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.

notes to self aug 7 2019

notes from the Northstar church pleasure activism event in Durham last night…

first, read these notes about Toni Morrison:

and @thisandthatkat said: “tweet’s southern hummingbird was my shower soundtrack this morning. as “oops (oh my)” played on repeat, i thought of toni, this twitter post, and the part in her doc where she fondly reminisced on being “loose” as a howard undergrad and unapologetically declared, “it was lovely, i loved it”. toni was sensual. she reveled in the sweetness, the pleasures, the fullness of black womanhood and encouraged us to do the same. thank you, toni”

and these:

i got to sit between Omisade and Nia and listen and learn about the pleasures of the crone.

we thought and said, aging is humbling, can make you invisible to huge portions of humans, can make you feel shame about falling apart. but you can remind yourself to feel into your body, that you are just changing, that each day is still miraculous.

we uplifted the #decolonizethecrone work of Omisade – have you heard her podcast, A Black Girl’s Guide to Menopause? Omisade pointed out how we give tons of attention and information to people getting their periods, but so little information about menopause, how it will feel, from the inside to the interactions.

in this conversation i was reminded that both outside of and because of age, ability is always shifting. i want to be in my body in a way that increases my joy each day – each day is another day to make good on the contract of creating a beautiful life for myself, for my people.

i shared something i learned from Alexis Pauline Gumbs, whose essay The Sweetness of Salt was the centerpiece of tonight’s reading. Mya read the section about Kai, Omisade read the section about Cara. it was a very Durham love burst.

Alexis taught me about time travel, how we can transmit across time and space. i spoke of my two formative grandparents tonight, and felt their distinct presences in me, the celebration of being remembered, the joy of being useful, that sparkle coming up my back in ancestral shivers. i spoke of how i can see the pleasures my grandmother missed, working multiple jobs as a maid while raising seven kids…where were her footrubs? massages? meals cooked for her, orgasms just for her? i gather these delights and send them back to her, share them. for a moment, i can fold time and let her feel good.

at some point we spoke of the weight of grandmother wisdom. and how sometimes it’s racist, patriarchal, transphobic, close minded stuff. we got to the idea that when we come across people acting out from that inherited ignorance, part of our work is to remove the weight, bring them to current time.

i was also reminded that, often, those who are most conservative in my life are older women who believe themselves to be in a covenant with god. it’s repression, shaming, self negation, denial, all in the name of being closer to god. and what helps me navigate the conversations is to understand that even the force i am moving against, that force feels sacred to the other person. i must contend for divinity to really move the conversation. to say, god, goddess, god-is-change also made me, particularly.

also, did you know men can use beet juice and a vegan diet to grow virility?

oh and nia taught us how we must decide, and begin to practice, something new. in the here and now. that’s the work of spirit house, to build a foundation for the time when we win, are free.

we remembered, from somatics, how compassion helps us soften in the face of shame, and move through it to the terror, or grief, or other big emotions that shame protects.

this was a beautiful day for thoughtful feelings or emotional thinking. one day at a time, but each day has lineage and dreams.

today we dreamed within the revered energy of the Phil Freelon. it was an honor to feel the goodness of that space, the love he rendered.

toni morrison, fly

so. you set down all that weight,
gave up all that shit?

cleared the ghosts’ hands away from your heels?
straightened the wide brims of their hats?
kissed the men on soft smirked cheeks?
danced beyond the reach of your children?

you knew how to end the long tale

precisely

you knew how to meander without waste
you kept our attention on their faces

you heard the black women
folded, almost disappeared between the pages,
but you told their stories
and made them our stories

we all learned to love our eyes
we all remembered that we are not wrong
we all looked at whiteness with a withering eye
we all knew the cost of enslavement

we all needed you
we are all grateful

ase

meandering thoughts after murder

i am from el paso, i was born there. when i saw the news of this latest mass shooting, i felt gut punched. i ignore a lot of the news. i know it’s all a total crisis, i dedicate my life to focusing on and testing for solutions that will work across the wide range of crises.

