…they were as nothing to the fearsome darkness in the lives of the city and its dwellers that we glimpsed while walking these streets. The city was teaching us to see the ordinariness of our lives, teaching us, too, a humility that banished guilt. -Orhan Pamuk
This post is not solely about the resistance movement erupting in Turkey right now. This is also about how we are connected as humans and how the world seems so small through solidarity and friendship.
As I walked the streets in my Midwest neighborhood this past weekend, I passed the Turkish gift shop midtown. In that moment as I have so many times before, I thought of my dear Turkish friend in images and words, how we have shopped there together, hot tea in our hands, wading through art, scarves, jewelry, wind song from her native tongue.
Sounding a Resistance
As I continued to pass the shop, doors open wide to the breeze, that memory quietly interrupted by a line of perched bodies along the brick façade. I did not know their cause for standing so patient and so still, but bowed my head in peace, nodded in support of their seemingly singular voice, buried between brightly colored signs, arms clutched together like chain link. Later that day I heard, read the disjointed narratives seeping from Turkey. A few days later, I heard from my friend…
Today I write…
There is no time but the present to stand inside the green, lie down in sprinkling blades, beside stiff shadows covered in leaves, beside your neighbor hand in hand, beside the earth. Stand because fresh air changes shape when harnessed between hardened buildings and fume filled parking lots. Stand to cherish open natural spaces as divine moments beyond a busy day, a busy week, a busy world. Stand because like those blades of grass, those trees, voices do not sit, they only speak in peace and stand in resistance.
For more information about what’s going on:
Images, writings, video
Memorial Day is an echo, a thank you, a handshake, or a hug for those we know who do serve and carry on the important work and memory of those fallen. Featured here, a Google Doodle by Sabrina Brady.
Thank you to my husband Major Alfonso Edwards Jr. and to all of our brave men and women who serve and have served.
Just before he rose, before his bright eyes opened, I sat on the floor beside his crib, watched him sleep, dream in dull daylight and cool draft along the bare floorboards. I thought about motherhood about how time is a fine grain, like loose sand sliding through fingertips. His fingers still plump, soft skin wrapped around the vertical white slats of his crib. His sleepy reach just beyond his animal print sheets, balled up in nap, dreaming of lovely nonsense.
After the Oklahoma tornado, I watched, read, listened, as the story was still brewing. The cameras panned moments just after winds slowed, to capture the spread of people’s lives scattered for yards, the voices of reporters, victims in disbelief as they stumbled over words. I sat and listened carefully, thoughtfully. I called my mother, talked with my husband, watched my children as they slept last night.
I reflected on how the earth knows no bounds, how the wind can drape a wall of dark and debris, drop its spinning breath among the soil and structure, and how as humans we are present in that narrative. We live among weather, among flood, fire, hurricane, blizzard, tsunami, drought, heavy rain, tornado. In extreme weather conditions, we are often reminded how vulnerable we are as humans on this earth.
My family was reminded of that recently when last year after a series of severe storms and wind, the tree in our front yard fell on our roof. I was home alone and as water poured into the house, I ran to seek safety holding my then newborn baby of two weeks in my arms. It was like nothing I had ever experienced, it all happened so fast. We were somewhat helpless as the winds were still violently stirring outside, but I worried that tree would collapse on us inside. We had nowhere to go. We were lucky, blessed, our house tattered but not broken, our bodies safe and intact. I am thinking about those today who are not.
Last night I needed to process this most recent tragedy before speaking, before acting. And like with many of the world’s weather tragedies, I wanted to do my part to engage with efforts to support those in need. As I watched the images, read and listened to the stories, I did an exercise of collecting words to try to digest the news as it unfolded.
Writing always seems to help me think, slow down, reflect.
