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hiatus

i am writing a draft of my novel this month as part of national novel writing month. it is really exciting, in the midst of an exciting time – we had a wildseeds gathering at the american studies association national meeting to think through bringing octavia strategies for liberation to the academy – i was a visitor from beyond the towers, it felt like an honor to contribute. octavia scholarship keeps growing!

i also got quality time with mentor/friend tananarive due, who i just deeply admire and respect.

then i met kid fury and crissle from the read today, and kid fury liked my turquoise bracelet game and they were both everything and lovely and sweet…and i think i acted relatively normal in the face of my black queer love for both of them. we got to uplift crissle’s read on ferguson and our weariness at the onslaught of state-on-black violence to her face. they’ve created a segment on their show called black excellence that feels like the podcast embodiment of my political mode of gifting my attention to the things i want to grow.

also, beyonce is releasing something magnificent before the year is out. !!! sigh. !!! breathe. just…just breathe. she makes me need to produce like a virgo.

to that end, i am going on hiatus for at least the rest of the month. i am going to finish this draft.

y’all see how easy it is for me to accidentally write y’all a whole post when i was just trying to say hi…atus. all kinds of brilliant white rabbit level new ideas keep coming up for blog entries. life is just moving so quickly. and yet, with all of that, the characters in my book are calling me over to their table for tea and monologues and dialogues and backstories and intrigues.

so i will put the wonderland blog concepts on a virgo list AND not let them be a way of procrastinating. i will not be denied in this effort. i want to pour every word i have this month into this work.

so.

see y’all in december :-) send love!

Authenticity chant

Authenticity chant:

Let me not posture
Let me not front
Let me not say yes to
Lives I don’t want
Let me not use words that don’t mean a thing
Let me be fly
as I am, no trying
Let me good
For my heart, not my rep
Let me be still
When I can’t take a step
Don’t let me get too caught
Creating my face
Let me just love me
All over the place

sourcing myself and others

There’s a card in the osho zen tarot deck called ‘the source‘, and I love whenever I pull it because it is so humbling. I sometimes pull it when I am in the midst of doing doing doing things, and it reminds me to just be in connection to source.

I pulled it yesterday and had a glorious day. It says:

When we speak of being “grounded” or “centered” it is this Source we are talking about. When we begin a creative project, it is this Source that we tune in to. This card reminds us that there is a vast reservoir of energy available to us. And that we tap into it not by thinking and planning but by getting grounded, centered, and silent enough to be in contact with the Source. It is within each of us, like a personal, individual sun giving us life and nourishment. Pure energy, pulsating, available, it is ready to give us anything we need to accomplish something, and ready to welcome us back home when we want to rest. So whether you are beginning something new and need inspiration right now, or you’ve just finished something and want to rest, go to the Source. It’s always waiting for you, and you don’t even have to step out of your house to find it.

Zazen means just sitting at the very source, not moving anywhere, a tremendous force arises, a transformation of energy into light and love, into greater life, into compassion, into creativity.
It can take many forms. But first you have to learn how to be at the source. Then the source will decide where your potential is. You can relax at the source, and it will take you to your very potential.

This carnivorous summer has left me feeling like all I can do is put one foot in front of the other and listen. It is only in the past week or two that I have remembered – oh I am a body!

My body is storing all of this feeling so I can keep going with life, but it isn’t like carbon being stored deep in the earth for some next generation to benefit from. It’s like a storage rental with my important life things in it that I need to pay some monthly cost for, and I will pay until I go get those things.

I was saying recently that grief has made me feel like a tree getting chopped into or burned. There are rings – years and experiences of my life, all the way back to the beginning – that I thought were never going to be seen, and now they are meeting with the atmosphere, exposed.

I’ve always been a feeling person, as you may have noticed here, but as I come back into my body, I seem to be having a Neo-in-the-Matrix level experience with emotion. It’s palpable, it’s moving through me with no expectation of words…in fact the opposite, it’s like I’m finally liberated from the realm of words as a container for emotions (she says, scribbling furiously in the dark).

Emotions are not just something to reflect on, they are happening in and around me in real time, quickly, so complex and interconnected. And my whole being is wired to feel them, and to make the most of this human experience I have to grow my capacity to feel, to bear the greatest joy. Because the suffering is coming regardless, but it seems the joy part is the part that is pure potential, and requires my intention and skill to manifest.

I have spent a lot of time with my sister and her family. It’s the only place I’ve wanted to be, really…doing laundry, cleaning the kitchen, organizing the toys, playing with the kids. And of course wishing I could get in a fist fight with god for the year they’ve been given, I’ve been given, the relentless pace of loss.

