Monthly Archives: February 2014

My Cherished You

My cherished you, my cherished you
So undefined like water, run
Perturbed, and turbulent you flow,
Unknown and still
Not understood.

Oh you who caused complacency
To decry its apathy, and fear remove,
Hold fast to ground with roots of love,
Hold on my love, my cherished you.

Oh you who from the pines’
Descending, scent after a rain
Fall, beat your droplet wings, pooling into sand,
Seeping — tear-dropped into palm.

Oh you who cling like crystaled ice
On every gnarled and broken branch
Scattered beneath the tree of life,
I offer you my two small hands.

My cherished you who cradles truth
As close as sea is rocked by land
Lost inside our winding youth,
Though we stir, we cannot stand.

Our foundations are the sands of seas
That motion shifts in shapeless change,
Til truth unwound is
Rearranged and older
We accept our wounds.

We often think you lie within the open
Arms of those we meet, the homes
We built with tears and sweat, sweet
Time enraptured presents lent, loved ones

We will not forget.
Happiness calls you its home,
In time, why
We’re terrified to say goodbye.

My cherished you, my cherished you,
The color of belonging, the song for which we yearn,
In every life, you shimmer through
Weave together each of us in turn.

We live again constrained by nothing
But our love, and patiently, outwait the world
Eyes open to a dazzling sun,
Once more the tapestry respun,
We call our lives our own.

My cherished you, endless, enough,
That is how the fight is won:
By simply showing each our love,
We light the way,
We rise above.

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When Silence Speaks: The Institutionalization and Dehumanization of People with Disabilities, Greece, 1989

Ask a child’s silence to speak, and you will hear truths you never wished you’d known. When will it be time to break our silence? When will it be time– boom, boom, boom– black echos in an empty room.

My dissertation on disability and interdependence has taken me to places I wish I’d never heard of, but whose reality must be known, whose horror must be shared. The following is not about a concentration camp, folks, but about a facility on a small island off the coast of Greece in 1989. Most people will not read the book from which the report of this place comes, but lest our attitudes continue and history repeat itself, we all must know what went on behind those walls. This is part of the terrible responsibility that befalls us all, to face and acknowledge what is, but I hope something new and transformative will come of it.

“In the past the most common form of care provision made for disabled people has been institutions. Institutionalisation is an experience of powerlessness which can grossly multiply the effects of our physical limitations. The disability movement throughout the industrialised world has seen the struggle against residential care as one of the most important parts of the fight for human rights. The Union of the Physically Impaired against Segregation, for example, stated that: “The reality of our position as an oppressed group can be seen most clearly in segregated residential institutions, the ultimate human scrap-heaps of this society. Thousands of people are sentenced to these prisons for life–which may these days be a long one. For the vast majority there is still no alternative, no appeal, no remission of sentence for good behaviour, no escape except the escape from life itself.” (UPIAS , 1981, p. 2.)

In their analysis of the literature on all kinds of institutions, Kathleen Jones and A J Fowles concluded that in spite of the disparate approaches of the major writers in this area, there were five findings common to life experienced in a wide range of institutions. They were: loss of liberty; social stigma; loss of autonomy; depersonalisation; and low material standards (K Jones and A J Fowles, 1984, p. 202).

Disabled people argue that these features are as much part of modern day institutions as they were of those in the nineteenth century although the degree to which they are experienced may vary.

I want to look at some of the most devastating emotional and physical abuse which is still to be found in institutions today. Such abuse is an important feature of institutional “care” for disabled people in many different countries.

