These Guys

Earlier this summer I tried on a sundress with a pattern of roses intermixed with human skulls. It was SUCH a cute dress, with vibrant neon colors and white accents on a black background, and I thought it looked good on me too. But the pattern hung me up. I imagined myself wearing it and people asking me, Why are you wearing a dress of skulls? I couldn’t think of anything worthwhile to respond. The skulls seemed too powerful and magical for me to just wear them as a fashion accessory. (I’m really not that punk.) So I left the dress on the rack, a little wistfully, wishing I COULD have found a reason to make it mine.

Well, I guess skulls must be trendy in some circles because after that day, I started noticing them hovering around me – a lot. And as with so many things to which I’ve responded at first with an emphatic no – I found myself beginning to whisper – Yes.

Finally, one day in the bead store when I was Shopping With A Mission for a specific project I was working on, These Guys – brightly colored skulls carved in magnesite – captured my attention, and I decided the, shall we say, skull archetype must have some medicine for me right now, because they caught my gaze and would not let go.

What’s different now from the beginning of the summer? I’m conscious now of doing shadow work. I’m going underground to struggle with those aspects of myself I don’t normally want to face. And I’m dragging back into the light the gifts that I’ve disowned out of fear of rejection.

When we strip away all the elements of our lives in an effort to discard those that no longer work and rearrange those that remain in a hopefully more functional way – my partner, who studies the shamanic traditions, calls that skeletalization. That’s the short code for what I’m doing these days.

Suddenly Mr. Skull seems like he might have a relevant place in my life after all.

So I bought the colorful string of skulls that felt so beautifully heavy in my cupped hand. Without even taking them off the nylon string they were displayed on, I tied them around my rear view mirror. Now everywhere I go they are nodding and grinning at me and looking out in every direction (some of them upside down) and I feel surrounded by a lovely skully energy that’s somehow so deeply loving. I feel a sense of protection on my journeys to the underworld of my own being.

I call them “These Guys” and I quickly came to think of them as my friends.

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Here’s what the book in the store had to say about the mineral they’re made of:

“Recognize non-beneficial thoughts/ideas, revolutionary ideas via imagery, passion, heart felt love, cell purification, disorders of convulsions, bones, teeth.”

Well.

I stand prescribed. Thanks, guys!

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The Thirty-Fivesies

Alert readers will notice that I have not posted to this blog since I got my new job this summer. I actually got hired on my birthday, and haven’t really had time to update this blog since then. (Apologies to all of the people who read that post and have since asked “how’s the new job going?” It’s going great, and thank you for asking!)

But since it has been so long and since it is now sort of the New Year (I mean, it’s definitely 2015, but it would be a bit stretch to say it’s still, like, part of the New Years holiday) I kind of feel inclined to look at how my life has changed since last New Year, sort of like those holiday letters that my more organized friends send, only more about the inner plane. And I sense it is going to be a long ass post, so if you get bored and quit reading I won’t be offended. In a sense I’m drawn to write as much for my own integration of the past year as for anything else. With so much head-spinning busyness over the past six months I have been in need of a reassessment: where am I right now? How did I get here? And where the hell am I going?

Well, here’s where I am in time: 35 years old. According to the calligraphy sign hanging above me at the Mean Bean coffee shop right now:

35

I don’t know if either of those statements is exactly true for me — I wouldn’t say my head is together and my body isn’t quite falling apart yet (though when it does, there will at least be plenty of cushioning to soften the impact). But I did coin a term to describe this phase of life that I find myself in:

The Thirty-Fivesies.

Sounds cute, doesn’t it? Well, that’s deceptive. It’s an ass-kicker, but somehow a happy one.

For me, at least, the Thirty-Fivesies refers to a change point, and a kind of progression from one set of lessons to the next. Sort of like an elementary school graduation. Like, it’s not like I know everything or anything, but I’m going to a new school now and the desks are bigger and the hallways are taller and longer and I can pretty much trust that the multiplication tables are committed to memory so I don’t have to keep quizzing myself on them. Oh yeah, and since I’m moving to a whole new school I kind of have a new identity, or part of one.