Words and Deeds
In these upending, vulnerable moments, many of us wonder about, pray for those affected. And like with any of our other recent weather related tragedies, many of us will contact a charity we trust working in the area that we can support. Do your research, all charities are not the same. And while I do not endorse any one charity, here are a few organizations to consider:
Fifteen years ago art met education in my mind, my work, my furiously swirling pen. I could no longer facilitate, walk into, away from workshops after school, in school and not wonder what happened after we stopped writing, talking, thinking creatively, critically, honestly, imaginatively. I was curious about the students I worked with, curious about their writing, about the teachers, about whether artists can make a difference in “Education”, creatively creep through the high pressured policy crevices, and work on the in between narratives bubbling inside of classrooms? I wondered as an artist, if I could be a part of the change, the shift, the sway of learning, in spaces that are filled with young minds.
I don’t consider myself a “teacher”, but rather an artist teaching. Do you know any teachers? I often watch educators in their classrooms and marvel at their command of myriad knowledge and their beautiful dance with the material. I often work closely with teachers, who are talented, highly capable and absolutely thorough in the craft of engaging learning in the classroom. I suppose as an artist teaching, working with those teachers, sometimes I feel my role is to ask what else or to take creative risks classroom teachers can not always take (in plain sight). Let’s forget about the test for the moment. What are we now going to do with what students just learned? How can we take what we learned and do something interesting with it? How are we going to make it stick, apply it somewhere else, relate it to real life?
I watch young people think and pretend not to listen. But after years of teaching, I know better. Students are listening, waiting for the moment to shine brightly. However, their opportunities for that moment seem to dim with each year in school. How is that possible? We all have our theories. And of course education policy keeps changing in response to those theories. As an artist working in and out of classrooms, I see that glimmer in the faces of students, teachers, and I’m fascinated by it. However, I am practical and understand that I’m not in that classroom every day.
There is so much more to the story, and I am curious; interested in teaching and learning, interested specifically in writing in the classroom and beyond the classroom. I am interested in shifting learning spaces, creative practice and honoring the creative space in learning, from critical to creative, practical to imaginative. I am interested in teachers, students, artists, and what we all can do together.
There are some days when love shows up at your front door with open arms.There are days where conversations have less miles between each word. My husband and I, like children, soaked up love sitting across the table from my parents, our parents. Our three boys were swirls of joy, in and out of arms and smiles. Time passed as early morning spilled into dusk, the darkening skies wrapped with a few tears and goodbyes.
When you are away, we do not sit in your seat at the table. It is yours, and we honor it. Leave it as you left it pushed in or out, a piece of your clothing draped across the back of the chair, a dusting of crumbs near the cold center groove where you last sat and ate warm penne, garlic bread, a salad. In that chair, your thin legs dangling, you are somewhere between cherry and blonde wood, between disparate emotional spaces, between places you call home.
Sunday rose burns, blurs my vision, these thorns
crooked in my eye. The baby’s eyes wet
with rapid blinks and bruised petals along
his cheeks. Salt pastes the narrow groove beside
his eye, like mine, they sting, tighten, dry. We
are the same with our swollen nodes and sore
throats, our slippery symptoms and clean hands.
Blood vessels, like swollen roads in the white
of our eyes, the pulse, the tightening, tears.
At home we are contagious together,
waiting for the time to pass. Tomorrow,
when we are apart, we will wish for time
without fevers, without stinging pink eyes.
Contagion is a human spell very few of us can avoid altogether. At some point we all are vulnerable to falling ill. In this poem I was curious about a mother and child, a passing of illness, of love, of time. I thought about how I’ve been sick with my own children, cuddled in bed, both of us warm inside of each others’ fever and grasp. I love writing about those vulnerable moments, portraying life even when it’s messy.
Though this poem is not about a “lovely” subject, my sense is that poetry isn’t only about what is lovely. Our lives are complicated with emotion and events so why should those truths not exist in our poems? I appreciate how poetry seems to have an ability to carve beauty in the ordinary, even the awful. It seems more about capturing a snapshot, finding, noticing acute bright notes and darkened wounds, writing those experiences in candid verse with vivid detail and rhythm. This poem, an attempt at blank verse, aimed to capture this moment between parent and child, the time between illness and health, between pallid and pink.
