i move therefore i am

i just completed moving out of the detroit apartment i have lived in for five years. i moved into the apartment directly above it, with my sweetheart. i learned some things during this move.

1. five years is actually a major chunk of a life. one seventh of my life thus far. so much happened in that home. when i started to let the memories come, tears flooded my face and i had to stop and catch my breath. the heart is so much more resilient than the mind. my mind cannot handle my life at all, but my heart cannot forget even the smallest instance. i remember the first time my niece siobhan visited – holding her in the dark in the living room because she wouldn’t sleep and my sister needed rest in the desperate way only new mothers know. i remember lunch meetings with charity. i remember each of the sci-fi writing salons. i remember love, heartbreak, healing, love, growth, healing, love. yoga. and learning who i was, in conversations, in that place between midnight and dawn, in that space. writing stories that i thought were brilliant and stories that i knew were horrid. needing a sabbatical, taking it, coming home, leaving, coming home, leaving, coming home – i have been the heartbeat in that little wood and brick flesh. it took the better part of a year for me to be ready to let it go.

2. i am a virgo. not that i have doubted it. but it is amazing to feel the righteousness of organization in my heart – the thrill of an empty closet or cabinet, the titillation of seeing a perfect layout behind my eyes. yes, there are other ways to do things. but it is amazing to feel the ‘right’ way like a bell ringing inside! i want to send a special love shout out to my partner because…i cannot imagine trying to land in a new space next to such wild perfection.

3. i have a thing for: matches, stationary and any other kind of paper including post-it notes, sage, sci-fi books, most other books, small decorative elephants, sentimental vhs tapes/dvds/cds, images of beyonce, unread books related to buddhism, candles that seem to have lost their wicks, emotive collages, magazines that hold the potential of collage, shoes and jewelry that i never wear but absolutely display as art, postcards, things my family members gave me, frozen homemade soups, turquoise nail polish, ginger dusting powder from lush (seriously does anyone want some of this? i took it too seriously when they discontinued this stuff, forgetting that i too would change), chopsticks, mugs, and anything that could be considered an altar item.

4. i am overwhelmed. my birthday is coming up (and all i want is to know people read this stuff sometimes, so become a member at any level if this crosses your line of sight) and there has been so much change this year – death and new life and love and health and all the biggest things. i have been pretty sure i was overwhelmed for a little while now, but the move really brought to light how deeply i can only do one thing at a time right now. i apologize to everyone who i was supposed to communicate with or do something for during this time. working to meditate, be in my body, and write daily. working to travel less, cook more, sleep deeper, breathe deeper, slow down. this home will help with each of those pieces of work.

5. it is good to shed. our whole lives become skins we wear. if we don’t grow, life can become this mess we are trying to fit into. i have outgrown the self i was in my old home. i will outgrow the self i am now with any luck.

6. i have abundance, i have a bathtub!!!, i am grateful, and that is all i actually need.

love scholarship lessons 14-20

14. if i want love, i can’t hurt love.

i used to be very cavalier about the idea of boundaries in love. ‘that’s not how humans ARE,’ i’d insist. ‘we must be free, we are mercurial, we are porous, chemistry moves between us, everyone works the systems of human interactions to get what they need, you can no more own a person than you can own the planet, etc.’

i still believe all of this to varying degrees.

but/and! lovers make agreements with each other, agreements that grow trust and transparency as they are held. trust and transparency that lay the foundation for the kind of mutual transformation that i believe can only happen in relationship (not necessarily romantic relationship, but definitely authentic relationship).

lao tzu teaches, ‘if you don’t trust the people, they become untrustworthy.’

if i want to give and receive the kind of all-inclusive trust that allows for transformation, allows me to actually feel loved in real time, i have to be trustworthy. with my boundaries and with the boundaries others set. crossing those boundaries, even if – especially if – i can’t understand them…makes it that much harder for me to trust anyone to hold the boundaries i am learning i need for my own transformation.

grace lee boggs teaches us to ‘transform ourselves to transform the world’ – love is a front line. transforming how i love, and how i treat the love of others, transforms how love can work in the world.

