Passover in the wake of plague: 2021

Passover in the wake of Covid-19

It is time for the Great Annual Story-telling of the Exodus, and time to revisit the grand sweep of my  personal and tribal freedom. As I gather some meagre energy to prepare for a 2nd online year of Passover Seder, I bow deeply in gratitude that the plague of Covid-19 has passed over my household. No sheep’s blood on the lintel to notify the Angel of Death to pass over this home. But a whole American racialized history that has delivered me to a life of one unearned protection after another. Working from home. Well-fed. Broadband enough to nourish friendships and learning communities and spaces for practice and deep connection. Teaching that I am passionate, immersed in, find students are hungry for.

The Biblical story enjoins those of us who crossed safely on dry land through the Reed Sea not to rejoice too much. God mourns the dead Egyptians.  I find myself disturbingly satisfied, if not rejoicing, at the death of virus naysayers – oh well: karma. While a lot of good plain folk succumbed as they “did the right thing.” Or the “necessary thing” – whether as healthcare professionals, support and housekeeping staff, or as “essential” workers.

Gratitude for the unsung

A word about hospital housekeeping staffs. If you or someone close to you has spent some time as a patient or family member, you know this: the housekeeping staff often are the most real and human spiritual and emotional support for the hospitalized and their families. They are often the ones who notice a patient is in need of real contact, a real inquiry into how you’re doing, a reassuring word, a question about the family photo on your nightstand.

Like a patient in a hospital gown whose humanity and individuality disappears into her charted illness, the housekeeping staff shares, due to different and yet related appearances, a certain invisibility with the patient.

God extends Her unearned Kindness

I would like nothing more than to be plucked out of the Covid-19 version of Pharoah’s Egypt. This paradoxical year of on-screen intimacy and off-screen isolation

We are told: we were taken out of Egypt.

That this was an act of pure Kindness on God’s part, executed by His Mighty Hand and Outstretched Arm.

That there was nothing we had to do to earn it.

That there was no inquiry to determine that we were deserving.

That the sea parted before us and closed over the Egyptian chariots, mired in mud.

That on the eighth day, Miriam led the women in dance.

We are told: after we were taken out of Egypt, we wandered in the wilderness for another 40 years, long enough for the enslaved generation to die out.

That is how long it took to get the Egypt out of us, to gain the freedom freely bestowed.

Making the story personal: yes, this really is happening to me and mine

At any given moment I can find myself the recipient of gratuitous and enormous Kindness, and slogging wearily through a wilderness, where my personal history refuses to give up the ghost.

I belong to a tribe of freed people who nevertheless have to claim liberation by dint of persistent effort, in the face of temporary defeat, in the arms of temporary refuge.

Every year we gather to tell the story.

We are advised: live the story, don’t just tell it.

We are advised: the more we elaborate in the telling of the story, the better.

Our elaborations over our family seder table have included over the years truth-tales of the Holocaust, of Russian Refuseniks, of the lost and the survivors of the Middle Passage, of the slaughtered of Darfur, of the countless losses of Mother Earth.

Bringing redemption one action at a time

At one point in the story-telling we open the door of our house and invite in Elijah the Prophet to sip at the wine we have set aside for him.

We are told: in this season it is Elijah the Prophet who may turn the hearts of parents and children towards one another, thereby holding off total destruction of the earth.

In a recent teaching from the Talmud, I learned from Rabbi Steve Sager that Elijah at one point seemed to conspire with Rabbi Meir to bring the Final Redemption before its time by setting up a father and sons whose prayers were known to be particularly potent. An unidentified “they” (speculatively, angels) “summoned Elijah and lashed him with 60 pulses of light,” after which he appeared, “in the likeness of a fiery bear” to break up the prayer gathering before the dead could be raised.

I would like nothing more than to be plucked out of the Covid-19 version of Pharaoh’s Egypt, our civic acrimony, the proliferation of lies and conspiracies, and our other current ills. 

I would like also to be plucked from my shortnesses of temper, empathy, and generosity. I too would like to hurry the Redemption along.

I just have to be willing to do that one act, one phrase, one moment of presence at a time. 

May we in this of all years take it upon ourselves 

to turn our hearts towards one another, 

both trusting in the gratuitous Kindness 

and dedicated each to our own persistent effort 

on behalf of one another’s freedom.

Vaccination Envy: Won’t Anyone Card Me?

