the e-dict

…from the imagination of Erika Anne Randall

love note to myself

Dear Erika,

I feel your new moon melancholy today and I wanted to let you know that, just like phases of our old heavenly orb, this too shall pass. Maybe it’s the too much. Or maybe it’s the not enough. Maybe it’s the distance from your root chakra to your heart. Or maybe it’s the sound of busy buzzing in your brain.

Whatever it is, I’m dashing off this quick note to remind you of that dancer you beheld in class on Tuesday–the one who knew how to shed her human body and become light so she could connect with her dark. Also, since you might have forgotten on this particular friday that it was only last week that you took class from that wild beast of a unicorn from Batsheva, that her use of that tiny word “the” changed your mind forever about time. “Connect to the plenty of time,” she said. Not –“you have plenty of time” or “there’s plenty of time,” but THE plenty. Oh–your cells screamed–Time has her own enough-ness! She has plenty! And she wants to share it! And she wants to share it with ME! Thank you, Time, Thank you, for opening your ice box and showing me the plenty of it. Nothing to worry about–no one will go hungry here!

And, I know you get lonely in that job of yours, as much as you are filled by it. I know you are surrounded by love and that you are surrounded by expectation and that you are surrounded by generosity and that you are surrounded by things that sometimes feel like the opposite of love. But this job, this seat in this chair, is a teacher for you and it is helping you get clean–about what is yours and what, frankly, is someone else’s. And that most important lesson is teaching you that it is not your responsibility to manage someone else’s response–nor can you, nor should you, try to take it from them. If you are coming from positive intent (a meditation that serves you well–even all these years later when you can’t remember the stories you tell and if the stories are dreams or memories), then the rest is not under your control. So let it go.

I hope you’ll see that the spots on your hands are reminders of your days in the sun–not markers of frailty. You never do get that tattoo that says, “be brave”  on your inner left wrist, because you don’t need it in ink to know that you are.

Please take this moment and look around–no not at that misstep, or that one. Stop my dear friend, and look at what you have and feel the plenty of it. The moon is new but she is on her way to full. And so are you.

Love always,

83 year old Erika

 

 

word of the day: rush

Hi Friends,

Mornings are my time to see the world and write it right. And with early meetings and teaching, I have had no mornings to speak of. This morning, with our beautiful guest, Uri Shaffir in my class, I planned to drop off, go home, sit down, and dig in. And then I/we/he left the lunch. The lunch I made and put no note in (oh my gosh, mom, so embarrassing), the lunch I handed him and he put down as he velcroed his shoes (stop rushing me, geez), the lunch that has to be brought to school by 11 because he refuses to eat the hot lunch (They put broccoli on soggy pizza, so gross), the lunch that stopped the world.

And all of a sudden, post drop-off, I’m crying. Not because of the lunch but because of lost time. And not time this morning, but all the time. All the rushing. past and through and around. All the moments that got left on the counter. That got packed up without a note.

word of the day: rush

rushing water. the rush of blood. the gold rush. that terrible first two weeks of school where all the girls wear the same short  dresses and impossibly high heels. the surge to an unnatural speed. the act made with haste, eagerness, or without preparation. mountain dew plus lucky charms.

So many ways to see the wor(l)d.

But when I’m rushing, I miss so much.

Yesterday in technique class, Uri had us walk through the space. He instructed us to move as if rushing, as if we were trying to claim the space around us. The energy of the room tightened and the interstitial spaces were wrought with a kind of ego-centric magnetism that one finds when navigating the stairs leaving the subway at Columbus Circle. He then asked us to keep the speed but to treat the space as if we were giving way to others. We hurried around, but this time, to give back, to make way. We moved quickly but with generosity. We had to look. We had to offer. And still, we moved fast.

In these days that come in like a lion, I might not be able to slow down. I might keep rushing from my office to the copier to the classroom…but what if I did it with a wake of generosity and giving way? How does that change me? Might it actually ease my path while making more room for others? The go(l)d we are all rushing towards is connection. It is easy to miss when we are in a blur.

