maybe it's morbid for a 31-year-old to write her dying wishes, but nothing is promised, and I have preferences.

When I die, keep on like you have been.

Imagine we're doing this work together,

like we did a hundred other projects and efforts:

at the drop of the hat because nothing

worthwhile can be planned in advance,

stringing together what's on hand with

who can be there this time, and

what bare minimum it takes to

tend well to each other. It won't be perfect but

we know the intention will make it beautiful.

Just be sure no one feels burdened.


To put my body to rest, find a simple, sturdy sack -

maybe a big, woven coffee bag

from the bottom shelf of the cafe where

I loved to sit, write, watch people live.

Let me wear the clothes I was born in.

Carry me to the woods, dig a deep hole,

and drop me down to the roots. No need

to be neat about it. I'll be getting dirty in there.


Don't sacrifice flowers by plucking them to die

over my dead body on top of dirt.

Let me be their roundabout feast.

In fact, if it isn't too much trouble,

scatter a few more seeds instead of ashes.

The birds' choir, worms’ cremation, incense

of seasonal scents, sun- or starlight will

complete the ceremony, the sky

a consoling closing poem.


I hope some of those whom I love can bury me

but my heart won't hurt if they can't.

If they think of me for a moment,

with a smile or sigh or song, wherever they are -

that will be an ideal eulogy.

Wherever I am, if “wherever” can ever

be the right word, I'll do all I can

to be a guardian, a guide, a force for good.

Trust that. But if it turns out I'm Gone,

trust that I loved enough in this life to satisfy

any longing for eternity.


May I leave a tidy space and few tracks.

May tears or rejoicing be short.

May someday the remnants of my flesh feed

someone I'll never meet through blossom or fruit.

May I dissolve quietly into everything.

 

Hark!

Fellow white folks of privilege:

We want grandiose signs that the world is ending, not the blatant evidence under our noses. We want to wait for the Master Plan and Right Time we just can't know until we know it, instead of entering the ever-present Now to begin. We want to think we have chosen the correct belief about humanity's history and future without ever consulting with those who have forever stood in the fire, birthed there. We want to feel mysteriously called and divinely inspired to take a step toward saving ourselves, rather than trusting enough to hear our own frequency, or another's, for direction.

White people, the work is ours to do, first in ourselves. There is healing that must happen. There is knowing that must be remembered. There are the practices of coming back into your body, of deeply listening, of respecting your own soul enough to look again at the ways it has been fragmented by existing as the oppressor. We have to release our old religion of Supremacy, a creation story we barely recognize was fashioned to keep us all chained out of the garden. We must be angels to one another.

There are Messengers that seemingly appear in the fog at the periphery of our vision. They have always been there, yelling. There are ancient paths where the good way lies we can choose to discover. There is salvation. But first, there are stories to hear and tell about privilege. There are secrets to admit about prejudice. There are practices to be embraced that will make us more honest and empty. There is admitting that we have to start over.

Hear the heralds singing. Heed a new prophecy. Bask in the golden light and bear the discomfort of ages. Give greater glory by bending low and getting to work. Make your life a Message from beyond, at the service of those who have forever been saying, "The time has come!"

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 "Angels" by Oak Olivam (used with permission)

Emptied Altar

Smoky quartz, garnet, hematite.

Each one missing.

I take a deep breath and let out a long sigh. “Ronin.”

He never misplaces pieces of my altar roughly or callously, but with great intention and care. I find them hiding near windows, under the bed, on the bookshelf, in nooks and crannies around the house. If I catch him in the act, he offers a sheepish grin and a little shrug - “Sowwy, Mama!”

It’s not as if I haven’t set firm boundaries around this particular spot where I place special objects for my spiritual efficacy. I’ve been clear with my kids, reaffirmed the lines, redirected the interest, and asked with both gentle and harsh tones for my things to be left alone. My oldest has always understood and practiced amazing restraint, leaving my things be and admiring from afar. But my middle child - oh, that masterless samurai. That vagabond wanderer. That two-year-old mischief maker with horns and a tail and a dazzling, delighted smile. He really, really tries, I can tell. But he just can’t keep his fingers from the magic. I can hardly blame him.

