the e-dict

…from the imagination of Erika Anne Randall

word of the day: passage

Hi Friends,

My son is terrified of “The Wall.” Not Pink Floyd’s, though I remember being forced to watch that at Geoff Remy’s house in 7th grade and it scared the crap out of me. No, The Wall I’m talking about is the calamity that the ass hat we have for a leader thinks will save our great nation and unite us by first further dividing us. My seven year-old cried himself to sleep about it last night, (we don’t even watch the news) worrying that because he goes to a bi-lingual school he will be separated from his friends. I can see him in his mind, building walls everywhere, around everything–between himself and his friends, and his family, and the world. And so I sang to him until he slept, “If You Want to Sing Out,” by Cat Stevens, and whispered, “you, my little love, are a Peace Warrior. Be a warrior for peace and practice kindness and it will help tear down any walls that get built.”

After I finally got him quieted down, I cried my own human self to sleep and dreamed about walking along a great bridge that spanned that massive chasm of Here and There. My boy and his band of besties were with me, painstakingly traversing this narrow and treacherous crossing. ez looked at me, climbed out onto the edge, and said, “Let’s dive in and swim it! It will be faster and I am not afraid of sharks!” And he did a front dive right off the edge into the abyss and came up laughing. I dove in after him and we swam and swam and swam.

Word of the day: passage

This is the second dream this week where I found myself teetering on the edge of a dangerous passage–in the last dream, my dead dad showed up, top-siders in hand, to help me across and through.

Passage–what a word! What a slippery, magical, ever-transforming noun and verb. It can mean everything from a road, path or channel, to a continuous movement–like the passage of time, to an enactment of something into law, to a short section of music, to death. There are at least 10 different definitions for this bad girl.

If Death itself is a form of Passage, than not even Death can stop it–this time, this crossing, this music, this change. Certainly a wall cannot stop Passage! (ass hat, she mumbles, under her hot breath).

And when I look up the word wall, I find this little gem:an extreme or desperate position or a state of defeat, failure, or ruin;the surrounded troops had their backs against the wall.

Trump’s wall is a desperate position of ego, and he will find his back against it. And all the king’s horses and all the king’s men won’t give a shit about Humpty Trumpty when he has his great fall.

Yesterday, my 7 year-old also asked me what the word Optimism means. I used to believe in optimism completely–as a possible passage towards a utopic futurity. It’s hard to be optimistic these days. It’s hard not to feel oneself teetering on the edge of  a wall, or slammed behind one, or buried under one. But I don’t want him to give up already–he and all his privilege, all his smarts, all his kind, kind heart. And I don’t want to give up. I want to believe it’s easy (ahhhhh ah!) once you no longer think it’s hard. I want to believe that we, the peace warriors, will put together the pieces of this world and find new passage together. passage.

Love to all,

not-so-silent e

 

 

thank you note

Dear Erika,

I have been thinking of you a lot lately, 2018 you, the you who just survived, and I wanted to write you a thank you note. I know that thank you notes are better written in ink, but our handwriting has gone to shit over the last few years and I wanted to make sure you can really hear everything I have to say.

Thank you for starting a practice of receiving joy, no matter how fleeting. I remember that first morning when you saw the light through the dappled lace of your room and you said, “ahhhh, I know this” (it was joy, small but true) and even though the rest of the day did not rise to meet that morning (you had a hard meeting, a son who tested your patience, and a tooth ache), at bedtime, you recounted that first moment as a triumph. And it was. It takes practice, this joy-locating. There’s no special astrolabe that spins its pivoted pointer and maps out the path toward true pleasure. But I want you to hear it from me–that practice pays off. Oh, we know joy now. mmm. Rich, honey-filled, sun-on-your-eyelids, tiny-hand-in-your-hand joy. But this easy joy started back when you began hunting for it in the rubble. Thank you for spending time in all that soul-sifting. Thank you for turning over the grey landscape, every rock, every memory, looking for the faint-tipped pushes of green. And then watering that would-be joy with your tears and sweat and the rest of the ice from your cup. We’re lying in the soft, non-itchy field of that joy stuff now and let me tell you, the wind and the sun and the sound of it all are just right. And you’re not even dead yet!

Love to you and infinite gratitude,

93 year-old e

p.s. your eyelids are still not as droopy as you think!

