Gratitude List: 1. Yesterday I did a challenging thing, and it helped me to open a new space for my voice to live. 2. No school today. 3. The slant of springlike sun pouring down the fields. 4. The neighbors are removing their bamboo this morning, and it’s kind of exciting to watch. (I’m hoping all the little animals and birds are finding their way out quickly.) It gives us a chance to see how the digger works. 5. The quiet room of space between breaths.
Hear the story of Cassandra: She longed to serve the goddess Athena, to give herself to wisdom and law, to craft and mathematics, to courage and strategy and skill. Athena offered her a life filled with the tools and the skills of her own empowerment, her own scholarship. In Athena’s worship, she could follow the trails of her own curiosity and speak the truths she encountered. Enter Apollo. As patriarchs so often are, he grew jealous of the woman’s devotion to the women’s ways, fearful of truths spoken that issued from sources not under his control. He offered Cassandra music and poetry, promised her the gift of prophecy if only she would serve him instead, a beautiful bird in his golden cage, there to do his bidding and sing his songs instead of her own. Safe. But the safety he promised was his, for her inner knowing, her self-assurance threatened the ego that wanted control of everything. The wisdom of women was mysterious to him, and the mystery disconcerted him and terrified. So he cursed her. Although she refused him, still he gave her the gift of prophecy he had offered, and she would always speak true. Her voice would ring out in the marketplace, telling the story of what was to be. But the curse was this: her voice would not be heeded. As happens in the belly of any patriarchy, the woman’s voice was ignored and discounted. Old wives’ tales! they scoffed. Cassandra is making things up, looking for attention. Pay her no mind. And the fire she saw and spoke of engulfed the city. The mercenaries and looters and kidnappers swarmed the streets as she had foreseen. They broke the ten-year siege, and overthrew the city. Cassandra herself became a pawn of the men in their men’s war, a tool of their scheming. Heed Cassandra, Friends. Listen to her words. Perhaps we can yet rescue her from Apollo’s clutches.
Gratitude List: 1. The Cassandras who will not be silenced, who speak even when threatened, even when they are ignored. 2. Circles of beloveds. 3. Speaking it out loud. Telling the story that itches to get out. 4. The magic of wind and water, fire and air. Everywhere we look, there is magic. 5. Lights at the ends of tunnels.
I think this is going to sound vague and smug and self-serving. I think my writing here and on social media is so often heart-on-my-sleeve, but this is more raw, more personal, more sulky, and yes, more vague, too. It’s a thing I want to talk about without talking about it. Do you ever have those experiences?
I’m dealing with some resentment and rage right now. I’m used to experiencing outrage on behalf of others. It sometimes feels like it’s become one of my defaults in recent years. Less frequently do I feel outrage on behalf of myself, and I don’t know exactly where to feel it, but here it is. It’s been plopped right into my lap. I think I have become really good at being reasonable about other people’s attitudes and behaviors toward me, so when I feel deeply and personally attacked about something that really matters to me, I have to take hours to process, to sort out what is mine, and what is truly cause for outrage. It’s a slow burn, rather than a quick blaze.
I don’t want to feed the fire by giving it air. Perhaps it will become the source of poetry and story, and I can give it a voice that way. Meanwhile, I think I need to re-start my Gratitude Practice, get back to essentials, take care of my own house so I don’t set fire to the houses of others.
Gratitude List: 1. A voice. Whether it’s a whisper, a shout, an echo, a web of sound, a single word, an avalanche of analysis: Give voice to your voice. Do not let anyone take it away from you. Boost the voices of others. Amplify the signal. 2. The ones who stand in the gap, who speak out for justice for those who are oppressed, who fight for the survival of the planet, who put people above greed and money. 3. The turning. Like the turning of the season to autumn, the world is turning. Like the transition from labor to birth, the world is groaning. From the fire comes new life. May we stand in solidarity with those who are midwifing the new thing into being. 4. Three cats in the house. 5. Cool weather and warm clothes. This is a not a metaphor. This is a metaphor.
If you could trust your voice completely, if you didn’t have to consider how how others would respond, if you didn’t have to be safe, to be tame, to be docile and humble, acceptable and charming and quiet, if you had not been trained to make your words into an easy chair, to turn your voice to honey: What would you say?
Tomorrow, in Washington, DC and all across the country, students–youth and children–will be marching for their lives, asking the adults in this country to do something to keep them safe in their schools. That’s what they’re asking: to be safe in their schools. They’re demanding that we adults find the will and the courage to keep them safe when they gather together to learn.
As an English teacher, one of my primary life goals is to offer students the skills and tools and opportunities to find their voices and to speak their truths. My heart is filled to overflowing as I listen to the young people of today articulate their ideas with clarity and force and determination.
I urge you to join them, to join us, to say Enough is Enough, Not One More, Keep Them Safe. To amplify their strong and powerful voices.
Gratitude List: (for the students)
1. Their voices
2. Their determination
3. Their courage
4. Their leadership
5. Their playfulness
Gratitude List: 1. Yesterday morning’s moon, hanging above the ridge behind the River. I know that it is always the same size, but am always caught by wonder at the way it grows as it settles close to the horizon, how intimacy with the Earth makes it seem more itself.
2. Blue bells. I know they’re called grape hyacinths, but we always called them bluebells. Five of them along with a few spiky leaves, in a little pitcher of Grandma Messner’s–just the thing for a tiny spot of beauty.
3. Bumblebee! Droning drunkenly past my head two or three times. I felt inspected. I don’t know whether or not I passed the inspection.
4. Your voice. Even when it’s been quiet, even when it’s been silenced, you know it’s been there all along. It will serve you. Of course it might be rusty at first, a little creaky around the hinges, but it is a voice of beauty and power, and it has something to say. Wail, holler, whisper, sing, moan, cajole, laugh, stutter, kvetch. I will listen.
5. How our stories inform each other’s stories. May the release of each story release the shame of its secret-keeping. May the telling of each tale offer new insight and determination to the hearer. May the weaving of our stories together give each of us more power to enrich and enliven the telling of the stories around us.