or is it a soil that has been prepared, tilled, softened up, opened up again and again and again, ready to embrace the seed of love that would surely come?”


“We need better government, no doubt about it. But we also need better minds, better friendships, better marriages, better communities.” —Wendell Berry


“A spirituality that is only private and self-absorbed, one devoid of an authentic political and social consciousness, does little to halt the suicidal juggernaut of history. On the other hand, an activism that is not purified by profound spiritual and psychological self-awareness and rooted in divine truth, wisdom, and compassion will only perpetuate the problem it is trying to solve, however righteous its intentions. When, however, the deepest and most grounded spiritual vision is married to a practical and pragmatic drive to transform all existing political, economic and social institutions, a holy force – the power of wisdom and love in action – is born. This force I define as Sacred Activism.”
―Andrew Harvey, The Hope: A Guide to Sacred Activism


“If you’re really listening, if you’re awake to the poignant beauty of the world, your heart breaks regularly. In fact, your heart is made to break; its purpose is to burst open again and again so that it can hold evermore wonders.”
―Andrew Harvey


“I pray for the gift of silence, Of emptiness and solitude, Where everything I touch is turned into prayer:”
―Andrew Harvey, Light the Flame: 365 Days of Prayer


“Now, it’s not like Jesus was against name-calling or anything. He slung around Hypocrite, Fool and Brood of Vipers with the best of them. But I find it fascinating that Jesus reserved his name-calling for the religious community and never for the broken down or broken hearted. Never for the excluded. Never for the lonely. Never for the outcasts.

“Interestingly, Jesus doesn’t tell us to love the sinner; Jesus tells us to love our neighbor. And then Jesus goes on to define our neighbors as those who are despised, rejected, excluded, ignored, and bullied.” –Beth Woolsey

Death of Democracy, of Republic

I have been fuzzy in my civic understanding of the differences and similarities between a democracy and a republic, and to what degree my own nation is one or both of those. This morning, alarmingly, I have seen two articles posted online, one warning that our democracy is dying, the other that our republic is in its death throes. I suppose it’s time I develop a clearer understanding of the terms so that I can better understand what it is we are in danger of losing.

I think we are an oligarchy. I think we are in end-stage capitalism. I think that greed and self-interest have become the MO of our most powerful public servants. Serving the will of the people, and doing the right thing, have taken second place to staying in office, and garnering personal political power and wealth. The ideals of democracy and republic have failed to serve us as a nation.

There have been some bright spots in this impeachment process, some fine speechmaking and oratory, some grand ideals expressed, some hope for a society that governs itself according to core principles of freedom and justice for all. Still, the defensiveness and bullying, the sense of threat hanging over the whole proceeding, begins to make the story feel ominous and tragic.

A society that cares more about protecting the assets of its wealthiest members rather than providing for the basic needs of its most vulnerable members is headed for implosion.


Gratitude List:
2. This is my tabula rasa morning. I’ve been living in semester two for two weeks, but finishing up the grading for semester one. I will hit the Grades Ready for Registrar button in half an hour, and then the last rocks blocking this tunnel will crumble and disintegrate, and I will walk into the full light of the new story.
3. Wise people. Wise women. Helpful, thoughtful, perceptive friends. I don’t know how I would get by without those serendipitous and intentional moments of wisdom and care that you share.
1. Not everything is dire and tragic. So much is beautiful and wise and thoughtful and hopeful. You are here, and so am I, and we hold the ideals of a civilization that protects the environment and cares for the vulnerable.
5. Stretching, releasing breath, grounding, centering.
4. The breathing spaces in the day to come.

May we walk in Beauty!

Mist, Moon, Mist


As November 6 approaches, and amid all the squeamishness I am feeling about the privileged way we do politics in this country, I am thinking about the “right” to vote.

June 4, 1919: The 19th Amendment finally offered women the right to vote in this country.

Except. Only White Women. Women put their bodies on the line for this right. They went to jail. They were beaten. They were brutally force-fed during hunger strikes. They were called terrible names, and experienced social shaming that destroyed their reputations. And they were white women, and they fought for white women. Some of my heras from that fight were notably silent on the subject of race. Others actively campaigned against women of color being included in the mix.

On this hand over here, I honor them for their selfless and courageous fight. They saw their moment and they took it, and the world was at least a marginally better place for it.

On this hand over here, though: Is it a victory, really, if it actively marginalizes such a large number of us?

My heras have feet of clay. Fatal flaws. Lack of real vision and insight and completely human compassion. Still, their work paved the way. But not for all of us. Did it at least open the door for all of us?

The Snyder Act, in 1924, finally gave the country’s original inhabitants the right to vote, five years after white women could vote. And looking at the kinds of voter suppression that took place for African American people after white people finally passed the 15th Amendment, it’s likely that many Native American women didn’t vote until much later.

