build as we fight: remarks from the 2019 American Studies Association Annual Meeting

my friend and comrade Scott Kurashige is the president of the American Studies Association, and this year he very kindly invited me to be the artist-in-residence, which meant that I got to do lots of sessions and offers for folks who I am amazed might be interested in my work. my offers here have so far included an emergent strategy workshop, a pleasure activism workshop, singing the Black national anthem to open Scott’s presidential address, and a panel with three of my life teachers, Angela Davis, Robin Kelly and Shea Howell. today I get to do one more panel with some of my favorite speculative fiction thinkers and creators.

the workshops went well, I got to test out new forms for offering the content and got great feedback.

here is the song:

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and here are the notes for my remarks at the panel “build as we fight”, most of which I said roughly like this (I’ll italicize things I wrote but don’t think I spoke aloud):

hi. my name is adrienne maree brown and I’m nervous. it’s delightful to feel this nervous, this alive.

after two days of making academics get in small groups and feel feelings and cry and discuss nakedness, I caught on to the ASA way and I have written up some thoughts to read to you.

I want to tell you about a few ahas, ways I am moving towards the future, and about what building as we fight looks like in my life, thru my lens as a facilitator of Black liberation movements for justice.

my lens is shaped by the Anishanaabe land I fell in love with over a decade ago, also known as Detroit, the post motor city, where it feels like a modern Black Renaissance is unfolding as an artist-led insurgence against gentrification.

I’m shaped by Grace Lee Boggs, who I initially resisted, cause everyone loved and worshipped her, and I mostly recoil at heroes, celebrities and worship. But then we spoke, and I kept coming back. Grace taught me to ‘transform myself to transform the world’, and to keep working a question as long as it took, because some questions are longer than one lifetime.

I’m shaped by her beloved Jimmy, who was gone by the time I got to Detroit, but also present in everything, was everywhere. He reminds me often that I’m nothing outside of relationship, never to let the celebrity so available in capitalism keep me from being in authentic and accountable relationship to real people, to use any platform I have to advance ideas generated and tested by collective formations.

I’m shaped by Scott Kurashige and Emily Lawson, by Shea Howell – who taught me to foment revolution on the detroit river. And Malik Yakini and Feed’em Freedom Growers and the Peace Circles and Detroit Summer.

and by Octavia Butler, the no nonsense prophet who used science fiction to deliver her visions. And Toni Morrison, Samuel Delaney and Nalo Hopkinson, Walter Mosley, and Tananarive Due, all the black speculative fiction writers who bent and bend the world into fractals of truth and justice to help us see ourselves.

and by Margaret Wheatley and Janine Benyus, women studying complexity science. We are also complex science, we are also nature.

I’m shaped by Harriet Tubman, who was willing to go and make a space for those hungry for freedom, those not quite ready to make a run for it without invitation, leadership, path and proof.

I’m shaped by the Tao the ching, which says to let the mud settle into the way is clear. to trust the people. and that mastery is when the collective can feel it’s own power.

and by Audre Lorde, who validated my black queer poetic and erotic aliveness as a measure of political power. And bell hooks with love and rigor, and Toni Cade Bambara with irresistibility and Barbara Ransby showing me that facilitation was radical through Ella bakers legacy.

and of course, of course Angela Davis who has pushed me to understand freedom and justice beyond the carceral state, and Robin DG Kelly, who has widened the lens with which I understand our moment in black history.

and there are so many more. so if it sounds familiar, or like worship, it is.

my first big aha was visionary fiction, offered in a collection of science fiction from social justice movements coedited by myself and Walidah Imarisha called Octavia’s Brood. When I told Grace about this work, she casually dropped that she had tried visionary fiction in the 1970s, and pointed me to the shelf where I could find a copy of it. she thought ‘it could be interesting’.

we who believe in freedom must build our muscle of imagination. because we are living in, and only sometimes surviving, an imagination battle –

who imagined this world?
this absence of right relationship to earth?
this violent addiction to dominating each other?
these myths of superiority of those with pale skin or external sex organs or bodies without kinks in the bones, or born on this side of manmade, and cruelly held, borders?
who imagined that these prison bars on jails and schools would generate safety?
who imagined a generation or more would tolerate this black and brown hunger? and this allowance that some will hunger while others feast, not oblivious, but willfully, and structurally, ignorant?

