the e-dict

…from the imagination of Erika Randall Beahm

little altars everywhere

When I travel, I build little altars to make me feel at home. Compiled from jewelry, match boxes, and Marys, I ground my space, rarifying a hotel desk or bedside table. Kneel here. Bow your head. They remind me. Every place is sacred. Especially your body. Especially your heart.

word of the day: debt

Hi Friends,

Yesterday, I ordered a bowl of lentil soup from a restaurant I frequented 25 years ago. I took a sip of the soup immediately–though still delicious, it tasted different. The daughter of the Turkish owner assured me that her mother, who sat quietly in the back corner booth, had used the same recipe for years. I am different, I thought, not the soup. I am different.

It was then, after I had already placed lips to cup, that I  noticed the weathered handwritten sign: cash or check only, something I would have missed 25 years ago because cash would have been all that I had. “No worries,” said the daughter, “you can pay us next time.” It had been over 20 years since I had last been in their restaurant and here I was, met with a calm reassurance that I could, “pay them next time.” How many places are left in the world like this? How often do we dish out our own nutritive soup and generously say, “No worries, you can pay me next time,” knowing that that next time might be another lifetime away? I have always wondered how this little mom and pop restaurant has stayed alive on the corner of a favorite prominent street. I now had my answer: karma.

word of the day: debt

a. the state of owing money

b. a feeling of gratitude for a service or favor

Debt is like witches–there is good debt and there is bad debt. I have dealt, in my time, with a wealth of both. Usually, debt is something we are desperate to get out of, but in this particular blink, the debt of gratitude was something I wanted to soak in awhile longer.

“Would you like a reminder,” she asked?

“Yes please,” I replied in earnest. I would most certainly like a reminder–a reminder about everything happening in this moment. The debt. The soup. The generosity. Myself.

She handed me a small yellow slip with the restaurant’s address. I closed my eyes, imagined the world covered in these yellow squares of paper, leaves fluttering around us all, the debts we owe and are so generously entrusted to pay back. Some we get to in this life, others we return to fulfill. This is one debt I can take care of. When I get home tomorrow, I will put a check in the mail.  For at least three times the charge of the soup. With a thank you note. And I will save this yellow slip as a reminder. debt.

Love to all,

not-so-silent e

On becoming a nutritive soup

Hi Friends,

Here is the quote and the notes that I riffed off yesterday in my first opening retreat as Chair. Thank you, Jen Bechtel, for this beautiful thought about butterflies.

“Caterpillars chew their way through ecosystems leaving a path of destruction as they get fatter and fatter. When they finally fall asleep and a chrysalis forms around them, tiny new imaginal cells, as biologists call them, begin to take form within their bodies. The caterpillar’s immune system fights these new cells as though they were foreign intruders, and only when they crop up in greater numbers and link themselves together are they strong enough to survive. Then the caterpillar’s immune system fails and its body dissolves into a nutritive soup which the new cells recycle into their developing butterfly.

The caterpillar is a necessary stage but becomes unsustainable once its job is done. There is no point in being angry with it and there is no need to worry about defeating it. The task is to focus on building the butterfly, the success of which depends on powerful positive and creative efforts in all aspects of society and alliances built among those engaged in them.”
― Elisabet Sahtouris

 

Dear Friends,

We are the champions of creative efforts, especially in the face of change. We are masters (or earning them) in the art of becoming butterflies.

While so much is shifting here on our campus and in the world, we as artist and art-makers, can stay focused on building the butterfly. We have rehearsed these moments of transformation, we have mobilized our alliances in order to recycle our energies to become a bright, winged thing.  I love that the cells that start the metamorphosis of the chrysalis are called imaginal cells—not that they are imaginary, but that they are tiny little planets of imagination. When these imaginal cells link together, when our imaginations are joined, we are strong enough to survive.

