the e-dict

…from the imagination of Erika Randall Beahm

word of the day: accept

Hi Friends,

I’m writing today from the back house of a mansion in Dallas, TX, which in Old East Dallas they just call a “house.” I am marveling at the places dance has taken me and feeling grateful for the humans I have met and the things I have seen and felt thanks to this sweet madness. There was never any question about what I wanted to do when I grew up–I wanted to dance. I didn’t just want to be a dancer, I wanted to dance. I have remained ever-grateful for this small distinction.  For there are so many days these days where I do not feel like a dancer…more like a typist, and a conflict control simulator, a broken metronome who just can’t stop speeding up. But then I start dancing. I start verbing not  nouning; I move into the action of the thing that has always reminded me of my most daring relationship to gravity and I know that I am awake in my life as I was meant to be this time around. It (almost) doesn’t matter anymore if anyone even sees.

There is a beautiful elegance that comes with age, an elegance that reflects one’s ability to be without approval.  To approve means to judge favorably. And even though the word “favorably” gets in before the hammer, you still have to maneuver around the judge  to get to the good stuff. My feeling doctor talks about getting rid of the judge all together, jumping the bench, a back high left karate chop to that inner voice with outer form that says “right” or “wrong,” “suitable” or “Get your suit on.”

word of the day: accept

Dictionary.com gives a lot of great words as the synonym for approve, but as I move out of the shadow of need that comes from seeking approval, I think I can baby-step-it over most easily to the synonym “accept.”

accept

verb. believe the goodness, realness of something

This definition feels a little soft (look at me judging) but I love it. And if there’s a judge present in this, she’s dressed in gold and wine colored robes, rocking a tight crop like only Pema Chodron and Annie Lennox can. Speaking of Pema, she tells a story about acceptance that brings with it all the fear and all the deliciousness of this life. She reminds us, in her calm pool, no-bullshit, generosity, that we are always between one ambush or another, one streak of tigers or their gnashing gnarling brethren.

“There is a story of a woman running away from tigers. She runs and runs and the tigers are getting closer and closer. When she comes to the edge of a cliff, she sees some vines there, so she climbs down and holds on to the vines. Looking down, she sees that there are tigers below her as well. She then notices that a mouse is gnawing away at the vine to which she is clinging. She also sees a beautiful little bunch of strawberries close to her, growing out of a clump of grass. She looks up and she looks down. She looks at the mouse. Then she just takes a strawberry, puts it in her mouth, and enjoys it thoroughly. Tigers above, tigers below. This is actually the predicament that we are always in, in terms of our birth and death. Each moment is just what it is. It might be the only moment of our life; it might be the only strawberry we’ll ever eat. We could get depressed about it, or we could finally appreciate it and delight in the preciousness of every single moment of our life.”
― Pema ChödrönThe Wisdom of No Escape: How to Love Yourself and Your World

I love the places dance has taken me–even the cliff-edges of fear, judgement, self-loathing…tigers all around. But I am especially grateful for these brief moments when I sit writing on a rainy morning, quiet, fingers just a little cold, in the back house of a mansion in Dallas, TX, in the back house of myself,  believing in my own goodness and realness, tasting strawberries.

Love to all,

not-so-silent e

 

 

 

word of the day: still

Hi Friends,

Yesterday, as I walked from meeting to meting to meeting all over campus, I calmed myself with this lovely thought, “Someday, I’ll get to die.” A smile would come across my face and I would breathe as the quiet passed over me. I do not wish to die anytime soon, but the notion that someday I will be done with everything, no matter what is left on my to-do list, was magnificently comforting. This is a win for a girl who used to lie in bed terrified by the infinite distance of space and the consternation of “gone forever-ness.” The addition of “get to” in the above incantation is my little pressie to myself–offering death as a gift, not a punishment. Offering my off-ing as relief from being so “on.”

word of the day: still

So interesting this word–its ongoing relentlessness and its quiet.

I am still worrying. I am still racing about.

If I could stay still, even for just a moment, while worrying, I wonder if I could stop all the racing about.

That is where my little gift comes in, my “someday I’ll get to…”

I keep remembering bits of a dream from last week where a wise one told me that the only way to know death is to give it an absence of thought, as death is the most clear from busy mind that we can be and therefore its cleanest meditation is not to worry, fear, or even consider it. And so, in my exhaustion, when I give myself to the purity of the emptiness of the idea, I don’t wonder what will happen after, I do not worry how it will go, I just slip into the notion of done with this–which  makes whatever this is all the sweeter for its temporality and finiteness.

In the meantime, within the meanness of time, I will work to ease my body towards quiet. I will practice being still alive. still.

