word of the day: betoken

by erika

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