in the face of this world, this moment, where self definition outside of oppression can feel impossible, we must strengthen our capacity to live and create and affirm and vision outside the white male straight able-bodied citizen gaze, to structure our visions beyond their limited, often self-worshipping imaginations.

or the educated imagination.

any emotion-less, arrogant, vengeful imagination.

we need our own oceanic visions.

socialization of the dominance of white imagination and fantasy creates what toni morrison called “interior pain”.

we must counteract by creating an abundance of interior freedom, and weaving collective freedom dreams, dreams that include all of us, dreams we can speak to each other plainly, or poetically (or as y’all speak to each other, which I’m trying to comprehend).

Dreams as complex as a black owned food cooperative in right relationship with indigenous land lineage, or the community land trust, two projects seeding in Detroit after twenty plus years of experimenting with solutions. We are living science fiction – all organizing is science fiction.

my next big aha was, is, emergent strategy.

emergence is the way complex systems and patterns arise out of relatively simple interactions. emergent strategies are informed by complexity, by learning from nature how to be in right relationship with each other and the earth.

Grace exposed me to Margaret Wheatley and complex science theory as a movement direction. I went fast into learning and I’m still going.

as we fight we must also harness each lesson to learn how to get in right relationship with change.

we must build dialectically, committed to learning with each other more than stagnating in a point of view.

as we fight we must build our fractal capacity, meaning solutions that we practice at a small scale, that will work at any scale (as opposed to solutions we demand at a large scale but no one, or very few people, practice, ever – democracy, abolition).

we need solutions that work for a small band of survivors in an apocalypse bunker if that’s what humanity will be up to for a while, a more and more likely scenario each day. we need to be raising up and becoming humans who have the communications skills, imagination muscle and loving care to make a life worth living at a small, hyper-local scale.

or the scale of municipality, if we can breathe above ground but we can’t fly or drive to each other every other day.

or the scale of instantaneous transporter travel and sky highways and alien technology if that happens first. or the octopuses start talking to us. it’s all equally possible.

one of these fractal skills is what cabral spoke of as revolutionary democracy – trusting the people to learn self governance. many of us are terrified to govern, much more comfortable with critiquing what is than with creating and practicing what will be.

start small. democratize your home, your relationship with your neighbor, with your lover, with your family. if we can’t budget together, we can’t be mad that our government struggles to.

movement generation, also a great teacher of mine, defines economy as the management of home. how do we manage collective home together? how do we contribute to a collective home that is resilient in constantly changing conditions?

at each level, our natural world teaches us that we build the resilience by building relationships, proliferating aligned differences. we need critical connections not just between those who think the same thing, but between different skill sets, worldviews, cultures and, yes, politics.

Loretta Ross teaches us that “a group of people thinking the same thing and moving in the same direction is a cult. a group of people thinking many different things and moving in the same direction is a movement.”

we need to harness the most successful strategies of the natural world – the symbiotic biodiversity, the interdependent fecundity, the abundance mindset of mushrooms and dandelions, the shapeshifting adaptation of multisexed frogs, the collaborative pheremonal effort of ants, the iterative beauty of ferns and deltas and galaxies.

if attended to, and learned from in an ongoing way, these critical connections to each other and to our nature are what make critical mass solid enough not just to demand change, but to become change.

we must go beyond calling for abolition, and build our tolerance for, and practice of, transformative justice.

at an intimate level, I do kitchen table mediation, bringing movement leaders going through a breakup or break down to sit together and remember what is larger than us.

at a collective level I facilitate principled struggle – a Marxist conflict framework by way of N’Tanya Lee at LeftRoots – helping people to have integrity to movement even in personal beef, to struggle for the sake of deeper understanding (not just to be right), to be responsible for our own feelings and actions, to find the right container for our gifts and longings and to release containers that cannot hold us, to seek deeper understanding before writing the critical commentary or instigating the debate or tweeting the complaint. to gossip and vent, yes, we are human – but keep returning with integrity to the work we can and must do together.