Being around kids having feelings is helpful, I need that obvious direct stuff. It feels like I can’t do enough because I can’t erase the hard parts, but they show me how to make everything generative.

Since their youngest sibling transitioned in the womb, Finn is pouring himself into dragon family art and obsessive gaming, places where he can control the story, where he can win. Siobhan is being very fabulous all the time, giving me a very Rihanna level independence. At first she was carrying around her own ‘dead’ baby doll in a box and singing ‘dead baby, dead baby’ at the top of her lungs. Now she is wearing constant costumes, sashaying everywhere, and overtly figuring out her impact, working rooms until everyone is laughing, oohing and ahhing. Mairead is adorable and inconsolable much of the time, delightfully exploring the realm of language, throwing her whole body into tantrums as she learns to articulate what she wants, and simultaneously learns that saying a wish doesn’t make it come true. I love that she seeks comfort from me after I say no to her, let’s me hold her even though she thinks I am causing her suffering. This reminds me of my relationship with source.

And they teach that my own emotional responses are that clear, even if I’ve been socialized not to express my emotional truth.

My life with family feels like a living meditation – doing the dishes I am serving life, moving the laundry I am serving life, dumping the compost I am serving life.

This awareness expands to other experiences. I went to the hot springs with dear friends and as soon as my skin hit the water I was transported into a realm of sensation, memory and clarity – each of my cells had something to tell me about feelings, had been waiting for me to circle back around and notice. I sat under the stars, steaming and writing notes to my self.

I went from there into generative somatics’ teacher training. Mostly we are there learning and practicing our teaching, but we always do bodywork exchanges, to practice giving and holding it, and to continue opening ourselves, listening to the whole self through the body.

I got on the bodywork table with curiosity, and my partner in the work was so gentle that I thought for a moment it might be an easy, even relaxing session. Then suddenly I felt so much that I thought I was having a heart attack, like grief was carving it’s way up through me, and that if I let it out I would become a scream that would never end. It’s strange to write about the experience of bodywork, but I feel the need to proselytize, because I released more grief in that half hour of gentle attention than I’d been able to move the whole summer.

It took hours to feel like I could be around other humans again, my whole existence was so alert and sensitive. I still have to learn how to feel so alive and be around others.

One of the teachers shared this poem:

For the raindrop, joy is in entering the river-
Unbearable pain becomes its own cure,
Travel far enough into sorrow, tears turn into sighing;
In this way we learn how water can die into air,
When, after heavy rain, the storm clouds disperse,
is it not that they’ve wept themselves clear to the end?
If you want to know the miracle, how wind can polish a mirror,
Look: the shining glass grows green in Spring.
It’s the rose’s unfolding, Ghalib, that creates the desire to see-
In every color and circumstance, may the eyes be open for what comes.
– Ghalib

Since then, my emotional awareness has been turned up. There’s so much happening all the time, in every interaction, in the suffering world, in music, in the passing of hours with loved ones. Beloveds have witnessed me laughing and crying uncontrollably, I can’t contain it, I am feeling so much. The whole history of all living things and all the potential futures are with each of us in each present moment. In talking with a friend, or my mom, or a stranger, I wonder, what are the poles of their life, their joys and sorrows? Does it feel like this inside everyone?

Part of the clarity that came up from my cells is that I have some work to do. I have a novel to write and I have emergent strategy to share. But when I say ‘to do’, that is inaccurate. I have some work to embody. I know again who I am. And to be myself creates such an abundance in my life and relationships and family and movements.

I’ve been taking in all of these experiences, sitting in them. It is time to write, to share, to process, to give.

I am as insignificant as any fragile living thing, but I am not small. I am connected to source as a default. I require only, but no less than, my full attention.

nanowrimo

i am writing a draft of a novel!

i had an incredible experience with napowrimo, national poetry writing month. i spent april writing a poem each day and remembering how much i love poetry, that i am a poet in my own way, even if it isn’t my primary form.

i have been reading a lot lately. i was recently inspired by kiese laymon’s long division, and then margaret atwood’s maddaddam trilogy. both were wonderfully creative and funny stories, the first one on time travel, the second on apocalypse and corporate control.

i was looking around for my next book, which i am pretty sure will be chimimanda ngozi adichie’s americanah, when i was reminded that november is national novel writing month (nanowrimo).

my style isn’t really funny, but it absolutely concerns time travel and apocalypse – in detroit. this is a story i have been trying to get out for a while, and everything i’ve written is too small to tell the story. the goal of nanowrimo is 50,000 words. i hope that’s enough, but i figure that by the end of the month i will know a few things:

