lessons from a lunar eclipse

(i am a cheap expert on the stars – at some point i stopped buying gossip magazines and put my attention on stars that felt more authentic and reliable, more capable of holding the weight of my projections. i now say things about the stars and other celestial bodies with gravitas, but i am often corrected by my smarter friends. this caveat is to say that what follows is all feeling more than knowing.)

last night was a lunar eclipse and a super wolf blood full moon, aka a bloody howling supreme lunar happening. i learned (at the intersection of multiple websites and listening to what others learned on the internet) that it’s about truly letting go of patterns that don’t serve, about release at the level of system, about making room for something that cannot coexist with that shriveled up rotten moldy crusty whatever that i am dragging along behind me. time to kondo my soul.

so i looked up and i listened for what it is time to release. i learned some things in the watching that feel like clues, if not answers.

(howling bloody lunar wow, rural mn, 1/20/19 11:16pm)

– the moon eclipsed in shadow is gray, quiet, murky, briefly reddish. it looks like it is resting. i am reminded of its passive, orbital nature.

– the moon is not doing anything. not covering up, not unveiling, not demanding. unlike me, the moon’s life isn’t much changed by brief and total shadow.

– to us humans, the moon eclipsed in shadow is dramatic headline material with awesome names…even though it was more dazzling an hour before in super bright fullness. why are we so drawn to the drama of reduced light?

– the body that casts the shadow is not made of shadow. it’s just earth. i often think this is the case between humans…one complex system casts shadows or shines light on another, while being neither darkness nor light.

– but when you’re looking up at something that hurts, it can look like a shadow monster. back lit, broken, the illusion can be confusing. this makes me think that i don’t believe in monsters amongst humans. i believe in shattered spirits, and in souls that get stuck/lost in shadow, and then want to shadow everything.

– this is why, as a mediator, i choose space over punishment every time. space to stop harm, space to look at, release and claim our own shadows.

– and i choose love over pain when i can. pain doesn’t stop or resolve pain. love is what heals – love of self, love from others who see the shadows, love of how we survive. love invites us to occupy the universe, not just some cage of our worst moments.

– i can’t ignore that i am in the martin luther king jr holiday season, reflecting on love, at the edge of saying only light can drive out the darkness you can’t carry. but of course. he was a moon, he held brightness.

– i have been thinking a lot about how to make distinctions between beings and our behavior. in real time, how can i not get confused between the who and the how?

– and, if a being is committed to a certain behavior, and that behavior casts shadows, what are the options? we are not in orbit, we do not have to continue the dance. sometimes we must ask each other to move in massive ways, sometimes we must go around the sun to get to the light, sometimes we are unable.

– you may have noticed i identify with the moon, even though i’m part of the shadow on her face tonight. my work as a facilitator/mediator is often that deep reflection. what beauty is in this darkness? how much light can you handle being? look how bright you are. but always half dark, or more.

– i am generally comfortable holding the dark. i believe it is the balance of light and dark that makes our world miraculous and dynamic. and since light is the anomaly of this universe, perhaps we all need to be comfortable with/in the dark.

– i hold brightness, too. but i think it’s a reflective work, catching and sharing the light of sun creatures like octavia butler, grace lee boggs, audre lorde, ursula le guin, mlk, toni cade bambara and other bright beaming beings. as i write that, i can also see how they caught and shared the light of their teachers. some light is as old as the tao, some as old as a humanish god. and some light is much older than that.

– this moon is telling me to notice every shadow on my face, accept my own darkness, emerge from any shadow that isn’t mine, surrender to the cycle of light and dark, and, when my time comes, be unapologetically bright.

(superfull af moon through branches, 1/21/19, 6:48am)

book reviews from reading/writing retreat 2015-16

Book Reviews from my reading in Mexico:

Falling in Love with Hominids, Nalo Hopkinson
Beautiful, sensual and intriguing collection of short stories. I love how Nalo writes, could read her writing about almost anything. Standouts in here are a story about children in a world with a virus where aging turns you into a monster, and another about grief for a lost sister that carved me open.

Savage Holiday, Richard Wright
Well written and strange experiment by Wright to do a book with no black characters as a study of man, and in this case a study of a pretty abhorrent man. What I enjoyed was the inner monologue distress as circumstances get to out of hand. Read a bit long for me though, and I sought more redemption.

In the Skin of a Lion, Michael Ondaatje
Ahhhh. Ah ah ah. this is exquisite writing. This story takes place before The English Patient and we get introduced to some of the characters we see there. Everything small is made visible, the sensual writing gave me goosebumps and longing, the story moves in various directions that almost lose each other at times, but the writing and character development and inner focus are so stunning that it made me realize that that is also how life is. Stunning.

Istanbul, Orhan Pamuk
I couldn’t finish this book. I wanted it to be like Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children in terms of weaving between a place and a story, but I felt underwhelmed by the story. Maybe something is lost in translation but it felt like a really really slow long study of melancholy. I am still excited to go to Istanbul this year though.

Demian, Hermann Hesse
This one started slow for me, similar to Istanbul it felt a little navel gaze-y, which I have a low tolerance for from male writers of a certain era (the past). But then the book really landed in it’s shameless philosophical exploration of the dark side of energy and experience in the world, or rather a liberation from good and evil as a binary framework, and invitation to accept the whole. Hesse published this originally as if the author were the main character, only a decade later claiming it as his own work. Reading the second half I found myself stopping, underlining, gasping, saying ‘you did that!’ and really experiencing a reader ecstasy.