 

 

 

 

word of the day: betoken

Hi Friends,

This morning I was asked, out of the internet blue (you know that shade of blue? The one that has no other likeness and looks most like a lake reflecting your past?), to be a character witness for a murder trial. I was not asked to take the stand, just write a letter on someone’s behalf. I won’t go into any detail of the trial here, but as I rose to write, I found this request in my inbox and I was shook by this idea of witnessing. Often I am asked to be a character reference (I think I write at least 45 letters of rec a year), but to be a character witness feels so much more profound.

To witness, to furnish proof of: betoken.

word of the day: betoken

Betoken. This new word is a gold coin in a weathered hand. A magical rune thrown out of despair. A reminder of my dream last night where I was pulled aside at a wedding for a palm reading. The reader, a thin black man with long dreads, smiled at me and said, “We’re going to do this NY style,” and then sprinkled cayenne pepper on my palm to reveal the creases of my fates. A little of the red dust got on my new stripped shirt, but dream me didn’t seem to mind. “Close your eyes,” he instructed, and just as I did, he asked, “Did you do it?” “Yes.” I replied quickly, answering the first notion that came to mind. I smiled at my admission and opened my eyes and woke up from the dream just as he was discussing the possibility for my life line to double or end…

I woke with the admission to a question that only I knew. I was my own character witness and my truth was honest and quick. And a relief. The dream betokens my desire for stories of my own body and experience that get to admission without asking for forgiveness afterwards. The price of admission here is not guilt, but awareness. As St. Mary Oliver writes, “You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees for one hundred miles through the desert repenting. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.” I am interested in the cayenne-pepper flush of my own personal awareness that helps me get to my own complicated wholeness. This means working my dreamtime and my art-heart over for character witnesses who come through from the different sides of myself. This also means breaking up with other judges in/of my life who can’t be trusted, whose proof of my true nature only matches their own desires or collude with the parts of me that believe/d how I was supposed to be, not the flesh and bone and extra strong thighs that I actually am.

I am not certain yet if I will write the letter on behalf of a soul who lost their way and perhaps their mental capacity. I don’t believe I have enough knowledge to illicit any new truth that could support them as they seek forgiveness. I can ask the question of myself, however–will I write a letter on my behalf? Be a character witness for this lady when I am in question to myself?  yes. My palm closes around the coin. I will. betoken.

Love to all,

not-so-silent e

 

enough already

there will come a time when all I know is myself as I am,

not as I was or wanted to be.

I hope this moment does not wait for the hour of my death,

unless that means I will savor that sense of nowness for all eternity.

slow phoenix

The sky this morning

is the same color as my french lace curtains

or the ashes of bones

No mountains to speak of

No eyelet of clouds

It is under skies like this

that I want to forget myself

dissolve into the they say there could be snow on Tuesday air

and put my broken heart to bed

But I make the coffee

an imperfect pot

and stir in a hopeful amount of cream

It’s only October and still, below the treeline,

winter is coming

and I can’t sleep past 3am for all the sounds

of slow-dying

the sky is falling the sky is falling

or maybe I am finally rising

 

 

word of the day: loo

Hi Friends,

It’s Nightswimming time again. September coming soon, and all that. This is the first summer where I never really left the office so I don’t have the angst and the anger about going back. I am thinking about my opening talk for the retreat next tuesday and what note I want to strike, what bell I want to ring, what trouble I want to cause.

But I can’t stop thinking about bathrooms. When I am particularly stressed out, I have toilet or bathroom dreams. Usually really nasty and disgusting dreams,  like cleaning public toilets with my bare hands or having to share communal toilets under terrible lighting or toilets overflowing to no end. According to the  World Wide Jungians, these dreams are powerful symbols of cleansing, letting go, of relieving emotional patterns. The other reason I am thinking about bathrooms is because my favorite room at work is the faculty dressing room–a one stall bathroom that also stores a fridge, a microwave, and a.v. equipment. A funny room to love, with its pink door and random brown towel that has been hanging there for who knows how many years, but I love it. Mannequin heads and hoop skirts have lived there, a certain red dress and and a pink bowl laced with glitter. If you are someone who gets selfies from me, you have definitely gotten one from here–such good light through the frosted windows, such good privacy to show off first day of school outfits or first meeting with the dean nervous face. This is also where some of the best thinking of faculty has happened: pre-meeting meetings that got us focused or post-meeting meetings where we hashed out what we wished we would have said more clearly. This is where Miche and I have plotted our next artland excursions, where Gesel and I have laughed while she heated up an Annie’s frozen-vegetarian-something while I peed,  and where I have cried and cried and cried and cried.

word of the day: loo

The “loo” in England is the toilet, and so named because the water closet was typically located in Room 100 of a building and 100 and loo look similar.  “This Timeline of Toilets” also declares that it’s also possible that this charming nickname came from the French when they would cry,  “Gardez l’eau” [gar-day low] when they threw their chamber pot waste out the window. That’s French for “watch out for the water” and l’eau, some believe,  sounds a bit like loo.

