Month: June 2015

There is No Fear in Love (the post I almost didn’t write)

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They say,

“Have you ever considered how easy it is

to be in favor of same-sex marriage?”

Not for me.

Not for so many who share the past that was mine

when any balanced or moderate mention–or favorable, god forbid!

of those who refused to deny their love

was met with vitriolic reaction

hostility

the lashing out of a fragile, cave-dwelling worldview

that hates a glimpse of light

For me, it has been anything but easy

to see those who love without shame as people

as real, loving, love-worthy creatures of the earth

each unique and beautiful

who cannot be fit into our labels

whose hearts break from the hate of those

who by all rights ought to love them the most

They say that few “dare to disagree”

as if most secretly hate gay people

and just feel pressured into affirming their personhood and worth

Is it such a strange concept that we might be sincere?

That we are truly happy for these brothers and sisters?

So when people ask you why you oppose equal rights,

you call it persecution

but when you spit damnation and virulence

it’s just “speaking the truth”

and LOVING?!

What the fuck.

Really?

All I see is anger and disdain

eyes stubbornly shut

a sputtering “I do not approve!”

“Listen, everyone! I DO NOT approve! Hear me!”

They say,

“Yahweh laughs”

they mean in derision

why would the creator not love the created?

but I laugh in relief and joy

in celebration with my fellow beings

Today, I rejoice with those who rejoice

as society begins to recognize their inherent dignity

as we take a step in the right direction

They call this an attack on religious freedom

…uh, how?

These people you assail,

they do not care if you continue to practice religion and marriage as you will

They ask only that you let them do the same.

Why must the world be a war?

Why must each issue be us vs. them

a battle of wills

of brute force

with hearts ripped to shreds

in gory red carpets

the shameful wake of “victory”?

They say,

“marriage is the key to strong family life

and should thus be between one man and one woman”

Please, tell me again how divorce isn’t a thing

how one man and one woman will always remain together

Oh, and tell all the hurting hearts

who are the progeny and casualties of such unions gone awry

Wait, they say that gay marriage advocates are

“dismissive of others’ beliefs in the name of love”?

Pardon my ignorance

Please explain

How is requiring another to live by your rules

regardless of whether their worldview coincides with your own

not “dismissive of their beliefs”?

How is it dismissive

to ask for a little respect and freedom

not expecting you to change your lifestyle

or even your mind?

Once upon a time

there was a girl who lived in a bubble

in fear

listening to tales of the outside world

trembling at the images of its bloodthirsty desires

venomous fangs

It was horrific

two-dimensional

black and white

They were out to get me

When I heard their “evil”  words, bile rose in my throat

even tears to my eyes

I smugly told myself, “this is righteous anger and grief”

Oh, the remorse that pierces my heart when I see my past self

Truly, I feared the unknown

the strangers longing for love

Not even daring to examine my own unknown mind

I hated the existence of the other

even the existence of the self

Then my bubble popped

I found souls hiding behind masks

afraid to be yet again betrayed and ripped to shreds

and others standing strong and beautiful

despite the caustic words

the searing, blind hatred of those who claimed to love all

I learned to love

and there is no fear in love

Epiphany

No matter how “doctrinally sound” our conclusions

they are useless in the face of reality

Like the Pharisees who denied Jesus’ healing

because he broke the Sabbath

therefore was a sinner

and sinners cannot work miracles

So theologically sound to them

So heinously wrong and blind

This is not about an issue or a political position

This is about people

We are human

Spontaneous expressions of starshine and earth

dust and flame

We are not robots

manufactured copies

mechanically constructed

subject to codes and mental straitjackets

What is so wrong with acknowledging that we are all different

as varied and beautiful as a field of wildflowers

and that our diversity is a good thing?

Please, stop trying to speak for God

as if you can know the mind of the divine

Maybe start giving a shit about the people who need your love

Maybe stop giving a shit about your own opinions

your comfort

the trivialities that divert your attention from the eternal

Maybe, just maybe

You will find that hate cannot extinguish love

So love.

