Some of the people I love are truly terrified of this moment, are feeling deep heaviness because of the apparent results of this election in the US. I don’t want to gloat, don’t want to add to their pain and worry. But I do want to celebrate. I do want to sigh with relief. And I wish I could assure you, if this is a frightening moment for you, that everything will be okay.
Can you watch Van Jones struggle to maintain composure, and then just give himself up to emotion, as he talked about the relief he feels, and not celebrate a little? Can you hear the relief of LGBTQ+ folx and not feel some relief yourself? Can you hear womxn who finally see themselves represented in the White House, BIPOC folx who see this strong womxn striding toward a seat at the table, and not be grateful for their joy?
And I look at this image of the shadow of Ruby Bridges cast by Kamala Harris, the gift and the burden of representation that Harris now carries, the fact that so many of my beloved young womxn--BIPOC especially, and white as well–will see their futures laid out before them with more possibility and clarity because of Ms. Harris. Today, I have been reading the words of some of these brilliant young womxn in my life as they express their great joy in this political moment, and celebrating with them.
I think of how Ms. Bridges has supported and continues to support young BIPOC people throughout her life, doing the thing that must be done, stepping into the moment as she did on that first day of first grade, no matter how lonely the prospects. And I also think of the layering of time, of Kamala Harris, this steady presence from the future, walking in that open space behind the young Ruby, and of all the BIPOC womxn who surround her.
And what shall the white womxn do? We middle-aged and elder ones? That crowd of rage-filled white supremacists still stands on the sidewalks, some jeering and insulting, and some quietly trying to make “peace” and look innocent. Our job, my white sisters, is–I think–to stand between the crowd and Ruby and the womxn who walk with her. To silence the crowd, to question the ones who want to make nice on the outside while holding the hatred inside. To question the haters within ourselves. To amplify and magnify the voices of Ruby and her sisters.
Tonight, I might get some Philly cheesesteaks and ice cream to celebrate the end of our “long national nightmare,” but then, I will roll up my sleeves and get to work.
Gratitudes and Prayers: * Grateful that the person from whom I heard the first official word that this election was being called was my mother. That feels right and safe to me. * Grateful for a womxn, a BIPOC womxn, is headed for the VP’s desk. * Praying for the safety of the President Elect and Vice President Elect. * Praying that we will see the work before us with clarity, and set to it with a will. * Grateful for truth.
May we do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly. May it be done in Beauty.
After nearly a month of silence here, I find it difficult to pull out particular threads of thoughts to put down in a blog post. Or perhaps it’s more a function of the times we live in, existing as we do within so many layers of challenge and crisis and change. So today’s post will be more of a smorgasbord than usual.
I am at odds with myself. There’s a Cackler in me who is rubbing her hands with satisfaction at the way karma has finally alit upon powerful people who have minimized the danger of the coronavirus. At the same time, my internal Monk is saddened to contemplate anyone’s suffering, and wants to wish ill upon no being, no matter how brutal and selfish that being is.
Message to self: It’s okay to be human. It’s okay to experience a sense of relief when an out-of-control train that has already been responsible for the deaths of many is suddenly slowed and perhaps side-lined. I’m letting the Monk and the Cackler work together here, working to avoid feeling and expressing glee at this turn of events, but allowing myself to feel relief: This could signal a shift that could save lives in the end.
This is a moment for the type of complexity I have been attempting to integrate since I began working with the Bowl of the Heart several years ago: All of it goes in there together, painful and tender, vengeful and compassionate. We’re many-faceted creatures, we humans, and we have the capacity for myriad responses. While I want to always be appealing to my better nature, I cannot deny the Cackler her space. And I can learn from her. The quiet Monk in me was trying so hard to respond with light and wisdom that I almost missed the essential message of the Cackler–that it is okay to be relived that this bit of suffering being visited upon those who inhabit the White House may be a pathway toward mitigating the suffering of thousands.
A few days ago, I checked in with the faeries about a couple things I’ve lost. One was pretty urgent and timely. The other is a necklace I haven’t seen for over a year, a treasured piece I made myself from various shiny and dangly things I’d received from beloved friends.