Yesterday morning at Mama’s Hip, my friend Carly led me through a series of yoga poses that perfectly opened and aligned my body and spirit. As I leaned into a twist and laid my head on my mat, I could see clearly under our community couch: lost toys, dust bunnies, and mysterious odds-and-ends hid in the shadows. In the front room, I could hear the quiet noises of Shannon’s daughter playing as her mother watched the shop. I had to smile and giggle, again and again, at the wonderful way life deepens our practice. Brandi Carlile’s lyrics wafted in the air, singing of her child:

“The first things that she took from me were selfishness and sleep
She broke a thousand heirlooms I was never meant to keep
She filled my life with color, canceled plans, and trashed my car
But none of that was ever who we are…”

Lines of simple, poignant poetry found my ears as my heart opened, my shoulders fell, my eyes closed. They told of riding the breath like a steady steed back to the center of your being that never fails and is always with you. The clutter and clamor are always, always, always there. What never changes is the soul at the center…who we are.

I have learned, in being a mother and partner and friend and changemaker, to accept being rearranged and displaced. It’s a reality forced upon people the globe over. Yesterday, I wept holding my baby as I read about children in Yemen starving and watched their hungry mothers struggling to nurse them. What does it matter that I have my crystals and incense, my prayer books and mala, my poetry and practice, if I cannot let my heart be broken? if I can’t surrender what I’ll never know? if I can’t catch my breath, and find a way to the next right thing I must do? to let my children play, and wonder, and be free?

My special stones are in the right place, all the time. My altar, though disheveled, is an instrument of practice. Each time I discover a new, secret altar in an unexpected place, I strive to sigh in wonder instead of resentment, to feel the abundance of love and mystery my children bring my life instead of honing on the struggle. Making life with my children is a sacrament. It is an honor to be emptied. Only then can I find rich fulfillment in my soul.

Weep, Sing, Bow

1. Weep

I carry him crying and leave him thrashing. I have to let go, to help him let go. I trust he is safe and surrounded in love. Nevertheless, his words follow me as I walk away, my own tears falling: "I want to be with my family."

This morning, my baby fell off the bed. My toenail smashed into a bloody mess. My toddler wailed for his brother. Nothing, it seemed, could be accomplished beyond the bare minimum. Meanwhile, the world turned and hungered and wept, in need.

I keep imagining my children not breathing: stuck in tight places, lying on the floor with full mouths, smothered in blankets, escaped from my sight in a dark place I discover fearfully. I know these intrusive thoughts are fictions formed of the furtive urgency to keep my children safe. I try to relax - my children are breathing. But my mind fills with the faces of other little ones kept from their caregivers, separated from love by the belief that only some people are entitled to stay where they're safe.

Saturday, all I could do was sleep off a sore throat. Sunday, I found the severed limbs of trees that had valiantly, wildly grown for years, chopped down in minutes after seasons of striving.

Will my children have free, fertile ground on which to stand? What about their children? All children? Does anything I'm saying matter?

2. Sing

I see gentle smiles, feel a circle of embrace, and hear a soft voice saying, "I'm coming to help you." Again and again and again, angels appear.

I enter a spacious home and offer the promise, echoed back to me in a little voice, “Friends will be coming soon.” We prepare together to welcome them.

I sit in a house full of people hearing one another's wonders and woes, caring for one another's kids and each other, sharing space and time and love to make everything more bearable. I am held and holding. I am filled and restored.

I watch my child run to me, beaming: "I had a good day!" I listen carefully as he shares his stories and details. I treasure a brief time of connection. I feel fresh tears of relief roll down in release: “Mom, I saw something beautiful on the other road below us. Sorry you missed it. Next time, just look out your window. Keep looking. And you'll see.”

I suddenly feel in my body - in the midst of the strain and absurdity of living - a levity. I feel a clearing, a rooting. A surrender and celebration. I hear a voice, mine, singing. There is always a song, waiting.

When many voices sing in harmony, there is enough vibration for each one to pause, to take a breath, to sip water, to rejoin the chorus at the right time.

3. Bow

My two-year-old excitedly declares, "Yes, milky, yes!" as I offer to nurse his fussy baby brother. I ask, "Do you remember when you drank milky?" His brown gaze turns inward, pensive and pondering. I watch his expression soften. His face is still so round and sweet. He looks at me. "Yes." Another pause. "I drink milky downstairs. With Mommy. In Mommy's bed." I ask if he misses it. Another pause. Eye to eye. He nods silently. Wistful, not sad. I ask if he wants to have Mama's milk again. Furrowed brow. A solidness in him, a contentment with what is, a gratitude and release. “No. No more milky.” He softly pats his brother's head and smiles at me.

My four-year-old tells me about his day. “My friends and I made a potion! At first, some of us set traps for one friend. I wanted to trap him since he messes with me. But then…” A pause. Oh, what I would give to know what transpired. “We found a way to do something together. We were witches! I want to play with him tomorrow.”