In 1989 John Merritt described the situation in which hundreds of mentally ill, learning disabled and physically disabled men, women and children are kept on the Greek island of Leros. The smell hits like the reek of an abattoir and the scenes flicker past like some depraved peep show … Everywhere are prison bars. In an upstairs cell, bodies lie on beds, naked or wrapped in grey sacking material. Some are curled together, finding comfort in mutual foetal positions, not people but one being. How old are they? 26? 80? A blanket pulled back shows knotted legs. How long has he been there? ’24 years.” In the bed? “Yes, since four years old.” Others are tied, hand and foot to their beds, Why? “To stop them from falling. (J Merritt, 1989).
In the children’s unit, 85 per cent don’t leave their beds, because of their physical disabilities. “Some are strapped down because “they bite.” One doctor who visited the children’s unit recently said: “Young children with severe handicaps gaze at the ceiling, huddled together, watched by a guard. There is no communication.” A blind baby was picked up for my inspection. He was five years old. He was put back on the bed to lie, motionless, thumb in mouth, a tiny scrap of humanity totally shut out of human contact.”

Earlier in 1989, Dr Frank Peters and
Gerard Vincken, a Dutch psychiatrist and a psychiatric nurse, spent three months on Leros, working with 20 people, beginning to bring them back to life as an example of what could be achieved. They said of the people incarcerated there, “They were dumped in this isolated place to rot. You might just have killed them then. But most awful is the fact that they are simply waiting until death comes. This is the destruction of the spirit, of the man not the body.” Vincken and Peters quoted Primo Levi who wrote of the Nazi concentration camps: “Our language lacks words to express this offence, the demolition of a man ‘ It is not possible to sink lower than this … Nothing belongs to us any more; they have taken away our clothes, our shoes, even our hair; if we speak, they will not listen to us, and if they listen, they will not understand.”
—–Quoted from “Pride Against Prejudice,” by Jenny Morris.

In Defense of Imperfection _ Part 2

How many people struggle with doubts, with longing to feel alive, with finding purpose and meaning, with finding what and who they are, and then when they finally get a sense of such things, actually like what they find? (Oh hopefully!) One of our greatest consolations in life should be that we are stumbling around but while we’re doing that, everyone else is too.

Is it as simple as doing the best you can in a world that is capable of embracing you one minute, then swallowing you whole the next? I don’t think so, because defining what is meant by “do your best” is a complicated matter. Doing your best does not mean striving to be perfect. If we were meant to be living exemplars of ideal, we would have been born as something other than human. Surely our standards should exist in proportion to the kind of being we are? We’re fallible, we fall short, we let others down, we are vulnerable, we break easily (I mean this in a literal sense.) Held up to the immaculate, sterile, and pristine light of perfection, we are nothing worth keeping. The short argument against this primacy of perfection is that it cannot be substantiated, and it rests on false premises and assumptions (see the examples.) I also believe that perfectionism partly drives the illusion of separateness, and that if we lived in a way that honored our interdependence on one another, we would be less apt to constantly compare ourselves with each other and we would lead healthier, happier lives for it. But that’s an argument for another time.

Examples of my point follow:

The problem with trying to separate authentic expression from speaking honestly:
Once you say something you cannot take it back. So you should watch what you say. But if you stall out, self-consciously weigh your words each time you want to speak, you will quickly befriend silence. Do you want to be remembered as nothing or as something, consequences included? So while it is important to say what you mean and not be deceptive, dishonest, perfection is not the ideal. Get out there and say what you need to say, and decide later if you could do a better job of it. Too many people, my former self included, shelve their voices believing they are inadequate, not good enough to have something to say. You personally are never inadequate, but the response that does seem to be inadequate is saying nothing at all.

Also, many people believe that an excellent person is always composed. Aristotle’s great souled person comes to mind. Yet although such a person is just and generous, she cannot admit to her own vulnerability and reacts to her own needs with quiet contempt (which obviously she’d never admit to anyone else.) Such conceptions of “right conduct” destroy rather than create honest communication between people. In modern virtue ethics, it is important that a person have both practical rationality and emotional balance. Someone who suppresses her feelings, or who is able to give but incapable of receiving, who believes that to admit to her vulnerability or her anger or her sadness is akin to failure, is someone who has let herself down in the name of some unnatural ideal. Such incidious conceptions of perfection create conditions where a person is incapable of honesty because she cannot even be honest with herself,. If she is ashamed of her own needs, she cannot respect others who have needs of their own. I think it is imperative to be able to express ourselves authentically, realistically, honestly. All three can’t exist without the other. The alternative impoverishes people and renders it impossible to live in the wise and balanced way that is crucial to human flourishing.

