returning from away: wow

this post is a bit mantra, some thoughts, and some resources. if you just want the resources, skip to the bottom.

center
you are not the center
face the center
follow the center

repeat

“the world isn’t going to fall apart just because you stop to rest.” – me, to myself and many coaching clients over the years. also many people to me as i prepared for sabbatical.

“things fall apart.” – the world, roughly two seconds after i stopped to rest.

returning, may 31st

at a certain point you realize that the world is like the body, it’s a falling apart world, after a while it’s mostly deconstruction. something beautiful, pure, naked and sacred has been abandoned, again, taken, again.

while i was away, the world fell apart and many days felt like trying to meditate with a raging army at the door, knowing that i didn’t know how to calm that army, or lead it, or make any move that wasn’t obligation, surrender or loss.

i return knowing even less about what to do at a mass scale. i am only armed with what i know to do at the smallest scale. i took my own life and made it satisfying, joyful, livable, on purpose. my usefulness feels clear, though i may never quite be able to articulate it more than saying i carry light in the darkness. i hold it like the earth holds a fire for sharing love stories, secrets and song. without shadows, the precious miracle of light, fire, heat, becomes either a scorching end or a beauty unnoticed, and that’s fine. knowing how to channel something as honest as fire has taken a lot of precise wearing down of myself from rock to soil. it doesn’t make me special, and if i’m not careful, it overwhelms me. we all have a role to play and mine involves telling stories, prophecy, song, conversation, solitude, creative responses and instigations for movement, and fully inhabiting my freedom.

something i noticed on my journey is that i am one of the freest people to ever exist. this freedom is not yet total. but it is a freedom from certain oppressions my ancestors survived, and didn’t. i see them everywhere, taking shape in the clouds, in dirt formations, in abstract patterns on curtains, in the shapes of flowers – a mouth, a jaw, a wrapped head, strong shoulders. and a freedom from certain burdens, supremacies, that other ancestors carried.

i do not feel the myth of safety that some white people walk with. i do not feel the myth of innocence some black people walk with, try to cover ourselves with even though it doesn’t save us. i have the freedom that comes from having ancestors who sacrificed a lot, prayed to a variety of gods and goddesses, sang a lot; there is a wave of good work behind me. i have the freedom of living in this era in a place where i learned to read and write and my words can reach beyond my range of motion or travel. i have the freedom of having been politicized early and lived my adult life moving away from the toxic distortions of capitalism and respectability. i have the freedom of being a sinner in touch with my divinity. i still have some freedom of mobility, both in the form of my passport (a freedom in constant threat based on federal fuckery), and my arthritic body – though each step hurts so much that i only do what’s necessary, which feels clearer each day: yoga, dance, praise, listen, make love, eat, drink, bathe, cleanse, write.

fight is not part of my nature, but to protect my life, our lives, i am learning to wield the weapon i have been gifted: words.

i want everyone to have their own list of what is necessary, what is just right for their own lives. we, all of us, were given this utopia of a planet in order to exist and learn and feel and change. without harm.

which doesn’t mean without suffering, the part of changing and loving and the life cycle that includes death…no, ‘without harm’ meaning without acting from a constant insecure attachment to life. that insecure attachment makes us harm the planet, break the children, shrink the women, require the men to be gladiators or slaves. that insecure attachment to life makes us insatiable for something other than the most incredible thing of all time: life. being alive, being present, having agency, loving others in all manner of ways, finding that balance – that’s the most exquisite liberating way to be. i say this from experience.

i am learning how to be happy in most conditions. i am learning how to return to happiness even when walking with grief, rage and overwhelm. i am learning how to protect my happiness from those who can’t find theirs, and cultivate mutual happiness by sharing it when it seems to be in limited supply.

my lessons involve a lot of the things you might guess – stillness, reflection, rest, boundaries, being able to feel. giving up numbness, escape, judgment, codependence and, often, social media and the news.

but more than any of these it requires a taking myself seriously. giving myself time to figure out how to be myself in any condition. the rest gets easier, comes when needed, doesn’t require massive amounts of discipline or self flaggelation or sacrifice. just acceptance.

my theory is that the more individuals who can increase this acceptance – of ourselves, of the cycles of our lives and connections, of our conditions – the easier we can pull back the veil on how ridiculous a society we’ve ended up in. the more of us can pivot right now to living lives that are compelling to ourselves and future generations.

so. this is what the next phase of my life will be about. building on emergent strategy and pleasure activism, bringing attention to this acceptance, uplifting practices i know to be liberatory, writing the way, singing the way, living the way.

the world ended at least twice while i was away. or 100,000 times. in ways that feel newer and bigger than ever. but of course they do because this time it’s us living it. the sooner we can accept that this is the inevitable, and we get to shape what’s next, the sooner we stop participating in other people’s cycles and start shaping new patterns that allow more of us to have outstanding beautiful lives.

returning June 8th

as i return to the world from a strange sabbatical marked with reality checks, it is amazing to feel my own center in relationship to the center of movement, of nation.

in the practice of centering, we organize ourselves around what we most care about and want to see in the world. at my core i want to love and be loved, to trust and be trustworthy. i want loving and trusting to be the primary ways i spend my time, the primary skills i hone, the way i define community, the liberation path. intimately, yes, but i also want to live on a planet that i know loves me and get to experience that love. i want to live with people i can trust to make decisions from a foundation of love.

here i mean love as a good parent loves: nourishing, patient, abundantly feeding, carrying without complaint, cleansing, comforting without the kind of judgment that shrinks, holding in complexity.

trusting the way healthy lovers trust – not trusting in a staying the same, but trusting the other(s) to constantly change, with integrity. to change in ways that unveil and fortify our whole selves.

i want to feel whole with my family. in every relationship. in my home. at any place i work. on a drive to the store. in the places i gather food, supplies. it seems simple to me, to want to feel myself a whole human in the mundane flow of my life. it’s all ritual. it still befuddles my higher nature that so many systems in human history have been structured to deny that simple whole feeling to the majority of those both alive and anticipated.

for months i have felt like a ghost of myself in the world, an after image with no promise of return. imagine me dashing across borders with one wet wing, dragging a split cocoon. then trying to knit a safe space back around me in a hailstorm, trying to expose the least of myself to danger, knowing i am only half transformed, but maybe that’s all there’s time for. #sabbatical2020.

recentering during the pandemic meant finding dignity within caution and boundaries, finding and deepening connection with no contact – the last 3.5 months is the longest i’ve ever gone without human touch, and it changed me. it’s also meant surrendering to this moment in time and my role in it without rushing ahead of myself.

“i am a writer, i am going to write.” – lorraine hansberry

“it just seemed like writing was absolutely the most important thing in the world…somebody asks ‘what do you do?’ and you print it out: WRITE.” – toni morrison

nervous and thrilled, i return, two wings dazzling and fragile, pushing and peeking back into the world, rested and happy and grateful for the space i carved out against all the odds. i am here and i am writing.

(George Floyd drawn by Joaquin Zuniga-Perlstein)

and of course what i return to is a new moment, a moment that feels historic…perhaps unexpected in the midst of a pandemic…but of course it’s like this, of course the containment is followed by mass explosion, our attention contained and focused makes it easier to see our rage.

the risk of being in the close proximity of protests is heightened by the global pandemic, such that a wave of sickness will likely follow all of this exerted power. those in the streets assert it is worth it for the gains, and i feel all of us negotiating between the rocks and hard places we always navigate.

police brutality is a constant, but in the past five years we in movement have pivoted, brought our collective and global attention to it such that each death is an escalation, and the responses to it grow, the demands sharpen to a point: defund the police.

when society is in such upheaval it helps me to remind myself that love is the foundation of everything, love is gravity. when we can’t see and feel it, we must uncover it, open the channels. when it’s this blocked, it can feel like imprecise work to disrupt and peel back and clear off the layers of sediment that have distorted our understanding of everything.

capitalism is the sediment of greed and colonisation.

white supremacy is the sediment of ignorance and gunpowder.

brutal policing is the sediment of slavery – the worn down granules of sloth paired with fear and hatred of the perceived other.

these inherited and assumed norms are the least of ourselves, leftover from rigged debates over competition vs collaboration, abundance vs greed, biodiversity vs monoculture. now we traverse a barren landscape stinking of gasping fish, the abundance and true wealth evaporating.

but watching this round of protests, i see our tears from violent loss and raucous laughter beginning to flow.

amidst the terror and my tender hearted daily cries, so often i find myself laughing. this generation of protests is woven through with black twitter and drag culture and shade rooms and viral contortions of cool.

it is pc, but also pointing and laughing at pc, not from a place of benefiting from the offenses, more from a place of realizing how much ego drives pc (“see how right i can be? don’t punish me!”), and how anything become trend is in some way laughable.

we have learned how to take ourselves very seriously and also shrug it all off. to weep and wobble, march on the beat, march in second lines, for justice.

i say we but i can feel my distance from the epicenter in a way that feels appropriate. i am responsible, i am finding my ways to contribute, but my time closer to the center was back up the river a ways, fervent and righteous – and not nearly as effective. not nearly as fun and funny, either.

