Dying/broken/forgiven.... now I begin

Born: 17-06-56....gemini.... monkey
re-born: 3-09-80
born again\found: 14-04-08
other notable dates: 10-03-68; 03-09-87; 23-03-96;
1-05-98; 31-01-02; 5-04-04

Interests: movement, stressed/transgressive embodiment, lived experience (body\space\time\relation)
expression ( word, dance, text, image, story, music, poetics)
learning, yielding......

Hopes for the blog:
offer up the wild intersectedness of lived experience and engage others in creative, expressive, perhaps irreverant, hopefully playful, and respectful encounters....
enact kindness
create moments of pause for disclosure, discovery, stillness

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Mace

After the ceremony, I swaddled the mace in its blue velvet shroud and placed it in its pine casket. I was deliberate ... if not exactly deferential. So much of what all this means leaves me cold these days. I crouch next to the box, my own regalia spread about me like a cape and I realize with a stab of irony that to the unknowing eye, I might appear reverent. I smother a snort of mirth and begin pulling off my white cotton gloves... with these I protect the Mace from unsightly body oils... finger by finger I extract myself from this, my last performance of honoris causa, and toss the discarded skin of my duty into the box next to the discards of two years of such performances in this role that requires that I bear the Mace.

Times gone, the Mace would have been a gory and gloriously barbaric thing, with spikes & barbs & the blood of slaughter. The Mace I bear is ceremonial, and although the spikes and barbs find their mark, the violence is bloodless. I have to say, during that week of ceremonies, I brandished the Mace with more than a little irreverent aplomb, but it was my secret swan song-- everyone watching saw a ritual enacted with dignity, respect and grace, the least I could do for days designed for sweet memories.

I suppose it's not a bad thing to walk away while the swans are still singing.

Saturday, June 20, 2009


if Milly were a person
who mattered or a worse one,
I would hold her with my eyes
and take her hand

in this convenient fiction
and know it's not a trick when
a person who is wise
is planting land

*thanks to Timmy for his comment on the previous post; this was a seep- out that demanded a say

Friday, June 19, 2009

the simplest expression of fragility

gulls swoop so dangerously close
Milly can look them in the eye
a testimony to the discipline of barely there
on her back
burrowed into the dingy sand
the April day seems warm enough
disguising the bite, gust and snap

the birds know better
Milly feels the swing of sky swoop
vertigo precedes a softening of sound
& time
maybe they're the same thing
She wonders about how that works
that slow motion loss of sound thing
the legacy of the stone cold saints

she's got no business complaining
by now she's not only excavated those bones,
she's burned them
the dark, horrific stench of black sin filling her
nose and eyes
for months, maybe years
there's that time thing again

is this how it will always--or never --be?
the simplest expression of fragility
a pathetic descent into strange, unnerving smallness
she wonders... Is this what happens
when others speak their mundane devastations
their little disappoints and despairs
surely cannot be all that different from hers
how would she know
deep knowing (is/a) feeling at home with feeling
wondering always wondering if this is how others feel
if asking is further evidence
she has already
said too much

Thursday, June 18, 2009

oh, eff!!

this offering is a re-counting of a response to critic Kenneth Tyman, one of the first commentators to use the " F" word on the BBC.....

When Kenneth Tyman had the pluck
To use the Saxon word for " mate"
The hypocrites all ran amok
And said " why not say copulate" !

New Statesman
Aug., 1968

Ravens and Crows

So, the conference I am attending is on teaching and learning... interests that are so close to my heart. The site of the conference is a gorgeous spot on the top of a steep, steep hill. I can stand in a grove of trees and gaze out at the lovely waters surrounding this place. The trees are filled with crows and ravens... these cousins seem to like hanging out with each other here... and they caw, scree and chorus; they flap, dance, pace, prance... and suddenly halt into intense curious fascination, then to do that impossibly precise choreography of their heads...then to do that stroll...it puts me in mind of preachers in long coats, hands clasped behind their backs, their strides reminiscent of sailors just off the boat... and then they are off again...

all through the day my colleagues and I are buzzing--animated by our reflections on the tensions in teaching and learning... so many of the people I encounter are working poetically...it is as if we have found each other on this fine day in June, amid the trees and the birds, what are the chances of that...

here are some of the mantras I have heard today... it is strange to hear things that I say to myself in my head spoken out in the open :
Do the duck
Do the f@#k dance
Delayed gratification is the hallmark of emotional maturity
A good teacher on a bad day is a better risk than a bad teacher on a good day

and, as they say in L'Acadie, elle/il jongle beaucoup

pact of generosity *

I am once again on the east coast ...this time in Canada and in the Maritimes... at ( yet) another conference. I had the great fortune to attend a story - telling workshop yesterday, a place where a story is not prefaced with an apology... an authentic space.
I am taken by the sensibility that I feel in myself and my fellow participants: there is a strong commitment to listening... I/we have spent a number of years learning to listen like a cow **... what this means is that I turn my eyes toward you when you speak and give you my soft and rapt attention and I twitch my ears so that they are attuned to you as well... this is how I practice listening people--and their stories-- into existence... this is how storytelling works... the give and receive of being in a moment and aware of a moment, simultaneously: the deep call of mindfulness.
even now, hours later, I feel that I am still in that liminal space in between thought and word, feeling and expression and I am easy with being here until I am somewhere else...

