Preach it, Dr. Reagon.
"I'm gonna lay down this world, I'm gonna shoulder up my cross...ain't that good news!"
love. To be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never
get used to the unspeakable violence and the vulgar disparity of life
around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its
lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is
simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all, to watch. To try
and understand. To never look away.
And never, never, to forget. "
- Arundhati Roy
I find it hard to believe that it has been five years, today, this day, Saturday October 6, 2007, since the columbus day parade protest. Some of you have been reading here long enough to remember my first post of many about that day and all that came after, "Trying to Live the Life I Talk About."
I find it hard to believe it has been five years, because that day, the whole experience, from the street and arrest to the trials that followed over the next many months, my trial...all of it still seems as close to me as my skin. As present to me as my own feet. As pressing to me as the ache I still carry in my wrists, my arms, my shoulders...Yes, each day I remember, and that day comes to mind, a touchstone now for all the work I do, the one with the collar who remembers the pain and strength and LOVE, yes, the love, with each step I take in the street standing for justice, with every raising of my voice for justice, with every prayer and liturgy and breaking of bread and holding of the blessed people who I pastor.
Oh my god, such beautiful people who I am blessed to pastor, in the street and around the table.
I remember this anniversary each year. This date, in the last few years, has marked a descent into layers of despair, remembering only the pain of that day. The worst being last year, when at last, I completely broke down, and stopped everything for two months -- Advent, Christmas, Epiphany -- rejoining my work, my blessed vocation, at the birth of spring, St. Brigid's day.
Yes, I still carry the pain of that day, the ache of damaged nerves and muscles and tendons, the ache of watching friends (and friends-to-be) be violated, in my body; the pain of that day, the persistent violence of the trials in my body and soul. I will never forget.
Still...today I find myself in a place of gratitude. Yes, I carry the pain, but it no longer has its hardened stiff fingers clutched around my heart and lungs. Yes, I broke down, and I also broke open, broke apart, broke wide, and I found myself anticipating this day, the small rituals I created for myself for this day, the blessings and prayers of friends offered, the time set aside to write this reflection.
This is new...to come to this place, this day, not with fear, but with honor for the pain and gratitude for all that has come from that day. Gratitude is where I place myself this day.
I have paused in writing to re-read all my posts from that time, from the first one above through my trial and graduation. I place myself in gratitude for all the people and all the care and am in awe of the good sermons I preached -- this one is still my favorite -- and poetry I wrote.
From the place I stand now, I can see the cracks in the hopefullness I held on to during that time. I am grateful for both the hope, which I have found my way back to, but differently, and the cracks, which eventually split jagged across my my being, setting me free.
I was up at the farm this week, hugging Arlo and helping out with chores. I realized suddenly that because my dear friend BlueEyes was so determined to provide me anything I asked for in terms of self-care over those months, I got to meet Arlo when he was a newborn, thus beginning a beautiful friendship. Goat mama Lori and talked about how we would have met eventually, but if it hadn't been for the arrest et. al., I would not have met Arlo in this way, and perhaps my bond with him, and Lori, and the farm, would be quite different. Tending the goats has become a respite and healing place for me, and I am grateful.
As I have been getting ready for this anniversary, I began to realize that each descent into despair each fall has also brought with it -- eventually, sometimes with tears and struggle, sometimes with ecstastic experiences of Divine love -- growth and healing and wholeness and now a more fully incarnated me, a more fully human me. My retreats at Nada each year after Easter have been crucial to this, and the Spirit's urging to go there the first time in 2009 grew right out of my struggle to make sense of what had happened to me.
I think there is something to be said of my insistence on making meaning out of this experience, wrestling blessing after blessing after blessing out of it, refusing to only sit in pain and despair (even when I that was all I knew), seeking healing of heart and body and soul. This insistence is itself a form of resistance!
The experience of the arrest and trials broke my hope. Broke my imagination. But that is not the end of the story -- not the end of the story! Resurrection happens, quietly, a small green stem easing its way out of the bulb, and my hope is rooted now in Her, my imagination rooted now in Her imagining, and when I am in the street embodying true community, around the table embodying true community, my hope and my imagination are grounded in Her love. Anger yes, and also fierce love. Hope and imagination informed by the violence, the pain, and even the despair. Never forgotten, never. Hope and hopelessness go hand in hand...this is crucial to know, in my body.
I have had experiences, since rejoining my vocation this spring, of overwhelming love. Of standing in front of the immigrant detention center with beautiful young adults, undocumented, shouting for their lives, and feeling waves of love for them and knowing, out of that love I will lay my body down for you -- right here, if the cops move in, if ICE moves in, they will have to go through me first. Of standing around the table baptizing sweet little Lucky boy, who no one thought possible, pouring that water over and over and over his sweet little head, how much love can a body hold for this sweet little blessed boy? Of jumping up and down in the street, just this week, just outside the debate fences, with brilliant, beautiful folk who are immigrants, documented and otherwise, and feeling my shouting and my jumping coming from joy, from love, love for these beautiful, beautiful, oh my god how beautiful people.