15. each time i name, hold or respect an intimate boundary, my understanding of the purpose of love grows.

self-love first: self-love is not about accumulating a galaxy of ever arching incoming desires, sexualizing every experience. self-love is being able to see every part of myself with compassion. to feel tenderness for all my ways of being, how i was shaped, what i have done with my gifts, where i disappoint myself.

love with another, or many others, it is not hunting. love is a fertile ground for growth. one crucial purpose of love with others is to have people to grow with. to grow out of obligations and depression, to grow old, to grow wise, to grow babies, to grow home, to grow creatively, to grow analysis, to grow freedom, to grow justice – to have another person, or other people, with whom to grow.

when i tell someone i love them, i mean: ‘i am growing with you!’

16. if we are not growing, we are doing something else…often regressing. and there are probably a million good reasons for that – the only one i understand is that there is something in my past that i haven’t really seen. and it is going to keep creeping up until it becomes unbearably present behind me, and i turn and face it, and i truly comprehend it. then i can move forward. if i try to run away, or only cast a glance over my shoulder and keep walking, it will not go away. james baldwin teaches, ‘not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced’.

17. what you withhold of yourself becomes your prison. love is also a process of getting free with another person. and along the way you learn all the cages that can develop within you and between you. one of those cages is built of lies and half-truths, knowing something your partner should know, something about who you are or what you’ve done, and withholding it from them.

i have thought of myself as an open book, but that doesn’t mean my words are in a common tongue. too often i communicate in passive aggressive dishwashing, directive playlists, abstract poetry.

i have had to learn to translate from my heart the truth of what i am feeling and what i need, walk another person through my secret garden, discover the fruits i have grown from desperation, believe in the abundance that makes sharing easy. and most of all, not to leave any part of myself in a cage, being unuttered…left there, my forgotten self creates what prisons create: criminals, humans centered around survival.

no more prisons, not even inside.

18. truth seeks the light, and love is a lightbearing emotion. the more i love, the more i want to show my wholeness. secrets come leaping through my mouth because of love. i can’t hide in the face of love. and as i love myself, i feel no need to keep hidden. healing and moving forward become possible in ways that were not available in my periods of resentment, hatred, insecurity, secrecy.

19. i learn to love in various directions simultaneously, inwards to myself, outwards to others, back to my ancestors, forward to my great great great grandchildren. i learn to love my flawed self as i fall for imperfect others. to love my communities as i become unconditionally lovestruck for my nephew and nieces. love has shown itself to be a liberating, generous and universal emotion. when i feel it in one direction, i remember that love in every direction is possible, is always present.

i would venture that part of what is happening in ferguson is an outburst of love. love of children getting to be children, love of black and brown children, is making the truth of this moment in the american racial construct come to light. this love has our eyes and our hearts extended to where michael was shot down, standing up for him, for the people murdered before him and those who will continue to be killed on this 28-hour cycle until we become too loud to ignore politically, socially and spiritually.

20. love requires practice. listening, speaking honestly, caring, surprising, grounding, calming, supporting, nourishing, pleasing, receiving, declining, creating, teaching, learning. there are so many skills to develop, simultaneously. wax on, wax off. love, love. love, love.

love, love.

michael brown’s homegoing

i have been watching ferguson and feeling many many things. how unique this moment is, and how familiar. how exciting the responses have been, and how exhausted i am by the need to respond. most of all, how to manage all of these front lines, all these black bodies swinging, all this brutality to brown skin.

where i sit in detroit, it is a beautiful, soft, cricket-full summer. and there are masses with no water. the u.n. said it isn’t right, like they said gaza isn’t right. so. there isn’t much relief in the moral high ground.

tonight it is the virgo new moon, and it is a night for prayer, ritual, magic and saying what it is we want. i want the kind of safety that comes when no one is afraid of you, when you are loved unconditionally, when you can make mistakes and live to learn the lessons, when you can rest assured that you will only die of natural causes, when you have every opportunity to live a beautiful and impactful life, when you can be bold and young and vivacious and sassy and creative and brave and tender and old and full of tears, pleasure, laughter, wisdom, new life. and black. i want, i invoke, the safety for black and brown people, for all people, that will come with the healing of the species from the mental illness of racial supremacy/inferiority.

i thought the moon should know.

they called him michael
and he was her only blameless child
and you would have loved him
but he died so quickly,
like a nameless child
(chorus of a song i wrote in high school, for another brown boy who never made it home)

lay him in the dirt
lift him high, raging angels
let him make it home
(for black august on the day of michael brown’s funeral)

remarks from a radical wedding

this past weekend i had the honor of officiating my first wedding. it was a queer wedding, a trans wedding, a love story. here are my notes and remarks from the wedding, crafted in collaboration with martha and nissa, the bride and groom.

