24 hours woman

yesterday was a good day to be a woman in Detroit.

the morning was a celebration of international women’s day, bringing together labor and community. the afternoon and evening were spent with the Detroit Full Circle Doula Collective, naming ourselves and planning some work.

hanging over this was news that i received on friday – a woman in my community found out that her best friend (a 3rd grade teacher) had been killed, by her boyfriend, in front of her child and her niece. he then went and shot himself.

that shocking act of violence is the sort of thing that drops the bottom out of me, makes me so so hopeless. it happens so often – search “man shoots girlfriend/wife/partner, then self” and millions of stories come up. it’s not the only violence, but it is such a specific and intimate violence that it scares me.

holding that in my heart, i went to be with women.

the international women’s day event was beautiful – we were at the UAW-Ford building. i had to go park down by the river because i was driving a suburu, and i appreciated that.

i got to work with union leader connie leaks, as co-facilitator of the event. speakers included cindy estrada (UAW vice president, mama, grandmama), grace lee boggs, lottie spady and kim sherobbi (both doing amazing work at EMEAC – in digital/food justice and education respectively), kim hodges and joan moss from the MI alliance of timebanks, gloria moya, myrtle thompson-curtis (feedom freedom growers) with poetry by gloria house and janice fialka.

from the beginning it was clear we were doing something really wonderful. we all brought to mind the women who have gotten us to this point, our ancestors and women who held space for us to grow.

cindy spoke first, and she was a powerhouse – it’s easy to see how this woman, who looks like a really together college student, is a grandmother, mother, and the first Latina to hold the UAW VP office.

“I was taught to always give my attention and time to the working people.” — Cindy Estrada

she spoke brilliantly to the current political moment in Detroit, in MI:

Detroit appointing an EFM is a way of saying that people of color, poor people, don’t know how to live, educate, and work. — Cindy Estrada

cindy’s pointed out that bob king, the president of the UAW, was sitting in the back corner of the room. it was a good thing that he was there.

after cindy riled up the room, i got to introduce grace lee boggs…here’s what i said:

grace lee boggs is a chinese-american community organizer who has beautifully held the balance of organizing and philosophy. she has left no issue unexplored, un-analyzed. she encourages everyone around her to be studying, thinking, developing an analysis and reflecting on the moment it is in the univers – to make sure our work is worthy of our context.

she often says she’s still got all of her marbles, but i think she is helping to create an entirely new game. at a moment like today, when i received news of great violence against a woman and i feel so hopeless, i think of grace’s words that we must ‘transform ourselves to transform the world.’

i am most familiar with three of grace’s projects – detroit summer, the boggs center, and the newly forming boggs educational center, which will start growing these ideas, rooting them with our babies, supporting a new generation to make a way out of no way.

grace is in a state of glory these days when she speaks – she knows exactly what her message is as she approaches her 96th birthday.

on this day, the 100th anniversary of what was originally called international working women’s day, grace reminded us of the triangle shirt factory fire where 149 girls and women died because the doors were locked. she placed the women in the room in that context, and reiterated that it is time to grow our souls.

People are hungry for a new way, people are longing to grow their souls. — Grace Lee Boggs

after grace were a myriad of speakers…here are some of the words that stood out to me:

You can learn from anyone, at any time, in any place. Everyone has some education to give. I ask that we all become conscious, committed teachers. All the time. What do we need to share, to grow Detroit? — Kim Sherobbi

Everybody deserves healthy, fresh, affordable food, period. — Myrtle Thompson, Feedom Freedom Growers, whose philosophy is “grow a garden, grow a community.”

the ideas were incredible – lottie spoke about our work with the digital justice coalition and that fundamental human right to communicate.

kim hodges and joan moss made timebanking so simple and accessible: “how many people here cook? how many need something done around the house? timebank. get your needs met by giving to your community.”

a fiery community activist named ann heller got up and spoke about how she and her community, knowing nothing about clinics, had started a free community clinic twice a month and it was booming.