How do you creatively write about the ordinary?
Every now and then our Saturday is less scheduled, relatively uneventful, and just us. Three is company, and five is a lovely crowd. I’ll take my Saturday with a side of family.
“I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where. I love you simply, without problems or pride: I love you in this way because I do not know any other way of loving but this, in which there is no I or you, so intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand, so intimate that when I fall asleep your eyes close.”
We quarrel in beautiful couplets, sit
beside each other touching our fears
against our tongues. There was a time,
not long ago, we reasoned in a hush,
held our breaths for days, impassioned
collision, let the silence fall
from our mouths as careless flicker.
To find our stride, our turning over,
we learned to listen without wither,
every crevice, every breath, every kind
kind word between us, an opus.
photo credit: morguefile
With so much recent public discussion about the politics of parenting in this macro, policy shifting sense, I’ve been thinking a lot about the dozens of micro choices we make as parents every day. Every moment seems to be a shifting, a debate within ourselves as to how to parent, and what we do about time.
The other morning as I gathered my things, a bag on each arm, my wedges (and my flats), a snack for my commute, my three year old, with his pleading brown eyes looked to me and said, “I want to go with you.” It was in that split second that I had to think, to possibly craft a response, a clever one, a concise one (as I was already a bit behind schedule). I thought to myself, I needed to let him down easy, counter his request with a promise to pick him up from school or take him to school the next day. But in that split second, or maybe many more seconds later, I realized where I was headed (work) was fixed. My job (though I had a big program going on that day) wasn’t going anywhere, it would be there when I got there, even if I got into the office just a few minutes later than I had planned. I would still be early and prepared, the work would still get done, and the program would still go on.
But back in the living room with my three year old, I considered there might not be another ask if in this very moment I said, “no.” My husband questioned whether or not I had time to take him to school, but I thought to myself, “I could make time.” It was such a simple request. He wasn’t asking for anything unreasonable, it wasn’t a major crisis, it was an ask for more time. Time, the thing we all seem to grapple with; and as a parent, the thing that seems to elude me every single day. In that very moment my son just needed more time with me, and as I rounded out all of the reasons (or maybe excuses) for why I could have said, “not today,” or “maybe later,” I simply said, “o.k.”. He put on his socks, his shoes, and his coat; then grabbed my hand, looked up and smiled. “I’m going with mommy,” he announced. In that very moment nothing else mattered but his hand in mine, walking out the door to school, to work, together.
“Love is what you’ve been through with somebody.”—James Thurber
Love is an ongoing conversation, like spring, a perennial stance. We go through love. We move through it, like daylight rippling across the surface of water, like splitting wood opening one fine splinter at a time. We stumble through love with ourselves, with someone else, as graceful as roots lengthening beneath winter soil, stretching beyond the soft ground, blooming still.
photo credit: morguefile
After a bit of reading, re-reading, writing, I offer up words and wonder from the past week. I hope your Sunday is unfolding beautifully. Enjoy.
When it comes to you (link)
Good morning Chicago (link)
Orange and Blue (link)
In Love (link)
When it comes to you, I am a warm and gentle glow.
To be in love is to touch with a lighter hand. In yourself you stretch, you are well.—Gwendolyn Brooks
To be in love is to clasp a hand, to hold tightly, feel the grip dimple your skin, warm the inner most cusp of your hand, that dark middle, crossed with etchings, marked and worn. To be in love is to open that cusp, the soft round of your hand, to someone else, and hold on. ―dce
Love’s tongue is on fire. One foot
out the bedroom door, one ear pressed
against sharp words lost in fault, in strike,
confused by the clutter of crisp interruptions,
awkward run-on sentences, clashing blue.
When you are away your younger brother leaves space for you to play beside him on the rug, he saves you a toy, even if when you are here he doesn’t always like to share. He calls your name as if you will walk through the door or down the stairs to be with him. He hears us try to explain the swaying shifts of our family, the days you are away. He twists his face in confusion as we try to give him words for where you are in exchange for that empty space next to him on the sofa, at the table, in the room you both share. He still stands in the window looking for you, waiting. And I understand that wait because I’ve now taken up standing beside him.