in this moment, we can spend a lot of time tracking every crack in the shell, or we can be the chaos that tremors those cracks open, or we can be the wild creature learning to breathe inside that shell, preparing to burst thru, expanding beyond the boundary of what most people think is reality. it’s all construct.

what we can be and do depends on the rigor of our collective attention. are we obsessing over what we cannot change, or nourishing what we can touch and grow – or as Octavia taught us, shape, partner with?

my final offer to build while we fight is pleasure activism.

we must build a felt sense in ourselves of authentic satisfaction. and remember that pleasure is not a frivolous spoil of luxury, but a measure of aliveness, the life force that has been whittled away, stolen away, by oppression and colonization and capitalism. we must break with the assumption of misery that does not serve us.

we are responsible for building movements that feel good to enter and good to stay in. in my work facilitating the movement for black lives, I have continuously asked these current and future shapers of history to turn towards each other (when it felt like there was no time for it), care about each other, sing 90s r&b together, and risk loving each other.

to organize this way means we must remember how to feel. we are not minds alone, strategies and speeches alone. we have multiple kinds of intelligence to draw on. we must learn to tolerate feeling both discomfort and delight, sadness and celebration, more than just fear and submission.

and to love. to be loyal to love, as grace was to jimmy for their life together and for the years after she left. to love the way she did, for us to look at each other the way grace looked at jimmy’s face on that little video of jimmy she played every day.

ultimately we need to feel and heal and grow and love ourselves into movements that birth not just rock stars or temporary victory based campaigns or cultural pendulum swings, but new worlds. movements that can see our future dissolution (rather than permanent institutionalization) not because we outsmarted each other, but because we forget how to lose. and we win by surrendering to our collective purpose, to being life moving towards life, surviving and thriving together. we win only by getting in right relationship, before we go extinct.

maybe happiness?

being happy takes a lot of work for someone like me.

suffering makes sense to me, the world is hard and unfair and oppressive and dangerous. finding the narrative of despair is our focus as a species, hence what we call news (terror, shame, controversy, immaturity), what we slow down to ogle at in traffic (hint: not the flowers). we make each other miserable, unnecessarily. many people, including me, can make meaning of our lives by how much we suffer, how extensive and heavy the baggage is that we bring forward.

also, i am a virgo. scorpio moon. i pay attention, i look for the inconsistencies, i can see the worst case scenarios fanned out before me, a million lonely paths. since i was young, i have been drawn to what i thought of as “real life”, the hard stuff; the addictions, heartbreaks, and the places where humans were failing at perfection.

i have had to learn to cultivate joy, to generate and extend trust, to be still, to focus my attention on what brings me ease, to give myself permission to experience beauty and love. that shouldn’t be past tense, as it’s all daily practice. i am learning. i am learning that being happy is, at least initially, not about external circumstances, but about internal perspective and attention liberation.

two years ago i wrote: when i feel hopeless, it usually means my attention is on things I can’t touch. when I bring my attention to the people and places I can touch, can shape and be shaped by, my life fills with meaning, connection, joy and transformation. #attentionliberation #attentionreparations #emergentstrategy #interdependence.

i have been practicing. here are some further aspects of bringing our attention to, and experiencing, happiness.

acknowledge suffering
if you deny that suffering is real, is happening, is part of human life, then you cut off a massive part of your awareness. you move out of balance with reality. happiness lives in the connections between us, the tether that joins us to the living world.

we have to acknowledge grief, longing, anxiety, oppression, depression, despair, loneliness. khalil gibran taught us that our sorrow carves out the space for our joy, and vice versa. they are inextricably linked – to deny suffering, especially the suffering of others, is to stay in false joy, joy that takes but does not give.

acknowledge suffering.

acknowledge doubt
doubt is a sign that you are paying attention.

there is a random wild energy moving through the universe, that is what makes it interesting, what brings us the unexpected. life has patterns, but is still not predictable.

doubt is that proof of chaos that distorts the blank surface of perfection. doubt is that small cut at the foundation of a lie, which eventually fells it. doubt keeps us from staying in stupid systems forever, from believing misguided leaders when they tell stories about god, power and change. doubt helps us escape false paradigms in which joy in the present moment is impossible.

acknowledge doubt.

be smaller
start small. be small.