Loos have been a big part of my job this summer as well. For years, we have been working diligently to get a gender neutral bathroom in our house and have been plotting an over-all redesigns of all our restrooms with that in mind. The heat has been turned up on this project thanks to a donor who is eager to support our Transgender and gender-fluid students.  One would think it would be simple–just put a sign outside the door that says, “Whomever,” but it is far more complicated than that inside a university system and it takes money and resources to make it happen. This summer, I walked the building with folks from the foundation and from facilities management, examining every bathroom, empty nook, and dressing room that could possibly be converted. What we needed to make it happen most inexpensively and quickly was a one stall, one door access space. I knew just the place. And I panicked inside.  “What’s behind this door,” the foundation lady asked. “Oh nothing, nothing to see here,” I wanted to lie in order to hide my favorite room, my mid-ballet getaway, my student escape pod–secretly knowing that this room would be perfect. “It’s the faculty dressing room. We’ll look at it later,” I stalled and took everyone down to the theatre dressing rooms where I knew there was another seductive one-stall stallion of a loo. I then proceeded to detail an impossibly intricate plan that involved knocking out walls and new headers and joint access during shows…”It could be great,” I hoped inside. The specs came back outrageously expensive-it was a “no can do loo” and I knew I had to give up my ace in the hole (my ace of a hole, as it were) and I quickly revealed the best room in the house. “It’s perfect,” they all exclaimed. I know, I sighed.

Change. I think I’ve written about it before. Letting go. Yep, that sounds familiar.

Plans are now (and finally) underway to convert the faculty dressing room into a gender neutral bathroom. I am really, really happy that we are making this happen. And so grateful for the work that has occurred to make it so: the incoming gender-non conforming student who brought us the donor and the heightened awareness; the advancement team who see what a crucial investment this is in student well-being; facilities folks who are getting it done; my colleagues who are tireless in their desire to make everyone feel at home. I’m working with my family in the costume shop to see about granting access for faculty to use the theatre dressing rooms for privacy –yep, that very same space I tried to sell like a bridge I didn’t even own…No, it’s not convenient, no there’s no window, and nope, no selfies will be coming from there, but none of those things matter when you stop to consider the gift to students of a space that says not just “You can pee here” but that YOU CAN BE HERE because they feel seen and safe and welcome. I’m embarrassed that I hesitated at all–that I put my own needs, nostalgia, and convenience first, “in loo” of others, even for a minute. But change makes us uncomfortable, and sometimes it takes being uncomfortable to change. Whether it’s learning new pronouns or giving up space, I have work to do, we all do. And it’s messy, tireless work, and I will make mistakes…and continue to dream of toilets. loo.

Love to all,

not-so-silent e

https://goo.gl/images/4skkci

organ donors

Yesterday I had tea, iced soy chai, to be specific,

with an Episcopalian priest whose heart, too, was broken

into pieces that, when laid out on the table before us,

looked so similar to my own

that I think I may have picked up a few of her shards

and she, a few of mine.

 

There was so little difference between us anyway

that the mix-up seemed mute.

 

Both of us, with our children born 6 days apart, always on the giving end of taking.

Both of us, with our blue eyes advertising year-round open swim, lifeguards forever on duty.

Both of us, with too much wine and Netflix, too much faith and resilience, too much thinking that we could lift everyone else up while we were drowning.

 

Who gives the lifeguard mouth to mouth?

 

She, a woman of the cloth,

and I, a woman who likes to take her clothes off immediately,

sat across that table re-puzzling our loss.

