don’t think of that elephant

i can’t stop thinking about that elephant. in the story pieced together thru video and rumor and spirit, the elephant’s babies were poached, and there was a woman who threw stones at the elephant mother to keep her from saving her children. so the elephant waited and found this woman at a watering hole, trampled her to death, rolled with a crew to her funeral and swung her corpse out of the casket to trample her again, and then they went and destroyed her house.

i went researching because the story is so tender to me. those who check facts say that so far it could be true, though no one is clear on how to verify that it was the same elephant, that it was specific targeting.

elephants and humans have a tension in india, rooted in competing needs over the land that has been the elephants’ territory.

the story is working like a prism in my mind, i tilt it gently and see so much humanity in it, so many parents broken hearted at losing their babies to violence, so many people enraged at their ongoing displacement, so many people ready to say ‘no more.’

but then i spin this prism and see the whole earth trying to communicate to us, the humans, that we are not the only ones who feel and think and deserve to live and love our babies and strategize for survival.

if the story is true, it connects to the parts of us that protect those we love and flood with vengeance when they are harmed – we can touch an anthropomorphic empathy.

if its not true that this woman and this elephant had history, what remains true is that humans are encroaching on a shared world as if our needs are always the priority. it makes every kind of sense to me that, if we don’t swiftly adapt to be co-occupants of this generous planet, we will not only face the challenges of increasing climate catastrophe, already dire…we will also invite the wrath of everything else that can feel.

any sentient heart, broken repeatedly, can become a sharp edge.

i also keep thinking of this story as an epic tale of spiritual battle. the elephant is a goddess of the entire nonhuman earth, protecting its future. the woman is a complicit player in acts of egregious and selfish violence, not the leader, just someone who throws rocks because thats what humans do. she represents the majority of humans, going along with human-centric behavior that has devastating effects. the elephant is her death and our warning.

is the elephant/spirit wise enough to understand that it has to be dramatic and documented, to be viral, to be heard?

are we able to receive the warning at the level of spirit – that there is nothing funny here, only grief and rage and power and message?

or am i projecting all my own climate grief and rage onto this wild creature, whose motives are actually mysterious to me? am i again trying to spread human life into every space, even that of empathy and imagination and the motivations of elephants?

i don’t know.

but i know that the elephant story in this moment, in the wake of uvalde, in the emotional waters preceding juneteenth, during pride, in the hot and cold flash climate catastrophe season we are still calling summer, it feels important. it feels like we should all think about it.

are we the woman? the elephant? the earth beneath, receiving her blood and her force? the funeral guests running away in panic? could we be the force trying to stop the constant harm in every direction? or is there no us here, simply an obsessed observer, projecting her heart out, 8,500 miles away?

juneteenth spell 2022

we somebody’s worst nightmare
and best memory
that free

even in our blood we still feel
that quelling force saying
be less

with each breath, we heal wild wounds
we cut both binding rope
and bound

telling only the truth now
we show each other the freedom
we know

two years, six months, nineteen days
but centuries late, really
right now

with each breath, we heal wild wounds
we cut both binding rope
and bound

bitter history fills the throat with tears
even the songs twist, winded
haunting

grief spills through our hands until
we only see the other’s beauty
feel found

with each breath, we heal wild wounds
we cut both binding rope
and bound

– inspired by experiencing The Revival: It Is Our Duty and A Strange Loop this Juneteenth weekend

an emergent strategy response to mass shootings

A few years ago I said ‘things are not getting worse, they are getting uncovered. We must continue to hold each other tight and pull back the veil.’ I have to revise that. Things are getting worse for most of us, between mass shootings, climate catastrophe, regressive sociopolitical battles and an ongoing global pandemic. It’s an overwhelming, terrifying and grief-stricken time.

It’s also an inevitable time of crisis, given the political and cultural choices we are living through, and the leaders we have elected.

Emergent strategists are often drawn to this liberatory path because our hearts keep breaking – when we hear of the shootings, we love each elder, each baby – we look at their faces, we learn their stories, we say their names, we add them and their families to our altars and light candles. We do the same for those killed by police, those who die because they can’t access an abortion, those dying from COVID-19, those dying from mental illness, those dying because of capitalism and white sociopathy and patriarchy and other delusions of scarcity and superiority.

This palpable, active, ongoing grief is a non-negotiable part of this period of immense change. Grief is one of the most beautiful and difficult ways we love. As we grieve we feel our humanity and connection to each other.

Building the path from this heartbreaking present to a future where we center our collective existence in love and care is where we come in.

We are the ones shining light on the lies and inconsistencies in our current reality, and we are the ones dreaming up, remembering and practicing mutual ways of being in community with each other.

