Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
     Where knowledge is free;
     Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;
     Where words come out from the depth of truth;
     Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
     Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;
     Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action—
     Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

-- Rabindranath Tagore

This poem is in the public domain. "Gitanjali 35” was published in Gitanjali (Song Offerings) (Macmillan, 1913).

Posted on December 31, 2017 .

limoni (excerpt)

Small explorations of time, space, stability, and loneliness in Chianti, Italy. Much thanks to Lisa Hayes and La Macina di San Cresci.
Posted on September 18, 2017 .

we witches were the scientists all along

THE MUSHROOM HUNTERS

Science, as you know, my little one, is the study
of the nature and behaviour of the universe.
It’s based on observation, on experiment, and measurement,
and the formulation of laws to describe the facts revealed.

In the old times, they say, the men came already fitted with brains
designed to follow flesh-beasts at a run,
to hurdle blindly into the unknown,
and then to find their way back home when lost
with a slain antelope to carry between them.
Or, on bad hunting days, nothing.

The women, who did not need to run down prey,
had brains that spotted landmarks and made paths between them
left at the thorn bush and across the scree
and look down in the bole of the half-fallen tree,
because sometimes there are mushrooms.

Before the flint club, or flint butcher’s tools,
The first tool of all was a sling for the baby
to keep our hands free
and something to put the berries and the mushrooms in,
the roots and the good leaves, the seeds and the crawlers.
Then a flint pestle to smash, to crush, to grind or break.

And sometimes men chased the beasts
into the deep woods,
and never came back.

Some mushrooms will kill you,
while some will show you gods
and some will feed the hunger in our bellies. Identify.
Others will kill us if we eat them raw,
and kill us again if we cook them once,
but if we boil them up in spring water, and pour the water away,
and then boil them once more, and pour the water away,
only then can we eat them safely. Observe.

Observe childbirth, measure the swell of bellies and the shape of breasts,
and through experience discover how to bring babies safely into the world.

Observe everything.

And the mushroom hunters walk the ways they walk
and watch the world, and see what they observe.
And some of them would thrive and lick their lips,
While others clutched their stomachs and expired.
So laws are made and handed down on what is safe. Formulate.

The tools we make to build our lives:
our clothes, our food, our path home…
all these things we base on observation,
on experiment, on measurement, on truth.

And science, you remember, is the study
of the nature and behaviour of the universe,
based on observation, experiment, and measurement,
and the formulation of laws to describe these facts.

The race continues. An early scientist
drew beasts upon the walls of caves
to show her children, now all fat on mushrooms
and on berries, what would be safe to hunt.

The men go running on after beasts.

The scientists walk more slowly, over to the brow of the hill
and down to the water’s edge and past the place where the red clay runs.
They are carrying their babies in the slings they made,
freeing their hands to pick the mushrooms.

-- n. gaiman

Posted on May 1, 2017 .

Let America Be America Again

Langston Hughes, 1902 - 1967

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark? 
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean—
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That’s made America the land it has become.
O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home—
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”

The free?

Who said the free?Not me?
Surely not me?The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay—
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.

O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME—
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,
America!

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again!
Posted on January 29, 2017 .

This morning we woke. Not from a bad dream, but from the illusion that we had progressed far enough as a nation that we wouldn’t collectively place our futures in the hands of a racist, ableist, misogynistic, evil-hearted, bullying, sexual predator.

This morning we woke. Not from a nightmare, but from the fantasy that we had outgrown the evils of white supremacy. Of the KKK. Of the intoxicating power of fear-induced extremism.

This morning we woke. Not from the trauma of night terrors but to a reality that feels too traumatic to fathom. 

Now we are left with nothing but the rally cry that wells up within each of us. We are left to join our rally cries so that they become an anthem so loud that they drown out the hate, fear and intolerance that is having its last hurrah. Now we are left with whatever determination we can scrape together to get to work and to not stop. Not for anything.

May we take this opportunity to dedicate every ounce of our energy, talent, ability, magic and more to stand with and for each other.

May we remember the power of art. May we wrap ourselves in it, like a protective shield. May it help us make sense of what we have lost, where we have found ourselves and where we will go next.

May every song that leaves our lips be a song of resilience, protest and protection. May every dance we dance be one that calls on the power of our ancestors, our angels and our guides to help us find our way through this. May every painting help us witness what we are, what we are capable of, what we can become.

May we take the time we need to mourn. To move through the shock, the numbness and the stages of grief that accompany loss. May we take the time to recognize when our PTSD is re-triggered, set-off and ignited. Those of us that have survived rape, domestic violence, sexual harassment, racial profiling and any other kind of violence at the hands of a bully with systemic power will know that this presidency is a threat to our personal and national security.

The rest will come to realize it.

May we huddle together to plan our strategic next steps. May we be open to what we don’t know. May this make us want to be better. May our hunger to learn more about our past, our present and our future possibilities become ferocious.

May every white feminist become fiercely intersectional and deeply suspicious of the fact that 53% of white women voted for white-supremacist misogyny. May every white family sit down and have a heart-to-heart talk about how they as a unit benefit from white privilege and how they can leverage their privilege to level the field. May every white person look at their own privilege relentlessly and decide that they’d rather wake up to their humanity than hang on to the illusion that deconstructing racism isn’t their work to do.

