Monthly Archive for April, 2013

Home is Here (repost of Autumn Brown)

(i wanted to share this gorgeous post with you all. as most of you know i spend a week of each month with my sister and her growing family in rural minnesota. here, autumn brown offers a glimpse into the living, rooting, healing and learning happening there.)

Hello good people!

And welcome spring! Maybe you noticed: it’s been awhile since I’ve sent a newsletter. For those of you who follow my writing, I apologize for the long delay. The last seven months I have been in a sort of hibernation, learning the ropes and loving the challenge of my still-quite-new job leading a young non-profit; stoking the fire in the wood burning furnace that heated my new home in the woods all winter long; and growing a new child (Mairead Irene was born on January 19th, at home in a tub, assisted by my sister, my midwife, my husband, and my mother). I was inwardly focused on growth and expansion, and I gave myself the space to fall inward, without commentary.

And as the winter wore on, I felt that my emotional well being was quite literally tested by the weather. Several snows came during the month of April; and yes, that is strange even for Minnesota. I began to have an actual, quite irrational fear that spring would never come.

And then it arrived. Yesterday I walked barefoot between long dead leaves, new grass, and sponges of melting snow, learning the outdoor landscape of my new home, a place I have never been in the spring. We are discovering that our house is surrounded by a carpet of tulips and crocuses that are just beginning to peek through the dirt. We planted our first trees: White spruce, scotch pine, and chokeberry. Mairead had her first taste of full sun, and loved it. Siobhan and Finn ran around naked, covering themselves in mud, and working hard with their father and grandfather to hang a bat box in the tree near our pond to attract mosquito eaters. We are preparing our garden, eager to get our seedlings into the ground: they grow taller every day and begin to smell like tomatoes and peppers.

Today I have that absolute sense of rebirth that I can only credit to having spent a winter so close to the land, and at the mercy of the physical climate. Surrounded by the silence of snow and dormant life, now the sounds of life return to our woods, and I truly feel them to be ours.

So I write to you now from a place of joyful understanding. I can feel myself in the balance, and always this is my experience after giving birth (I can really say “always” now, since it has been true three times). After giving birth, I become keenly aware of my own death and the future deaths of everyone I love, but I am less and less cowed by it. Death is just what is, in the same way that life is just what is. Life is painful and immeasurably sad, and then it is pleasure, release, the taste of boundlessness. Life is fear and not knowing, and then it is sudden immediate knowing. Life is hard. And then it’s not.

What I am feeling now can only be expressed as gratitude, though there is something deeper too. Something this army brat has only ever felt hints of before, but is coming closer each day to knowing: an actual place called home. Home for me has always been migrating. Home is where my family is, or home is where I’ve lived the longest. But for home to be an actual place, a piece of land with it’s own memory – that is a kind of magic I have never experienced. So here it is. My home, all around me. Home is here.

wild seed (geek-out notes)

i recently got to hold space for an intimate conversation on octavia butler’s novel wild seed with a group of fans/geeks at solespace in oakland. i mostly didn’t document it because i was immersed in the full body thrill of being present. however i do have the list of framing questions and the closing thoughts. i share them here purely to titillate.

framing questions:

(from Octavia Butler Strategic Reader)

– Are you currently suppressing or hiding a skill/ability because it would make you stand out from others?

– How do we learn to apply our skills/abilities in positive ways?

– For Doro and his children, death is not really seen as a consequence for their actions – how does immortality or longevity relate to morality?

– What is the relationship between immortality and privilege? (Longevity as privilege at the expense of other peoples’ lives)

– In Wildseed specifically there’s a reliance on a gender-based binary set-up. How does this impact the story? Are there moments of gender subversion?

– This series can be read as a new Adam and Eve narrative, with Africa as an Eden. What is similar and different about this from other creation myths?

– How does this series relate to Darwinism with it’s presentation of the struggles between human vs. superhuman vs. subhuman?

(from Mkali Hashiki, conversation starter)

The piece about power. Why is it that she can only “get power” by planning suicide?
And is that power?
What is Butler saying about power dynamics in relationships here?