We wanted to open with a perspective on love from the science fiction classic, Firefly:

‘You know what the first rule of flying is? … Love. You can learn all the math in the ‘verse, but you take a boat in the air you don’t love, she’ll shake you off just as sure as the turning of the worlds. Love keeps her in the air when she oughta fall down, tells you she’s hurting ‘fore she keens. Makes her a home.’

Welcome to the wedding of Martha and Nissa!

It is a beautiful and powerful thing to be able to witness and support these two in their brilliant love. I am honored to be here, and to affirm before all of existence that love is a transformative force which bends the world towards liberation.

Octavia Butler says God is change. I feel that here. God is also love. Love is the most sacred thing we can learn to do in this life, that we can practice every day, always getting better.

Thank you to everyone here for showing up to witness Martha and Nissa committing to practice love with each other, every day that they live. And we want to take a moment to honor all of those loved ones and ancestors who are not here in body, but in spirit.

Let love fill us all the way up.

(The groom’s brother read from) Ecclesiastes 4:9-12:

9 Two are better than one,
    because they have a good return for their labor:
10 If either of them falls down,
    one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
    and has no one to help them up.
11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
    But how can one keep warm alone?
12 Though one may be overpowered,
    two can defend themselves.

(The bride’s sister read from) bell hooks’ all about love:

The moment we choose to love, we begin to move against domination, against oppression. The moment we choose to love we begin to move towards freedom, to act in ways that liberate ourselves and others. That action is the testimony of love as the practice of freedom.

We do this by choosing to work with individuals we admire and respect; by committing to give our all to relationships; by embracing a global vision wherein we see our lives and vour fate as intimately connected to those of everyone else on the planet.

In our society, we make much of love and say little of fear. Yet we are all terribly afraid most of the time. Fear is the primary force upholding structures of domination – it promotes the desire for separation, the desire not to be known. When we are taught that safety lies in sameness, then difference of any kind will appear as a threat.

When we choose to love, we choose to move against fear, against alienation and separation. The choice to love is a choice to connect, to find ourselves in the other.

To live our lives based on the principles of a love ethic – showing care, respect knowledge, integrity, and the will to cooperate – we have to be courageous. Learning how to face our fears is one way we embrace love. Our fear may not go away, but it will not stand in the way. Those of us who have already chosen to embrace a love ethic – allowing it to govern and inform how we think and act – know that when we let our light shine, we draw to us and are drawn to other bearers of light. We are not alone.
     
I wanted to take a moment to honor what it means for community to hold love.

I believe we are all love stories unfolding, learning over the course of our lives how to truly and unconditionally love ourselves, and then be vulnerable enough to let someone else love us.

There are a lot of strong love stories between these two merging families. If we are lucky we have the support of our families, friends, and community as a support structure for our love.

There are moments when we get lost in each other and it is hard to breath, and we need friends to remind us to give our love space, air, light.

There are moments when we get lost from each other and need direction and guidance to remember and rediscover our love.

There are moments when we turn our backs on each other, overwhelmed by the beauty or trauma of life, when we need to be reminded to lean back against each other.

There are moments when we hurt each other, and need community to support us to continue to reach for each other and be honest, speak our needs and let love flourish between us.

There are moments when our love reshapes the world around us, and we need our families and communities to step forward with us, to let us know we are not alone in our joy.

Community, we ask you to join us in reading from On Marriage, from Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet. The poem is on the back of your programs, please read the sections in bold.

On Marriage by Kahlil Gibran(community reads the bolded parts –poem to be printed in program)

[...]
Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.

Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.

Now, before these two vow themselves to each other, we thought it would be great to say a word on what a vow is.

A marriage vow is a Commitment to be with each other through changes. We are each mercurial creatures – it is a sign of health that we are growing, changing, learning. When we vow to spend our lives loving each other, it is not a commitment to the person standing before us, as they are, forever and ever. It is a commitment to witness and love their changing self. To continue to learn and grow and change and allow our beloved to witness us. Forever is indeterminate. It is a way of speaking about the horizon we can see, and whatever is beyond the horizon. It is a commitment to journey with each other, whatever twists and turns the road may offer. To stay curious, present, open hearted, compassionate, aware of and beside our beloved.

Got it?

Nissa, will you share with us your vows to Martha?
Martha, will you share with us your vows to Nissa
Adrienne: Do you both promise to honor these vows during your life together?
Nissa and Martha: I do.

