the e-dict

…from the imagination of Erika Randall Beahm

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

 

 

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.