I'm over 75! Please card me. Please!

Vaccination envy. Really.

Having made many adjustments, (and maladjustments!) to Pandemic conditions eleven months ago, the prospect of more change, more decisions, when and how to gain the little bit of “freedom” and “normalcy” that vaccination seems to promise – all this brings its own mix of emotion, reaction, response – Including vaccination envy. 

I am probably not a good judge which of the following are Adjustments and which are Maladjustments

  • Bargaining with myself: how often do I have to cook dinner to not feel like a total jerk – after more than 30 years of Gideon working evenings? If it were up to me we would both just graze as we are moved to. 
  • Changing relationship with clothing: some days I “dress up” for the hell of it (aka to cheer myself up) in an outfit I used to reserve for “special occasions.” Other days I throw on a sweater over pajamas to appear Zoom-presentable. And yet other days – and this would truly horrify my Mom, I’ll wear the same thing two days in a row if it passes the smell test.
  • Establishing a few new sustaining habits: in the morning, courtesy of Trader Joe’s, 2 oz. of cold-brew concentrate with a splash of macadamia-almond nut milk. I drink my 2 cups of green tea later in the day. In the evening: a jigsaw puzzle app where I can choose the number of pieces and whether I want them all right-side up to start with or if i can handle the additional brain challenge of needing to rotate them to find where they fit in. After waking hours without much in the way of dopamine hits, the little “click” the app emits when I move a piece into its right place is just a bit too satisfying.
  • Delighting in having found an outing that is fun and safe: Staples is my go-to: I can browse the various forms and colors of post-its, try out a new style of pen for note-taking or highlighting or coloring. Another dopamine hit.
  • Abandoning my neighborhood post-office the day I went to send a piece of certified mail: they had no certified mail forms and no idea when they would get them. Even worse, the selection of stamps was down to Scooby Doo and Hot Wheels. I’m sorry to be disloyal – the staff is great and obviously under huge stress. Now I go to different post office, where they conserve the certified mail forms by keeping them behind the counter. 

I have made all these avowedly privileged, first-world adjustments in an effort to maximize available pleasures and minimize unnecessary use of energy and  unnecessary provocation of agitation.

What does this have to do with vaccine envy?

I decided to expend minimum energy to capture an appointment. 

I decided that the following would be really bad for my mental health: hanging on the phone for hours, or constantly redialing, or scanning websites during the wee hours in hopes of landing an appointment.

I have been eligible in the over-75 group in Maryland since Jan 18, and I did snag an appointment on that date for February 17.

I was not surprised to get an email last week cancelling my appointment, and clarifying that the slot I had signed up for and had been confirmed for was actually reserved for people getting their 2nd shots.

Gideon got his 2nd shot today. I was relieved that the vaccine was there for him and that the process itself as orderly and uneventful as the first one.

Meanwhile, I am surprised at the mental health impact of not vigorously pursuing an appointment! Disheartened and depressed as I continue to hear daily in the news: get your shot! Along with the continued daily news of no clear path to do so. Emotions are not about “making sense” of course. And it’s not as if my daily activities would change dramatically if I had my two shots.

If you have chosen a different path, I hope your efforts pay off and the search itself brings you comfort. 

I   just    can’t    go     there.

Linear time has lost its meaning, which has opened up other opportunities, as I wrote in my last post. 

So, waiting another month or two, shrug. I hope I can continue to shrug longer if I need to. 

Meanwhile I will continue to practice inviting in all the parts of myself who have something to say on this topic:

  • the one who is ok with the adjustments and maladjustments I have made
  • the one who hopes for some kind of new normalcy post-vaccination
  • the one who suffers from absences – loved ones, hugs, a night out at the movies, a museum meander
  • the one who waits – sometimes with patience, sometimes with disgruntled entitlement – for clear direction on how to get an appointment
  • the one who prays that every shot given goes to someone who has been risking her health as an essential worker or first responder
  • the one who remembers to trust, from time to time, a Wholeness and All-is-Okayness beyond my need or capacity to manage.

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Are you a professional, seeker, and/or activist committed to race and gender equity?

Interested in participating in a Listening Group to help design formats to give you the support you need to be both  effective and whole?  Be in touch.

On Black Bodies in A Groundhog Year

After ten months of privileged, demanding, yet hardly ruinous self-isolation, time is losing its grip on my White Body.