(yay!!!)

As family and friends, you form a community of support and love that surrounds Martha and Nissa and will continue to sustain them as they move forward in marriage. Each of you, by your presence here today, is being called upon to uphold them in loving each other, and to fulfill their responsibility to love their community. We ask you to enthusiastically stand with them in this love, with these community vows.

I will ask you some questions and if you agree to them say “i will”

Will you who are present here today, surround this couple in love, offering them the joys of your friendship?

Will you support this couple in their relationship?

At times of conflict will you offer them the strength of your wisest counsel and the comfort of your thoughtful concern?

At times of joy, will you celebrate with them, nourishing their love for one another?

Then it is time for the exchange of rings.

Martha/Nissa, will you repeat after me these vows inspired by the great Al Green?

I am so in love with you.
Whatever you want to do is alright with me.
Cause you make me feel so brand new.
And I want to spend my life with you.
Since we’ve been together
Loving you forever
Is what I need.
Let me be the one you come running to.
I’ll never be untrue.
Let’s stay together.
Whether times are good or bad or happy or sad.

Please place the rings on each other’s hands and repeat after me.

‘I give you this ring as a pledge of my love and commitment to our partnership.’

By the power of love seized by me from the state, I now pronounce you husband and wife!

You may now kiss each other!
(Kissing!!!)

Let the wild rumpus start!

collapse, release, feel

I crawl up the hill
My life too full to carry
I practice collapse

I’m writing haikus this month for Black August, a month of remembering and honoring our political prisoners. Wanted to share this one, which feels like an exact statement on my being right now.

I’m heading into an intensive Somatics training that promises to be intensely physical and, I hope, a good place to get still. I’ve been feeling at breakneck speed. I’ve been talking too fast, too much. I’ve been forgetful, foggy, so happy, so loved, so overwhelmed, so lost. I’m excited to sleep in a tent, significantly reduce my technology use, cry, be a body in a natural world, be in that magical place: away.

Till soon.

thank you to the gallant david strathairn!

so.

yesterday i get on my plane and i am minding my business and look up and see this guy:

20140803_140835

i knew him. i could see him in an FBI jacket, in a military get up. what was his name? argh. i knew that i liked him as an actor. i snapped this picture to send my mom who is The Best at ‘name that actor’. watching movies with my mom is like watching movies with a friendly funny embodied IMDB.

i got off the plane and went to the pick up area. he came walking by while i was on the phone with my sweetheart and i told her, ‘one second.’

i tapped him on the arm and just said, ‘hi, i am a big fan.’

he nodded warmly and then i went back to my phone call and he went on down to sit on one of the pick-up benches.

my ride pulls up. it’s my girl jodie who has this very special white van from japan that is all opposites. she drives on the right side of the van, and i as a passenger had to go around to the left (or traffic) side to get in. i am opening the van door when a car behind us pulls right up on jodie, trying to get around us. the driver immediately starts laying in on the horn.

i lean back and wave at the driver with the universal hand signals that communicate: ‘just a second’. i realize she is some sort of official person, though i couldn’t tell you what she was officially in charge of. but she was maybe airport traffic cop patrol?

my waving and logical hand gesture appeal won us no reprieve, she is on the horn like she is personally having a baby that is having a heart attack and needs to rush them both to the hospital, like that level of urgency. plus yelling, ‘MOVE YOUR [curse curse curse] CAR MOVE!!! MOVE!!!!’ (such language in front of the imaginary urgency baby? no bueno.)

jodie and i are shock laughing as i get my bags in, which are heavier than usual because i am going camping, all with the horn blasting. i think: what a bad day that lady must be having! vitriol is spilling from her mouth like so much dragon fire.

then i hear it, the voice of the aforementioned and now overtly gallant actor. he is yelling back!! i daresay he is defending us! he yells at her to back up and stop making all this noise. when she doesn’t stop, he comes around to the driver’s side and gets in her face, both hands pleading as he yells at her to BE QUIET.

i yell to jodie, ‘that guy’s a famous actor!!’ and we both try to see more and then realize the situation is escalating.

part of me wanted to stop and thank him for being such a beacon of appropriate confrontation, but the larger part wanted to avoid jodie getting a ticket, so i slammed the van door shut and jumped in the front seat.

at this point, jodie is in a tight place because dragon lady had driven right up on us in her beeping fury. jodie backs up enough to kiss the lady’s bumper. in the mirror i see the dragon lady open her car door and explode out, all suburban hair-do and high waisted uniform pants.