While the 15th Amendment in 1870 ostensibly gave African American men the right to vote, we don’t have to look so far back into the mists of history to see how recently the Voting Rights Act was passed, to REALLY give black people the right to vote. It was on 1965, two years before I was born, and I’m not that old. So, while my grandmothers could have voted if they’d wanted to (it was against their religious principles, so they didn’t), my grandmothers’ African American sisters couldn’t vote until they were in their forties or fifties.

So this year I won’t be posting any images of the white suffragettes marching for women’s right to vote, as door-opening as that period was, as sacrificial as they were. And I am having trouble celebrating any movement to bring about ACTUAL Democratic voting in this country while the Supreme Court can take away the voting rights of First Nations people in North Dakota, while unscrupulous people are suppressing the black vote in Georgia, while elderly black voters are removed from a bus taking them to a polling place. There are more stories. Look them up.

I will honor the intent of the suffragettes who fought for the right to vote, for the doors they opened, and I will truly celebrate the life and work of the tireless Congressman John Lewis, who nearly died in the fight to bring about the Voting Rights Act.

There will always be undemocratic forces in this country that try to garner power for their own ends, to control the people. Voting, and fighting for the voice of all people to vote, is part of the bedrock of the democratic process.  And I will speak out–and I beg you to speak out, too–for the rights of ALL Americans to vote for those who are chosen to speak for us in the halls of power.


Gratitude List:
1. Good fiction. I am listening to The Book of the Unnamed Midwife. I don’t know why post-apocalyptic literature is so charmingly comforting in these difficult times. Perhaps it has to do with reminding me that things aren’t as bad as all that. Yet. Feel free to psychoanalyze me.
2. Speaking Truth to Power–all the people who do so
3. Cool fall days
4. The river, the river, the river
5. Magical, prayerful, contemplative acts

May we walk in Beauty!


Rhapsody Part 7 – Mary Oliver

If you are in the garden, I will dress myself in leaves.
If you are in the sea I will slide into that
smooth blue nest, I will talk fish, I will adore salt.
But if you are sad, I will not dress myself in desolation.
I will present myself with all the laughters I can muster.
And if you are angry I will come, calm and steady, with
some small and easy story.
Promises, promises, promises! The tongue jabbers, the heart
strives, fails, strives again. The world is perfect.
Love, however,
is an opera, a history, a long walk, that
includes falling and rising, falling and rising, while
the heart stays as sweet as a peach, as radiant and
grateful as the deep leaved hills.
*
“You either walk inside your story & own it or you stand outside your story & hustle for your worthiness.” ~BRENÉ BROWN
*
Duck, duck, goose.
Goose, goose, wren.
Mist, moon, mist.
October.
–Beth Weaver-Kreider
*
“Live the question now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some day into the answer.” –Rainer Maria Rilke
*
“and if i hear one more time
about a fool’s rights
to his tools of rage
I’m gonna take all my friends
and I’m gonna move to Canada
and we’re gonna die of old age” –Ani Difranco

On the Nest


It’s not the clearest photo or the best composition, but you get the idea. Mama is on a nest. Stay away, coyotes and foxes and raccoons. May she and her nest be safe.

Some quotations for your day:
“When you teach your daughter, explicitly or by passive rejection, that she must ignore her outrage, that she must be kind and accepting to the point of not defending herself or other people, that she must not rock the boat for any reason, you are not strengthening her prosocial sense; you are damaging it—and the first person she will stop protecting is herself.” —Martha Stout
***
“I’ve seen women insist on cleaning everything in the house before they could sit down to write… and you know it’s a funny thing about housecleaning… it never comes to an end. Perfect way to stop a woman. A woman must be careful to not allow over-responsibility (or over-respectabilty) to steal her necessary creative rests, riffs, and raptures. She simply must put her foot down and say no to half of what she believes she “should” be doing. Art is not meant to be created in stolen moments only.”
―Clarissa Pinkola Estés
***
“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”
―Isaac Asimov
***
“In a world so torn apart by rivalry, anger, and hatred, we have the privileged vocation to be living signs of a love that can bridge all divisions and heal all wounds.” ―Henri J.M. Nouwen
***
My heart is moved by all I cannot save:
so much has been destroyed
I have to cast my lot with those
who age after age, perversely,
with no extraordinary power,
reconstitute the world.
―Adrienne Rich
***
“Sometimes when you think you are done, it is just the edge of beginning. Probably that’s why we decide we’re done. It’s getting too scary. We are touching down onto something real. It is beyond the point when you think you are done that often something strong comes out.” ―Natalie Goldberg
***
“The work of the eyes is done. Go now and do the heart-work on the images imprisoned within you.”
―Rainer Maria Rilke
***
“That story you writin’ just might save the world. That poem you throwin’ down, could end wars.” ―York Poet and Shining Woman Christine Lincoln
***
Love
saw me and said,
I showed up,
Wipe your tears
and be silent.

I said, O Love
I am frightened,
But it’s not you.

Love said to me,
there is nothing that is not me,
be silent.
―Rumi
***
“Be here. Let your wild self fly free.” ―The Crows