the e-dict

…from the imagination of Erika Randall Beahm

self-winding

The frozen ocean is just ten miles away, but I can’t seem to get there. Here, in my busy swirl of a schedule there is no time and no car to take me to the place I most want to be–by the sea. I don’t mind the cold and the wet–I have stood for hours by the sound, waiting for orcas to make their pilgrimage, rewarded for my rain-soaked skin by a parade the likes of none, 12 or 21 (I no longer remember which way the number turned) “killer whales” spouting by. But I was 20-something then and time stopped for adventure. When did I lose that watch, the one that stopped? The one with the hour hand on wander and the minute hand on lust?

I love the names of the three key devices in a mechanical watch: spring, balance wheel, and escapement. My mind leaps right over the engineering “truths” and into the poetic–in order for time to work we need to spring, to balance, to escape. What if today I turned my crown and set into motion a small jump from the must’s and sprung into the want’s? What if I balanced this to-the-minute life of mine with a moment measured by the vastness of the sea? And what if, only for an instant, I escaped all that I believed about myself and my limitations and went to the shore where, right in the middle of whale-watching off-season, some beautiful, wild thing showed her silvery self in the distance? And what if that shining, wild flash of a thing, were me?

natural beauty

This morning I am slightly embittered by the beauty of the world–as Annie Lamott says, “God showing off.” I feel small and cold, cracked fingered and red-nosed, racing for the tardy bell with my 5-year old in tow, hat down over his face, trusting my tug at his left hand up the hill as Mother Nature elegantly wraps herself in a pashmina of sparkling white and icy diamonds, kicks back, and shows her good side to the sun.  Really, you just wake up like that, I marvel at her. “It’s so much easier, ” she brags (she, who is never late for anything and always flawlessly accessorized), “When you stop trying to control and just let things be.”

word of the day: soul-utions

Dear Friends,

I want so much for next year–to publish my book, to survive well as Chair, to be a more patient mama, and find clarity, sweet, sweet clarity. oh, and peace. with a side of self forgiveness. I want all of this in reverse order. I need some solutions not resolutions.

word of the day: soul-utions.

I want heart emulsions and spirit tinctures– Seattle mist-like sprays scented of lavender, musk, rosemary, blackberry brambles, peppermint, sage. I want to be in-fused.

I want more time for love poems–written by me to me–and I want to read them near more water. Until the pages are wet and the ink bleeds and the paper disintegrates in my hands and washes out to sea.

I want stay soft in the middle, even as I work on my abs.

I want more time with you and more time alone.

I want to love my thighs as much as I loved my mermaid tail. And be more certain that I did the right thing with that trade. Perhaps I just need to swim more.

And I want laughter.

Real, honest to goddess laughter.

The kind that peels the shellac of my soul. The kind that has me sink down the wall, afraid to move for I might pee. A good 9.5 on the Richter scale that turns over the furniture, devastates all the china, cracks the foundation.

I need to write a script for that good medicine. Maybe laughter is the antidote to 2016. Laughter and action. and maybe next year will be better than the last. soul-ution.

Love and laughter to all,

not-so-silent e

 

 

word of the day: sadiron

Hi Friends,

Here I am, up before the s(o)n, so that I can iron out my mind and heart before starting my LAST day of the semester. I’m a terrible ironer. Really. I mean, when is the last time any of you saw me iron anything? I do have a travel steamer for emergencies but ironing. ..? When it comes to that household task, I find I put more wrinkles on the back side of whatever it is I’m trying to clean up out front. Self, I feel a metaphor coming on…

As I tackle a deep crease in my thinking from one side, I’m noticing heavy-handed, starched-in folds on the back of that same thought. I am not smoothing out my troubles these days, but facing them, head-on, only then to hold the residue of my hot and heavy-handed confrontation by feeling guilty or distraught or lost in time about what and when all this work means. I am working so hard to press out the trouble at the shirt-face of my concerns, only to then turn over my work and find a rumbled mess at the back that needs more and more careful pressing. My therapist says I am doing good work. But nobody else would want to wear these shirts, let me tell you.

word of the day: sadiron

“The sad iron in “sadiron or sad iron” is an old word for solid and the name suggests something bigger and heavier than a flat iron.” ~The History of Ironing

I need a sadiron. To get happy, I need something more sad, more solid. And a hotter fire. And a slower hand. The other hot tips I gathered from The History of Ironing is: You need at least two irons on the go together for an effective system: one in use, and one re-heating. At home, ironing traditional fabrics without the benefit of electricity was a hot, arduous job. Irons had to be kept immaculately clean, sand-papered and polished. They must be kept away from burning fuel, and be regularly but lightly greased to avoid rusting. Beeswax prevented irons sticking to starched cloth. Constant care was needed over temperature. Experience would help decide when the iron was hot enough, but not so hot that it would scorch the cloth. A well-known test was spitting on the hot metal, but Charles Dickens describes someone with a more genteel technique in The Old Curiosity Shop. She held “the iron at an alarmingly short distance from her cheek, to test its temperature…”

In the housework of the heart, everything is done by fire. In this diligence,  you need emotional back-up for an effective system, you need to “keep clean,” and you need to stay polished. You can’t just think of the thing that you’re working on, you have to also take care of your tools–“constant care.” I have definitely been neglecting my metal, sticking to the fabric, leaving my mark.  I’m not just rumpling the underside of my focus but scorching the cloth. Not minding my own beeswax. There’s no way to ultimately do this heavy laundering without first taking care of my sorrow–my sad iron.  And then, after holding my sadness at an alarmingly short distance from my cheek, I can test its temperature to make sure I am working with the right heat, the right heaviness–not too much so as to burn or wrankle, but just enough to get the job done and come out smooth, one day, once more. sadiron.