One day is so much like another that I have ordered the clock pictured above and made a prominent space for it directly across from my seat at the diningroom table. 

So engaging with Black History Month in this Groundhog Year has prompted me to reflect on a the hundreds of years that Black and Brown people have survived ownership and control of their bodies: bone-crunching, spirit-defying Groundhog Century after Century.

Paul Laurence Dunbar was the son of parents who had been enslaved in Kentucky before the Civil War and himself died of tuberculosis at age 33. In his poem Forever he wrote:

I had not known before

    Forever was so long a word.

The slow stroke of the clock of time

    I had not heard.

Maryland Poet Laureate (1979-1985) Lucille Clifton shared some Kentucky history with Dunbar: she wrote that one of her women forbears had been the first Black woman to be “legally hanged” for manslaughter in the state. She invites us to join her in won’t you celebrate with me:

won’t you celebrate with me

what i have shaped into

a kind of life? i had no model.

born in babylon

both nonwhite and woman

what did i see to be except myself?

i made it up

here on this bridge between

starshine and clay,

my one hand holding tight

my other hand; come celebrate

with me that everyday

something has tried to kill me

and has failed.

Whether or not you live in a place where we can sniff spring around the corner, this month is a time to reflect on and celebrate the survival of Lucille Clifton, and every other Black and Brown body. Each a whole human being, gifted and limited.

For those of us who are White, it’s on us to end the ever-repeating Groundhog history of controlling Black and Brown bodies, and shape a different world.

Our individual acts of repair may be small we think,             

creating barely a ripple. 

Together, we can make this historical time                                            a lasting, sea-change moment. 

No one else is coming along to do this work.

It’s on us.

Help bring back the world

Impeachment Redux: the House has impeached the sitting President a second time -

– a necessary and insufficient action to rectify events, the extent of which will not be even known to us for some time. So it is up to us to answer this question posed by Kansas-born poet William Stafford, a conscientious objector during World War II. Because whatever we have been doing and not doing up to now as humans has not been enough.

Read this not as how do we restore some imagined glory days, but as – how do we bring back life, vibrant life, love, and valor among and between human beings?  What virtues will we cultivate? How will we build character? What will we use as a compass?

Putting aside even these sometimes helpful constructs, how are we listening to the moment? As I write, our elected representatives in the House have been cramming their words, hopes, fears, wisdom and foolishness into 30-second increments in which they may hold forth, or yield to a colleague.

How are we holding this rhetoric, as this selected/elected group attempts to connect or cloud cause and effect, to draw a boundary between unquestionable incitement and damnable but not impeachable behavior? Will the Lost Cause of the American Civil War gain new life or immanent death now that its flag has been waved in the US Capitol?

Meanwhile I feel like I am sweeping up broken glass.

I am punctured over and over again, bleeding bright red in spite of voting blue. I find little slivers everywhere, as I search for emerging kindnesses, bits of order, the right words, the right actions.  I am calmed by the rock pictured above, that fits comfortably if roughly in the palm of my hand.

In this rock, I have the gift of holding deep time in my hand

Last night I received this granite emissary of the Sandia Mountains near Albuquerque from my good friend and geologist-writer Deb Green. Today I asked her to share its significance with our online practice group. She said the rock, as it sits on its flat side – as it does in the banner photo – is in both the shape and color of these mountains. You can see the salmon pink of orthoclase feldspar, the green of epidote, and shining specks of mica among the quartz and other minerals, colors true to “Sandia” (Spanish for “watermelon.”)

Deb had been sitting for meditation on a boulder. Tapping its edge as she rose, this chunk fell off in her hand, “because it was weathering in place.” She went on to describe how this really hard rock that had built a whole mountain range had, through countless freeze and thaw cycles, fractured and broken off so easily. 

The rock is some 1.3 – 1.4 billion years old. The “deep time” embodied in these rocks, she said, renders her insignificant in the scheme of things, and simultaneously frees her “to go for” what she is here for on this earth, at this moment.

A few minutes later another group member questioned, how do we get through to people who seem as solid as boulders impervious to change, who hold so tightly to a view of the world that is anathema to us?

Here’s what has come to me, some hours later.

We may not ever “get through” to them.

Maybe, just maybe, we can enter into relationship with some of them.

First, we restrain them.

