A passing vision

May 20th, 2015

I was just coming back on my bike from dropping Tin at the American Can when I saw this big blue Buick convertible go by with a man and woman smoking. I watched the woman light her cigarette with a Zippo. The air was breezy and the sky was clear. It was the gloaming – that perfect pitch of light when magic happens.

For just one minute, I wanted to be the girl – the one lighting her cigarette and sprinkling the air with laughter. Leaning over to get a kiss from the hot driver whose breath hopefully smelled of whiskey.

Some moments are made for such visions.

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The Termite Trap

May 20th, 2015

Here in New Orleans we are all familiar with the swarms. The time of year when you need to turn off all your lights inside and out because a deluge of hungry ass termites are descending on your rotting wood house for dinner.

When I got out of a meeting last night, I had to run from my car to my house because of the swarm and when I got inside they were everywhere – in my bed, in my calendar, on me, in my clothes, I was running around with a cigar lit hoping they would just all die.

Well, guess who moved in? That’s right, a gigantic colony of termites ate through the front facade of my house into the living room. They ate through the concrete stairs. They ate through the threshold. They ate through the mailbox.

Yes, folks I have termites and now $1146 lighter, I’m having them ERADICATED this week – hopefully sooner than later. Glory hallelujah – home owners in the Gulf South is not as easy breezy as we’d like to believe.

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Photo taken by Andre Perry May 19, 2015

I’ll see you next lifetime

May 18th, 2015

I got in a heated discussion with a filmmaker friend on Saturday about truth, relationships, growth, and Spirit. I gave him my standard refrain – I want someone who can handle my truth without fear and who is willing to bring theirs without fear. He said: There are many truths.

At the end of an intense back and forth, he said, “You’re ready.” And then he started filming.

Ready for love
Ready to f l y
Ready for now

The state of grace in a relationship involves absolute truthfulness between two people, between two things, or between a person and a thing, without fear or deception and with a certainty of acceptance. It means not only honesty with the other person, but also honesty with yourself. Otherwise, what is at work is not Spirit, but something else.

— Sobonfu Somé, “Falling Out of Grace”, p. 103.

There must be a certainty of acceptance. There are times when loved ones cannot accept or forgive trespasses. It’s happened to me both ways.

[Non sequiter]: My friend who is unavailable, I say to you, I’m ready, I feel the heat between you and me, indeed, but I’m ready for someone available. You, I guess I’ll see you next lifetime.

Starting All Over

May 18th, 2015

I’ve just emerged from a four week intensive that has abated (somewhat) and I’m reflecting on the choices that got me into an overscheduled, impossible stretch of weeks. There’s always the balance with me of doing what is necessary, doing what is interesting, doing something new, doing something meaningful, doing something timely, and not doing.

Not doing gets short shrift in my life and it is the one thing I keep trying to prioritize. By the time I got to doing nothing on Sunday, I was done. I couldn’t have done anything else because I had done so much.

So I sprawled across my king sized bed, my book in hand (I’m reading The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce), and I read one word and fell into a deep slumber. What seemed like moments later, Tin came running in the room shouting that I needed to see the Lego wall he had just built and I thought the earth had tilted.

I realized self care has gone unanswered. I’ve been following the exercise routine that my friend, now a personal trainer, had mapped out for me. I’ve been going to sleep early most nights. I’ve been being mindful, eating well, opening my heart, and praying.

What I have not been doing is meditating, take hot baths with Epsom salt, being still, saying NO, and most of all, being kind to myself.

So today is Monday or better known to single mothers as TGIM! and it’s time to reboot. Today is another day to get it right. I will practice self care. I will say no. I will meditate. I will not leap, lurch, lament, but instead will have faith, acceptance and gratitude.

Breathe in, breathe out.

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Mothers Always Rally

May 11th, 2015

My Mother’s Day tradition since my mom passed and my son came into my life has been to drive across the lake and join my Aunt’s family for food and fun with a stop at my mother’s grave to change her flowers.