We are learning how to grieve without disappearing, and we are refusing to normalize this terror.

We are scholars of belonging and accountability, releasing ourselves from the reductive protocols of punitive culture.

We are protesting injustice wherever we find it, while forging the pathways to a justice we cocreate.

We are releasing either/or thinking, and we are outgrowing every construct meant to divide and disempower us.

We understand that this is an extinction point, and we are not just interested in survival – we want a just world for future generations and for the earth. Each day, we are the ones creating more possibilities.

We at ESII see how this community is showing up to hold each other, to grieve, to care for each other, to practice the future together. We love you, we trust you, we grieve with you, and we change with you.

amb, Sage, Mia, Aliana, Tyler

i also wanted to share a few poems pushing through in this time, trying to hold the hardest pieces:

1.

    each one as precious

all of the children
are worth all of our love
worth our intentions
our policies and practices
worth our protection
worth our last breaths
each one a divine gift
from the eternal tree
ripe with potential
and so full of god

knowing this
we have one mission:
treat each one as precious
as a promise unfurling

failing that
let us go extinct

2.

    little one

beautiful child
i want to offer you
all the brightness of the world
and show you how you shine

but first
i must teach you to disappear
melt into the structure that holds you
be unseeable, hush to silence
even play dead

little one
i want to show you
how we always help people
rescue those in danger
show up
be the angel

but first i must teach you
to keep the door closed
on someone
a stranger, a friend, a sibling
screaming
begging

i must teach you
that not everyone can be saved

i have to tell you the truth:
that you will live
and others will die
and you might die
while others live

there’s no sense to it
there’s no logic
even if you ask why
a million times
even if i answer

little darling child
i want you to know
that no one is disposable
each life precious
miraculous
each person someone’s child
in need of love
in need of holding

but first i need you to know
that there are monsters
they look just like humans
they have been eaten up from within
and now they are the hungry ones

little one
i want to show you
this stunning, abundant world

but instead
i have to tell you
how we are
and let that break your heart
so that you can change

i’m sorry for the burden
i’m sorry for the truth
i’m sorry for the pale pale time
that we live in

i want you to dream so big
but first
i have to wake you up

3.

    the white men

the white men
have stopped having sex
it is their protest
they play first person shooter games
with everyone they meet
everywhere they go
they call it defense

the white men are so jealous of
our creative power
our birth right
that they try to control it
or at least make it misery

the white men get lost
and murder everyone in sight

the white men will only pray
if we make god a mirror for them

the white men don’t know
they are the shadow of the species
the part we must navigate
integrate or be swallowed by
our holy gauntlet
achilles and devil and crisis

the white men are lucky
we not an eye for an eye people
not even a vengeful people

what i mean is we a full of God people
not that punitive imposter, no
we a god-is-change people

we building a future
where even the white men
can recover themselves

we are also the shadow

visual from APOD app…let this suffice moongazing curiosity! chani advises us not to go look at or absorb this moon – cleanse and purge!

we are infinite
fractal
timeless

when blood spills
we are the wounded place
the sensitive scar tissue
protecting life
from death
until death

we are tattooed
by grief
that love language
our rage and our weeping
show where we fester
where the fight is

that bile, that grime in the fold
that stench
that’s a warning
there’s a standard
we still need to set

we cannot stagnate for long

we are the river
we are the droplets that
spill through the soil
to quench at the root

we are overflowing
your structures
your cons
feel our pounds
your borders so waterlogged
and fragile

we the seep
we the slow creep of holy flood
through your ceiling
the rising rapid tide within
each liberating question
rushing under every skin

we are the deepest place
the light cannot reach us
unless we choose
the mountain path for an age
it’s all archipelago
to us

we ancient

we the patient ones
we carve our fury
with knives made of bones

we are the nightmare
that wakes you to leave
this burning house
but you must recall
we are also the matches

we are the balance
not only the flame in the dark
but each silhouette
against the bright

we are the
spark of life that shines
we are also the shadow

we are everything
you make
live in shadow

you who eat only
sunlight and death

we are underground
we are the dirt
we know who we go home to
we are not lost
we cannot lose
we know death is a portal
we are the black hole
through which all life must
burst

we know life is a miracle
we who
spin on an axis
pulsing like a heart
we
still
beat

we go pray in the dark
we know
where god lives

but tonight
we just shadow on sunlight
eyes closed
against the glare

(hear it read aloud on ig)

spell for another day on earth

what must it feel like
to carry every longing
feed every body
lift us in flight, hold us
offer every beauty
fractals patterns chaos
such genius and glorious design
– to swallow sun
and create sustenance
and then be told
‘we want more’

