From the crowded rows of a greenhouse shelving unit
to your sunny window ledge.
10 beautiful, shiny leaves.
Water it, once every two weeks. Fertilize it twice a year.
10 beautiful, shiny leaves
Water it, once a week, fertilize it monthly through the summer. Shield it under thin plastic in the spring.
10 beautiful, shiny leaves
Water it twice a week, fertilize it monthly. mist it lightly with a repurposed spray bottle, move it round the house to follow the sun.
10 beautiful, shiny leaves
Water it daily, fertilize it on demand, set it on the linoleum floor of your bathroom while you shower, place it near the humidifier and wipe the leaves with a warm wet towel, move it outside when the sun is shining, and back indoors when night falls.
Only, it’s not a plant.
It’s a person.
When do you stop tending, what will not grow?
Everything. Everything about you can be healed.
You must have the courage and resilience to sit with the process of healing. And therein lies the rub. The ipso facto that causes people to side step healing. To attempt to slink past before the roar of pain wakes up and catches you in its bloody paws. Vainly.
To vainly try an avoid that which provides the most beautiful of all. Truth.
I was pretty young when I learned truth could hurt. In fact it was that very realization which led me to my very first lie— and pretty much all the lies that would follow. Truth could land me in trouble, a spanking, a grounding, a week with no music, no books, no friends. Truth caused me to get yelled at, and for days on end treated with a stony angry silence.
I don’t blame parents. Especially not mine. It’s got to be hard raising Hellraiser and little rebels. But parents often inadvertently teach their children that lies get you in trouble, but truth will get you in trouble too– the only safe bet is to lie so well— the truth is never discovered.
That is a small digression from the original point. Truth can be painful. But it is in wading through, admitting and accepting truth– that we can really be free.
The truth about ourselves is often the most painful to face and takes the longest to heal. Often, it’s not even our direct fault the toxic traits we adopted to survive. But it is our responsibility to face and heal them. If we don’t, we become the monster-in-waiting that sends hurt and pain spiraling back into the wild.
Truth bleeds through in my art. My art is borne from wounds, mine and my ancestors. Bubbling up through layers of dead earth, it pours through my veins. Sometimes I think it couldn’t’ wait any longer. That the fount of pain, like a volcano, had such enormous pressure it erupted into my being. Sprang forth out of my mom’s womb with me. Breathed free air for the first time when I screamed my anguish in announcement to the world. The pain I face, heal, and carry is not all mine.
I know that
I feel that deeply.
Ancestral pain is somethin’ else. And when I say it like that– somethin’ else– I hope you know what I mean. I hope you know how I say that. I could give it back. I could send it away, because we all have enough to carry without also carrying the burdens of centuries. And some I do send away. I send it to the earth, it can carry loads more than me. The earth has a symbiotic system waiting to metabolize the pain it receives. Something in me, my ancestors maybe, tells me that the earth can take the pain that I send it with grace.
But some of the pain I retain, and will attempt to heal. With truth and art.
A beautiful secluded lake sits off the beaten path, nestled in the Chuckanut Mountains. It’s a local favorite, a moderate 6-mile round trip trail marked by switchbacks and enormous stumps of long dead trees covered in moss. The surrounding area of the lake is a geologist’s dream, with steep multifaceted cliff faces, and an unpredictable terrain; the lake itself is an angler’s oasis where trout lurk just beneath the waters calm surface.
On a semi-cloudy, unremarkable Sunday, we decided to hike up to Fragrance Lake. A liminal journey that mirrored my own current grapple with my spirituality. We weren’t seeking anything deeply, or in pursuit of any goal beyond arrival to the lake.
We started off simply knowing that we couldn’t spend another dreary Sunday watching life stand still.
Over the COVID 19 pandemic and subsequent quarantine. I’ve taken the ample down time at home to really hone in on my personal spiritual practice through developed rituals, divination, and awareness. I’ve long since eschewed my religious Christian spirituality, it was a tight vice that never fit or felt real to me. But as a vestige of my upbringing and family relationships, I’ve found it challenging to release. Though, I am entirely conscious of the notion that I need to let go completely before I can grasp my fledgling eco-based spiritualism.