but then i see that a black man saved children in the process. i thought of my father, young and black in el paso taking me to the store. he would have done that too. and all the other black men, military or not, who do the right thing, the brave thing, all the time, over and over, and still have to carry the weight of racist dehumanization.

my heart is tired of grief, intimate and stranger.

i turn to the goddesses, and my tarot deck, and children, to ask how we keep moving, or when we will stop, interdependent questions that lead back in different ways to an answer of broader love.

honestly, i am not satisfied.

i start reading about the people who died in el paso, and then the people who died in the other mass shootings this weekend. this month. this year. i let the grief come, let the tears wet the altar, let the pain move into anger, rage, protection, connection.

i feel hopeless and frustrated around this issue, because it’s tied to the chasm, the massive gaping chasm at the heart of the US…on one side is racism, imperialism, greed, patriarchy, small minds, hateful moves. on the other is, largely, a vague sense of moral outrage, with a tiny band of revolutionaries on the left screaming, “it’s all connected!!”

that is still, always, the thought that lifts my chin from hopelessness – it is all connected. the horrific behavior is all connected, down in the roots and up in the white towers and under the masks. we can’t work one issue at a time. but if we keep pulling at these roots, saying what the fuck when it’s appropriate; saying not in my house, not on my watch, not on my dime, not in my name; keep pulling the toxic roots up and out, tossing what we cannot hold to our ancestors, pulling it out from the very very lowest point, bringing it all into the light – i know, by which i mean i can feel, that we are going to pull the foundation out from under this empire of awful.

and i will keep working to make sure we know how to love each other in the chaos. loving you, new strangerancestor or beloved friend or aligned reader, right now, in this chaos, is good practice.

instasocial

i spend a fair amount of time dodging plans and ducking phone calls. i am not quite extrovert, not quite introvert, though i dabble convincingly in both at times. i am also not anti-social, i love being in contact. just, particular kinds of contact. i think i may be part of a modern emerging personality, only possible because of current technologies.

so i am coining a terminology for myself/us: instasocial! i prefer methods of communication that are instant and preserve the instant, and nourish my instinctive social tendencies.

– i am present in the instant, in the moment unfolding right now. if that includes other humans i enjoy, if that’s what we’re doing, i can spend long periods of time with almost no privacy or separation and be fine. sens8 happens with woes and teammates, and i am usually the most enthusiastic participant. but i don’t linger when it’s time to scurry back to my solitude. those instances of being alone are just as nourishing.

– i usually know in an instant if i want more or less time with people, and i trust the instinct in that knowing. (i am perpetually naïve. i can get thrown off by projections. but usually not for long, and the aries and scorpio in my chart are helping me move with more inner certainty through confusion.)

– i love texting. i love being able to respond as briefly and instantly as possible to anything quick and short.

– i get amused by people who use text to send emails. i peep you. my response will still be a text: short, sweet.

– i also prefer a collaborative to-do list (the text version of coworking) to a phone meeting. cut to the task please.

– i don’t want to be on phone calls almost ever. i will do it as a way of being with people i love…and can’t convince to just text it all. basically phone is for mom and nibblings.

– i am a writer, i want to live in the exchange of written words. i love revisiting emotional archives, excellent text exchanges, dropping into the delicate ride from stranger to intimate…like a favorite section in a book, i can remember that particular instant of connection.

– text is the only incoming that doesn’t produce a minor strife in my system.

email, strife. (usually too long with polite nothings, and often missing the messy emo errors of text)

phone call? strife. (i am supposed to hear you while looking at the things i need to do in my home? i survive these by doing chores the entire time, so that it feels like the conversant is at my kitchen table)

surprise guest at door? strife! (naked and afraid!)

surprise video call?! striiiiife. (do i spend a higher percentage of my life in the bathroom? who enjoys this?)

– i love to be alone seeing what people i admire are up to, sharing analysis, books, movies, art, fashion and passion. posting things that lift me up. social media is one of my love languages.

– i curate so that i am scrolling through things that make me laugh, teach me, move me, astound me. i curate so that scrolling isn’t a waste of my time.

– i love the essentialized communication of a like or a comment (? {heart}, ? {rage}, “nice”, “wow”, “gorgeous”, “deep”) – really if it isn’t poetry what else needs to be said?