i am happiest when i let my life be contained within my body, listening to my needs, and letting myself follow the impulses of care and connection.

current life requires such projection, such a massive scale of oversharing and trying to change strangers through the internet and attend to massive crises. we can live our whole lives as minds, worried, thinking, untethered.

large scale sometimes still happens when you’re being small, but it’s more deeply sourced, and doesn’t create the same level of attachment. when you’re small, your discernment is about the authenticity of the care, the real person you can be and feel in each connection.

be smaller.

let it go
my papa used to say this all the time. when someone was complaining, building a case for their misery, building a case against a loved one, he’d say ‘let it go.’ he gave it to god.

i didn’t understand it then as the profound key to happiness that i now find it to be, the ability to let go of things. when i can’t change something, when it isn’t working, when we don’t know how to apologize, when they didn’t mean to hurt me, i let it go. i give it to earth – that which is larger than myself.

i also think of this as clearing the channel. one of the first ways i understood healing was that i could feel the open channel of connection between myself and others, and/or sense blockages there. i would focus on clearing the channel so that my love, care, tenderness, forgiveness or other kinds of nourishing attention could reach them. i now use this technology to let things go, to keep myself from holding grudges, becoming a sad barnacle on a wreckage of my life. i don’t stagnate in any narrative that denies my power. i let it go, i stay in sacred motion.

as often as possible, if it doesn’t serve the miracle of life, let it go.

revel in the present
the present is so precious. sometimes when i drop out of the grip of memory, when i pull myself back from forecasting into the unknown, i find myself shocked at how incredible the present is.

in the present is where love makes its offer. i look back at how often i have missed love because i had my attention elsewhere while it was happening. i have a visceral memory of the first time i felt present-time love, holding another’s hand and walking across a field, needing nothing. it was so mundane, but every blade of grass caught the light, and still does.

when i am present, i relax, bringing my attention to the gift of the moment. i am feeling. i can choose connection, or solitude (connection with others or self). i can move or be still. i can intentionally focus on what brings me awe, even while getting a flu shot or blood drawn or a speculum inserted. when the present is grief, i can remember it is gratitude, i can bring love into me.

when i am present, i understand that time is not linear, but fully available to me. in my healing work, i can relegate the past to the past, notice my own survival. i can humble myself to the futures, and listen for which ones want to use my sacred life, partner with my heartbeat to shift the potential. i can release my need to know that which i cannot know. in the present, everything is possible, except the clearly impossible. that clarity, that light on everything inside me, is a sign of right direction.

revel in the present.

when i do these things, acknowledge suffering and doubt – past present and future; when i get small, and let go of what isn’t connection, i find that the only thing left is to revel in the present. a brief car ride becomes a celebration. love becomes an option that doesn’t require contortion or obsession, just honesty. a truth spoken becomes a liberation. our species is not failing, but learning.

and i can have a moment of happiness.

that’s what all this brightness is, pouring out of me as i do my life’s work, heading towards rest, connected deeply and honestly to those who see me whole and still choose me, letting praise and critique simply be signs that others exist and feel. when i am present, i am doing my best without effort, relaxing into what is, right now.

and because it’s taken so much work, i want to claim it, here in my exhausted and overextended life, even though i need the sabbatical coming and more quiet and more vegetables…i am also full of this chaotic, tender, real time brightness. in this moment, awake again before dawn to listen to now, i feel so much life flowing through me.

i feel satisfaction.

and maybe, maybe, happiness.

Harriet Review

I saw Harriet the other night, and it’s stuck with me.

I am one of many in my generation who call upon Harriet as a chosen ancestor. I believe our political lineages set the standards for the kind of humans we want to be – between Harriet, Octavia and Audre, my standards are impossibly high, and I welcome the humility that comes from feeling nowhere close to them but still hungry and still trying.

The movie aims for epic, and while it doesn’t quite land there, there’s a lot of good here. Where it falls short, it feels like Hollywood often does – aiming for big emotions without the emotional foreplay to earn them, even if the component parts are all there. But it covers the familiar territory, the pieces we know. It’s not a documentary, though.

I particularly hope it reaches young people unfamiliar with her story. I specifically hope it gets them curious enough to then go read and learn about her story.