It’s amazing how easily you can forgive yourself when you recognize that you are carrying around parts of another human’s heart.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

word of the day: nobody

Hi Friends,

“Goodnight nobody.” This line from Margaret Wise Brown’s Goodnight Moon has always held deep and perfect mystery for me–alone in the dark where everything changes and becomes its shadow-side mystery. Haunted more and more recently by the queerness of this phrase, I had to learn more about its poet. This sentence seemed to me a skeleton key to the author, a way of knowing her as well as myself. A new biography, based on her unpublished works and journals, reveals the wilder-ness of Margaret Wise Brown…whose last name makes me hope, from my own maternal lineage as a Brown, that we are related in blood as well as spirit.

word of the day: nobody

As I researched her this morning I felt that thrill that comes from first meeting someone…or hearing a new song from your favorite dead singer…or from finding a first edition Gone with the Wind among your grandmother’s recipe books. Something about her felt kin…just from that one line. My heart raced as I learned she was mentored by Gertrude Stein (she must be…she must be…)and then I literally cheered aloud to see that she, too, loved like a lighthouse with a 360 degrees heart. She loved a woman named Blanche, “Michael Strange,” and moved in with her in 1943. Goodnight Moon was published on my boy’s birthday, September 3, in 1947.

Nobody was somebody.

Nobody was even, perhaps,  a woman.

Margaret wrote new and better possibilities for both girls and boys. She wrote books in the first person, “Your world/my world/I can swing /right over the world.”  Nick-named Tim (for her hair color) and Bunny-no-good, she wrote about adventures that took bunnies away from home and back again to impossible great green rooms that held their own night music.

This is the last stanza of an unpublished poem that starts by talking about Cecily Cerisian and Pretty Polly, who spend more time with make-up and dresses:

Mary Madorn climbs in trees

Scratches her arms

and scratches her knees

Isn’t afraid of dogs or bees

Swims in crashing cold green seas

It’s a little hard at this time to see

What kind of lady brave Mary will be?

 

What kind of lady will brave Mary be…what kind, indeed. Thank you, Margaret. Thank you, Bunny-no-good. Thank you, nobody. nobody.

Love to all,

not-so-silent e

no great heights

From where I sit, with my French lace curtains placed just right, I can see only tree tops and sky. I see the corner of my deck and can imagine it a balcony that a moon would like to visit, a suitor, wild-eyed and wanton, come only for me. Since I cannot write truth these days, I will write fiction. I am happy. I am whole.

I can also write the story of what isn’t happening–he isn’t asleep in the bed in the other room, dreaming of me as I did him this morning. No, he has erased me from his day to day and his through the night. (it’s better this way, he tells himself) Under the white-powdered smears you can see the alabaster bones of our story: table 21, garden shovel, son– but the rest, ghosts. ghosts and lies.

This is not the story of the boy in the garden,  some other love god pouring sonnets into his head. The boy has gone mute and the clouds have rolled in and masked the moon. The wise sage with the words moved to Panama and now writes his poems on cocktail napkins, tucks them under sweaty glasses of rum that only the drunkest notice,  immediately to forget.

This is not the story of the play I rehearse daily that has no room for me, a few bows and curtsies, but no real flesh and bone. I am not Roxanne, Cyrano neither. I am perhaps one of the drunken poets, feasting on baked lyres and lies. Yes, Fraudulent Poet #2, that sounds about right. There are no small parts, only parts that make you feel smaller.

This is the part that makes me feel smaller: that I was not worth it for him to try. That I was too selfish to see that he was trying as much as he possibly could. That I would put up with so little for so long. That it was me under the balcony–holding up the moon. That it was me, hiding in the dark, filling myself up with perfumed words and sending them back to myself–liar, lyre, liar. There was no moon. There wasn’t even a balcony, just a fire escape that I mistook for a balcony and that wasn’t love, it was smoke–smoke coming from an actual fire burning inside the house, and still, there I stood, not escaping, there I stood, waiting for the words to arrive that would save me, when in fact I was moments away from being burned alive.

There’s a huge difference between a balcony and a fire escape.

 

 

“I may climb perhaps to no great heights, but I will climb alone.”

-cyrano

 

 

 

 

 

ingredients

I do not want the things that make a good poem

a dead mother

a dead bird

a dead son

this one word, divorce, has enough death in it

(enough guilt  enough failure enough blame)

to contrive at least one hundred mediocre sonnets of despair

 

I do not want better, more fetid ingredients

words that smell of over-ripe lilac

or fish guts

or loneliness

 

Better poems wait for darker days

and the need to survive them

 

Today

this loss is enough to make a few words

appear and rearrange themselves

into the memory of your mouth

or the shape of a peach

half-eaten

left in the sun to rot

 

Today

I feel lucky

that all I have to grieve

is a peach