the e-dict

…from the imagination of Erika Anne Randall

junk drawer

 

Every house needs one place where anything and everything belongs

the scissors right at home next to the stamps the birthday candles and the travel corkscrew

the electrical tape the paperclips the bundle of sage

all thrown in together

in a rare and thrilling rebellion against order and hierarchy

 

I remember my Nana’s junk drawer

an improvisation of necessary things

that didn’t quite go together

nor did they go anywhere else

With a “place for everything and everything else in its place”

she still had a drawer

right there

handy

next to the sink

Packed full, you never knew quite what you would find

and after digging for a safety pin

I remember my six-year old hands smelling

of copper coins and rubber bands

flecks of cigarette tobacco under my nails

even though she’d quit smoking years before

 

this mess is what it feels like now in my chest

right here, where my heart, once, not too long ago, thanks to the gift of the label-maker your mother gave you for your birthday, was marked with your name

my love for you right next to my disappointment my grief my guilt

the time in Greece the ER the broken down car

all thrown in together

with new found things that I don’t know where to put yet

but know someday I might need

letter to myself about broken things

Dear Erika,

If the third time’s the charm, or if everything happens in threes, or if three’s really company, then I think you’re good on car accidents for the year. And yes, you feel lucky and grateful and blessed and oh, it could have been so much worse, and thank god! everyone is ok, and yes, it was the other guy’s fault, and he was driving a Saab and so now you have a good saab story…and and and…But then, because I know you, I know you start hearing Will Smith’s life coach theory about fault and responsibility and how it doesn’t matter whose fault it was, it is now your responsibility to deal with the residue. And you will, you are; you have amazing friends and family who will help get you from here to there, both literally and metaphorically. I’m not worried about that.

I’m not worried about anything really (except the polar bears), but I know you are. I wanted you to hear from me, me who survives this and many other accidents (of car, of son, of heart over the next twenty years), that I saw you shivering on the side of the road after they towed away that sweet little blue loaner Rabbit and I knew you weren’t cold, but in shock– in shock at your life and how things can feel so easily, so suddenly, towed away. And I’m here to tell you, it’s true. All of it, all of us, are part of life’s mysterious undertow. There is a strong current beneath our existence that moves in a different direction from that of the surface, and it hungers to take us out to sea.  As your first poet, Neruda, whispers,

“May whatever breaks
be reconstructed by the sea
with the long labor of its tides.”

Let go of where you think you should be heading and what car will get you there the safest, my 44-year old friend. Yes-go get your eyes checked and figure out how far things need to be now for you to really see them and how much you’ve lost up close. Go get your mammogram, your moles checked, your neck checked from this last crash, but release all your broken bits to the labor of the tides and try to trust. The car, that bracelet, the glass, your heart…

“So many useless things
which nobody broke
but which got broken anyway”

I love you, lady.

64-year old Erika, waving from the Schwinn blue ’65 Mustang

letter to myself

Dear Erika,

A few things to remember:

  1. You can’t be trusted to watch a show by yourself after 7pm. Especially “This is Us.” What were you thinking?
  2. There is always a friend awake somewhere in the world. Or one who will be willing to wake up.
  3. You love how confusing J’aimais and jamais are in French–one meaning “I loved” the second meaning “Never.”
  4. Don’t suffer alone without medicine. Be it laughter, poetry, or a real hug from a true friend, you are not a Christian Scientist. Take some fucking medicine.
  5. People who say they don’t like birthdays still like to be celebrated. Choose a different day.
  6. Letters to yourself do not require stamps and they arrive immediately, just at the moment you long for them.
  7. Your dreams are messages–especially the one this morning about your deaf daughter and the one from the night before about Donald McKayle. Try to remember what isn’t said.
  8. You write the story of your life–careful how you choose the ink and the font. Not to mention the words.
  9. You are a little needy.
  10. You already have everything you need.

Love always,

from the Erika who just received this letter and already feels a little better

 

fuse

With so much falling apart in this world, it is such a joy to come together.

FUSE, the dance festival for the Northwest Region ACDA, is happening in my dance backyard right now through this Tuesday night and I am so.damn.happy.

Dancing saves lives.

It has saved mine countless times.

Thank you, dancing; thank you, dancers.

Yours,

e

https://www.colorado.edu/conference/acda2018/

 

 

love letters from myself

Dear Erika,

I know that you are suffering, but let me tell you, your skin looks amazing from all that salt water. I see it tightening your pores and I want to thank you for washing yourself clean.

Love,

64 year-old Erika

word of the day: accept

Hi Friends,

I’m writing today from the back house of a mansion in Dallas, TX, which in Old East Dallas they just call a “house.” I am marveling at the places dance has taken me and feeling grateful for the humans I have met and the things I have seen and felt thanks to this sweet madness. There was never any question about what I wanted to do when I grew up–I wanted to dance. I didn’t just want to be a dancer, I wanted to dance. I have remained ever-grateful for this small distinction.  For there are so many days these days where I do not feel like a dancer…more like a typist, and a conflict control simulator, a broken metronome who just can’t stop speeding up. But then I start dancing. I start verbing not  nouning; I move into the action of the thing that has always reminded me of my most daring relationship to gravity and I know that I am awake in my life as I was meant to be this time around. It (almost) doesn’t matter anymore if anyone even sees.

