In the After

My wise sycamore tree friend.

There are the people who keep saying, “When things get back to normal.” I hear the sense of loss, the sense of things thrown out of kilter, in that–the longing to be able to be back with the people we loved, to go to the places we have come to love, to play and interact, to look people in the eye. I hear, and feel, the terrible anxiety of the livelihood losses created by a world on pause. Yes, I too eagerly anticipate the time when things get back to that normal.

There are the people who are critiquing the privilege in that statement. Getting back to what normal? they ask. I need to keep interrogating this for myself. I respect this critique. I want the new normal that comes when all this is over to open doors for more people. I don’t want to go back to a normal that privileges capital over humanity, that privileges the makers of abstract capital over the creators of actual necessary things, and the ones who make society flow smoothly.

There are the people who are celebrating this abnormal as a breathing time for the environment. Less pollution of all kinds–less particulate matter in the air, less noise, fewer lights–offers wildlands and wild creatures a chance to rebound, to heal. We are seeing the Mother’s graceful ability to heal herself. It’s happening before our eyes. There is hope. I don’t want to go go back to a normal that mindlessly plunders and destroys the Mother for capital gain.

I’ve begun thinking about it as The After. What do we want the world to be In The After? How can we honor the deep desire for a “normal,” a stability, a rhythm and routine that so many are expressing, and also strive for a new way of being? Can we make the kindnesses and the mutual aid a matter of course? Can we make the idea of everyone working together for the safety of our most vulnerable one of the established standards of the After? Will we find ways to walk the Earth with more respectful silence, so as not to disturb Her children? Will we give up plunder and competition in favor of sharing and co-existence? Perhaps now, the voices of the ones who have always striven for justice and equality, for kindness and ecological awareness, will be heard above the clamor.

What is the world you want to live in? We have been living in a pause, the world on hold, but there will come a time when we begin to move again, when we step out of the pause into a new something (a new normal, perhaps). Let’s commit to making The After a more just, more tender, more egalitarian, more eco-conscious world. Speak up now. Tell your ideas now. This is the gestation period, the time to be forming and visualizing and developing the normal that is to come in The After.


Gratitude List:
1. Visionaries
2. Dreamers
3. The people who implement ideas
4. Kindness
5. Hope

May we walk in Beauty!


“Grief is normal. It’s not like you’ll have a life someday with no grief. Life is all about loss, but grief is the medicine for that loss. Grief is not your problem. Grief is not the sorrow. Grief is the medicine. The people that have grief cultural awareness are always turning all of their losses into beauty in order to make more life instead of just trying to get through it and then forget about it.” —Martin Prechtel


“The only weapon we have is our bodies, and we need to tuck them in places so wheels don’t turn.” —Bayard Rustin


“My turn shall also come: I sense the spreading of a wing.” —Osip Mandelstam, Russian poet and essayist


“There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.” ―Washington Irving


“Gratitude is not a passive response to something we have been given, gratitude arises from paying attention, from being awake in the presence of everything that lives within and without us. Gratitude is not necessarily something that is shown after the event, it is the deep, a-priori state of attention that shows we understand and are equal to the gifted nature of life.” ―David Whyte


“Our strategy should be not only to confront empire, but to lay siege to it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame it. To mock it. With our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness—and our ability to tell our own stories. Stories that are different from the ones we’re being brainwashed to believe.

“The corporate revolution will collapse if we refuse to buy what they are selling—their ideas, their version of history, their wars, their weapons, their notion of inevitability.

“Remember this: We be many and they be few. They need us more than we need them.

“Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”
―Arundhati Roy, War Talk


“And this brings us back to the Hen Wife—that figure of magic who dwells comfortably among us, not off by the crossroads or in the dark of the woods; who is married, not solitary; who is equally at home with the wild and domestic, with the animal and human worlds. She is, I believe, among us still: dispensing her wisdom and exercising her power in kitchens and farmyards (and the urban equivalent) to this day—anywhere that women gather, talk among themselves, and pass knowledge down to the next generations.” ―Terri Windling

Advent 22: What Are You Waiting For?

When I walk a labyrinth, I like to take my time in the center, to pause and rest, to give space in the holy hush between in-breath and out-breath for something new to enter. In this December labyrinth, we’ve walked through increasingly dark passages, exploring the shadows, examining our own little lights, reflecting on the interplay between darkness and light.