Within a couple hours, I found the first, most urgent thing, but I still haven’t found the necklace, although I have been searching all the place that suddenly popped into my head.
But last night, I had a haunting, lingering dream. I kept waking up with images of the two beings in the dream, sometimes with clear recognition of their names, and then falling back to sleep, only to wake up again with their images in my brain. They were two elves, dressed in skinny suits like a 1950s boy band, with white shirts and black skinny ties. They were both dark-haired with piercing dark eyes, very Spock-like.
I woke up, feeling like they wanted to cut some sort of deal with me, like they were looking to draw up a contract. I thought if I could remember their names, I could outwit them, control them, but in the stories, magical names also sometimes backfire, and it’s perhaps best that I don’t quite remember. I do want my necklace back, but I’m not ready to sell my fate to a pair of pushy dream-beings. Still, it couldn’t help to make an offering. . . (I know, I know, no first-born children or anything like that).
I’ve started painting my nails. It’s strange, because I tend to feel like I am a little kid playing dress-up, or like I’m sort of wearing drag when I wear make-up or get my nails done. It’s like it’s territory that doesn’t really belong to me. I identify completely as she/her, and have never had any questions about my gender, but there are myriad ways to express femaleness, and the salon/nails/make-up way has not really been part of my way. I always feel like I’m in someone else’s territory when I do these things.
But I am loving wearing different colors on my nails. I change the color every weekend. A couple weeks ago, I just had to get green. I needed green nails. Today, I painted them RED! My fingernails are red. I needed flames on my fingers right now. Hmmm. I should see about getting some little flame decals. . .
I realized the other day that I almost never find feathers anymore. Perhaps I am not looking hard enough? Or maybe I don’t need them now. Or maybe it’s because we no longer have the glorious owl-perch of the poplar tree anymore.
The day after I began to ponder this, I found this woodpecker feather at the park:
This week two girls stopped outside my classroom to read my bulletin board during my prep period. When I went to say hello, they thanked me for my poster about how all people are valued in this classroom. They said they would like it to include something about how we live on stolen land. I love that they were so ready to add their own pieces, so open to ask for what they want, so intersectionally aware. We talked about how the statements on the poster are all stated in positive ways, and the stolen land piece doesn’t seem to quite fit that tone, but how that’s not quite a good answer even so. I do have a little poster in my room about the people who were first here on the land where we attend school, but I really want to add a line that will respond to their request, if it’s possible. (Or maybe I’ll move that poster out to my hallway bulletin board. One of the girls said she is going to make me a drawing of the hands of many different races gripping each other in a circle, to add put next to the sign.
I would love ideas about how to include an intersectional awareness of the truth of that statement–We are living on stolen land–in the grammatical and tonal context of this. Feel free to offer me your thoughts.
Some Random Gratitudes: 1. Red-breasted hawk on a snag down Schmuck Rd. 2. My wise and compassionate students. 3. The Wheel of the Year. All comes around again. 4. Smoothie for breakfast 5. The treehouse. I spent a couple hours up there yesterday, reading and drawing.
May we walk in Beauty!