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When Words Fail

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What good are words? I try and try, but each time they fall flat. They capture in two dimensions the universes in my mind’s eye.

Can I capture the naunces and facets of human nature in ink? Can each deathly silent, pitch black cave, be communicated in words and light? Can the soaring heart be grounded to earth? What of all the times when tears or laughter, even both, come out simply because no words can begin to speak the depth of emotion? What of the meaningful silence that rests between us, when words cannot improve the void?

What of the nameless, untamable, indistinguishable yet intensely real feeling…you know of what I speak. That longing, as if melancholy and ecstasy and tranquility and rage all fused into one enormous, tiny, bright, unfathomably dark, amalgamate of something-nothing so real and unreal that you can barely let your thoughts rest on it without wondering if it truly exists.

7a879a73084f6d2b6c7f90beabc8162b-2In such moments, all that remains is to release your ceaseless discourse to the wind, to lose yourself, to rest in consciousness. Sink in the mire and ascend to the stars. Let the silence teach you. Enlightenment feels like death, and truly it is, but no more or less than it is life.

When the river of words runs dry, neither fear nor strive. May your mind be the tranquil surface of deep waters. May the still quiet be your comfort.

Peace.

Dancing in the Rain, Espresso, and Other Adventures

Two months later, and I’m back in Chicago. For dancing, of course. Three days full of live music at a huge, free blues festival. So we danced (live music is the best for dancing!) all day, in the sunshine and rain, then dancing all night to DJed music (by all night, I mean until 4 in the morning, of course).

A weekend full of adventures…

Well, to begin, I flew in on Thursday night. That is, I was supposed to. From Pensacola to Houston, no problem. Then guess what! My connecting flight is cancelled. Wait in line for an eternity, along with dozens of (understandably) irritated customers. Options: Wait until Saturday (WHAT?! no. just no.) or spend the night in Memphis and reach Chicago in the morning. Needless to say, I chose the latter.

Turns out, Memphis is one of the smaller airports, which do not have cots for overnight travellers. It also turns out that airport chairs were not designed for sleeping. Who knew, right? Shout-out to the awesome lady who worked at the Southwest desk, who went and bought McDonald’s for the dozen of us stuck there overnight, after she got off work. People can be amazing sometimes, going out of their way for total strangers.

5:30 a.m. finally rolls around, with a zombie that sort of resembles me boarding the flight. Out like a light until we land. Stumbling through the airport. Ooh, look! Coffee! Three shots of espresso produces no discernable rise in brain activity, but at least I’m happy now. Now to solve a mystery: will my luggage truly make it onto the first flight of the day? Fast forward an hour, and what do you know, there it is!

After last April, I’m fairly comfortable navigating the public transit system, so I reached my host’s house without incident, although dragging a suitcase for about a mile wasn’t the highlight of the day.

One of the things that I love about dancing is the way it forces me to meet new people all the time, as well as ensuring that we’ll almost certainly get along (having such a great interest in common). So I get to the house and meet one of my housemates for the weekend. Really sweet person (and a botanist!); we walk down the road in the rain to a sweet little bakery called Bittersweet, where the food is so beautiful, you almost wouldn’t want to eat it. Almost.

20150612_181536Next, we head to the festival. Parking in cities is a…challenge. We end up walking a mile to the park. Now to find the others. Thankfully, dancers are fairly easy to find, since they’re, you know, dancing.  Being the first day of the festival, our group is small but mighty. In the damp cold and soup-thick fog that eerily shrouds the skyscrapers, dancing is the perfect way to stay warm and cheerful.

Night falls, and we congregate in a sweet little wood-floored, brick-walled venue, ceiling adorned with strings of lights, for 5 hours of DJed music. Pure bliss, meeting so many friends from BluesSHOUT! in April, enjoying the late-night snacks, losing myself in the best blues dancing I’ve experienced in months.

