lessons from grace lee boggs, who is 99 (with sage crump)

detroit-based philosopher activist grace lee boggs just turned 99! happy birthday grace!! sister comrade emergence scholar sage crump started off a list of lessons learned from grace. i added to it. please feel free to add more about what elder grace has taught you.

adrienne: know your references…be willing to point people towards the books and cultural influences that shape you before engaging in conversation. it is totally fine if one of your primary references is your beloved.

sage: Name a thing correctly. There is a difference between a riot and a rebellion.

adrienne: have the conversation you are interested in, that feels worth your miraculous time. watching grace i have seen that there is an elegant way to do this – smile, shrug, and then ask if they have read the book you are reading, raise the topic you want to dive into. also, feel free to end the conversation when you are done!

sage: Let time, other people and new information influence you. We don’t shift with the trend or the wind but it is absolutely okay to say I have a new perspective on this now.

adrienne: yes! if you believe in transformation, your politics should change as you grow and learn, you have a responsibility to keep learning.

sage: Reflection is as important as action. Being in a room of people discussing struggle/movements/ideologies is as vital as being in the streets. It provides clarity, builds community and deepens our analysis which increases our capacity to develop radical solutions.

adrienne: ask more questions. to people of all ages, all backgrounds, all belief systems. there are teachers and opportunities to transform everywhere. ‘you are nobody unless you are somebody to other somebodies.’

sage: Surround yourself with brilliant, committed people! You will keep each other going and growing.

adrienne: transform yourself to transform the world. you are the microcosm. internalize the critique and the generation of solutions.

5 reasons sam smith is everything

this tender young brit is the only thing i want to hear right now, and here is why:

1. he doesn’t care about money and he says so on multiple songs. he doesn’t have money on his mind, and that leaves so much room for love songs. 1b. his romantic nature is so consistent! he has a love song to a soulmate he hasn’t met yet. i was his emotional twin at 21.

2. he also can’t be bothered with trifling people in general and just covers his ears and says, la la la la la. this reminds me of one of my favorite facilitation agreements: engage tension, don’t indulge drama.

3. the album is an emotional journey. it works song for song in order on repeat: leave your lover, stay with me, i know i’m not the only one, he’ll never love you like i can, i’ve told you now, make it to me.

i miss albums, i miss albums that are unapologetically meant to be consumed whole as a singular text and mood. when i get excited about an artist, i want them to do me the honor of consistently being at their most awesome. there is nothing so disappointing as two great songs on a subpar album. this album is an act of respect. i feel like i can trust him now.

4. i love how he looks. he doesn’t smile when he sings, because he is singing about a subtle pull that is wrought with tension. i love his soft chin, his narrow hair, his bright eyes, his black jacket.

5. he is not afraid of pulling in a big ass choir to emphasize the truth of what he is feeling, but he doesn’t overuse them, or any other production elements. fundamentally this is us with him, a few instruments, and that voice. and occasionally about thirty other people clapping hands and catching the early teen romance spirit.

its. so. good.

writing as a healing art (midway reflections on VONA)

i am entering my fourth day at VONA, voices of our nation, a writing workshop for people of color.

sometimes you can’t know how much you need a thing until you are sitting there, skin lit up with chills because you just shared a whole truth and they heard you and they felt it too.

i am in the inaugural speculative fiction workshop here, which, of course, started on octavia’s birthday. my classmates are gifted writers who each have different skills and strengths and, together, are going to shape the future of our genre.

i want to come back for a residency, political content, travel writing and poetry workshops over the next decade of my life.

so far i have written a short story, two poems which i read (in front of other people! me! poems!), written and recorded a song sketch, made a collage, received in-depth review of my work, bonded with a lot of incredible writers and had multiple major breakthroughs about my writing life.

we are halfway through the week.

i am not oriented towards utopias, or heavens. but i do think it is important to have healing experiences in my field of passion, in the work i am called to do.

i talked with my mom yesterday and she said that she and my dad were proud of me, were saying to each other, ‘our daughter’s a writer!’ and that they had known that for a long time, but now it seems like i know.

it’s true.

inside, inside where i am only who i am, i am a writer. accepting that has been and continues to be a healing, transformative journey.

now. back to my homework.

