Refocusing My Lenses

elephant

Friends, I am taking a week off in order to refocus my lenses. I want to eliminate some of my distractions, concentrate on my work and my Work, get a little more exercise, and practice Presence. I’ll be back by February.

Practice gratitude.
Keep marching.
Move the Movement forward.
Write poems.
Stay awake and aware.
Keep your eyes on Standing Rock.
Follow the lead of women.
Hug your kids.
Dismantle the patriarchy.
Nourish your body.
Love your neighbor.

Blessings and love. May we walk in Beauty!

The Womyn United Will Never Be Defeated

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It was an incredible, en-heartening, and vibrant day. Also exhausting.

That first photo is the group of women from my carpool. All of us in hats are teachers at my school, and the young woman in her headband is one of the students.

Random Thoughts:
1. The celebrity folks were wonderful, and many of them were really experienced in keeping the energy going, but I wish there had been more time for some of the quieter voices. I got a teensy bit huffy that the rally had some men (albeit very articulate and inspiring men like Michael Moore and Van Jones) front-loaded into the early part of the rally, and then by the time the Indigenous woman got up to speak about water, everyone was already tired of listening.

2. I wish there had been more indigenous voices, more word from Standing Rock.

3. I have nothing against strong language at strong moments, but Madonna actually had some really good things to say about tyranny and freedom, but she dropped the F-bomb, and suddenly no one in the press could remember anything else she said.  Sigh.

4. It was a real pleasure to hear Climbing Poetree live. And Angela Davis. And Gloria Steinem. And Maxine Waters. And Ashley Judd. And Alicia Keys. And Madonna. Janelle Monae was also really great. “Say her name!”

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5. People were all friends yesterday. The invisible veils between strangers are broken down when you’re marching together. People start up conversations with each other as though they’ve known each other all their lives.

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6. The crowd was big. Really big. I had very few moments of claustrophobic anxiety, and no sense of panic. This was the tightest crowd I have ever been in. We shuffled ourselves into the streets for the rally, and then when it was time to move, we simply couldn’t go anywhere, we were so tightly packed. Amazing!
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7. The hats. Early in the day, before we got to the metro, a woman in another group that met at our rendezvous point asked one of us about the hats. My friend explained that they’re a response to the tape of Mr. Trump bragging about sexual assault, and that many people call them pussy hats. The woman began to weep. My friend made sure that the woman’s friends were taking care of her, and we went on to the march, but my hat suddenly took on a much more pointed meaning. It was no longer simply a symbol of defiance of a misogynist sexual predator in high office, but a statement of support for women who have survived sexual assault. It’s a message to predators that women’s silence will no longer protect them.

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8. I am tired (happy tired). Wiped out. Standing in one place for four hours may be as hard on the muscles as walking for four hours. It was helpful to keep stretching. Even that was difficult with all those people packed around us. (All those people!)

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9. Last Friday, a group of mostly young women led our chapel remembrance of Martin Luther King at school. Yesterday, I marched for the young women I teach, keeping in mind that group of young women of color in particular, women who are feeling the power of their voices rising within them, women with a passion for racial justice, women who will lead this movement into the future.

The future is in good hands. I’m with her and her and her and her. . .

A Challenge to Be Good Humans

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I thought that today I would be writing something sad or angry. Or resigned. Maybe a call to Resistance, or a Revolution of LOVE.  Perhaps this fits that last, but what it really is, is a story about being moved to my core. It’s about why I simply don’t feel the despair when I am at school, surrounded by the adults of the future.  We have some powerful anti-racist voices at our school, and I pray that we may have ears and hearts open to listen to their challenge to be good humans.

Today, chapel was a student-led celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr.  As we sat down, they played John Legend’s “Glory,” with video on the screen. While the video ran, groups of students in twos and threes, arms around each other or walking companionably, walked up to the stage, and went backstage. Something in the gesture communicated such a sense of community, even before the chapel began in earnest, that I began to tear up.