To use a different metaphor, the Pagan perspective tends to view a woman’s life cycle as a progression through the three stages of Maiden, Mother, and Crone. It can be hard for those of us who don’t have actual children to know when we have moved into the Mother stage, but it’s associated with a general sense of competence, of being able to tend to the community’s needs, of being someone who basically knows what she is doing and is empowered to use her creative capacity in a variety of ways — to create her own life, to create that which she wants to see in the world.

It’s hard for me to say “yes, this is me” because of my long-trained terror of speaking well of myself — one of the strongest lessons I took away from my childhood was that bragging was one of the most “sinful”, possibly most dangerous things I could do — so I am almost pathologically incapable today of saying to anyone besides my partner, “Yes, I did a good job.” But here’s the thing: that’s part of what the Thirty-Fivesies and the Mother stage and the elementary school graduation are about for me: completing that lesson, and other lessons, that I’ve been working in since kid-hood, and getting to move on to something new.

It means I’m moving from practicing self-abnegation to practicing self-value. It means that when it comes to creating my life, I’m moving from “What’s the crappiest thing I can stand?” to “What’s the best thing I can imagine?”

And without all the self-hate and self-limiting and convictions of unworthiness, who am I now?

I think it’s no coincidence that I got the new job right on my birthday. It was the first evidence of my valuing myself on an inner level, and starting to believe that the work that I do is worthy of compensation. This has only grown since then. And this is part of the graduation feeling; it’s like I’m not stressing about or pushing for it any more — I’m just creating it. On some level I’ve actually taught myself to believe in my value, at least economically. That’s shocking to me. And it tells me I’ve actually finally learned something.

So maybe there is something to that catch phrase in the picture — maybe I AM starting to get my head together.

But then there’s my heart, and gosh, I feel like all year it’s been getting tenderized — like a piece of steak getting beaten with a mallet. Though not necessarily in a bad way. Tender is good, for hearts. Open is good.

And sometimes to open something, you have to smash it.

I have this heart-and-wings pendant that one of my Sufi friends in Missouri gave me on my 30th birthday. At one point this year I thought I had lost it and felt sad. Then it came back to me unexpectedly — but with a little dent.

heartwings

Man, I should have considered myself warned.

If you know me, you know I’ve always been kind of an anti-romantic — even cynical about love. When characters in books or movies fell in love, I was of the opinion that they were just spoiling a perfectly great friendship. As a kid, I never imagined my wedding day, but I had elaborate fantasies about my adventures post-divorce. (Some of these involved moving to Texas on a motorcycle with two Shelties in the saddlebags.) Even when I did get married I was very cautious about what exactly I was promising.

This year I realized how much I have kept my heart in check.

I realized that I had developed such an over-reliance on my brain as the “go-to” source of information, insight, ideas, dreams, plans, analysis, etc. that it was hard for me to even sense my heart at all. And if I couldn’t sense my own heart, it stood to reason that the people and organizations that I loved — probably didn’t know that I loved them.

I realized that because of my fears about letting love in (or out), I’ve tried to fill the spaces with all kinds of other things, not always to my benefit. I’ve refrained from putting my whole self into things. I’ve believed myself to be unworthy or incapable of experiencing all the love that is out there, constantly surrounding me and pouring over me and waiting with endless patience for me to become willing to receive it.

So I’ve started trying to change that. I started trying to pass my communications through my heart instead of my brain. (Or at least, through both. Darn, brain, where is that off switch???)

Here’s what happened:

I asked for Divine help in opening my heart. The whisper said, ask the Angels to help you open the door. And they did. And I was overwhelmed by the feeling of light pouring in … and out.

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I started calling it the energy of the Open Door Heart. Suddenly I started WANTING. And haven’t stopped.

I started allowing the true desires of my heart to guide what I am seeking for in life. And it is changing me.

It means I’m more sensitive. It means that I’m less guarded. It means that since I’m allowing myself to want, I’m more vulnerable to disappointment.

