32 The morns are meeker than they were

We’ve entered Fascicle 3! I swear I haven’t skipped around, the poems naturally jump from 1 to 3 this way. We’ll see if 2 comes up later on. Now it’s Fall of 1858, and, of course, she captures the change of season in her language –

 

The morns are meeker than they were –
The nuts are getting brown –
The berry’s cheek is plumper –
The Rose is out of town.

The maple wears a gayer scarf –
The field a scarlet gown –
Lest I sh’d be old fashioned
I’ll put a trinket on.

[Emily Dickinson]

How can one ever hope to keep up with Nature’s everchanging beauty? Simply, one cannot. I’ll tell you a secret – beauty isn’t a contest. It’s not a zero sum game. We can all be abundantly beautiful, and celebrating each other’s beauty intensifies our own. Find beauty in everything and you will find beauty in yourself; we reflect what we see in the world.

Namaste, beautiful –

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30 To lose if one can find again

Written late summer 1858 on the last sheet of Fascicle I – just one more little poem in this group and we sojourn onward! But today’s is a gem, and I am relishing this journey. Savor this one with me –

 

To lose – if One can find again –
To miss – if One shall meet –
The Burglar cannot rob – then –
The Broker cannot cheat.
So build the hillocks gaily –
Thou little spade of mine
Leaving nooks for Daisy
And for Columbine –
You and I the secret
Of the Crocus know –
Let us chant it softly –
There is no more snow”!

[Emily Dickinson]

Let me encourage you to spend a bit of time with these poems – often it takes several readings for me to absorb the full weight of her words, and even then I’m sure there’s more. That’s what I love about her poetry: it provides a challenge. Let yourself see everything as a metaphor, every word as an image – wander, play, experiment. Create your own adventure.

Love –

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29 All these my banners be

Late summer 1858, last sheet of Fascicle I.

 

All these my banners be.
I sow my – pageantry
In May –
It rises train by train –
Then sleeps in state again –
My chancel – all the plain
Today.

[Emily Dickinson]

The chancel is a part of a church reserved for choir and clergy. Nature is the community, the decoration, the noble looker on. I love the image of a little woman directing trees and flowers and grasses to grow and blossom, like a conductor.

Joy and peace –

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24 Frequently the woods are pink

Written in summer 1858, copied into Fascicle I. An ode to Nature’s constancy and variety –

 

Frequently the woods are pink –
Frequently are brown.
Frequently the hills undress
Behind my native town.
Oft a head is crested
I was wont to see –
And as oft a cranny
Where it used to be –
And the Earth – they tell me –
On it’s axis turned!
Wonderful Rotation!
By but twelve performed!

[Emily Dickinson]

Namaste –

 

Enamored of Life

This series of choices and relationships and experiences that we’re all a part of, independently and symbiotically waking up and eating and moving and laughing and crying and feeling and loving and hating – let’s just take a moment to appreciate how incredible it is.

Don’t get me wrong, life is hard. I remember, in 10th grade, hearing a classmate of mine proclaim, in a tinny exclamation of joy – “I love my life.” She was happy with her boyfriend, enjoying her circle of friends, her close relationship with her sister, her academic success, and her important role on the swim team. In that moment, sitting alone, mocked for my intelligence, unhappy with my appearance, socially inept, virginal, in the throes of turbulent family life, depression, and an eating disorder, I hated her. I felt certain that she was lying, that it was impossible to love life when all I could think about was ending my own, clinging to the shreds of my religious beliefs as they disintegrated in my fingers. Joy felt impossible.

But I always promised myself it would get better. I held out hope for the day when I would dominate a court room with my litigious prowess or transplant a heart with my deft fingers, sustaining my hurting adolescent self on faint images of a future where I was accepted, respected, even celebrated – of a life where people liked me and maybe I even liked myself.

bloom pen and ink drawing lotus

Well I’m not a lawyer or a surgeon, but I do love myself. I am joyful. And I love my life. And I’m not lying. And sometimes it all feels too good to be true.

Maybe you, like me in 10th grade, hate me for writing this. Please don’t. Please understand that I know how much it can hurt and how awful the world can feel – I know. It can really fucking suck. But it doesn’t always suck. And so much of the suck is in your head. That doesn’t make it any less awful, I know, but it does give you power. It makes it within your ability to make the situation better. Just take a moment to be grateful. Relish in the way a berry bursts in your mouth or the way the sun feels on your skin or the way the person sitting next to you makes you smile. Let yourself get drunk on life – this is what we’re here for. We are alive and beautiful and capable of absolutely anything.

yolo hat style

No matter how binding or tragic your circumstances, you have the power to enjoy your life. We’re on this planet to live – for life. And after all, we only live once [as far as I know]. It’s so simple, yet so complex, and it is an honor and a pleasure to share it with all of you.