I want white people and people of privilege to see this movie and think: how am I complicit in current harms? how am I actually protecting black and other persecuted people right now?

I want viewers to notice how radical the commitment to the dangerous and mundane work of revolutionary solidarity is.

I want men to watch it and be more aware of the cost of their patriarchal doubt.

And I want witches and other intuitives to watch it and celebrate being led by divine forces beyond our own minds – whenever our species is regressing and inhumane, it is necessary to call in and trust other guides. She had to move against the collective assumption of what was possible, again and again. That’s important in collective work – someone has to see beyond what is and get others to dream, and risk what is for what could be.

Release perfection with this one, but see it. Harriet was and is unmatched. See it because she deserves to be the star, the focus, a singular name, the superhero of children’s dreams, then and now.

one year of grieving alana

Saturday, a year ago, after a massive grief ritual at the third emergent strategy immersion, I got the news that Alana had transitioned.

The anniversary date is today, now, both yesterday and today. Everything is memorable in such an unfair situation; the details matter forever. The details are what we have when loved ones die young, unfolding what we were given, each memory, each communication. We want to open and examine every inch of time together, to know everything.

Alana is hilarious, competitive, loyal, humble, fierce, indulgent, loving, beloved, unapologetic and excellent at words. She is all of these things (and many I didn’t get to learn about), still and forever.

Its a new moon, time for a ritual. I’ve been living my life more ferociously since she died, more in touch with what change can do. Alana left such clear instructions: don’t take it too seriously. don’t waste it. the fear is a good sign. drink in pleasure. practice pleasure as if your life depends on it.

She gave me more than I ever got to give her.

This moon I’m writing down what I most want, and planting seeds of futures to live into through the barriers of my fear and into pleasure.

And also, I’m asking for mercy, an expanding mercy for all who grieve Alana. With lit candles. I hope that for today the universe has enough and doesn’t need to take anyone else into her mouth.

I imagine a place for you where you’re in motion, and smiling, and right by Mac. Its the deepest darkness. The thinnest veil. The next adventure. The way you are gone and still felt, here but unable to touch the loneliness, a teacher still.

We won’t forget. And today, we have spent a year in tender memory.

microdosing

this past two weeks I was mostly offline getting some new tastes of myself, getting current, writing a new book. I went to a quiet hot spring to write for the first week and then got to teach on the school of embodied leadership team, the generative somatics intensive boot camp.

this all felt like a microdose of my coming sabbatical. I was offline, deeply in my body, exploring trust and healing and connection. I want to report out some of the sensations:

how when I lost signal, I put the phone away and didn’t think of it again – how it felt like I could breathe deeper, instantly.

moving up a belt in intimacy practices.

sore hands from writing in a bathtub, writing by hand, in the dark hours of early morning.

the first moments in writing a book when I really, really understand what I have in my mind and hands.

the surprise of turtle love.

paranoia/fame – standing in a room where I was half naked, in a private moment, being recognized (in sweet ways) and/but just wanting to be anonymous.

the heart expansion of seeing people I love whole, and becoming more of themselves.

meeting people in their most alive moment.

the delight of letting my resilience be seen in a vulnerable way in public. a rare mutual healing space moment when, as Rita Moreno said yesterday, “I love being seen.”

meeting Rita Moreno and not needing to take a photo, just getting to recognize in her another brick in the foundation of my power femme heart.

letting in appreciation without getting overwhelmed or anxious.

a public mutual lovefest with Marcus K. White.

the way Rose at Imperial Spa got inside my shoulder and pushed a demon out.

the way my heart is reaching ahead of me for home.

gratitude for memes. I missed them.

if you can’t see the small…

look here. here.