‘go, go, go!!’ i yell to jodie as dragon lady starts pounding her fists on the back of the van.

we tear off into the stop-and-go airport traffic, laughing like bonnie and clyde, blessed with our innocence. for no discernable reason, dragon lady stays behind, utterly thwarted. i wonder if she realized she was in a yelling battle with the gifted and elegant david strathairn (figured out not by my usually accurate mama, but by google).

so i just had to take a minute to say: thank you! thank you david strathairn! now i am an even bigger fan.

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nuanced voices on the detroit water situation (shifting from false solutions to real ones)

this past week a victory was declared for the detroit water fight. i got tears in my eyes, i got excited. honey we need some victories.

but i also got concerned and started digging a bit because the groups i have known to be working on this (the people’s water board, michigan welfare rights and others) were not mentioned, or posting the good news. as i have focused more on my writing, i have defaulted to the late sister-warrior charity hicks regarding most things about the water issues in detroit. in her absence, i have started tuning into some of my other favorite detroit minds.

will copeland, shane bernardo, shea howell, bill wylie-kellerman and tawana petty have all been saying brilliant things about what is happening and why the ‘victory’ of emergency manager kevin orr handing control of detroit’s water over to mayor mike duggan is actually not quite the success that is being claimed.

shane reminded me, for context, that this is all connected “to emergency management and the bankruptcy. in short, this is not a singular instance or issue but one in a protracted and carefully thought out scheme based on predatory economics.” yes sir.

so, i wanted to share some of their clarifying, inspiring and informative words.

first, from bill wylie-kellerman, quoted in al-jazeera’s article on west virginians driving water up to detroit: “The emergency manager and the mayor have been working hand in glove all along. The mayor doesn’t have any power that the emergency manager doesn’t grant him. It’s a fake appearance of a fresh start.”

from shane: “If you didn’t know any better, you would think that Duggan taking over control of DWSD was a good thing. Citing this as a victory is misleading and self-delusional. Lest we forget, Duggan was part of the emergency manager selection process. Making Duggan in charge of the water dept is like taking it from one hand and placing it in the other.”

i commented that we need victory, and will responded that “the victory is in the fact that they/the power structure is responding and adapting. They are making overtures towards us. The fact that they made two overtures (15-day moratorium and now this) shows that they are struggling with public opinion and trying to silence the movement. As Shane Bernardo points out, Orr and Duggan are for all intents and purposes in the same camp. It is not an objective ‘victory’ but definitely a subjective victory, meaning they are feeling the heat. But we still have to be vigilant to make sure the shutoffs have actually stopped in this moratorium. Duggan is not committed to ending shutoffs – his stance is on ‘warning consumers’. Duggan has significant privatization experience also. Our level of vigilance remains constant.”

shea howell was quoted in a release from the people’s water board, a really clarifying piece on what’s being asked for: “The crowds that brought media from all over the world were not chanting for ‘more advanced warnings of shut-offs’ as the Mayor said he would have given. If you can’t pay the hundreds or sometimes even the thousands of dollars demanded by DWSD, more warning is useless. We’ve received news that 40 people in a Palmer Park apartment have been shut-off. Has Mike Ilitch paid his overdue water bill? Has DWSD moved in to shut off the golf course? No. Corporations can get by while families are deprived. Is this what Mayor Duggan meant when, this morning, he referred to some Detroiters have to pay for the bills of others?”

shea added to me that, “One thing that I think is critical for us to tackle is Duggan’s calculated effort to turn one Detroiter against the other….with his ‘those who don’t pay are forcing those who do pay to have ever higher rates’. This divide and conquer strategy draws on deep rooted stereotypes that dehumanize people who are poor (let’s remember this is nearly half the city – and most of the rest of us are close to it). But in trying to say there are good Detroiters and bad Detroiters, he is trying to deflect attention away form the real structural issues facing the water department including:
1. more than half the water department budget goes to banks to pay debt..
2. a small number of corporations owe as much as nearly half the city and they are not aggressively assaulted.
3. Last month Detroit lost Flint as a customer because of Governor Snyder and legislative action creating a new Flint water system (that was completely unnecessary) taking the scarce dollars needed to maintain existing infrastructure to build a new infrastructure along side it. This will mean Detroit water customers will have to cover a new 12 million…the Flint cost…”

and finally, poet warrior tawana shared these words on real solutions, which have been dispatched to the president via food and water watch: “We know the Mayor’s been handed a hot mess. However, we are clear that this is not a solution to the water crisis in Detroit. An immediate halt to water shutoffs, a rejection of any effort to privatize the water, restoration of all residents’ water currently shutoff and enforcement of the Peoples’ Water Affordability Plan is the solution to this crisis.”