i feel my currents in these waters, i feel work that was done last year, one and two decades ago, all in the flow. i imagine that older organizers and movement shapers can feel all the moments and small shifts and breaks and splits and sharpenings of their work present and shining in this moment.

i still feel crucial, and that my choices matter. but i am thrilled by this feeling of being outside the center, facing it with wonder and humility.

this movement moment is irresistible because there is less respectability at the center, and more queer Black feminism. there are fewer attempts to join and assimilate into the norm and more efforts to leverage the norm towards humanity, justice, love and life. it is more compelling to hear a mass scream from the heart than a pundit pontificate from a false center. i love the murmuration of sounds as we sing and heal and listen. we dreamed aloud this ferocity and politicized and trained and held and tilled and watered and shat and wept and fought and mended and now many of us get to be participant-witnesses to this cycle, collective doulas.

a few years ago i realized that the privilege walk exercise is more compelling to me if it’s done in a circle, to represent the interconnectedness that is true to all human formation. it’s more compelling if, after the questions are asked, it centers those who have faced the most structural adversity and innovated their survival – that’s whose needs we should follow, demands we should center.

once we unveil the privilege and power and oppression in the room, we can imagine turning this circle on its side, creating a bullseye, a direction, a center for targeting attention and resources. a way to follow the center, set the pace by the center, measure relevance by how much an idea touches the needs of the center. i often do this mentally and somatically – note and acknowledge and feel the distinctions in privilege, access and struggle in any interaction. if we believe we are all equal to each other, why doesn’t it always feel that way? mindfulness helps me see where i have been trained i am less than another, or more. where i should be the center, claiming attention and resources and pointing direction, and where i should be closer to the edge, protecting and resourcing and following.

in this moment, with all the layers of impact and vectors of change, i can see that i am not the center of this moment, and that is the blessing. the center is younger, is trans, is willing and able to risk it all. in some places the center is white self-responsibility, in some places it’s black integrity, in some places it’s brown and borderless and global and post binary. the center is in the streets using full voice, unashamed, celebratory, ready for this confrontation. the center is pure, a fountain of hope and rage and possibility that feeds our greatest callings.

i notice in this returning that i mostly feel like i do when i come back to visit a family i was a doula for: i can take no credit for the actual miracle. i did encourage deep breaths and pleasure for the womb to soften, i did whisper ‘trust yourself, adapt, transform yourself, open, you can do this,’ alongside the panting sweating birthing. i feel grief for the losses, and a weepy explosive tenderness for the life that comes thru. and there are more births to come.

not being the center, but facing the center, doesn’t mean i am removed from impact. i am a black woman, with family in several uprising cities, and tentacles of work and love woven into and throughout movement – i feel the grief and the tenderness, the danger and the need for change. but i also have every possible need met right now, safety nets of community if i find myself without resources, and no direct intimate losses to police violence. i am slowly but surely paying off my debts. i am able to speak and write freely.

so i turn and face those who are grieving and teaching us about how to do this work in a way that actually helps those who are shocked by loss. or homeless, jobless, targeted by the state. or without a safety net, a reputation, an education or analysis of this moment. i acknowledge that i can feel the depth of our suffering and still not fully understand, still listen to those closer to the broken heart of this nation.

and listening to that pain, to the wisdom that follows pain, for clear leadership, i hear the brilliant emerging call: defund the police.

which is to say, redistribute the budget of community safety.

this is a logical, experimental pivot.

let us recognize a broken thing. in birth work, it is incredibly dangerous not to face reality. if the baby is in a perilous position, or unable to access sustenance, or if the baby spirit has left the flesh, we must find an adaptation.

here and now we live in a system where there is something fatal at the center of our being. this system, made up of millions of people, billions of actions, has blood on its hands, seeks vengeance and dominance under the guise of protecting innocent people, and is causing immense harm. we the body politic must release it to survive, to create compelling futures for our children. it will change us completely to release it, to divest from the violence, acknowledge that this isn’t the way, that brutal militarised police are not leading us to safety or peace, but increasing conflict and tension and danger and racism.

we can grieve the longing for safety that was dashed time and again. and then, having faced reality, we can see what has the potential for life, and we can make new realities possible. facing the reality at the center allows for the necessary induction of birth/change, the intervention, the c-section, even the miscarriage that the parent can survive.

in this pivot we face the life, the miracle, still possible from our stardust selves, our freedom dreams and precious tomorrows.

one or two steps back from the center, it is easier to see that every nuance is not urgent. every distinction doesn’t actually need the same amount of room. priorities can be localized – uprising culture is localized and better for it.

facing center, it is easier to see that while the police and 45 crew are doing the expected, we are doing things in a myriad of ways that show how we have been learning from our struggles – with each other and with the state.

i return rested and centered, shaken by all that changed in my absence, saddened by all the loss, inspired by all the expressed rage. i feel ready to follow, document, write between trenches, uplift and shine light on the workers, sing, comfort, and hold.

every time someone reaches out to me for resources, it feels so clear where to point to. it’s all over the internet but i’ll put it here too:

in general, follow #m4bl, the movement for black lives. m4bl is a set of unleashed black minds operating together with historical integrity. that is the way.

here’s a collection of healing spaces for black people as the grief compounds, adrenaline crashes, high comes down, victory unveils next steps. follow prentis hemphill and BEAM.

in most towns, there are chapters of black organizers in BYP100, black lives matter, and others who you can either join or pour resources into.

building movement across cultures/races/ethnicities? there are so many formations and alliances and efforts – the one i know most intimately is the rising majority, which flows out of the action arm of #m4bl.

white? some white people thought about y’all – here’s a scaffolded resource list. black folks think about y’all too, particularly this mama scholar writing specifically to white parents.

generally the three most helpful things you can do if you aren’t from/at center are:

– educate (read more yourself and help others see the center clearly – bell hooks, angela davis, michelle alexander, charlene carruthers, andrea ritchie – there are a wealth of living writers who can get you together)

– bless the center with a just redistribution of resources…keep gathering wealth from stagnant legacies and moving them towards the future. small or large, your generosity lets the brilliance scale up.

(when possible, don’t make organizers do additional unpaid labor {answering a bunch of questions, making sure you feel seen and thanked, educating you} for your donations. yay you were generous yay! seriously it’s great! just don’t take time or strategy away from the work of those you see and hear being effective. search, find the donate page on their website and give.)

– stop business as usual. strike, march, act, blow whistles, disarm. leave harmful positions in harmful institutions or become a wrench in the gears. be impolite. disrupt white supremacy and patriarchy and policing wherever you encounter it. don’t look for praise for doing the right thing, just do it and notice how it sharpens you, strengthens you.

look what happens when we follow the truth. yes even if you are not the center, you can drop into your center, face the center and follow.

remember, the front line of cultural struggles is wherever two or more are gathered.

i have written a lot, i was away a long time. and i am grateful to be alive with y’all specifically.

for George Floyd: fire

have you learned nothing from sunsets
flaming the entire sky with soft edges
fuchsia periwinkle whisps,
taut and temporary nature taking day,
inhaling light

have you learned nothing from autumn
blazing the earth with gorgeous death
burnt orange kiss-red fragility reaching
last chance for the sky, floating, releasing,
exhaling life

have you learned nothing from war
inferno dappled muddy hose water, puddled
green edged flames of files, photos, losses
our battleground wherever you make us
defend life

have you learned nothing of justice
the deep ever changing heart must breathe
the fire in our veins needs oxygen,
do not unleash us if you don’t want to burn
we’ll keep choosing life

have you learned nothing of love
you on your knees but we the ones praying:
let us never give up on each other
even when grief is the only match for the pyre
we honor life

it is the end of a day, a season, a way, an era
the change is tumult, terrifying and beautiful
we will never be convinced to be expendable.
alchemize every death system, liberate
our divine lives


(photos via ny times)

Pandowrimo

for a few years, i have participated in a national poetry writing practice (#napowrimo) in april. this year, april fell in the midst of a global pandemic that has left us scared, quarantined, separated, and grieving. i felt like i needed an activation of my imagination as a balm to all we’re holding. i invited others to join me and send in prompts, and for thirty days, we created fiction and art around the pandemic using the hashtags #pandowrimo and #pandemicwrimo. the prompts are on my page and all the posts i saw are gathered in highlights on my instagram. i’ve gathered my own offers here, public drafts in various states, to have them all in one place.

day 1 prompt:
Write a conversation between the virus and the crisis.

seed notes: COVID-19 is here to teach us boundaries. and to teach us we don’t need capitalism/greed/individualist society for abundance.

A grabs B’s hand and shakes it vigorously

A (white, coifed, stiff smile): How may I help you?

B (sort of green, round, with an ever shifting face): Cease to exist.

A: Excuse me?

B: Your existence is no longer of use. Become history.

A purses lips, cocks brows

B: We are here to unhook them from you.

A: We? (looking around as if someone might be behind B) Who is your we, if you don’t mind my asking?

B (face shifting many times, quickly, smiling lightly): We are god. A force of god. The shifting tide.

A: Well, not to be rude sir…eh…madam? But…our projections account for a little change here and there. (scratches nose)

B (now a young, curious brown face): Your projections only serve you. They are realizing they want boundaries. Need them.

A, eyes wide, offended: Come again?