The problem with conflating the perfect life with the life well lived:
Aristotle says in relation to living an excellent life, that there are many ways to get it wrong, but only one way to get it right. That leaves a lot of people vulnerable to constant failure or falling short. Should life be measured exclusively by whether you got to the top, “being productive in every waking moment,” (a lovely philosophy professor’s words) and ultimate success? How about the compassion you and others show toward your friends and family?

I would argue it’s the latter. The hand-wavy brief argument goes like this: think of a person who was highly successful but lacked compassion, empathy, patience, balance. Does a tyrant or insufferable CEO come to mind? Or perhaps, instead, have you thought of someone who is generally a good and decent person but is such a perfectionist that she never realizes her dreams, is so obsessive about doing every last thing right that she can’t cook her own meals, get anywhere on time, meet any deadlines, pay her bills, or drive herself home from work? Are you living with a person like this, because if you are your life is probably miserable. Most likely, their life is just as miserable. Any life that makes you miserable is not an ideal one, and just perhaps perfection is the bad ideal in the bunch here.

If there is merit in this, then a good life is one that dissuades the cultivation of only one or two character traits in favor of a balance of dispositions and values that can help shape a well-rounded and integrated, multifaceted person.

Our culture encourages CEOs and other business entrepreneurs, as well as academics and doctors, to choose what people, beliefs, character traits, or values to give up in order to achieve it all, and gain the highest position in our respective fields. We encourage people to learn arrogance, develop splintered highly specialized skills, value work above family and friends, put our own research above our responsibility to teach our students, forfeit our spirits as the process of due course in med school, tear each other down, refuse to cooperate, believe it is normal to never have time to care for our children, and so on.

But, brash and burly people are more often bullies than courageous, a person who gets to the top through ruthless competition and prides herself on cutting down everyone in her way is not strong, but one who has replaced her authentic self with a self image, inert, static, and unable to grow. The med student who has closed herself off to empathy and compassion, even for herself, because it was expected of her lives in a hollow empty shell of the rich and powerful being she once was, the one she was born to be. The person who is so off balance that she allows herself to become single-mindedly obsessed with writing the perfect novel, getting the perfect hair cut, or being the perfect teacher, actor, and so on is not living her life, but chasing after shadows of what her life might have been. These people might be at the top of their field, but why should that matter if, in gaining the world, they’ve lost themselves?

Standards have an important place in living, it’s just that their place is not above human flourishing. Our culture often sells us the myth that we are what we do. Are we who we are, or only who others want us to be?

The problem with equating excellence with achievement, honor with being honored, doing your best with doing it right, and success with status:
Is it always getting it right that makes your life worth living, or is it more getting it wrong honorably? Again, I think the latter is the ideal, not the former, not perfection at the expense of your acting authentically. Because often people get so caught up in being the best, getting it right, that they forget who they are. I think people should stop being afraid of getting it wrong and be really afraid of getting it right, badly.

Not everyone can be, or even wants to be, the best at something either. What happens when you fulfill everyone’s highest expectations of you and die regretting that all along you lived someone else’s life? Who are you? You don’t know, because you never took the time or opportunities to find out. That’s not an ideal, it’s a tragedy.

In part 3 I’ll discuss one person’s partial and incomplete, imperfect solution for breaking out of the cycle of perfectionism and the dual fears of success and failure that accompany it. It is my own point of view, as I can only speak for myself. It’s also subject to a myriad of changes, as most things in life are.

Look At This _ Learning In A Sighted World

This is a rock shattering against
A child’s buildings. They crumble and,
Tired of guessing, she wanders
Alone at night, scared to find a home.

This was once a stone in my shoe.
Far from stopping to shake it out,
I borrowed someone else’s feet
To ease the pain of rock climbing.