if you can’t see the small
you will keep leaping from built thing
to built thing
begging the sky to rain only on you
you’ll become a tyrant,
reaching, shuffling the cards until you see only your own vision
massive
but no one else can see it

if you can’t see the small
you miss the whole miracle
it is all moments nearly missed, private,
impossible to perform, or
perfectly acted, context and all
moments of faith hit the surface and change it
shivering us open
to love
to our ridiculous longings

if you can’t see the small
you may never feel true love
it comes with the slimmest shadow of warning
whisperclacking spider toes up your spine
to love is to truly lose
the only thing you can ever truly have
and never buy
for love, true, the whole surrender kind
starts with a gasp

if you can’t see the small
you may never know pleasure
which is not about the immersion into eternal bliss, no
it’s the printed pad of your finger
grazing along my shoulder
as you realize you need to feel me
it is inside, where the sun, wind, rain and earth
have never touched you
but i have

if you can’t see the small
you won’t know what the dirt is screaming
one grief at a time
that the whales are singing
warning songs
that there is a shudder in all of life now
a premonition:
change everything
for everything is changing

found in my notebook after somatics + trauma advanced

“if you are not well, you can be healed thru stories.” nazbah tom

“are you satisfiable?” staci haines

“some bodies get taught that it’s a possibility to be held. some are taught that it’s impossible.” prentis hemphill

“we hold the weight of love together.” yaya raiz’s kid

“leadership is mostly about the unknown.” prentis hemphill

“don’t be distracted by my power, center in yours!” adaku utah

how much of ‘specialness’ is rooted in overcoming obstacles?
how much is rooted in being nurtured, being loved?
and how much is privilege?

i am not for anyone’s consumption.

i open so that my trauma can find the exit.

my mind says everything is at stake.
my body says that pleasure is at stake, and my people.
i ask my heart/spirit: is our relationship to god/the holy/divine/creator/home at stake?
what i hear, in the register below sound, is that everything is unfolding in divine order.
and, trust.
and, there is enough. we cause harm when we don’t trust that.
and, we are slowly learning that.

most power is rooted in the traumatic taking, holding and wielding of power. if we attain power without healing, we recreate the toxic patterns we currently rebel against. over and over. healing is the only way we can build the collective practice of generating and holding power together.

power blows out the fragile parts of our systems, individually and in our movement structures. healing allows us to actually hold power in ourselves and in our collective spaces.

new thoughts!

and under all of that, i felt a lot in my legs. that’s new!

birthday reflections

nothing is permanent
real love never ends

“there are black people in the future”
and i am conjuring those futures, daily, in community

for a long time people laughed at my visions
that’s OK, my visions include laughter

i wouldn’t wish my trauma on anyone
healing from trauma, feeling peace and even joy in my life, is the greatest achievement of my life

i have accomplished most of my dreams
i am tired…time to dream again

i am not between people when i’m alone
i’m not property when i am loved

i love quiet, private, internal moments.
i then love to share them with thousands of people and find the pattern of flagrant introverts and shy extroverts who are my people

i am terrified of what the future holds
looking in babies’ eyes makes me feel at peace with the future

life is not happening to me…it is the cumulative result of my choices
still, some things are out of my control

you can’t save people
you can point towards safety, grab their hands, and run with them through the landmines

kissing is the best
orgasms are the best
love is the best

my life is full of purpose, love, and nibblings who send me birthday wishes that keep me crying with gratitude all day

thank you ancestors for insisting that i listen to a force older and truer than any thing i could think up

thank you to everyone who interacts with me as a human, who sees that i am not a product, pawn, carpet, or magic bullet.

thank you to each person who loves me as i am right now today.

thank you to the babies who look in my eyes and affirm my existence.

thank you to the people who resonate with my ahas, you make me feel less alone in my awe and longing.

thank you to the unwritten books patiently awaiting my attention – i am coming.

thank you to the great mystery who says there is even more coming to me, more blessing, more loving. i accept. i will rest up and wait.

student self

this week i get to be a student again. it’s always part of what’s happening, i am always learning. there are teachers everywhere…and then there are those moments when you explicitly get to sit in a room and say ‘i don’t know’, or, ‘i can’t hold this’. in this room, i get to not know, to ask, to furiously scribble down things my teachers say, to let go of time, to trust the container to hold us, to even hold me.

i don’t know how to expand time the way i want.

i don’t know how to love without obsessing over future grief.

i don’t know if i can be any less selfish and complete my mission.

does everyone think of themselves as a microcosm of the planet?

is it a privilege to feel? is it the most universal human experience to feel? both at the same time?

what is enough?

what do we deserve? why does the creator give us so much more than that?

why is it so easy to see the miraculous in others, and so hard to see it in myself? thank goddess i can feel more than i’ll ever see.