stay tuned in!

one sentence sci-fi story.

sun sci fi short

And then the blue sky cracked open and it was obvious, too late, that we were in and of the Sun, we’d been worshipping a hole in a great fabric, we were ash, breathing.

grief is not linear, and it is everywhere

my friend charity died on july 8. she’d spent more than a month in a coma after a hit and run accident in ny. since she was hit i have been in a grief process, been of a community in a grief process.

i visited her in the hospital, where a split happened. part of me knew, seeing her on full life support, that she was not there and would not be back. another part of me felt numb, hungry, thirsty. another part bucked up with an obstinate hope, because something was filling up the room, and it felt like an aspect of her, and she was a genius and if anyone could figure this out she could. i imagined her telling stories about it.

i have been sitting with the complications of knowing her, the mysteries, the struggles, the differences, the unfinished conversations, the respect of her spirit, the awe of her mind. where do these big things fit between two people trying to do a piece of work together, through the daily tasks of justice, each one so small?

another 44-year-old woman i’d known briefly in california also passed, of whatever natural cause can kill a brilliant woman of color leader in her prime, priya haji. she’d offered me important guidance once when i was just starting my short and intense path as a non-profit leader. she saw that i was called to other things and told me to do what i could, but not to waste time.

i’m trying.

the day before charity’s funeral i flew home from a mindblowing, generative and romantic trip with my sweetheart in amsterdam. while i was in the air, another flight that had left from amsterdam was shot out of the sky on the russia-ukraine border, leaving no survivors. a third of the passengers were heading to an aids conference in australia. i am thinking about how our movements are precious, how we can’t afford these losses. and how we can’t do anything in response but keep stepping up, seeing leaders everywhere and in each mirror.

throughout charity’s funeral, and in this moment, there are wars being waged. these are generally purposeless, endless, violent, rule-less, ruthless wars. these are mostly wars about borders that spill over whatever boundaries we determine to be humane when setting out to kill and conquer each other. the loudest in my world is the continued colonial war against the people of palestine, happening at genocidal pitch in gaza.

after charity’s funeral, i watched a video of a father named eric, murdered in the crook of a police officer’s elbow.

all of this is simultaneous, and the frequency is increasing, or we are simply more immediately aware of the crises. i say this as a person with a life full of miracles, laughter, creativity and love: it is overwhelming to be alive with all of this violent, sudden and constant cause for grief, most of it extracted from the brownest bodies and communities under the dispassionate sun.

at charity’s funeral i wept, i screamed, i sang. i averted my eyes from her person, on display – i had seen her far enough on, i didn’t need to see her absence. i believe she is gone.

sort of.

afterwards i went to a wedding as a dear friend’s date. she was taking a break from sitting at a beloved family member’s hospital bed. we’d planned to go before the funeral was scheduled. we kept the plan because we needed some black joy.

i witnessed two beautiful black strangers dedicate their hearts to each other with their families watching, praying, dancing. i danced with them, i needed to feel like i was a pure body.

they committed til death do them part. i have been reflecting on how falling in love is, among other things, committing to future grief. the more you know someone, love them, share life with them, the more you also carve out the space for future grief. i have been falling more and more in love lately, even with this awareness. i know it is worth it, to find a woman i connect with in ways that make me long to be my best self, to gift her my attention.

love is what i am most certain we are here to do. sometimes it is the only clear thing to me. i still want love to be the thing i am best at, even if i fail at all else.

the evening of charity’s funeral there was a beautiful celebration, ‘i do mind dying’. i was reminded that detroit is overly familiar with grief, and has a capacity to erupt into grief-stricken celebration that i have only seen before in new orleans. when david blair died, we artists and activists who loved him marched around the cass corridor singing and chanting while a police precinct erupted in flames where we passed, which felt like his kiss blowing to us.

the night we let charity’s body go, we screamed and sang and a marching band led us out under projections of ‘wage love’ and ‘water is a human right’. it felt like charity was there in the crowd, i kept thinking i saw her just moving through the people, laughing and smiling and pushing us further, louder.