And then I dig in, mining the real metal of my sadness…What if I had never felt like I was in someone’s way? What if they had softened their path and made room for mine? How different would I/we/they be? What if the “lunch” that I left was brought to me unexpectedly and what if in it, they had placed a note…what a rush that would have been.

This is the love note I tucked in your brown paper sack. The one I wasn’t too busy to write. Because I love you. rush.

Love to all,

not-so-silent e

 

 

 

 

ghost piano

I have found that doing to-do tasks, like writing my post-tenure review, to the “Peaceful Piano” station on spotify makes the moment feel like a day at the beach in Jane Campion’s The Piano. And suddenly, I’m both spirited awake and lulled into peaceful calm by the melodies of my inner ghost piano and the ease of my black silk balloon body floating just above it…

“Down there everything is so still and silent that it lulls me to sleep. It is a weird lullaby and so it is; it is mine.”

 

word(s) of the day: epistemic hospitality

Hi Friends,

The world is frozen outside but inside I am feeling a bit of a thaw. I feel this thing in my days called, I think the word I’m looking for is, happiness. It’s a simple notion of the word–no bursting forth, just a quiet ease of being. It shows up in places where I would least expect it–like work–and for that, I am so very grateful.

Yesterday, our ballet pianist, Irena, whom I love and adore but also fear (her honesty is real), let me know (out of the blue, as class was about to start), that being happy at work isn’t everything, that it “isn’t life.” My resistance to this statement rose fast and hot. I don’t believe that work is more important than parenting or friendships or my health, but it is where I spend most of my time so shouldn’t it be good that I am happy there? Isn’t it, if not all of my life, still life? It’s where I find community and where I am able to make a small difference in this big mess of a world. Work is where I feel useful and connected–to myself, to my students, and to brilliant humans whom I would never have come to know if not for my job.

word(s) of the day: epistemic hospitality

After ballet, I got to sit around a table with folks from all over campus–brilliant, opinion-filled beings who radiate phrases like “epistemic hospitality ” as ways to describe the attributes of humans whose generosity of knowing seeks to include vs. exclude. My beautiful colleague, Nabil, gave us this phrase, off the cuff, off the tongue, off the heart, and it buoyed the group to imagine a welcome mat of the minds. So often when someone knows something, they weaponize that knowing so as to cut down other’s beliefs and opinions. I can even remember my early (insert: insecure)  years teaching when I used my knowing to show and prove, not to show and share. and question further. and wonder more. and expand. Knowing was an end point, not an entrance. Oh–all that I “knew” in my early 20s (Sorry parents, and aunts and uncles, and other people of authority who I was so eager to batter with my fake self-episteme).

Now I think of my most knowledgeable people and see how they use what they know to invite what they have not yet learned. Take, for instance, my beloved Katy. She has a degree in Vocal Performance from the Boston Conservatory, a law degree from Capital, and is working on her phd in environmental mediation. She knows A LOT, but when she is in the lab of learning (called Planet Earth), she is always the human who knows the driver’s name, asks more questions than she answers, and uses her smarts to disarm and warm rather than put off/show off (unless she’s dealing with a real asshole and then BOOM, lightening brain. Or against anyone in Scrabble. There’s no welcome mat in Scrabble). Hospitality is her middle name, and she is ever gracious in her welcome to rally around complex ideas, even when she may already have all the answers–even especially when she does.

I would like be this kind of epistemic hostess–to set my mind like I set my table. And I want this table to be round with so many leaves that it turns into the biggest oval you’ve ever seen. And I want there to be room for plates and bowls and elbows, and spilled wine, sopped up with laughter, and salad forks, for those who want them, and plenty of napkins for those of us who want to use our hands. epistemic hospitality.

Love to all,

not-so-silent e

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

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