Harriet Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

one year of grieving alana

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

microdosing

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

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

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

moving up a belt in intimacy practices.

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

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

the surprise of turtle love.

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

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

meeting people in their most alive moment.

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

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

letting in appreciation without getting overwhelmed or anxious.

a public mutual lovefest with Marcus K. White.

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

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

gratitude for memes. I missed them.

if you can’t see the small…

look here. here.

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

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

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

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

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

found in my notebook after somatics + trauma advanced

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

“are you satisfiable?” staci haines

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

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

“leadership is mostly about the unknown.” prentis hemphill

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

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

i am not for anyone’s consumption.

i open so that my trauma can find the exit.

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

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

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

new thoughts!

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

birthday reflections

nothing is permanent
real love never ends

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

student self

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

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

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

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

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

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

what is enough?

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

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

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

rituals of release

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

goodnight, sweet home.

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