this week it’s my birthday and i gave myself the gift of returning to my student self. i feel happy and loved and connected and abundant and there’s nothing i need that isn’t in reach, and i can still learn so much more.

rituals of release

these days i have noticed how often ritual is really about directing my attention, towards and away from emotions, energies, lives, futures. tonight i need rituals.

this week i am in a place i love, which i must let go of without much agency. where is the ritual for grieving other people’s homes and lands that have also held your heart? where do you whisper into the dirt: “i fell in love with you, with this curve, this ridge, this stand of birch – you changed my life…”?

tonight is my last night here, probably forever. the moon still feels full, waiting for me to release, so i write.

i am laying in the room where my youngest nibbling was born, and i remember how the light poured in that day like the sun itself wanted to see her first. still when i first glimpse her bright gold hair i remember that light, her swimming to her mother and everyone gasping, crying with miracle.

i remember that winter, waking up every three hours to go down into the cold basement in layers and layers of clothing to tend to the furnace fire. that meditation, finding the spark in the ashes and blowing, feeding, waiting…the satisfaction of the fire roaring, knowing the baby, the mother will be warm.

and in the dark outside the window, just a short walk into the wood, lay buried the bones of the infant phenomenon, the little one whose spirit often visits me here, usually in the kitchen, dashing behind me, caught out of the corner of my eye. i hope the next family has kids for them to follow.

in the morning i will wake up to the small pond, one of millions, with its particular cycle of geese, winter ice, summer muck. this pond taught me the sacred gift of catching sunrise, it is so simple, and one of my favorite views in the world. it’s summer now but i think my favorite is fall, this same swath of trees bright red with change.

the hill between the house and the pond is worn bare by sledding, and i remember dragging sleds weighted with children back up that incline.

i will miss these gardens which i didn’t work but watched burst each year with abundance. i miss watching my eldest nibbling bend close to eat broccoli like a wild deer.

how many times did we rescue ourselves from the doldrums of a long day by going for a walk up the driveway, then the dirt road, left, throw rocks in the first pond, left, climb into the creek bed, race to the rock pile, leap over the tiny stream between the next two ponds, grunt up that first hill, run the ridge past the white trees until breathless, reach the fire pit, the yard strewn with soccer balls and obstacle courses and frisbees, populated with frogs that wanted to say hello. how many times?

how many times have i made the double batch of pancakes? in this kitchen i can do it without a recipe. in this home i have been a different me, barefoot, in an apron, satisfied with the work of love and care. covered in paint, flour, dirt, whatever the children had touched before they needed to hold me, hug me, be carried wrapped around my leg, or tucked in a wrap against the back of my heart.

i remember dancing, joy, laughter, building forts and bonfires, mayday poles, a briefly functional kiln. rocking my nibblings to sleep in the dark and then trying to not wake them when everything in this house groans and sings. my nibblings’ feet hitting the floor in their bedroom half a house away, racing to climb into bed with me, my middle nibbling all elbows and knees, the oldest telling me dreams, the baby complaining about the existence of morning.

here i crafted books about my nibblings, for them, like mandalas: take my heart, destroy it.

i want the babies to remember their naked wild years here, skin to soil to sun, safe enough to climb the apple tree and venture out onto the ice, country enough to beef with the neighbor over dog etiquette.

i wonder if they will recall their bedroom full of books, their bedding piled on the floor, rejecting comfort. the safe spaces they generated for themselves and each other.

here i learned about relinquishing control, flying alongside of parents, being kind while sleep deprived, the layered summer dance of dragonflies, the soundtrack of crickets, grasshoppers.

i know why we must go. even flooded in nostalgia, feeling the perfection of this patched together house that has held my family, i know our chapter here is done. i am trusting the universe that this release will honor a plethora of destinies. grief here is truly gratitude.

i grew up moving every two years. as an adult i am wary of any effort to bind me to a place, and yet i am so grateful for the parts of my life, my family’s life, that could only have unfolded on this land.

tomorrow i will gather dirt, offer water, burn words and pray for abundant release. nothing is permanent except the cycle of change, and this place is one of my favorite teachers of how life is unbearably beautiful and ever shifting.

goodnight, sweet home.