Barn's burnt down
I can see the Moon.
~ Mizuta Masahide

Monday, December 26, 2016

The Ones That Sing in Winter

I stepped out
Expecting silence to swallow
Each crunch of my pensive steps.

The hubris of my forgetting
Your songs and feathers 
Tumbling the snow 
dust from the leaves

Your lilting melodies 
Indifferent to my progress
As you soar freely above.

Embracing Hygge, Solstice and Faith

A short while ago, I came across two writings - an excerpt from a book and an article - that have struck such a chord with where I am and who I've become. While not driving the decision I have made, they have helped me better understand it as more than an act of mothering and self-care. The decision was a necessary pang for new birth.

The birth of a divine child and savior at the winter solstice has formed a central part of spiritual beliefs throughout the world since the beginning of history — in ancient Egypt as the birth of Horus, the birth of Mithras in Persia, the birth of Jesus at Christmas, the birth of the divine Son at Alban Arthan of the Druids, etc. These celebrations have tapped into a universal spiritual principle that is just as relevant now as it was then. 
They speak to us of a mysterious and universal understanding of spiritual transformation. All things which come into being must first be born. Even as creation was borne by the great Mother of the universe, so too must we be born of the spirit to become spirit. The winter solstice is a celebration of being born again — not of flesh, but of the spirit. It’s a celebration of the birth of the spiritual Son, the Christ, within a person’s consciousness in the process of awakening. 
Symbolized as a child just as the winter sun is at its weakest, it will grow until reaching its full strength at the summer solstice—just as the spirit grows within a prepared individual to transform them completely from inner darkness into light.
And so the Winter light begins to return, with ever increasing clarity.

Friday marked my last day working for an organization I have admired for many years and worked for, for nearly two. I made the bittersweet decision to resign as the Best for Colorado Campaign Manager because - despite my love for and success with the work - it was becoming increasingly clear that for my family, and my own heart and soul, we need to return to Washington state. 

And so, I return Home, not to the state of my birth but to the state of my becoming. Where I became an adult more fully than I'd ever been before. Where I reconnected with my bucolic heart. Where I became a mother. Where I became better attuned to the resonance of my soul.

I don't know what's next. But I know my kid is happier than she has been in months.

Professionally, I have an interview scheduled with another organization I have admired and with which I have wanted to work for several years.

Residentially, I have a few leads on rentals in the notoriously tight rental market.

But thanks to the parting generosity of my former employer, I don't have to act with immediacy on the first "Next Gig". And we have friends who have offered interim shelter until I am able to find us a home.

What a rare and precious gift.

I have resources to take the time to release, relax and recalibrate. If my interview on Tuesday doesn't work out, then I will fail forward into other opportunities, as I make myself fully at home in a community that I have adopted, a community that brings Z closer to her paternal family and to which we have regularly returned as our True North since leaving Washington in 2012.

And while I HATE moving - especially cross-country moving, which I've done twice in the last 18 months for opportunities with B Lab  - and I have never moved in the dead of winter, I find that I don't entirely mind.

I have embraced my professional down time and even the move as an exercise in the spirit of the Danish tradition, Hygge.

Now, I'm pretty sure there is no Danish in my family history. But when I read an article about Hygge, a light bulb of recognition went off. Hygge describes what I'm looking forward to. Hygge describes how I plan to spend at least the next two - three weeks (well, depending on the move timeline).

“Hygge, during the short, dark days and long nights, is akin to wintering. To slowing down, allowing the year to fold in on itself, and tending to ourselves and to each other."

And it has six core elements.

1. Slow Down

My last year has been a case study in Marathon Busyness. And since I'm more of a 5k with Sparkle Dust kind of gal, I need to Slow...The Frak...Down.

I will slow down by taking snowy walks and finally some cross-country skiing lessons for the first time in almost seven years.

I both need and want to recalibrate my sense of Now, with a greater focus on presence and an unlearning of the disease of "busy." 

2. Create a Circle of Warmth

Hygge is "sort of a full-on embrace of all things toasty, cozy, and restorative."

I look forward to the warmth of old friends and the joy of new ones. And the introvert part of my extraverted introversion equally looks forward to the comfort of my favorite sweats. I might even see if I can find one of those sensory deprivation pools in dark rooms for a little Womb Return reenactment.

3. Soothe Your Senses

But I don't want total sensory deprivation. I want and need a sensory reset with familiar landscapes, and favored flavors (Cave B CuvĂ©e de Soleil, Chukar Cherries and all things Tillamook ...I have missed thee). All at an altitude that doesn't still have me wheezing.

And then there's the Sister Santa massage gifts and some day soon, a pilgrimage day to Olympus.

4. Embrace the Small Stuff

A small home in a small town can root and grow big dreams.

5. Celebrate the Season (and not just The Holidays)

Unlike the cacophony that often takes over the Holidays, the Winter season - especially in the mountains and high desert - has a majestic silence when we turn off the gadgets and allow ourselves to fully embrace the season. It creates an unavoidable encounter with Self.

6. Know That It Won't Last Forever

Having never been unemployed, with a child before - without also being a full time student - the most comforting part of Winter may be the reminder that This Too Shall Pass. One can survive Winter and just be glad to get through it. Or one can decide to thrive during Winter and commit to making the best of it. Slowing down, scaling back, and turning inward need not equate to coming to a stand-still, giving up and shutting down.