My father teaches my children that the space around the trees will allow them to grow deeper and taller, to flourish. He does not cut them down, but unburdens them from limbs too low and heavy. Evening light casts halos around their heads as they walk across acres of growth. He shows them that there are shoots emerging from something he thought was dead. They all look, astonished.

I notice myself humming.


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"Fire. Divine Feminine and Masculine merging. You're taking a lead, aren't you? Sacral strength. Crane energy...you may want to look that up. Your heart energy is just beautiful. You feel at peace. Peace.”

Days later, I splashed through puddles with my newborn child wrapped snug to my chest as my older children ran joyfully at my side. Raindrops fell down our faces like sweat or tears. I wiped my small baby's eyes and mine, keeping our vision clear to the beauty. He took it all in. So did his brothers and I. We stepped across fallen petals, brilliant crimson and soft against the dark, hard concrete, while boughs of flowers heavy with water hung across over our path.

No moment of abandon is divided from all that suffers. It is more than the horrific fact that children are in cages. That their families are called criminals for trying to keep their babies alive. That oppressed humans are fleeing to a country that made their homeland unlivable. It is the ancient pattern of putting other people in chains because we have neglected to free ourselves that keeps me burning for illumination, for redemption, for light.

As I played alongside my children, I kept gazing at the wet green and gray as if through a periscope - curious and thirsty for the new world, touching this one, into which I regularly surface, through which I run unwittingly in moments fleeting and majestic.

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Crane: balance, grace, longevity - prehistoric medicine for modern moments. Keeping one's own counsel, protecting family, leading a harmonious life. Using the past as a source of strength for the present. Living as a timeless creature, dancing in the water, quietly taking flight.

When I can speak what's alive in me, others reach for the warmth, sharing their own struggles, asking what we will do to face and fight the horror. Much vital work happens under the surface, in quiet, in the dark, person to person to person. It takes small, slow steps. I wonder if it will ever be complete.

Nevertheless, my children speak the truth about what they feel without fear. The young ones are declaring a new day, refusing to have their birthright squandered. New generations are breaking lineage-chains shackling us to histories repeating through unexamined pain. The clouds are thick and foreboding, but what has been hidden is being revealed. Some wounds are festering but some are airing, healing. Evil is at work - but so is goodness. It is growing. It is rising.

These days, I have spent many quiet moments gazing into my baby's sparkling eyes and listening to his soft vocalizations like a gentle bird surmising, imagining worlds only he can see when he stares into the distance and bubbles in quiet laughter.

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Last night, my oldest son ascended the steps to our court and took off under the thick trees toward our house. His easeful gait felt sure and effortless, light like his spirit at that moment. I watched him run, skipping into longer leaps as he galloped, giving the illusion that, at any moment, he may take flight into the evening. In a flash, I felt all that would outlive me, palpable as the humidity and heat on my skin.

As he turned to run up the steps to our home, I saw, floating just above him, seemingly emerging from the clouds, the graceful, soaring body of a crane. It floated high, traversing my path - silent, feathered angel. I stood in stunned reverence. Down below, the porch door closed behind my son. Up above, the regal bird crossed through the trees, disappearing from my sight.

Being-Becoming

This morning, I awoke and rose to a day into which I was awakened and raised. 

I expended unmeasurable amounts of energy to sustain three small people, my children, while other children were mourned from Palestine to Santa Fe in untimely death.

I pondered preschools for Oak as terror clenched my throat at the thought of sending my babies away to learning centers that could become slaughterhouses. 

I felt the privilege of getting to choose to live freely in the town where I was born, while millions of people could only protest their forced displacement from their homes. 

I read an article about time's non-existence, how we claim temporality as a way of reckoning with our illusory experience of reality, and felt the tension between that radical truth and the other radical truth that the past nor the future are understood to be our present, and that people die daily because we can't see.

I walked across newly-laid floors, fresh foundations in our home, as myriad beginnings are unfolding for our family and across the globe. What holds us up? Supports our movement? Is essential to what we stand for?

There is a field beyond Accepting and Striving, a sacred way that is an omnipresent temple doorway. It's the field of Being-Becoming. All that exists are Events in the universe occurring as elements coming together outside of our human conceptions of time and space. 

We are such an Event, now. But always now. Never not. When we can align our awareness to that Being-Becoming, we can feel in our bodies what we must do, and feel certain of the proper choice. 

When we let go of thoughts like "used to" or "another time," we see how implicated we are in all we perceive as occurring "before" or "after" us.

There is only one conversation, says adrienne marie brown, that can happen in the room with these people. Don't force another one. Your creation is a step to freedom for all. Your Being-Becoming is a liberating force - the OM, the I AM. 