– how i feel about novel writing
– how big my love story of detroit needs to be
– what’s possible inside my writing practice with a rigorous daily word count goal

the other thing to share about this story is that it’s all about grief, of course. part of why this story has been hard to land is that grief keeps knocking me sideways. today i pulled together the writing i have done about grief on this blog and it was so much. it was beautiful to see how time has made each loss more bearable, more complete. and it was humbling to see the ways in which my real life grief is being transformed into a generative force in the story i now write.

this novel may be like my songs and most of my poems, for my own release and healing. but i am excited to let it out, to give these ghosts a place to play together.

send me love, and luck. and if there are people you have lost that you would like me to include in some way, especially connected to detroit, please share their names and stories here. i’ll see what i can do.

still i write (somewhere between mantra and ode)

i worked on a sci-fi story throughout the day today. it was incredible, fun feverish writing. i woke up with a new piece of a story i’ve been working all summer that wanted to be told, needed to be written down. it was a gift.

i was hanging with a sick niece who wanted to be in my lap even though the words were coming. at one point i was writing with one hand while feeding her yogurt. later i was writing on my phone while carrying her around for the pre-naptime bounce. i started hearing the maya angelou poem still i rise, but with the words ‘still i write’. it made me smile thinking about a remix of that poem, but about the persistence of writing. i’m playing with it, here’s what i have so far:

I may only write my history
colored with all my favorite lies,
I may scratch my name in rocks and dirt
Each day, in dust, I’ll write.

Does my persistence impress you
as you procrastinate in your room
while I write like I’ve got novels
shelving the red walls of my womb?

By the light of moons and suns,
to the sound of my own sighs,
With sparks of legend catching light,
Still I write.

Don’t I want this deadline met,
with sore fingers, tired eyes?
Not quelled by the whimpering toddler
In my lap with bambi eyes.

In the quiet hum of wifi free plane rides
I write
under covers in shared movement conference hotel rooms
I write
I’m a diva author, unsatisfied
gnashing and rending til my thoughts clarify
Leaving behind writer’s blocks of terror and fear
I write
if no one ever reads me, if no one hears
I write
sharing the gifts that my ancestors give,
Words are my air, to write is to live.
I write
I write
I write.

(thank you to ancestor Maya for the structure and rhythm)

sacred places and stardust

There are many sacred places along the journey through grief. One of the them is the body, but I’ll build to that.

Land is precious. Especially land full of trees in the fall, when everything is changing so beautifully. I’ve always loved fall most of all the seasons, the season of my birth and of new beginnings. For much of my life this was the time when I would be landing in a new place, new school, new community. As a child in a military family we often moved in summer, so fall would be a time of seeing who I was in a new place. How would this place and these people receive me, a precocious child who challenged authority, loved approval and wanted to create everything anew?

Land always received me well.

I remember landscapes – German forests, Georgia swamps, a low flat Kansas field between our backyards and the big gates behind which I later learned Leonard Peltier was imprisoned, the dried up riverbeds and magical desert lawns in Texas, the sparse trees held in concrete in Brooklyn, the dirty active water between the Twin Towers and the Statue of Liberty, sky fetish beauty in every direction in the South Pacific, the white sands of Tulum, the lush green hills of rural Japan and the Big Island and Southern Africa. Changing conditions, diverse beauties – it is an outstanding planet. Each of these places are locations of my growth and places where I left part of myself behind, skin shed.

Lately I have been shedding self in a few places.

In Detroit I have been letting go of a certain urgency that permeates crisis, that can make everything feel very important. People ask me how I am responding to the crisis in Detroit, and I want to say: by loving it, very slowly, as it is. It isn’t easy. I am growing a capacity to see a longer arc of time in this city, these communities which are engaged in basic battles, that is, battles over the most basic human needs. I am growing a capacity to be visionary even when there appears to be no time for looking ahead.

In rural Minnesota my unborn little relative is now part of the land, the wind, the dirt, the birch stand and the pond, the trail through the woods, everywhere. I am growing my skill in grieving, my understanding of the importance of impermanence.

I am realizing the humility required to be stardust. It’s heartbreaking, and it’s just the truth. We suffer, we die, we control only how much beauty and joy and laughter we can seek and let in. We are temporary, first and foremost.

This cosmic season has been all about grief and letting go. It feels like there is so much death and transition being pulled forward by these eclipsing or retrograde celestial bodies which don’t know our names but shape our lives. It’s terrifying to realize the insignificance of my impact, my pain, my grief, and my ability to protect those I love. This doesn’t mean don’t try, give, effort, extend. It just means I have to be less attached to everything, be of the world without clinging and grasping.

