Even in COVID times, the act of checking out a library book is delightful. We could not go inside the local branch. Instead I wrote a few authors and titles on the back of scrap paper that I handed to the librarian as one child walked through the grass and another rode a bicycle back and forth. We waited on the personalized attention as the librarian walked through the stacks pulling the books that we listed. And I saw one more sitting on top of the shelves nearest the door and asked if we could have that cat going cross country (skiing?), too.
Library books and lending are endless gifts of infinite curiosity. For a few years, I have searched for “publisher: Enchanted Lion” and a few series like Mercy Watson [“the porcine wonder”] by Kate DiCamillo, Dodswortb and Duck by Tim Egan, King and Kayla by Dori Hillestad Butler and the Brambly Hedge by Jill Barklem. I’ve read multiple books (approximately 24 different titles) by these four authors more than 200 in the last three years.
Yesterday’s haul included a few Mercy Watson stories along with books on whales, other marine life and volcanos. It was most special because they were the first library books that we checked out in three months — the longest stretch of not borrowing books in five years.
Now we are back at it in a new library system with no limit on the number of books that we can borrow. But a system that does have late fees, so hopefully I will be more diligent about returning borrowed materials back on time. Better than I was 15 and 20 years ago, when I’d incur late fees but it was paying $.10 a day per book to the libraries and though I never saw the budgets of the library, I never had remorse about paying fees that paid for such a renowned institution.
As I lay down for a second round of snuggles before bedtime, the five year old said:
“Poppa, I have always wanted you to be my roommate.”
I replied by smiling in the dark. I basked in the glow of this sentence as I looked out the window at the silhouette of the trees in the twilight. Then I said:
“I will always have your back. I will always love you even when I’m frustrated, sad, or angry. I will never leave you. You will live with Momma and me until your an adult and you decide where you want to live.”
It was a dignifying for me. I’m moved by the always of five years because these five years have been so enormous and consequential and so quick. And that some facets from a few months ago have been long forgotten. So always is so long.
And, it was a statement of right now. At times, she has the ability to recall some detail or moment or specific from months ago that has not been named and she can bring it up and remember some thing that I forgot. And throughout the day, a five year old can offer immediate feedback about how things are in any exact moment. And that’s what being told that I’m a roommate who has been wanted forever feels like some special love as a father finding my way in these unknowns.
From a dictionary listing:
Martial [mahr-shuhl] adjective
- inclined or disposed to war; warlike: The ancient Romans were a martial people.
- of, suitable for, or associated with war or the armed forces: martial music.
- characteristic of or befitting a warrior: a martial stride.
Please use martial in a sentence —
- The martial schools have metal detectors upon entry, are surrounded like a fortress, and train students and teachers how to respond to an active shooter.
- Men’s bodies are revered for ingesting protein shakes or steroids that transform a figure into a martial shape like Robocop or a superhero.
- His martial communication skills valued domination and subservience.
Writing prompt for soon: What is significant about the violence that didn’t happen but we’d been anticipating between 1/6 and 1/20? How were we feeling and managing expectations of what could or might happen?
“When we speak of these not as things or products or commodities, but as gifts, the whole relationship changes.” Says Robin Wall Kimmerer in The Serviceberry.
In the presence of such gifts, gratitude is the intuitive first response. The gratitude flows toward our plant elders and radiates to the rain, to the sunshine, to the improbability of bushes spangled with morsels of sweetness in a world that can be bitter.
Gratitude is so much more than a polite thank you. It is the thread that connects us in a deep relationship, simultaneously physical and spiritual, as our bodies are fed and spirits nourished by the sense of belonging, which is the most vital of foods. Gratitude creates a sense of abundance, the knowing that you have what you need.
Gratitude and abundance get mentioned often though they can mean many different things to different people, which isn’t inherently a problem. It is problematic when a term is so frequently used but not conveying the enormity of what it is meant to express.
We have been told over the last decade or two that having abundance and a change in outlook can change everything. More than having it we are supposed to be abundant. But the trick is to not trick ourselves into saying things that we don’t actually abide by.
And gratitude is an edict we cite though we rarely experience it. Awash in the trends of heightened competitive sensitivity and more economic and social precarity, it is challenging to feel levity.
In recent days, I have been unraveling more of my beliefs about anger. Two days ago: got-headed was a euphemism for violent. Yesterday: my father could not express rage in his home or in public spaces because it was not safe. Today: it is preferable to process anger and resolve anger alone away from others.