So gaze into another's eyes as long as it feels right. Let your children take their sweet time saying good night to each other. Linger in the twilight, or don't. Hold vigil constantly. Taste your life. Drink your days. 

Even as fatigue grips the edges of your awareness, persist in your work until you finally feel you can sink into a sleep that, however broken, will restore you just enough for the next morning's endeavor, an Event alive in you now, which you fantasize you will learn of tomorrow.

Rainbows in the Dark

My tears suddenly fall as I press my oldest child against my chest, over my burgeoning belly. Our energies have been at odds for days. We are both trying to tread water in tense waves we know will be shifting tides at any moment. I know well that my sensitive one feels the gravitational pull of the baby's imminent arrival, but he clings and retreats to and from me so dramatically I have struggled to anchor us. The moment emerges out of nowhere to connect in the quiet, and here we are, holding each other, feeling as if we belong again.

I cry and tell him he was my first child, the one to fulfill my lifelong dream of being a mother. That I loved him more than I ever imagined I could. That I continue to love him more every day, just as he is, in a paradox that shatters all ideas of quantification. That I know things will change when the baby comes, and that we'll have to endure the difference, but that my love for him and what we share cannot change. I look into his eyes and meet his contented smile. When he playfully, rhetorically, asks if I'm happy or sad, I tell the truth: "Both. Because I love you." He holds me closer. "I love you too, Mom."

My littler one is running away from me gleefully, again, as the sun sets. In my awkward body, I struggle to catch up and reign him in to our established boundaries. I've always known this is how he will be, fleeing freely and fearlessly forward, turning to smile and eagerly encourage me onward, but the exhaustion of it as my body is weighed down by another babe stretches my edges of patience. He is still so small but too heavy to carry for long. He is eager to be a child, not a baby, yet seems too young to be an older brother. He will be the in-between, and although his spirit is buoyant, I feel grief that he'll slip and fall hard in that space. I see in his lowered lashes the little baby who arrived not so long ago, it seems. I whisper into his ear, "You will always be my baby. And I will always follow you, as long as you'll have me." He snuggles closer, clinging to my hair, his security blanket, whispering sleepily, "Mama."

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Just before sleep claimed their consciousness tonight, my boys turned toward one another and tenderly touched each other's cheeks, rubbed noses, and held hands with soft noises of affection. They wordlessly said goodnight, expressed their care, and drifted off to dreams in love with each other. As I laid nearby and watched, I could feel my baby's hand by his face in my womb. I felt an insistent ache in my abdomen's muscles, precursor to the process that will bring them their next brother. I felt a jubilation my body almost seemed unable to contain as I felt the pain. I was both happy and sad. I was both aching and blissful.

The best moments of lovemaking are when you aren't sure if you can stand the pain at the edge of sweetness. In the rushes of labor, the intensity I have wondered if I can bear is simultaneously the same force that moves my heart to transcendent ecstasy, knowing I am about to meet my child, making me feel in love with every force and person helping me through. Tonight, wading in a sea of liminality, I see rainbows in the darkness, like light caught in iridescent crow feathers. Praying and at peace. Smiling and crying. Holding and releasing. Sinking and soaring.

Sink

Then, there is nothing to do but to grow still.
Standing at the top of an ice mountain, jump -
feel the splash into frigid waters of solitude.
Sink like a heavy stone down into the darkness,
your eyes open, watching the berg's underbelly
rise as you descend more fully into yourself.
When you have dropped far enough, you reach
a new pinnacle. Suddenly, beneath you stretches
leagues of emptiness, cold and vast and heavy,
aqueous spacetime with no visible stars.
You touch the very bottom of ancient waters,
frozen and unexcavated - the root of your soul.
Your hand moves slowly to place a hand at the peak.
Cradling the inverted crest, like a crystal, brings visions.
Your mother's eyes are looking at you, telling you
that every breath was painful but permitted if perfect.
Your father's eyes are pleading for approval from you
and every thing that could give momentary warmth.
They have made their form. You can only love and let go.
Your children were swimming here before you, soft and serene,
roots reaching from their sacrum to the source.
They neither know they're floating nor fear to drown.
They are weaving plans of how to keep the ice from melting.
They smile, and you withdraw your protective arms.
You peer into the black depths and feel peril,
suspended between fear and surrender,
wondering what will emerge of your own destiny.
The void refracts light into a mirror and you see.
There you are, in the expanse of what looks like nothing.
Who are you? Your shape forms to your thoughts.
You are conceiving yourself in the water.
You feel the tethering cord from your core pulse
from the crown of the energetic steeple.
The eternities it took to form your elements are flashing
in waves around the body and name you inhabit.
Fins - wings - feet - hands - stretch
and lift and alight and you're soaring.
Every part of you is clear and new and communicating.
There is a lifetime to learn your own language.
There is never an end to this ecstatic fulfillment.
You feel your soul opening wide, the water entering,
oceans rushing in, the iceberg becoming your body.
You realize you never stopped breathing.