This is theoretical, right now my knuckles are pale with the grip I have on all the things I want to love forever.

It helps to look at the truth of what I can and can’t protect. I am concluding that I can’t protect anything except my dignity and my capacity to love. And that is a lot, that is worth fighting for, that is a life’s work, against all the odds and expectations and the strong arms of the moon and the playful fuckery of mercury.

What gets me through, always, is space. I meditate as if I am floating in space, the Milky Way somewhere far behind me. I remember that I am just one body of billions, hurtling through space on a body in orbit amongst a trillion gazillion other bodies, much larger, much smaller.

What is random is not personal, even the most beautiful and sacred experiences – it is the whole massive universe that is precious, not me specifically or especially. It is all of existence that is worth the attention of prayer and intention, not my singular and most likely myopic concern. That comforts me, being a fragment of a sacred existence.

Then I can pull all of that scale into my understanding of myself. I am stardust, the baby is stardust, Charity is stardust, Grace is stardust, Sheddy is stardust, Blair is stardust, Papa is stardust, Grandma Brown is stardust, and so on. This is my stardust litany.

What does it mean to be stardust? The sacred place I am longing for is right here, in this body so briefly available to me, accessible through pleasure, chanting, storytelling, healing, dancing and noticing this skin I am in. I am of the celestial whole. When I see my flesh and bones as a source of information, self-love and curiosity become inevitable.

Fragile bones and individual oceans, with memories of stardust spiraling through us – could we be more beautiful? More sacred? More capable of the grief and love required of the living?

Octavia taught us to pray working, to let our work be sacred practice. I am holding these words as my life work continues to challenge me completely, to feed my human curiosity in the face of human terror. I cannot know or understand it all. It hurts my heart, mind and body to pretend I know much of anything.

And, we are stardust. And, each one of us is the sacred place.

The Beauty of Autumn

On Wednesday we learned of a transition in our family, a little one we were expecting in February was instead delivered at twenty weeks by my sister Autumn. I’ve been completely humbled by the experience, both the exquisite unbelievable pain, and the sweet tender weight of family. I’m feeling everything in poetry. I wanted to share some with you.

The Beauty of Autumn

Few of the trees here are evergreen 
The most beautiful hues are all bright and brief 
and clear and sharp and haunting

The verdant holdout who seems immune 
to the tax fall demands with windswept hands 
will be stripped right down to the quick, it’s that season

Fire covers the wood from floor to ceiling 
becomes earth again, still, changing and healing
Swallowing up all but the smallest bones

Hours after the child became ash 
An owl told the story in a whoop and howl 
We thrilled at the wild language of our belonging 

And I wonder, how do the trees let go 
of their leaves, which made it through the summer’s blaze 
But then left, hushed and nameless with the wind?

And I wonder, what does the earth recall 
When the cold gives way and the green slips forth 
from her body, taking another greedy spring?

And I wonder of Venus and Mercury 
When they watch her face is it grief they see 
Do they wish their fleeting eclipses could keep her from burning?

And I wonder, what should a mother do 
With that stored up love, when a life is through…
what playful perfect spirit will come to receive it?

When I was younger I feared the woods 
How could all this ghosting amount to any good?
Now it seems so sweet just to be haunted.

Was it yesterday we rang all the bells 
To mark the solstice and the darkening days 
To chant: even this quick dying season was wanted.

Time warp log (a piece of sci-fi only it isn’t fiction)

I write to you from what I am now empirically convinced is the inside of a time warp. Which, to be clear, is an experience and not in fact a container I can exit.

Whatever divinity is at work here won’t answer me, even when offered tobacco and prayer.

Understandably, everything is suspect.

The moon is supposedly moving the tides and reflecting everything, but I’ve been watching it for hours and it continuously displays the same blank lie of a face. Is it not the grand conductor of the grief current? But yet it reflects no hint of blood anywhere.

It can’t be trusted.

Time in here passes extraordinarily slowly. I can’t seem to get out of this day in spite of repeated efforts at closing my eyes and counting all manner of living things. I am afraid that when I see daylight again I’ll be too bitter to attune to its fine fall beauty.

I have searched all my belongings but can’t find the instructions for Manual Mood Shift in Spite of Repeated Daunting.

It is an uncomfortable place, meaning, there is no familiar comfort to give or receive here.

