I was in Massachusetts last week. For ten days. To visit my parents. And my daughter. And my sister, too. But more. To see someone close up in changing times and to visit a farmhouse in the woods where soon I will make my home.
I am coming back here. To this east coast. For just a time this fall. A few short months though still they will be long. For I will away from my west coast home of soft, sweet beaches and citrus mornings to be here for fall foliage and east coast cold.
The journey back this week gives me pause. A good thing. For now I am prepared for when I am back again in six weeks time.
You see, Massachusetts, in its full trees and lush breeze, is too familiar.
Everywhere I turn are stories deep in colors red. Memories overflow my mind space. And taunt my heart. And soul and spirit also.
The stage I graced where once I was is not only theater bound but a town, a street, a secret space and silent place filled with crowds. And empty, too.
I drive, town to town and street to street and place to place and still these things that were back there then are now here still.
I want to drive down pleasant streets and ancient towns and see the new in them. See not the stories old and full but ripe of this new heart. And sweet from now warm breath.
I want to make new memories.
I want them to be clean. And Fresh. And capture and hold gently close the me that is here now and not the me that was there then.
And though I will not forget what I remember now in all these places still, my new stories will be softly formed with rounded edges and the sweet melody of a violin and the deep resonance of cellos. And softly played piano keys.
This will be my memory musical score.
I died ten days ago. My soul. My soul died. For just an instant. Or this is what it feels like. It had a heart attack. And it died. My soul. For just an instant. And because I am in this body - in this human experience here on this sweet earth - my body, it also had a heart attack.
That does not show.
Because this heart attack of mind/heart/spirit/soul was not of this body. My body, it experienced the manifestation of the heart attack of my soul but not of the body. And so no remnant of it is left behind.
I read a piece recently about having to die to live. The idea is that our transformation is not the changing into something new that we have always thought/heard/understood/been told it was.
Transformation is actually the stripping down of all the layers that have grown up around us to find the pure truth this is us that has always been there. The pure truth that is me. It has been here all along. Under cover. Enveloped by layers that have served me to this point but that now need to die. So that I - the me that is perfect and has been waiting till this moment - can now live. Fully.
This is a good writing, this writing that I am talking about, the You Must Die To Live writing. The writing about the dying of the parts to allow the whole to live fully.
And there have been others, too. Other writings. And songs. And sayings. Blog post and Facebook posts and words shared by friends through conversation. And through poems.
Messages are showing up. They linger with me. These songs/poems/prose/words. They linger in me while I roll them around under my skin. And in my heart. And then hold dear and close these things that settle in as true. Taking a step or two nearer to them moves me a step or more along my path. Not linear. Never simple. Always true.
I discovered Mary Oliver. Introduced to me by a friend. And found this poem first. This poem that I still love best.
And I spoke to a friend about love that resonates in places that are dark. I love this conversation on love. I love that we know that love lives in the shadows. Sometimes. Oftentimes. Dark. And true. And sweet, too.
And I find song after song. Those I knew already. And some that are new. Words that make sense. And music that fills me. And propels me in dance. And as I move more of me falls away until I am just in movement and music. And in spirit, too.
And all of this - this movement and poetry and music and words and writings and love and loss and loss and loss and loss and loss - all of this chips away at the stone around me until this one last crack and all the pieces break away. This last crack, it is my soul's heart attack. That I had last week. When I died. For just that moment.
Jim Crow Is Alive And Well And Living In America
original post, December 7th, 2015
We had a really interesting discussion last night. It was about race. Black/White specifically. The players involved were my husband - white, brahmin, privileged, prep school educated, good college, father was a doctor, myself - nice jewish girl from Long Island, privileged, public school, good college, Law Degree, successful father, and my husband's business partner, black, from Chicago, privileged, well educated, good college, father was a pastor. So the conversation, like all conversations, came from our own frame of reference as well as the broader understanding we each may have based on the knowledge we've acquired over our lifetimes. It was a great conversation. Honest and real. And, because of the fact that we are friends, any misunderstandings or differences of opinions were an opportunity to educate.
This conversation about racism in America today, it started with the question of whether it really still exists. Because we, meaning those who do not live it, we can't really see it. Not in the same way that someone who is it can. So just as someone Jewish may experience the anti-semitic innuendos that are prevalent throughout our society on a daily basis, and just as women will constantly experience subtle - and not so subtle - sexual harassment, not being white in America means a constant awareness that you are not white in America.
Race is a tough issue. Hard to talk about without sounding racist... hell, there is that hard to handle argument that just talking about it is racist in the fact that there would be nothing to talk about if we didn't notice these differences that divide us even while we claim that they don't.
And hard to talk about because when something isn't easily seen by those who are affected by it, it is then very easy to say that it isn't really happening.
Here's an example. When spousal abuse occurs, and it is physical abuse, we all see it. The bruises and broken bones. We see and and so we know it's real. But what of the abuse that is not seen. The shaming and control, the belittling and manipulation. The emotional abuse that is constant and debilitating but that is invisible to the world. In a sense a worse abuse because of its insidious nature. So much harder to believe because the outward manifestation of the abuse is not presented to us in a way that we can process within our general understanding of what abuse is.
This is the heart of racism in America today.