There is a beautiful elegance that comes with age, an elegance that reflects one’s ability to be without approval.  To approve means to judge favorably. And even though the word “favorably” gets in before the hammer, you still have to maneuver around the judge  to get to the good stuff. My feeling doctor talks about getting rid of the judge all together, jumping the bench, a back high left karate chop to that inner voice with outer form that says “right” or “wrong,” “suitable” or “Get your suit on.”

word of the day: accept

Dictionary.com gives a lot of great words as the synonym for approve, but as I move out of the shadow of need that comes from seeking approval, I think I can baby-step-it over most easily to the synonym “accept.”

accept

verb. believe the goodness, realness of something

This definition feels a little soft (look at me judging) but I love it. And if there’s a judge present in this, she’s dressed in gold and wine colored robes, rocking a tight crop like only Pema Chodron and Annie Lennox can. Speaking of Pema, she tells a story about acceptance that brings with it all the fear and all the deliciousness of this life. She reminds us, in her calm pool, no-bullshit, generosity, that we are always between one ambush or another, one streak of tigers or their gnashing gnarling brethren.

“There is a story of a woman running away from tigers. She runs and runs and the tigers are getting closer and closer. When she comes to the edge of a cliff, she sees some vines there, so she climbs down and holds on to the vines. Looking down, she sees that there are tigers below her as well. She then notices that a mouse is gnawing away at the vine to which she is clinging. She also sees a beautiful little bunch of strawberries close to her, growing out of a clump of grass. She looks up and she looks down. She looks at the mouse. Then she just takes a strawberry, puts it in her mouth, and enjoys it thoroughly. Tigers above, tigers below. This is actually the predicament that we are always in, in terms of our birth and death. Each moment is just what it is. It might be the only moment of our life; it might be the only strawberry we’ll ever eat. We could get depressed about it, or we could finally appreciate it and delight in the preciousness of every single moment of our life.”
― Pema ChödrönThe Wisdom of No Escape: How to Love Yourself and Your World

I love the places dance has taken me–even the cliff-edges of fear, judgement, self-loathing…tigers all around. But I am especially grateful for these brief moments when I sit writing on a rainy morning, quiet, fingers just a little cold, in the back house of a mansion in Dallas, TX, in the back house of myself,  believing in my own goodness and realness, tasting strawberries.

Love to all,

not-so-silent e

 

 

 

word of the day: still

Hi Friends,

Yesterday, as I walked from meeting to meting to meeting all over campus, I calmed myself with this lovely thought, “Someday, I’ll get to die.” A smile would come across my face and I would breathe as the quiet passed over me. I do not wish to die anytime soon, but the notion that someday I will be done with everything, no matter what is left on my to-do list, was magnificently comforting. This is a win for a girl who used to lie in bed terrified by the infinite distance of space and the consternation of “gone forever-ness.” The addition of “get to” in the above incantation is my little pressie to myself–offering death as a gift, not a punishment. Offering my off-ing as relief from being so “on.”

word of the day: still

So interesting this word–its ongoing relentlessness and its quiet.

I am still worrying. I am still racing about.

If I could stay still, even for just a moment, while worrying, I wonder if I could stop all the racing about.

That is where my little gift comes in, my “someday I’ll get to…”

I keep remembering bits of a dream from last week where a wise one told me that the only way to know death is to give it an absence of thought, as death is the most clear from busy mind that we can be and therefore its cleanest meditation is not to worry, fear, or even consider it. And so, in my exhaustion, when I give myself to the purity of the emptiness of the idea, I don’t wonder what will happen after, I do not worry how it will go, I just slip into the notion of done with this–which  makes whatever this is all the sweeter for its temporality and finiteness.

In the meantime, within the meanness of time, I will work to ease my body towards quiet. I will practice being still alive. still.

Love to all,

not-so-silent e

word of the day: assure

Hi Friends,

I’ve made a terrible cup of coffee this morning. Still, after months with this new scoop, I can’t get the right measure.

A wonderful colleague of mine gifted me this beautiful new Brazilian hand cream. It’s so delicious that I am already worried about running out.

This morning, I burnt the final stick of lavender incense given to me by a beloved. I tapped it off at half-mast, wanting to savor it, not use it all at once.

I have kept the last empty container of my protein powder (before Natures Plus changed the formula) on top of my fridge. Some mornings I open the lid, imagining there will be one last scoop.

The bamboo I have nursed since the day ez was born is yellowing. I do not know if I have under or over-watered, but I have failed her.

The scale I hide in my closet says .4 more than before. I quickly tell myself a story about that number and sigh, that after all these years, I still cannot feel my full weight.

Too much, too little. More. Enough.

word of the day: measure

no.