Of utmost peculiarity is the dysfunction of miracles in here. Case studies seem to indicate that the line between life and death itself is weak, somehow faulty. It keeps glitching as one might expect in a light bulb run on too much (or too little) power. Those who are ready to cross over are left wandering the empty halls of disappearing memory, shrinking in adjustable beds. Simultaneously, the landing strip has gone dark, and there is still no orientation, so the new ones are getting lost. And otherwise healthy creatures are being eradicated in places where no war has been declared.

Nothing can be counted on here to go as it should, the very word ‘should’ is becoming a meaningless relativity.

My final noticing is that the sound system in here is bizarre. Things seem either muffled or bubbling, like they are screamed into pillows or uttered while drowning. There is an ongoing coupling of a sharp high keening weep, and a low growling moan. I’m wondering if they are the full emotional vocabulary of the same creature.

And to be forthcoming, I may be that creature.

It’s all quite mysterious. I’m beginning to think the night itself will never end, although the bright empty liar of a moon is in fact very slowly progressing across the sparse and freezing sky.

There is nothing else to report.
That is not accurate…
There are simply no more words.

Spell for Grief or Letting Go

Adequate tears twisting up directly from the heart and rung out across the vocal chords until only a gasp remains;

At least an hour a day spent staring at the truth in numb silence;

A teacup of whiskey held with both hands, held still under the whispers of permission from friends who can see right through ‘ok’ and ‘fine';

An absence of theory;

Flight, as necessary;

Poetry, your own and others, on precipice, abandonment, nature and death;

Courage to say what has happened, however strangling the words are…and space to not say a word;

A brief dance with sugar, to honor the legacies of coping that got you this far;

Sentences spoken with total pragmatism that provide clear guidance of some direction to move in, full of the tender care and balance of choice and not having to choose;

Screaming why, and/or expressing fury at the stupid unfair fucking game of it all (this may include hours and hours, even lifetimes, of lost faith);

Laughter, undeniable and unpretended;

A walk in the world, all that gravity, with breath and heartbeat in your ears;

Fire, for all that can be written;

Moonlight – the more full the more nourishing;

Stories, ideally of coincidence and heartache and the sweetest tiny moments;

Time, more time and then more time…enough time to remember every moment you had with that one now taken from you, and to forget to think of it every moment;

And just a glimpse of tomorrow, either in the face of an innocent or the realization of a dream.

This is a nonlinear spell. Cast it inside your heart, cast it between yourself and any devil. Cast it into the parts of you still living.

Remember you are water. Of course you leave salt trails. Of course you are crying.

Flow.

P.S. If there happens to be a multitude of griefs upon you, individual and collective, or fast and slow, or small and large, add equal parts of these considerations:
– that the broken heart can cover more territory.
– that perhaps love can only be as large as grief demands.
– that grief is the growing up of the heart that bursts boundaries like an old skin or a finished life.
– that grief is gratitude.
– that water seeks scale, that even your tears seek the recognition of community.
– that the heart is a front line and the fight is to feel in a world of distraction.
– that death might be the only freedom.
– that your grief is a worthwhile use of your time.
– that your body will feel only as much as it is able to.
– that the ones you grieve may be grieving you.
– that the sacred comes from the limitations.
– that you are excellent at loving.

Was it me that changed or you?

This week I’m running around NYC, working and experiencing the city with my sweetheart.

It feels different again. When I first came to the city I’d loved it for years already, reveled in the idea of being a New Yorker as I was coming of age. When I left it was with a sense of having given it everything I had. For years after that visits to NYC would find me trying to catch a deeper breath, befuddled by the changes, missing my New York.

This trip feels heart opening. My partner Lynnee Denise is part of a series of events that the great bell hooks is curating at the New School, which includes conversations with Laverne Cox, Cornell West, Samuel Delaney, and others. bell is riveting, very human, very dynamic, fierce and curious. So far the conversations have been hilarious and insightful and necessary. Sitting in a space with minds like these, with participants like Deborah Willis, is quite intoxicating for the part of spirit that is constantly evolving. I am reminded that there are still original points to be made in conversations around sexuality, queer theory, fabulousness, body love vs shame, healing, patriarchy, relationship, transformation and healing.

The thing that still blows my calendar out of order is the sheer number of magnificent people to connect with. On top of the usual plethora of beloveds, several dear friends happen to be visiting NYC at the same time we are. New York visits require days of open time for the spontaneous love affairs and reconnections. Or a full return. Thrilling, daunting, but possible again after almost a decade away.

I’m also working with a long-term client, the Correctional Association. I really respect their work, their hearts and spirits and dedication to growing. We’re experimenting with a fusion of traditional and emergent strategic planning and I am learning a ton.

Everything changes. I am excited to feel a little home again here.