– and i respect the direct request nature of posts for help (don’t beat around the bush if you’re asking me for time or money…time is the most valuable thing to me. time i get to shape is a way i practice freedom. if you waste it, especially with a lot of preamble before asking for money, it’s unlikely you’ll get it again.)

– this way of being feels very intimate to me. there’s almost no polite sacrificing of time in it, more authentic presence, and often connecting to others who are deeply kin even if we never meet in the flesh.

– it feels important in this climate moment for those of us who not only can communicate this way (text, post), but prefer it, to be more intentional about how we do it in right relationship with the future. i long for liberated mass social virtual spaces.

– in general, how can all beings be less ashamed and more curious about the way we are?

– this way of being wasn’t even really possible before now. and there’s lots of invitation to do a low quality version of this and feel no connection and joy. let’s be intentional, curatorial, kind, future shapers.

– i know most people in my life, especially those i am closest with, are compromising to be close to me in this way. i am grateful.

i don’t think i’m alone in this instasocialism. i see y’all out there, quietly nodding and not needing more than that. or reposting, like: this.

meta.

anyone else in this self reflection?

I cannot be your mentor, here’s everything I know

i have been getting weekly requests to mentor people. i am not a great one to one mentor, and my life dance card is full in the best way. here are some things i know related to mentoring and the things i would offer to those in search of such guidance:

a mentor cannot teach you more than life itself. gather lessons from those who help you see your life as practice ground.

beware of mentors who say you remind them of their younger selves – you can never know how they feel about the past, and what they might try to help you avoid that you actually need to go thru.

accept the guidance and feedback of people who love themselves.

choose who you will belong to, let them, let those relationships, grow you up.

while romance is wonderful, great friendship is more valuable and sustainable. build friendship foundations under all of it. prioritize your time accordingly.

sometimes when it’s hard you have to stay in and get shaped by it. sometimes, you have to go. both moves will teach you the importance of themselves and of the other. the other move, yes. and the other person (or people) who you are enduring or abandoning.

you will do almost everything you say “i promise to never” do, especially things you promise to never do to someone who loves you. and if you don’t do exactly those things, it may be at great cost to your destiny. it’s in our design, so you’re not above it. promise less. promise to become yourself and nothing less.

most things you declare about yourself are aspirational. just be, and let yourself be experienced.

use scrivener to write books.

track your time anytime you feel you have none. find where you are wasting it and decide how much you care about your destiny. is your destiny more compelling than scrolling? than corresponding with people who annoy you? than reading circular news about things you will do nothing about? than a mediocre delicious show? than obligatory relationships? we all need enough room to stare into space sometimes, enough time to integrate life.

read (articles, books – or take in other forms of texts like art and music) as much as you write. but write (think, converse, ideate) as much as you read (scroll) too.

you can’t skip the hard parts and have any meaningful impact on the world.

while you’re inside the hard parts, it doesn’t feel like wisdom.

trust the part of people that doesn’t follow through. let it/future expectations go.

your body is saying everything to you, you can know almost everything if you listen.

your feelings are never more important than revolution. and your feelings are a crucial part of revolution. find the balance and get to work.

don’t ask me anything you can find in a book or on the internet, start talking at the edge of what’s known.

find the front lines of humanity inside your own life and system. advance them.

love yourself along the way for being part of the greatest purpose of our species: liberated and liberating life.

trust the people

lessons from the emergent strategy immersion new orleans:

trust the people who move towards you and already feel like home.

trust the people to let you rest.

trust the people to do everything better than you could have imagined.

trust the people and they become trustworthy.

trust that the people are doing their work to trust themselves.

trust that each breach of trust can deepen trust or clarify boundaries.

trust the people who revel in pleasure after hard work.

trust the people who let children teach/remind us how to emote, be still, and laugh.

trust the people who see and hold your heart.

trust the people who listen to the whales.

trust the people and you will become trustworthy.

trust the people and show them your love.

trust the people.

grace showed up today

once I got to bow down to my teacher.