This is what I devoutly pray will result from impeachment and whatever other additional legal means we have at hand to effectively restrain acts of domestic insanity and terrorism, including the fomenting of hatred in word or deed and the use of casual threat. This can work only as civilian and military policing, prosecutors, judges and jurors each come to their own deep moments of reckoning with Whiteness. This will take long, but not long enough to register as deep time.

Here is the true meaning and value of compassion and nonviolence, when it helps us to see the enemy’s point of view, to hear his questions, to know his assessment of ourselves. For from his view we may indeed see the basic weaknesses of our own condition, and if we are mature, we may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the opposition.”

When I hear a false equivalency used to justify or normalize the sitting President’s words and behaviors, I know to listen for the grains of truth that are there, especially the ones that ping “true” for me in my own thoughts and actions.

And then, we melt. Um, our enemies? Ourselves? A bit of each?

The word “MELT” came into my mind, all CAPS,  an oversized billboard. And, frankly, this act remains aspirational,  a level of holy human action and courage still beyond me. I just don’t have the heart, “le coeur” for it.

So I come back to William Stafford’s answer to his own question, and this has to do me for now:

What can a person do to help

bring back the world?

We have to watch it and then look at each other.

Together we hold it close and carefully

save it, like a bubble that can disappear

if we don’t watch out.

Please think about this as you go on. Breath on the world.

Hold out your hands to it. When mornings and evenings

roll along, watch how they open and close, how they

invite you to the long party that your life is.

A New Year’s Eve view of the world

On New Year’s Eve: a view of the world from the red house in the middle of the block

With 36 odd hours left in the year 2020, I am of a mind that way too many words have already been written about it. It’s still too hard, too close, too rich with learning and loss, gaslighting and distortions for me to try to sum it up. I need a longer arc of time to look back on it.

Looking ahead is equally perplexing. I’m making some plans, setting some intentions – and resolved that my plans not make me. Agility, even more than  resilience, is what I am looking to cultivate to meet the many unknowns. I am wary of another round of decision-making exhaustion of the sort that pervaded the early weeks and months of Life under Pandemic. I anticipate some version of returning to weighing the pros and cons of every outing or errand that needs to be run – once (if?) widespread vaccination and economic engines open life up in ways we can envision only through mask-fogged glasses and brains.

It’s been a no-brainer, and part of my privileged life, to pretty much confine myself to home and my walking neighborhood of perhaps six square blocks, since April.

I’ve encountered such wonders as a flock of yard flamingos, a colony of frogs in a variety of yoga poses, chalk drawings in the street, families out walking together with and without dogs, and a Sacred Datura plant anchoring the front corner of a neighbor’s yard.  I would have said that I live in a pretty much all-white neighborhood. Instead I have been pleasantly surprised to exchange greetings with many multiracial families.

My neighborhood has two styles of homes, all built in the late 1920’s. So far my husband and I are “aging in place.” It’s not just our home of 36 years. It’s the neighborhood that feels like home – the old trees – especially the sycamores –  the surviving drug store with soda fountain, a library, an old movie palace. 

Oh – and the best – one neighbor who has for years taken his mellow guitar practice outside during all the warm seasons: a neighborhood playlist. And another who has been securing our recycling barrel in the bed of his pick-up every week since Covid-19 worker illness shut down Baltimore’s curbside recycling in September.

So I was shocked to realize, as I prepared to lead a workshop on unconscious bias for residents from my and adjoining neighborhoods, that the role of “neighbor” has become a pretty weak part of my identity. Yes, I just delivered my seasonally home-made gingerbread up and down my block. Still, it seems like I have largely “aged out” of being a neighbor since having school-age kids in the house. And since aging out of the snow-shoveling gang that used to assemble from up and down our block to dig out cars and make the street passable as we last did in January, 2016 (see banner photo!)

I got to thinking how every neighborhood has its Rules for Living and belonging.

Some of these rules may be explicit – as in covenants. Others implicit yet baked into a neighborhood’s culture. How formal? How friendly? How distant? How quiet? And all of these rules are shaped by racialized and gendered histories  f wealth, property, ownership, financing – and by our own perceptions and behaviors.

I thought about “neighborliness.”

What does it mean to “neighbor”? - making “neighbor” into a verb for the moment.

When and how do I offer help, a suggestion, an invitation?

When and how do I inquire, speak up, step forward, step back, “mind my own business”?

What behaviors tell me “I belong” – or that I am stretching or testing the limits of belonging?

How do I treat property boundaries? 