You stand in front of crowded rooms,
Full of those longing to learn this
And that. But to my estranged ears,
This and That are four letter words.

In the back row, this tells me
With that snaky S wrapped around
Its tongue, that there’s no way
I’ll ever know what this is.

This tags along like
Parentheses that print
Quantized steps on the sundry
Surface of a blackboard.

This is a door that’s always locked.
Those with access to their keys slip
Through it into the secret room.
I was given this safety pin.

This stamps my loved ones with symbols
Forcing them to march out of their
Homes without a word,
By order of the new regime.

Those who spoke out still remember
This war. How silence, drawn at attention,
Won landscapes scared to give their name.
This is the struggle of silences.

What visions die this way? Empty
Shells of this fill the air as you
Point out how beautiful we are—
I run. Fields, high volts, tears forced in.

This leaves me craving
Objects. I loved
To lie out on their properties
Soaking up the sun.

I remember this place back when
I knew few words. I’d reach out to
Touch shapes, tracing their forms. I built
My surface structure out of them.

Like an orphan, I used to try
To describe this, but I had no
Language for my origins. Through
Songs sung silently, I am disowned.

This is the sound of an age
That’s dying. Generations speak
Of us in past tense. Why this?
I just wanted to make this mine.

This would be beautiful
If it ever gave birth
To a child. We’d be the only
Songs in chromatic harmony.

The Search _ At The Beginning, in 2010

Like the wind, I cannot stop shaking
Where all my fears uncoil.

I am listless and wild,
Questionless, seeking answers

Seeds needing planting
Till the fields, again, again, again.

But I can no more make my life a steady flame
Than flames themselves, they dance so wildly, flinging light

I might burn out, or overflow the seams I sewed too tight
Around that voiceless cry, that I cannot help but hear tonight.

Howling across time,
Raw dreams thrown up to glaring sky.

Hear the keening at the crossroads,
Here is what they said to me:

Gone, oh gone to all the corners of the earth
Your people, and all our own

There were some who might have known who you were
But now, you don’t even know yourself
So you wander, wander on.

Never mind your empty stomach, so hungry for wholeness,
Never mind your parched lips, so thirsty for laughter,

Never mind your closed eyes, so weary of staring into the sun,
Never mind your restless hands, that ache to make, to mend what you’ll become.

Ah yes, no matter what or where, go on and on and on…
Ah yes, you recognize it in you, so strong determined one,

Never mind your feet that stray into what already has begun,
Too impatient to wait for the mind to catch on,
There’s been more to it than that, you know.

Come back to us, if you know who we are,
The urge, like tides, to pull you safe inside,

Safe, that is, from the gnawing of your own need
And find at last that you have come home,
That you are welcome and will no longer wander.

You have walked this way before,
To catch the fragments in your outstretched hands.

Please, no more cold,
Shivering as if eternity itself had touched you.

The quest for the question drives out everything else
The answer is a single song

Take the thread that was always yours to hold
Pull it through hand over hand,
The maze you walk no longer feeling so wrong.

Take hold of the directions, and join in
The beginning, the one you’ve always known,
Follow, then, to where you might belong.

To search for they whose words I heard–
That is where I’ve gone.

Bluebeard’s Enthralling

Me, my father’s youngest daughter,
I’m caught, but not found.
At a cross roads
in a web
in the mist of tears that do not fall

I slid off the magic carpet,
And said no shit to the genie
I gave breath to dandelions

When you left,
Everything shattered,
Splintering into many states
Helplessly, I thought we’d both reach out

And wondered whether a bridge would form to cross over
A handmade bridge, yours and mine
And sometimes I glance up startled to find I’m empty handed
And my bones ache to hold you

I came shooting out of a star
And your fire snuffed out my incandescent bulb
I burned out,
Ashes charring the forbidden door.

Fog is on the window panes
Fog and freedom,
Ocean and sunshine beyond these high walls
That seeps through skin in angles
That cuts me off from who I was.

