“And who will join this standing up
and the ones who stood without sweet company
will sing and sing
back into the mountains and
even under the sea
we are the ones we have been waiting for.”
– June Jordan “Poem for South African Women”
We watched the crisp horizon for weeks. One hot morning, a faint blur. It took days for the clouds to draw closer, and as they did, the Sudan heat crept to 50 C. When the thunder finally rolled over us, painted the ground with rain, we walked in circles barefoot, grinning with relief. That night, a species of moth hatched, and flew in thick swarms around every light.
In the morning, the clouds were gone, and the ground dry. The only thing that told us the storm wasn’t a dream, were piles of wings on the floor. I wondered, watching them twist in the wind like leaves, if in that one night, they lived lifetimes. Fell in and out of love, made legends, lost friends, touched peace. What did they feel, as they shook off the dust to take to the air, then in the dawn, dew pulling them back to the ground?
What do you feel? Right now. Check in. Close your eyes.
Great. I just lost half my readership. “Hey! Hey! Open your eyes!” They can’t hear me. Aw, they look like little angels when they’re sleeping.
The rest of you, what was it? If you didn’t get a chance, really, do it now. What note is ringing in you? A familiar one, a common thread through your experience? Maybe a medley, shifting, turned over, caught by circumstance or thoughts?
A mix. Anxiety. Fatigue. Fear.
The rest are familiar, but the love…that’s new. I mean, I’ve felt it before kinda but like everything else, it came and went. It landed for good with my cancer, a few months ago, both of them a complete surprise. I am certain, though, the love will outlast the cancer, because love is everywhere, in everything, the canvas on which reality etches its mark. It is why my cuticle ends where it does, under the half moon of my finger’s lunula. It is why, in the quadrillion times my cells divided in mitosis, only one of them, so far, has forgotten how to die.
I know this is love, because when I meditate, I can feel it humming in the bedrock of my body. And if my body, to paraphrase Thich Nhat Hanh, is made only of “non-body elements”, maybe it’s also true of everything around it. What every song is about. Each call of a gull. How hydrogen birthed helium. Why, at the bottom of a lifeless, hot ocean, the universe pulled base pairs towards each other, so we would take love onto land, and one day, to Mars.
It’s why COVID happened, and how we will endure it. That’s why I think the shared sentiment we are sitting with during these strange times isn’t grief, but heartbreak. We haven’t lost anything that was true to begin with, at least for good. Sure, we were infatuated with a future that would never love us back, a past that could never come closer. In our swooning for things that would never be, we scorned a gentler truth: the only love we had ever known, is beating through us and all living things each moment, calling out to us, again and again, like Mary Oliver’s wild geese.
On it, we drop bombs. Cage animals so tightly they can scarcely breathe. Fill wild blue rivers with silt, and fell green forests. Our one true mother, who we are all connected to through our bellybuttons, has given us every last thing and we have forgotten who she is.
And who we are. We are her. That’s why we sit; to remember. To feel. So we might know.
We are learning who we are, through this period of isolation. That is why this heartache is such good news. The earth sent us a song about slowing down, so we could understand we are all connected, to each other, to her, and we found out we are hurting, and at the same time, have everything we need to pull the more beautiful world waiting inside this one, into full view.
I know. The hardest thing is to accept that we are loved like this. As we wonder, each atom in our body is pirouetting on its axis like a tiny planet, pulling energy into the galaxy of us, so we can perform more daring acts as love incarnate. Despite the intimacy of this miracle, closer to us than we are to ourselves, we need reminders from outside, so she dropped sparking cables into the deep black sea, so you might hear the excitement of your brother’s voice an ocean away.
This is not a dream. It is real as those wings. And on that night, as their fluttering slowed, and the clouds disappeared into the thirsty ground where their bodies came from and would soon go, a ray of sun arced into the sky. What a marvellous life, they must have thought. It felt like forever.
It is forever because it is love, and you are it.
This is the attitude we hold when we sit at CEC this month. You are supposed to be here, and deep down, you know just what to do. The notes ringing in your experience are chosen just for you, and though their privacy can make us feel alone, our one eternal mother shakes her head, and keeps on with the song.
This way to free, she sings. You are the one you are looking for.