I ran my hands over the smooth under bark of a birch tree, a few steps from the trail. It had been peeled of its outer layer from the ground up, about 15 feet. What remained was a pale, striated interior, like polished marble. I took a breath and sent gratitude to the tree, for existing, for being in this space where I could pass by and see it. The 2 mile climb had exhausted me and seeing this tree gave me a natural pause and breath.
We continued on, and finally arrived.
The lake was glassy and unbroken, save a happy Labrador wading in to fetch his stick, taking his time to paddle through the water calmly. His owner was unseen in the treelined edge of the lake. The lushness offered invisibility and anonymity, and we perched on ancient rocks, levelled out by decades of gentle nudging by the water. This perfect resting place had taken an eon to be. Why did I expect my own evolution to materialize quickly?
We sipped some lemon water, nibbled at a tart green apple and walked on.
A 75 foot tree had recently fallen and taken out a small brook bridge, so we waded through the mud along side it to continue along the trail. I stopped and ran my hands along the thick deep green moss covering the bark, entwining my hands into its jade tangles. It felt cool, wet and alive. Further up, where the tree had weakened and splintered, were bright orange rings of outer layers, protecting the white rings that belied the trees old age.
I knelt by the tree, sharing its energy. This pandemic has weakened and splintered me in areas too. I’ve been laid low by the lack of connection and outside inspiration, unable to write, to produce anything substantive. And in the time/space I’ve had to build my own practice, I’ve also succumbed to the vacuum of movement- forgetting my yoga, forgetting at times, to drop my shoulders and breathe.
This is the stillness that begets more stillness. In front of me the tree lay on the ground, uprooted and fallen, yet still alive and providing sustenance for its co-organisms. I thanked the tree for its life and we rejoined our hike, looping back towards the car. I was no closer to my destination, but more replete in the journey.
The title of this short….thing, could easily also be Fathers Who Raised Daughters as Objects; or Fathers Who Raised Sons with No Self Awareness; or Mothers Who Wounded Daughters with their Lacking.
It’s just a note really, for all parents. Be good. Be Compassionate, Be kind. Be a parent– teach, guide, learn build, allow. Don’t be a friend, find your own friends. Be a parent.
But mostly, Raise a human.
Don’t raise sons and daughters. Don’t raise people walking the world with burdens of hurt and malformed ideas and opinions of who they are and how they are. Don’t lace your child’s shoes with your fear, and pour your malice and hurt in their sippy cup.
Raise a human who knows that cleaning the house, isn’t to please mother– its to learn how to clean a house.
Raise a human who recognizes that your parental view of them, is just an opinion and no one knows them like they know themselves.
Raise a human who makes mistakes and than has to fix them.
Raise a resilient human who falls down, cries it out, and knows how to get up again.
Raise a human who knows how to say “No” to you and also “Yes” to life.
Raise a human who comes not “from” you, but “through” you.
And when the day comes that human leaves you? Know that the human isn’t leaving you. They are seeking themselves.
Your job as a human parent is to let them. And to return to yourself.
- Disclosure- I am not a parent. But I am a human in this world.
Stop calling people quiet. Stop using that as a descriptor for another human being, or any being for that matter.
Quiet is a state of being, it isn’t a personality trait.
It’s a lazy and feeble way to describe someone. It takes the onus off of you to communicate and try. To strive to dig deeper than the obvious surface level symptoms (read: personality traits) a person exhibits about themselves regularly.
Delineating someone as a “quiet” individual is a sigh of relief you use to cover your deep seated fear that you aren’t in fact inviting enough for someone to share themselves with you. Or that they just don’t care or trust you enough to open the floodgates of conversation.
And the minute you call them “quiet” you make that fear true.
Because who wants to swap intimacies with someone who uses quiet as a adjective with people? Someone who doesn’t have the replete-ness of self required to revel in absence of noise and dive into the presence of something greater.
You see, if you push past your fear, you’ll find that “quiet” person you encountered or love is actually revealing more of themselves then you are, well beneath their calm exterior.
