This is me…

This is me not knowing what to write; knowing only enough to know that I should just start clacking away and see what happens; knowing that if I allow my current state of I don’t feel like writing to continue that I’ll suffer more for it.

This is me amid a much longer process of inner recallibration than I would prefer, wishing I could just be onto the next thing already – whatever the thing is – with this clunky awkward exhausting stage behind me as something I could point back to and say I came out better for it in the long-run.

This is me, a usually very decisive, action-based dame, being un-nerved by not knowing what the heck comes next in the book of my life.

This is me being antsy & agitated on my meditation cushion in the mornings  (but at least still sitting); missing my time spent as a hospice volunteer; missing my time spent as a super amateur drummer for a local African dance troupe; missing spending time with my friends; missing gathering people together for the sake of helping to foster the building of community; missing the attending of music shows; missing the places I used to go and realize now I took for granted pre-virus; missing….

This is me wondering if I have what it takes to actualize my husband and I’s shared long-held vision of building a mindfulness practice center here in our much beloved home state of Montana.

This is me wondering if perhaps I could use a long stay at Deer Park Monastery, my home away from home, to help me refuel and re-hydrate and re-balance.

This is me wondering what my future holds, as I step back and away from certain roles I’ve been invested in for a long long time.

This is me wondering what comes next.

This is me, being human.

 

 

 

Turning 41-years-old

This body –
my body –
of flesh, bones, organs,
a forever pumping heart and breathing lungs,
turns 41-years-old today.

I wonder if my mom and my dad,
each in their own separate states,
will travel back in time today,
thinking back to the day I was born.
Will they will reflect on what it means
to be the parent of a 41-year-old woman,
self-possessed, dwelling in the mountains
so many hundreds of miles away
from the land of her raising?

This day is not in celebration of me,
as though I were self-created,
self-propelled, self-contained.
Today I want to elevate my heart
in celebration not of me but of my parents;
my grandparents; my ancestors, blood and land;
my tribe of people near and far, past and present;
the wealth of resources and privileges
I’ve been so richly and generously afforded.

Did I mention I am filled to over-flowing with gratitude?
Did I mention that I try my very best
not to take it all for granted?

Have I mentioned that each day
when I rise, I form a smile of love
on my lips for the sheer joy
that comes from waking?

Origin Story (a poem)

Origin Story

This is me,
soon to turn 41-years-old,
just starting to properly familiarize myself with history
and educate myself on such matters as
how the heck did we get here as a nation?

I don’t mind telling you
it’s brutal as hell.

I don’t mind telling you
there’s part of me that is
wishing I had not opened
this door to our past.

I don’t mind telling you
to buckle up
to expect a different me
than you’re accustomed
in the wake of my learning.

My life is made
on the backs of Native Americans
African slaves
indentured servants
those who were painfully poor
immigrants looking for a better life
for their children.

Eyes that let in the light
can no longer feast on
the same darkness they once relied.

A heart no longer saturated
in its own will alone
pumps the blood of all those
whose lives were taken.

 

 

Resting Is Fuel For Engaging

from Everyday Peace Cards, 108 Mindfulness Meditations by Thich Nhat Hanh

Don’t you just love when things line up sometimes? For the past few days, I’ve been percolating on crafting a blog post on the power/importance/wisdom/practice/art of resting and this morning, I drew this card at random from my deck of Everyday Peace Cards to read and reflect on this week.

In case you’re not well-versed in the topics I routinely gravitate towards, I write fairly often about the art of resting. Two of my other regular writing threads center around cultivating joy and practicing gratitude – and all three are investments of time I place high on my list of priorities, as someone who is deeply called in the direction of spiritual living.

So this is me, putting out yet another plug for resting as a vital component of well-being.

My experience -both personally and from what I’ve seen in my friends & family – aligns with what TNH is saying in the card shown above: most of us do not know how to rest.

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Shades of Silence

There are different
and many kinds
of silence.

Some silence is like a fence
separating one thing from another thing –
and sometimes that thing is mere
possession of a fallow field
unintended for anything other
than ownership.

There are punishing silences,
liberating silences,
silences like a warm bed to fall into
at the end of a cold day.

Sunrise silence,
penetrating right into the heart of things.

Library silence,
enforced but pleasant.

Radio silence,
an indicator that something has gone wrong.