I’m trying to bring my full heart to my relationships and I’m finding that this too makes me want more. I want deeper friendships, I want family bonds, I want more-than-friendships. I want to expand …

And that challenges me to, well, get out of my comfort zone.

It’s chilly in my comfort zone. It’s restrained and controlled and there is not a lot of sizzle or surprise.

But as soon as I try to stick a toe out of the bubble I realize I have none of the skills needed to create something different, and I don’t know if I am brave enough to try. I guess that’s the definition of a comfort zone. Going out of it is like — graduating from elementary school and feeling lost among all the big kids in junior high.

And knowing that at some point I’m gonna get stuffed into my own locker because I’m such a darn dork. (That never actually happened to me in middle school so I know I’m overdue.)

But what the hey. Once you graduate, you’re stuck with the new school and the new curriculum. You can’t just keep doing the same lessons over and over again just because they’re easy and it makes you feel smart. You have to reach for something new.

Last year’s theme was “Year of Art.” This year it’s going to be “Year of the Heart.” We’ll see where it takes me.

Employment! Breaking News

Hello!  Today I’m departing from the usual opining and philosophizing to give you an update on my life!

After not getting a much-desired permanent faculty position at the community college where I have been teaching for the past four years (which shall remain nameless), I decided that rather than go back to cobbling together a semi-living from multiple low-paying, time-sucking adjunct gigs, I would go on the non-teaching job market this summer. I wanted to find a job in which I could grow, in which I could be creative, in which I could make a positive contribution to the world, and in which I could use and develop some of the skills and interests that my previous job wasn’t tapping into as much as I would have liked.

And now, lo and behold, I have been offered and I have gleefully accepted a job at the Institute for the Psychology of Eating just north of Boulder, CO. Wow! I am super excited! These folks have been doing amazing work in the field of people’s relationships with food, which has been a passion of mine for years, as well. The owners of the company write books, train coaches, produce conferences, and do all sorts of activities to provide information and education to the public about the ways we interact with food, both as individuals and as a culture.  I am of the belief (ok I guess I’m not totally departing from the usual opining …) that this is one of the most important areas of inquiry in the U.S. today, and that it touches every aspect of our lives — our energy bodies, our personal lives, our politics, our environment, our growth and evolution. I am very psyched to support this endeavor AND to learn more about it!

What I will be doing is working in the communications end of things — administrative support, student services, and editing, to start out. And I think it is going to be really fun. The tasks are things I like to do, and the workplace seems to be a perfect combination of my favorite qualities — fast-paced, driven, and committed, yet laid-back and positive in attitude.

When I started the job-dreaming-process back in the spring, a friend in my spiritual community suggested I check out the book Wishcraft by Barbara Sher, which is available for free online. She said that it had really helped her to get clear on what qualities she wanted from her next job, and had turned up some surprising hidden desires, too. The name of the book appealed to me — it sounded magical, like the way I wanted to manifest my next job, not through a bunch of hard struggle and slogging through mires, but through joy and magnetism and play. So I downloaded it and started working with the exercises. And indeed, although I had already come up with a sort of short list of qualities I wanted in my career, the book helped me to turn up the mossy stones in my brain and see what wriggling little dreams were squirming around in there. One thing I realized was that it had been hard for me to have clear and specific dreams for my life as a child. I had developed a great strength in finding something that I liked about almost any situation I found myself in, but had a very difficult time picking one thing that I wanted. A lot of my “job dreams” were not so much DREAMS as “well, if I do this then I should be ok” types of conclusions. But when I devoted some time and thought to clarifying what I wanted out of professional life, I realized that writing really IS central to what I love doing. (That wasn’t a surprise so much as an “oh, well, I guess I’d better take it seriously then” moment.) And it also surfaced that I would find it very enriching and soul-supportive to work in an explicitly spiritual environment. Not just one that espoused values that were compatible with my spirituality and ministry (as was the case at the college where I taught), but one that specifically addressed the spiritual side of human existence. The spiritual framework doesn’t matter that much to me — I am a universalist and I believe that all sincere paths are true, and I can get with the Baptist game as much as the Buddhist — but to work somewhere that would acknowledge the soul’s needs just felt like, you know, too good to be true.