Are there activities or toys or amenities – tomato and squash vines, for example that I believe “belong” in back yards not in front yards?

How about the aesthetics of holiday decorations? displays of the American flag, which has been so effectively appropriated by a certain brand of patriot? the Rainbow flag? the Earth flag? – unquestionably “my” people. And signs. Campaign signs, Graduating- Class-from-Home 2020 class signs, #Blacklivesmatter signs?

And the real clincher: what do I do when I see someone who is “a stranger” to me? When can I trust that calling the police is 1) warranted and 2) won’t lead to a terrible outcome?

So I am leaving/entering the year sitting with these questions:

How will I “neighbor”  in my neighborhood?

How will I think globally and act locally?

 

And how will I “neighbor” in the wider world – Baltimore? America? the world?             How will I also think locally – as in you, and you, and you – are my neighbors                       as I act globally?

How about you?

P.S May we leave behind our shattered exceptionalistic illusions, including “We’re better than this.” 

And may we seize every opportunity to reshape our consciousness and our world.

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SPECIAL OFFER THROUGH JANUARY 18:  start off the New Year with a fresh way to engage with racial and gender inequities and injustice in your personal and/or professional life. Six 1/1 sessions of Radical Inclusion Practice.  20% discount  with single prepayment of $675. Let’s chat: free 30 minute consult.

Winter Solstice: the dark and the light of it

Winter Solstice Blessing

On this  solstice,

marking the beginning of winter

with

the longest night,

the shortest day,

 

may you draw blessings and strengths from this season,

 

a winter like no other

after a spring, summer and fall

like no other,

a solstice unlike any since 

the 13th century,

when Jupiter and Saturn

last appeared so close together in the sky

as to be One 

Brilliant Shining.

 

even as we carry with us into this season

our losses, our grieving,

our numbness,

our fed-upness,

 

these planets invite us 

to marry beneficence and expansiveness 

with  soundness, integrity 

and nuanced discernment.

 

a season for introspection,

for restoring body and spirit,

and for savoring 

friendship,

quiet,

nourishment, 

generosity,

for seeing ourselves

among the sheer beauty of nature’s forms,

stripped as we are of all finery,

 

for attending to

the still small voice within,

the warmth of heart,

hands outstretched.

RADICAL INCLUSION PRACTICE: LEARN & TRANSFORM

FOUR OPPORTUNITIES FOR LEARNING AND TRANSFORMATION

#2 Come play with me - FREE 30 minute interactive video: GET REAL WITH RACE AND GENDER. I’ll take you through the basic practice of Radical Inclusion.

Time-sensitive: December 5-13

Get your free pass at https://sensiblewoo.podia.com/2020summitfree

Thanks to Portland diva-of-all-things-tech-and-alchemical Mary Ginger Williams, I am one of 15 “curated presenters.” Her Small & Mighty Summit features entrepreneurs who build transformational relationships with their clients and customers. Topics range from micro-habits to neuroscience, leadership to self- care. Check out my fellow-herbalist and MUIH-grad Katherine Hofmann ND’s talk on Small & Simple Strategies for Mighty Mental Health. Also Ellie Ballentine’s Magic  of Your Mindset – she has given me some very valuable coaching. 

Member of a group – colleagues, religious/spiritual buddies, readers, neighborhood or PTA who are wrestling with race and gender justice, questioning their own responsibility and capacity to nourish change, to be change?  GET IN TOUCH – and let’s talk about designing a two-hour session to meet your group’s needs (no cookie-cutter for this work!) Then I’ll send  on a full description you can share and discuss with your group. 

Some comments from workshop participants

“This is the work we need to do and what will shift things if we can do it.”

“This practice activates my heart.”

“Found the given exercises very useful and practical.”

“I came aware with clarity around where I am… and a plan for moving forward.”

“This program has opened the door to the possibility of healing 

my inner divisions, judgement, and shame.”

“…a container for deep, nuanced work.” 

#4 Check out Radical Inclusion Practice Immersion:

uncover and harness unconscious bias

New cohort group forming for a 4-week course to begin in mid-January.

Ready to go to your working edge with race and gender in 2021? 