The chapel itself was a group of students leading songs, performing songs, and reading excerpts from King’s “Letter from the Birmingham Jail Cell.” At the end, Jazleen taught had the whole school singing “Glory” with her. A couple groups of students in the crowd joined hands and made their way to the front of the auditorium in front of the stage. The crowd got bigger and bigger. They kept holding hands, and then they raised their hands together. I just stopped trying to wipe the tears. It was such a vision of what we can be. May we continue to strive always to be this version of our best and most open-hearted selves.

Gratitude List:
These young people–
1. Their wisdom and thoughtfulness
2. Their deep compassion and love
3. Their willingness to challenge injustice
4. Their determination and grit
5. The ways in which they will change our world for the better.

So much love. So, so very much love.

I Need a Dragon

dragon
This is known as the Ljubljana dragon. One legend says it was killed by Jason and Medea, while they were still on friendly terms. Other legends say it was the ancient Slavic god Veles.

I don’t intend this as a poem. My thoughts tonight are fragmented as I consider the shifts that are occurring in the world in the next twenty-four hours.

Tonight I need a dragon.
I need a fuzzy pink hat with cat ears.
I need a photo of Michelle Obama saying, “. . .we go high.”
I need a soulful labyrinth.
I need to hold selenite and labradorite in my palms.
Tonight I need to pray and breathe and center.
I need a friendly ghost to tap me on the shoulder and wink.
I need a warm cat on my lap, purring.
I need a cup of tea with milk and honey.
I need a wild wind to blow.
I need a spot beside the heating vent.

Let’s keep reaching out, holding onto love, holding on to what is right and good and full of beauty. May we remain grounded in our desire to protect and heal that which we love. May we keep wide awake and aware, bearing witness, staying vigilant and conscious, grounded in our centers, offering our strength and power to those who need it. May justice roll down like waters.

I know of some people who are choosing to walk labyrinths tomorrow morning. I will be dancing through labyrinths of language in my classroom. During our chapel tomorrow morning, we will be celebrating the life and words of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Gratitude List:
1. The way breath and heartbeat simply happen.
2. The way breath births language.
3. The way language gives shape to meaning.
4. The way language carries the rhythm of heartbeat and breath.
5. Dragons

May we walk in Beauty!

Cat and a Hat

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Cat and a Hat. My hat is ready for Saturday. Between my abysmal selfie skills and my poor smartphone camera, the original is a little blurry and grainy and wonky, but the filtered version, as much as I like the pattern that it makes on Fred, doesn’t quite make it clear that I am wearing a hat, perhaps. (Now I have a little vanity issue: My good warm parka is red. Can I wear a fluffy pink hat with a cool red parka?)

I know I have said this before, but it bears frequent repetition: The future is in good hands. I can walk really close to those cliffs of despair sometimes, but I have only to look into my students’ wise and curious and compassionate faces to see the way the future is headed. And it is not toward doom. We’re leaving them quite a mess to tidy up, but they have the inner resources and the drive to do the work.  They’ve got the perfect mix of humor and earnestness, the perfect combination of innocence and seasoning.

Let’s commit ourselves to mentor, support, challenge, and encourage the young folks in our lives. Let’s listen to their ideas and thoughts, offer them signposts, and believe in them. Let them know what we see in them, tap their shoulders, offer them as many opportunities to use their gifts as we can arrange.

Bring in the Age of Wisdom and Compassion. The vanguard is ready and stepping onto the stage.

Gratitude List:
1. New semester! I love starting new classes, learning to know new students, the mix of familiar and new faces in a classroom. I have two Creative Writing classes this semester, which makes me totally not miss having a Study Hall.
2. Quinoa salad for lunch. That was delicious.
3. FFA gave the Faculty coffee and doughnuts this morning. What an enheartening treat to start the semester.
4. Crows flying out of the mist.
5. Blue. Again, I keep repeating this, but again this evening, the bellies of the clouds were a grab-your-heart blue, glowing like ice, and rimed with indigo.  Do aging eyes see blue better than young, 20/20 eyes? I don’t remember seeing such blues before, blues that make me want to kneel. Or weep. Do you know the blue I am talking about?