Love to all,

not-so-silent e

word of the day: assure

Hi Friends,

I’ve made a terrible cup of coffee this morning. Still, after months with this new scoop, I can’t get the right measure.

A wonderful colleague of mine gifted me this beautiful new Brazilian hand cream. It’s so delicious that I am already worried about running out.

This morning, I burnt the final stick of lavender incense given to me by a beloved. I tapped it off at half-mast, wanting to savor it, not use it all at once.

I have kept the last empty container of my protein powder (before Natures Plus changed the formula) on top of my fridge. Some mornings I open the lid, imagining there will be one last scoop.

The bamboo I have nursed since the day ez was born is yellowing. I do not know if I have under or over-watered, but I have failed her.

The scale I hide in my closet says .4 more than before. I quickly tell myself a story about that number and sigh, that after all these years, I still cannot feel my full weight.

Too much, too little. More. Enough.

word of the day: measure

no.

(look at the word, turn it around in your mouth, in your eye. see what it has to teach you besides judgement. me/a/sure. As(s)ure me.)

word of the day: assure

to make certain, to make safe

I want to make myself feel safe.

In this turning of the year,  I don’t want to be measured–by me or anyone else.  I want to be assured.  I want to know that everything will be ok. With this world, with this country, with all those I love, with my heart and its tiny, ferocious little drum line. And yet I know, there is no way to know and have heard it said (again and again) the only certainty is change (and death)…

And so, all I can do is trust. Trust that the change that is certain to come will bring lessons that make me stronger and softer, more broken/open and more compassionate–in ways beyond measure. Maybe this “safe” thing is over-rated…Maybe what I want really want is to be assured that I will different–that I will find news ways of being in this world–ways that don’t involve scales and fear and blame.

When so much has already changed in my life, I just cannot believe that there will be more–and what, what for god’s sake, will those storms bring? I’m still wading, daily, through the debris that has washed up on my shore. Casting off old pieces of lidless Tupperware, gasping at single earrings that have returned to their pair, rifling though books that used to hold words and pictures that meant something and now are silent to me. What is in all of this? What should I keep and what should I leave for the gulls?

And so here turns the year and I with it. I have no idea what 2018 will bring, but I will make small gestures that show my faith (and my foresight). I will not wait for my hands to be “dry enough” for cream; I will slather it on. I will not mourn the bamboo as a symbol of my failed parenting; I will let her go and get another–or not. I will commission a new scale from my friend Michelle and her team of imagine-making doctors, one that says, “Perfect,” and “Yes!” and “Have some more!” each time I step on it. I will buy lavender incense by the bundle, a better coffee scoop, and will continue to email the folks at Natures Plus until they change my protein powder back to the original formula. And I will write. To myself, to all of you, and to 60, 70, 80, and 90 year-old me who is out there waiting, having survived this storm and the next (and the next), and stands ready to welcome me with a smile and  glass of wine and these words: “Look at you, kid, you made it!”she says. assure.

 

Love to all,

not-so-silent e

 

 

word of the day: illumination

Hi Friends,

Last night, I dreamed of my dad and my paternal grandfather and one of the angels from Angels in America hanging out in the tree in front of our old cottage in Michigan. (it’s funny how we know things in dreams without being explicit–that the angel was from that play, that the tree was from that yard, that my dad was envious of my grandfather). My dad, with his wonderful tummy, was looking at my grandfather working outside and said, “He always looked good because he kept moving; his trick was to keep moving.” And then he said a few other things about his dad and it was beautiful having two ghosts and one angel discussing each other’s (past) lives.

In the dream, I was photographing everything and I kept telling myself—it’s all about the light, it’s all about the light. And isn’t it ever?

word of the day: illumination

a spiritual or intellectual enlightenment
(1) a lighting up 
(2) decorative lighting or lighting effects
c decoration by the art of illuminating

T’is the season of illumination–daily candles lit, hearts hopeful, bright bulbs of color lining homes and hearths. I have a tiny tree this December–topped, not by a shining star, but by a dinosaur finger puppet we’ve renamed “Tree Rex.” The illumination I am in desperate need of this year is that of lightness. I need to go easier on my heart. I need laughter. I need to remove the lead, full-bodied apron I’ve been wearing and trade it in for an ugly Christmas sweater and some moments of deep-bellied resonance. The dinosaur ez put on top of the tree helps me with all of that.

I love the word lumens. And its definition: “a unit of luminous flux in the International System of Units, that is equal to the amount of light given out through a solid angle by a source of one candela intensity radiating equally in all directions”

So many good words in that one sentence! Candela! Intensity! Radiating! When it comes to inner illumination, I may not be able to radiate out equally in all directions, but I do feel that my heart is made of luminous flux.