the day, nine years ago, was a rough one. I’ve recently remembered it in the form of a story a few times, the way I’d become so overcome by the needs, beauty and struggle of the gathering I was helping hold, that I’d found myself at the precipice of the healing room, a tremble in my heart that become a convulsion of opening on a healer’s table.

when I stood up, the next thing that was happening was Grace Lee Boggs’ 95th birthday party. Every year since I’d met Grace, we’d celebrated her birthday as if it were the last. Grace lived through so many of the looks and words of people who thought it might be the last time their paths crossed. I wonder if she felt that as a gift or a weight.

she taught me by sending me to the bookshelf and then still telling me the idea she wanted me to understand, pouncing as she landed on the essence of an argument, shining as she saw how good an idea was. I feel Grace when I talk to Denise, Jenny, ill, Thenjiwe – they come prepared, invite me as I am, whisper the way to me as I walk beside them.

Grace taught me to talk about your ideas as they are forming, that the intimacy of sharing creates better thinking. I’m still practicing, and clumsy. I hear Grace when I read Alexis, posting the messages she’s learning from sea mammals, already poem.

Grace taught me that it’s OK to understand more than you can do, it’s OK to comprehend a change you will only reach for in your lifetime, it’s OK to point people down a road you may not be able to walk. I hear Grace in beloved Toshi Reagon’s plans for being a guide and a guard in the apocalypse. I feel Grace in the frustration of elders trying to keep us from crashing into their wrecks, and in the anticipation of those who realize we’re evolving navigation.

Grace taught me to think. Not think like her, but think for myself, think critically, think dialectically, think experimentally. To be willing to let my mind grow as my soul does. I see Grace in the dignified backs of those whose contribution is the unapologetic sharpening of our minds, N’Tanya, Michelle, Makani, Shea, Scott, Emily.

when I miss her I let her ideas come on in my heart like fireflies, and soon her words come fluttering back through another’s mouth:

“Transform yourself to transform the world”

“History is not the past. It is the stories we tell about the past. How we tell these stories – triumphantly or self-critically, metaphysically or dialectally – has a lot to do with whether we cut short or advance our evolution as human beings.”

“Being a victim of oppression in the United States is not enough to make you revolutionary, just as dropping out of your mother’s womb is not enough to make you human. People who are full of hate and anger against their oppressors or who only see Us versus Them can make a rebellion but not a revolution. The oppressed internalize the values of the oppressor. Therefore, any group that achieve power, no matter how oppressed, is not going to act differently from their oppressors as long as they have not confronted the values that they have internalized and consciously adopted different values.”

today we began another immersion, this one in New Orleans. I want to tell Grace how it feels like that Beloved Community gathering she took me to, song and dance moving through as easily as words. to tell her she is quoted every time, multiple times, she is still teaching. to show her how quickly people are moving to real conversations when explicitly offered a chance to build critical connections.

but she’s not here. that’s the blessing. Grace lived long enough to tell us all she wanted to say, and she was more than ready to go when the time came. I’m excited to imagine her as a beam of light, raising the standards of how ancestors shine. So close to Jimmy that, to the naked eye, they are one light. in this way, ideas outgrow the need for separation and debate.

Grace taught me that the truest thing was change.

happy birthday again, great teacher.

gratitudes, June 2019

gratitudes:

sitting on a back porch dancing to rhythms from 2 parties in bk, in my slippers and drawers

i got to flip a table today

i got to eat a perfect collective meal tonight, cooked by a man i adore and trust, held by beloveds who require no performance, after a hard day’s work, with no cooking or cleaning expected from me (i learned this gratitude from the relief of a participant who delighted in not having to clean up just one time after doing it for a lifetime)

my tribe is massive…it feels like love, and it feels bigger than any relational web of haters on earth

trusting the people means i get to be of the people…trust and belonging are a dance

i’m learning about teaching people to move through the hard parts to get to magic: arrive as you are, be honest, be brave, be uncomfortable, be overwhelmed, find your edges and boundaries, find your roots, stay, celebrate, be your whole self, stay, love you, and then, love everyone

i’m learning to create spaces where babies, elders, peers and ancestors can collaborate on the present to cocreate the future…it feels good

dosing myself with solitude makes it possible to receive the blessing of prayed-for community

Motor City Pride: A Speech Unspoken

I wrote the following words as a speech to introduce Tunde Olaniran, the headliner for motor city pride. Then I got caught up in feelings and just spoke from the heart. But I wanted to share these written words anyway, they represent my Pride feels.