May we walk in Beauty!

Bring Forth What Is Within You

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Must be quickish tonight. Tomorrow is the first day of a new semester. I have pushed off the desperate grading in order to get ready for the new semester, and the new semester is upon me in a matter of a few short hours.

Gratitude List:
1. Safe spaces
2. Working at hard issues, together
3. French fries
4. Good stories
5. Synchronicity: Today, I came across the same obscure quote from the Gospel of Thomas in three separate situations. “If you bring forth what is within you, what is within you will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what is within you will destroy you.”

May we walk in Beauty!

Betwixt

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Perhaps I have written about this before, about trying to stand in the space between rage and despair. About the way that both of them distract from the ability to stay awake and alert. If we are to do our Work in this week, in this year, in this season, in this lifetime, we cannot afford to let ourselves lean too far into either space. There’s a reason it’s called blind fury–in the throes of absolute rage, I cannot see the broad picture, cannot get in touch with the essential humanity of all the people in the story, cannot keep perspective. It is the same with despair.

We will probably find ourselves walking into both of these doorways in the coming days, but if we are to be effective at the Work that lies ahead of us, we cannot afford the luxury of remaining long in either room. Neither can we afford to let them go entirely. We need to keep in mind that we are a complex beings and can hold all of these pieces at once.

In these days, let us remain in the place betwixt the poles, owning our own despair and rage, helping to hold and carry others’ burdens of the same. But let’s keep them as lenses for interpreting the times, as tools for stimulating and inspiring our work, instead of letting them numb and blind us to the reality around us. Let’s be like the spider, neither creature of air or of earth, but who inhabiting a space between. Let’s build our webs of Work and Prayer and Song and Standing Up and Creating Belonging here in the space between the fire of rage and the stone of despair.

On this day, I think of Martin Luther King, who must also have carried with him large portions of both despair and rage, but who stood between, holding his vision of who people could be and what justice looked like, with clarity and great will. May we follow in his steps.

Keep breathing. Keep watching. Keep speaking up. Keep spinning and weaving, singing and knitting, dancing and shouting. Keep holding each other.

Gratitude List:
1. Quiet time to work quietly
2. Paying attention
3. Looking forward to a new semester
4. Remembering–both the challenges and the joys
5. Knitting, weaving, spinning–all of us together

May we walk in Beauty!

The Hat

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Today, my act of resistance is knitting my hat for the march.

What is yours?

Gratitude List:
1. Those clouds, which were wings, and the sundog which smiled on them.
2. How the boys get so many things. I was buying pink yarn today for my kittycat hat (that’s what I call it so I don’t have to explain too much to them at this point), and Ellis said, “But if you’re all wearing pink hats, isn’t that sort of playing into the stereotypes about women and pink?” Savvy kid. I said we were reclaiming it. They helped me pick out the yarn, and were both really excited when I found some eyelash yarn to knit into the hat. Ellis wanted to carry it around the store.
3. Belongingness
4. Knitting. Knotting. Making. I feel a little like Madame Dufarge knitting up this hat. I might not be knitting information for the revolution, but I am knitting for the revolution. (And I think I didn’t cast on enough stitches–my needles are smaller than the pattern suggested. I’ll take out these first rows and start again. And this time with magical intent.)
5. Finding new ways to say things. New vocabulary. New structures. New synapses firing in the brain.

May we walk in Beauty!

Tactics for the Resistance

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I choose the vulture today because vultures are watchers. And vultures are composters, taking what is dead and decaying and turning it into the energy that gives them flight. May we, too, take the old and decayed and rotten, and use it to create flight and vision. [This particular piece is an altered photo (I took the original from the internet that was labeled for noncommercial reuse with modification).  I love those long primaries.]