  • Begin to notice your habits of seeing and making meaning of events.
  • Nourish curiosity and  empathy.
  • Gain freedom to act from a place of inclusion, to be inclusionary.
  • Learn to trust discomfort as a friend and guide.
  • Loosen the grip of your Rules for Living – the rules that govern  how you  appear, how you behave, whether and how you belong. These rules are our internal equivalents of the laws, policies, procedures, and  organizational hierarchies that dispense and withhold access, incentives and opportunities  in our society. 

Some comments from course participants

“surprising revelations,” 

“visceral empathy”  

“a strong emotional foundation for listening to others” 

 “a knowing where to dig” 

 “a willingness to step up and be more ‘out loud’ with a formerly shy voice” 

 “tools to move past limiting assumptions.”

With Sara’s teaching, encouragement and guidance, I was able to discover early narratives that impact attitudes towards racial and gender bias.  These surprising revelations, along with new practices have given me new tools moving forward.                                                                                                                                                                                                          Susan, Acupuncturist

 

The Radical Inclusion course helped me process a lot of unspoken thoughts and feelings around race, especially that uncomfortable topic of white privilege. It’s a very organic process, not linear, and that allowed it to be exactly what I needed to open up my heart and mind to a new perspective on how I view myself and others. I now have a strong emotional foundation from which I can do the continuing work of listening to others, listening to myself, and questioning my assumptions about how things work. In a world that is constantly changing, this is a valuable tool for understanding how the world really works (not just how I think it works or want it to work), and that is very empowering to me.                                                                                                                                                                                                                Sara Korn, Writer

 

This course helped me unpack and clarify long-hidden assumptions that I now realize were getting in my way.  I discovered personal insights that are already paying dividends…and I believe will continue to benefit me as I build on the course’s foundational, perspective-expanding structure.                                                                                                            Greg Conderacci, Good Ground Consulting LLC

 

Sara consistently created a space where moments of understanding could unfold. During one of the course’s many excellent exercises, I made a profound connection—it was about my own sense of belonging and the conditions of life for Black people in our country that could preclude a feeling of belonging…The connection is now visceral for me, as well as intellectual, and oh so powerful.                                                                                                                                           Deborah Green, Association of Environmental & Engineering Geologists Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Committee Chair

 

TGiving-2020: Gratitude, Grief, Real History

To give thanks.

A prayer. 

A practice.

A family celebration.

A bow of deep appreciation to  you,  faithful readers through the seasons.

For some, a Zoom Gathering on the 4th Thursday of 2020.

Now that we are somewhat assured that an orderly transition of political power will unfold between now and January, my personal capacity to give thanks has gotten a boost. 

It will get a bigger boost when I log in to Zoom later today to hear Monica’s Thanksgiving prayer before the meal. Monica and Beth and daughter Sari have been guests at our Passover Seder since Sari was a baby. Several years ago we began to say yes to their invitation to join their families and friends for Thanksgiving. I was ready to give up hosting our own. It was an easy transition.

Monica is a soul-ful pray-er, and invokes all manner of blessings received and blessings still needed.

She offers me the real dessert before the meal: a deeper meaning of the day. A day about which I was schooled in cringeworthy myths about Pilgrims and Indians sharing a meal.  She doesn’t pass over either the awful or the sublime. This year, instead of their post-meal ritual of sending home each guest with an individualized set of containers of left-overs, Beth and Monica and Sari made pre-Thanksgiving home deliveries on Tuesday and Wednesday. 

Still, I grieve the loss of the “traditional” way we have come together, the breaking of bread together, the assembling of a meal that many hands and kitchens contributed to.

One more loss, one more season now belonging to the Before Times. And for me, one grief seems to tap into another, as if they all feed into one underground stream. 

Grief, love for what I have valued, loved, lost…they are a matched set, grief and love. 

I am not a gratitude practice person – if you are fortunate to find that your natural go-to, wonderful. I envy you! For me, letting in grief allows me to  find  my way to gratitude. It can take a while.

Who lives, who dies, who tells the story?

And this year I also feel a self-conscious pull to enlarge my personal sphere and include a deeper grief historically linked to this holiday. Thanksgiving, 2020 marks a National Day of Mourning, now in its 51st year. This event honors the death of Native Americans at the hands of early settlers and colonists, and shines a light on contemporary issues facing Native Americans. In October, the CDC reported that American Indian and Alaska Native people are 5.3 times more likely than white people to be hospitalized due to COVID-19, the largest disparity for any racial or ethnic group.