Love, calm, & care –

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Losing Steam

We celebrate the new year fresh, bold, with bright eyes and dewy faces. And we wake up hungover.

It feels easy to lose momentum before you even catch it – letting the crusty eyes overtake your vision, lying in bed and eating pizza instead of doing that workout you swore you’d do so you can lose those ten pounds of yourself that you hate.

It can get depressing. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves this time of year. Pressure to become our best self, to make sweeping changes to our lifestyles, to improve in all the ways we didn’t know we needed to. If you don’t achieve every single one of your goals within a week, the idea of continuing for a year may feel daunting, to say the least.

abstract pen and ink girl falling of cliff

So do something ballsy – accept that this is overwhelming. It’s hard to hear about your coworkers’ diets and your neighbor’s workout plan, the whole time wishing you hadn’t had those pancakes for breakfast or wondering if you should have spent 20 more minutes on the elliptical, but it doesn’t have to be like that.

Change doesn’t happen in a day. Your clothes, your mind, sure, but not true, lasting change. You can decide to make a change, but even then – what’s driving you? You need a foundation, strong reasons for doing something, a profound sense that this is what’s right. Whims won’t stick.

Change takes careful study – honest assessment of the ground situation, visions and goals for the future, and a plan for how to get from point A to point B, along with a commitment to enjoy each and every step of it.

You won’t wake up with the “perfect beach body,” whatever the hell that is, but you can wake up and decide to accept what your body looks like today. To accept your housing, your career, your relationships, your self as they are. And then show up.

On January 1st or September 23rd or any other arbitrary date, the best thing you can do is show up for yourself. It’s not a piece of cake from there, but if you’re present, it does get easier. With practice.

handwritten journal entry encouragement

I wrote this in my journal today, and I think it’s universally applicable –

…You are capable of continuing, of carrying on in this way. Even when you fall – which you will – trust yourself to fall gracefully. To pick yourself back up with kindness. Don’t be afraid of letting people see that – there is strength in your vulnerability, and a wealth to be learned from the falling and the getting back up. It’s okay to be crazy. It’s okay for people to look up to you. Keep going, and you won’t disappoint anyone. It’s only when you stay down that you truly fail.

I believe in you.

You are capable.

Let’s be present this year. Every day of it. Let’s show up for ourselves, and see where it takes us.

Love, calm, & care –

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Birthing a New Nation

I read recently that what really defined the fall of man, in the beginning, was gaining awareness. The knowledge we gained was the knowledge that we existed on this planet. Instead of simply living blindly, allowing events and circumstances to unfold as they may, we started thinking about it, started plotting, started making plans and strategies for how to live – something that, as far as anyone knows, we’d never thought to do before. Because we didn’t know any better.

But, in the societies that followed this awakening, many groups were excluded from living in the light this knowledge provided. Women and people with darker skin tones or different religions were excluded from the greater plan that straight white men conceived and subsequently enforced. It’s taken hundreds of years and countless atrocities to get to where we are today. Damage has been done, but we are making progress. Think about when this country – America – was originally founded. White men who thought they ran the world came in on their ships; they plundered, exploited, and enslaved entire native civilizations. Our country – and others – were founded on practices of slavery, of cruelty, of subjugation.

Really, what was our nation birthed on? On the one hand, we have strong principles of liberty, of freedom to pursue dreams. Supposedly, if you read the poem on the Statue of Liberty, we are a nation for the poor, the downtrodden, for people who are suffering in their homeland and need a fresh start. If only these things transcended the boundaries of race and class and religion and gender.

Nate Parker’s film – The Birth of a Nation – is necessary, and it couldn’t be coming at a better time. If you don’t know, it’s using the same title as one of the first movies ever made in America, one that praised the KKK as a heroic force and showed black men as unintelligent sexual predators. One hundred years after the first try, Parker redeems the title, telling the true story of Nat Turner, an enslaved man who led a rebellion that started this country on a path toward ending slavery.

Schools today are deficient in education about slavery – people like to brush over it, gloss over the filthy things that slave owners did. This movie no longer lets that slide. Jarring cruelty is shown, but it’s not simply to shock – it’s told in such a way that brings it home, that makes it real, that makes you as angry and as heartbroken as if these unspeakable things were being done to your own brother or wife. Because really, the people who live in this country with us are our brothers and sisters regardless of race or class or religion. The emotion is intense, and that’s exactly what this country needs. It’s what I needed, and I know I’m not the only one who is able to live in some kind of bubble because of the lack of melanin in my skin.