Today the planet begins her inward spin again, back toward equilibrium, away from the outer point of our elliptical whirl. And there’s a feeling–much more poetic than scientific–of pause here at the edges. Just the slightest sensation of being between.

Breathing, like labyrinth-walking, is a steady in and out process. And like the labyrinth, it isn’t necessarily a simple in-and-turn-and-out journey. Between each breath is a little doorway into a room between breaths, a space where something new may enter.

And so, in this moment on the planetary spin, this space between breaths, this pause, this doorway, this room, we sit and we wait for what is to come. Here we sit within Time out of Time. The wait for Sunreturn is over, but Advent continues.

In the Christian tradition, we are waiting for the Child of Light to appear, for the angels to shine forth and announce a Birth. We ask ourselves what this welcome means. Is it a mystical moment, only an inner dawning? Is it a psycho-socio-political moment when we consider what it means to welcome the ones who are caught on the margins without hope of help? Is it simply the re-telling of an ancient tale? What are we waiting for?

Here in this dark, quiet room in the space between breaths, we have time to consider what it is we are waiting for. It’s not about the urgency of a child’s breathless anticipation of presents and play. We prepare these inner rooms, watch our dreams and visions, notice the way the breath moves in and out, and pauses. We wait.


Gratitude List:
1. Oyster Stew at the Town Hall Restaurant, where my father used to take my grandmother. I felt like Grandma was there, too. Even Santa stopped by, and gave us all candy canes.
2. Watching my brother teach my son to play guitar. Watching my nephew painting with my son. Playing games together, eating together. I am so grateful to be raising my children in these circles of village.
3. The twinkle and sparkle of lights.
4. The space between breaths.
5. Walking and waiting with you.

May we walk (and wait) in Beauty!

Practice the Pause

“Practice the pause. Pause before judging. Pause before assuming. Pause before accusing. Pause whenever you are about to react harshly and you’ll avoid doing and saying things you’ll later regret. ”
—Lori Deschene
*
“The deeper our faith, the more doubt we must endure; the deeper our hope, the more prone we are to despair; the deeper our love, the more pain its loss will bring: these are a few of the paradoxes we must hold as human beings. If we refuse to hold them in the hopes of living without doubt, despair, and pain, we also find ourselves living without faith, hope, and love.” ―Parker J. Palmer
*
“In love, nothing exists between heart and heart.
Speech is born out of longing,
True description from the real taste.
The one who tastes, knows;
the one who explains, lies.
How can you describe the true form of Something
In whose presence you are blotted out?
And in whose being you still exist?
And who lives as a sign for your journey?”
―Rabia al-Adawiyya, Sufi poet, 717-801
*
“Imagination is more important than knowledge.”
―Albert Einstein


Gratitude List:
1. Today I am grateful that I no longer experience weeks of 4-hour sleep. When I experience insomnia these days, it’s a couple hours for a couple nights in a row. It has become a teacher instead of a raging enemy.
2. The UNICEF kids. They put on a great party today, set up without prompting and supervision, ran the show, and cleaned up so quickly, I hardly knew what hit me. They’re going to change the world.
3. This ratty old black long-sleeved T-shirt. I’ve bought shirts to replace it, and they’re okay in their way, but none are so soft, so mine. I will wear it until it’s rags.
4. The Ducktown Road bridge is functional! I drove the whole way up Ducktown on my way home tonight.
5. How things come together, and fall apart, only to come together again, in a new way.

May we walk in Beauty!

Are You Dancing?

“Is the wind at your back?” asked my friend Saheeb when I saw him today.  “Are you dancing?”

What a marvelous greeting!
How is the universe conspiring to show you your truest self?  
Is the sun shining on your face?
Have you answered the invitation to heal the world?
What does the rhythm of the cosmos tell you?
Is the wind at your back?
Are you finding the keys to your desires?
Are you dancing?

Gratitude List:
1.  Helpful questions from a compassionate heart
2.  Reminders that sometimes it’s okay to stall, to rest, to wait, to pause: this is different from paralysis or stagnation, though it’s hard for me sometimes to tell the difference.
3.  Playing with the stones at the shop.  I named one large piece of iron ore The Stone of the Waking Dragon
4.  Staying attuned and awake.  This is a blessing and also painful, but still I am grateful to be awake and awakening, to be part of it all. 
5.  Two five-egg days in a row!

May we walk in Beauty.