A beloved of mine (of many lifetimes within this one) has recently accepted the “black and white photography challenge” on fb. Most people’s black and whites I have seen are just folks adding a filter to shots they’ve previously taken. This lovely, however, has suddenly turned her eye to the light and within the worlds of black and white has discovered more color than I thought possible. I feel lighter when I see her photographs.  I feel her artist heart beating more loudly in her ribs. I feel her story taking place in this moment of things and her voice coming through her eye. She recently posted a photograph that I call, “Christmas Morning”–it has mystery, voice, and anticipation all wrapped up in one shot. It also holds nostalgia, want, and loss–like so many of the best memories do. Her new way of seeing is illuminating new ways of seeing her and, like my most favorite artists, new ways of seeing into myself and the world around me.

Back to my dream. The Angel, all glorious and disco-haired, whom I was able to capture in a radiant stream of light that shone off the shot, kept saying, “Back to the top! Everybody back to the top!” and I woke nostalgic for the idea of starting new, waiting in “the wings of the world,” starting as light. illumination.

Love (and light) to all,

not-so-silent e

 

photo by Kate Thorngren Weglarz

for/giving

My heart is forgiving

My heart is for giving

 

 

 

learning to drive in the snow

#1 Avoid driving when you’re fatigued.

Soul-weary, boy comes in and wakes me before light. “Five more minutes I plead. Five more minutes.”

#2 Accelerate and decelerate slowly.

I jump out of bed when I see what time it is. We are already late and I haven’t yet noticed the snow. It is beautiful, I am supposed to think. But I’m already imagining fish-tailing, spinning out, losing control.

#3 Drive slowly. Everything takes longer on snow covered roads.

“Use your strategies, mama,” the boy says. I try to breathe and tap my sternum. I have been doing a metaphoric 90 in a 45 and only just noticed that the asphalt beneath me is not road but black ice. I am lucky to be alive, I say to myself, not as an exuberant whoop and holler but as an actual fact. When did the freeze come? How long had I lived in a world with so much friction and yet so much hazardous slip?

#4 Know your brakes.

In the dream that comes back over and over, I can’t remember which is the gas and which is the brake. I am barefoot and the pedals don’t feel right. I am going too fast. I am not slowing down. The road is usually dark and I’m in an unfamiliar car on that winding road in Maine where as a little girl my “Uncle” drove too fast, too wild, after too many drinks. I know this will not end well and I wake right before

#5 Don’t stop if you can avoid it.

Check.

#6 Don’t power up hills.

This new job is like an ocean with no islands. “Thank god I like to swim,” I joke with friends. This new job is like a mountain with no summit. I set cairns along the route, scribble notes in my “Chair’s handbook” for whomever shall follow. There isn’t a clear path, just forward. Which sometimes means cut back and sit by that tree there and listen.

#7 Don’t stop going up a hill.

I am learning to listen. This is hardest in the dark when I’m alone and all that I hear are the stories I tell myself and the train outside my night window. It is these stories that spin me out and land me in the drift. I battle Inertia, that mythical bitch whose chapped heels are dug in strong, and pull myself off the kitchen floor. The kitchen floor is no place for your boy to find you, I think. That thought alone could move mountains, or at least keep me going uphill.

#8 Stay home.

We have made it through the rituals of morning and as we head out into the snow, I remember the porch light. It will be dark by 5 o’clock now and the steps will be treacherous, if we make it home alive. I love the optimism of a porch light. Turning it on is my small prayer, my slight nod to the universe that I will survive this day. I return, twist the key in the cold lock, and flick the switch inside the door. If I could stay home, I would, but I am learning to drive in the snow and that is teaching me more than I can imagine.

where the wild things were

Last night,

I walked into the dark of the woods

wearing my wolf suit

(now a little tight in the thighs and worn in the elbows)

under my jean jacket and scarf.

“This is where the wild things are,”

the wind whispered.

 

Light from a faraway lamp post

cut through the trees,

cross-hatched and slatted.

How do you capture this light on film?

How do you capture this memory?

 

 

Without a boat,

I sailed off through night and day

and in and out of weeks

and almost over 30 years

and danced alone in the pines,

a wild rumpus in my heart.

 

(I don’t remember who yelled “Now Stop!”

and sent me off to bed, but that I did, and there I went)

 

Mostly now,

in the night of my very own room,

I am still,

(wolf suit hanging on the back hook of my closet),

and the world becomes my walls all around.

I long to get back

to last night

and long ago,

to the woods

and the time before I was tamed,

to that roaring, gnashing, and rolling girl

I remember,

that someone who loves me best of all.

currency

currency-for ezra

 

Inside the small globe of your world

snow falls down around you

While here, in my miniature bubble,

1300 miles away,

leaves of yellow and amber blow and spill

when shaken by the wind

or your memory

 

The black squirrels are busy

No time for jumping in leaf piles

or playing chase

They can smell the crisp clear of the upcoming winter

They can smell the world arriving

that will soon force them inside

 

Stay outside!