B: Your projections…in order to exist, you suck up every aspect of them – their money but also their health, dreams, desires, privacy. They have surrendered the personal to stay alive within you.

A, smiling without their eyes: Oh they love it. Don’t be silly. They love it!

B: They feel lost, depressed, confused – like imposters. They feel fear. And hate.

A, chuckling: They feel instant –

B: Don’t say gratification. Don’t say satisfaction. They almost never feel that.

A, flummoxed, insistent: They –

B, bored: There’s not even a they with you around. There’s a tiny few who get so much. And even they aren’t happy.

A, swallowing a curse: If you would stop interrupting and listen –

B: You are used to them being docile now. Polite when they should be screaming.

A, hands up: I don’t think all this negativity is called for.

B: You never do. Wealth accumulates, slavery proliferates, you want everyone to talk nice. You build cages, walls, fences and borders, but strip them of boundaries, you make them fight to live, compete for care –

A, a bit sharp: Well, you’re doing that now, aren’t you?

B: You aren’t paying attention. We’re only dangerous to the places who don’t pay attention. They’re seeing that, that places where people attend and think collectively are adapting quickly, with very few deaths. It’s only the places that worship you who suffer.

A, sour laughter: So, what, you’re going to make them all socialists now?

B: When it’s time for a system to end, we don’t prescribe the next one. We are the inevitable result of this time. They are the ones who will adapt. To worship boundaries and laugh at borders. To redistribute care. To grow something rooted in gratitude, preciousness.

A, mask falling away to something skeletal, bruised: It’s too late. They can’t change. They depend on this way. They can’t change.

B, face shifting to something infantile: They already have.

A, mouth gaping, breath fast: We will kill you.

B: By the time you understand us, the seeds we are planting will be green, sturdy, deep.

A, teeth sharp, jowl wet: (incoherent growl)

A leaps to bite B’s throat.

B, leaps into A’s mouth.

A, makes noise of protest, trying to to gag, to swallow, to breathe – but B is invisible again, and everywhere.

day 2:
remember your premonition – go back and change

seed notes – deja vu means pay attention, some part of you has lived this before. don’t assume this is the first or only time to change, disrupt, intervene.

the air in her lungs felt too familiar. she’d done this before, this gulping breath and short, frustrated sigh. something was wrong inside, and she couldn’t get enough air, and she felt defeated. nina was supposed to be with her lover in venice, proposing to him while a gondolier/media maker filmed it in high definition.

they’d gotten into a fight because of the fucking virus, because he asked her to pull out of Carnival when it still “like the flu”, because she was 67 and he 49, little shit. this is the hard part of dating someone so young – he can see just how old she really is. in her hips, her bellyflesh, her knuckles, there are years that gather and won’t be smoothed.

he knew her age and wanted to marry her anyway. and her hesitations had all been the anticipatory embarrassment of this moment where, because she was older, she was more vulnerable to the zombies, or in this instance, the little green men. this was some suuuuper ultimate toxic masculinity – ooh, she thought, she should write that down somewhere – unwanted penetration, spraying all over your face, not revealing its true nature until its destroyed your life and everyone else’s. so, now she’s standing in the Milan airport, dabbing at feverish sweat on her forehead, face bare of mask because she’d rather die than admit that Simon might have been right.

all week had been tense between them, not in the ways of passion that often preceded their reunions, but in growing emotional distance as he railed against her leaving the hotel, yelled at her in his swallowed rage after she got pizza (down the street for heaven’s sake), and then finally said not to come home. he thought she’d get sick if she flew, bring that sick into their home. she’d been furious the whole time, hanging up on him, buying her ticket, packing up her year’s income worth of carnival gowns, all along her inner dialogue half “how fucking dare he?” and “fuck I miss him.”

she wanted her hands in his hair, just beginning to show temples of gray. she wanted to press his face into the soft of her breasts and return to their ease.

but for a moment now she wondered at this heat in her face, the exhaustion of just walking through the airport…what if Simon were right? impossible. but…what if she should have holed up in her hotel, ordered in, stayed put in Italy with all the other snow foxes, waited for the flat horizon?

as she thought this she looked up and saw a short brown woman in front of her with a floral scarf over her face in lieu of a mask. the woman’s eyes looked wild and she kept making micro-moves away from everyone else. they locked eyes. this stranger’s eyes showed fear, judgment, patience, compassion. a voice came thru the scarf, “are you sick? please don’t travel if you’re sick.” nina couldn’t answer. the stranger shook her head, already knowing nina was sick, and turned away into security, where she was immediately pulled into the extra inspection line. nina felt jolted, like she’d never been confronted before, so visibly responsible for…others? she sailed thru security as usual, no one needing an extra check from an older white woman in Italy.

on the plane she stuffed her book into the seat pocket and her bag up above and went straight to the lavatory because she felt like shit and didn’t want to deal with everyone walking by in her face, with her interrogator wanting another thick stare. “are you sick?” pulling the door behind her, again she felt the too familiar, the repetition. she knew what was coming, she grabbed a paper towel just in time to cough into it. that was different…she remembered once coughing all over the sink and mirror. “please don’t travel if you’re sick.” she looked at herself then, in the mirror, skin pale and spotted, eyes bagged, red rimmed and frightened.

sick.
shit.

her instinct was to quiet herself, take her sleeping pills, curl into her seat, get home to her man and the peace on the other side of some tears and apologies. but she’d always done that, and now the instinct itself felt heavy, off.

before she could third guess herself, she reached out and pressed the button with the tiny lego figure on it, and when the flight attendant knocked she called through the door, “I am sick. i think I have the virus! i think i might be contagious.” and in saying it, knowing it was true, surrendering control, surrendering the journey home, breaking the cycle that had, in the last rotation, infected nearly everyone on this plane and led to 1800 deaths in her city, including her own.

the flight attendant was smooth with the power in his hands, smooth evacuating the plane and requesting a thermal scan that revealed nina’s fever and four others. smooth soothing the white haired white woman into the ambulance that would take her to the hospital to see if she could get well.

and Simon, when she reached him, broke into tears – fear, relief, love, distance – this too was new. she wanted to marry him, again. she felt the space between them chasm and close. he had been right, was right – that was possible. if she lived, she was proposing to him with her first healthy breath.

day 3
an alternate timeline

day 4
the day the humans left

Day 5
What incredible technology emerges in this break from capitalism?

The Kisser

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day 6
pandemic-mates

ok pandemic-mates. how are we succeeding in our relationships and boundaries?

embodied amb: well, we do our yoga and crunches and go for walks or swim every day.

honest amb: except yesterday.

embodied: most days.

honest: and yet, we should do it every day according to a portion of the internet, and our internal assessment of the non-yoga days.

brightside amb: but we ARE doing it. AND being honest with ourselves and others more often about…everything!

shadow amb: almost everything.

embodied: we are challenging old fears and patterns each time we’re emotionally honest.

shame amb (shamemb): not everything needs to be shared.

honest: what we withhold of ourselves becomes our prison. and prison is in all ways a lie.

future amb: we succeed at bringing light inside us. we’ll be grateful for how we spent this sabbatical.

shame: shamebatical. hehe. who goes and stays on sabbatical during a pandemic?

honest: the good news is there is nothing to interrupt shame-antine!

bright side: we’re doing shametastic for having spent so many days –

honest: untouched? in 315 Sq feet?

bright side: in much needed and requested and protected solitude! by the sea!

shame: but…still on social media. harumph. not finishing any novels there.

embodied: but it’s really ok to need more connection than we planned.

honest: much like our government, we didn’t plan for a pandemic.

shadow: also, fuck our plans. most of those plans are part of an irrelevant world and everyone knows it.

honest: and the unknown isn’t special for us, you know. we aren’t the only one flailing to grasp onto facts and futures that aren’t solid.

embodied: facts, ok, those aren’t our thing. but futures! we are especially into knowing, dreaming the future. and so into seeing how it could be better. longing for that.

shadow: but now you’re not even doing anything useful.

future: with due respect, that’s a lie.