a day later i came to minnesota, thinking i would bury myself in the sweetness of my nephew and nieces and not think about endings too much. and, of course, the main topics they have been interested in are grief, death, extinction, how we let people go.

so.

my sister and brother-in-law told me that last week finn was weeping over extinct animals and death. they said at one point he grabbed the edge of the table and cried, what is the point of all of this? why are we here?

he is five. i am wrestling with the same questions with 30 more years of experience and no clearer answers. they told him simply that those are the big questions.

his primary text for life is a pretty incredible nature show called wildkratts, in which two brothers and their entourage explore the natural world by taking on creature powers to learn about each animal’s unique gifts. recently wildkratts did two shows where they traveled back in time to see now-extinct creatures, both to educate themselves and us about said creatures, and to raise a desire in young viewers to see all animals, especially endangered ones, as precious.

in both episodes, towards the end, one of the brothers tries to bring the extinct creature (first a dodo, then a tasmanian tiger) back to the present. they decide not to, adhering to some unnamed logic of time travel.

and afterwards, finn wails: why can’t we save them? why can’t i meet them? he is truly heartbroken, feeling everything, a leo with a new moon coming right at him.

when he learned the other day that there are not even (currently) time machines, he was again shocked. but he quickly adapted, saying, ‘we can just make one. using batteries.’

he may be finding his life’s work through this grief.

two days ago siobhan found a dead dragonfly in the driveway, a big one. there are so many dead things in nature, it helps to see how normal it is, even beautiful. you get to bloom, be beautiful, be a visible distinct part of an ecosystem, and then become one with it. i am excited to see how being raised here will shape the babies’ relationships to mortality.

siobhan called the other kids over and they did a little ceremony and buried the dragonfly. finn explained that this is what happens when we die, people cover us up. mairead tossed dirt on the dragonfly, then grabbed it out of it’s little grave and tried to throw it in the air to fly again. i cheered for her instincts.

the other two explained that dead things don’t fly, and buried it again. mairead didn’t buy it, we finally had to just lead her away. the first stage of grief is denial.

siobhan is obsessed with death right now too. yesterday she told me her baby doll was dead, that she was so sad that she was going to have to burn her baby up and put her in the sky.

her great grandfather was cremated this year.

as i write this she is ‘reading’ a book where a whole chicken family dies, daily, over and over. she is making up the story as she goes, looking at me intensely as she turns pages in an unrelated book. i’ll just document a moment of it for you:

‘the babies were dead, the mommy was dead, the daddy was dead. all the people were dead. everyone was dead. and they were so sad and said, ”but why, why is everyone dead?” (here she takes on a sobbing stage whisper) but everyone was dead, everyone was dead, everyone was dead! except the pond. the pond was alive! and the tree. and the universe! it was alive. and there were no humans left. that is the end of part one.’

i wonder if she can feel the suffering of little ones her age and younger happening right now around the world. i also wonder if she is a prophet or conduit.

two other reminders of how unavoidable grief and death are showed up during this visit. a friend-family came to visit, with their kids. at one point their daughter was saying something about how her grandpa should bring pizza pies to her dad’s funeral. and her dad responded, i want tequila and dancing at my funeral, ok honey?

it was cute and i also logged it because i want to know how everyone i love wants to be remembered, celebrated, burned, buried, released. because it is happening, all the time, and we should know these things about each other. and i felt that sliver of bitterness again, looking around this table full of loved ones who are going to die, as i am going to die.

i am holding the babies too close and eating too much trying to just feel this singular truth in a new way. i have moved through grief before, i have reached places of peace and even liberation around it. but now i am like a child again, distraught, incredulous.

it helps to look at the pond, to wake up early and listen to life in the woods.

two nights ago there was a performance outside at a local college. a singer named robert robinson came up from minneapolis, a black disabled gospel operatic tenor with a queer beautiful energy and way with the mostly white crowd.

after one song, he shared that just before he’d come onstage he’d received a text that a good friend had lost her battle with stage four cancer. he then sang ‘i hope you dance’ and ‘tears in heaven’, with that loss in his pretty voice. and again i was crying in public, singing through tears, raising my hands to offer my gratitude to this stranger who knew my heart’s need in that moment. he also sang songs about how god has never failed him yet, and aretha’s arrangement of bridge over troubled waters, and i just let his voice work me.