Quiet removes the need to plunge deeper. It quells the fear before we can work through to true understanding.
On the other side of that fear, is a whole person.
Just waiting to meet you.
Stop calling people quiet.
Stop calling yourself quiet
your life isn’t a template
your experiences aren’t always shared
the notes and lessons you take away..
maybe they aren’t meant for everyone
and perhaps the lesson is to sit with your lessons
in quiet humility
instead of reaching for validation
and calling it “shared inspiration”
I can’t imagine any other little black girl sitting in her room Waiting to be a grown up
just so that she can have some agency in this tension she’s feeling
this tension that wraps her like a constricting blanket of concentril circles
of spaces where she belongs…where she should belong
I dont imagine any little black girls dreamed they would have a career, a family, a tighr knit group of friends— and also a need to step into each space ready to advocate and fight
Back then, we didn’t dream of becoming Social Activists.
We dreamed of being.
So I don’t WANT to fight every day although, some days
I do want to.
But that is part of existing in my skin
in skin no thicker or harder or less vulnerable
I fight because I see my young black friends
and I see their eyes,
their response expressions in the workspace
and I know what it feels like
Like everyone around you has something…something you can’t tap in to. It’s in their voice- the tone. It’s in their posture, their confidence, their joy. It’s in their every motion. You see it everywhere all day, on TV, in magazines, books, advertisements. You see this something like a visible feeling.
And though you may exude the same energy- it’s different. And its perceived as different. And its treated different.
And that’s when you know
You are a fighter.
because i am strong and resilient and I have pride in my lineage
of strong beautiful black men and women (and white, and indigenous….and much more)
who are surivivors
and who thrived
and I’m embarrased
to be so afriad
and have an anxiety attack driving in my car
when the flashing red and blue lights appear
and i wonder will i walk away alive…
and then pull over in shaky relief to a grocery parking lot
when it turns out
the police lights weren’t for me
and I’m embarrased
to admit that
because the fear comes from the knowledge
that my life matters less
that i could never explain
anything other then what my skin color says
who holds my life in pendulum balance
and i’m embarrased
that i mean less
with lighter skin
and the same wit
the same smile
the same sharp mind
and eclectic taste for music
I mean less
because of who I was born to be
and it’s embarrasing to admit
I hope to overcome that
before it buries me.
When I was younger fear was synonymous with excitement.
I had a lot less at stake in those days, what with parents, older siblings, teachers, coaches, mentors. I had an endless loop of safety nets that allowed me to approach fear with curiosity and a sureness of spirit.
As I got older, the stakes of the game changed drastically. One bad fall could set me back mentally, emotionally, and financially for years. No one was responsible for sweeping up the broken pieces and putting me back together…..except me. So fear started to look like a flashing warning sign– YIELD or STOP.
I’m still trying to find out when it happened, and how I allowed it to happen, but eventually fear became my prison. It became my judge, jury and prison warden. Telling me when enough was enough, to sit down and be silent and avoid adverse consequences.
But one day I was exhausted. Standing in the middle of my living room, crying but not quite sure why I was crying. And I remembered me. In that strange moment I remembered the 18 year old me with a fiery passion who did exactly what I wanted to do. Who took her lumps and bumps, and still smiled through the tears and pain. I remembered that version of me and I turned around and smiled at fear.
And fear said “welcome back, old friend“
My fear is a guide post, a beacon, telling me there is something important in front of me. Something that matters. Something that will put a lump in the back of my throat and an ache in my heart. It tells me that its time to buckle down and do what I do best. Trust myself and do the work.
She sits on the dock, dangling her toes over the murky water, waiting.
Underneath her pristine porcelain mask her cheek itches relentlessly, but she doesn’t’ reach under to scratch. They could arrive any minute and she doesn’t want her mask askew. You never want your mask askew.
When you are a visitor in someone elses land, you abide by their rules, and you accept their customs.
She shifts in her spot, peering across the choppy water to the thick lushness of evergreen trees barely visible through the fog. Behind her she can hear the soft thud of footfalls. So she stands and greets her hosts. “Welcome to the Fey lands! We are thrilled that you are here!” Their smiles are toothy and wide. They each hug her warmly and send a chill up her spine. She tries not to shudder.