(shadow shrugs away)

future: mindful change is success. are you changing? how?

shame: I’m changing. getting a tan from all this light on my closet.

shadow: even in my lies, I feel seen and respected.

embodied: I am definitely changing. we feel so much more now, all over like a stripped down nervous system of emotion. I’m learning how to not…numb. how to harness, harness all of us.

brightside: I’m changing…i feel less cheerleader-y. like I’m able to access full moon truth even from the shadow side.

honest: we are changing. my gift of truth is being honored and centered within us, and in our connections to the world. imagine the joy and satisfaction possible, the true success possible, the right relationship possible, if we were all telling the truth – at least to ourselves.

future: oh yes. this time of change is extremely important. for all beings. you think you’ve served your purpose, achieved some things. but you’ve barely unmasked. so much more is coming. and we’ll have to really be there, not performing or projecting, but feeling. the future is felt. every feeling we are having now, every negotiated boundary and professed truth, all the anger and grief and fear AND pleasure AND joy, it’s all success.

day 7
a world where disability justice proliferates

we thought fast was who we were,
loud, legs wide, open mouth,
crass joke,
a general goal to be just like each other

but I was different – fast some ways, but also immensely slow,
performing loud to survive but
happiest alone and quiet most of the time,
processing in tears and song,
more coherent in writing than in person,
legs hips and fingers stiff each morning, imaginative ears, malleable mind,
eyes that only saw so far –
and I was never sane, I was never normal.
I had to learn to want myself, want my survival.
Thank gods my parents loved me.
The lie of normal almost drove me mad
luckily I was mad.
The contortion of difference we could hide versus the tender raw exposure of difference that showed used to determine one’s quality of life.
We were all the baby turtles racing to the ocean, predation = socialization, & there was death in the sand (which btw looks uniform only because it has been crushed and broken and worn down from the beginning of time)
geological detritus all around but I am alive, you are alive,
moving slowly as fast as we can,
difference declares life, adaptation, nurture
You & I we need a pace we can all move at.
We need nothing planned such that it cannot change.
We need a world where we can roll, walk, run, float or fly thru
We need time for our minds to understand what we know, and for our bodies to feel what we know

release the center and you see how small and boring it is
the edge is where future proliferates
and we are being pushed to the edge now
stop contorting!
find your particular way
there’s room

day 8
the banks have closed

1
i told you not to give them your money
I said fold it into the walls and the box spring
bury it at every crossroad to your beloved
I told them to keep a little out
I said it wouldn’t be worth nothing no ways
I said get you some gold
pour you a ring
build you a house
any real thing will be better than what you gonna
someday be missing

but nobody listens

2
ooh this fucking rage,
all the work we did in hunger
how long we’ve given more than everything

the rhythm of generational sacrifice
twists vibrancy in the marrow
turns down the volume of light
the brightness of sound

the rug that seemed like comfort
unveils bloodstained concrete
and we know that DNA, we remember
all of their names

3
we already know
some of us anyhow
about how precious soil is
some store it under our fingernails
so we can feel when we are home
where no one thinks they cleaned up
just to look down at what should have never become unknown

we already know that care equals care
a spell for a tincture, a birth for a barn,
a winter’s worth of wood for the newlyweds
the passed down bibs marked with
whoever came first in the order
we already know it’s a distraction, cash money
we can remember ourselves quickly
what with so many people,
who’ve been living this way always
always outside the myth of trickles

4
we can change whenever we want to
oh…we haven’t really wanted to
we had just enough to keep pulling the lever
just enough to shrug, innocent
just enough to keep our babies soft
just enough to plain clothes police each other
on the internet
to point and defer guilt to the “richer than us”
to pay for our own demise annually
to forget we need warriors and truth tellers and laughter and tomorrow

we see very quickly,
only sudden to a sheltered few
how we always have the numbers
as many of us as there are zeros in that bank
we can go and get that money
we can go and get so much more

5
when the time comes
we will pull off these masks
we will remember it wasn’t meant to be like this
it really wasn’t isn’t and will not be
the money is an idea – we are, this is, the value
so meditate, pray, submit to not knowing
the right way all the time
weep, scream. bury. blame. surrender.
choose a future for all of us
crack your knuckles, prepare for battle
howl at the waning moon until it waxes, and then?
from the depths of our grief
we’ll become green again

Day 9
Write a harm and recovery or transformation story

we finally learned to turn away from each other
not destroy each other
but find the boundaries of our breaths

we finally learned to move towards opposite walls
lean our cheeks to the brick, borrow depth
find what earth was left in us

we finally learned how small our circles are
no reckless elbow, no casual police, no righteousness
can fit in this house, this heart, this earth

we finally remembered: after all the hurt we’d caused
the forgiveness we’d needed was precious,
the wounds we healed here, healed all

day 10
healthcare

whisper to each other, trench to trench
tell no lies, then we can have faith in what we hear
one body, one trail of hungry ants

warn each other of the death that is coming
but remember, the intricate pathway isn’t destined
this plague in the wood, this virus on the wind

keep moving towards life, growing deeper underground
be fecund, unique, laughter in light
but in the dark? pulse, reach, grasp, bond

the world is toxic, we will swallow poison
if we can process it, we will live
changed, fed, wiser, more humble

the world is toxic – it may overwhelm your small body
and then you will feed the dirt,
and we, we will water you

day 11
what unknown capacities are unveiled by pandemic and what happens because of them?

we learned to hug with one hand on our hearts
we could feel each other without moving our bodies, beam love from our palms
relinquish known futures for ‘togetherness someday’

and in the hours alone, especially for those
parenting alone, caretaking alone, grieving alone
we learned how to fill time to brim with
meaning. rest. weeping. sorrow.

we didn’t know we could hold so much sorrow
and still breathe, didn’t know we could get used to the wind chime rhythm of broken hearts pulsing in chorus,
awakening. remembering.

we woke up to the unbearable world
we had created, built, begged entry into
one small desperation at a time…
in a closed system blame is relative and then irrelevant

we learned to stay awake even when we wanted to drift away, how to sleep through nightmares
numb was on sale each day, essential even now
still, we learned to sustain, to direct, our attention

we remembered there was an off screen world
we could hear a living thing creeping up behind us
we could smell when fear left our bodies, returned
the salt of each grief tasted new

we must but can we remember how to tighten up
we hope we can remember how to cast a village
we pray we will remember how to weave the roots
when, when will we remember how to go to war

day 12
being with shadow

did I ever tell you
how everything about humanity makes me
so tender
I could be weeping all the time
my eyes see all the darkness
the shadows crawl across the floor
peek from the corners
laugh when I’m laughing
counting it down
they will take it back with the next sentence

I create troughs
threading away from my heart
spilling down my limbs to pulse out
sole of foot, palm of hand
all wide for the ground
in this way, I can open my eyes
since I was a newborn
people have asked me for direction
and I have almost always felt which way to point
away from me, away, away from me

I hear something coming
which is asking me to receive
to stop letting things go through me
to reawaken the black hole at my center
the part powered by what we lose
what we grieve, and by longing
to reach is to live, to reach is sacred
be attached to aliveness
and nothing else
trust: when life is done, it will let you go

day 13
reincarnation

video reading

waves crash in, riverbanks flood
the original souls – a handful in the cosmic sense –
split and fractured for so long
into so many sand particle lives
all feeling some else missing thing some gone
perhaps even half of themselves,
perhaps even more

waves pull away, river narrows, cracks
more soul concentrates in each little riddle of flesh
bringing back more humilities, a variety of heart breaks, the trauma of true love, of being whole
not thinking of wholeness, but feeling how
you are not wrong, you never were wrong
you were always a child reaching for light

a wave takes flight, a river finds its infinite tail
we realize the total pleasure of minds, desires, histories, dreams, and futures other than our own
left alone, one would always become god
create another to long for, lean on, snuggle into
and then miss, and return to
and then grieve

addendum:

these newest oldest parts of ourself
remind those coming generations, from within, of truth:
if you cannot grieve you will not survive
life is not promised, death is not fair
the politics of care reveal what people love
don’t let those who cannot love lead you
bitterness is only bearable when paired with sweet and with change
it didn’t have to be this way – what will you change in yourself to make this moment impossible to repeat?

day 14
intimacy at a distance

day 15
honoring femme work

and then one day, enough blood on our hands, the people rose up. we felt it was time to stop living in the trap of a violent sociopath, to stop participating in the complicity of politics as usual in 2020, the lies, pandering, peacocking, compromise, genocide. it was a coup, but so much more than that. it was a chaos. the rallying cries were simple: say no. do not participate in decisions that are inhumane. and then, in the span of a season, any politician who was locally determined to be inadequate to the work of leading during an apocalypse was removed from office – not by skilled military forces, but by mothers. millions of mothers stormed into these offices and put these putrid politicians in timeout. very few places resisted with violence because we all knew the value of mothers, their fundamental and complex innocence fed by the radical imperative of unconditional love. plus, we needed the management skills of mothering. we all read a manifesto from a small group called movement generation that helped us remember all that we needed to survive right now, and offered best practices for local recentering of humans and earth in both policy and practice. a thoughtful circle of mothers called mamis unite, who’d spent years building online supportive community, issued a hasty but sound protocol that each local body of mothers could use in their revolutionary experiment:

let it be messy.
stay kind, be firm, and in decision making ask – is this right for our children? is this right for the land?
focus on the next step that moves us closer to a care-based society.
ask nurses to form councils and generate plans for running our hospitals and clinics. if desired, select doctors who can serve an advisory role.
ask teachers and social workers to work together to create justice councils to bring order and fairness to the impossible circumstances of modern life, and to gather curricula for teaching the next generations to participate in a just democracy.
ask domestic workers and janitors for guidance on cleaning house and eliminating waste.
ask caretakers how to make all of our homes safe during the next phase of the pandemic.
ask grandmothers how to prioritize the resources of your building, block, town or city.
ask homeless parents how to make what we have miraculously be enough.
ask administrators and secretaries to run their places of work.
allow charismatic leaders and celebrities to continue to entertain us, and to make meaning of our coup.
we won’t all do it the same way, the mothers said. but the chaos of care is a better option than the stability of sadism.

day 16
exchange between too alone and too together

hiawatha heard the ocean.

she’d been surrounded by seven people for more days than she could count. she loved these people, these were her people. if she had been far away from them, she’d have longed for them in her love languages of insomnia and chewed fingers. but they were here. all of them. all the time.