(look at the word, turn it around in your mouth, in your eye. see what it has to teach you besides judgement. me/a/sure. As(s)ure me.)

word of the day: assure

to make certain, to make safe

I want to make myself feel safe.

In this turning of the year,  I don’t want to be measured–by me or anyone else.  I want to be assured.  I want to know that everything will be ok. With this world, with this country, with all those I love, with my heart and its tiny, ferocious little drum line. And yet I know, there is no way to know and have heard it said (again and again) the only certainty is change (and death)…

And so, all I can do is trust. Trust that the change that is certain to come will bring lessons that make me stronger and softer, more broken/open and more compassionate–in ways beyond measure. Maybe this “safe” thing is over-rated…Maybe what I want really want is to be assured that I will different–that I will find news ways of being in this world–ways that don’t involve scales and fear and blame.

When so much has already changed in my life, I just cannot believe that there will be more–and what, what for god’s sake, will those storms bring? I’m still wading, daily, through the debris that has washed up on my shore. Casting off old pieces of lidless Tupperware, gasping at single earrings that have returned to their pair, rifling though books that used to hold words and pictures that meant something and now are silent to me. What is in all of this? What should I keep and what should I leave for the gulls?

And so here turns the year and I with it. I have no idea what 2018 will bring, but I will make small gestures that show my faith (and my foresight). I will not wait for my hands to be “dry enough” for cream; I will slather it on. I will not mourn the bamboo as a symbol of my failed parenting; I will let her go and get another–or not. I will commission a new scale from my friend Michelle and her team of imagine-making doctors, one that says, “Perfect,” and “Yes!” and “Have some more!” each time I step on it. I will buy lavender incense by the bundle, a better coffee scoop, and will continue to email the folks at Natures Plus until they change my protein powder back to the original formula. And I will write. To myself, to all of you, and to 60, 70, 80, and 90 year-old me who is out there waiting, having survived this storm and the next (and the next), and stands ready to welcome me with a smile and  glass of wine and these words: “Look at you, kid, you made it!”she says. assure.

 

Love to all,

not-so-silent e

 

 

word of the day: illumination

Hi Friends,

Last night, I dreamed of my dad and my paternal grandfather and one of the angels from Angels in America hanging out in the tree in front of our old cottage in Michigan. (it’s funny how we know things in dreams without being explicit–that the angel was from that play, that the tree was from that yard, that my dad was envious of my grandfather). My dad, with his wonderful tummy, was looking at my grandfather working outside and said, “He always looked good because he kept moving; his trick was to keep moving.” And then he said a few other things about his dad and it was beautiful having two ghosts and one angel discussing each other’s (past) lives.

In the dream, I was photographing everything and I kept telling myself—it’s all about the light, it’s all about the light. And isn’t it ever?

word of the day: illumination

a spiritual or intellectual enlightenment
(1) a lighting up 
(2) decorative lighting or lighting effects
c decoration by the art of illuminating

T’is the season of illumination–daily candles lit, hearts hopeful, bright bulbs of color lining homes and hearths. I have a tiny tree this December–topped, not by a shining star, but by a dinosaur finger puppet we’ve renamed “Tree Rex.” The illumination I am in desperate need of this year is that of lightness. I need to go easier on my heart. I need laughter. I need to remove the lead, full-bodied apron I’ve been wearing and trade it in for an ugly Christmas sweater and some moments of deep-bellied resonance. The dinosaur ez put on top of the tree helps me with all of that.

I love the word lumens. And its definition: “a unit of luminous flux in the International System of Units, that is equal to the amount of light given out through a solid angle by a source of one candela intensity radiating equally in all directions”

So many good words in that one sentence! Candela! Intensity! Radiating! When it comes to inner illumination, I may not be able to radiate out equally in all directions, but I do feel that my heart is made of luminous flux.

A beloved of mine (of many lifetimes within this one) has recently accepted the “black and white photography challenge” on fb. Most people’s black and whites I have seen are just folks adding a filter to shots they’ve previously taken. This lovely, however, has suddenly turned her eye to the light and within the worlds of black and white has discovered more color than I thought possible. I feel lighter when I see her photographs.  I feel her artist heart beating more loudly in her ribs. I feel her story taking place in this moment of things and her voice coming through her eye. She recently posted a photograph that I call, “Christmas Morning”–it has mystery, voice, and anticipation all wrapped up in one shot. It also holds nostalgia, want, and loss–like so many of the best memories do. Her new way of seeing is illuminating new ways of seeing her and, like my most favorite artists, new ways of seeing into myself and the world around me.

Back to my dream. The Angel, all glorious and disco-haired, whom I was able to capture in a radiant stream of light that shone off the shot, kept saying, “Back to the top! Everybody back to the top!” and I woke nostalgic for the idea of starting new, waiting in “the wings of the world,” starting as light. illumination.

Love (and light) to all,

not-so-silent e

 

photo by Kate Thorngren Weglarz

for/giving

My heart is forgiving

My heart is for giving