This movie works like hydrogen peroxide on a wound that has been festering, infected, never fully healing. It’s massive and dirty and awful, but this film, along with other movements and works of art, is cleaning it out. Healing will take some time and some pain. But pouring the hydrogen peroxide is a step forward. Acknowledging what happened can lead us toward progress. It can unite us as people under new empathies, new knowledge. We can express our concern by speaking up, by looking critically at what our nation was founded on, and by evaluating if that is still what we need.

Discrimination is dead. We can look to current news and politics to see that this is not yet true in practice, but I know enough people who believe that – that nothing is skin deep, that a person lives INSIDE a body, and any judgments should be suspended for conversation. I know this is easier said than done, but at least we’re talking about it. Let’s use our fallen trait – our awareness of living – let’s use it for good. Let’s stay woke about what’s going on, let’s practice love and kindness and inclusivity in our own lives. It starts small, with individual people, and when individual people all watch a movie like The Birth of a Nation – that does the world some good. And isn’t that what we all want?

Take care –

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Processing Grief [For Katie]

Three years ago, one of my closest friends died in a car accident. Needless to say, I was unprepared. What 19-year-old know how to deal with loss? Really, what human knows how to deal with loss until they’re in the throes of it? I learned by living through it, by grieving, and I started by falling flat on my face. I let myself get lost in grief, in depression. Because I didn’t know how. Because two weeks after she died, my other friends were asking why I was still wearing black and listening to so much Linkin Park and John Mayer. What could I say? They didn’t know any better, of course, but I became embarrassed, ashamed, even, of these emotions that seemed so impermissible. So, naturally, I repressed and avoided and acted out and dealt as well as I knew how, which mostly, apart from a lot of boxing and bike riding, meant not dealing at all.

Grief is nothing to be ashamed of. It takes time to process – three years later and I’m finding new bits of the experience all the time. If you’re grieving, if you lose someone, know that it’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to be sad, angry, confused. It’s okay for that to last a while. It’s also okay if it doesn’t. Feel what you feel. Don’t try to mold it into anyone’s expectations or tidy it up in five easy steps. It’s a messy, unpredictable beast, and that’s okay. Allow yourself the experience of grief. Let it be what it is.

It will pass. Not completely – but the shroud of darkness with thin out into wispy clouds that come and go. The person you lost is gone – that won’t change. As time goes on you realize that you lost more than the person you knew – you lost the person you would have known. I lost the friend I would have called the first time I fell in love, the one whose 21st birthday would have been a wild weekend getaway, the one I would have known and grown with for years, blossoming the way that only our friendship could have. And there are continually new bits of that loss to discover and accept and feel.

And three years later, I see that the mourning process forms a narrative unto itself. Memories of my grief nearly equal the memories I have left of her. The place she holds in my heart will never shrink – it will always glow and remain, sweetly untouched. But it can’t grow. I can’t make new memories with her. But I can’t stop myself from making new memories altogether, from living, from growing and changing into a woman she never even met and wondering about who she would have become. I remember her as I live, and as new memories expand my heart, filling it with more joys and more sorrows, gradually dwarfing that bright, constant space that she holds.

The text along the inside of my arm is 9/3/2013 in lower case, cursive Roman numerals - the day Katie died.

The text along the inside of my arm is 9/3/2013 in lower case, cursive Roman numerals – the day Katie died.

She’s the story behind one of my tattoos, the bridge that unites me with my friend who lost her mom, the reason it’s still difficult for me to really listen to country music, the reason I smile anytime I see a girl in cowboy boots and jean shorts, the person I sometimes imagine conversations with, the reason I can’t help but cry on September 3rd and December 22nd, and that still, bright light in my heart that will never go out. And so much more.

So grief is really a continual process of acceptance. One of allowing yourself to feel all the things you don’t want to feel because sometimes you really don’t want to believe that the person you lost is gone. But just because they can’t live any longer doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. Thinking of my friend motivates me to live more fully than ever, to do the things she never could, to treasure the time that I’ve been given. Because not everyone gets as much as you and I have. And really, even though all this is so damn hard sometimes, I’m lucky I got to know her at all, just as you’re lucky to have known someone you lost. I’m lucky that I’m one of the people who holds her light in my heart. And we’re lucky that we get to carry their lights with us, and that we get to keep living.

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Clothes - adapted Arc, scarf - Morocco, shoes - Clarks.

Clothes – adapted Arc, scarf – Morocco, shoes – Clarks.

Nature’s first green is gold

Her hardest hue to hold.

Her early leaf’s a flower;

But only so an hour.

Then leaf subsides to leaf.

So Eden sank to grief,

So dawn goes down to day.

Nothing gold can stay.

[Robert Frost]

I first read this in 7th grade, and it’s always stuck with me. Any time the seasons change – in the physical world, in my soul, in my circumstances – this poem floats back to me – a comfort. I find rest, peace in the knowledge that change will always come. That this too shall pass.

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