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Last year, and this year, Mother’s Day has been about rallying in Congo Square for a cause dear to every mother’s heart. In 2014, I was there for #bringbackourgirls sending an open prayer to bring back the kidnapped Nigerian girls. This year, I was there for #blacklivesmatter with #motherswithavision, a group we formed at the kitchen table of a friend just about a week before.

Surrounded by mothers of Black children who share a vision for how we want our children’s world to be was a powerful way to spend the day.

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photo by Peter Forest

When we were driving home from the rally, Tin asked me about his birthmother who I said must be feeling him on this day. He said he was trying to understand but he still did not understand why she could not take care of him.

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Then he asked, “Can people come back alive after they are in the grave?” And I told him yes, that in reality I don’t believe people really die. I also told him that some faiths believe that people are reincarnated as other beings after they leave their body. I told him I’m not sure what happens, but I know my mother is with me every day, whether it is her spirit or soul or being, her presence is palpable.

Thich Nhat Hanh pretty much summed up how I came to these feelings in his own musings:

…The day my mother died, I wrote in my journal, “A serious misfortune of my life has arrived.” I suffered for more than one year after the passing away of my mother. But one night, in the highlands of Vietnam, I was sleeping in the hut in my hermitage. I dreamed of my mother. I saw myself sitting with her, and we were having a wonderful talk. She looked young and beautiful, her hair flowing down. It was so pleasant to sit there and talk to her as if she had never died. When I woke up it was about two in the morning, and I felt very strongly that I had never lost my mother. The impression that my mother was still with me was very clear. I understood then that the idea of having lost my mother was just an idea. It was obvious in that moment that my mother is always alive in me.

l opened the door and went outside. The entire hillside was bathed in moonlight. It was a hill covered with tea plants. and my hut was set behind the temple halfway up. Walking slowly in the moonlight through the rows of tea plants, I noticed my mother was still with me. She was the moonlight caressing me as she had done so often, very tender, very sweet… wonderful! Each time my feet touched the earth I knew my mother was there with me. I knew this body was not mine alone but a living continuation of my mother and my father and my grandparents and great-grandparents. Of all my ancestors. These feet that I saw as “my” feet were actually “our” feet. Together my mother and I were leaving footprints in the damp soil.

From that moment on, the idea that I had lost my mother no longer existed. All I had to do was look at the palm of my hand, feel the breeze on my face or the earth under my feet to remember that my mother is always with me, available at any time…

- Thich Nhat Hanh, in “No Death, No Fear”.

First comes doubt …

May 9th, 2015

Tin left for Croatia, a land where supposedly there are no rules. It has taken every waking minute to bring him back down to earth, a place with many rules. I read recently that if you were raised middle class that you constantly have this feeling that you have to be working and that enough is never enough. Last year, i was ramping up to serious warp speed having acquired several projects at once to keep my head above water and food in the fridge. It was madness, and it put a serious project – my book – on the back burner.

This year started off differently; there has been no ramping up, there has been instead a blood letting. Projects disintegrating, rates of pay scaling back, and days where the faith walk has felt more like the Bataan Death March. I’ve come to a clearer vision of how I want my future to unfold – I see it, I can almost feel it, and yet, I still rock myself to sleep at night thinking that I’ve just lost my mind. “It’s these times when you are about to make a great leap that the greatest confusion and self-doubt enters your mind,” my friend said to me yesterday. She had brought over the pieces of her working life on a note paper that she wanted me to form into a c.v. for a job she is applying for. This is the same friend who walked around the Big Lake with me a couple of years ago and helped me seal the LaLa’s fate.