But the thing about getting really, really clear about wishes is that the Universe hears. And, at least in my experience, when I’m able to bring my heart’s desires to a sharp focus, and own up to really wanting them, and also let go of the outcome and trust to Divine wisdom for the highest good of all, that is when miraculous connections really do happen. I found out about this position through another member of my spiritual community, with whom I was casually chatting about my life’s hopes and dreams. She said, “Hey, I just heard about a position just LIKE that,” and forwarded me the announcement. That’s synchronicity at work. And so here I am, three weeks later, about to start (tomorrow) what I could honestly say is a dream job, at least for this stage of my life.

With all this excitement comes, of course, a little nervousness. I want to do a good job. And I’m also aware of how different it’s going to be. Just the schedule change — from the all-over-the-place academic lifestyle to the consistent daily nine to five — is going to completely rewire my brain. And I’m excited about that too. There’s nothing like a big lifestyle shakeup to open the door to even more previously un-thought-of yet awesome possibilities. Above all, it feels like a quantum leap in self-value and listening to my own heart. So — wish me well, because I’m off to the Great Unknown!

From my back porch

From my back porch

Talkin’ ‘Bout Capitalism

Now and then, at the end of the day, my partner and I sometimes end up talking about capitalism — what it is, what it does, what it encourages, what it does and/or does not allow.  We observe that it seems to foster creativity and innovation, but we wonder whether it’s part of its nature to then squash any truly status-quo-challenging pursuits.  We don’t know whether or not it contains within itself the capacity for facing and solving the problems it has caused. These are sincere questions.

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Not long after one of these late-night conversations, I randomly came across this lecture by Paul Mason, recipient of the Charleston-EFG John Maynard Keynes Prize, published in the New Statesman on June 12, and it attracted my interest. Keynes, Mason says, believed that capitalism (barring unforeseen circumstances) would have to end up providing for the well-being of all. But Mason disagrees, or rather points out that the circumstances that followed Keynes’ prediction were indeed unforeseen, and as a result of these circumstances, most recently the rise of information technology, capitalism has evolved into a system that can’t support itself indefinitely. (In my words, I would say that the system is unsustainable).

Mason describes the economic impact of a situation “where large amounts of information are produced and exchanged at negligible real prices, if not for free.”  He argues,

Consider the social implications: if the cost of information goods tends towards zero, and the ability to standardise and virtualise the manufacture of real things also rapidly reduces their cost, the real price of labour will also fall because a) supply exceeds demand and b) the input costs fall.

That is what I think underpins the surprise outcome of the neoliberal revolution: the impoverishment of the developed-world working class. It looks like the outcome of class struggle and defeat, but it may also be the product of a one-time technology event.

Mason goes on to point out specific ways in which the phenomenon of the concentration of wealth constrains people’s movement, speech, choice, and wellness.  The examples he gives, like the protester being kicked by the official, resonate with his analysis; really, they are just a very few of the many possible events, public and private, that could be cited.

Yet Mason also notes that the new information technology and culture have led to a flourishing of “non-managed, peer-produced, non-market activity based around information” — all the content and all the software that people are creating and giving away for free.  “Non-market activity”!  Those are good words, to me.  Activity that exists outside of the market?  Really?  It can exist?  What an important site of production.  Mason thinks that it has the potential, if not the destiny, to unravel capitalism itself.

What most stood out to me in this lecture, however, might have been nothing more than a quirk of phraseology.  Toward the end of the essay, he writes:

If we avoid this dire outcome, it will because the forces for good, for understanding and knowledge and restraint are also being strengthened by technology. I think we should imagine new technology creating the world of abundance Keynes longed for, but it is likely to be decoupled from the question of pure GDP growth and compound interest.