it was incredibly inspirational…then we opened it up to the crowd. one woman spoke to the struggle of being a black lesbian in the unions, and how isolating that was, and how it filled her up to be in this space. another woman sang for us, “ain’t gonna let nobody turn me round,” till there wasn’t a dry eye in the place. my friend ife got up and asked a critical question, how do we rethink the work we’re doing and the impact of it – “not to offend Ford, but I just came from Senegal and it’s a car graveyard. all of our waste, the cars we are done with, end up there, and there’s nothing to be done. what is our responsibility as women, to change that?” it was brave to ask that, in that room – and i was so pleased to see the heads nodding, union and non-union, the question received in earnest.

gloria house, the great and humble civil rights activist/professor/poet came up and shared 4 poems, ending with the poem she wrote grace on her 75th birthday – “china and africa are married, in you”.

janice fialka got up and shared a poem that spoke of her journey with her son micah, who was born with disabilities, and how it has shaped their lives, her and her husband rick, and wonderful micah. she shared the fights they have chosen, right up to the first disability pride march. we all learned to sign “grow our souls”, and to sign our applause.

mama sandra simmons, undoubtedly the most dignified woman anyone has every seen, got up to lead us in calling out the names of our ancestors, and then had us yell with her: “i will live, and not die.”

when the event ended, women rushed the stage, to meet all these amazing organizers, and to buy grace’s book. dozens of UAW women came up to me to say it was the best event they’d ever been to. cindy estrada said to all the uaw women – “i want you to ALL have this book, so if you can’t afford it i will buy it for you.” sometimes change happens in quick bursts and you could see a shift, feel it, in the room.

i rushed back to my home to prepare it for the next meeting. the murder had taken the best friend of one of our doula circle women, so we shifted plans for location and childcare, and somehow it came together.

we started by holding space for check-ins, and again i was amazed at how needed such circles are. so much was shared, and then we got into the work. we got the landscape for birth and abortion laws laid out to us, and then we mapped everything we know in terms of how women get support to give normal birth, breastfeed, get postpartum support, how incarcerated women give birth, how women get abortions and have support through that process…there’s a lot out there, and a lot of gaps. our first work will be educating ourselves, growing our collective toolbox so that we can truly begin to create a holistic healthy experience of birth and abortion and sexual health in Detroit. because every experience of pregnancy is a complete experience, and because we are politically committed to supporting the full spectrum of reproductive experiences, we are calling ourselves Detroit Full Circle Doula Collective. the word doula is complex, because it means servant/slave to women, and while none of us are interested in slavery to anyone…because it is so new in detroit and the terms is really being claimed by folks, we’re going to use it for now. we mapped out our work, and it feels so clear and needed and good.


the day was so full, and then so was the moon. i saw a quote last night – “the moon is always full, it is just our perception that changes.” i also spoke with a friend about how the moon, up close, is just a bumpy ass rock. but in orbit of us, in our constant view, and perfectly made to reflect the light of the sun with such brightness, she becomes so incredibly intoxicating.

i think women, humans, are like that as well. left completely alone, we are just – messy, somewhat gross, too hard or soft, afloat in the dark. it is only in relationship to others that we begin to feel the power of being in orbit, begin to glow so bright we can call home the ocean. and i have an unchecked desire to see us call home something as vast and incomprehensible as the ocean, into every woman, until there can be no more violence against us, against our loved ones, and against our beloved homes.

the circle is growing.


i’m out here in the woods with my Minnesota family – my baby sister, her two babies, and all of her magnificent in-laws. it feels very safe here, very quiet and meditative. the cycles of life here are very much related to growing of children, and the growing and making of food.

almost everything we eat was grown in their garden and canned or preserved, or bought in the meat market nearby. my brother-in-law is making maple syrup for the first time this year. they chop up wood to heat their home. it’s wonderful to experience this kind of relationship with land, place, and food – especially given my current love affair with Detroit…

and all the time, we are following the triple crises in japan. japan, the dragon, her chest bursting with nuclear radiation, tsunami force having decimated the length of her after an earthquake knocked her off her feet.

i have never been to a place that felt so capable of living right as japan. my parents were stationed there for several years, during which i spent a lot of time in tokyo, and got to go visit kyoto and hiroshima, as well as many smaller towns and villages throughout the southern part of the country.

when i think about resilience and common sense, i think about the architecture of japan, the social norms of the people i met there in terms of respect for elders and each other, even the vigilance around germs in public spaces.

