don’t think of that elephant

i can’t stop thinking about that elephant. in the story pieced together thru video and rumor and spirit, the elephant’s babies were poached, and there was a woman who threw stones at the elephant mother to keep her from saving her children. so the elephant waited and found this woman at a watering hole, trampled her to death, rolled with a crew to her funeral and swung her corpse out of the casket to trample her again, and then they went and destroyed her house.

i went researching because the story is so tender to me. those who check facts say that so far it could be true, though no one is clear on how to verify that it was the same elephant, that it was specific targeting.

elephants and humans have a tension in india, rooted in competing needs over the land that has been the elephants’ territory.

the story is working like a prism in my mind, i tilt it gently and see so much humanity in it, so many parents broken hearted at losing their babies to violence, so many people enraged at their ongoing displacement, so many people ready to say ‘no more.’

but then i spin this prism and see the whole earth trying to communicate to us, the humans, that we are not the only ones who feel and think and deserve to live and love our babies and strategize for survival.

if the story is true, it connects to the parts of us that protect those we love and flood with vengeance when they are harmed – we can touch an anthropomorphic empathy.

if its not true that this woman and this elephant had history, what remains true is that humans are encroaching on a shared world as if our needs are always the priority. it makes every kind of sense to me that, if we don’t swiftly adapt to be co-occupants of this generous planet, we will not only face the challenges of increasing climate catastrophe, already dire…we will also invite the wrath of everything else that can feel.

any sentient heart, broken repeatedly, can become a sharp edge.

i also keep thinking of this story as an epic tale of spiritual battle. the elephant is a goddess of the entire nonhuman earth, protecting its future. the woman is a complicit player in acts of egregious and selfish violence, not the leader, just someone who throws rocks because thats what humans do. she represents the majority of humans, going along with human-centric behavior that has devastating effects. the elephant is her death and our warning.

is the elephant/spirit wise enough to understand that it has to be dramatic and documented, to be viral, to be heard?

are we able to receive the warning at the level of spirit – that there is nothing funny here, only grief and rage and power and message?

or am i projecting all my own climate grief and rage onto this wild creature, whose motives are actually mysterious to me? am i again trying to spread human life into every space, even that of empathy and imagination and the motivations of elephants?

i don’t know.

but i know that the elephant story in this moment, in the wake of uvalde, in the emotional waters preceding juneteenth, during pride, in the hot and cold flash climate catastrophe season we are still calling summer, it feels important. it feels like we should all think about it.

are we the woman? the elephant? the earth beneath, receiving her blood and her force? the funeral guests running away in panic? could we be the force trying to stop the constant harm in every direction? or is there no us here, simply an obsessed observer, projecting her heart out, 8,500 miles away?

juneteenth spell 2022

we somebody’s worst nightmare
and best memory
that free

even in our blood we still feel
that quelling force saying
be less

with each breath, we heal wild wounds
we cut both binding rope
and bound

telling only the truth now
we show each other the freedom
we know

two years, six months, nineteen days
but centuries late, really
right now

with each breath, we heal wild wounds
we cut both binding rope
and bound

bitter history fills the throat with tears
even the songs twist, winded
haunting

grief spills through our hands until
we only see the other’s beauty
feel found

with each breath, we heal wild wounds
we cut both binding rope
and bound

– inspired by experiencing The Revival: It Is Our Duty and A Strange Loop this Juneteenth weekend

an emergent strategy response to mass shootings

A few years ago I said ‘things are not getting worse, they are getting uncovered. We must continue to hold each other tight and pull back the veil.’ I have to revise that. Things are getting worse for most of us, between mass shootings, climate catastrophe, regressive sociopolitical battles and an ongoing global pandemic. It’s an overwhelming, terrifying and grief-stricken time.

It’s also an inevitable time of crisis, given the political and cultural choices we are living through, and the leaders we have elected.

Emergent strategists are often drawn to this liberatory path because our hearts keep breaking – when we hear of the shootings, we love each elder, each baby – we look at their faces, we learn their stories, we say their names, we add them and their families to our altars and light candles. We do the same for those killed by police, those who die because they can’t access an abortion, those dying from COVID-19, those dying from mental illness, those dying because of capitalism and white sociopathy and patriarchy and other delusions of scarcity and superiority.

This palpable, active, ongoing grief is a non-negotiable part of this period of immense change. Grief is one of the most beautiful and difficult ways we love. As we grieve we feel our humanity and connection to each other.

Building the path from this heartbreaking present to a future where we center our collective existence in love and care is where we come in.

We are the ones shining light on the lies and inconsistencies in our current reality, and we are the ones dreaming up, remembering and practicing mutual ways of being in community with each other.

We are learning how to grieve without disappearing, and we are refusing to normalize this terror.

We are scholars of belonging and accountability, releasing ourselves from the reductive protocols of punitive culture.

We are protesting injustice wherever we find it, while forging the pathways to a justice we cocreate.

We are releasing either/or thinking, and we are outgrowing every construct meant to divide and disempower us.

We understand that this is an extinction point, and we are not just interested in survival – we want a just world for future generations and for the earth. Each day, we are the ones creating more possibilities.

We at ESII see how this community is showing up to hold each other, to grieve, to care for each other, to practice the future together. We love you, we trust you, we grieve with you, and we change with you.

amb, Sage, Mia, Aliana, Tyler

i also wanted to share a few poems pushing through in this time, trying to hold the hardest pieces:

1.

    each one as precious

all of the children
are worth all of our love
worth our intentions
our policies and practices
worth our protection
worth our last breaths
each one a divine gift
from the eternal tree
ripe with potential
and so full of god

knowing this
we have one mission:
treat each one as precious
as a promise unfurling

failing that
let us go extinct

2.

    little one

beautiful child
i want to offer you
all the brightness of the world
and show you how you shine

but first
i must teach you to disappear
melt into the structure that holds you
be unseeable, hush to silence
even play dead

little one
i want to show you
how we always help people
rescue those in danger
show up
be the angel

but first i must teach you
to keep the door closed
on someone
a stranger, a friend, a sibling
screaming
begging

i must teach you
that not everyone can be saved

i have to tell you the truth:
that you will live
and others will die
and you might die
while others live

there’s no sense to it
there’s no logic
even if you ask why
a million times
even if i answer

little darling child
i want you to know
that no one is disposable
each life precious
miraculous
each person someone’s child
in need of love
in need of holding

but first i need you to know
that there are monsters
they look just like humans
they have been eaten up from within
and now they are the hungry ones

little one
i want to show you
this stunning, abundant world

but instead
i have to tell you
how we are
and let that break your heart
so that you can change

i’m sorry for the burden
i’m sorry for the truth
i’m sorry for the pale pale time
that we live in

i want you to dream so big
but first
i have to wake you up

3.

    the white men

the white men
have stopped having sex
it is their protest
they play first person shooter games
with everyone they meet
everywhere they go
they call it defense

the white men are so jealous of
our creative power
our birth right
that they try to control it
or at least make it misery

the white men get lost
and murder everyone in sight

the white men will only pray
if we make god a mirror for them

the white men don’t know
they are the shadow of the species
the part we must navigate
integrate or be swallowed by
our holy gauntlet
achilles and devil and crisis

the white men are lucky
we not an eye for an eye people
not even a vengeful people

what i mean is we a full of God people
not that punitive imposter, no
we a god-is-change people

we building a future
where even the white men
can recover themselves