water is life (reflection/call to action for detroit)

i feel like sister warrior charity hicks, who has been central in the fight for water rights in detroit and is currently in critical condition after a hit and run accident, is in my dreams sending me poems and anger in my daily meditation on her.

the current state of affairs is this: the u.n. has warned detroit that turning off water to force the poorest residents to pay exorbitant bills is a violation of human rights – you can only turn off water if you can prove that people could pay the bill but are not paying.

learn more about this key moment for all humans that is playing out in detroit. sign the petition crafted by blue planet project, the detroit people’s water board, mi welfare rights and others.

our daughters cannot be thirsty
this whole summer long
dust tongue dance of desperation
blossoming bodies, arid fruit

our sons cannot be parched
long limbs pressing black skin
through the tar sand streets of july
ratchet prayers for rain

our elders should not be anxious
after heavy lives holding all our dreams
now water becomes memory in the dark?
dry begging whispers with no teeth?

our babies cannot be sustained
on ashen breast or mother’s tears
as david checks face goliath bills
they will become our thick sweet rage

we who are human cannot taste
our own bitterness for so long
without becoming the silver spear
that righteous edge cuts out from within us

for now we look naked before you
hands cupped in the heart of
needing (begging) only (pleading) for water

but life creates conditions for life
the phoenix may burn, but first she is water
look into our eyes before you upset us
we water warriors, we survive

3 new sci fi, social justice and emergent strategy tools (!!!)

this weekend has been incredible – octavia’s brood got to read excerpts at the opening ceremony of the allied media conference, and offer a behind the scenes look at our process. and i got to launch three different pieces of work that have been growing for various lengths of time in, around and through the sci-fi, speculative fiction, social justice and emergent strategy frameworks.

first, you can now read original science fiction from detroiters that emerged from the series of writing salons hosted at my home this past year. the work is up at the detroit sci-fi generator site, with the work of each salon gathered into a chapter. the pieces are short, experimental, and show the brilliance of this city, and of the work of collaborative ideation – developing ideas and work together. my hope is that there will be more salons and more work posted in an ongoing way.

the second tool is the emergent strategy handbook, which will be distributed today at an emergent strategy train the trainers. the content is various articles and reflections on emergent strategy from the past few years, the lay-out and design is by the incredible rachel plattus of the new economy coalition. my heart fluttered at her gorgeous handwriting during the gathering in kentucky where we met, and now her handwriting, art, mindmaps and design are the container for this tool. i will post the digital copy next week for download for those who aren’t in detroit this weekend.

the third is a project that popped up very recently. for years i have working with octavia butler’s earthseed verses from the parable of the sower and the parable of the talents. then sister doctor alexis pauline gumbs did a black feminist breathing chorus 21-day meditation practice and a light went off – why not create an accessible meditative tool around octavia’s work? i put out a call for reflections and lots of brilliant people responded with meditations, wisdom, stories, poetry. it is gathered into this little book, reflections on octavia butler’s earthseed that i imagine sitting on altars, in bathrooms, being used for local reflection groups to guide reflection and conversation. octavia’s 67th birthday is tomorrow – let’s honor her by engaging earthseed.

(669) 221-6251 – bell hooks feminist awesomeness

three days ago, a security guard at whole foods waited for me in the parking lot after i ignored his attention in the store. he asked if i was married. i felt annoyed, as i usually do. ‘no,’ i said, ‘just not interested.’

in reflection i sought compassion in my heart – it must be so hard to get rejected all the time. asking if someone is married (taken/’you gotta man?’/owned/etc) is leading with the rejection you can handle.

if i am married, it implies that there is a possibility there in spite of the fact that i have given you no indication of mutual connection and blatantly ignored you. but alas, because i belong to someone else, we cannot act upon that possibility springing solely from your loins. eh…i kind of get it, as much as i can from the other side of whatever that line is.

but i want the people of the world who believe in this particular brand of sexual pursuit to try to get this: i am not property.

i am not property.
i am not property.

even though i am feeling healthy and great in my clothes, standing up straighter and kind of glowing from love and summer, and a man thinks from a distance that he wants me.

i am not property.

i am not even flattered.


two days ago i was talking with my neighbor and as i turned to walk from my house to my car a man was standing too close to me. he said he hadn’t wanted to interrupt but could he get to know me, he thinks i would like him.

