Tuesday, March 27, 2012


I spend a lot of time on this blog talking about serious things. Certainly, the political climate as well as my own personal inclinations tend to lead me down a sometimes dark and often passionate path. I don't feel a need to explain my seriousness, but we all need a break from pensive wanderings, sometimes. 

There are so many joys in life. I think they are easy to forget, because they are commonplace and not particularly provocative. Sure, I could devote this entry to the awakening that is spring using terms of fertility and worship and mysticism - but I think I'll leave that be for now.

Columbia has been engaging in an on again, off again romance with warm weather. A month ago, I went out onto my porch to discover a robin hiding on my bird feeder - the first robin of spring, red and cheery and still puffed up and fat with the cold. This morning, I went out and was greeted by 32 degree weather and a desperate need for hotter coffee and long John pjs.  I've had margaritas and hot chocolate, skirts and sweaters, for quite a while.  We've learned, at school, to expect the unexpected - outdoor recess can be a blessing and a curse - and the days when I want to wear sundresses I find myself shivering and cursing any sort of fashion sense. Windy days and a most unlikely Marilyn Monroe.

But still - spring is waking up, not quite stretching or bursting, but insinuating itself into my soul. I pulled out the Buena Vista. I put away my winter clothes.  I started relaxing into the heat.  

Today, when my apartment feels like a refrigerator, I still refuse to give up the warmth.  Spring is my time, a time of re-emergence, a time which is religious.  It is immensely pleasurable.  And don't we all need a bit of re-birth, every once in a while?

I said I wouldn't go into the serious - but here it is.  There's a lot going on in Columbia right now.  School redistricting is coming, and there's talk of the bridge, and the mall changing, and we're all thinking about the Wegmans with awe (the massive parking structure and the fine cheese selection) and apprehension (oh, the traffic).  

There's a lot going on in our country right now.  Conservatives are throat- slitting, democrats are hoping for hope, and all we hear is this negative, this end of things, the shadow of end-of-life and end-of-woman.  End-of-marriage, end-of-love. 

If only we could hear the beckon of spring, the coming, the wakening. If only we were the robin. 

There's this great Calvin and Hobbes strip, where Calvin comes running to Hobbes to report the first robin of spring.  Of course, Hobbes had already seen a robin, and Calvin's joy is smooshed. I think we can all be that way - eager for happiness and ready for defeat. I see this in myself, when I can't wait for the new grocery and am also already bemoaning the traffic on Snowden. I see it when I think about the bridge, and when I am anticipating the failure of this vital project. 

Republicans talk a lot of personal responsibility. This is a great hope, and a good idea.  And then they deny personal responsibility - they are ready to bestow the decree of failure upon people they don't agree with. 

Democrats talk a lot of change, and hope, and caring.  But they don't go far enough, because they know they will be defeated. We strive, but do we always hope to achieve?

I'm sitting on my porch, listening to Billie Holiday.  It's 54 degrees. My apartment is freezing.  And no, I'm not giving up on spring. 

There are so many pleasures in life - if only we could reach out and claim them! My family inspire me in this - my mother created a career which helps so many; my stepfather is passionate and caring and working, ever, so hard; my stepmother is a writer in her heart and devoted in her soul; my father changed his whole life with the ability to see and the need to be. Sometimes I look into them and see spring. And sometimes I can see in myself that capability - when I laugh with my students, when I scrub my kitchen and cook, when I love G, when I sit on the porch and put my iPhone on shuffle and adore, so completely, the blessing of the sun. 

We can be the robin. 

If you believe in personal responsibility, let others be responsible for themselves.  

If you believe in change, be change, fully and with hope.  

If you believe in Columbia, let it grow, without fearful restraint. Let it flourish. Be awakened. Let it wake.  

There is certainly a lot of fear in relinquishing control.  I hate that I won't really know if recess will be delightfully breezy or unbearably cold.  I hate that I live in Columbia and can't see how it can change. I hate that I believe in democracy and yet might find myself under the regime of those with whom I disagree. I hate that we all hate each other, for any reason, for politics or race or gender or neighborhood or just, simply, the way we were made. Sometimes I think it might be cold forever.  