when i saw hiroshima, with it’s massive memorial to it’s own decimation, i understood how a country could properly honor a massive man-made disaster, a senseless moment of war.

bitter about how incapable the u.s. has been around 9/11 memorializing, i observed the healing that occurred simply by telling the truth of what happened, and the repercussions – the flesh falling away, the babies born without skin, the instant painful mass deaths…the distance between the people who suffered and the government who played at war. holding the truth of what happened, the real suffering, allowed the nation to move forward, to transform.

i came away from japan convinced that we in the u.s. have so much to learn from this country in terms of healing with grace at the individual and community level.

i cannot help but wonder how resilient we have to be, how much common sense we have to bring into our living now. perhaps the better way to ask the question in this reactive time is: will we survive if we don’t begin to practice national and community resilience and common sense?

what japan is experiencing reminds me of new orleans a few short years ago…natural disaster finding the weakest parts of man-made structures, creating incomprehensible mega-crises where the majority of people who suffer are those who can’t buy their way out of the path of destruction.

i don’t remember most of what i learned in bible study classes, but i never forget the stories of jonah and job. jonah ran away from the responsibility of being the one to tell his people it was time to change, ran until he ended up in a whale’s belly and realized that the only way he could live was to tell his people the truth of god. job was a faithful man who god selected to test with unimaginable punishments, to prove the power of job’s faith to god.

when job proved his faith, all that he had lost was returned to him anew – replacement wife, children, crops…

when i was young, reading these stories, i always thought about the other people in the story – the people who didn’t listen to jonah, the other men on the ship when jonah was beset by storms that led him into the whale’s mouth; the first wife and children of job. i was troubled by any faith that had expendables in its parables. that hasn’t changed for me…

seeing a picture the other day of parents finding their dead child in a vehicle after the tsunami/earthquake in japan, i thought of these biblical stories back to back, both the one about the truth teller, and the one about the sufferer.

resilience means having a capacity for both of these things, telling the truth that is universal, that is urgent – about the environment, the myth of clean nuclear energy, what is coming if we don’t change our ways – AND the suffering without reason.

for japan to face this nuclear threat again, less than a century after the bombs fell on hiroshima and nagasaki, after a tsunami and an earthquake, is suffering beyond all reason or comprehension.

who will step forth as a the truthtellers in this situation? who will come through all of this suffering with their faith intact – faith in humanity, in miracles, in interconnectedness…?

i don’t know that i would. i pray for humanity, for everyone experiencing grief and loss and lostness right now – actually being cut off from their lives, from anything normal – in japan and elsewhere in the world. and i pray that we turn, as soon as we can, because there is no better time – to truthtelling, to resilience that pulls us through suffering, whole.

p.s. happy st patrick’s day, from an enclave of irish in-laws.


those who have read this blog for a while know that my military family was stationed in Japan for several years, during which i visited many many times and fell in love with many of the people, the places.

someday i’ll write about the complexity of my military experiences, but for now i just want to say that i keep going back and forth between memories of the people there, who have been through so much nuclear pain and death already; anger at the combination of cosmic and manmade forces that created this particular moment of tragedy; and praying.

my kind of praying is a bit different, perhaps. i’m speaking to the shiver in my spine when i feel connected to others – praying that humanity feels connected to Japan, and doesn’t abandon the people or the beautiful place in this hour of need when they need all of us to hold the space for what has already been taken, and what suffering will come from the ongoing nuclear crisis – for them and for all of us.


This is the most beautiful nest
I have ever crafted
The wood is red like the trees
Were a bleeding
And I fit in the curve
As I would a cocoon
And I feel the bough shiver
I need to fly soon

I feel just as trapped
In the binding
The branches
As I ever could feel
In fences or cages
I’m not meant to be
This kind of alone
When I feel her shiver, I moan

I feel the wind slipping
Through cracks
And up over
Inside my house she is
Billowing up
I know she’s saying
Its yours, you deserve it
Of some other life
Where I have enough

And wind
She is taking me
Pieces and pieces
Wilding me up into currents
And dreams
Love is expansive
And I have a home now
Which I fill with longing
Basement to beams

This wind she is
Frightening me
Crash landing like thunder
Into the fragile
Sweet world I have wrought

This wind
Knows the core of me
Lava and sunray
But she can not fathom
Why I am distraught