i stepped far away, off the sidewalk, and said ‘not interested.’

he followed along beside me, asking for more information, asking for a number, while i ignored him. i am near my home now, as opposed to the neutral ground of a store parking lot. this makes me angry.

this sort of behavior has often driven me back to ice cream. constant navigating of unwanted attention triggers the danger i felt – and trauma i experienced – as a ‘pretty’ girl, which i have largely avoided as a big woman (though i won’t lie or play demure…a sexually empowered, happy-style wearing, confident big woman still gets a lot of attention).

i wish i had had this number on hand: (669) 221-6251. call it – it reads a feminist quote from bell hooks and then hangs up.

it’s so wonderful!

because generally i want to approach other humans as humans, and lonely humans as lonely humans. and men, particularly black men, i approach as my brothers, my family.

but there need to be tools for humans who treat me like property and/or make me feel unsafe. and i need it to not be my responsibility to risk my safety for the teachable moment. i need something in between a self-defense chop, screaming, and submissive kindness or avoidance.

i need this number. 🙂

(669) 221-6251.
(669) 221-6251.
(669) 221-6251.

home, love, vulnerability, life

I wake for words and feelings.
I release them like rescued animals into the wild.
The moon lights up many paths.
I turn back into the warm house of my dreams,
grateful for rituals
and visitations.

i recently heard a date (ish) by when i have to move out of my beautiful detroit apartment. for good reasons, reasons i understand. but it hurts! i love this particular set of rooms, combination of wood, the way the light pours into this wide open space, and how full it is of memories. dance, love, healing and ritual. the first time i saw it was a soulmate moment, i knew it was my home. this space has been my companion through these last five years of my transformation and learning.

i heard the date yesterday and thought, ok! then i woke up last night full of grief. i walked through my house in the sharp moonlight, and just felt feelings, which this house has earned from me, has offered me.

i will land in the right next place, there are many many options available. but first i have to kiss all the corners and gather up myself in here.

hide nothing, withhold nothing. the love you seek wants and needs all of you.

this year i am working with a commitment around authentic, wholistic intimacy. in my somatic study, we pick commitments which feel aspirational, which feel like what we want to embody with our whole lives.

i have a facilitative, coach-like manner. while i appreciate the ways i show up, it can be hard for me to drop out of that bird’s eye/root system view and land in the current moment, in my own feelings.

i’ve contained or controlled a lot of my feelings in the course of my work, tucking them away or transforming them into the energy a group needs. but it can be isolating, to always be holding and never be held. love is a wondrous practice ground for this stepping into the fray, the feelings.

love isn’t something to facilitate, manage, direct. i can’t leave any of myself at the door of love and expect the experiment of it to work. it is magnificent to confess and keep confessing – not for punishment, not to determine right and wrong, but simply because i need to tell my whole truth to survive, to learn who i am in this world at this time, to be part of humans growing.

i also feel this is the major lesson from the elders who are becoming ancestors in droves right now. i feel the changing of the guard. and i notice that i feel most moved by those elder-ancestors who lived with the least compromise. it thrills me to be reminded of maya angelou’s sex work, ruby dee’s experimentation and learning around open marriage.

the more whole our elders and ancestors are, the more whole we have permission to be.

vulnerability is the least obvious path to the life i want, and the most liberating. it transforms the unknown from terror to possibility, evolves my actions from control to complexity.

since sister warrior charity hicks went into the hospital i have been reflecting on her strengths, her magic, the kind of space she occupies. one thing i keep coming back to is the immense vulnerability she regularly shows, publicly. she speaks of ‘getting naked’, of feeling the pain of being in detroit with water shut offs, evictions, winter, gentrification, emergency management and all of it – to be inside of that whirlwind and not grow numb, to keep being a vulnerable human being as an act of strength.

i have been pulling that into my personal life with my beloved, with my friends. vulnerability feels like an understanding of change: i am vulnerable to the changes of life, i know i am not all powerful, i know i can be and am impacted, i can be and am fragile.

but the liberation too – i cannot control the happenings of this multi-layered world, but i can be complex, have history and future and just show up somewhere between the two. i can feel within and through the layers. i can grieve and release. i can and must live.