A Heaviness

Everything is heavy - your eyelids, the baby pressing into your pelvis, the intensity of labor pains you know are merely preparatory but nevertheless distracting, your heart as it holds a fraction of the sorrow of global poverty and ponders the absurdity of your present moment, driving a minivan down an off-ramp to the grocery store to buy food shipped here on a plane from overseas. You are scanning the traffic, addressing your children in the back seat, operating through a foggy mind -

BAM.

Everything stops. Everything shakes. Your eyes leak. You've hit the car in front of you. You pull your vehicle into the nearby lot, trembling. You are falling apart simply anticipating the interaction with the sizable, gruff man exiting his large truck. Your belly is so big but you suddenly feel so small and weak. You try to breathe deeper into your awkward body as you open your door.

Everything stops. He meets your eyes. He disarms you with his gentleness. "I'm fine. My car is fine. I'm five minutes from work, I won't be late. You okay? I saw you, talking to your kids. I understand. Little ones? Hey, sweethearts! Your bumper looks fine. You've got another one on the way, don't you! Honey, you can stop crying. We're okay. You okay? No worries. Be safe. Take care."

You return to your seat, gathering your bearings. You close your eyes. You suddenly are transported back to a few nights ago, sitting in an armchair in your living room, listening in the dark. Your husband is whispering sweet words to your sons as they snuggle in the big bed in the room next door, drifting off to sleep. Snow is steadily falling, weighing down fresh blossoms on the trees and covering the new, fragile grass. Your sister-in-law has been laboring for days with her first child, and your heart goes out to her, both remembering and anticipating as you feel your abdomen tighten, your womb stretch.

Tears fall because, there in the silence, beauty overwhelms you. The snow is blanketing your spirit. Spring arrived with a surprise winter did not bring. The flowers will survive. Your sister-in-law will make her own journey triumphantly. The baby will be born perfect. Your children are at peace, not realizing they have each taught you what you could not have ever imagined, and left you with soul-visions that defy description: glimpses of faraway galaxies, paths through unknown forests, the unfathomable depths beneath ice that is aeons old - places you can never go, but they will. Fierce love for your life surges through your heart. You feel the memory of your lover's arms around your waist as he clung to you the night before, holding you up as you soared in your body, closing the space between you and anything eternal in the universe.

Here and now, you refocus your eyes. The sun is dancing on the snow so brilliantly your tears make sparkles of the rays. You keep driving, much more slowly. You think of people alive at this moment around the globe - hauling water, holding the hands of dying others, huddling and hoping, hobbling amid garbage for the next source of sustenance. You feel your love for them reaching across spacetime. You wait in the parking lot to finish weeping, then wipe your eyes and open the door again. You take the hands of your children, walking inside the store, doing what you must do to feed them.

Later, after a full day, you stand outside. The snow melting sounds like a flowing stream. The flowers are still pink against the evening sky. Your children's bubbling laughter, your husband's kind eyes, your bare feet on the cold ground, jingle like bells against your senses. Everything is close.

You breathe it in while it lasts.

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To Griffin James

Sailor's warning red sky startled me awake.
There was an urgency for you, a timeliness
that tugged my heartstrings and ushered you in
like a surprise we certainly knew was coming. 
You turned within me, pressing firmly against
edges already stretched to weariness. Now,
I see exhaustion came from holding back, my love,
from majestic lessons you instructed with
relentless, earnest presence. You clipped my limbs
to build a nest for essentiality, requiring only
incubation in the truth. Expectations collapsed to
supernova dust, dropping my center through blackhole
dimensions, penetrating where mountain roots
reach from the soul's sacrum, descending icebergs’
secrets, mysteries that channel only after chains
around throats release with screams, then songs. 
Unblinking eyes’ acuity made the mark, soaring.

The scarlet flag of dawn ebbs to soft
pink, like the promise of your brow,
violet so pale the crocuses claim it in their centers,
and gold, regal treasure, protected and revealed
at the final breath before clear, egg-blue. Claws and
wings fold gently to my side as your weight rests
on a trust-woven eyrie. I bow my sharpened beak
to new sunrise, new sanctuary, new Sovereign.

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