Before you come home again
The possibilities are endless
I am the sunflower about to burst
I follow hushed whispers that take me down
to the end of a dark secluded hallway

I want you to be there while I am blooming
I want you to land on me like a bee
And spend hours talking to the sides of myself I never knew I had

Though you might sting me at any moment
Surely your rage, your viles of volcanic ash
Are not reserved for me, your only love?

And yet I cannot have you, you are not mine
Just like the land, the sky, these hands are not mine
Your hands, reaching for me,
A twisted smile upon your return

That cord between us won’t deploy a parachute
Free and falling into you
Now trembling, alone
I left all my pennies at the bottom of the wishing well

I gave my clothes to those who spin the fabric of our lives
I deposited my fears on rocks in little parcels
I’ve misplaced my warning bell
And am clinging to the present like a bat on the roof of a cave

I hold out my two empty hands
Will you have me like a tree has it’s leaves?
I’ll be that and more, a whimpered plea

You pat me on the head, tell me it will all be okay.
As you Promise a camp fire in a parking lot
Would you kill to have me
There beneath the beating of your heart?

The magic key, it bleeds for me
Trying to speak, trying to share,
Your hands encircling my neck
Cutting off my air
To silence she who thought to dare.

The magic key still bleeds for me
My sisters braid my hair
Weaving the tale of love belied
The siren’s sorrowful snare
And the fate of those who learn too late
Those women who would dare

Listen to the voice within
For all that isn’t there
Summon all who can defend
The core of who you are.

The lights I thought had surely gone
I had a single spare
Be young, be carefree, be yourself
But most of all: beware.

For an illustrated version of the story of Bluebeard, click here:
http://childhoodreading.com/?p=20

I Am — Barely

I am barely speaking
I am waiting for
The times when
I will no longer
Weep for you.

I am barely blinking
I am remembering
The spaces
We once occupied
At the same time.

I can hardly keep listening
I am sitting
In the silence
And it is so loud
And I don’t know
What I am.

I am barely moving
I wander the places
I could have shared,
But held close in.
I could have belonged to,
But only longed for.

I am barely sleeping.
The circle of
Time and space
Chases me back onto myself
To the mirrored
Reflected pieces falling
With nowhere to land.

I am barely becoming
Aware of
The dissonance of silent voices
The fragile brokenness of living
Aching to be made more than the marrow it is
Coursing as it does through dreams.

I am almost terrified
That choices are stepping stones
Vanishing once they are crossed over
As if decision is wading through the mud and the fog
The mists veiling what lies ahead
And nothing but footfalls behind me
Beginning to lose definition.

I am barely teetering
On the point
Where water meets sand
Would you jump in
No telling which you’d meet
Or would you simply
Keep still?

I am barely asking
This question
Which has no answers
Only arguments
With tales trailing behind them
Longer than before I was born.

I am imperceptibly hoping
That I will turn around now and walk away,
But if I listen or move
Or even blink,
I might miss you passing by
And remain unknowing.

I am tentatively dreaming
Of the day when I do not retreat
Back the same way I have come
So that then, if we are ever
Again in the same place
You will know that I am
No longer afraid of my own shadow.

I am deeply wanting
To find the time to tell you
That I have listened
To myself and followed
My own footprints
To a space
Of my own.

In Defense of Imperfection _ Part 1

Whenever you wake up into your own skin and realize you are no longer less than, small, that you deserve to take up space, it is a very strange feeling.  It’s like realizing that though you once were just a seed, you are now a tree with fruits and flowers, part of the vast network of growing things.  When you were just a seed, you thought growing was impossible. If you were small and unsure like I was, you might stare at a tall oak with it’s rooted, thoughtful self confidence, and respond with: “I’ll be that?  Yeah right!”  But when you fully arrive at being here now, once growing has begun, there is room to meet change with joy along with the ever present fear of uncertainty that winds around the perimeter of the shape of our lives.  And it seems not the case that the fear is of failure to thrive and become and the joy is for succeeding at your dreams, but that both happen in response to the possibility of success.  This is because, I think, success and achievement are often thought to be the same as perfection.  On the contrary, I hope to show that, in important ways, the need to be perfect (whether as a person or at doing something) ultimately leads to failure.