It won’t happen by 2030. It will not be the transition Marxists imagined, led by the state suppressing market forces, but a transition based on the controlled dissolution of market forces by abundant information and a delinking of work from income. I call this – following economists as diverse as Peter Drucker and David Harvey – post-capitalism. In making it happen, the main issue is not economics but power, and it revolves around who can envisage and create the better life.

It’s this language of imagination that compels me.  “Creating the world of abundance … decoupled from the question of …” What he’s calling for, or maybe just observing the need for, is a paradigm shift.  Can we imagine a world of abundance?  One that’s based on something other than the working models of the current economic system?  Can we imagine that?  I think we NEED to devote a lot of our attention to imagining that, and imagining the tools that we would need to get there.

I love the last line of this passage.  It points to the idea that power, as it is currently aligned, stands in the way of any type of paradigm change.  It states that “the better life,” hopefully the sustainable life, is something that needs to be envisaged, visualized, envisioned (or held as a vision), and created, emerging from our creativity, imagined and brought into being.  My interpretation: that the practice of envisioning a better world, of a different order entirely, must be nurtured and spread, until so many people are doing it that it begins to have power of its own.

Post-capitalism.

Mason ends the lecture by claiming that “the true Keynesian thing to do is to imagine a humanist future based on abundance and freedom, and explore what tools we have that might make it come about. There is no better time to imagine it.”

Social change needs imagination right now.  Ok, it needs a lot of things.  And one of those things is imagination.  From school to business to personal relationships.  From science and technology to human services to politics.  Everybody has imagination.  It is a truly vast, undertapped resource (here in America in the present day).

If imagination were truly valued in America, would we stand for companies buying out promising innovators with planet-saving solutions simply to shut them down? Or companies like Monsanto buying the research firms that test their products for safety?

Would we cut every imagination-developing class from our public schools?

Why does anyone wonder why we haven’t yet imagined, on a mass scale, a sustainable society?

And who does the status quo serve?

It is said that every system does exactly what it is designed to do.

What is our system doing?

Is that really the best we can imagine?

Less Is More!

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This is my mantra for the year.

During winter break, when I was consumed by the desire to change my life, the urge to paint this in enormous flowing red letters across my living room wall was so strong I actually checked in my lease to see if I could do it. (Alas, no. One of the very few arguments in favor of buying a house someday is that I would be able to paint the shit out of it.)

A couple of weeks ago, the engine of my partner’s car melted in a bizarre accident, leaving us sharing mine. It’s been going surprisingly well. When we lived in the mountains, I always grieved that there were no commuter buses (anymore — the metal and plastic shelter only remained, getting more and more decrepit as each winter did its worst). But since moving down the hill, I’ve been pretty much all talk about how “I’m going to” ride the bus and bike places, like I used to do in Minnesota. I have all these happy memories of the flat ol’ Twin Cities where I could bike for miles and miles, and the awesome public transportation that was my only form of motorized transit (since I didn’t learn to drive until I moved away from there, and many unknown people can be thankful for THAT) … Well, now I’m actually doing it. Using shared conveyances or my own muscles to get around. Of course, it helps that it’s spring (almost) and I just want to be outside all the time!

So: one of the things I have less of in my life is fossil fuels. And that‘s a very happy thing for me.

But most of the things I have allowed to fall away are food-related. I’ve been working with the practice of mindful eating. Geneen Roth’s work, especially the book Women, Food, and God, influenced me a lot in this regard — or not influenced me so much as turned my brain upside down and knocked it out cold on the mat for a good two minutes. In part I’m addressing my habits of using food as filler, not sustenance … eating for reasons other than hunger (a complicated topic that can perhaps be more fully explored in its own post sometime). In part I’m paying attention to what goes in to my body, from the understanding that the energy contained in the food (and, as Michael Pollan puts it, “nutritionally worthless foodlike substances”) becomes the energy in and around my cells. That includes my skin cells, my fat cells, and even my brain cells.