Sunday, June 14, 2009


a boat
has to float
on its own bottom
if not
it doesn't
if it doesn't
it isn't

Saturday, June 13, 2009

hie (almost) coo

you do not know me
until you know my hidden shame
and all it touches

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

counting the days...

yesterday I cried & it was real
hiding, out of sight
at the top of a flight
of stairs, desperate to be concealed...
& to conceal

the last thing I want to confess
this heartbeat fluttering
wild schizophrenic muttering
helps me to be ignored, I guess

now there's a quaint blessing
amidst ceaseless, pounding, deceitful absurdities
that cling, slither & ooze

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Joe Lake

The waters off the Newfoundland coast are as chilling as they are bountiful. Here, a human can die in a matter of minutes in the hypothermic embrace of of the North Atlantic; here, swimming is neither leisure or irony--it is folly. Hence, I am no stranger than most in my culture when, at age 17, I found myself for the first time up to my neck in water in a mysterious beastie, also known as a swimming pool. With no frame of reference, no stars to guide my way, no astralobe to navigate the unknown waters, I inch precariously forward. I find myself on what I discover ( too late) is the slope: the angled drop off on the thresh-hold between shallow and deep. Unable to access strategies of buoyancy, change of direction, deceleration, or common sense, I pathetically flap at the water and realize that the bottom is slipping away from me and there is absolutely nothing I can do but die a death of shame and ignorance, without even the nobility of hypothermia. To compound this horror, a woman on the pool deck is throwing all manner and shape of objects at me, oblivious to my inability to recognize them as buoyant aids; dodging them as best I can, I submit to a death by water that will be as undignified and brutal as it is pathetic. Finally, she jumps in, grabs me, and pulls me to the side. I have just been rescued by my first year activity course professor, an inauspicious beginning for a physical education major who must pass a swimming course in third year in order to satisfy her degree requirements.

Finding no lower level, I register for pre-beginner swim lessons at the YMCA: Thursdays, 7-8 pm; my instructor's name is Joe Lake. Joe Lake is about 5'6"and 250 lbs.--he is a buoyant man and a fine swimmer. Class number three " we" are to jump in the deep end. The royal " we" still evades me at 8:00pm. Joe Lake asks if I'd like to stay and keep working on it. I learn the meaning of progression. I have moved beyond my earlier aversion to buoyant aids and am wearing three of them--a swim belt, a life jacket, and water wings. I hold the looped end of the "staff of life" reaching assist; Joe Lake holds the other. No one laughs; this is grim business. I jump in, Joe Lake pulls me to the side. We gradually remove buoyant aid and reach assist combinations until I jump in, unaided. Joe Lake bobs in the water nearby in case I need his help, but I paddle to the side and eventually, the shallow end. We sit on the deck with our feet in the water; it is an hour later. Everything has changed. Joe Lake says to me, EMM, you will be a good teacher because you understand fear.

My nose bleeds for three days, but it is nothing in the face of this terrifying wonder I feel: I will not die in a swimming pool, I will be a good teacher, and I understand fear. Over the next 15 years I will teach hundreds of terrified adults and children how to swim because I understand fear; I will save two children from drowning because I understand fear; my brother will drown in three feet of water on his vacation because no one around him understood fear; my assistantship during my graduate program will be in advanced aquatics. Swimming is both leisure and irony; it is no longer folly.

It is many years later and I doubt that Joe Lake agonizes over memories of me or the countless others he has shepherded into the depths. Fear--both spoken and unspoken --has kept me hungry through these years. I have opened the doors of most of the rooms in my head and am not nearly as terrified as I used to be; a life of reflection and commitment to unsparing self-honesty has left me competent, still curious, and puzzled about lots of things.... and profoundly humble. There is much to learn. I am not easily intimidated; I crave neither approval nor praise; I do not wield my intellect as a weapon. Neither my students nor my colleagues fear for their dignity in their dealings with me, yet, dissonance remains a strong feature in my learning, leadership and creative contexts. I think about the role of my unspoken fears in my life as a mother, a partner, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a teacher...and I wonder if I am short-changing my son, partner, parents, sister, brothers, friends, students; after all, survivors like me have responsibilities: we can't let someone drown where we were saved.

What are the depths I need to explore? Will I be willing to explore these depths, to brave the silence and the speaking? Will I know another's fear when I see it? Will I recognize my own? Pre-occupied with my inability to settle for mediocrity and complacency in myself and, if I am honest, in others, I often feel that bottom slipping away, those pathetic flapping attempts at warding off my own irrelevance. One hour of Joe Lake's life changed my life. What is my unspoken fear? Not giving that hour; being too busy with " more important things" ; not recognizing the depths or the fears in others ... in myself. This is my fear, my fuel, my muse, my hope.

Thanks, Joe.