“The ways creative work gets done are always unpredictable, demanding room to roam, refusing schedules and systems. They cannot be reduced to replicable formulas. […] To spin the web and not be caught in it, to create the world, to create your own life, to rule your fate, to name the grandmothers as well as the fathers, to draw nets and not straight lines, to be a maker as well as a cleaner, to be able to sing and not be silenced, to take down the veil and appear: all these are the banners on the laundry line I hang out. […] Some women get erased a little at a time, some all at once. Some reappear. Every woman who appears wrestles with the forces that would have her disappear. She struggles with the forces that would tell her story for her, or write her out of the story, the genealogy, the rights of man, the rule of law. The ability to tell your own story, in words or images, is already a victory, already a revolt.” ―Rebecca Solnit, from: “Men Explain Things to Me”
“The first product of self-knowledge is humility.” —Flannery O’Connor
“Poetry is a life-cherishing force. For poems are not words, after all, but fires for the cold, ropes let down to the lost, something as necessary as bread in the pockets of the hungry.” ―Mary Oliver, A Poetry Handbook
“Everything is held together with stories. That is all that is holding us together, stories and compassion.” ―Barry Lopez
“‘Remember on this one thing,’ said Badger. ‘The stories people tell have a way of taking care of them. If stories come to you, care for them. And learn to give them away where they are needed. Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive. That is why we put these stories in each other’s memories. This is how people care for themselves.’” ―Barry Lopez, Crow and Weasel
“Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need For this bright morning dawning for you. History, despite its wrenching pain, Cannot be unlived, but if faced With courage, need not be lived again. Lift up your eyes upon The day breaking for you. Give birth again To the dream.” —Maya Angelou
“With dreamwork, we are endlessly tenderising ourselves to subtletly. When we begin to know its dimensions, pain can no longer envelop us in an indistinct mass. It’s not that we are ridding ourselves of suffering, but rather learning its name, which is the prelude to befriending it.” —Dreamwork with Toko-pa
Humility by Mary Oliver Poems arrive ready to begin. Poets are only the transportation.
“On the last day of the world I would want to plant a tree.” —W. S.Merwin
“Nature never repeats itself, and the possibilities of one human soul will never be found in another.” —Elizabeth Cady Stanton
“All know that the drop merges into the ocean, but few know that the ocean merges into the drop.” —Kabir
Mirabai Starr said, “Poetry is a gateway into unitive consciousness. It knocks on the doors of the heart and the heart opens. Poets speak truth in a very naked way that bypasses the rational mind. Poetry evokes, rather than describes.”
Kathleen Norris writes, “Poets understand that they do not know what they mean, and that is their strength. . . . Writing teaches us to recognize when we have reached the limits of language, and our knowing, and are dependent on our senses to ‘know’ for us.”
“I hope you will go out and let stories, that is life, happen to you, and that you will work with these stories . . . water them with your blood and tears and your laughter till they bloom, till you yourself burst into bloom.” —Clarissa Pinkola Estés
“Every seed contains the potential to save the world. Each seed can keep millions of people from starvation. Each seed is a mirror and guardian of the world’s future. Each seed is the ecology that can sustain the economy. This is why seeds are sacred…” —His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew
Gratitude List: 1. (What inspires you?) A child I know. This morning, I was watching video of President Obama placing a wreath at Hiroshima, and Joss asked what it was about. I told him a little about the end of WWII, and how this is the first time a US president has visited that site. “I’m kind of glad he went there,” he said. I think children often understand these things better than adults do.
2. (Where do you find relief?) Change of schedule, end of year. There’s sadness in saying goodbye to the seniors–but we know and they know they they’re ready, that they’ve been working toward this coming moment for years. And I need this summer that I am heading into. I am looking forward with great relish to sleeping in until past 6, to playing with my children every day, to preparing for next year’s work. There are a few loose ends to wrap up in the next two weeks, but without the constant pull of classes, I can manage the loose ends.
3. (What fills you with wonder?) The view from Mt. Pisgah near Sam Lewis Park, with mist in the folds of the valleys and mist caught in the trees on the other side of the River.
4. (What will you do for yourself?) I am going to get a haircut today. Some people have a regular appointment to keep their hair looking a certain way. This has never been my way. It usually feels like “an event” when I get my hair cut, like I am treating myself to something special. I like to do it that way.
5. (What gives you hope?) I need to keep answering this question for myself these days. I look at the ways of the world and I get rageful or cynical or filled with despair. And there are good reasons for all of those responses. But there are also good reasons to be hopeful. Right now, one of the places I turn for hope is the work of international women’s groups. These women look into the teeth of the beasts of war and displacement and terror, and they raise their voices and their arms and their hearts. UN Women, the Nobel Women’s Initiative, Isis-WICCE, Women in Black, TreeSisters, Carry the Future, Code Pink, and many others. (Which women’s groups inspire you?)