Indeed, this is why I became a vegetarian several years ago: in massage school, when I studied and practiced forms of energy work such as reiki and pranic healing, I became increasingly, unavoidably conscious of the fact that when I ate, let’s just say, most of the meat produced in the United States, I was eating the energy of suffering, and that was becoming part of not only my own energy field, but my very body, my very cells. To put it concisely, it started to feel gross.

This year, then, I have felt intensely drawn to further refine my diet, both of food and of other goods, if not to eliminate, at least to reduce my consumption of things produced from energies of suffering, of torture, of harm to the planet or to people. As with meat, once I started asking myself, my body, and/or my intuition what I wanted to put into that system, the answers were startlingly rapid and clear. Many things — things I had previously LOVED, things I said I would never give up until the Apocalypse rendered industrial production impractical — I simply ceased to want.

So here are some things I now have less of floating around in my bloodstream:

  • Sugar
  • Aspartame (gone! shocking!)
  • Refined grains
  • Processed food
  • Pesticides
  • Growth hormones
  • Fertilizers
  • Chemicals in general
  • Excess in general
  • Gasoline fumes

Some of these things I just sense are not the healthiest for me, at this moment. And others of them I deeply believe are detrimental to humanity, to the planet — they are unsustainable. (More to come on this, too.)

And some other things I have cut back on, since embracing the mantra:

  • Homework for my students
  • Arguing
  • Anxiety
  • Trips
  • Days when I work from the time I get out of bed to the time I go to bed

But you know, as great a mantra as Less Is More has been for me in making major health-life changes, I don’t want less of everything. No, there are some things for which MORE is more! And in the spaces created by the things I’ve let go of, hopefully MORE of these things will flow in:

  • Love
  • Relaxation
  • Art
  • Music
  • Kindness
  • Meditation
  • Exercise
  • Energy
  • Fresh air
  • Walks
  • Humor
  • Feelings of abundance
  • Generosity
  • Date nights
  • Comics
  • Restful sleep
  • Support
  • Freedom
  • Reliable employment
  • Creativity
  • Fun!

And, of course, as you’ve no doubt noticed, more blogging! I’ll probably always be a fan of the longform, though maybe someday I’ll get it that less words can also be more. 😉 Some things never change … But you know, whenever I say that, secretly inside I also say “uh-oh,” because let’s just say I’ve been wrong before.

Lover of Leaving

“Come, come, whoever you are,
Wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving …
Ours is no caravan of despair,
Come, yet again, come … “

I loved this version of Rumi’s words, sung as a round, the first time I heard it, not only because of the familiar promise of continual welcome it expresses, but because of its address: wanderers, worshipers, lovers of leaving. That’s me. I’m a lover of leaving. I’ve seldom actually moved to a new place from the sheer desire to live someplace new, but I’m certain that my underlying curiosity about the rest of the world conspires with my karma to frequently create circumstances in which I need to make a rapid getaway, set out for parts unknown, with very little plan.

The rain in Colorado started on Thursday, Sept. 12. A lot of water came in through the roof of our apartment in Idaho Springs. The landlords told us we just needed to get used to this aspect of mountain living. By the next week, the mold was visible in the hole where part of the ceiling had fallen in. We decided we needed to move out.

That weekend I was scheduled to help facilitate a Goddess-themed women’s retreat. I went with the intention of sending energy toward our new place, visualizing the perfect place and drawing it toward me. The first night, the women leading the opening circle asked all of us to “take off our masks” and let the face of the Goddess expressing herself within us at that moment be shown. When I did this, the face I saw was Kali’s, dark, grinning, dripping with blood. When asked to listed for an affirmation, I heard “I affirm creative chaos.”

Maybe that’s why I felt more excited than upset at this crisis/opportunity. I had periods of serious freakout, but mostly I felt that I had a vision of where I was going, and maybe even an inkling of why. I felt fairly certain that we were being called to move out of the mountains, down into the Denver area, at least partly because this is a time in which community is going to be important. I’ve felt it coming for a while. It’s no secret that I have a tendency toward hermitism, and living in a mountain village half an hour from the far western outskirts of town doesn’t do much to discourage it. My comfort zone is being alone, maybe with a couple of close friends, but I feel I’m being pushed to develop those dormant muscles of social interaction, and possibly be of service in some new, hands-on way.