Finally, in the early a.m., we stumble up the stairs and into bed. Sleep overtakes me before I can brush my teeth or even change clothes.

Sunshine! A happy, bleary-eyed crew (nine of us!), we figure out breakfast, get to know each other a little better, and eventually make it downtown for another day of dancing. Today is considerably warmer, almost too warm. Our band of dancers has grown, and the music today is even better. We spend a good deal of time by the stage that has a shaded, grassy area (soon to be muddy instead), where we can dance barefoot or chill and talk under the sprawling tree branches.

You know what I love about jazz and blues? They’re improvisational, spontaneous, inspired by and for the sake of the moment. They’re meant to be shared and enjoyed by all. One of the guitarists even let a little boy come play a solo with him in the middle of a song! (Here’s a short video of the same band.)

The three main acts are the final concerts of the day, truly phenomenal. The music is so soulful and intense that the impending thunderstorms even decided to make an appearance. And because blues dancers are hardcore, we weather it all (pun totally intended–no apologies, no regrets). Now I can say I have blues danced to live Buddy Guy music in the middle of a thunderstorm, watching dusk darken the Chicago skyline, with its myriad of lights twinkling softly through the curtain of raindrops. Truly magical.

20150614_160011The next morning, a couple friends and I visit a beautiful Turkish cafe (with great espresso!), and I head off to the third day of live blues. The train has three stops in a row that shared the first half of their names. Not realizing this, I get off at the wrong stop. The best adventures are spontaneous, of course, and I have a lovely time exploring a bit of downtown Chicago. The architecture, random modern artwork (a few photos here), street musicians…all topped off with a blue sky and sunny breeze.

So I’m definitely not a city person, but I do love visiting new cities. The two things that I really enjoy about big cities are (1) the beautiful local coffee shops and (2) the street musicians. Essentially, the parts that counteract the anonymity that pervades centers of civilization and increase the quality of life through art. I pass a flautist, a violinist, a little jazz band and (my favorite) five guys with five-gallon buckets and sticks, creating rhythms and having a hell of a good time (see video here). Just goes to show, you can make music with anything.

20150614_161403There’s this strange contrast that I observe, walking the streets of downtown Chicago. The finest hotels and restaurants and upscale clothing stores, juxtaposed to abject poverty. The rain from inky sky, blurring golden lamppost light, may seem romantic to me, but what about to that man huddled on the corner, wrapped in trash bags to keep dry, as expensive coats hurry by and self-absorbed eyes stare ahead blindly? What of the homeless man, hand forced by poverty, selling his bike (presumably his only mode of transportation) for a mere $35, while many passers-by spend that much on a single meal? Thoughts to ponder…

20150614_205455The rest of this evening is perfect, from the weather to the music and dancing.  Lost in the music as darkness blankets the landscape, punctuated by light from the city and lanterns that concert-goers launch from the green lawn.

And now the finale, the Sunday late-night dance, lasting until dawn. As the sun rises, we gather outside for a survivors’ photo, before returning for the last couple songs, which by this point have turned from blues to modern (with “Uptown Funk” in the mix, of course).

Now, standing in the parking lot, sleepy to the point of wakefulness, wondering, “should we get breakfast?” and “why does no place sell beer this early in the day?”

Now, the previous night/morning, I had managed to change my flight from Monday morning to Tuesday morning, since I wasn’t scheduled for work. So worth it, despite spending more than an hour on hold. (Seriously though, is hold music just recordings of 4th-grade piano recitals or something? Who even likes it?)

After a few hours of sleep, then yoga for a back and knees…well, and everything else, sore from about 30 hours of dancing (much of it on concrete), I spend the rest of the day in a fascinating little coffee shop called Dark Matter.  Wood floors, classically inspired modern artwork on the walls, with scents and sounds both happy and familiar. Coffee and inspiration have a direct relationship, I am sure. A cup of delicious dark roast, then a three-shot drink with maple syrup, black pepper, and sage (crazy delicious!), and words are flying from my fingers in a futile attempt to keep up with my idea-happy head.