—-

closing thoughts from the group – the feelings and brilliances were very much a group effort:

about the experience

i feel gratitude that an artist could be so playful and imaginative and lay stuff out that can get us so engaged. and then to come together and engage with it, to get really excited.

just reveling in embodied geek bliss

grateful for this space to rebound and geek out. i can geek out on the web and mental orgasm as i am talking virtually, but sitting together like this is awesome.

this conversation restores me.

about the book

i am aware of the relationships between art making, different communication styles, somatics, ritual and magic. of all it takes to create a pattern of decentralized networks of coordination.
*
i am interested in having a discussion of men on this content/book, exploring what it says about masculinity.
*
doro is the ultimate disassociation character. he jumps out of body as a traumatic response and continues to do so, as so many of us do, he can never stop, he can never ground and get back into himself. the question i have is: can doro be healed, is he healable?…i’m sitting with the idea that nobody ever tried, i have the feeling (anyanwu) couldn’t – but i don’t think she ever tried.
*
that’s the reality of so many young men of color in our communities. that is our responsibility, for young men, for everybody. i’m left thinking about survival strategies, self-preservation and agency.
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it’s intriguing to talk about when to quit (and how). somatics has good practices around that.
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i’m thinking about the creation myths and stories i grew up with, and the world we are in, the glittering world – what it really takes for bigger entities to quit, to give up.
*
neither anyanwu nor doro has much humility. why should they, they’re immortal, that’s their downfall, their inability to seek out help, change or healing. stuff is coming up for me about organizations and leaders not being able to change – we default to hierarchical structures. there are organizations that should die and don’t, there’s a lack of humility and vulnerability.
*
and what does it mean to quit, give up, let go, pick up…it’s deep to see her commitment as positive, her commitment to suicide…how do we do this in our movements, and personally – how do we make transitions constructive?
*
there are no accidents. I’m one of those people who left the movement, committed political suicide, im done, im tired, going to go do something where i am not tired. moved across country and changed my name. now in my wellness work (not healing, as i think of that as something done to someone else) its leading me back to organizing work. not an accident that my favorite author is sparking this conversation as i need it.
*
powerful for me as a filmmaker. i came up organizing. i remember being on the phone saying I have to step back. i was crying, cause we have been doing this so long, it takes a toll on me. it was a moment of self-reflection. i was crying out, and said i want to use my art to create change.
*
it is important to examine whether anyanwu was surrendering to something inevitable when she decided to die, or whether it was her commitment, her power. power or powerlessness – which was it? does it matter out beyond exhaustion? what is the distinction between these two? which had the most influence over doro? her surrender or commitment? which do we need to do – commit or surrender? fully let go of the world which can only exist in violence? or is it that we must commit to surrender – surrender our hold on the old, surrender to the unknown?

the next reading is the next book in the patternist series, mind of my mind. let me know if you want to be looped into hearing about octavia butler and emergent strategy events :-)

the other intimacies

I have been learning and remembering other intimacies. Perhaps even collecting.

I am fascinated by those instances when you can feel the fabric of the universe between you and another being fall away or bunch together, bringing you magnificently undeniably closer.

What is chosen at that moment is a talisman of the whole being, of the present moment, of all existence. Do you run? Make a joke? Serious your gaze? Bite your lip & bat your eyes like a teenager aspiring to Hepburn?

Or do you lean into the intimacy of being your actual self in the actual moment, raw uncut live present?

Here are some of the other intimacies I’ve noticed:

– sustained eye contact with a baby or child. There’s no where to go & nothing to hide, but a massive amount to aspire to.

– being vulnerable about your limitation(s) with those who pay you.

– crying. Not constantly or regularly, but uncontrollably and inconsolably. Crying from the root because you are thirsty.

– loving people you do not like.

– a baby or a child pressed up against you knowing you are their safety. The way the..soul? Divine inner being? Mama warrior?…steps to this task, oh it is so beautiful to be alive in that moment.

– to be a child/relation to someone you can support/help/serve – and you want to. From compassion.

– to return to one who has wronged you, knowing their darkness, knowing they know what hurts you, both of you looking in each other’s eyes again.

– to recognize a stranger and smell on each other, hear in each other, something kindred. To let that be, and smile on it, rain on a rosebud, unafraid to open.

I am still noticing. Have you seen others?

For humans who have considered suicide…

I cannot say, yet, it ever fully goes away. The logical part of the consideration of suicide, to end this iteration of suffering and resource consumption.

I can say if you make it through your first moment of feeling that there is nothing inside you and nothing outside you, if you make it through the gray, the nothing, to see some tiny flame…if you survive through weeks and months of people who love you watching too closely, years of therapy and remembering and facing and learning new ways to feel and express…if you make it a decade?

You have a chance at knowing joy.

There are plenty of good reasons not to be here. We are sliding down into the hot chaos reaped by misunderstanding how to manage our shared home. We ravage each other physically, emotionally, politically, willfully. We get bored and restless and faithless. Reality gets scarce with the basic things, food, shelter – we think we are separate…and its hard to be seen as ‘lesser than’ in any mythology.

There is only one reason to stay that I know of. But it’s so magnificent to experience that it that it actually holds its own against the nothing. So good that if you find yourself alive after a decade of wondering about the wisdom of continuing, and it comes, you will learn how it feels to experience gratitude that will not fit in your mouth.