Love to all,

not-so-silent e

melt

 

 

I am delighting in the cold of this morning

the way my nose lights up

a sudden rush of blood

the way my 5 year-old’s wild eyes

match the clear, blue sky

or the sea

just over those mountains there

 

As winter starts his slow creep across the land

I wonder if a thaw is coming to me

a deliquescense of heart

I can hear the loud groans of ice

breaking from their glacial home

“Let go! Let go!” they cry

as they slip down in violent shards

and are swallowed up whole

 

we come from the oceans

the oceans come from ice

everything is made of melt

let go. let go.

 

Ice falling, Moreno Glacier, NP los Glaciares, Patagonia, Argentina, South America

Ice falling, Moreno Glacier, NP los Glaciares,
Patagonia, Argentina, South America

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

on breaking apart and coming back together

What if all the broken pieces of me get jumbled and re-glued and I become a different sort of vase?

…or maybe not a vase at all…

maybe an urn to hold the ashes of my old self.

urn

full

Sometimes my heart gets so full it leaks out my eyes.

blue-nude

love letter for a friend who lives on the moon

Dear One,

This is a hand written letter.

The stamp is of a woman holding a red umbrella on a beach somewhere.

There are newly yellowed leaves pressed inside the pages.

The paper is handmade.

The ink comes from a quill pen.

There are tear stains blurring some of the words but you will still get the gist.

This letter tells you almost everything you need to know.

For the rest, you will read between the lines and the veins on the leaves and make sense of the stamp and the smudges and how I sign my name with one single letter and know that even though it has taken some days for this letter to arrive to your soft hands, I am still alive and trying and using patience, granular, singular patience, to get through. You know this because you have a collection of these letters dating back lifetimes somewhere in a large hand hewn box in your heart.

 

Love,

e

 

red-umbrella-blues

word of the day: mine

Hi Friends,

As a young girl, I was obsessed with the notion of miners’ canaries, those innocent yellows who were brought down into the depths to serve as a warning for dangerous levels of toxic gases. When those caged birds stopped singing and fell from their perch, the miners knew it was time to evacuate the hole. Canaries are of a Sentinel Species, an organism used as an advanced warning of danger, as they are more susceptible than humans to particular contaminates. This little trill seeker was used as a life lantern well into the 20th century to detect too-high levels of carbon monoxide. At 7 or 8 when I first heard of this devastating methodology, I imagined myself as the miner at the front of the line, the one holding the metal cage, the canary so bright she lit the way through the dark, slick tunnels. I heard her song, then heard it go quiet. I remember being racked with guilt. How could I, I who had never actually taken a bright dandelion of a thing into the underworld, live after so selfishly stealing her song to save my own neck? Clearly, I had an active imagination, even then.

Today I am thinking of our dear canary as I work to make a new piece of the same name. I am trying to get out in front of the toxic levels of my own life and find I am both canary and miner at the moment. The question for me is this: can I maneuver through the tight, dark tunnels before my birdheart expires? Can I leave, singing to the surface, before toxicity in any part of my world overtakes me and mine? And what if I and my unfounded kharmic guilt are part of the poison? How do I leave that below deck and get above to bluer skies?

word of the day: mine

I am going down in the mine–the mine of my ownership, that which belongs to me. In this rendition of the metaphor, I am bird warning, excavating girl, and dark labyrinth. I am responsible for the depths and their contamination, and for making sure my feathered friend and I get out alive.  My therapist, who is part Jungian myth spinner, part ass-kicking soul trainer, believes in staying curious. She also believes in the power of art-making and storytelling as vehicles for self-awareness and healing.  Make your way through this life, she offers. Make art and learn from it. Kurt Vonnegut once used the canary archetype to describe artists:

“I sometimes wondered what the use of any of the arts was. The best thing I could come up with was what I call the canary in the coal mine theory of the arts. This theory says that artists are useful to society because they are so sensitive. They are super-sensitive. They keel over like canaries in poison coal mines long before more robust types realize that there is any danger whatsoever.”

I agree with Kurt that we are more sensitive beings, we artist folk, but I don’t think we just keel over. We take in the malodorous and the magnificent and work our alchemy with all that we mine, bringing the muck and the magic back up to the surface, shining awareness on the leaks. Being a sentinel species for the planet is not easy, but I am grateful for these skills of detection–especially when I remember to turn them on within my own life–when I mine what’s mine. And when I get the hell out of certain dark chambers before all goes quiet. mine.

Love to all,

not-so-silent e

canary

from St. Mary Oliver

The Humpbacks

Listen, whatever it is you try
to do with your life, nothing will ever dazzle you
like the dreams of your body,

its spirit
longing to fly while the dead-weight bones

toss their dark mane and hurry
back into the fields of glittering fire

where everything,
even the great whale,
throbs with song.

Mary Oliver