May we collectively come together and do everything we can to protect those that are most vulnerable. May our resources go to funding POC, LGBTQ2SI led progressive, grass-roots organizations. May we do everything we can to shift power. May every single form of spiritual practice and every single spiritual practitioner be more invested in equality than in dogma.

May we all remember to go to the meetings, the meet-ups, the prayer circles, the coven gatherings, the community events, the churches, temples, mosques, synagogues and sacred spaces that refuel us and connect us to a generative vision for the world.

May we not give up. Not now, not ever. 

- chani nicholas

Posted on November 12, 2016 .

my first italian haircut...

 a friend appeared (and made me think about old shoes & picture postcards)  a friend disappeared (and I wished he could dance me to the end of love)  i sang hallelujah (but no one came)  donald trump is president (scratchy throat & bloodshot eyes)

a friend appeared (and made me think about old shoes & picture postcards)

a friend disappeared (and I wished he could dance me to the end of love)

i sang hallelujah (but no one came)

donald trump is president (scratchy throat & bloodshot eyes)

Posted on November 12, 2016 .

Good Bones by Maggie Smith

Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children.
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,
sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.

Posted on November 9, 2016 .

“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.” 

-- F. Scott Fitzgerald

Posted on May 19, 2016 .

  “She was the tide, always drifting in and out of the lives of those who loved her, eternally indecisive, unable to discern whether she desired the solidity and safety of land, or the wild freedom of the ocean.”    -- Beau Taplin

“She was the tide, always drifting in and out of the lives of those who loved her, eternally indecisive, unable to discern whether she desired the solidity and safety of land, or the wild freedom of the ocean.”

-- Beau Taplin

Posted on May 17, 2016 .

goodbye again

i want our love to rest in the nooks and crannies of our standing mothers, in the peaks and valleys of the Rockies, in the ebb and flow of the Ligurian Sea, in lavender skies and newborns' smiles, in loss, gain, victory and defeat, in the pines and the redwoods, in deep greens and blues, in the 26 bones of the foot, in holding on and letting go, in magnolia blossoms and stretches of highway.

if we can hold it here now, in the palms of our hands, can we carry it safely to the end of days?

i'm not so sure anymore.

-- n.nigro (2016)

Posted on May 13, 2016 .

In 1943, De Mille was hired to choreograph the musical Oklahoma, which became an overnight sensation and ran for a record-setting 2,212 performances. Feeling that critics and the public had long ignored work into which she had poured her heart and soul, De Mille found herself dispirited by the sense that something she considered “only fairly good” was suddenly hailed as a “flamboyant success.” Shortly after the premiere, she met Graham “in a Schrafft’s restaurant over a soda” for a conversation that put into perspective her gnawing grievance and offered what De Mille considered the greatest thing ever said to her. She recounts the exchange: 

"I confessed that I had a burning desire to be excellent, but no faith that I could be.

Martha said to me, very quietly: “There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. As for you, Agnes, you have so far used about one-third of your talent.”

“But,” I said, “when I see my work I take for granted what other people value in it. I see only its ineptitude, inorganic flaws, and crudities. I am not pleased or satisfied.”

“No artist is pleased.”

“But then there is no satisfaction?”

“No satisfaction whatever at any time,” she cried out passionately. “There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.”

-- Martha: The Life and Work of Martha Graham by dancer and choreographer Agnes de Mille.

Posted on April 11, 2016 .

 when the sad parts roll in i cry with strangers. tears for the ladies of west jet booking my flights. stained cheeks in the back of hurried taxi cabs. hooded strolls with stifled sobs. why is it easier to cry with people we don’t know? is it because i don't carry their stories, so i imagine space for my own? is that why we share grief and loss on fb and twitter. a release, but one with a little distance. a little less... reality?

when the sad parts roll in i cry with strangers. tears for the ladies of west jet booking my flights. stained cheeks in the back of hurried taxi cabs. hooded strolls with stifled sobs. why is it easier to cry with people we don’t know? is it because i don't carry their stories, so i imagine space for my own? is that why we share grief and loss on fb and twitter. a release, but one with a little distance. a little less... reality?

Posted on February 24, 2016 .

Happy 2016

 "All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another."   -- Anatole France

"All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another." 

-- Anatole France

Posted on January 1, 2016 .

Once upon a time there was a new orangutang. He had two eyes, a nose, and a mouth, and he saw the world in light and dark. He spoke in sounds that could not always be heard and his insides were on the outside. He wanted to always have his feet in the right spot, whether that was curved around a tree gathering bananas for his family, or in the water making waves for the fish to see. His feet couldn't always be in the right spot for the earth was slippery and the stones uneven. In the spaces around him he saw lightness and in the spaces inside him he saw darkness. In the spaces around him he saw darkness and in the spaces inside him he saw lightness. He wanted to find the middle, but for him it did not seem to be. He wanted to find that day when they ate strawberries on the dock and the air smelled of honeysuckle.

-- n.nigro (2013; a snowy February at earthdance)

 

Posted on December 17, 2015 .