20150615_161317In the middle of writing this post, sitting at the bar, facing a shelf of various spice jars, I suddenly catch a glimpse of my face in the mirror behind them. Something erupts within my being, and another post writes itself swiftly and fiercely. The words capture feelings long unspoken, in the past but as real as ever in memory. (Unexplainable awesomeness, that post had 25 views in the first hour: unheard-of for my obscure little piece of internet, but such happiness!)

Finally satisfied with the day’s endeavors, I dash through the rain, back to the house. Short nap, then swing dancing! Chicago’s weekly lindy hop dance happens to be Monday night, and it is a lovely conclusion to the weekend (also, some big-deal hockey sports thingy was happening that night, and Chicago won, in its own city, so everyone was going crazy. I obviously lack even a basic knowledge or interest in sports…)

To the airport now! I’m a zombie. Long lines for check-in, longer lines for security, chairs yet again not designed for napping. The flight time, uh…flies by. Yeah. (Because I was asleep.) Funny story–I manage to nap during the layover but don’t manage to wake up for the boarding calls. The flight is scheduled to leave at 8:30, and I wake up at 8:32. I freak out, dash a few yards to the gate, and make it literally last-second. Yay for the ability to sleep like a rock anytime, anywhere!

Now home, sweet home. Back to normal-ish life, for a while. As if that even exists.

Some Will Never Know…

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Some will never know

how overwhelming and refreshing it is

to catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror

and not look away

or judge

or hold back tears

To meet your own eyes

(the eyes whose hatred has plagued your life so long)

and see something beautiful

inside and out

Some of us have gone through hell

and just to say to ourselves

“oh, you lovely soul

you deserve to live this glorious life”

is a radical realization

There is no such peace

as being truly at rest in your own being

• • •

Some will never fear

the silence

all distraction stripped away

when you are confronted with who you are

But we have spent agonizing days there

in a self-made prison

torturous hours

no one to turn to

no one who cares

the only voice we hear is our own

its whispers

its screams

“I hate you…

I hate you!”

When your heart is a vacuum

no love

no hope

You physically implode

curled into a ball

paralyzed by the weight of perceived helplessness

Gasps in the terrifying void

• • •

Some will never endure

being trapped in a mask

icy shell that repels all who would love you

which you hate

but cannot leave

The bitterness of words

daggers in your bleeding heart

when they say they love you

who knows if it’s true?

You cannot believe it, either way

unable to fathom how anyone could

dying for loneliness

wishing only for love and acceptance

but lashing out

or retreating

whenever it is offered

just like the cornered animal that you are

• • •

Some will never understand what it took

just to be okay

to arise with the sun

and greet the day with hope

to meditate, alone with yourself

and be at peace

to look in the mirror and smile

a real smile

(not your camera-face)

To love yourself

everyone you meet

and all the world

To see the loveliness indwelling all

• • •

Some will never understand

the pain of healing

But you do

And I do

These words are for you, darling

Creature of the Forest

594dfb0a405b726f63579cf69af2dcc5I am a creature of the forest

The rustling leaves

the cawing birds

they call to me

“Escape, child!

Find your home!”

So I run

away from the concrete jungle

into the wooded marsh

where I belong

Where cicadas’ choir

mingles bullfrogs’ chorus

and unseen birds trill in time

Crackling leaves and springy moss

carpet the forest floor

softening pits and roots

Verdant vines

suspended, entangled

a time-woven tapestry

Tiered canopy

as trees spread arms in joy

etching mosaic of light on earth.