what must it feel like
to be reached into
for stones we call precious
pumped for your black blood
when everything of you
each breath in lung
each grain of salt or sand
each blade of grass or steel
each creature, singular or multitudinous
took from before time until this instant
to craft

what must it feel like
to be offered one day a year
when you give your whole self
every inch, every rotation
to all that moves towards life
every ritual of gratitude
is too small
a quick flame against a starfull sky
compared to the gifts of earth
womb, breath, sunrise, moon
and a chance at love

know this: some of us love you
we worship you
we know you as
our eternal altar

some of us remember
we foresee
we are so satisfied with you
our perfect planet

some of us are fighting yet
for you, our beloved
some of us
we celebrate you
every single day

fog clearing moon

fog cast before the moon
soft fingers that can’t touch her face
this river of our righteous tears
earth women bear this weight

fog on a full fat moon
fragments converge into something new
what we release has a gravity
let go of what’s not true

sweet and fog clearing moon
show me this dirt is not so bleak
lift up your skywide veil
promise me: there’s always light

be careful, i am fertile

be careful
i am fertile
a soil thick with promise
a mouth full of petals
you can feel when you are near me
how i may touch you
and you may blossom

be careful
i am fertile
do you know i thought i was barren?
someone told me that story
it took so many accidental gardens
for me to realize
i had sun in my fingers

be careful
i am fertile
i wake up glossy ripe
the next idea damp with dew
soft fuzz in vernix and miracle
screaming for my attention
reaching for my light

be careful
i am fertile
there is a divine timing
a pulse i can hear within
a season for incubation
a moment of bliss and surrender
code name: abundance

be careful
i am fertile
dream by my river
whisper longings under my moon
if the world says yes, i feel it
watch, i’ll unfurl in every direction
to let tomorrow through

be careful
i am fertile
and not at all alone
so many of us howl in the starlight
comforted by our own creations
fungal feral lava workers
arching our backs in joy

be careful
we are fertile
growing the next generation
of awe, of wonder, of fractal fate
in obstinate wombs
bound for production
we spin time ever forward

be careful
we are fertile
that heat between our palms
that poem in the mirror
we know the beauty of our own reckoning
all those years, asleep in delicious fog
that was only winter

be careful
we are awake now
be careful
we are springing
be careful of our spells now
be careful – we are the fecund earth
and oh yes, oh yes

we are fertile

deep practice

a quick note, but still a love note:

practice is holy.

a friend asked me today how i am, and it amazes me how good i am right now today. i could point to external factors, recent good news or accolades, but that would be an act of misdirection because what i want to point to is within me, deep in the folds of my mind and the muscles of my body. deep in the love discipline of my spirit.

i have been meditating each morning, sometimes only a couple of moments before an early swim; sometimes over an hour, quiet in the dark or the moonlight. my friend Sendolo recently showed me a meditation for pleasure where the whole meditation is just asking my body and spirit what could increase my ease and comfort?

i stand up and do at least one sun salutation before moving beyond my bedroom. that sometimes leads to more yoga, but often doesn’t. i adapt the flow to include a pilates bridge pose in the middle because i’m strengthening my abs and hips to support what my knees can no longer do.

i play wordle and quordle and the daily challenge on woodoku.

i swim every day, mostly in the mornings. i listen to audiobooks when i swim. before or after my swim i do a qi gong practice i learned from my friend Mawulisa at the BOLD national gathering. she called it 13 joints – i rotate and stretch my neck, shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, knees and ankles.

i write every day. by which i mean i ideate, organize thoughts, draft things, share those drafts, process feedback, sing things, catch poems out of the ether.

to write long-form pieces, i romance myself a bit with tea, beautiful music, candles, incense. i celebrate the feeling of completion with play, even though writing is also a kind of play for me, imagination and design and world building and problem solving and dreaming.

i take vitamins and supplements twice a day.

i have reminders in my phone for all of these practices, even though many of them now feel embodied. i have a kegel reminder going off now, as it does three times a day. i also have reminders for practices related to financial management, home management, people who need a bit of extra love and attention in my life, and milestones for work. everything is small. everything is changing me.

i am paying a lot of attention right now to right sized extension of my energy – not overextending beyond what i can give with authentic presence, and not withholding my life force. there is an abundance of me in the right conditions.

i am also attending to how i view the world – i am not taking it personally. everything is an invitation to practice being free and interacting with other free beings.

i extend energetic and material resources to those in crisis, both intimate private crises and international war and climate catastrophe. i remember we are all always connected and dedicate my practice to everyone’s happiness and wellness, to all beings experiencing freedom from tyranny and violence.