This summer was not a quiet one on campus, we have a new Dean, Jim White, who, though put into action through a very bumpy process, is a kind and interdisciplinerary leader and really good human. We have a new and poetess Associate Dean, Ruth Ellen Kocher, you all have a new chair, and it is a new year—for some of you a new home, a new role, a new teaching assignment.  So much change, so much good nutritive soup—bowls full, sip from the cup full, no time for spoon-full change!  It is tempting to get grouchy, conspiratorial, mistrustful during these shifts—but I want to encourage all of us to stay play-full, to help choreograph our futures here on campus and on this earth. Thanks to the 14 years of leadership from our dear Bud Coleman, and to the diligent work of all of you, we are seen as movers, shakers, and leaders on this campus. We are the trouble-makers—we make good trouble, good soup, from which to develop. There is no point in being angry (though sometimes we can’t help it) as we move forward with change—but we should definitely not be complacent. What we do in these moments where possibility resides will define our wingspan for years to come. I am so excited to be your advocate and comrade in all of this.

Last week the chancellor spoke up, more quickly than usual—which I loved—about the violence and discord in VA, urging us to all stay “student and community” centered:

“In times like these I want us all to remember who we are and what we stand for, as reflected by our Colorado Creed, and to welcome back our students with that in mind when you are helping them find a residence hall, unload their cars as they move in or make their way to classes.

  • We act with honor, integrity and accountability in interactions with each other.
  • We respect the rights of others and accept our differences.
  • We contribute to the greater good of this community.”

This community is our butterfly.

He also shared this powerful document that is making its way around the country, signed by student body presidents:

“As Student Body Presidents across the United States , we are deeply saddened by the events that have occurred in Charlottesville, Virginia. We are united with the students of the University of Virginia, as what affects one of our campuses affects us all. College campuses are spaces that students should be able to call home, not places of violence, hate, and racism. Students should always feel welcome and safe at our incredible higher education institutions, never having to fear for their personal well-being. As the voice of our students, we collectively call on one another to speak up in the face of injustice, as silence reduces us to bystanders in oppression. This is a statement to not only support the Student Body at the University of Virginia but to make clear our advocacy for the victimized and marginalized students on all our campuses. We will continue to support students and universities in their peaceful resistance to violence, racism, white supremacy, bigotry, and acts of terrorism on our own campuses and beyond.”

As we move into the year, let’s remember this:

The Golden rule: Treat others as you would like to be treated

and more importantly

The Platinum Rule: Treat others as they would like to be treated

We are soup.

Soup is good.

 

All my best,

e

 

august

August is a racing arrow.

still learning how to sail

Hi Friends,

I am re-staging “Jo’s Journal,” Sharon Randolph’s beautiful ballet that imagines Jo and the March girls through flashback from Jo’s perspective. I have danced this role at 17 and 27, coached it at 37 and re-staged it once at 39. My new Jo is 17 and auditioned for me 4 years ago, and though all Jo, she was too young. Now as a “little woman,” she is so very ready for the role. While coaching her to be in the body of the grown-up lady Jo, I asked her to imagine into the future (since she couldn’t go as far back into her past). To think of all the bodies who have danced this role and how old we will be when she is 27. To see us as an extension of her–to feel our lust for those 17 year-old knees, that gratitude for surviving those early 20s, and that wistfulness for the confidence that finally started to come in our 30s. To see the now almost 44 me, who, while teaching Jo, still tries to dance like she 17 (though her feet hurt like they’ve aged in dog years) and is looking into the future, uncertain, once again. There are multiple moments in this ballet where I remember myself at every decade–remember myself exactly–the feel of my face, the shape of my heart, and the strength of my want at that time for what was to come or what had already been. I teared up three times yesterday–watching this young girl become herself and her future. Thank god my  heart is packed in memory foam–to help seal the cracks as I glue myself back together with the knowing of all these women I am, and all of those great women who have come before me.

“I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship”

Louisa May Alcott

Thank you, Louisa. Thank you, Sharon. Thank you, Jo.

love to all,

not-so-silent e

word of the day: dapple

Hi Friends,

Just the other day, while heading to the zoo, me, my ez, and our dear friend Megan were hit by a semi truck. Yep. An 18-wheeler who decided that he needed our lane to turn on to I-70, whether our little blue Rabbit was there or not. I rarely swear in front of ezra but with a large blue Peterbuilt barreling down on us, FUCK!!!! came flying out of my mouth faster than I could almost-6-year-old censor myself.