Hello beautiful queer lesbian gay pansexual bisexual questioning Detroit. And family! Allies!

I’m so glad those 12 nazis didn’t stop y’all from coming out today. When they go low, we get high, get fabulous, get freer! We deserve to celebrate – look at all we have survived and are surviving, just to love.

Finding ourselves, finding each other – finding our fight and our joy – that’s what this moment is about. How remarkable it is to find the safety and celebration of community, to find our real selves in spite of all messaging to the contrary. To find the pleasures outside of forced heteronormativity.

We are a sign of biodiversity in our species! It’s not just the same longing in every heart. We might even be the adaptation that gets us in right relationship with the future…We are the stunting mushrooms and the dandelion weeds, the fecundity!

We have to continue to give each other permission and pressure to queer our own lives. We have to continue to queer society, to question and disrupt uniformity, economic slavery, any attempt to own each other, to own love, even to own god.

Each one of us carries part of the divine within us. That divine spark, that energy or gift or presence has pulled us through all the violent efforts that want us to deny ourselves. God, change, spirit, source – the creative impulse of our universe cannot be denied. God persists, in the light and in the dark.

We refuse to be denied. We refuse to be erased. We refuse to be scared away from the truth of love inside us. You cannot legislate away the desire we feel for each other.

That’s because there is nothing wrong with love between two (or more) consenting adults. Those before us carved out space for us, survived, died trying to survive, died being free. And those that survived carved out an even more fantastical, compelling space, a yas-queen over the top queerness that has influenced every aspect of arts, adaptation, and community. It is now our responsibility to do the same for those who will follow us. To normalize the reality that there is no such thing as normal, there’s just this manypath life.

Solidarity is our greatest tool in the work to growing a world in which love is safe. For instance, while it is still scary and dangerous to be anything other than straight, it is even more dangerous to be non-binary and/or trans – so many people still don’t know the basic identity differences of gender and sexuality, and fear it all. It is dangerous to be a gay immigrant in a country hungry for a wall and practicing the heartless work of deportation, or a lesbian Muslim in a country hungry for the combined acts of war and othering, or a disabled asexual in a land where health is an industry, or a poor pansexual in a nation that believes you have to earn and buy your basic human rights. Sexuality is just one of the ways we are targeted for discrimination and attack, and the queer community should absolutely be a place where we learn from our own pain to end discrimination, rather than perpetuating it. We must always orient to protecting not just each other, but those most vulnerable in our beloved communities.

Let us love each other into the light. Let your subversive queer self infect your whole life, do not live in compartments that allow ignorance to feel safe and comfortable legislating hate. Transform yourself so that you cannot be ignored, denied, or made complicit in your own oppression. Let your experience, the truth of your queerness, free us all from any collective ignorance based in false superiority.

Let us cast a spell of queer solidarity.

Let our love
Reach over your borders
Through your prison walls
Under your temples, churches and mosques
Right past your judgment

We are of nature
Let our love free everyone it touches
Let us lift each other up
Let us have each other’s backs
Help us push each other onwards

I am a miracle
You are a miracle
We are miracles

What I actually said, roughly:

“We are here cause we love Tunde! (mad festival screams)
Fuck those 12 nazis. We they go low we get high and fabulous and free!
Let us cast a spell.
The first part of coming out is loving ourselves more than we love anything that makes us lie to ourselves, so first yell it out: “I love myself!”
The second part of finding pride in our queerness is finding community, family, our people. Turn to the person next to you and say “I love you! I have your back!” Now the other way, “I love you! I have your back!”
Now let us yell it out so the detroit police escorting nazis around pride, and anyone else who wants to deny or scare us, can hear it: we are your miracle. We are your miracle! We are your miracle!!
Y’all ready for the brilliant Nigerian Michigan miracle that is Tunde Olaniran??!!”

More screams, and then Tunde snatched the Motor City Pride wig right off.