a wave crashed, dispersed, a hush, a mist. she knew these sounds. she needed these sounds.

gram. father. ma. hiawatha’s son, grapevine. grapevine’s daddy, donavan and his partner ethel. and hiawatha’s new girlfriend, shreya. all the time.

hearing this vast sound made her stop at the sink, hands clasped and covered in soap. eyes closed she saw a flood of variations on blue, some sea, some sky. in her own darkness she felt a salted sun touch her face. the stillness of this constant motion brought her breath.

this was gram’s house, the one they’d teased her about – why do you need all these rooms, gram? and these stacks of magazines and newspapers? and four french presses, and every book ever written? and scrubbed aluminum foil?

another parent at grapevine’s school had gotten sick, hiawatha had asked gram if they could stay with her because she knew how to care and she had a yard. one by one, the rooms had filled up with the people who loved grapevine and would follow him and his mama to any bunker.

waves come in, waves go out. nothing is permanent, nothing is safe. in the vast world find your depth. you can be storming and calm, you’re that massive. ride the changes, go deep under the biggest waves. when you leave this shore it will change and you’ll never be here again.

hiawatha turned, seeing her world anew. grapevine curled against gram on the couch, donavan, ethel and shreya quietly learning trust at the puzzle table, father and ma making messes on all the freshly scrubbed counters as they made the 1000th meal.

when this time ends I’ll never be here again, she knew.
she opened her mouth, she dove back in.

day 17
pandemic erotica

they stood in her foyer in their street suit. everyone wore them now, gray, lightweight, full body with a visor.

“take it off,” she called through the glass pane of her apartment door. they reached up and slowly unzipped themselves from the top of their head to the bottom of their feet and stepped out.

over their mask were wide hungry brown eyes under a scruffy self-fade. she’d liked the pictures of their face online, tho who knew when she’d see it in person. it felt strange to know they also couldn’t see more than her eyes – her flirtation was so much in the lips. oh well.

they hung their suit on the rack and slowly pulled off their gloves, watching her. she liked the eye contact, the long body unveiled before her, t-shirt clinging to a slender torso, thick hips a pleasant surprise in fitted joggers.

“come in.” she opened the door and they stepped in, and she immediately pivoted them both into the front closet she had repurposed for these sexcapades – no need to bleach the whole house for a short hookup.

in the little closet they both put on the cheap single use latex gloves she had in the supply basket, next to lube and condoms and wipes. she opened her robe so they could see her fat belly, full breasts, pussy hair shaped in a heart because she’d had ample time to learn things like that. their masked mouth gaped and smiled as they awkwardly undressed to nakedness, their soft eyes showed everything.

“first i would kiss you,” they finally spoke, low, easy.

“yes please. i’d love to taste your jaw. your neck,” she reached her hands up and traced her fingers where her mouth wanted to go. they leaned their head back and let her touch them, she thought they were smiling under that mask. then they pulled her against them, burying their face in her hair and neck. for a long time they held each other, flesh to flesh, feeling the quick breath between them, the need greater and simpler than words.

finally they whispered near her ear, “your breasts are gorgeous,” and took her breasts up in big pillowy handfuls, squeezing a bit rough at first and then teasing her nipples until she wanted to be swallowed. they bent down briefly and covered their fingers in lube. “close your eyes.” she needed the authority in their tone, and easily closed her eyes and let her robe drop all the way to the floor. what they did, that wet pressure on both breasts, came close to the sensation of sucking.

she expected them to keep going, to quickly fuck her like the others had, but this one, they noticed how her nipples responded, clitoral, ever growing shafts. she felt the heat between her thighs. she had missed foreplay, she had missed surprise. they said, “i would suck you forever”…and then they stayed there, visibly aroused themselves, watching her begin to lose control, sliding slick fingers and palms over her small erections, pressing and pulling, twisting, thrumming, until she came, just like that.

“one.” they said. the new lovers laughed, the blessing of a good match unveiled in spite of all the ways they were still covered. they kept counting until the sun came up.

day 18
a fresh quarantine release first encounter (but make it fashion)

let me be sun on your skin
feel that miraculous proximity
you are all beauty to me
your attention is a revelation

I love your bleach and fear scars
I want to trace you with my fingertips
come and see all of my scars
I had to gather so much life to me

I love your beautiful smile
unmasked, unrushed, unafraid and unscreened
please, please touch all of my face
cheek to cheek, kiss me, and kiss me again

day 19
the next economy

memory and dream weave together a net that no one can slip through.

we remember that everyone needs time to wander. we dream that everyone has comfort and a clear river on their journey.

we remember that circles hold each other through scarce times. we dream that technology will relieve us of bureaucracy.

we remember that what grows and breathes is more valuable than ashes. we dream of losing greed like we lost our tails.

we remember that constructs make us small and hungry, feeling so wrong. we dream of an economy that lets our inner realms grow beyond imagining.

we remember we are earth. we dream we are one.

day 20
future food systems

are you sated yet with starving
are you ready to be seed
to root into dirt, stop fearing soil
come down and listen to ground
are you tired of your own empty gut
missing each sign and each season
are you hungry? are you angry?
are you ready to listen to reason?

it is time to worship the earth

it is time to focus on farmers
teach our children the prayer of planting
everyone, gasp at the garden
the abundance of home is amazing
there’s an order, a rhythm, a heartbeat
there’s a tenderness waiting for rain
there’s a world longing for our touch
we can be reverent again

it is time to worship the earth

day 21
a day in successful movement in social distancing

journal entry, 2022

it’s come to this, then: to succeed, secede? learning to hold boundaries within militarized borders seems to be just the beginning of the gifts we have pulled from the ashes of the pandemic. although my god it’s been two years! and people are still getting sick from deploravirus – none of us could have predicted how the conservatives would take themselves out, rushing into the toxic streets and stores in an individualistic orgy of casual suicides, then refusing the vaccine and cure when they came, sentencing themselves and their families to crisis and death. millions of people who hate my existence are gone, even though i, we, tried to save them. and what’s left? the Traditional States of America. and us, as yet unnamed, but united in ways we didn’t know were possible.

this is the new emerging politic – there’s our collectivism, that’s the evolutionary path. individualism is conservatism, regardless of claimed party or politic.

i can still remember the terrified malaise after the first waves tsunamied through every city i loved. back when we didn’t know anything, back when we thought we could still return to normal. and then the pivot, as we buried our loved ones and understood we had to think collectively of our safety and resources, we had to go forward…that’s when COVID-19 truly split the wheat from the chaff. we didn’t think we were ready. we weren’t really, we never had answers exactly. we still don’t.

but organizers were ready. ready to learn, to play, to say ‘I don’t know’, to experiment, to teach.

and we, so tired of being a nation within a nation, used the safety protocols and physical distancing to lay the groundwork for tomorrow’s vote, when states will finally choose whether to stay or to go. after this vote, there will be a three month period of relocation, and then we will land in the future. our new nation has been ideological…now it will be geographical. we will grieve the united states. we will learn with indigenous comrades how to restore our ancient relationship with new and old earth. we must learn to harness our screen time connecting into being a people with no border. we’ve been at least two nations for so long. now we will learn how to stay safe against a small minded, armed, racist, regressive nation. this will not be easy. but we no longer have to pretend we are one body, one people, with those who have opted out of the future.

day 22
What have we learned (are we learning) about (navigating and) strengthening intergenerational relationships?

I always wanted to be a whole person
with every other person, also whole
wielding the strength seeded by strangers,
grown in roots that trail back from the spine
knowing how to turn towards the sun
knowing our oldest names, our songs, our stories
knowing the kind of love that does not waver

but we didn’t get to learn all the songs
and we hadn’t heard all the stories
we don’t even know the name of the dirt
we didn’t really know what was taken
until the flood receded, with our memories
pulled away, salt and sand, not gone
but no longer here in our hands

we learned to listen past patience
to humble ourselves enough to become
an altar for our ancestors
soil for our grandparents’ stories, tears
to become the love we so longed for
which can only be learned thru loss
distance, and years

day 23
what has been mended?

the wound in me
which seeks solitude to fix my loneliness
has learned to say
hold me as I am

the earthquake in me
who just knows I’ll be whole if I can get still
has found the peace possible
in panicked motion

the judge in me
which wants to control all the world’s transgressions
has learned I can’t even
control myself

the storm is within and without
undoing each structure I’ve ever built or known
gifting me the lesson again:
the change is the constant

the chaos is the mend
the tears are the river
the wave is the window
the release is the way

day 24
global solidarity, boundaries, borders

they say the differences between us
are not visible from space

from outer space the only border is gradation
are you of the blue world
or the green one with swaths of blood red and brown?
we don’t care that you want to be
mermaid, whale, octopus
you are dirt and weapon

from inner space the only border is porous
an infinite realm of cells to swallow,
to pray into, fortify, change, to master
so, are you healthy or dying? both? always?
how ridiculous.
who made you so stubborn and fragile

every kind of people are mostly poor
but the story the rich tell
confuses us all into thinking we chose our misery
borders between a hungry people and our fecund earth
bricked with underdeveloped ideology
gnaw at the belly and the spirit

how can we love without the moat
the fortress, the guards, the groping pat down
the detector, the mask, the glove
the cage, the court, the verdict
the blame, the gates, the fences,
the passwords, the secrets, the omissions

how do we love beyond the myth of safety?