An insidious current that runs along the underbelly of our society. And so those of us who don't live it, because we can't see it, we can say that is is not there anymore. That Jim Crow no longer lives here in America. That we are all equal. But that is not the case.
Just a bit of history: "Throughout the 1830s and '40s, the white entertainer Thomas Dartmouth Rice (1808-1860) performed a popular song-and-dance act supposedly modeled after a slave. He named the character Jim Crow. The, after the American Civil War (1861-1865), most southern states and, later, border states passed laws that denied blacks basic human rights. It is not clear how, but the minstrel character's name "Jim Crow" became a kind of shorthand for the laws, customs and etiquette that segregated and demeaned African Americans primarily from the 1870s to the 1960s" (http://www.ferris.edu/jimcrow/origins.htm).
And Jim Crow is alive and well and living in America.
And if he were a man rather than a methodology he is laughing with joy in the passenger seat of the black man who must be extra polite when he's pulled over for a traffic violation or he is the sales person watching a black patron take in their surroundings in a store to make sure that no-one suspects them of taking something. He is the owner of our jails, still being filled by blacks arrested for minor crimes but unable to fight against an imperial justice system created for the betterment of those who created it. He is the writer of our textbooks, used in our schools to educate our children about race in this country by failing to truthfully educate our children about race in this country. He gifts us tinted glasses, forcing us to see each other as different from ourselves. And he takes over our egos so that we do not admit that we see each other differently than ourselves.
He owns our media and whitewashes (interesting how that word works) our stories. He pretends that all is good while never letting those he has marked forget that all is not.
When I go out in the world, no one knows that I am Jewish. For most of my life I was more often mistaken for Italian when asked my heritage. And there was a period of time where I was really relieved about that. There weren't many other Jewish women at my college, and so it was easier for me not to stand out. Because anti-semitism was right there, in my classroom, my dorm room, at parties and social gatherings. We went to B-jew instead of BU when we went to Boston University for a party. And any talk of wealth came back to being Jewish about your money. I kept my mouth shut for those years. Felt shame and anger but not enough to call them out, because that would call me out and it was easier to blend in.
And here's the thing. I was able to blend in. And, though prejudiced against for who I was, I had the choice to separate myself from it. Not deal with it. It was definitely not the best choice. I regret that I didn't use my voice and call out those who felt compelled, whether with intent or through ignorance, to stereotype a group of people who were different than themselves. But still, the choice was there. I didn't have to fight the battle every day.
I didn't have to be what being black in America today forces one to be. Hyper aware. Vigilant. Careful.
When I am alone I am naked. A lot of the time. This is a new thing. And not so new, too. More new than not. And good. There is something about the disrobing of layers that is truly an honoring of where I am in my journey right now. My life journey. My metamorphosis. My discovering the new. My transformation. Because in this - this process of peeling off the layers of myself that no longer serve me so as to discover the me that has always been there and is now so ready to be free - I am in a disrobing.
The taking off of clothes, this mirrors the taking off of selves.
The funny thing about my being naked is that I've been really comfortable about being this in public for a really long time. Modeling for drawing classes, sitting for a sculptor, being in a play, posing for photographers. Nude beaches are a big favorite of mine. This publicness of nakedness is easy.
But the nakedness of one. Of me. In the alone of me, this nakedness is different. Because all it is about is me. And so where the nakedness for others - for that other purpose - is almost like a different set of clothing is put on, this nakedness of one, of me, this is truly a disrobing. Of all that I could hide behind.
I am taking off my cover.
I took off my cover twice today. We went on a hike. And found a stream that needed to be entered into. The air was wet, the rocks and sticks, mud and leaves cool to the touch and cooler still against my skin after my clothes were off my body.
I sat in the stream for only a few moments. Long enough for my legs to become numb while I cupped the clear water within my hands to then run the drips against my arms. My neck. My face. My hair. My chest. And belly, too. And then I climbed atop a small rock that was one of the few places where the sun settled through the trees and I could feel the warmth against my skin.
The sensuality of air on skin - on still wet skin that dried too quickly - brings me to a connected place. To the earth. To a spirit that is familiar. And a knowing that sits true. And a remembering that is sweet. For I have known this nakedness before.
The second time today was not long after the first. On our drive back down the mountain road to home. We passed a lake. In Ojai! During a drought! It is a miracle lake. And so I had to go to it. Go in it. Be in it. Naked.
And so we drove till we could not anymore. And then walked along a path and over a now dry streambed covered with tiny frogs - thousands of them - that we could see when they moved but that disappeared in their stillness. Till we were there. This small, warm and clear, lake. More a pond. And then I was at its edge. Where once again my cover came off and I entered the sweet stillness of water. Swimming out to the middle where the bottom was deeper and the warm, sunbaked water gave way to a cooler surrounding. But not cold at all.
I swam out and back and then lay on the ground - so the warmth of the sun could dry my skin - until another couple showed up and my disrobing was reversed.
I hesitated for a moment at that moment. When these others showed up in my naked space. An instant of questioning whether I wanted to get dressed. Cover up. Re-place my cover. But in this moment the moment was finished and it was time to go home.
Mother, Wife, Friend, Sister, Daughter, Dancer, Rower, Runner, Dog and Cat lover.