In the weeks leading up to the election, a local pastor wrote a regular blog on the theme, “Love is Our Resistance.” That phrase keeps coming back to me these days. I have a sense deep in my gut that these next years are going to demand serious resistance, like the prayerful peaceful protests at Standing Rock, like the life-on-the-line peaceful demonstrations led by Martin Luther King and John Lewis and so many others. Perhaps these are the days for the new revolution. I imagine the call to the movement:

And what shall be your resistance?
Love is our resistance!
And what shall be your revolution?
Our revolution will be Peace!
What will be your tactics?
Open hearts. Prayer. Standing in the gap. Believing in each other. Speaking truth against the barrage of lies.

Peaceful, heart-led revolution is not a new thing. On this weekend when we commemorate the life and ideas of Martin Luther King, it seems perfectly fitting that people around the country are considering what their methods of resistance will be for the coming years. Let us take Martin Luther King as one of our pillars as we walk into the uncertain future.

Yesterday, a thought that has been forming within me since November 9 finally broke through the veil into words. It is this: These times will demand something new of us, and will shape our characters in ways we could have not imagined. As we rise to this work, we will become our best selves in ways we might not have, had we not had to meet the challenges that are coming our way.

I had read Clarrissa Pinkola Estes’ essay “We Were Made for These Times” to my students on Friday, and her words helped me to think this through. It’s not that I am grateful for the way things have gone. I am deeply troubled. Still, we can meet this as an opportunity to grow into our best selves, to let our souls shine. In the end, we will have become stronger, more loving and thoughtful people than we might have if we did not have these difficult days to face.

Keep reaching out. Look for the others who are doing the work of Loving Resistance. When you feel despair creeping upon you, find some small act of resistance you can do to further the revolution. If you know me well, you will hear me talking to myself.
* Tell radical truth. Confront the lies with truth and beauty and art and loving action.
* Encourage someone who is doing the Work.
* Write a postcard, make a call, stand on a street corner with a sign.
* Smile at people. Assume the best of people. Be someone who makes people want to be their Best Selves.
* Pray, in whatever way you pray. Pray in church, in synagogue, at the mosque, in the woods, in your kitchen, on the banks of the rivers. Hold stones. Make magic spells. Cast webs of prayer between you and those who are most vulnerable: the poor, immigrants, people of color, LGBTQI people, women, the Earth.
* Listen more than speaking.
*Live your prayers into being.
* Don’t feel like you always have to take a side. Just do the work. Be present to the situation in the moment, and do the work that needs to be done, whether it be speaking against the lie, or taking hands, or praying, or standing between vulnerable people and hatred.

What are your tactics for resistance?

Gratitude List:
1. Resistance and revolution
2. All those who have gone before. We have such a multitude of people who have gone before us who have practiced this form of resistance, who show us the way. Today I think in particular about the words and actions of Martin Luther King.
3. Awakenings
4. The Best Selves we are all becoming
5. You. We’re in this together, and I know that everything will be fine in the end, because you are there, doing your work, too–loving, praying, helping, holding.

May we walk in Beauty!

Shelter

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I’m posting this from my phone. Not a fan of tiny typing, but I’m at the Women’s Winter Shelter, and this is what I have.

Jon and I took the second shift, which means we “slept” from 10 to 2, and we’re the watchers now until six when the other volunteers wake up, and we start new coffee and begin waking up the guests.  There’s a woman here tonight with three children. One is a baby. One is a boy between the ages of our boys. I am trying to imagine what it might be like to be alone with three children and no place to go but an emergency shelter. What reserves of strength must she need to seek? We can offer a night of safety and as peaceful an atmosphere as we can muster. I hope she did get some sleep. I haven’t heard the baby in the night, so at least she has that. (I made little hearts to keep myself awake.)

Gratitude List:
1. Shelter
2. More brilliant moments with the moon.
3. Yarn and a stick.
4. Standing in the gap.
5. Resolve.

May we walk in Beauty.