And yet we can.  We can be.  We can be the robin. 

Billie Holiday calls to me.  Young people call out cheers, joyful exhortations, and defiant obscenities from below me on the humble playground outside my apartment. 

When I hear them I think about a city. And I think about a society of diversity. And I think, and I hope, and I pray for spring.  

I talk a lot in grand terms, and it always sounds nice, but here's where it really is - 

Wake up.  Find joy. Hate no one.  

And be. Be my robin. 



Wednesday, March 7, 2012


Sometimes, when I'm out with first grade recess, or when I'm in the tiled hallways, or when I watch children pick at their worn sneakers during math, I wonder how I could have been a child and not realized the incredible urge I had to run. 

Kids run everywhere. And they don't just run - at least once a day I see children vault themselves toward the ceiling, fingers dancing in door frames, untied shoelaces skittering on the floor. Children have such incredible energy, and when I think about anything I've lost in growing up I think about my sore knees and heavy limbs and how part of me still longs, thoughtlessly, to run. 

When we are children, our bodies are sacred. I don't mean untested, and I don't mean anything so puritanical as pure - I mean that we vibrate with captive energy. We scrape and scrabble, we dance and fizz, we treat ourselves with a divine lack of care. Every part of us is sacred, and every part is natural. 

Is this what people hope to preserve?

We hear so much rhetoric and spite when it comes to the human body. Some would be gatekeepers, guarding all against the nastiness, real or perceived, of the world. Some would wish to tell others what is proper or innocent or godly. Some think that innocence is anything other than that rough carelessness of childhood, the eagerness to explore, the feeling of asphalt and the raking of fingers against the sky. 

Some think that restraining the body of a woman means preserving decency, childhood sweetness, and unknowing. And while I applaud the sentiment of sanctity, and I understand the fear of things unsaid, I find so much sadness in relegating the physical to the impure.  

We have all been reading and watching the news, and it seems clear that there are many who believe that they have a say in the bodies and ethics of others. One need not look farther than one's Facebook feed to see reports of bigotry and hate. So many Americans are convinced that their faith or their morals or their upbringing can dictate the actions of others. What is lost, however, is the basic element of gender and personal politics, which is this -

Some people hate their bodies.  Some people hate the bodies of women.  Some people hate being physically tempted and revel in being religiously confined. 

This is, of course, an over simplification. I don't mean to say that any group of political activists consciously hate the human body. Certainly, people like a certain well-known and overly-hyped radio personality seem to revel in all of the intricacies of their flesh. 

But so many of us are maligned. We are cursed.  We are seen to be sinners.

Just today I was reading over material regarding a first confession. Apparently, I'm supposed to remember the sins I committed from as early as seven years old, and confess them as if I had any regret, as if I were at fault for irately stepping on the toes of a cute boy because I didn't know how to express affection. As if I could possibly confess to something, something black and dirty and wriggling, that neither my soul nor my body could reasonably comprehend. This material made me laugh, and it made me so angry. 

We are so obsessed with this idea of sin - religion and American politics has convinced us that sin is this definable thing, this little piece of nature, the flaw in our bodies. Sin is the byword of America. Sin is what makes tea parties out of narrow-mindedness and fundamentalism. We all know this word, and so it has been appropriated as a burrowing fester, an all-known excuse for hating other people, and for hating ourselves.  

I am a woman, and I am proud.  And I am proud of my sister, who is young and still reaches door frames, and I am proud of my mothers, who fight for wisdom and integrity, and I am proud of my grandmothers, who are made of poetry and passion and love.  And, before I am dismissed as a feminist with a match and a plan, I am so proud of the men in my life who love themselves and love me equally. I am proud of the rights I duly claim, and I am proud of the men who champion my rights. 

When I'm not bogged down by my adulthood, when my body springs to fullness, I jump and I run and I touch the ceiling.  

If we are so bothered by the reclamation of childhood, let us not be trapped by the physical and revel instead in the joyful. Never, in all of my childhood, did I think of myself as a sinner.  Never was I Eve - the wanton of temptation. Rather, I was a good beginning.  

I lived in a garden, unshod. And no part of me was wrong.  

And no part of me is wrong.  

