clunks gently

when there is a sudden downpour as i’m riding back from town
and i pass a man who is also riding
his bicycle, who gives me a thumbs up through the rain and calls out to me,
we’ve got two hurricanes headed our way

when the rain clears and the sky lights up orange and lavender and i shake off some of the dripping, and stop by c’s new house for a moment to check
in on the painting progress and give him a hug with my helmet on so it clunks
gently into his chin

 

clap freeze change history

we are doing a workshop during orientation called theater of the oppressed, based on Paolo Freire’s pedagogy, and one group acts out a skit about m’s experience of how she was the first girl ever picked for her little league baseball team (1974), and her coach called her to say maybe you shouldn’t play, you will mess up the team dynamic, but then she makes Allstars (1976), and the coach calls again, maybe you should sit out this game, m.

but the point of the workshop is that now all of us are watching the skit and we can clap and freeze the action, to switch places with one of the actors and turn the oppressor around.

someone claps in, switches places with the coach and says

m, we are so happy to have you on the team, we fully support you here!

oh really? m says, I thought the other coach said that i couldn’t play.

he was wrong, the new actor says. he was very wrong.

as more groups act out other skits depicting personal stories of small oppressions, in classrooms, in offices, from childhood we get into a groove of clap freeze change history and now everyone wants to clap in to right the wrongs, and some of the improvised more empowering dialogue makes us laugh.

afterward people share what was hard and what was easy, and we talk about lessons in responsibility. not always up to the authority to correct an oppressive action. hard to do it in the moment. easier to challenge a bigoted stranger. harder to challenge a misguided friend.

 

talking about talking

during orientation for my new gig all about growing food, teaching about food, working for food, (justice and accessibility) (a land stewardship coordinator) i attend a workshop
called the art of listening and although the instructor is captivating, uses lots of great hand gestures, and we even break into pairs and do a few speaking exercises, i make a note that it is a deceiving workshop title because he is mostly teaching us about how to use presentation techniques to make people listen.

someone would be deluded to thinking that they could now listen after leaving that workshop.

he could have at least called it the art of speaking

at the end of the week i am rehashing my time with r as we walk around cranberry pond, talking about talking. and listening. why does it make someone more convincing if they are speaking with hand motions? not to everyone. to certain people?

why is it that we are trained to listen to people who speak loudly with conviction?

couldn’t we be training ourselves to listen for what’s true?

together sitting

starting a new thing tomorrow i say to the jade plant on the table next to me and the bouquet of wildflowers in the mason jar and the leftover pound cake on a plastic tray that someone must have brought to the party on Friday and no one had finished eating since then

how it wouldn’t be a big deal, starting a new thing but also how
many new things have i started. 3 different jobs. just in one year? 4 different homes. how many times
will i pack up everything? not to mention the other countries, and my big (and heavy) red backpack, and all of the buses. last fall. then the (stillness and agitation of) winter. and then come spring i must have memorized at least a hundred
new names of kids that came through every week to learn with me in the woods of the berkshires

 

i call mw as i’m walking to find some woods around five o clock, and i leave a voicemail message for her that wanders and when i hang up i start singing one of her songs- not hers, but the ones that she taught me, the ones that we sang
together sitting on her couch in her
house in the prairie, a little less than a year ago when i rested my
travel weary body in her living room for 10 days to watch the colors change and the lake water turn cold.

the water shines

watching the steam rise from three mugs of tea on the kitchen counter in the morning of a workday but i am on vacation

peach juice dribbles down my chin near where webber road enters
historic whately and my fingers are sticky so i wipe them on my
shirt before grabbing the handlebars again and srs says this is what i want when i retire and at first i think she means running a peach farm and setting up a stand like the one we’ve come across, which seems like a lot of work for retirement
but then i realize she means biking over back roads in the hills with friends stopping along the way to eat peaches

the way the water shines on the rocks above the dam
glimmering in afternoon light
and i slide into it and submerge myself (just a little bit colder than i would prefer)

hallway between

standing in the hallway between our rooms
handing the small bell that i’d borrowed for the last eight weeks (with the seahorse shaped handle)
back to srs,
(the one i had used to call in the children from sitting (somewhat) silently in their sit-spots in the woods everyday after lunch)
and as the bell rings now, lightly, passing hands in the hallway, i imagine the moments when i’d ring it over the past weeks (of summer) and the kids would run back from where they’d been sitting on logs or leaning their backs against tree trunks to meet me on the path and show me what they had drawn or written in their journals, and always the few who hid (from the bell) because they didn’t want to go inside yet, and required extra
dragging
and prolonged ringing,
(of the bell) (with the seahorse shaped handle),
that will now go in a suitcase, and fly
back to california with srs on
sunday.

 

to stand with knees

embrace it!!! my little cousin e, who is 10, says about the next wave as it is about to
crash over us, and i follow her lead to stand with knees
slightly bent and eyes squeezed shut, hands
clenched into fists, (em)bracing
ourselves waiting
for the water to tumble
over us with sprays of salt and foam

later we are squatting on the sand and r, who is a little littler than e, asks if she can bury my legs, and when i don’t say anything right away, (because i am talking to her dad) she begins to dig a hole for my feet and starts scooping out sand for covering them over. then i try to argue that i hadn’t said
yes yet but it is too late
for now the sand and skin are one, so i melt my body into it and readily acknowledge that i had indeed given her non-verbal consent

the next day, driving back through four different states
the garden state the empire state the constitution state the spirit of america 
up and away from the ocean i am running my fingers through my hair and pulling out grains of sand (from where they hid
in between every strand and situated themselves snug
against my scalp) and tossing
them out the
window