For this reason, yesterday I told someone who was offering me work that I did not want onesies and twosies. I am writing a book that I believe will have an impact on the way we parent our children. I am working at issues that matter to me – race and reconciliation, acknowledging the crisis in this country, and sowing seeds of change. Put me to work at something that I can get behind, otherwise I am writing my book. I gave the end of June as a deadline – that’s crazy – ludicrous – I have a six year old, whose disobedience has been monumental since he returned from Croatia – all of my attention has been to get him back on track, back to reality, back where he understands his boundaries – all while I’m trying to blow up mine?

What?

I’ve wrestled with sleep because my faith is not powerful enough, but I keep getting up and believing in this vision. I keep working at it. And now I’m starting to eliminate those things and those projects that are not helping me reach it. I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.

This year, I wont go on my Nantucket girl’s trip, even though through great generosity my friend actually offered to pay for it. Between now and the end of June, I am working on a deadline to flesh out each chapter of my book so that I will be ready. Next Saturday I’m being interviewed about my book. They say if you speak it, it will happen. Well, books don’t happen, they grow inside of you into they are spilling out all over the place and causing insomnia and making everything else seem like a waste of time. I have a framed stencil that my mother-in-law of years ago gave me in my office – it says: All That Man Has Ever Thought Or Done is Preserved As If By Magic In Books.

The internet is supposed to implode in six to eight years. I told this to my good friend and she said, “Oh, I hope so.” But we all know that predicting a digital future in six to eight years is ridiculous. Predicting a human’s life in one day is absurd. Right now, a book is being born and survival is being wrought from piece meal paying projects. This will work out. If you have been paying attention for the last ten years that I have written this blog, you know one thing for certain, a change is gonna come, of that I have no doubt.

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Till You Can’t Anymore

May 4th, 2015

Tin went to Zagreb with Tatjana for 10 days and I had three different sets of out of town guests that straddled those 10 days. I also had Jazz Fest. And let’s not forget my 56th birthday. Add to that the third chapter of my book due, three reports, and my work with the Welcome Table and you will uncover the layers of my tired.

Stella and I were on our way around the bayou this morning when my doctor rode by on his bicycle. He called out: “I’m so exhausted from Jazz Fest,” as he passed. Aren’t we all, I called in response.

I had the usual schizophrenia from all the activity. One part of my brain said that next year I will only buy one ticket for each weekend to Jazz Fest or I won’t go at all. The other part of me was sad because it was almost ending. Then another part of me wondered how I could survive many more days of this breakneck pace – fried food, alcohol, sun, dancing, talking, and walking endlessly in circles.

Make it stop!

So today, in my gratitude jar, I filled it up with little notes to myself. Thank you Sty for remembering me on my birthday. Thank you New Orleans for throwing a party every year on my special day. Thank you Frank Scurlock for the messages in the sky. Thank you Wanda, Tico, Brian, Adrienne, and BJ for coming to New Orleans to visit.

And now to rest.

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Gifts Galore!

April 30th, 2015

I have received so many wonderful gifts lately, from divinations that Danielle, my massage therapist gave me, to the gift of the massage itself that Wanda gave me, to the gift of life that I have every day.

At Jazz Fest, I ran into my friends Paula and Erin, and Paula hands me a wooden Ethiopian Star of David pendant, and says: “This belongs to you.” It brought tears to my eyes for all the reasons you could string together that are bringing up Tin in the Jewish faith to the book on Ethiopian Jews that I now keep on my coffee table.

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I saw in the window at Swirl and a Frenchman bought me a glass of Pinot Noir from Sonoma County. It was the end of a long day of Jazz Fest and a much needed respite was required. Poof – it appeared.

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In order to live in a world larger than the one he lives in, I have hoped that my son would be an international man, capable of being at home in many territories in language and body. He’s been speaking Croatian since he was a baby and now is adding Spanish to his capacity. Thank God his other parent is European.

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I was reminded once again of what it is like to leave your care to someone you trust. My friend Brian was visiting from New York. I can count on one hand having had a man cook for me. It became this thing for a long time, my friends told me I had to get a man to cook a meal for me by a certain time. I met that deadline when a colleague prepared a picnic lunch in Shanghai. This last weekend Brian laid down a gourmet breakfast for me and his wife. True luxury.