I cannot pull this thing
Up on my chest
Pulsing and pounding
Sea salting with love
I cannot tell this thing
Leave me alone
My life is almost full
Almost good enough

But I can breathe into it
Lean my weight into it
I’m getting the rhythm
Of storms and needs
And when I am ready
Ill fly out to forage
Returning well-sated
In mardi gras beads


i stayed at the center for transformative change this past weekend while i was in oakland for back to back meetings. i often stay there, and they are always incredibly gracious and welcoming to me. i wanted to write up a little love note about them here…

as you know from my last post, i had an incredible experience of shedding my technology. this was no doubt enhanced by where i chose to stay. the center is sort of like a living meditation think tank…angel kyodo williams is there doing a lot of thinking and writing about movement, and particularly the role of transformative practice (meditation and yoga primarily) for movement building. in addition, there is a small community of folks who live there, and are in practice together all the time.

the guest room at the center is simple – just a bed and a desk and a lamp.

the guidelines to the house are basically to leave no mark, do no harm – to be mindful of the shared spaces and make an effort not to walk around on your phone or leaving your things all over. as a result the space always looks and feels beautiful, organized and clean. these rules generally work in any shared home environment.

one of my favorite aspects of the center, and the main reason i wanted to write you all about them, is their ecological commitment to reducing waste and conserving precious resources. they compost, recycle, encourage short showers…the very fact that live together is in itself a reduction on use of mama earth’s resources.

they have made an art form out of the old “if it’s yellow let it mellow” approach to not flushing 6 gallons of water down the drain each time you have to pee. they have these special, discreet little covered garbages next to each toilet where you can put peepee paper, and you only flush under special circumstances, like if your toilet offering is solid, or red. i have been trying to do this at my home in detroit and found it’s really hard to talk about, so i want to put up some little education signs. but i really appreciate how they do it at the center – it’s subtle but it has more impact than just about any other water-saving measure you can do in the home.

they have a huge gorgeous practice room and a schedule full of yoga and meditation – and i believe all of their offerings are free for folks involved in social justice work in the bay.

if you are in the bay, check out their schedule and make use of this community resource. if you are visiting, contact them to experience some of the retreat that can be daily life.

now i am off to tend to my knee, which i hurt when i went overboard on my yoga experience at the center – ego and yoga do not mix, and since my ego is so active, i’ma stick to the pool for a bit. besos.

technology release

i just have to tell you all, because it’s SO amazing:

1. i left my computer at security when leaving town a few days ago*, and have been remarkably released by not having it around. my dreams are vivid and lucid, my ability to be present is vastly different, and my workaholic-virgo-oldest-perfectionist self is powerless against this challenge.

2. i dropped my phone in a pitcher of water.

3. i am now in a packed schedule running around oakland with none of my traditional tools for communicating, having to make plans that mean something and just laugh at myself as i continuously reach for tools i use to arrange and rearrange my life constantly.

but the beautiful thing is, it feels like a universe-imposed vacation in the midst of a lot of work. i am laughing, and feeling freed up and not at all freaking out.

in the absence of constant external stimulation, i can see that every message coming to me is about health, balance, well-being, rest, sustainability.

it is possible to live unsustainably in a period of stress, but it is also possible to have too many amazing things to attend, to be too excited by life, and i have been in that zone. my life is breathlessly exciting right now, with birth and rebirth as the functioning metaphor for everything. labor, miracle, labor, miracle – there is no difference, no separation.

so grounding myself, and pacing myself, because labor and miracles take time, you submit to it, you give in to what your body knows how to do, and to the knowledge of the baby or concept or political formation as it makes it’s way into the world.

tonight i am finding my way to water somehow – i have been thinking a LOT about water the past few days. the incomprehensible immensity of ocean, the shapeshifting co-existence of icebergs in water, the separation and reunion of water as it moves through the cycle from ocean to vapor to cloud to rain to lake/river/stream to ground water and back into ocean again…that is the life process, becoming individual and then moving back to the whole. that is the one-ness that presents itself as a multitude, or a season of monsoon, or an absence of drought.

these are the kind of things i think when i am in the world. i just wanted to share it with you. now i have to leave this portal…you too 🙂

* the computer is there, ilana checked on it, i will get it back, it’s fine.