Spoiler alert–we were all completely fine, the chain-smoking truck driver was ticketed, and the car is likely totaled.

While sitting on the berm waiting for the police in 100 degree weather, however, there was a lot of kid- brain processing going on–ez feeling guilty because he had been fussing moments before we were hit, ez’s fears about who would get in trouble, would the car be ok, would we still get to the zoo. To shift his focus from fear, I looked to humor. “Did you hear that F-bomb mama dropped?” Giggles from the backseat. “I should really work on that, huh, buddy? What if those had been my last words?” More giggles. “That would have been terrible, mama! You need to say something better before you die.”

I have long been obsessed with Famous Last Words and have a little love affair with the image of these final utterances hanging in the air over the just-dead, falling on them, letter by letter, like a soft, final rain. Some favorites:

Sir Isaac Newton: “I don’t know what I may seem to the world. But as to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore and diverting myself now and then in finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than the ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.”

O.O. McIntyre,an American reporter, who spoke his last words to his wife Maybelle: “Snooks, will you please turn this way. I like to look at your face.”

Oscar Wilde: “This wallpaper is terrible – one of us will have to go!”

Emily Dickinson: “I must go in, for the fog is rising.”

Steve Jobs: “Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow.”

word of the day: dapple

Back on the berm, we started playing the game “Better last words” and laughed as we practiced yelling favorite words like, “Ocean!” “Luther!” “Baked potato with butter!” Imagining ourselves careening into the unknown calling out our favorite foods, pets, and people got us all breathing again. These last words, hollered in the face of fear like magical incantations, would shuttle our spirits along better than “f-bombs” (as ez was excited to say, over and over). I landed on “dapple” and couldn’t get past it. Besides the ocean and ezra’s eyes, I might like nothing better–in sound and in actuality. The definition of dapple is none too artful, but its use always conjures horses, clouds, sunlight, and cottonwoods. I can imagine no better path into the afterlife than a dappled grove or fullmoonspeckled country road, no better escort than a soft-nosed, mottled grey and white mare. ez, returning again and again to humor–and food–screamed into Death’s mean mug my favorite Starbucks order, “Half caf soy latté extra ice!” and “Noodle!” making me laugh harder and relax.

But “Dapple!” I kept yelling, like the children in Peter Pan who are looking for their fizzy-lifting spell. “Dapple!” I cried, hoping to firm the word into my fight or flight response so that the next time the Reaper moves into my lane to cut me off, I’ll be ready. dapple.

Love to all,

not-so-silent e

 

awake

Sitting outside this morning, I am actually cold, even in my  slippers, flannel shirt, and long, green sweater. There is nothing like a chilly summer morning, except perhaps the color a stone turns when wet, or my child’s sweaty hand in mine. Sleeping in is impossible–even when I am granted the grace to do it. Sleeping in would mean missing this soft beginning.  Sleeping in would mean missing out. I would rather be awake for this moment–when the undersides of things are the same minty temperature as their surfaces and my brain the same quiet as the air. Right now, the day is still a cool stone in my palm, all its colors revealed. And though it will be dried by the heat of the day and my mind busied with the frenzy of passing hours, I have this small window when I am truly AWAKE.

stars

I so desperately want to believe that the stars hold the answers or our ancestors. They might just be light late to our eyes, but isn’t that what awakening is anyway?

a fearful gesture

What is this?

A fearful gesture

An amazing 180

The window at half-mast

This not knowing what’s to come

This glorious new curiosity

 

Here in my chest

Right here

As if it were my own

there is

one last taste of strawberries

that song

one

more

time

 

Here in my chest

I recognize it

Bigger than all the plagues and dangers

Right here

There is hope

To smell the leaves change

To sing the tune without the words

To push off the wall

one

more

time

 

But right here

Here in my chest

Bigger than all the plagues and dangers

A fearful gesture

To hold hands like I mean it

To know myself without

To perch on the soul

 

And

Never stop

At all

 

talisman

“Hold this,” you said, then gently placed your heart in my hand.