I am cocooning for a few weeks. And like all cocooning, mine is a stage in active transformation. It is not without its risks. But it's also not without its opportunities. And I know that it is the best choice for me, my daughter, and our family.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

The Inelegance of Grief and Vulnerability in the Seismic Age of Trumpence

 New Yorker Cartoon, Dec. 2, 2016

How is a person to act when the first rumblings of seismic shift begins and s/he realizes s/he is standing on shifting sand rather than bedrock?

Having lived in California or Washington for nearly thirty years of my life, I have experienced many earthquakes, most so small that I barely took a pause ("Meh, that's like a 3.0 and I've GOT to get this laundry done"). A few - the Loma Prieta and the Northridge quakes, in particular - were doozies ("Oh, Sweet Lord, is this the day and place where I die?"). 

My one comfort during those bigger - dare I say, "bigly" - earthquakes was that at least I was on solid, if rocking ground. If I made it to a strong doorway or under a solid desk that could withstand the weight of falling debris, I knew I would be okay.

But for folks whose homes and work and and schools and lives were built on landfill (the approximation of equity in property development and urban design) they found out quickly, brutally, and totally just how illusive the security for which they paid dearly truly was.

 25th Anniversary of the Loma Prieta Earthquake

These days, I've been thinking a lot about earthquakes, given the preponderance of seismic imagery in analyses of the Trump Electoral College victory. And I can't think of a more apt metaphor for the pace and scale of the threats, and the importance of situatedness in determining one's perception and vulnerability to those threats.

I am reminded of this video by Brent Kooi, who was a missionary in Chiba City, Japan, a few hours away from Fukushima when the earthquake struck.

Elsewhere, Mr. Kooi has stated that he was able to stay calm in the crisis because he did not know the scope of the damage further north. What I find striking, however, is not his calm but rather the reactions of some of the others in the video: both the dog and the Japanese citizens at 0:40. While Mr. Kooi admits to feeling disoriented as he continues to meander towards the train station, while recording the liquefaction of the park, the people at 0:40 waste no time leaving and the dog sounds like s/he is having none of it. It's not until 2:26, after noting the rapid expansion of the fissures, the sprouting of lakes where there was once lawn, that Mr. Kooi admits to feeling "a little nervous" because, oh yeah, the park is built on landfill.

It's personally hard to reflect on the seismic nature of the coming age of Trumpence and not react like the people at 0:40 or holler like the dog. Over the last few years, I've noted regional insurgencies and wretched Supreme Court decisions that have made it very clear that core human and civil rights, necessary for a successful free and fair democracy, are not bedrock rights for anyone who isn't straight, white, wealthy, or evangelically Christian. And now, the candidate who campaigned peddling contempt, ridicule and hatred for The Other, is queuing up a Cabinet full of hateful True Believers determined to enshrine their white supremacist, heteronormative, Inquisition-style Christianity into every chamber of government and into the highest law of the land for at least a generation.

How am I to act when the first rumblings of seismic shift begin and I realize I am standing on shifting sand rather than bedrock?

I know there are many who believe that the best way to react is to follow Mr. Kooi's example: stay calm in the crisis; make note of the changing landscape; look to the reactions of others as guidance for how best and when to react; don't panic; and don't disturb others with your nervousness. 

That's a lot to ask these days when the fissures of injustice are undulating and threatening an era of constitutional and humanitarian liquefaction.

Not only does it ignore the messiness of grief and legitimate fear. It fails to create space for the very productivity that it requires. How does a vulnerable person create a plan to alleviate that vulnerability without engaging those who may be inconvenienced but who purport to "empathize"? That's not a rhetorical question. That's my dilemma. If I follow the example of the dog and loudly announce my concerns, I am histrionic in my personal life and unprofessional at work. If I follow the example of the people at 0:40, I am uncommitted. 

I and others more immediately vulnerable (e.g. Muslims, Hispanics and sexual minorities) are now profoundly inconvenienced by the need to create exit strategies that may pull us away from homes we love, communities we enjoy, and work that inspires us.

And resolving those two inconveniences -- the one for those adapting to the liquefaction of their human and civil rights; the other for those on higher, more stable ground who want to help but also need the vulnerable to function as if they too are on stable, unchanged ground -- is a conundrum that many communities and workplaces will need to resolve.

Survival strategies for vulnerable people in the Age of Trumpence are not something that can be gradually evolved in wonderment at the rapidly changing terrain. And their genuinely empathetic but inconvenienced neighbors and colleagues who are less vulnerable to Trumpence priorities have a right to try to maneuver through the transformation with calm. 

I wish I had the answer. I suspect it begins with authentic heart-to-hearts between the vulnerable and the inconvenienced, focused on discerning mutually beneficial pathways towards continuity where possible, and towards escape where necessary. But those heart-to-hearts must be predicated on a shared understanding that while there are always tremors with change, seismic tremors (like the rise of a President openly allied with white nationalists) are different. And the discovery that some principles once believed to be bedrock are in fact landfill in the early stages of liquefaction is a living nightmare.