One with a slight dimple in his left cheek taps her mask, “seems nice and solid!” She nods. He continues, “You are allowed to decorate them you know, you don’t have to leave them in their polished white form?” She frowns, which her companions don’t see. “Why? It’s a mask. Why would you bother decorating it? What do you decorate it with?” The host shrugged, “your personality I guess.” The other companion chimes in, “Let’s get moving, we have so much daylight ahead of us.”
As they trudge to the vehicle parked in the lot, she considers the irony in decorating a mask with her personality. What colors would she use? Would the colors do justice to her rankling angst and simmering rage?
They drive in silence to a charming apartment. Filled to the absolute brim with things. All sorts of things. Most of them entirely useful and neat. All of them storied and important to the thing owners: her companions. “Welcome home” the male companion waves a hand across the space. She feels strangely drawn to the odd collection of furniture, art, and valuables. She tells herself its the making of societal culture, that in order to understand her hosts, she has to identify with their “things”.
She settles into their spare bedroom.
She shares meals with them.
She paints a tapestry on the wall in her gifted bedroom, at their request. She fills the swirls and loops with magnificent jet-streams of colors.
She begins to collect things, similar to thiers
They gift her some of their things to complete her collection.
Her compansions compliment her and uplift her with messages of kindness. They ask her why she hasn’t painted her mask, as vividly as she painted their wall.
Without warning, the wind shifts.
The air feels thick with unease.
She comes home everyday to hot tight air in the apartment and no one laughs over the magnificent collection of things anymore
The colors on “her” wall start to fade long before she drums up the courage to leave.
She stands on the dock feeling empty and hollow. Waiting for a way back out.
The water is calm and listless, like a sheet of lazy glass and the fog is too thick for her to see the other side of the lake
There are no happy endings.
And she takes her mask off just as the rain begins to fall.
There’s a knock at the door.
You are sitting by the fireplace, curled up on a rug with the cat in your lap. A few of your friends lounge leisurely on the sofas and armchairs scattered about the cozy hearth.
“Who is that?” you ask out loud to no one in particular. There is a book in your hand, a political thriller based on a true story. and your friends are lazily gazing at the tv or thumbing through magazines. You don’t want to look up but no one answers your question. “Are we expecting someone?”
You’re brown eyed friend clears their throat, “Yup, I know who it is, their okay- you can let them in.” You raise an eyebrow, “you invited them over to my house?” The friend fidgets in their seat, “oh, i’m sorry i thought that was okay, you said we could bring someone to come enjoy a cozy night at your place?” You sigh and retract your bristles. That is an accurate report on what you told them, and you don’t mind new people and visitors. It always makes for an interesting night. You open the door.
There stands a monster.
On the concrete step under the decorative eaves that cover your front door frame. The monster is so tall, that they must peer down through the ivy vines that lace and weave through the brackets. The monster speaks, “Hello.”
Your throat is dry and you can hardly move or take a breath but somehow something comes squeaking out, “Hi?”
The monster chuckles, “I was told this was the address…I’m here for the cozy hang out?” You stand stiffly before them clutching the door to help hold you upright. Your heart is pounding and everything feels surreal. “I’m sorry what?…. You..You want?” There is cold air pushing past you both and seeping into the room where your friends sit contendly. You can hear them yelling, “Let them in!” “Close the door, its cold!” So you yell back, “It’s a monster!” and one friend responds, “Yah, its fine, I know them, we are very close!”
You’ve started regaining your composure so you look the monster in their yellow eyes, and try to ignore the large gleaming fangs (as long as your fingers) dripping silvery saliva to the ground. “Okay, but I have house rules.”
The monster nods, “of course”.
“I have a rabbit, a cat, and a bird. You have to leave them alone.” The monster nods, “of course, I wouldn’t harm them”
You continue, “Please don’t take anything. And be respectful of anyone who is in my house.” The monster grins wider, “Absolutely, please don’t worry. I get it.”
You let the monster in.