and another friend reminded me today, i can just BE and not have to DO anything – which is vulnerable. when i am doing, it gives me the false sense of having some control, even if it is only of my dishes and dust. but even in that doing, that myth of my important task, my urgent deadline, my well-laid basically perfect plans – everything could change.

waiting for the bus, everything can change.

i accept my vulnerability.
i accept that there is more unknown than known in my life.
utmost amongst the unknown things is how long i have to BE.

and in fact that is my respite from terror! yes to try and understand it all is terrorizing, we live in a moment of terror for humans and for our home. and yet we can cultivate the good, with our attention, by letting it flow through us and swell between us. without trying to control or change each other, we can be vulnerable to each other. and learn.

then it becomes another radical front – to feel your life, to be honest with your feelings, to offer to each other the truth of where we hurt and what we long for and what brings us joy.

and then the possibilities burst open. i realize at any moment it is possible to just be in the present, which can be beyond good or bad, which can be that tender fleeting extraordinarily precious thing: life.

my talk notes from commonbound: ‘intersecting worlds: the one we’ve got, the one we’re building, the ones we imagine’

i was so thrilled to get the chance to speak today as part of the closing plenary of commonbound, a gathering for the new economy coalition. there were tons of brilliant and inspiring people in one place from many walks of my life. i brought my parents, who live nearby.

the panel was facilitated by NEC’s rachel plattus, who i just got to meet in kentucky with chorus foundation. the other speakers were my friend and teacher gopal dayaneni, with movement generation, and brilliant economist and writer gar alperovitz, both of whom i have referenced here before.

i normally don’t write my talking points out ahead of time, but i have been a little shaken recently by the news of my friend and comrade charity hicks in the hospital after a hit and run. gopal and i spoke to her amazing work and were able to raise $1,730 there for her medical expenses as well as share with people that they could donate to east michigan environmental action in charity’s name. i encourage you to also donate if you haven’t yet.

the event was live streamed and i believe video will be available. here are my notes of what i shared. (apologize for it being half capitalized and half not, it’s a mash-up)

first question: where does this all lead? (i spoke third)

my vision is changing our how, more than seeing clearly our what. i see a how where we are all much more comfortable with change, and with our personal power to change conditions.

some people are comfortable believing – in heaven, in socialism, in someone else’s thinking. that’s never quite worked for me. I learn experientially, I so far am only convinced that change is divine and constant. Octavia Butler, the black science fiction writer quoted to open this plenary, said ‘Belief Initiates and guides action—Or it does nothing.’

In her twelve novels she created case studies for people like me on how to lead inside of change, shaping change. I’ve been calling what I learn from her work emergent strategy. Based in the science of emergence, it’s relational, adaptive, fractal, interdependent, decentralized, transformative. I’m applying it in facilitation and organizational development work.

It unleashes more of the power of each person.

Because some are comfortable deferring the work of vision to others – or being the visionary talkers (i am guilty of being a visionary talker for years! forgive me). I think, and have been gathering proof in sci fi writing workshops with organizers and activists, that we each have important pieces of the whole, so I concentrate my work on the generation of vision, the strengthening of the muscle of looking forward together.

One major emerging lesson: We have to create futures in which everyone doesn’t have to be the same kind of person. That’s the problem with most utopias for me, it’s mono value, a new greener more local monoculture where everyone gardens and plays the lute and no one travels…and I don’t want to go to there!

Compelling futures have to have more justice, yes; and right relationship to planet, yes; but also allow for our growth and innovation. i want an interdependence of lots of kinds of people with lots of belief systems and continued evolution.

Right now we don’t know what’s right so much as we know what’s wrong, and what we’ve tried. And based on how constantly surprised I still am by life at age 35, I suspect that will likely continue to be the case, and hopefully, perpetually resolving these major issues continues to be interesting. My mentor Grace Lee Boggs is still curious on the eve of her 99th birthday, so I’m hopeful.

Nothing that has existed so far was the right way for everyone, but there are pieces out there we can begin to imagine together, this is why Gars writing speaks to me, what’s between capitalism and socialism? Because whatever we build is on the foundations of those economic experiments. This is why Gopal’s work appeals to me – what are the strategies we need to learn, with appropriate fear and wonder, to move our movements into right relationship with the planet? Let’s learn.

i want a future where we are curious, interested, visionary, adaptive.

what do we tolerate in transition? (i spoke second)

in detroit we have been in transition for decades. we are learning about tolerating even recently – a few years ago foundations were investing in us, now they aren’t as much, and it has impact. you know, generally we have to let go of the success that we feel, as individuals and organizations, when capitalism works for us.