Sleeping baby silence,
a gift we give to someone else.

Weakening silence,
where a voice is stifled
by power over.

Preservation silence,
where a voice is snuffed out
by fear.

Don’t rock the boat silence,
a learned behavior over years
of lessening.

Swan Song silence,
the kind that marks the final
end of something.

Poetry silence,
the kind that lingers
long after the poem is done.

For vs. Against

On Friday, I attended a rally centered around the death of George Floyd here in Missoula, Montana, organized by the UM Black Student Union. Despite it being a quickly put together event, there was a good attendance and in large part a collective adherence to covid protocols (ie: mask wearing & social distancing).

Each time I am alerted to an organized gathering centered around a particular issue or matter in our lovely mountain town – this liberal oasis in an otherwise beet red state – I try my best to ascertain whether it will be a rally or a protest before I commit myself to attending. Similar to the Mother Teresa quote above, I myself am all for events that are pro/for-something but I am not likely to attend if it’s more of an against-something sort of event. A yes-event vs. a no-event, if you will.

I don’t consider myself an activist. I would never use that word to describe myself nor do I think it’s an apt descriptor to use should someone else try to pin that label on me. But please don’t get me wrong, I think activists are an important demographic of our population and I am glad there are many who gravitate in this direction. We all have our different callings – and thank goodness for that. There are a lot of worthy directions to travel in and each of us only has so much time and energy to devote in any given day.

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The Gift of Vision

pic I took last week at the Mission Lookout Tower in Swan Lake, Montana

This is me
at 5:28am on a Thursday,
gazing affectionately
at the morning sky,
and the pinks it’s dancing wide
on the horizon.

This is me
chewing on the gift
of having vision
and what it means to see.

This is me
casting a smooth round stone of gratitude
into the pool of today,
watching as the echo of my quiet joy
ripples out in all directions,
above and below.

Lessons from a Lookout Tower

Sign posted in Swan Lake, Montana

Last week, in the first noted occasion of something in my world that hasn’t been cancelled in over 2-months in the wake of covid, I stayed for a spell in the Mission Lookout Tower in Swan Lake, which is a little thing you can do here in the great state of Montana: stay in old decommissioned fire towers. I reserved the tower 6-months ago, and based on my findings online assumed my stay was cancelled. Then, four days before my reservation was set to start, I got a call from the ranger station telling me I was good to go. So I went.

I started venturing – solo saunter style – to this particular tower in May of 2018, making this recent trip my third annual pilgrimage there. I think I stayed 3 or 4 nights my first time. Last year I stayed a week and this year, too, I booked it for a week long stay. (Merch plug: I compiled my writings from my tower stay last year into a homespun book called Sky Perch: One-week worth of writing from a lookout tower. If you’re interested, let me know and I will send you a copy for $10.)

As a writer, staying solo in a tower rocketed 40-feet up off the ground is simply a stellar venue for putting pen to paper. And my last two trips there were periods of great reflection, refreshing solitude, stillness, nourishment, and energetic refueling. My trip there this last go-around, however, was not any of those things.

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On Patriarchy & Princesses

A few days ago, I let a 2-year-old little girl pick out a pepto-pink princess-themed book from a Little Free Library and instantly regretted it.

I tried steering her towards a different selection but she wasn’t having it. With her love of all things pink, the color of the book alone had her at hello.

It’s a hefty short story collection of the classics following all of the Disney princesses, all of which feature scantly dressed way thin females with tiny waistlines and long flowing hair. And while there is a whisper attempt at weaving in decent messaging, each princesses main goal in life is landing a man. And not just any man but a prince; a handsome prince; a savior-esque clean shaven dude of a prince who will provide the great honor of making her a royal bride.

 
In short, if there could only be one truly terrible book in all the land, this is it. If we want to indoctrinate our young girls right from the get go and make sure they know and stay in the subservient pretty girl box designed for them, this book is one-stop shopping.

 

While the 2-year-old was napping, I tucked the book inside my bag (with her parents grateful stamp of approval) and left the house with it, so it will never be seen again.

 
This is me at age 40 just starting to see how patriarchy has shaped and molded my life and the life of each and every one of us: females, males, gender variant, intersex, and transgender alike. This is me having my worldview-lens in the process of changing, as I invest time and energy into learning about systemic issues by way of classes I’ve been taking, books I’ve been reading, and talks I’ve been listening to online. And it has been and is not easy or comfortable or pleasant. I don’t mind telling you that there’s a small voice inside of me that regrets this new pathway opening up – what is it they say: ignorance is bliss? Yeah. It’s something akin to that.