Joy – the particular joy of liberation that comes with being your self, utterly, often induced by or immersed in love. And often only possible through the inner transformation it takes to de-condition, de-program the socially acceptable self, to see past the shame. To be, without persecution or struggle, not tolerated or patronized or worshipped, but met in your actual self, seen and true simultaneously.

Kim English sings, ‘Joy, unspeakable joy, cause they did not give it they cannot take it away!’

Because it is not determined by external conditions. People without joy cannot comprehend it, we have to make it more accessible. It’s what we are born with, look at the babies.

Khalil Gibran says our sorrow carves out the space for our joy and vice versa.

I am beginning to understand, the sorrow was carving me out, making me empty. We cannot be guides through and out of nothingness if we have never visited, been carved to emptiness and left to fill up.

I see sacred vessels everywhere, conduits for joy, easy because they have suffered. When joy conduits through I notice light bursting out, from the eyes, mouth, through the skin, palpable and transient and perfect. Energetic, I know it when I feel it, grace all scarred up, of the earth and barely touching the ground. Messy and working it out but practicing being present, and thus able to slip into joy.

Millions of people slipping into themselves, into their joy, form constellations in the pattern of our collective existence, and constellations give us guidance in the nothingness, to anywhere. To next door, to freedom – in the desert, on the sea, there is a language of stars and its the one we all know. To emit light against great darkness – that’s our common ancestral gift as beings of stardust.

What is coming is a time to be resilient, to celebrate that you saw the darkness and you stayed, feeding tiny slivers of palo santo to the flame. We are not supposed to celebrate in spite of the suffering, but up against it, a frontline against it, joy our weapon.

‘banish the word struggle, do everything now in the spirit of celebration’ (hopi elder speaks).

dear god-is-change

So…

‘Everything you touch you change
Everything you change changes you
The only everlasting truth is change
God is change’
(Octavia Butler via Lauren Olamina)

Sometimes I need to talk to someone, to express gratitude. Like my grandfather spoke to Jesus all the time.

Octavia said earthseed would never work as a real religion because it isn’t comforting enough. But I find myself faithful, I find earthseed working for me, profoundly. It’s growing in me, a faith in change, in work as a form of prayer, in seeing what is, in shaping what will be.

And I’m noticing I’m in communication all the time, with an ever changing face of god-is-change, often looking like my grandfather, then yemaya, a murmuration, the moon, the vast cold silence of space, Siobhan deciding to do something she knows not to do, Finn understanding a new fact, Mairead pouring her celestial newness into my eyes, a new song moving up into my mouth. I don’t mind this way of experiencing god-is-change, it’s generating a peacefulness inside of me, and a sense of responsibility.

It only worries me when I fill with gratitude and the old training kicks in, to bow my head and fling my voice up the shaft of a pedestal.

If instead I let the gratitude fill me up, I realize stardust and miracles are manifestations of the same thing, detritus from great fire, the gift of the past continuing to move into the future.

And I am that sacred detritus, a gift, a consciousness both constantly changing and utterly unique. Able to believe in the universal threads of everything sacred, because there is a truth running through it; able to tune into nature as our grandest tangible temple.

Dear god-is-change…
I believe. It’s making me aware of each moment, the occasion it is to be alive, the awestriking power of creating the conditions for life versus committing to suffering. Today I will pray to you through my deeds, shaping you and letting myself be shaped. Not because I am guilty or afraid. But because you exist, and I do, and for that I am so grateful.
This gratitude attunes me to the mercurial shifting of each person I interact with today, as we shape each other.
Everything you touch
Everything you change
Is god.

afrofuturism and detroit

what an exciting morning in detroit.

started off with the always elegant ingrid lafleur speaking on afrofuturism and detroit in a talk oriented towards creatives.

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here are some twitter highlights, mostly quotes from ingrid:

“An apocalypse doesn’t end in something destroyed, it’s opportunity for transformation. For example, look at @octaviabutler’s parables.”

images from wild seed, pictures of sun ra and imani uzuri, art from bodys isek kingalez were flipping through as she spoke.

“#Afrotopia (the gorgeous logo/imagery from brilliant wesley taylor) is creating radical futuristic art in a majority black city to generate positive social change. Includes magical daily practice.”

“I like #afrofuturism because u have to know ancient history, cosmology, quantum physics, beyond school, broaden black identity.”

sun ra, who was from saturn and was helping us journey through music.

“I enjoy that #Detroit is 82% black & that informs the culture & art…I believe I live in a magical reality all the time.”

“I don’t think you need disposable income to go beyond your current reality. It’s about getting out beyond assumptions.”

“A lot of these ideas are tradition, are within us, they don’t come from going to school.” (beautiful particular as an offering to the mostly art student audience who were genuinely perplexed as to how to engage)

“#afrofuturism is about black being at center – diversity can come, but it’s about the liberation we, in a majority black city, still don’t have.” (in response to the ever brilliant and fearless dream hampton, who questioned the need to constantly move to diversity instead of learning to be in a black space, where black is the center of the work)

“Within our gritty, our bones are beautiful, we have great housing stock, our city is already beautiful & quite vibrant.”