I look at my kids. They are so good.  And it isn't because of their bodies - it is because they are who they are, sacred. It is through their roughness, their anticipation of recess, their need to run, that they define what so many wish to possess. Their innocence is in that there is no part of themselves which is hateful. 

How can we allow anyone to denigrate that kind of holiness? How can we let anyone speak of women or lovers as sinful? How can we call our children and our neighbors the fallen Eve, when we all long for that time, that fruit ripe, that moment before we knew that something in us was supposed to be wrong?

I want to run. And I want to love. And no one, no one, can tell me how. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


I have a particular problem with the word, "moral."  In fact, I would prefer that people didn't use it - not because I think that morality has no place in the 21st century, but because I hate to see one little word so consistently misused and pointed, weapon-like, at people who are different - or even, God forbid, human, and entitled to the basic rights given us by nature and by our government. Having morals, now, is like taking an oath of office in South Carolina. And I want no part of that. 

I've recently been enduring driver's education classes. In our most recent meeting, the curriculum focused on operator errors - most significantly, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. I've heard all of this information before, of course - that the choice to drive while impaired is, in fact, a choice, and that what we may do with our cars after a night of indulgence is, no matter what state of induced unconsciousness, still dangerous, and still a crime. I have no problem accepting this - as terrified of driving as I am, it seems unbelievable to turn on that metal giant of possibilities with even the slightest possibility of error. 

That said, people do make mistakes. In fact, most of my classmates were all too ready to dismiss the results of drunk driving as unintentional.  Of course, no one gets into their car with the purpose of murder and mayhem - most of us, I hope, do not wish to cause injury to others. I don't, and despite the level of sniggering and posturing in my driver's ed class, I need to believe that the typical human response to the idea of injury and death is to turn away and make a better choice. 

But, at eight on a Monday night, when we would all rather be anywhere else, I found myself surrounded by questions of intent - questions, in a way, of what constitutes morality. My classmates spent a solid chunk of time just trying to figure out if unintentional death was murder or manslaughter, if impaired drivers were ever really at fault for the consequences of their actions. 

We are increasingly living in a society that divides itself along lines of morality. And after delving into a pure lack of sympathy, of realization, of responsibility for someone else's death, I wondered if the kind of morality that dictates love, personal health, religion, is something that negates what I would consider the true morality - human decency, compassion, and flat out common sense. To make it simple - if we are all so concerned with restricting sex, restricting women's rights, restricting the good a government can do for its people, aren't we losing track of morality? Aren't we forgetting to teach our kids that morality is about love and empathy and respect? Don't we all suffer if the students at this or any driving school are more concerned with what charge might be brought rather than the reality of killing someone with their car?

And, of course, this - how can we, shapers of a message, voters in a democracy, drivers of our cars, accept that young people are so concerned with partying and denying culpability because that message we shape coins morality as the word which means denying sex, denying femininity, and denying compassion? How can we be such professors of hate and such apologists of, it's okay, murder is okay, if you didn't mean it. But love, if you mean it, is abominable. 

Conservatives, at least the most vocal and accessible, talk a lot about the personal. And it isn't just the sex, it's the idea of bootstraps, and the idea of poverty, and the mad thought that the government couldn't possibly care for people if they should care for themselves. It is the idea that they have no responsibility, not for themselves, their hate speech, and the welfare of the people around them. Well, heck. I've seen the consequences.  I've seen young people who want to get messed up and kill people and not be held responsible. This, this is what you are teaching. 

These are your children, and they see what you do.  And they can be heartless. And they can imagine no sorrow. And they know the word, "slut." And they drink, and they drive, cool and flitting like the blue of a dragonfly. And yes, they have sex, and yes, they are questioning, and yes, they seek a high. And they have no compassion. And their hope is for exculpation. And they are not guilty. 

We need to reclaim morality.  If we need to frame it in words of faith, we need to reclaim awe and reverence. If we should frame it in words of government, we must reclaim hope and equality. And, if we are to be blunt -

Let people love, and make one last end to fear. 

Let us be responsible and revere life. 

Let us be with the ones we love. Let us be safe. Let us be taught compassion. 

Don't drink and drive. And as for whom we hold, it isn't any of your business.