A poem I penned this morning:

To all of the people
that have shown or handed me
my power,
I am sorry to report
that I’ve not been using it.
Good news is,
I’m starting now.
Better late than never, as they say.
 
And to those who are eye-rolling
at my use of the word power
or buckling under the weight
of your own discomfort,
take your business elsewhere.
I’m done trying to live my life
to make you feel as though
there is nothing in need of fixing.
 
My voice
like air
like repression
has been silent.
 
The time for my uprising
is here.
 
And I don’t care
if you like it.

____________

A few days ago, I watched the documentary Margaret Atwood: A Word After a Word After a Word is Power. I wasn’t familiar with her or her work prior to the film – it was the title that drew me in, and thankfully so. Spurred by the film, I was inspired to purchase one of her books that was mentioned: Power Politics, which was originally published in 1971. It arrived in the mail just yesterday and I set to reading it this morning. After reading a few poems from it, I penned the poem above.

Something that has become clear to me: poetry spurs more poetry, at least for me. For my poetry to take flight, I need the poetry of others to inspire, teach, and help show me the way. Back in February, I was away on a 2.5 week long retreat and I didn’t bring any poetry books along with me to read. I also wrote very little poetry of my own. It was then that I discovered: I need the poetry of others to help me find my own poet voice. It was an important realization.

Now, I’m on a roll. Over the last month or two, I’ve purchased around 4 or 5 different poetry books. I told my husband just the other day that he might have to put me in Poetry Books Anonymous!

“A word after a word after a word is power” really resonates with me right now. As I often write about: words matter. They really do. And this is me in the beginning stages of developing a whole new language.

Shout Out to Hard Labor Workers

My husband Mike. Photo & editing credit: Luke George

I reckon it’s impossible to pay proper attention and collectively highlight each and every single one of the worthy professions and investments of time that exist in the world. Still, this is me wanting to elevate what I’ve often seen and regarded as one of the greatest sects of unsung heroes: hard labor workers.

Construction workers; skilled trade workers; heavy equipment operators; road building crews; trail crews; trash collectors; the men & women in the trenches of making physical progress and growth happen in our towns, cities, parks and across our global landscape near and far. Rarely – if ever – have I seen these workers given due credit and collective appreciation.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great that in the wake of Covid-19 we are currently using our local & global voices to love up on our front line and essential workers, our truckers, our food industry workers and so forth – but it has left me wondering: what about our hard labor workers? What about our roofing crews (like my husband)? What about our electricians (like my dad)? What about our plumbers and sewage workers and road workers and front-loader operators? What about carpenters and framers and concrete workers? What about loggers and miners and trail workers? What about our mechanics? What about all of the workers who make a living getting dirty and using their physical bodies in the utmost taxing of ways – who are near-required to live on a diet of fast food and energy drinks just to make it through the day and get as much done as humanely(/un-humanely) possible?

This is me wanting to say thank you.

This is me wanting to say that I see how, as skilled and hard labor workers, you sacrifice your body for the sake of making sure we all have homes to live in and stores to shop in and roads to drive on and trails to walk on and a way of life that continues with all of the luxuries and great comforts that we are so accustomed to and often take for granted.

We complain when there’s road construction and it disrupts our route of travel. We complain when a new house is built in our neighborhood and creates a din of noise. We complain when a new building goes up in our area, signifying that our town is growing, thinking: Wouldn’t it be great if things never changed and just stayed how they were 20-years ago? But gosh, what the heck would we do without all of these workers?

Hard labor workers are amazing – it’s as simple and important as that.

So please, next time you pass by a job site or a road construction crew, instead of looking down on them or disregarding them or flashing them a sour-face because of some minor inconvenience you’re experiencing, get in touch with how hard their work is and extend your gratitude to them. Get in touch with how without them, the dwelling place you’re living in would not be possible; grocery stores would not be possible; all of the stuff you like to buy would not be possible; driving places would not be possible; running water and electricity and trash disposal and indoor plumbing and the internet and and and… would not be possible.

Big love to our hard & skilled labor workers. We owe you a great debt of ongoing gratitude.