I began looking for a place. A few were duds; several more wouldn’t take cats. I upped my price range. I had in mind that it was time we had a bigger place. I found an apartment in a neighborhood I’d never heard of, just on the Denver side of Sheridan. It was the whole first floor of a ranch-style house, including a garage and a large backyard and patio, the latter two being shared with a nice young lesbian couple who lived in the basement apartment. I really liked it. I raved about it to Sam and made him go check it out. He wasn’t in love, but he was in hate-the-world mode, and even still he thought it would do.

I set up more appointments, including a few to look at actual houses. The agents never showed, or messages got weirdly mixed. I saw another crappy apartment. We started getting sick from the mold at home, so we moved (along with our cats) into the spare room of an EXTREMELY generous friend. We applied for the South Denver place. The process was very slow. Days went by.

The weekend of the 28th & 29th we packed all of our stuff (throwing away a large proportion, including at least half of our furniture, which was either mold damaged or rickety to begin with), cleaned out the place, left the keys on the counter, and parked the U-Haul in the U-Haul parking lot until we knew where we were going to take it, which wasn’t until two days later when our application finally cleared at the Denver place. Sam felt nervous about signing, having not actually seen any other apartments, and I also felt uncertain about it, because I didn’t want it to turn out to be a huge disaster under my leadership. But I recalled this message that I’d received from Lynn Woodland’s online oracle:

Sit quietly with your eyes closed and imagine yourself walking up to the edge of an impossibly high cliff. As you look down from the edge you can’t see the bottom, only a swirling, beautiful light. The air is charged with excitement and promise. The view inspires a sense of wonder. Stand here for a moment and declare your willingness to invite the miraculous into your life…. Now, leap off the cliff. Instead of dropping, you are carried gently on currents of air and light. Let your imagination float freely and see where the stream of light carries you.

I actually did the visualization in my mind, and I felt the “currents of air and light” lifting me up. I recalled how I’d posted on Facebook the gist of our situation, and asked for prayers and light — and what an outpouring I received!!! So many friends sent messages of support, and many others silently prayed for us. I felt literally lifted up by all of this energy, very strong, coming from other people, my circle of support. I also had in my car one of the affirming post-it-note messages I’d made for the goddess retreat: Angels surround you at all times. At the base of it, I had to acknowledge that the whole situation seemed to be Divinely guided, and all I had to do was (pack and clean and lift and cry and) go with the flow.

We signed the lease. We dumped out all of our stuff into the garage. We got new Goodwill living room furniture to replace our old Goodwill living room furniture. We designated purposes for all of our new rooms. We are slowly getting things unpacked, cleaned, and set up.

A friend asked if I miss Idaho Springs. I said that it all happened so quickly, it feels very surreal, but if I look inside I realize that no, I don’t miss it, and I’m not sad at all. The experience of living in the mountains for three years was unique and wonderful and amazing, and I am so incredibly glad we did it, but that chapter feels complete. Now it’s on to sunny southern Denver, a largely Spanish-speaking neighborhood, bright colors, flat roads, easy access, and a whole new life.

Click the image to see the artist’s home page for a beautiful and fitting explanation.

Some Thoughts Can’t Be Expressed As Statements

Remember watching The L-Word?  Maybe we were less picky about our entertainment back then.  Anyway, there was one point in the show where Bette, going through a personal crisis, took up meditation.  She wasn’t entirely unconvincing.  At the peak of this period she went on a week-long silent retreat at a gorgeous, swanky retreat center in the Pacific Northwest.  Man, it looked nice up there.  But it turned out that much silence was not what Bette really craved.  The episode ended like a dam breaking as she poured out her pent-up words into someone’s voice mail: “I want, I want, I want…”

This scene, and this line, have stayed with me.  I sometimes find myself thinking those words, in that same heart-filled voice, without really being able to finish the sentences.  Sometimes it seems as though what I want doesn’t exist yet, so how could I know what it is called?