Some of my favorite lines:

An enlightened man had but one duty – to seek the way to himself, to reach inner certainty, to grope his way forward no matter where it led.

We create gods and struggle with them, and they bless us.

That is why so many people live such an unreal life. They take the images outside them for reality and never allow the world within to assert itself. You can be happy that way. But..

A priest does not want to convert, he merely wants to live among believers….to be the instrument and expression for the feeling from which we create our gods.

Whether you and I and a few others will renew the world someday remains to be seen. But within ourselves we must renew it each day.

If you hate a person, you hate something in him that is a part of yourself. What isn’t part of ourselves doesn’t disturb us.

Your soul…you’ve borrowed it: it has existed for thousands of years.

He even brought out a zoology book and showed me the names and illustrations of these anachronistic fish. And with a peculiar shudder I felt that an organ from an earlier period of evolution was still alive within me.

The surrender to Nature’s irrational, strangely confused formations produces in us a feeling of inner harmony with the force responsible for these phenomena…if the outside world was destroyed, a single one of us would be capable of rebuilding it…every natural form is latent within us, originates in the soul whose essence is eternity, whose essence we cannot know but which most often intimates itself to us as the power to love and create.

Sooooo gorgeous and good.

OK. Next book!

Changing Planes, Ursula Le Guin

Fifteen worlds explored through the lens of a frequent airline traveler who learns to slip through planes of existence. She is anthropological, and prolific in it. Lovely concept, well executed.

There’s a line in the intro that offended me, surprised me. I’ll ask her about it if we meet.

The Teachings of Don Juan, Carlos Casteneda
Wow. I finished this book a week ago and Don Juan is still walking around with me everywhere I go. Really intriguing approach, I love being with the skeptical protagonist as he learns these lessons which made me…I really felt, inside, what he learned, or rather what he got on the page. Death is on your left at arm’s reach – don’t deny it, accept it. Respect it. Be less accessible – be intentional which your energy. I am the bird, the ant, no more important, no less miraculous. This is a liberation. I highly recommend this book and am grateful to everyone who pointed me to his writings. Hungry for more.

Doris Lessing, The Making of the Representative for Planet 8
This is tough. Grace Lee Boggs recommended this author and series to me, and I feel the values in this book so much. But the writing plods along, and this particular book is really focused on misery, the death of a planet, for pages and pages and pages. And we should consider this, understand this is a fractal prophecy. But it’s been hard work to read her words – I wonder if people who mostly read nonfiction political work would find her a good bridge though.

Cosmopolis, Don Delillo
This book was disturbing in this odd blip of Trump’s presidential effort. It’s a ridiculously wealthy and wordy man having a breakdown. There is some real poetry, and interesting sex…and I like how Delillo writes. Took me a while to read. My favorite character was an advisor of his who is into chaos theory. Lots of people not to like, lots of randomness that felt, to me, like the emptiness that comes from having too much for too long.

science fiction and social justice beginner reading list

i recently gave a talk on octavia butler and emergent strategies in johannesburg, south africa. which was A DREAM COME TRUE so i won’t try to play it cool at all. the audience was brilliant, engaged, and hungry for more readings. i started listing names of science/speculative/visionary fiction books that i would recommend for folks wanting to build their capacity to read sci-fi and speculative fiction for social justice, or with a social justice lens. the idea behind this is that a lot of science/speculative/visionary fiction can be read as case studies and imagination expanders that can help us navigate towards different ways of strategizing on social, economic and environmental justice in real time.

a few folks said, can you send us that list? and that sparked this post, which i have been wanting to write for a while. this is my starter list, in order from what i felt were the easiest worlds to enter to the harder ones. all of these are worthwhile reads. i reserve the right to add on as my memory is non-linear…and please feel free to add on in the comments section!

The Parable of the Sower and The Parable of the Talents, Octavia Butler


Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card (continue on to Speaker for the Dead. i disagree with Card’s sexuality politics, but i don’t believe in only engaging the work and vision of people i agree with)

My Soul to Keep ( and the rest of the African Immortals series), Tananarive Due

The Dispossessed, Ursula Le Guin


Bloodchild, Octavia Butler (short story collection – especially crucial stories are ‘The Morning, The Evening and The Night’ and ‘Speech Sounds’)

Midnight Robber, Nalo Hopkinson

The Inheritance Trilogy, NK Jemisin

Who Fears Death?
, Nnedi Okorafor

Wild Seed, Mind of My Mind, Clay’s Ark and Pattermaster (often grouped together as the Patternist series, or the Seed to Harvest collection), Octavia Butler…(if you can get a copy of Survivor, a book she stopped publishing, it adds pieces to this collection)

The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula Le Guin (i recommend her works as a whole as well – the rest of the hainish series which this book is a part of, the earthsea series, even her translation of the tao te ching)

Dune, Frank Herbert (read as much of this series as you can – it tracks and traces power, culture shift and evolution in ways that are challenging, gorgeous, shocking)

Dawn, Adulthood Rites and Imago (sold together as the Xenogenesis trilogy, or Lilith’s Brood), Octavia Butler

2312, Kim Stanley Robinson

The Famished Road, Ben Okri


Perdido Street Station, The Scar and Iron Train, China Meiville (Also everything else that he has written, especially Embassytown)

Neuromancer and Idoru, William Gibson

Dhalgren, Samuel Delaney (also everything else he’s written, including his autobiography)


Canopus in Argos: Archives series, by Doris Lessing