“I need me to exist, even when I die.” – George Henry, at #afrofuturism talk.

after the talk, a few circles of blackness pooled together in the room, vibrating to be in each other’s presence. we talked about octavia butler salons. we talked about how as black people it isn’t about demanding entree into white spaces, especially white spaces in this black city. it’s about creating work so undeniable that being centered is not a question. it was thrilling to meet folks in the arts, design and performance world also bubbling about octavia and black brilliance.

as we were leaving, one of the lovely black men i’d met at the event backed his car into another’s. we all looked at the damage and instead of anyone getting mad, they decided it was an opportunity to sit down for dinner and get to know each other better. it felt like afrofuturism in practice, leaning into each other, creating more possibility, because we need each other, rather than indulging in potential conflict.

then i took some of my broccoli/cauliflower/leek/manchego soup over to grace lee boggs. on the way i had an exciting scifi idea about self-governance in detroit. i shared it with grace and we giggled our way through updating each other on the opportunities we are seeing now. she’s always been ahead of her time, which is saying a lot as she approaches 98 years on the planet this summer.

i’m nearing the end of a beautiful month at home and spring is everywhere. detroit love, black love, that is all.

an all-gender friendly post about periods, & a moon ritual recipe

since i got my moon phase tattoo down my spine a year ago, my period has come on the full moon. this is totally awesome and very different for me.

i have been blessed in terms of the level of pain i face during my period, i don’t have the monthly internal torture sessions of some folks i love. i do have a day or two of heightened emotions and some groaning discomfort. but i generally take the opportunity to rest and disconnect.

i have noticed that regardless of the gender of my loved ones, there tends to be a need at least once a month for humans to turn inward, to focus on restoring the self. and if we don’t listen for that time and try to power through with life, we can be awful to ourselves and others.

i read the red tent and got into the idea of making my period a monthly time for ritual and self-care. separately, i learned a beautiful full moon bath ritual and started learning about the relationship between moons and periods.

as far back as i can remember i’ve always loved the moon, which led to my tattoo. the alignment of my cycle with the moon for this whole past year makes that love feel reciprocal, however unlikely it may be. i feel like i soak up the reflective power of the moon, the power to orbit, to stay, to be simple, to be imperfect, to always be full but rarely be fully seen.

this past week, i decided to approach my period and the full moon with total celebration. and, unsurprisingly, i had one of the best week’s of my life.

i realized that with or without my period, the combination of things i did last week, which i am about to share with you, would make anyone’s life incredible. when i reflect i can see i have been increasing all of this good stuff in my life since before my sabbatical, and it’s working.

doing this sort of ritual once a month, even once a quarter, is deeply restorative and rebalancing without having to go away on a vacation. and it wasn’t a financially expensive week – i went for the most affordable options and lots of the activities i was able to do in my home or with my community.

i notice that when i share stuff with y’all, it contributes to the echo chamber of good behavior, self-care and transformation in my life, because y’all share back, and when we see each other in person we check in on all this self-loving, which reminds me to do it more often.

so in that spirit, here’s a recipe for an incredible restoration week (a moon ritual):

1 dose mindfulness. have a sense of when this period of restoration is coming. this is an area where surprises are no fun.

1 session community acupuncture early in the week.

7 days yoga (a minimum of 5 sun salutations, including warrior, triangle and tree poses. you can do an immense amount for the body and spirit in even 10 minutes of yoga and or stretching.)

1 pelvic balancing massage (if no one in your community currently offers this, i recommend getting a group together and taking a class to offer to each other – some places now offer variations on this ancient practice which has health benefits for reproductive processes as well as digestion and overall system cleansing.)

7 days meditation, including but not limited to:
– solo meditation as often as possible (start small, follow your breath – you really can’t overdose here).
– community meditation to taste. ‘community’ just means meditating with one or more other people.
– and orgasmic meditation of course! this method helps with cramps…and everything else :)

2 sessions dancing as freely as possible, ideally becoming one with the music.

1 spa day with a friend (if you are going to splurge anytime during the week, this is the place. check out my page on spas and feel free to alert me to places you know of that are affordable and delicious for all kinds of bodies).

7 days of healthy food, with local organic vegetables for at least half of every meal (and ideally protein the other half).

and water. i recently read that to calculate the ideal water intake, drink half your weight in ounces of water. i have rarely been able to drink that much but aiming for it is having delightful impact on my whole system, skin and health.

so i am lit up and rested…and i found myself immensely productive throughout the week. i am already looking forward to my next period.

do you have rituals around your moon? what would you add?