i say the differences between us
make of our hearts so many stars in the void

day 25
staggering collective emotional burnout

some creatures swallow mulberry leaves
spin silk from their longing to be set free
others cast silk from dark spinnerets
praying fat prey will crash and feed
some swing from branch and vine and sky
with babies who learn young not to let go
others form circles in the ice and snow
protecting their children, whose wings do not fly

we spin in the solitary cage of success
thrash against webs made of concrete and chrome
let go too soon of the wisest hands
always try first to stand here alone
because someone told us this death is our nature
solitude deified to nomenclature
but now we are crawling through our telephones
having suffered enough, we surrender to home

inching there we pass in the dark and fog
last week’s collapse strolling back our way
not healed, not whole, but dignified
able to look us all in the eye
burning anguish held, bright flaws dismissed
deep rest affirmed, furrowed foreheads kissed
we all need our mothers, and they’re all too far
and we’re surprised again at how normal we are

day 26
courage not to go back to normal

the hardest part was saying no
you can’t come in close / touch / be here
feeling thru doors, stepping aside in the sun
being first in the crowd to mask up

the hardest part was seeing
we were different in a way that would matter
i’d taken our “of course” things for granted
i wanted to trust you to live forever
i couldn’t control your mortality
you were feeling rebellious

the hardest part was finding the courage
to say how i felt in real time
my voice trembling, hitched, stone, ice
but never a weapon

the hardest part was letting go
of the crisis which made us feel important
to grasp onto the mundane
that made us feel alive

day 27
collective soul shape, state shift

I can’t stop thinking the universe has us all by the throat with her dazzling hands.
we can’t stop thinking.
I can’t stop wondering how long it takes to surrender. until the end of our bending? or the end of our breaking? how small can we shatter, will we become the sparkle in certain concrete or

I can’t stop feeling like a diamond before the beauty during the horrific pressure that makes them fill with light.
we can’t stop feeling.
this loss, being deep within the earth so close to her warm heart, but the explosion of leaving her body, pulled pushed ejected from what felt like always

I can’t stop bowing with awe at the plot twist, that we are so powerful and gorgeous all the time but feel so helpless.
we can’t stop bowing.
we thought we were complete but only now, only now do we hear the tireless tap tapping of excavation, as one by one we are gathered for our next labor: love

day 28
staying open

the tangerine taught me how to die (or how to open)

thumbnail splitting peel
pulling off her gown in one piece, unveiling
flinging shocks of essence into the air
briefly visible
the bitter scent split from the
sweet promise

but still not open

the exhale of connective tissue
one circle becomes many moons
each part similar (normal)
each piece unique (special)
centered, then piled in my palm
clinging, releasing, wide, falling apart

but still not open

on my busy tongue the taut skinbody
veined and ripe, perfect and ready
(and still not open)
it is only the gnashing of my teeth, the suckling,
the bursting of life, lips to throat, the swallow
the total destruction of self for the unknown

now, now we are open

BONUS: A BINDING SPELL

day 29
getting back in alignment with original instructions

care for yourself and everything else (transmission)

everything is teacher, virus too is teacher, is practice ground, sickness, death, we all die, we all need practice. this virus has been a practice of coming into awareness of our collective selfishness. (I am not selfish you are selfish…) we can see the inward focus in others, but mostly feel ourselves to be good (I was trying to be as good, as thoughtful, as selfless as a saint, but I failed). trying and just failing to care enough for others, that’s us. the awareness of how selfish and self-focused we’ve been, when it comes (detonates from another’s mouth, or in a moment of stillness), can make us deny, panic, freeze, spiral, disappear.

selfishness is the contagion.

with this virus, the self falls away, or the selfishness is unveiled.

it doesn’t matter if you alone tend towards health, the virus will hitch a ride on your breath and collar to those who can’t protect themselves.

it doesn’t matter if you want to quarantine, your job is essential to others, or your big boss is unwilling or unable to give you the time off. or you need the money not to stop for a second. you need groceries, and you need to bring your kids.

it doesn’t matter if you wear a mask and bleach everything and wash your hands raw, that one coughing maskless person has no idea what six feet look like.

and even if, even if we’re all fine, if we all recover, if we all survive – we have to acknowledge (in spite of all evidence that we do not care) that the earth is thriving in our containment, our stillness.

our connection to everything is undeniable. i never knew the language of the original instruction but now I wonder if it’s written in each thing’s code, ‘here is how you be’. when i listen to my bones the instruction is care: care for this body and all other bodies, care generates harmony and balance, care for boundaries without borders. care for each connection, and if it must end, care for the ending. care for communities and have as many as you can care for. care for this planet with how you pet, feed, water, eat, till, plant, and harvest. if it is too challenging for you personally to care for strangers, accept your limitation, and just care for family, you define it, you define who you care for. care generally for futures, or specifically for your own future and the futures of those you can care for.

and you can be single and solitary and solo and silent and still be caring, still relinquish selfishness, maybe that isolation is your deepest care, maybe you need that quiet to heal enough to care again, maybe in this moment you need the care, and it is caring to let others care for you (did you know that caring feels like a burden only when it isn’t shared?) – the more people who care, the more joy, the more we are able to make use of this existence, which came with instructions, which everyone got, and some forgot, and some never learned how to hear, but nonetheless this is how it works: together.

day 30
post pandemic story

in five years

the chaos is brand new, still
we pour our hearts into each day
carefully, slowly, we hold nothing back
sleep shows us a mycelial way
we oak root in the hurricane
we ripple borders like leather whips
we’ve let go of the ceaseless pain
who knows when we’ll feel home again

3 year old

we are always somewhere new
home is where my mommy sleeps
we are finding out what’s true
home is where we feel our feet

on my deathbed

I saw the end of an empire
can you imagine, we split from chaff
we got the mess of nationbirth
and we got the miracle

Auburn Lives of Commitment Ceremony, adrienne and Autumn’s speech

autumn: we are thrilled to be receiving the lives of commitment honor. we were humbled and surprised to get the news and wanted to start off by saying thank you all so so much.

amb: to be seen in our commitments feels like love in public. we are committed to certain ideas that have led both of our lives, rearranged us, picked us up from paths that were not ours, and deposited us on purpose.

autumn: we would like to share with you our guiding commitments. this is a moment when we need commitment to get through – commitment to each other, and commitment to having a future on the other side of this apocalypse. our first commitment is to the power of the collective – to finding ways to work cooperatively, generate interdependence, and learn to think and dream collectively.

amb: it is our right and responsibility to prepare for the future. we are committed to preparing ourselves, our communities and our children to survive in the future, and to shape it.

autumn: communities who live on the margins of capitalism have a lot to teach us about our own unlearning and remembering work. we are committed to learning from, and uplifting teachers from, those communities fundamentally opposed to supremacy, patriarchy, militarism and greed.

amb: we are a commitment to, as grace lee boggs taught us, transforming ourselves to transform the world. for us this means healing ourselves, not letting trauma control our reactions, and mending our relationships in order to contribute to healing the wound of human disconnection from earth and village. we want to learn from and collaborate with this miraculous planet, from each other…we must reconnect.

autumn: change is hard. even though we’ve known forever that this isn’t the way, it’s become familiar. what we need to move towards is a way of living that will give us futures, but it’s a huge risk. we are a commitment to taking risks, pushing off from the shore, being uncomfortable, but holding on to each other and encouraging each other towards liberation.

amb: we are a commitment to revolution. we honor the years of our ancestors and elders fighting for reforms to make this life bearable, while also recognizing that the societal transformation we need for the long term is complex, radical, and reaches into almost every aspect of human thought and practice.

autumn: we are a commitment to family, which, to us, means learning the unconditional love that gives us a foundation for transformative justice. we can learn boundaries. we are not our worst day. we must stop destroying each other.

amb: and finally, we are a commitment to pleasure. apocalypse is terrifying, and it’s hard work, and it’s going to require all of us to give all of ourselves. laughter, togetherness, play, rest – we are a commitment to filling up the cavern of sorrow with joy.

care for yourself and everything else (transmission)

(day 29 #pandowrimo prompt: Humans have broken the original agreements and we are at a crossroads. How do we restore the balance?
@elotedream)

everything is teacher, virus too is teacher, is practice ground, sickness, death, we all die, we all need practice. this virus has been a practice of coming into awareness of our collective selfishness. (I am not selfish you are selfish…) we can see the inward focus in others, but mostly feel ourselves to be good (I was trying to be as good, as thoughtful, as selfless as a saint, but I failed). trying and just failing to care enough for others, that’s us. the awareness of how selfish and self-focused we’ve been, when it comes (detonates from another’s mouth, or in a moment of stillness), can make us deny, panic, freeze, spiral, disappear.

selfishness is the contagion.

with this virus, the self falls away, or the selfishness is unveiled.

it doesn’t matter if you alone tend towards health, the virus will hitch a ride on your breath and collar to those who can’t protect themselves.