Where the snow falls on gold

Where you, my little squirrel, are too busy

jumping, playing chase, trusting

that all you need will be taken care of

 

Here, 1300 miles away,

shaken by the wind

and your memory

I can smell the world arriving

and collect acorns

to carry home to you

 

her world outside it

 

her world outside it *

 

this is where I learned to love alone time

and Albinoni

and modern dance

and the underside of leaves

 

this is where I found my quiet voice

and my silent one

and the one raging inside me that said for the first time

i am angry

 

this is where I began to listen

and first understood bird song

lake song

love songs

 

this is where I stopped eating meat

and began devouring my own flesh

and found forgiveness in Bjork

when she was just a Sugarcube

and Sinéad

when she was both Lion and Cobra

 

This is where I walked for hours in yellow rain boots

listening to the understory of the wet woods

 

a story I took to be my own

 

I can still hear

the adagio, the leaves, the lake, the wild, the want

 

And now, I sit at a small formica table in a cabin in these same woods

all grown-up

starting over

fork and knife hovering above my memories

the whole meal of my past, just a sugarcube,

ready to dissolve

 

 

*(from Birthday by the Sugarcubes)

 

word of the day: muse

Dear Friends,

Yesterday I received a package from my best friend from 7th grade. She and I have always been wildly different, from her 80s asymmetrical thick blond hair and math skills, to my tight brown ballet bun and poetic leanings. From the size and shape of the box, I knew what was in there and, immediately, I started to cry. Al is not a visual artist, but she has one thing, one glorious thing, that she made in middle school who quickly became our mascot–Mr. Piggy. I mentioned Mr. Piggy here in a post from November of 2013 when Al sent me a small replica. A Mr. Piggy replica is great, but it’s like having an Eiffel Tower key chain instead of standing under the real thing. I slowly opened the box and found, lovingly swathed in a white hand towel, the one-eared majestic swine. He is all snout, three legs, and pure, pink, magic. I don’t think of Al being very sentimental, don’t imagine her in all her treks around the world setting up little altars amassed with pieces from her past. I doubt she still has the giant Swatch watch that was on her bedroom wall, or her old orange leather jacket, or the jewelry box I remember from her desk. But she has kept Mr. Piggy as a talisman and she has hauled him back and forth across states, both geographic and emotional. I don’t know what his home turf looked like in her place, since, sadly, I haven’t yet been to Portland to visit. I imagine it simple but grand, the lone handmade piece of art next to the spot where she leaves her keys, causing a casual, everyday brush up against his wobbly asymmetry (thanks to the three legs–all at the front of his body, no less). But maybe that altar was less obvious, a closet box or drawer where she saw him only during spring cleaning or at Christmas when she went to dig out the ornaments.

Wherever he was, he stayed primary to our friendship–the spirit guide to our history and present tense–the thing we have kept in common. And now here he was, mine for a time. I pressed his cold, flat side against my cheek. It felt like an Oregon river stone. I touched the place where his left ear had been and tried to imagine the moment of the accident and the horror she felt in dropping him. (“I’m precarious,” he snorted sweetly to her as she considered gluing it back on, “I am not meant to be ‘perfect.'” ) Looking closer, I wondered if that ear had fallen off long before, in the kiln, as the glaze seemed to fill the scar as if it had never known that ear at all. I looked, really looked at Mr. Piggy and that made me really, really look at my memories of my dear friend.

word of the day: muse


  1. to become absorbed in thought; especially :to think about something carefully and thoroughly
  2. any goddess presiding over a particular art

As scattershot and squirrel-tailed as my brain has been lately, this moment spent so completely absorbed in a thing was magic. And all the musings about this generous gift, sent wondrously to me at this hard time in my heart, made me miss my friend so dearly. What a thing humans do to connect–they send their pigs and their bunnies and their favorite, softest, t-shirts and scarves. They send them out on loan, their scent and finger prints still all over them, or for forever, knowing that new homes are needed every once in awhile for all of us. Giving something up is hard, but not so hard when you are really giving to. Al, Thank you for giving to me, even for a time, this thing that has always made you/us laugh. Thank you for sharing your a-muse-ment  with me and reminding me how perfect we are broken and wobbly. Happy birthday, eve, Alison, may you receive all that you give. There is no Muse of Ceramic Arts, but perhaps we will name her Choiros, after the Greek for Pig, and as an homage to Mr. Piggy, himself. muse.

Love to all,

not-so-silent e