Gopal convinced me years ago that we need to have a level of dystopian consideration. Certain climate realities are no longer wild imaginings, they are happening, and they are coming. (Game of Thrones watchers? Winter is here.) Octavia Butler appeals to me because she wanted to prepare us for inevitable consequences of human behavior.

That is the context in which I enter this conversation. i don’t have answers, but i am sitting with These questions:

Change is coming – what do we need to imagine as we prepare for it?

What is compelling about surviving climate change?

What is a just transition economy? What is an economy for the phase of transition from this way of relating to earth and resources, to the way we might relate on a watered earth, or a frozen earth?

How do we prepare not just for suffering, but for sharing and innovation?

How do we resource the locals and still honor our nomadic tendency, our natural migration patterns which we deny by trying to stay in only one place, our global interconnectedness?

How do we prepare the children in our lives to be visionary, and to love nature even when the changes are frightening and incomprehensible? To be abundant when what we consider valuable is shifting from gold to collard greens?

How do we articulate a compelling economic vision to sustain us through the unimaginable, to unite us as things fall apart? How do we experience our beauty and humanity in every condition?

These are the questions that sustain my work. I believe all of you hold answers.

Tell us of your road, your origin story (i spoke first)

my parents are here. they are my origin, as an interracial couple who fell in love in the deep south in the 70s. what they did was considered impossible, that is my roots system, that love makes the impossible possible. and they are still here, still in love.

worked through harm reduction, reducing the harm of drugs and sex. then electoral organizing, reducing the harm in a different way. then ruckus, where i finally felt i could be my full radical self without compromise. all along i was facilitating vision, mediation, strategic development.

I’ve been a facilitator as long as I can remember. Facilitating tons of visioning sessions and seeing a crisis of imagination In our movements. We hone our skills of naming and analyzing the crises, of deconstruction. i learned in school how to DEconstruct – but how do we move beyond our beautiful deconstruction, who teaches us to reconstruct?

How do we cultivate the muscle of radical imagination needed to dream beyond fear together?

what are the possible worlds you are cultivating? (i spoke first)

Octavia’s Brood is an anthology of original science fiction from social justice thinkers. All social justice work is speculative fiction, we are imagining and creating a world we have never experienced. showing black and white people sitting at a lunch counter together was science fiction. slaves having children was speculative fiction. walidah taught me that.

Walidah Imarisha and I have gathered and edited these stories, while also generating workshops and tools to practice our ideas. We run collective sci fi writing sessions, because different stories emerge when we build our worlds together. we need to move from competitive ideation, trying to push our individual ideas, to collective ideation, collaborative ideation. it isn’t about having the number one best idea, but having ideas that come from, and work for, more people.

also when we speak of systemic change, we need to be fractal. fractals, a way to speak of the patterns we see move from the micro to macro level. the same spirals on sea shells can be found in the shape of galaxies. we must create patterns that cycle upwards. we are microsystems (we each hold contradictions – my shellac nails vs desire that no one do the toxic work of nail painting, my family travel vs my desire not to use fossil fuels, etc). our friendships and relationships are systems. our communities are systems. let us practice upwards.

and then – what happens when we succeed, new problems? i was in south africa in january, where politically there was a success, a change, and yet there is a racialized economy going strong there. so, what is next? we need those next stories.

finally, last night i had a dream i want to share – i was in a future where we figured out how to harness the power of rising sea levels into wave pools. at first it was a secret, i was taken down to this basement with a pool where these massive waves were crashing back and forth. it was gorgeous. and i watched as time passed and it became a grocery store around me, which was all powered by the wave pool. and my niece siobhan was like, ‘i’m going surfing while y’all shop!’

i want some designer or scientist to make that happen.

i was asked to bring a closing poem. i called forth the words of two new ancestors:

first, from general baker, the detroit labor organizer and leader who just passed, who said – “you keep asking how do we get the people here? i say, what will we do when they get here?”

the second is a poem from maya angelou. when i first heard it i didn’t really get it, but it feels incredibly relevant here today.