 

Human growing is probably a lot more involved and painful than plant growing.  I imagine myself with a classroom full of students, my students, and feel like the seed or perhaps like a tiny plant that could be crushed at any moment.  I think, yeah right.  But what else is it to come into our own?  What else is it to be a powerful change in the world? 

 

I look at the book I’m reading for my dissertation, Alasdir McIntyre’s “Dependent Rational Animals.”  I’m overwhelmed by the amount of information swarming my head.  Questions like: is there a human nature?  Are there virtues that can serve humans in flourishing no matter their culture?  Is it really natural for us to form communities of giving and receiving?  Can we make sense of an Aquinian vision of pity (uggghhh, I prefer sympathy or identification) or compassion, in a new context, one that does not involve God (the Christian God especially) but involves our nature as such? 

 

Are we essentially good?  Is it possible or even a good idea for us to rid ourselves of our most primitive instincts in order to act with practical rationality and wisdom, or does wisdom need instinct, can it not survive without acknowledged desire, feeling, and well-directed passion?  I for one am not sure it can.  I doubt that practical rationality, even when coupled with emotional balance, if there is no awareness of and way to express basic human instincts, will ever be wise.  Many people think that we have perfected ourselves by not following or even acknowledging our instincts.  Yet if I am right, our imperfect instincts not only make us human but allow us to develop an honest assessment of ourselves which is essential to living virtuously.

 

What shapes who we are and how much?  I think about cultures, histories, identities, values and their justifications, empirical findings about human psychology, biological truths about the relation between us and other animals, our patterns that throughout time have proved nearly unbreakable.  I stare at the tangled mess of millennia of human action and behavior and it’s theoretical, moral, and then down the road practical impact and doubt I can do much of anything at all.  There are the arguments, and then there are the actual changes to be made. As long as I am confounded by the arguments and feel that whatever actions I might take to make a difference won’t be right, acceptable, the correct solution, I might do nothing at all. It seems that doing nothing is a much greater failure than is trying to make a difference without going about it perfectly.

 

I know it is one step at a time, but feeling so useless is terrifying.  Or perhaps realizing that I could be dangerously useful is terrifying.  Or perhaps the fact that I have not had the courage to stand alone with my thoughts and start to get involved with the question, with the answer, is terrifying. 

 

When you begin, you cannot go back.  You can keep a seed out of the ground, but put it in and once it sprouts, barring extenuating circumstances, there is no stopping it from becoming the plant or tree it is.  It stands there, with a lot of other living things in an ecosystem of which it is an integral part, and yet it forever stands alone. 

 

It is so firmly rooted.  What is more, it is exactly what it is and doesn’t lie.  Coming across an oak tree, you don’t stop and shake your head and wonder if you’re really looking at a redwood that was trying to pass as an oak tree, pretending to be something it wasn’t.  People would probably benefit greatly from taking a course on life from trees: how to stand, how to stay grounded, how to keep what is valuable at the center, how to bend in the wind, how to reach toward the light, how to be fully present, fully themselves, how to be honest, how to contribute what they can to a nest, how to shade others from the glaring sun, how to gain sustenance from light, how to let go of parts of themselves that are no longer useful in the fall, how to blossom. 

 

But in any case, whoever I am, there is no changing that now.  Not on grand scales anyway.  If I become an ethicist, a professor, a teacher, a creative writer, I’ll have to burst out of this shell and become something.  This means making a mark on the world.  This means of course responsibility.  Should I be held responsible for my good intentions and all their amazing and disastrous outcomes and be left standing, like the tree weathering storms? 