Bare feet spring in joy

I feel I could run forever

The forest tunnels

dense foliage enclosing sandy path

A fork

one way overgrown

the other steep ascent

I choose the latter

leaping nature’s stairs

roots and gullies

Woodland opens

shards of sky

broad leaves a noisy carpet

I take a few wrong turns

–no, not wrong

I find new adventures

A signpost warns

of snakes and alligators

the creatures of this place remain

regardless of man

Some would say nature threatens

Venom and teeth

Poison and thorns

But this is a place of peace

though danger may accent its stillness

Let no fear deter my steps

This is life!

This is the moment!

a thought strikes me–

in situations involving risk

one must necessarily

live in the moment

fully now

present in mind, body, spirit

yes, to be aware of possible danger

but also simultaneously aware

of the constant beauty that IS

So constantly and truly present

Wind stirs marsh rushes and grass

I wish to be the water

so placid

at peace with the world

It cares not, continues

absorbs impact and remains

Reflects the beauty all around

Showing clearly what IS

making me aware of what I might have missed

Oh let me be so

at peace with all

revealing their beauty

a channel

reviving

A current

to carry the weary on life’s journey

Showing the way to new mysteries,

around the next bend

Resting at last

I sit, watch, listen

Oh, to dwell here always

A bee has chosen me

as companion

Buzzing with the day’s news

Hugging me with little tiny feet

I am tempted to be annoyed

To resent its existence

for so we are taught from youth

But no.

It is also a creature of the forest

of the world

with as much right as me

(probably more)

to be here

I love it

its very existence

No creature is an inconvenience

Sun sets

bcf8d5492e6629aca1ef321981656755still bestowing golden light to

jade leaves

azure sky

pale wisps of cloud

And the cicadas

bid me good night

Good night…

Confessions of a Bookworm

0e9052a9793a3617e571ec439a20afebRecently, I dropped by the library briefly. Well, by “briefly,” I mean that my intention was to dash in, find a specific book, then leave to go for a run. Silly me, huh? Such places are tingling with enchantment, pulling even the most wary visitor into a trance of child-like rapture. Generations of history and culture and philosophy and poetry, waiting to be discovered! Down a rabbit-trail books I wandered, each title’s worn binding and yellowed pages calling my name. Curiosity driving my steps, I ran around like a child in a candy shop, stacking books high, until I could scarcely carry them. Wide eyes surveyed the endless shelves with a mixture of glee and regret. How marvelous that so much to discover was before me, and how tragic that I lack the capacity to learn of it. One hour and fifteen books later, I emerged into the sunshine, full of happy anticipation.

Some things never change. Flashbacks from childhood…the way that my sister and I searched library shelves for new books, how we always checked out the maximum number allowed. The nights that turned into mornings, while I was wide awake, lost in the pages of another world. The afternoons when I (rather successfully) hid from my parents, in order to finish the next chapter, and the next, and the next.

This summer, and beyond, may my inner child come alive again. Never again shall the pressure and stress cause me to grow stale or cease to learn.

Eek! So excited. Gotta go read now…

Wind in the Leaves

I am a creature of the Earth8a2ecc790c80c6cea5f72193b883f13a

child of the Stars

I know my place

and my place knows me

It is here

in the valleys and peaks

in the rivers and deserts

in the sunlight and tempest

not to rise above it

to some strange realm

isolated from what I most need

some vantage point

from which to devour

ravage and incinerate

what I no longer understand

Owning nothing

I am free

Knowing nothing

I may learn

Fearing nothing

I shall love

All that would obscure value

with arbitrary numbers

All that would make a being

run aimlessly in fear of ultimatums

All that would divert the mind

from the present, to drudgery

I let fall away

melt in the wind

Be still

There is no past

No future

I know only now

I am now

Explore the moment

Listen

minimal focus

Trees

Leaves

Wind

The Wind stirs the Leaves

They dance

dance together

higher, lower

louder, softer

Movement to mysterious music

beyond my ears

oh! teach me to hear

I listen a whilece52f702039ee2b428b849a506d183c0

solely to

the wind in the leaves

giving a fraction of the attention they merit

yet more than ever before

The journey has begun