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.