The dynamic of celebration by one tribe signifying a day of disaster for another is not unfamiliar to me as a Jew. Israel’s Independence Day is celebrated on May 15: celebrating a safe home for Jews following the Holocaust. Naqba, literally meaning “catastrophe,” is observed to commemorate hundreds of thousands of Arab Palestinians who fled or were displaced from their homes. I am not making a political statement here or declaring any sense that I understand the historical complexities and realities. I simply wish to acknowledge that there are two sets of lived experiences here, along with some truths and some mythologies, leaving a trail of  unresolved, blood-stained conflict.

The land my house is built on, and where we have lived for 36 years, was home to the Piscataway-Conoy as far back as 800 BCE.

I do not know much of their history or way of life – when I do, I may be ready to write my own “land acknowledgement” – a statement crafted differently by Native Peoples and White people to recognize the original stewards of the lands on which we now live. Naming what is true is the first step in healing. 

I am finding it more and more common on Zoom meetings among activists and seekers to invite participants to introduce themselves not only with their names and preferred pronouns, but also with a land acknowledgement of the place they are calling in from. It feels awkward and somewhat empty, a label on an empty box. But empty because I myself am empty of truthful historical information, lived historical human experiences, and an embodied appreciation to tribal knowledge and governance.

An invitation … to remember the land we live on is in our care, that we may rent or have a deed of ownership, but we are merely the current caretaker: you can enter your zip code at this website to learn the names of the tribal land on which you live.

Then see what you can find about their history – their way of life and governance.

A first small step towards yet one more conciliation that the waning months of 2020 summon us to make.

May our gratitudes help us rise to the occasion.

May we respect one another and do what we can
to keep one another safe, well, and nourished.

Happy Thanksgiving.

THE TIME IS NOW

Engage, recommit, repair, or take your first tentative steps to re-imagine and shape a world where equity is valued and embodied: Radical Inclusion Practice

Post-Election: Carry On. Love the World.

When I woke up on Post-Election Day, November 4, 2020, I knew I needed to carry on. But how?

I REACHED FOR WISDOM. WHAT COULD I PULL UP FROM WITHIN MYSELF?

I’ve learned that I need to practice before my feet hit the floor in the morning or my mind and mood seize control of my day. I sit for anywhere from five to twenty minutes just noticing what’s going on in my body, my mind, the condition of my heart. Abdominal gurgles took me by surprise today, as they are a prime indicator of a physiology in relax-and-rest mode. I was expecting to wake up on this of all mornings, in more typical fight or flight state.

After I checked the morning headlines on my phone, I reached for wisdom again, looking for outside help this time.

After a few false starts, I decided to crowd-source my wisdom on Facebook. I count myself lucky the odds are I will find an abundance of uplift on my feed rather than urgency, smack-downs, or un-funny memes. (Depending on your feed, you might not want to try this at home.)

There were these words from a Mary Oliver poem from writer Juliet Bruce: “My work is loving the world.”

Then I found, one after another, a string of declarations from colleagues and friends of how each does their work of loving the world. Here are a few.

From shaman Lora Jansson: “I cling to kindness, compassion and love.”

From death doula Beth Almerini: “working on my new hobby of transformation – creating paper from my old journals and plants from my garden, proving to myself that something beautiful can be created from just about anything.”

My big shout-out is to herbalist extraordinaire Sevensong, who taught me field botany some fourteen years ago. His post began with this statement: “Here is what happens for me no matter who wins.” He went on to share a list of what he will continue to do/be, ending with “I will carry on.”

He inspired me to take on this no-matter-what exercise for myself, and I invite you to do the same.

HERE’S MY VERSION:

Here is what happens for me no matter who wins:

I will continue to be in conscious practice as an imperfect human being.

I will continue to show up and hold space for people to be themselves.

I will continue to revel in learning with and from my students as I teach.

I will continue to investigate and harness my unconscious biases as I guide others through  the inner work of race and gender.

I will continue to nourish and refine my moral compass.

I will continue to cultivate my urban lot as a home for medicinal plants, and share the bounty with pollinators, squirrels, birds, rabbits, foxes, domestic kitties, and keepers of the land.

I will continue to cultivate friendships both likely and unlikely.

I will continue to participate in communities of practice, of worship, and of action.

I will continue to wonder at the ways the universe is described and explained variously by the Hebrew letters, molecules, neuroscience, and group and institutional dynamics.

I will carry on.

These are some of the ways I “love the world” through my work. What are yours?