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My friend and I were at the grocery and we were leaving with our bags, when she noticed the peonies. “My favorite,” she declared. And they’re my favorite too, who could resist treating yourself to flowers and the season’s first peonies.

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Soothsayers and Skywriters

April 30th, 2015

My friend, Wanda, who was visiting from San Francisco left me $50 for my birthday. It was the exact amount that the guy who was supposed to fix my brakes ripped me off. It was the exact amount needed to get a massage from Danielle. So yesterday, three days before my actual birthday, I went to see my massage therapist/seer/diviner/soothsayer for a much needed deep tissue massage.

When I walked in the door, she asked me how I had been. I said interestingly enough I am in this peculiar place in my life where my spirit is soaring and yet the material world is crumbling. “Hmm,” she said. “As usual, you’ve come and I was just thinking about this very thing. When the spirit is high, less is needed.”

She got down to business and I tranced out, not sleeping, not waking, but grooving as she pushed out the toxins and cleared my pathways. Afterwards, she said, “Okay, Rachel, you can turn over. But I’m running out the door to write down everything because there is a lot.”

Danielle sat down across from me when she came back in and said, “There is so much going on. Tin was your first major transition but another one is coming up. That is why things are being cleared off your plate. And what you are getting ready to do is going to lay a foundation for your son. He is going to have questions, about who he is, who is family is, and who you are and what you are doing now is going to answer those questions for him. You need to keep doing what you are doing, you are on the right path. And there is a big, big love that awaits you, that will blow your mind.”

I left her studio and got in my car and drove back to the American Can, where I went down poolside to read over the manuscripts for the night’s workshop. I signed up for the Loyola Walker Percy Center writer’s workshop and have gotten through Chapter 3 of my book. My vision, as I stated to the deputy mayor the other day, is to write a book that would help white parents of white children teach their children through anti-racism tools.

I do know the reason that my working life has been so fragmented, so thinly strung together since I left OTR is because this is what I’m supposed to be doing. However, it has been a struggle financially to stay on this path because there are many times where it has been daunting and yet, as I told Danielle, I’ve never been more right in my self than I am now. As I sat there reading, a skywriter started writing messages in the sky.

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I HEART Young Love

April 27th, 2015

I spent this Jazz Fest weekend with friends in town. A young couple whose wedding I missed last year because we were in Spain. Since I’m approaching my 56th birthday, I’ve forgotten what young love looks and feels like, but after spending a few days around it, I’m amazed at how much I remember about it. Young love holds so much promise.

Young love has all the time in the world to get a bigger place to live, to have babies, to build careers, to travel and most importantly, to be in love. Young love is fearless.

Young love can ignore faults because there is plenty of time to smooth them over, rub them out, ignore them or wait them out as they go away. Young love is blind, deaf and dumb.

Young love looks good on your skin, it smells good on your body, and it makes you always look as if you are about to go to a fabulous dinner party. Young love is vibrant.

Young love is contagious. After being around it for a while, you start thinking you want some of it, you believe you can find it again, and more importantly, you’re sure that young love is what you’re looking for but haven’t found yet. Young love is attractive.

Alas, young love is not for me. I will be turning 56 this week. Mind you, there’s lots of love in my future, but it won’t be young love. I don’t gaze in my crystal ball and imagine building a life with a partner (been there done that), wanting a larger home (sold it), and having babies (check). These were all of the longings of a younger version of myself.

I love young love and I loved having had it in surround sound this weekend. I loved being in the midst of its bright eyes and its bushy tail. I loved seeing hearts in their eyes. I loved hearing them sing their songs. I loved that their love spilled over into every creature that came in contact with them – stray cats, Stella, Heidi, taxi drivers, musicians, strangers, friends. I loved watching them be in love. It was a beautiful site to behold.

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