 

First, I suppose I have to be a little better at shouldering criticism.  Second, I need to be a little bit better at believing in myself.  But the irony of growing is that it doesn’t happen by rationally thinking it over until the right course comes along.  A plant doesn’t contemplate the pros and cons of growing one way rather than another and then act accordingly.  It is a process that it both creates and witnesses.  This is true for humans too, I think. 

 

We become confident, immune to misplaced criticism, graceful around well-deserved criticism, and able to believe in ourselves by living, by doing.  And so it is in the throwing roots down and growing which ever way we do that we grow into ourselves, that we gain the qualities and values we want.  It is not by contemplating the things we long for until we are perfectly certain that we have a fully fool-proof rational course to embark on, that we can finally walk the road of life. So perhaps if we instead try for a straight and narrow course we will in a sense fail, we will fail to grow at all because we are too afraid of making mistakes or not being good enough.  It is like the saying goes, sitting on the edge of the river afraid to jump in because you might be a terrible swimmer, or forget how to float, or get snagged on a log, or get stuck in an eddy, or never learn to let go. 

 

More imperfect arguments to come.

In My Own Voice _ When Two Worlds Meet: Part 5

 To all who have been following this thread, I think it is time that I speak in my own voice.  I fictionalized my experiences because I believed I would reach a wider group of people, and because I felt I needed extra protection against the few people out there who could make my life difficult if they found out who I really am.  I have thought long on it and decided that making these experiences my own, which they are, is an essential way to live by my own values.  Being true to myself is much more important than saving myself from trouble that most likely will not happen.  Also quite practically, the experiences I wish to tell of that follow don’t make as much sense if I had them happen to a sighted character.  If people really like my character I can certainly write some interesting stories about her that did not actually happen, and because I’d be making it all up, I could make her life much more interesting.

Sláinte Mhór,

Eilish Niamh

 

November 21, 2013

 

The wind is howling tonight.  I can hear the leaves scraping in frenzy several stories down beneath my bedroom window.  The wind tosses an aluminum can around the courtyard.  It’s dull clunk against the pavement resounds hollow, a drone against which the mournful, swirling air eerily harmonizes.  The wind is an entity to be reckoned with:  a feral cat stalking the sky, a fierce wolf yelping for her children, a creature all of itself born of the freedom fog which crouches, which watches, which waits.  I hear it’s keening, and I silently keep vigil with That Which Watches.  It is a vigil I do not remember entering into, but I am fully present with it now.

 

The wind mirrors the wild turbulent waves—of air or water it would be hard to guess—that spill over, overflow, break relentlessly on the threshold of body and soul, my body, my soul.  I do not live in a still and placid time.  And yet—and yet the tide, it has turned.  It has already turned and returned and is charting a new course in turn.  And though the wind gusts and forces trees to bend with it, plasters my hair against my face when I go out to relieve the dog, speaks of ghosts and the secrets of landscapes and hums with the expectant chatter of the seekers of possibility, it seems important to pause and reflect that, when the tide turned, there was not a sound. 

 

Silence is the greatest teacher.  At the heart of every person is a profound, poignant, persistent, passionate, peaceful, and present silence.  It is the place to which we first and foremost belong.  I have come home to that silence.  But as with all things, every place of solitude and stillness contains the door through which we step to belong to everyone and everything else that is.

 

Yesterday I met over a hundred, you the first fianna of Éire.  I looked into each of your eyes, I put my hand in your hands.  You looked into my eyes and there were no uncharted spaces.  From the depths of my soul, or perhaps just of soul, beyond my ken here and now, I called you.  I dedicated my life to actualizing, no longer running from, the wild heart that beats so assuredly within myself. 

 

I answered your call,  I leapt to standing, to stand, and I sobbed, I sobbed in grief for what is forgotten.  I sobbed in joy because much is not forgotten.  I called those I know by name and all the many whose names I know not.  Separation is a myth, an illusion.  What is, is.  I am, I am, and we are. 