As I child, I did not allow myself to feel or express anger or at least that is not what I perceived and understood my feelings as. I opted for sadness rather than anger. I did not trust anger to not be violent or vengeful or lash out at others. Any of those reactions seemed worse than a feeling alone so I didn’t want to experience a feeling that was oriented towards others. Sadness oriented me inside and quieted me so i did not divulge with others.
Isolating anger is curious for me as I wonder if I don’t trust anger as a constructive way of being with others.
Now I experience anger and oftentimes find myself saying words that are lashing out, seeking someone to land on. It still feels untrustworthy and inaccurate. And I don’t know how genuinely what I say demonstrates what I’m feeling. The words that come out in my angry outbursts seem like distractions rather than insightful.
Sadness takes me away from my words and keeps me inside some feelings and many thoughts. I may run through sentences in my heart and head but I’m not trying to persuade or explain to others what feels messy or conflicted or shitty when I’m sad.
It isn’t exact or precise or best. It’s simply where I’m at with my aging relationships with both anger and sadness.
Pablo Larios interviews Yvette Mutumba about decolonization and she rattled off a list of twelve with the most fabulous prelude that I’ve ever read:
What follows only begins to touch on a matter of decades of thinking, working, experiencing, talking and growing.
As for the 12 definitions of decolonization:
> that I will not do the job of those sitting inside institutions and organizations that are predominantly white
> conversations which create serious exchange, but also discomfort, maybe even pain, on the other side of the table.
> having to sit with that discomfort.
> understanding that decolonization is not a matter of ‘us’ and ‘them’, but concerns all of us.
> acknowledging that this is not a current moment or trend.
> not necessarily being political, but no choice to not be political.
> admitting that having grown up in a racist structure is no excuse.
> transparency from the institutional side.
> stepping back and making space.
> creating safe spaces.
> changing structures as much as building new structures
In 1975, Ursula K. Le Guin named the pitiful norms and dominance of othering, blind cultural superiority of men writing science fiction books in an essay called American SF and The Other (pages 93-96 in The Language of the Night).
It’s amazing how pervasive and entrenched this white male complex is:
In general, American SF has asssunmee a permanent hierarchy of superiors and inferiors, with rich, ambitious, aggressive males at the top, then a great gap, and then at the bottom the poor, the uneducated, the faceless masses, and all the women.
Such notions of self and character development enable rape, belittling, disgust, and false senses of supremacy.
If you deny any affinity with another person or kind of person, if you declare it to be wholly different from yourself—as men have done to women, and class has done to class, and nation has done to nation—you may hate or deity it; but in either case you have denied it’s spiritual equality and its human reality. You have made it into a thing, to which the only possible relationship is a power relationship. And this you have fatally impoverished your own reality. You have, in fact, alienated yourself.
These last two sentences are intriguing because they distill what happens when men orient by wanting or having power over. It is a position to prohibits us from getting reciprocity or being able to benefit from learning, and prohibits us from being able to benefit from the experience, wisdom or wealth of others since the experiences and knowledge and resources of others are not seen or seen as only serving some pre-conceived idea of how others will be KF service.
Wisdom’s door we pay attention to placing oneself in the position of others. (xix)
When leaping, incorporate rather than exceed (be better than and separate from). (4)
Kindness evolves to (becomes) mercy. (4)
Spiritual practices are the flying spirit propelling itself or stimuli. (5)
These are a few of the insights in the first fifteen or so pages of Stephen Levine’s Animal Sutras: Animal Spirit Stories (2019, Monkfish Book Publishing Co.).
Paulo Coelho writes on page 93 of The Spy that:
“For millions of years, [humans] spoke only to what [they] could see. Suddenly, in one decade, ‘seeing’ and ‘speaking’ have been separated. We think we’re used to it, yet we don’t realize the immense impact it’s had on our reflexes. Our bodies are simply not used to it.
“Frankly, the result is that, when we talk on the phone, we enter a state that is similar to certain magical trances; we can discover other things about ourselves.”
This in a story set in Paris in the 1914 — after the Exposition Universelle (nee World’s Fair) of 1889 and before World War One.
A few, notable passages from previous pages include:
“A nice cup of coffee will salvage the rest of your day.”
“Maybe you’re looking for things you haven’t yet found…. And suddenly life turns into utter boredom.”