it doesn’t matter if you want to quarantine, your job is essential to others, or your big boss is unwilling or unable to give you the time off. or you need the money not to stop for a second. you need groceries, and you need to bring your kids.

it doesn’t matter if you wear a mask and bleach everything and wash your hands raw, that one coughing maskless person has no idea what six feet look like.

and even if, even if we’re all fine, if we all recover, if we all survive – we have to acknowledge (in spite of all evidence that we do not care) that the earth is thriving in our containment, our stillness.

our connection to everything is undeniable. i never knew the language of the original instruction but now I wonder if it’s written in each thing’s code, ‘here is how you be’. when i listen to my bones the instruction is care: care for this body and all other bodies, care generates harmony and balance, care for boundaries without borders. care for each connection, and if it must end, care for the ending. care for communities and have as many as you can care for. care for this planet with how you pet, feed, water, eat, till, plant, and harvest. if it is too challenging for you personally to care for strangers, accept your limitation, and just care for family, you define it, you define who you care for. care generally for futures, or specifically for your own future and the futures of those you can care for.

and you can be single and solitary and solo and silent and still be caring, still relinquish selfishness, maybe that isolation is your deepest care, maybe you need that quiet to heal enough to care again, maybe in this moment you need the care, and it is caring to let others care for you (did you know that caring feels like a burden only when it isn’t shared?) – the more people who care, the more joy, the more we are able to make use of this existence, which came with instructions, which everyone got, and some forgot, and some never learned how to hear, but nonetheless this is how it works: together.

capitalism IS a conspiracy

capitalism IS a conspiracy.

it works because it’s out in the open, and there are so many ways to be greedy that all of those benefiting from the conspiracy don’t have to coordinate. in fact, it feeds off conflict – intimate, electoral, corporate, and especially the conflicts that proliferate in moments of disaster.

you don’t need to add more once you truly understand how deep that rabbit hole goes.
follow the money. ask yourself who benefits from a confused and suspicious people?

to resist the conspiracy, spend less time consuming the internet, and more time developing relationships with real people with whom you share the tangible (shelter, transportation, masks, medicine, groceries, care, childcare) and the intangible (listening, loving, dreaming, trusting, laughter, grief). follow and respect the workers, the doctors, the scientists, the caretakers, those who call back to us from the front lines with strategies and requests for help and adaptation (as opposed to those who cower behind us and tell us to trust nothing, and not to adapt for collective safety).

capitalists are absolutely looking at how to benefit from the tragedy we are currently in – medical supplies, technology control, security, borders, data access, benefiting from an economy that crashes and has to rebuild.

we have to be looking at how we deepen our relationships to hold each other through this, claim power for our communities, and be accountable with those we most love and want to protect and be with.

two places for good reading on this:

Disaster Capitalism, Naomi Klein
@movementgeneration web page

please place more suggestions (clear, accessible analysis and thinking) in the comments if you have them.

suggestions so far

Paradise Built in Hell, Rebecca Solnit
Sacred Economics, Charles Eisenstein
Surveillance Capitalism, Shoshana Zuboff
I, Coronavirus – http://www.emergencenetwork.org/icoronavirus/
Arundhati Roy

shadows

day 12 #pandowrimo prompt:

How do we shape change from a place of turmoil and grief?

A) How do we deconstruct and disarm despair: what does despair take from us and how do we do the shadow work to replace what is stolen?

(what does it look like on the other side of shadow work?)

@ky_magdalene, @sea_witch_love, amb

…..

did I ever tell you
how everything about humanity makes me
so tender
I could be weeping all the time
my eyes see all the darkness
the shadows crawl across the floor
peek from the corners
laugh when I’m laughing
counting it down
they will take it back with the next sentence

I create troughs
threading away from my heart
spilling down my limbs to pulse out
sole of foot, palm of hand
all wide for the ground
in this way, I can open my eyes
since I was a newborn
people have asked me for direction
and I have almost always felt which way to point
away from me, away, away from me

I hear something coming
which is asking me to receive
to stop letting things go through me
to reawaken the black hole at my center
the part powered by what we lose
what we grieve, and by longing
to reach is to live, to reach is sacred
be attached to aliveness
and nothing else
trust: when life is done, it will let you go

Pandowrimo, prompt 8

pandowrimo prompt 8

We wake up and all the banks have closed overnight, leaving us with no access to our resources. (What are we told? What do we do? How do we change?) – @crumbsandcobwebs

What economy do we create in absence of a ‘functional’ racial capitalism?

FullSizeRender

1
i told you not to give them your money
I said fold it into the walls and the box spring
bury it at every crossroad to your beloved
I told them to keep a little out
I said it wouldn’t be worth nothing no ways
I said get you some gold
pour you a ring
build you a house
any real thing will be better than what you gonna
someday be missing

but nobody listens

2
ooh this fucking rage,
all the work we did in hunger
how long we’ve given more than everything

the rhythm of generational sacrifice
twists vibrancy in the marrow
turns down the volume of light
the brightness of sound

the rug that seemed like comfort
unveils bloodstained concrete
and we know that DNA, we remember
all of their names

3
we already know
some of us anyhow
about how precious soil is
some store it under our fingernails
so we can feel when we are home
where no one thinks they cleaned up
just to look down at what should have never become unknown

we already know that care equals care
a spell for a tincture, a birth for a barn,
a winter’s worth of wood for the newlyweds
the passed down bibs marked with
whoever came first in the order
we already know it’s a distraction, cash money
we can remember ourselves quickly
what with so many people,
who’ve been living this way always
always outside the myth of trickles

4
we can change whenever we want to
oh…we haven’t really wanted to
we had just enough to keep pulling the lever
just enough to shrug, innocent
just enough to keep our babies soft
just enough to plain clothes police each other
on the internet
to point and defer guilt to the “richer than us”
to pay for our own demise annually
to forget we need warriors and truth tellers and laughter and tomorrow

we see very quickly,
only sudden to a sheltered few
how we always have the numbers
as many of us as there are zeros in that bank
we can go and get that money
we can go and get so much more

5
when the time comes
we will pull off these masks
we will remember it wasn’t meant to be like this
it really wasn’t isn’t and will not be
the money is an idea – we are, this is, the value
so meditate, pray, submit to not knowing
the right way all the time
weep, scream. bury. blame. surrender.
choose a future for all of us
crack your knuckles, prepare for battle
howl at the waning moon until it waxes, and then?
from the depths of our grief
we’ll become green again

a telepathic communion with dino

amb: dino?

dino?

i’m trying telepathy to reach you because a lot is going on that i could use some ancient insight on. and frankly i don’t know when i’ll be allowed in the chicago airport again.

dino: i’m here.

amb: wow! wow i feel you!

dino (smiling): i’m always available. but if i explained how, it might mess up our whole thing.

amb: like i told santa, i choose the magic.

dino: every time. so. are you here to tell me where the masses have gone?

amb: you noticed?

dino: i almost exclusively see in patterns these days. the river is a stream, the stream becoming a drizzle.

me: there’s a virus. it passes with no symptoms, hides inside us for two weeks, and it’s bigger than our healthcare system.

dino: nefarious. everywhere?

amb: at first it wasn’t, but now it really is. so we’re all staying home to try and slow it down while we find cures, vaccines, face masks, ventilators. thousands of people are dying.

dino: i’m so sorry to hear that.

amb, hesitant: is it our asteroid, dino?

dino, pausing a moment: you’re really scared, huh.

amb: terrified.

dino: but…isn’t this your thing? change, apocalypse? the collapse of capitalism? right relationship to the earth?

amb: totally. but i don’t want to lose the people i love. and i can’t make everyone stay home – i’ve tried. and i don’t want to die yet.

dino takes a deep breath.

dino: it’s hard when death comes in big waves. so much grief all at once.

amb: and for what? earth is getting this brief moment of respite, respiration. but so many bosses are still endangering their workers and plotting ways to capitalize this crisis. is this the end of capitalism, or the beginning of global authoritarian rule, or extinction, or liberation? what are we meant to learn?

dino: woah. hey now. it generally doesn’t help to make too much meaning of things that are still unfolding. from within the storm, vision is limited. and you, my friend, you and your species are in the storm.

amb: but deeper meaning helps me get thru the hard parts of life.

dino: hmmm.

amb: i need something to control. a narrative will do in absence of order, safety. i think i’ll become useless without meaning. the grief. the fear, anxiety, suspicion, sinophobia. the blur of my empathetic self feeling everything. i need something to root in to.

dino: i feel your chaos. perhaps instead of meaning, it’s time to revisit destiny.

amb: “the destiny of earthseed is to take root amongst the stars.”

dino: mmmm!

amb: octavia butler wrote that.

dino: she was always nice to me.

amb: that’s amazing. i have been rethinking her destiny. or, our way of understanding it.

dino: say more.

amb: i always thought it purely meant space travel. but she struggled with sequels, because no world she found in her imagination was as right for us as earth. and on earth, we are amongst the stars, here and now. this is a perfect home spinning in space. we may even be celestial to someone else.

dino, mulling it over: hmmmmmmm.

amb: i think we need to root here. re-root. choose here.

dino: perhaps. or maybe all of this, this way of being – on earth or in space – just isn’t your destiny. meaning, maybe human destiny isn’t the most important thing.

