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The Women Have Arrived

bread-puppet-washerwomen

The women arrive carrying ceramic bowls of muffins and popcorn. They introduce themselves and shrug out of winter coats, peel the backs off name tags, jot words on green post-its and find seats around the room.

We set up the easel, the flip chart, the clipboards, the jar full of pens.

We share our names, our role models in the movement, the things that make us smile.

After skimming Parker Palmer’s Circle of Trust touchstones, we give a collective nod to a tenor of inquiry and welcome.

Then we begin.


We talk.

In threes. Then individually. Then in a raw conversation among ten. One takes notes, another captures the momentum with arrows and stars on the big paper.

For three hours, we speak and listen. We hold our anxieties at bay. We focus on ways we can take effective action to preserve democracy.

The women arrived as strangers. Threading our questions and attention through the center of this circle, we weave community.

My living  room, a community center.

Curled on the sofa and perched on kitchen chairs, we define then expand on our common aims. Where can we increase our public involvement effectively? How can we plug our individual strengths into to collective projects and efforts? We are eager to identify gaps in our knowledge and lay out ideas for bridging those gaps.

The women come to build community and expand activist networks. To create mechanisms of support.

To inspire hope and energy for the long game.

We have arrived.

With our questions and doubts.

With our confusion and sometimes crippling anxiety.

With our commitment to preserving what we can of our republic, and to protecting our most vulnerable neighbors.

The women have gathered. We’ve opened into each other.

We talk of immigration and law, of electoral politics and civil disobedience. We consider the possibility that anarchism, at its core, is not firebombs and spray paint, but on-the-ground networks of community and mutual aid — networks that will become even more critical as democratic institutions fragment in the coming months and years.

On the big white flip chart, we map the landscape of civic engagement. Our green post-its leaf across the field, and we notice that our role models step a little further out than we do. The ones who inspire us — Sylvia Mendez, Harriet Tubman, Dolores Huerta — take bold action to disrupt systems of unjust power. We are only just finding our feet. A little uncertain, a little stuck in the safe zone, we haven’t yet gotten beyond calling senators and donating to the ACLU.

In this community center of women in a living room, we explore notions of safety that delineate the borders of our engagement. In individual reflection, each of us lists the abundance of resources and privilege and relationships that can support us as we step a out from ourselves and take the risk of public action in line with our values.

The women hear the low howl of fear, unique in its individual note, yet familiar as it hits the common chord.

Up from even lower thrums a more resonant sound. The pulse belongs to desire, that forever living creature tucked inside each of us who knows we are capable of growing so much bigger than we ever imagined we’d need to be.

Yet now we are here

Needing to be

As mighty as mountains.

Having arrived,

We turn inside out

and rise.


Image: Washerwomen from Bread and Puppet Theater’s “Nothing Is Not Ready Circus” performed in Glover, Vermont, on Aug. 24, 2014. (Greg Cook)

 

 

klimt-a-arvore-da-vida

He asks.  I fumble.  Events crash past, plowing under a vocabulary both dated and outgunned.  My words like vestigial limbs grasp at an extinct terrain.

As we drive the short distance home, NPR wallops us with our nightly load of federal ordure. The new Congress just voted to pave the way for a repeal of the Affordable Care Act.  Our representatives exhumed an old law which will allow them to slash the pay of any federal worker down to $1.  In a stage play of quasi-constitutionalism, those who ask the toughest questions wield no power.  The men in charge anoint a public opponent of civil rights as the nation’s Attorney General and an oil tycoon as Secretary of State.

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Action 4: RESIST

bread-puppet-resistance

Abandon plans for a democratic agenda.  Abandon hope for democracy at all.  The leadership of this country has shed any pretense of discourse about how best to govern.  Our leaders will seize, gut, silence, and reign.  They will topple any established checks on their force, and they will dispense with explaining themselves.  They will have no need to defend the twisted truths they spun as they advanced through a weakened democratic system into the control tower.  Why explain?  Why defend?  They now execute reality.

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Dear Blank Page

gorey-page

My Dear One,

It’s possible to ignore something for so long, it slips from awareness.  This happens even with the things we need to live.  By accident or luck, one of these lost things might tumble across our path.  We trip over it and pause to pick it up.  Oh, you!  I remember you!  We’re stunned that we’ve managed without it, yet skimming back over the time apart, we see, with absolute clarity, how its absence has hobbled us.

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Burrowing

making-waves

He slides into bed next to me, his left side far warmer than his right.  His chilled skin  presses in as he drinks from my heat.  “Can you put your arm around me?” He asks.

“Sure, scoot down.”

A shifting.  The sheets tangle and we kick ourselves back to softness.  Dark lingers.  December morning takes her sweet time stretching awake.  We wait her out.

“It’s funny how the neck is shaped,” he says in his dreamy murmur.

“How so?”

“It’s like it’s designed exactly right so someone’s arm can fit underneath.”

He snakes a leg over my left and under my right, snaggled toes seeking the pillowed weight of my calf.  He reaches the length of me now.  This has happened.  Ten years and here, with his hair tickling my jaw, his feet lie loose across mine.

The impression of the tiny beast still marks my skin.  His infancy thrums there, a damp comma curled into my belly and chest.

Continuity hides in the wardrobe of finality.  Once a devotee of context, now I read each moment as a complete sentence, unable to catch the breath at the end (and then, and then, and then. . . )  This is parenthood’s steady (or is it sudden?) erosion of fluency.  Weariness plays tricks on perception.  Serial appears as parable and the mind finds its relief in taking this moment’s story as the only story.

Our morning drifts on like this, as if nothing waits on the other side.  I fear this blindness and cherish it too.  Of course I know my boy will prefer his own bed soon, and then his own room, and then his own place in his own world (and then, and then. . .)

Now he creaks awake into the frosted dawn, this frosted dawn, and comes padding across the distance to find my warmth.  It can’t matter that I’d rather stay soaking alone in my private dream lagoon.  It can’t matter that we’ll both grump and fumble through our mid-afternoon exhaustion.  The only thing to do is turn back the blankets and unfurl the sash of my body.  A decade since he left it, and it fits him perfectly. For this fleeting forever, we fold into one.


Image: Rob Gonsalves, “Making Waves”

tupperware

Remember when water bottles and travel mugs were weird anomalies?  When you had  to clip your cup to your rucksack with a carabiner and then ask for special permission to fill it from the soda fountain?

Now even briefcases come with mesh pockets for portable hydration. Monday through Friday in every office in America, a rainbow of screw-top coffee mugs and metal-glass-plastic reusable water bottles clutters every working surface.

Far better than cluttering landfills, yes?

So what’s stopping us from doing the same with our food containers?

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