 

You walked past me in twos, and placed your hands under my own.  I could feel your shadows pass me by.  I knew the ones who stood arm and arm with me, and lingered longest.  My hands radiated with the energy of the collisions of worlds.  We heard each other, we understood each other, and the stillness, the silence, it spoke for itself.  Words were unnecessary and cluttered and did not happen, and even now I struggle to find words to express how, though I am more myself than ever before, I will never, ever be the same.

 

I am convinced I recognized you, that I feel I know you, like my own brothers and sisters, like I will know my own children.  I recognized within myself that same wise and wild, empathic and enfolding, passionate and peaceful, ferocity of being, that willingness to face and accept the dangers of growing, that we all share, if only we would dare acknowledge it is there.  I shouted Is Mise Eilish Niamh, and I shouted the truth against the world, and in this world and the next I keep the principles you hold dear, for they have always been mine also. 

 

And now I have looked up from writing, from wading through these mere mirages of meaning, words, that do not do justice to experience.  Caoilte is standing here, he who so often walks between worlds.

 

“You already know this, but we wanted to remind you not to imitate any of us,” he says.  “You must be fully who you are, yourself.  This is what will serve you well, and be well with us.” (I know I really need such reminding as it is taking me a while to fully believe the truth of it, that I am enough.)  Caoilte continues, “There is still hope for our future.  Not as many listen now, but the song that you can share to leap it’s way into the world will be better heard in these times when the hills sing to no one.  You are welcome with us.” 

He says this not in audible words, but in gesture, as if he embodied the words.  As if words were motions that could be danced gracefully, full of the depth that gets lost in their telling.

 

And I say, though it is perhaps inadequate, “Thank you.”  Actually I do more than say.  I make the gestures, the signs of gratitude, in the language of the other world.  Motion that is almost dancing.  I have watched how those of the other world turn the raw threads of a universe in which nothing is at rest into beautiful patterns imbued with meaning.  I learned at least how to dance “thank you.”  And so, a bit less gracefully, I embody the gratitude I wish to convey and it is more powerful than mere words could ever be.

 

Then I reflect for a moment and add, “You are welcome here, too, always welcome here Caoilte, son of Ronan so long ago, different and the same.  You and the others are welcome to come through here on your way to wherever you are going.  I know what it is like to not have a home of your own, to be a wanderer.  Though you belong now to another world, your people are welcome here with you, so that you know there is a place in the manifest world which you can call home despite the when or where of it.” 

 

I truly empathize with that displaced feeling that must come with having no permanent place to call your own.  In the desert, I was like a nomad as well, and thanked the gods everyday that I finally found a place that was mine, that I landed somewhere.  I am simply so excited to get on with the rest of all that will happen, to throw myself into a beginning, learn and be all I can, grow even if it’s difficult, that offering my hospitality seems like the least I can do to give back in kind… and I’d do it anyway, I know.

 

Caoilte shrugs.  “It is yours to give and that we gratefully accept.”  (Now I am unsure whether he looked amused, or took me completely at my word.  I was definitely clueless about what I had just signed up for.)

 

Then I am alone again.  Then I sit staring at the wall, listening to the wind shake the night into a restless awareness of itself, but I am somewhere else.  The wind continues it’s tearing apart, but now at dusk, the new day is in it’s infancy, and I am peering out at a world that is impossible to see as torn apart.  It’s a world within which I eternally and intricately belong.  A world to which I know now, I have always belonged. 

 

I think, I used to not know a thing about being grateful, not until everything that has happened these last few months.  When I look within, no divisions remain.  I am not just grateful, I am at peace.  I am not just in unfathomable awe and wonder at how I live, literally, with, for, by, because of others.  But I stand in amazement by the side of my own hearth fire, knowing it is my own self worth and acceptance that made any of this possible. Being myself, fully, utterly, unapologetically and so much much more than what I ever could be, beyond myself, more, because separation is a lie, everything is part of the pattern, the endless knot woven whole out of all that is, this is the truth against the world.  The world discovers dualities, dichotomies, schisms and distinctions, categories and opposites.  I not only believe or think, but know, have seen, witnessed, been present with and aware of all otherwise.  It is.