amb, sad eyes: now you say more.

dino: i often think that we are all experiments of an earth figuring out her destiny. she likes living things. she likes sentient creatures that love and make family and eat. in our experiment, she learned she wanted a species that could look up to the stars, defend her from asteroids.

amb: oh wow. so…our experiment could be teaching her to not let evil people accumulate all the power and money?

dino, chuckling: perhaps.

amb: or?

dino: perhaps it’s just time to see how what you call evil, what i call wrong relationship, how that can spread, can disconnect a species from its future.

amb: right. it’s like the virus itself, invisible. but making the wrong structures and systems and beliefs so visible.

dino: we can never teach how evil a thing is better than it will show us itself, with time.

amb: but it’s in all of us. or most, to varying degrees. this i, i, i, exceptionalism.

dino: hm.

amb: sorry. i want to let in new perspective. it’s just that all the problems are so big. and intertwined. and i’m supposed to be one of the ‘hopeful’ ones.

dino: what was that?

amb: what?

dino: that…tone. you sound…

amb: sharp? ugh. sorry – that happens when i’m trying to be funny but i feel something else. sad. scared. grief.

dino: ah humans. tone is the tip of your internal icebergs.

quiet together for a while.

dino: tell me something. can you imagine being sad and scared and still feeling hopeful?

amb: it’s hard.

dino: can i offer something?

amb: please.

dino: it’s not an asteroid.

amb, shoulders dropping: oh.

dino: hope, hopefulness, that’s the realm of the survivors. it’s not too late for y’all. grief shows us what we love, what we most want to protect. it swallows everything extraneous. and so much of what you love is still here. and tomorrow is another miraculous opportunity to change, to protect it.

amb: dang dino.

dino: ha. i guess i’ve been a little scared too. i don’t want you to give in, give up.

amb, hugging dino’s telepathic neck for a good cry.

dino, gently, into amb’s telepathic hair: we’re all rooting for you, you know. all the extinct ones. we’re all at your backs. you humans have so much beauty in you.

amb, sniffly: there is so much superhumanity and kindness and humility and change happening. and humor. and dancing online across all borders. and caretaking. and new kinds of honesty. and heroic communal isolation. and choosing to protect the future.

dino: very good. that’s life. grieve like the trees in october. but don’t forget you are nature, and spring is certain.

amb: i am glad to know we can be together in this way.

dino: me too. isolated is one perspective of this moment. deeply connected is another.

amb: love you dino.

dino: love you too.

sabbatical your quarantine

god is change, change is god. this has been a time of massive change in every direction.

a week ago i was at the end of a dirt road in tuscany having the rural italian sabbatical of a lifetime. i was initially a coronavirus minimizer, focused on how it wasn’t going to touch me personally, and how was i going to get to my pizza – one of the main reasons italy was a destination for me.

and then, with everyone else, i faced the reality – coronavirus is going to touch us all, impact us all, change all of our trajectories. i woke up a week ago and adapted quickly. i grieved the sabbatical i had planned, and then i opened my heart to something else.

i booked a place to be where i could still rest, create, be away; still do my internal work. i traveled around the shook world with a face scarf and torn gloves, stocked up on groceries, and drove away from humans. i have been self-quarantined since i landed, while also in touch with all the people i know on earth.

several of these earthlings have said to me, ‘well, now everyone’s on sabbatical!’

and i keep thinking: no they aren’t!

but then today i thought: but they could be!

you could be!

change, pivot – it can feel in moments like this that change is only happening to us. but octavia taught us that we do not have to be victims of change/god. she said:

“A victim of God may,
Through learning adaption,
Become a partner of God.
A victim of God may,
Through forethought and planning,
Become a shaper of God.
Or a victim of God may,
Through shortsightedness and fear,
Remain God’s victim,
God’s plaything,
God’s prey.”

feeling fear and choosing adaptation is a mindful pivot. here’s the thought process of this pivot…

my initial ‘no they aren’t’ is rooted in the conditions of this moment…sabbatical is a planned, paid time to learn and practice ways of getting to your best self, best life. it can involve moving a big piece of work that isn’t doable in your normal schedule, or deep rest, travel, learning things. the COVID-19 global pandemic is unplanned, urgent, changing every day, and – for many people – means unpaid or less paid time. on lockdown. in your home.

a quarantine can be a massive inconvenience, a shift from external to domestic work, a period of financial crisis, a period of familial and communal fear. but that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to bring some sabbatical spirit to this time.

almost everyone i know could use a period of unstructured, or less structured, time. to rest and create, to feel. most folks could use more permission to just be. and, it turns out, there are aspects of quarantine that align perfectly with a good sabbatical setting. so…here are some suggestions for sabbaticaling your quarantine.

see the time as a gift. the sooner you accept the time as a gift, the more time you’ll have. nothing is forever, so how can you be present right now?

you’re alive – thousands of people aren’t, because of this virus. but you are.

thousands are working overtime on this crisis. but you are quarantined – to help our collective health, you are staying home.

you have this day. it might be a gift of more time with your children, or your beloveds, or yourself. i am focusing on the last option, because i am on solo sabbatical. if you have informed suggestions for sabbaticaling your quarantine with kids or lovers, please add them in the comments.

do nothing. plan nothing. see what you want to do with wide open space. do it. don’t judge your longings, or need to rest, or masturbate all afternoon. release structure, especially if it supports ways of being that you’ve outgrown.

unless a schedule makes you feel more alive. then by all means, do that.

offer gratitude at the beginning and end of the day. as simple as ‘thank you for this day’, or a writing practice naming what you’re grateful for, or a longer ritual.

notice that you are feeling. in our daily lives, we can get too busy to feel our feelings. feeling is life, feeling helps us understand the next needed adaptation. all the feelings we’re having are justified right now…fear and anxiety about the present and the future. grief, anger at systemic incompetence, anger at people still ignoring the safety protocols and endangering others. urgency to transform everything instantly. depression over not wanting to (or feeling able to) do anything. overwhelm…especially the parents/caretakers out there. helplessness at the scale of crisis.

or…joy. ease. curiosity. fascination. the thrill of canceled plans and extra cuddle time. all of the above and more. i spend an immense amount of sabbatical time feeling.

harness the big feelings as generative energy. what do the feelings need – space? expression? support? solitude?

sabbatical includes having room to feel and to examine the feelings. sometimes i need to sit and let the feeling move over me like a wave. or punch a pillow, or journal, call a friend, or my therapist. or write a short story, paint, dance. feeling is what infuses my actions with life. and feeling yields the most interesting creations.

– if you can’t work, or must reduce work, notice how it feels when you aren’t working. do you miss the work itself? or are you relieved? part of sabbatical for me is assessing if there are shifts i need to make to increase both the internal joy and community impact of my presence on this planet at this time.

make it easy to create in your space. i think back to when my nibblings were in montessori school, how their classrooms were full of opportunities to create and play. in each sabbatical location, i put opportunities to create, play and learn out where i can see them – my watercolors, my tarot decks, my books, my journals, my writing area. i move through the days by moving between creation and rest.

learn something. what do you want to know more about, or master, that you can learn at home? masters classes, duolingo, yoga, dance apps, youtube, the names of all the trees in your neighborhood…sabbatical is about expanding what you know.

indulge. and get curious, rather than shaming, about what indulgences feel most nourishing. i stocked a healthy af kitchen for the quarantine. cool, fine, grown. but two days later i needed an extra special NASA-suit excursion for frozen pizza and häagen-dazs. i am not wasting my precious time feeling bad about these culinary additions. pizza and ice cream is the meal i would offer aliens in first contact. actually that may be my next short story.

get with nature. cause nature is everywhere. find the beauty of the sky where you are, the earth where you are, the creatures, trees, the water. align with the sunrise, settle down in the darkness of night. if you can’t go outside, remember that you, too, are nature. neither sloth nor hummingbird, but human. what does your nature need, how can you balance your ecosystem? care for your skin, water yourself, sweat, hibernate. because i returned from a level 3 country, my nature experience right now mostly involves sunbathing on a balcony and watching the sea. i see more each day.

relinquish knowing. you had other plans, your calendar was full, you thought you knew the future. but actually none of us know how all of this is going to play out. new articles come out every other day shifting the timeline, the protocols, the expectations. the revolutionary potential of this moment, the threat of abusive state control, it’s all happening and i hear grace lee boggs voice in my head asking ‘what time is it on the clock of the world?’

and that’s just the external world…it’s also never too late for you to change, to uncover new interests, longings, callings.

relinquish knowing, and get in touch with what you most love and care about. whatever clarity we can have now, whatever possibility opens up for the future, it’s going to be rooted in what we love.

p.s. i recognize the economic variance and limitations folks are in and i know lots of people are working on mutual aid and redistribution. this piece doesn’t cover all of that, because i am on sabbatical and i am just writing what i know and can offer right now. i will say asking for help can be a crucial part of sabbatical. my community supported a huge portion of this journey i am on, and i have been donating back to various funds and efforts to help those who can’t make ends meet right now. (lean on me starts playing: ‘for no one can fill those of your needs that you won’t let show’.) a sabbatical only feels solitary – it actually takes a village, like anything we do in this life. so if you need support, ask your community. give and receive.