and i am left with the fact that grief is not linear. i can still tap into the tender wound for each person i have lost, from charity to my grandfather to a boy i had a crush on in middle school who was killed by another boy playing with a gun. i have personal ancestors, not as many as some, more than i’d want. i feel them learning how to be elsewhere, i feel them still connected to me.

i feel them everywhere.

emergent strategy in the world cup

i am not generally a futbol (or any other kind of sports) watcher.

i read and saw a lot about the racial and class dynamics of the world cup, and what brazil did to ‘clean up’ for FIFA. a lot of those dynamics, which follow athletic competition around the world and show up most prominently in world cup and olympics years, reminded me why i can’t deeply engage in sports as a regular outlet. it is so oriented around competitive and capitalist indulgence, uplifting heroes and gathering faceless erasable masses to cheer them on.

but i am beginning to suspect that nothing operates outside the realm of emergent strategy.

being in amsterdam, it made a lot of sense to watch the world cup. it was part of being immersed in this place, sitting at coffeshops and watching the game with an international spread of locals.

i didn’t have a particular team i was rooting for, and really only engaged around the quarter finals. but once i got hooked i couldn’t stop watching. and rather than rooting for particular teams or players, i was fascinated by the patterns and rhythms, the art of the game. so i want to offer some analysis from my non-expert vantage point.

lynnee and i were watching the semi-final match when germany scored seven points on brazil, most of those points within an 18-minute free for all in the first half. it was brutal to see.

i had the humbling opportunity, during my dad’s last assignment in germany, to be a fairly useless part of my high school soccer team. we were invited to play a friendly international match against a team of german third graders. they scored like 30 goals on us while barely seeming to move or break a sweat. over and over they took the ball away while we ran in circles, gasped for air and tried not to cry.

i didn’t understand why brazil looked like my high school team. in the semi-finals of the world cup! i needed it explained to me. i was reaching out to people, because the commentary was in dutch and i needed to know where the gorgeous warrior dancing magicians i’d witnessed in the quarter-final against colombia had disappeared to.

my sister autumn reminded me that in that very breathtaking match, neymar was injured, and silva was carded. she broke down how much neymar and silva were the center-captain-irreplaceable aspects of offense and defense, respectively.

the night before last, lynnee and i were in rotterdam at an incredible outkast 20-year anniversary show at the north sea jazz festival. and we snuck out to sit on the floor with a bunch of mostly germans and watch the end of the world cup. we caught the only goal of the final match as germany bested argentina.

it occurred to me, first as i found myself hoping for a mercy ruling in the brazil-germany match, and then again while watching germany seem to easily work together to defend and score on argentina in the final, that this was a perfect example of emergent strategy in action.

emergent strategy includes being intentional, which, at a basic level, i think all of the teams were. they each intended to win number one, period. but it also includes being intentional even in a fractal sense, at the smallest level. watching the way germany had one to two people in pursuit of the ball even when the opposing goalie was trying to figure out where to kick it, there was a hungry focus on possession of the ball that presenced their intention to win in even the smallest moments.

emergent strategy includes being resilient through decentralization. brazil’s team was oriented around key stars who embody certain skill sets. when those players are in and on, it is the most beautiful playing i have ever seen. for germany’s team, even after watching them play several games, i couldn’t point out anyone irreplaceable on their team, any superstars or best players. based on my limited viewing, they seemed to easily interchange players and fluidly move together to defend their goal – not as dazzling, but consistent, effective, beautiful in its collectivity.

emergent strategy is adaptive and interdependent. when neymar and silva were taken out, brazil didn’t have the capacity or depth on their team to adapt. the lack of cohesion from their team felt loud. germany moved like a flock of birds over and around the field. they worked as one body to take possession of the ball and move it. any time brazil or argentina got the ball, germany suddenly had four players around them. it didn’t feel like a formation, it felt like interdependent murmuration towards a shared intention – they flew towards the ball. the sheer number of team members attending to the ball at any given point meant that germany was consistently creating more possibilities for itself to have the ball, to have choice over what happened next, to get the chance to score.

one other element was transformative justice, which i didn’t see much of in the finals. i saw glimpses of it in algeria’s decision to give their world cup winnings to gaza. not because of the charitable aspect, but because of the use of their platform to raise awareness of the genocide happening in gaza while the world gave it’s attention to a game.

there is more to emergent strategy of course. just as there is so so much more to the world cup – contradictions, hypocrisies, tragedies, elations. what did you see?