They sit on the ground near you and ask to borrow a book to read. You acquiesce and pour them a glass of wine. Every now and then you accidentally brush against their illustrious black-grey fur when you stretch out your legs in front of you. They make conversation with your other friends, and the cozy evening turns to stimulating conversation broken in with moments of gazing into nothingness.
You put a cello playlist on.
The cat has disappeared but you think nothing of it.
You head to the bathroom to take out your contacts, and when you step past the kitchen you hear a smacking sound, and a crunching sound. The hair on the back of your neck arises, and you pause to peer around the corner.
The monster is standing beneath the flourescent lights holding a bright red dripping pile of bones and ligaments in their hands. Hanging off their pinky finger nail is “thumper” – your rabbit’s nametag. The scream sticks in your throat as you realize what has happened.
Time passes, and your friends have helped you grieve, and allowed you to rail, blame, and shout obscenities at whatever deities can hear you. Your friend who is close to the monster doesn’t talk about what their friend has done. They support you and hold space for you and drink many bottles of whiskey with you . The monster exits your life at this time, without a fuss or fight, as if they weren’t there at all.
Months later, you are sitting on the floor across from your friend playing a board game. You’ve both had 4-5 drinks and the mood is jovial and light, finally. It’s been too long since you felt this freedom in happiness. The doorbell rings
You are tipsy at the door, and its the monster.
They are smiling and holding a bottle of wine.
You stare at them. “Why are you here?”
“Well I heard that you were having a chill night, and I wanted to get together. I brought you that bottle of wine we talked about last year.” Your mind whirls, when you ate my rabbit, you want to scream in the gleaming grinning face. “I don’t think…” you begin to explain as calmly as you can, but the monster interupts, “I know, I think we could really enjoy a nice cozy evening. You went to Spain last month right? How was that?!”
You are taken aback, “Well actually it was Tuscany, Italy- so beautiful and peaceful. Thanks for asking. But…. But I don’t think you should be here.” The monster looks slightly perplexed, “Why is that?” You lick your lips and raise your voice a decibel, “Because you ate my rabbit. And you didn’t even apologize!”
The monster says nothing.
They just look at you.
Your friend comes to the door, probably wondering about the hushed tones and why you’ve been gone so long. “Oh Hi!” your friend says. The monster looks at them and the smile returns. “Hello! I’m so excited to see you, its been so long and we really need to catch up! Oh and I have a gift for you!” They wink and pat the bag in their hand. You speak up again. “This isn’t a good idea.”
The monsters face falls, and their yellow eyes well up with tears. They don’t meet your eyes. Your friend frowns. “Well, listen..’ you begin, but the monster interrupts. “I’m really just looking forward to spending some time with you all. It’s been a rough time.” Your friend gives the monster a hug and looks at you, “we should let them in, its cold out, and its the right thing to do.”
Before you can respond the monster looks back at you, “I understand the rules, I am not to harm your bird or cat, and i shouldn’t take anything or disrespect anyone. I won’t, I promise.” You can’t tell if the monster is being sincere, but you are weary of trying to explain yourself and understand them. “Okay.” you say.
The night is lovely. the conversation seems authentic, although when it steers in a direction the monster doesn’t want it to go, they redirect with practiced smoothness. The monster lights a firelog, and plays a hauntingly ethereal song on your violin. You open the bottle of wine they brought you, and its wonderful. The monster explains why their fur glows iridescently in moonlight and the story is incredible. When the night ends, you are sure that the monster is not at all bad. You decide to invite them to your birthday party.
The monster arrives with a generous present, a brand new violin. You hug the monster, offer them a slice of cake and spin the room talking to friends and family. They sing to you, tell stories about you and enjoy each others company. You go upstairs to put your violin away. It’s getting late, and people are getting drunk and you don’t want to break the monsters gift. As you turn on the light to your bedroom you notice iridescent black hair in the corner. When the lights flicker on, you see the monster huddled on the floor with your cat in their arms. The cats belly is sliced open and the organs are pulsing out and spilling into the hands of the monster. You look into the monsters yellow eyes.
They are empty.