And then there are the things too painful to name, or at least to call them by the words everyone else uses.  The real names of these things, maybe, are silent; these other words only code, because the real names, when spoken, are unbearably sad.

Sometimes all I can bring myself to do is ask questions, and let the many possible answers hang unvocalized in the air like invisible memorials.

Here are some questions that I would like to offer:

Who owns a neighborhood, who owns the streets?  Who has authority to say who belongs there and who does not?

Why is a life of so little value that people are allowed to act with lethal force toward anyone who scares them?

Why have we created a climate in which violence is so quickly reached for in every uncomfortable situation?  Is there any way we can uncreate it?

Why are alternative solutions suppressed?  Why do we stand for it?

When will our nation encourage people to take responsibility for the hurt they cause, purposely or inadvertently?  When will our nation lead by example?

Would different standards have been applied if the one who died had been a white teenager?  Can anyone ever be honest about this?

What if those deciders had observed their own reactions and sincerely asked themselves, why does a policeman “just sound more convincing” to them?

Will our collective inclination to be generous and compassionate toward one another ever overcome our collective defensiveness?

How can anyone say the gun did this?

How can anyone say race is not involved?

Does it mean I support the US criminal justice system as it now exists if I wish that some punishment had been assigned to this person who survived the fight?  Even though I know in my heart that jail causes far more damage than it heals?

What’s a better way?

What can we do?

What can I do?

Let me be explicit here that while a certain “case” (if that’s really what we want to call it) has been in the news so much that even I have heard of it, and while I am truly saddened by the end of this particular story, this “case” is an EXAMPLE of one localized outcome of the values of violence-before-compassionate-action that permeate American society, and that’s why I feel sorrow for our country as a whole.  Other outcomes are other young people’s deaths, within the borders of the US and around the world.  That’s why I have chosen not to mention any names in this post, even though I hope it’s clear what national conversation has inspired these reflections.  I don’t know the specific people involved and I would hate for any of them to feel that I used their names for personal gain or publicity.  But I do recognize patterns.  And on occasion, throughout our history, certain other murders that were widely covered by the press (to the exclusion of thousands of similar stories; why those few get chosen, I don’t know) have served as motivators for change, as instigators for discussion, as alarm clocks for consciences.

When my own words can’t be found, songs sung in other languages can be comforting.  In the ardor of the singer’s expression, I can imagine whatever grief I’m feeling coming out in the music, too.

I remember listening to this African music show called Motherland Jam on KOPN, the community radio station in Columbia.  The host began each installment with “Shosholoza,” a South African folk song.  I always loved the sounds and melody of this song, even before I knew what it was about.  In fact it’s a song about working in the mines.  It came on my MP3 player while I was writing this, and it felt like medicine to my heart.  According to Wikipedia, it was sung traditionally sung call-and-response style by all-male groups in the Ndebele language to “express the hardship [and] heartache” of that deep, dark, dirty work underground and in camps, separated from families, abused by bosses.  The word “Shosholoza … means go forward or make way for the next man … It is used as a term of encouragement and hope for the workers as a sign of solidarity.”  The article continues, “In contemporary times, its meaning is to show support for any struggle.”

The lyrics alchemize the trials endured by the miners into poetry:

Shosholoza

Kulezo ntaba

Stimela siphume South Africa

Shosholoza

Kulezo ntaba

Stimela siphume South Africa

Wen’ uyabaleka

Kulezo ntaba

Stimela siphume Rhodesia

Go forward

Go forward

on those mountains

train to South africa

Go forward

Go forward

You are running away

You are running away

on those mountains

train from Zimbabwe

So if I may place one thing on the altar of the memory of this one particular almost-man who was killed, and whose death, for whatever reason, allowed America to engage in a conversation, even if the conversation hasn’t yet led to any answers, I would make it this song.