My eight-year-old rose very early this morning got dressed and through his entire morning routine to join me downstairs during my writing time. First thing he did was turn on all the lights (sometimes I write in the dark), and started talking non-stop about everything—why he likes his new Star Wars book, all the new dance moves he’s been doing, why when milk spoils, its property changes, and how he wants to eat a big bowl of cereal so he can save the last English muffin for someone else (how thoughtful).
Though my son was technically interrupting my writing time with his colorful spurts of chatter, I kind of liked that he wanted to “hang out” with me this morning, so I put my computer away to sit and focus on him. Later, after tons of topics and that big bowl of cereal, I asked him why he was up so early and he replied, “I’m excited to go to school.” (Ok, I’ll take that). Even later after he settled into a book, I got back to writing.
My writing space and time are sacred, but this morning, it was easy to choose a bit of time with my son over writing. Sometimes it’s more meaningful to spend that space, that time with kids when they need it. Besides, those words in my head aren’t going anywhere (I hope). What do you do when life interrupts your writing? What/who do you sometimes choose over writing?
The library is a regular outing for my eight-year-old and I. Yesterday, while I glanced at titles, slipped off my shoes after a long day on my feet, and stood while skimming inside front jackets and back covers for summaries and reviews, my son followed me around the tables and shelves patiently exploring titles and asking questions.
As usual, I picked a bit of nonfiction, a heavy work on the complexities of our prison and judicial systems by Michelle Alexander, coupled with a douse of culture and feminism in a collection of essays by Patricia Hill Collins, the thick paperback conspicuous among the featured titles on the Women’s History Month table.
“Is there a Man’s History Month mom?” my son asked. But before I could answer, he proceeded to explain that he remembered in school he learned [a long time ago] women weren’t treated equal, and that’s why this month was important. I commended him on his youthful insight, and went further to explain to him that even today, women aren’t always treated equal, but Women’s History Month is not only a reminder of balance and equality, but also a celebration of women in general. “Are you a part of that celebration?” he asked.
What women to do you celebrate today, everyday?
I don’t miss those bunches of strands I left on the floor by the chair in the beauty shop. I walked away from that shop, not with clinging swirls on top of my head, against my cheeks, but with my own revised ideas on beauty as robust and brilliant as the thickening wind I can now feel behind my ears. I left on that floor in the shop time I’ve spent manipulating, fussing with that hair for it to at some point during the day to fail me.
There is something unpredictable about our hair and in some ways that is magic, but in other ways, it is demanding, of our time, our money, our self-esteem. I sat in that chair thinking about how much time and money I’ve spent trying to make my hair behave in rain, in wind, in transit, in love.
I should say that I have not given up on those strands dusting the tops of my shoulders. Instead, I gave in to time and space for me, my family, my life. For now I’d rather wake up in the morning, sit just a bit longer, write, wonder, feel the still curling in short wisps on the back of my neck.
At some point in our lives we all contemplate change. Maybe it’s not a big haircut, but surely there is something we all have changed about ourselves. Think about a time when you changed something in your life to make room, make time for something else. How did it feel to initially to make that change? How does it feel now?
Yesterday I watched as civil rights leaders and supporters gathered to remember “Bloody Sunday”, a day when thousands marched in peace for social equality and met a storm of hatred and injustice. Today I contemplate those movements, honor those actions and how they have impacted the continued dialogue on social justice in our country today.
We have come over a way
That with tears hath been watered.
We have come treading our paths
Through the blood of the slaughtered.
Out of the gloomy past,
Till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam
Of our bright star is cast.
—James Weldon Johnson
March 4, 2013… “Forty-eight years ago…some of us and some of you here gave a little blood on this bridge.”—Rep. John Lewis speaking on the Civil Rights March of 1965, from Selma to Montgomery, AL.