i am giving up practices that don’t align with my values or well being. which doesn’t mean they never happen, but they are more and more aberration than practice.

i reflect each day – what am i learning? are these practices working? am i able to be accountable to myself, my people, my time, my generation? do i need adjustments?

i think all the time about how Octavia E Butler said habit was more important than talent. i reread a lot of Thich Nhat Hanh this month, and i read atomic habits, and both things reminded me of the sacred work of practice in creating life satisfaction, in making life my practice ground and focusing energy where i have agency.

what good is freedom if we don’t expand into it, if we still operate as if someone else has all the control? i could have more freedom, always. these constructs are so fortified. i am still focused on freedom as the full realization of humans loving ourselves in most of my work.

but i take none of my current freedom for granted. i have the freedom to become more and more self-aware and self-responsive every day, which allows me to be a more honest, boundaried, authentic and loving member of my relationships, communities and species.

even the simplest practices become deep when i think of how much history and struggle it took generations to claim the time i have to now sit quietly, listen for a poem, swim in a public pool, read books of self-improvement, say what feels true, love myself as i am, and reject any construct that limits my humanity.

five months ago i was in despair, barely able to function without weeping. at that time all i could practice was grief and facing reality. i needed to acknowledge the truth of that pain. swimming helped me find myself in the tsunami. breathing meditation brought me back to the scale of my body. focusing on what i could practice brought me back into the realm of possibilities.

if it all feels like way too much, find one practice you can commit to every day, even if you start with only one minute, one rep, one bow, one cycle, one lap, one stanza, one page. one cry. one moment of choice. do it deeply, with reverence. or quickly, haphazard…but do it. we become what we practice.

what are you practicing?

we all have chernobyl in our lungs

we all have chernobyl in our lungs

we children of catastrophe
cannot sleep
focused on fissures

who left us to die?
those close enough to slip away instantly?
those poisoned
coming apart in the cells?
those willing to risk it all?

the salt sea and fertile loam
can still taste that bitter
and radioactive dust

that slow, invisible ash:
our future

what cannot be contained
becomes us
what i mean is
we all have a cancer now
within us, or between us
in our own bodies
in our structures
in the bodies we love
in the structures we need

directly in our bones
creating rocks from our softest tissues
pitting thyroids and prostates against us
strangeness creeps into us
equal parts violation and colonization
flags of disaster
on each play

now, that contaminated soil
is on the road between the reckless
and the wreck
and in my body i feel the earth
wishing for respite

we all have nuclear bodies
in search of remediation
our bodies cannot hold
this much rage
this much greed

earth does not consent to the violation of war
we do not consent

touching the profound

recently, many times, i have touched the profound.

it wasn’t just a good day, but a series of days – weeks – where i felt interconnected, and on purpose, and vibrant, and met, and loved and loving and adaptive. of the world, literally, made of the substance of all that exists. and even when struggle and crisis arise, i feel able to meet it with that profound energy, which translates into curiosity and awareness.

it is not lost on me that this sense of aliveness coincides with a break from social media. and comes in the wake of a season of despair, facing the things which make me shudder with doubt about human purpose.

i read some things that brought me deeply into this wonder, and i have and will share those.
but this recent contact with the profound feels most deeply rooted in practice. and it occurs to me that i want to write a poem about this kind of experience:

love is this humbled crawl
from dirtself to godself
stripped of masks and pontifications
i find no difference
ask anyone, love unveils it
we are divine cells of earth

endless and special

i writhe in the soil
until a rhythm comes
i dance through the swampheat
oil spills rainbow my grief
burrow to the molten core of me
pounding the heart of everything

flame in our kiss

i love myself in cycle!
every day reveals the ongoing ritual
by which i show myself devotion
candles lit, i raise a bowl to my lips
give thanks for the labor of sustenance
and the body which can swallow it

we bow, flesh to concrete

to trust love i must surrender
to the awe of being human
even falling far from heaven
i am sacred, worth forgiveness
worth prayer, lust and tenderness
i am never separate from god

and she wanders in us

to trust love i gaze in mirrors
soft eyes recognizing my distinct life
by its flaws
i swoon for each wound and scar
i remember: i’m made of the same dust
as mercury and mars

we are constellation

i remember: when my lover worships me
it is the love in me for myself
that can receive it, can believe it
i remember: my first breath was like this
loving myself enough
to demand to be held

we emerge helpless

i leave no dark unturned
no vast expanse unexplored
no mystery ignored
i have only one lifetime in which to love myself
so i will be naked
and i will be known

we each live
a whole world in one story
– let it be a love story
we have only one lifetime in which to love ourselves
so let us be naked
and let us be known