ARE YOU AN ACTIVIST IN POST-ELECTION EXHAUSTION, DISTRESS, OR TRAUMA? CONTACT ME FOR A FREE 30 MINUTE CONSULT, AND A SPECIAL RATE, 3 SESSIONS FOR $297, (REGULAR FEE $390) 

Re Voting Plans, Tilt-a-Whirls, and Trust

I have voted in every election since 1962.

“VOTING PLAN”   The words fell oddly on my ears when I first heard them sometime in late summer. By September I took them seriously, and based on what I knew believed understood mis-understood at the time, I ordered an online ballot, which would require me to hand-deliver my completed, printed-out version to election headquarters. A uniquely-coded electronic ballot arrived with unexpected efficiency, along with a lengthy set of instructions for accessing it.

Several weeks later, the Sunday Post reported that each such ballot in Maryland would burden the vote count by adding five minutes to the processing time: before being counted, that ballot would have to be hand-glued to card stock in order to be fed into a vote-reading machine. Few pieces of news have thrown me into such emotional turmoil, a toxic mix of disbelief, rage, and helplessness.

Fortunately, I was able to change my plan: I ordered a mail-in ballot.

The ballot arrived in timely fashion, with a set of instructions that seriously challenged my reading and comprehension level. And a whole separate page for a local charter issue correcting errors in language on the printed ballot. I searched a few drawers before finding a pen with black ink that would render my ballot countable, as long as it didn’t stray outside the lines of the small oval. The ovals definitely looked smaller than I recall them on standardized tests. But, as I said, I’ve been voting since 1962, so: aging eyes?

My online record with the State Board of Elections does not yet register that they have received it.

If I live long enough to read a trustworthy history of this election, I hope it will shed light on the facts, fictions, and deceptions around the capacity of the U.S. Post Office to handle mail-in ballots.

Election jitters with a dash of pandemic entering its third season

The sensation is familiar. Taut. Stretched to the limit. Vibrating in response to atmospheric influences. Braced against too-muchness. This is election season 2020 overlaid on the fall seasonal changes of shortening daylight hours, overlaid on a seventh month of pandemic upheaval. The sensations of moving through a tilted landscape remain strange. I reach for words to describe how gravity and levity have both morphed. Some mornings I wake mildly nauseous, as if I have been riding for hours the Tilt-A-Whirl, my favorite amusement park ride when I was a kid.

These body sensations make even more sense as I read the manufacturer’s description of the ride as “a large segmented undulating spinning platform with 7 vehicles spread over the surface. Each vehicle spins on its own axis and depending on the weight location of each guest every thrilling ride is unique” which“can be themed…can even have custom themed characters for the vehicles.”

How much rooting, in what soil? How much dancing?

There are times when chaos sets my feet itching, rootlets emerging from my soles to burrow down into even the rockiest soil. Acorn aspiring to oak. And there are times, like now, when I am sustained by the mysterious movements of some internal gyroscope that helps me to keep righting myself as the earth heaves repeatedly and irregularly. Ever a dancer. 

What catches you when you fall?

What do you reach for when chaos turns your world-view, or your material circumstances inside out?

What do you know?

When you fall, have you practiced free fall? calling for help? getting up and moving on, scraped knees and all?

I grew up with a full-bodied conviction that whatever came across my path was mine to do, solely mine to do, and that was okay since I knew believed understood mis-understood at the time, that I could do it better than fill-in-the-blank. I might have been small, but my powers were Mighty.

Once again I have to effort to put my misunderstanding aside, and trust.

Trust that the emerging flood of shadow humanity – collective and personal – that inundates our world, is an invitation to heal. That the pervasive disruption and collapse of social institutions, structures, and norms – culturally and in the human personality – open possibilities for a new operating system. One that is rooted like an oak tree and resourced like a dancer, the natural and inevitable child of that Ongoing, Unbroken Continuity – the God that I cry out to in desperation and in thanks, or the Unshakeable call and response of cause and effect, or the Life-giving River of Compassion that flows through the human heart.

We may indeed appear to be a gathering of themed vehicles spread over the surface of creation, each undulating and spinning on our own axis.

Nevertheless this week, we can each:

Be kind.

Vote.

Act and replenish and veg out as needed.

Vote.

Call and respond.

Vote.

Listen for who your own deepest wisdom is instructing you to be, with all your warts. 

And did I say, Vote?