“On the Pulse of Morning

A Rock, A River, A Tree
Hosts to species long since departed,
Marked the mastodon.
The dinosaur, who left dry tokens
Of their sojourn here
On our planet floor,
Any broad alarm of their hastening doom
Is lost in the gloom of dust and ages.

But today, the Rock cries out to us, clearly, forcefully,
Come, you may stand upon my
Back and face your distant destiny,
But seek no haven in my shadow.

I will give you no more hiding place down here.

You, created only a little lower than
The angels, have crouched too long in
The bruising darkness,
Have lain too long
Face down in ignorance.

Your mouths spilling words
Armed for slaughter.

The Rock cries out today, you may stand on me,
But do not hide your face.

Across the wall of the world,
A River sings a beautiful song,
Come rest here by my side.

Each of you a bordered country,
Delicate and strangely made proud,
Yet thrusting perpetually under siege.

Your armed struggles for profit
Have left collars of waste upon
My shore, currents of debris upon my breast.

Yet, today I call you to my riverside,
If you will study war no more. Come,

Clad in peace and I will sing the songs
The Creator gave to me when I and the
Tree and the stone were one.

Before cynicism was a bloody sear across your
Brow and when you yet knew you still
Knew nothing.

The River sings and sings on.

There is a true yearning to respond to
The singing River and the wise Rock.

So say the Asian, the Hispanic, the Jew
The African and Native American, the Sioux,
The Catholic, the Muslim, the French, the Greek
The Irish, the Rabbi, the Priest, the Sheikh,
The Gay, the Straight, the Preacher,
The privileged, the homeless, the Teacher.
They hear. They all hear
The speaking of the Tree.

Today, the first and last of every Tree
Speaks to humankind. Come to me, here beside the River.

Plant yourself beside me, here beside the River.

Each of you, descendant of some passed
On traveller, has been paid for.

You, who gave me my first name, you
Pawnee, Apache and Seneca, you
Cherokee Nation, who rested with me, then
Forced on bloody feet, left me to the employment of
Other seekers- desperate for gain,
Starving for gold.

You, the Turk, the Swede, the German, the Scot…
You the Ashanti, the Yoruba, the Kru, bought
Sold, stolen, arriving on a nightmare
Praying for a dream.

Here, root yourselves beside me.

I am the Tree planted by the River,
Which will not be moved.

I, the Rock, I the River, I the Tree
I am yours- your Passages have been paid.

Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need
For this bright morning dawning for you.

History, despite its wrenching pain,
Cannot be unlived, and 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.

Women, children, men,
Take it into the palms of your hands.

Mold it into the shape of your most
Private need. Sculpt it into
The image of your most public self.
Lift up your hearts
Each new hour holds new chances
For new beginnings.

Do not be wedded forever
To fear, yoked eternally
To brutishness.

The horizon leans forward,
Offering you space to place new steps of change.
Here, on the pulse of this fine day
You may have the courage
To look up and out upon me, the
Rock, the River, the Tree, your country.

No less to Midas than the mendicant.

No less to you now than the mastodon then.

Here on the pulse of this new day
You may have the grace to look up and out
And into your sister’s eyes, into
Your brother’s face, your country
And say simply
Very simply
With hope
Good morning.”

meditation for charity: come go home

Breath come in
Pace of gods
Fill her up to come go home

Beautiful black
‘get naked’ ferocity
Fill her up to come go home

Memories of a D where
Her fight grows roots
Fill her up to come go home

She is of
A darker earth, an up south
And a broader sky

She is of 713,000
Who light candles
In every passage
Shining a singular
Beacon of home
Who sing her name
In sage and circle
Who drum her pulse
Into our palms
Who pray to all
Who’ve heard her weep
Who hold her through
This quiet sleep

Who say in whispers
Shouts and ritual
Come go home now
Come go home
Come on home now
Come go home
Come back home now
Come go
Come go home now
Come back home

love life

there is a lot of love in my life right now. some moments i look around and all i see and feel is love, everywhere.

i just spent the weekend in the house with the babies and autumn and sam, while all around us it rained and the mosquitos came out and minnesota was being very beautiful. sam made us a feast, taught us an italian card game, and was as always just a fascinating man to be around – he makes me feel better about men altogether. autumn blows my mind, the smartest most on point mama i have ever known. i am so grateful for her friendship and sistership.

it was siobhan’s birthday, and she is Four now, and was in a state of exclamation and clarity the whole weekend. she is a delightful gorgeous self-directed child who loves puddles, creating and reading books about her own life. she shrieked with joy to receive new ballet slippers after wearing her last pair out – not dancing, but just as the right shoe to wear around the house. she says no easily and loves to be a goofy middle sister. she entertains, she is developing her coy side.

finn is five going on sixty and he is full of wonder and connection to the natural world. he made friends with a toad he named hopleg, and a turtle with a long tale who finn talked with about the importance of getting across the road. his imagination paired with his love of facts makes him excellent company. he likes to be the first one to my bed in the morning, which sometimes means a 5:30 wake up call – he likes the alone time to discuss his dreams and the day to come. he is a bit obsessive over angry birds, but can be assuaged somewhat with creating angry bird art or looking at real birds. his emotional presence is humbling, he feels everything and hides nothing and it’s inspiring and makes me want to build a house around him where only kind people can enter whenever he goes out in the world.

mairead is sixteen months old, smells sweet, is a quick and skilled dancer doing diaper drops when the beat comes in…and she’s just a fantastic person. she giggles, screams in joy, knows exactly what she wants and will not be fooled. she understands there is humor in troublemaking and often moves her fastest when she realizes she can create a major mess. she has deep conversations with bran the dog, has no patience for dresses. and when she is ready to snuggle there is nothing so magical as her soft weight and warmth, her skilled way of tucking her head under an adult chin.

going away from them gets harder and harder, but in the best way. i don’t want to miss the new words they learn, the moment of clicking through from putting letters together to reading, or learning to swim. they are so much fun and they love me easily, without attachment or expectation.

it is also gemini season, many of my dearly beloveds are celebrating. i am not an easy person to be friends with – i travel a lot and barely keep my schedule together, i forget important things, i like to be alone. so i deeply appreciate those people who stay through it all and keep loving me and holding me close. gemini seem to have a special ability to do this with almost no guilting.

my friend janine at harvard, radical mama, one of the sharpest thinkers and most precise poets i know; my love dani, blogging pieces we need on women and reproductive health for the nation and being the place where bullshit must stop and surrender; brilliant education scholar and writer and soon-to-be mama adriana; prolific musician daddy joshua gabriel. there are so many in my life, so i generally experience this as a second birthday season, with gratitude.

and then today is my first anniversary with lynnee denise. we began our conversation, our love scholarship, last year on this day. she reached out to me in response to this post, and i saw a picture and leaned in.

i mean, have you seen her?

and from our first exchanges it has been a significant journey, with both of us in mutual wow, humbled by how much we needed to grow to face each other. and we grow, reflect, learn. we don’t coast, we fly as the result of realizing again and again we have wings and jumping off of ever higher heights. i am a better human because of her, more connected to myself, to the life i am meant to live, to what freedom i have to choose my life. i know the capacity i have to create and change and give.

that post that caught her heart begins with this poem:

Don’t surrender your loneliness so quickly.
Let it cut more deep.
Let it ferment and season you
as few human or even divine ingredients can.
Something missing in my heart tonight
has made my eyes so soft
my voice so tender
my need of god
absolutely clear.

and i just wanted to offer here that i think all of the love i am experiencing now is a result of my beautiful loneliness, the time i have spent in my life cultivating my love for myself, and my love of all that is divine in the world outside of romance.

that loneliness wavers in and out of aloneness, the experience of being satisfied with your own existence in the world, not as a reflection, but as a miracle in real time. my osho deck says ‘aloneness is the presence of oneself. aloneness is very positive. it is a presence, overflowing presence. you are so full of presence that you can fill the whole universe with your presence and there is no need for anybody.’

that aloneness has deepened my presence as an aunt, as a friend, and raised the standards of what i would receive and could offer as a lover. all of this abundant love in my life springs up from within, something in me opens to the presence of god-is-change all around me. i can rest in it, open in it, set the right boundaries and invite that which is not love to move along, i can be more honest, be more present, be humbled by all that is beyond my reach, be humbled by all that i can touch and how precious it is.

my life is green everywhere. love is what comes when i let myself blossom.